I knew in the first time seeing that fate several things that I had thought about Marcus were wrong. So many things that I assumed he had done for Matt had been for me. Perfecting his protection spells was to keep me safe, and his refusal to use magic had obviously come to the present from the past. Everything he had done in this life or in my fate, that I so carelessly strolled into, was for me alone.
“You’re not even listening to anything I’m saying.” Marcus stated as he began to stand. He was clearly upset that I had not listened to his entire speech about trying to help me. My memory had persuaded me better than his words could have I believe.
I reached out for his hand as he began walking away. Standing up beside him I watched his eyes instantly go to our touching. For eighteen years I had never allowed our skin to touch again. This had startled him to the point where he retracted out of fear. I could see it wallowing inside of him as he backed away from me.
“I’m sure that it has been quite some time now that I have loved you. Maybe I was afraid to admit it, but now I know. I would rather have you than anyone else in this world.” I didn’t mean the words that I had said, but I knew he would understand that as well. “Marcus, as payment for all your help these years I need you to know something, something that I have kept inside of me for years now.”
All the color in his face disappeared. Tears filled his eyes, but never fell. “Why is it that you have never told me before now?”
“Because I could never find the right words,” Quickly I shook the feelings that had taken hold of me from the memory. “And because I still detest the very sight of you.”
“Does this mean,” Marcus drew closer holding his hand out for me to take, “That you will allow me to help you?”
My finger lingered just above his as I looked into his ember eyes that at one time were the world to me. “Don’t you wish to know what I’ve also held from you?”
“First let me help you, and then you may break my heart one more time.” Marcus lifted his hand into mine as the backyard began to fade into what I could only assume was an amateur magic shop. I looked around to find stacks of cards for several different tricks. Top hats, wands, capes, pointed wizard hats, herbs, and a large assortment of books filled the rest of the store as I had looked further inside. After looking through each row of items Marcus drug me to the counter. “Where are your crystals?”
The older woman behind the counter had began explained that they no longer carried them or something when I had remembered I already had one. I pulled it to me and held it in front of Marcus. “I have one.”
His eyes landed on the clear crystal ball with a clouded center. Hastily he took the ball into his hand. Twisting it, turning it, and then allowing it to flow freely around his fingers a simple smile came over his face as he looked at me. “I haven’t seen this in years. It has been somewhere near three hundred.”
I stared at the ball in amazement, “This is the one you stole, and accused Michael of taking.”
“You read my memoirs.” Marcus handed the ball back to me. I could see the shock inside his eyes, but he had dismissed it as he looked at the lady behind the counter again. “I need one of those.”
This time the lady had motioned us passed the counter towards a door that had a sign marked for employees only. It had been apparent now that she wasn’t about to let us know about it until I let it out what we truly were. Marcus started back, but I caught his arm, “Isn’t this one good enough?”
He paused and took the ball into his hand again, “Look at the center. Do you see the murkiness swirling about inside there? It is already used and cannot be used again.”
“What do you mean it is used? What do these do?” I questioned following Marcus through the door.
Inside the small room that we had entered I knew that this was not like the one we had just left. It was smaller and had little to no commercial use. Everything inside the room seemed old or very exclusive. Marcus pulled me over to where there were trays filled with multiple crystals like the one I held in my hand. The assortment of colors was numerous just as the sizes were as well.
Marcus began sorting through them, “What these are used for is quite unlike what the human race would like to believe. Instead of seeing them as something to find answers inside, we use them to encase with. Since they are hard to break, and most are just tossed aside as useless they are quite convenient to place what we need inside of them.” Marcus lifted some that were smaller than the one I held in my palm. They weren’t any bigger than a large marble. Blyth’s, however, had been nearly double the size and fit perfectly in one’s palm. “You wish to put memories or thoughts inside?”
“What other things can you place inside of them?” I questioned starting to cipher through them myself. “How much can we place into these?”
“Enchantments, spells, feelings, curses, and dreams,” Marcus held up a sapphire blue one, “Perhaps you could put your memories of him inside this one.”
As he went through the list of things that could be placed inside of these, I wondered what Blyth would have put inside of one. I swatted at his hand knocking it and the sight of the blue away from me. “Who said it was him that I needed to rid myself of?”
“One could only assume it is him.” Marcus laid the blue one down. “Tell me then what exactly you wish to rid yourself of.”
Carefully sorting through them I picked up one that was full of colors, a clear one, and finally I held up a red one, “One to take away my ability to see the future, one for his soul, and another to finally release this agony of being in love. Why isn’t that you have never enclosed your love for me inside one of these?”
“That’s irrelevant at the moment,” Marcus took the translucent one and placed it back into the tray. “I am afraid that a soul cannot be placed into one. I’ve never heard of anyone succeeding in such a feat. All of your memories that is easily done without trouble.”
I took the crystal back into my hand, “I would love to try at least.”
Marcus once again took the crystal from my hand. Placing it back into the tray a smile grew over his face, “If we were to try, we would need a larger one. You know the weight of a soul, and this tiny little thing won’t suffice.”
Suddenly Marcus began lifting each of the crystals up allowing them to hover above the tray. He studied each one individually as it sat complacently in the air, but none of them seemed to be what he was searching for. He sat them back down as he knelt down on the floor. I was about to question him when he began closing his eyes, but he turned his head from one direction to the other. I backed away from him as he lifted his hand pulling a box out from underneath one of the tables beside me.
I was shocked by the size of the box as it slid across the floor towards Marcus. It looked like an enormous ring box all covered in black velvet. It was a foot high off the floor and a foot wide. The lid lifted off revealing a large bowling ball sized crystal swaddled in black satin. Marcus lifted it out with his hands and turned it towards the light.
Mesmerized by the black ball inside of his grasp I had taken another step closer. Studying it myself I couldn’t understand what Marcus was looking for. To me it was impossible to penetrate the black color to see any haze that could have been in the center. The light shined off of it showing me that Marcus was not only searching it to see if it was new, he was turning it around and around.
Carefully placing it back inside the box Marcus lifted his eyes to me. “This one, if we are able to do as you wish, must be kept safe. There are no chips out of it, but if it should crack or become flawed we would risk having him back. That is something I believe none of us truly want.”
I nodded in acknowledgement of what he said.
“Alright, now go home and ready yourself for what is about to happen.” Marcus smiled. “I will see you in less than an hour. We must have this done before the others come home.”
“Empty mind, but filled with thoughts. Free soul, but fell in love. Open heart, but hidden with fear, that someday, any day. But someday, I will lose you. This mistake I have made, I am afraid to tell of my secret. My secret that no one knows. Can I tell you my secret? Will you let it be free? Born with a fate, but now unable to breath. My secret will not be free. Cling to me with all your might. But this place in me I don’t know if I can let you see. But if this secret is true, then my heart can be found in love with you. A mistake I have made. Yes, I do accept the fate. I wish to be with you from this day. This love from my heart, I do not want it to be untrue. So I wish until I know, and dream until I find.” Marcus’ voice caved in my heart with my own words as he entered into my room. The horrid smell of burn paper followed him, but once he shut the book the smell engulfed the room. “Ashley, what, exactly, were you burning?”
I sighed in relief realizing why he was here now, “Nothing that I will have once we are through.”
Marcus walked cautiously over and sat on the bed next to me. The black velvet box appeared on my dresser as he held out the other two crystals that I had picked out. Setting the red one down he went with the one I had first spoken of. “Alright, this should be simple enough. All I need you to do is go into the future.”
“It’s not something that I can control,” I tried to explain, but Marcus hushed me putting his finger against my lips.
His golden red eyes filled my mind with ease, “Do whatever you need to be there. I need to see it, even if it just there for a second.”
Fear drove through my soul. I wasn’t sure if I could handle seeing another fate. “Can you take it before I see anything?”
“I will try my best.” Marcus caressed the side of my face with his hand. “You know I will do everything within my power to.”
Closing my eyes I had a hard time convincing myself that I had to do this. My fingers trembled lightly on my lap, but the quivering escaped up my arms covering my entire body. I was less afraid of what I would see or what execution would take me away, than the pain that would engulf me following upon returning to reality. Marcus took hold of my hands calming them almost immediately. His words began, but fell on deaf ears. Rendering myself completely empty I could feel it beginning.
Just as it was beginning the ending came up bitterly in my throat. Remembering that Marcus was directly in front of me I choked upon my own blood trying to keep it from coming out into his face. Rushing towards the bathroom I could hear his steps following me closely. I had collapsed before reaching the bathtub spewing forth the blood.
Marcus let his hand fall gently upon me, but as in the past I was startled immensely by his touch. Without thought I had turned my head so quickly that my hair had lashed out striking his face. My blood that had been dripping off the ends burnt into his skin. Five prominent lines marked across his cheek with the blood starting to drip from each one down into the next burning even more scars into him.
Immediately I brought a damp cloth and began cleaning the blood from his face before worrying about anything else. As soon as all my blood was cleansed from his skin I eagerly hoped to remove any scar that might appear on him. I had found a sensible use for ordinary herbs in my years to lighten and stop scars from forming better than anything that could be bought or prescribed for.
“Please, don’t.” Marcus tried to stop my hand, but I stopped his first.
His eyes, however, stopped my hand and my heart. They drew me in with each moment that they had stolen from time. There was nothing that I could decipher from them. It wasn’t devotion, sympathy, or revulsion bearing through them. There was no resolution or conclusion to be found. Not contentment or apprehension, isolation or enclosure, and there was certainly no feeling inside. What kept me held in the bounds of his eyes was the idea that every emotion was there.
He was not trying to mesmerize me or control any part of my memories, but still I couldn’t look away from him. I had tried with all my power to find any part of him that he would show, but he had it hidden so well. He refused to show me what he was thinking or let me feel what emotions he was drowning himself in.
I was so consumed and pacified in his cinder eyes that I had ignored my violently bleeding nose. Everything that had come up into my throat spilt all over my bathroom floor had become a faded memory. It continued flowing freely up my throat, but it just fell over my lips. Breathing had become nearly impossible in this moment. Somewhere deep in my thought, just beyond Marcus’ eyes, I knew that if I didn’t move or breathe that I would drown on my own fluid.
Tears began swelling in Marcus’ eyes. Was it happiness, despair, or pain? The lack of oxygen had begun taking hold of me because as I leaned in closer I realized that there was none there. Perhaps I had hoped to see them to prove to me that he was feeling something in this moment. My body took hold of dire needs to live forcing me forward and Marcus from the room not wanting to harm him anymore than what I have already.
I did not die. Nor did I in whatever fate had flown through my body. It was enough to damage me severely and critically in this life. After recovering the best I could on my bathroom floor I began cleaning everything. Upon inspection of my cleaning powers I still felt that it was not enough. With barely enough strength to stand I pulled out my personal cleaning kit for times like these.
Marcus sat diligently against my bed watching me. He had asked me several times not to worry about cleaning the mess, but after several minutes of no acknowledgement he kindly let me be. He must have been waiting for me to faint from the lack of blood or the hazardous aroma of the chemicals. Little did he know, this was something that happens quite frequently when I let my mind wander to things it shouldn’t. I was thrilled only by the thought that I had not turned once again while cleaning, it just prolonged the process.
After crawling halfway back to my bed on my hands and knees I had collapsed from exhaustion. Marcus eagerly rushed towards me. The only things I could do were to groan and raise my hand in defense. I was still crudely covered in blood and I wasn’t about to let anyone touch me in this state. There was no energy left inside of me to clean myself or make it to my bed powers and all.
Even in this fatigued state I fought hard against myself not to fall into a slumber. My eyes were closed and my body completely relaxed it strained my mind. Quite sure that I was on the brink to my self destruction I was rescued. Something round and smooth was placed into my hand waking some of my senses. My eyelids retracted allowing me to gaze on the crystal that Marcus was planning to force my ability into.
Peace elevated my attitude slightly as I could see the center of the ball clouded and used. Marcus let his fingers cover mine wrapping them tightly around the crystal seeing that I was trying hard to, but unable. “Forgive me. I didn’t mean for it to cause you so much, strife.”
Closing my eyes I had tried my best to communicate with Marcus. “Please go.”
“No!” Marcus spoke out against me. “I will not leave you like this.”
I fought as hard as I could to keep his hands away from me. With each time that I forced him away he came back with even greater power. We had continued this for nearly five minutes before I finally succumbed to his will. I was now thoroughly fatigued mentally and physically.
“I just want to see that she is alright.” Matt’s voice pleaded through the crack in the doorway. “It has been days since Anthony or I have seen her.”
Marcus moved slightly giving Matt a chance to view me. “As you can see she is very much alive and still here.”
“God, she looks like death warmed up.” Without giving Matt more than a second’s glance the door shut. “Who gave you the right to be her sentinel?”
Marcus ran his hands down over his face as he turned back to me. He looked worse than I was feeling at the moment. When he had seen that I was watching him he rushed over to the bed quicker than I could have imagined him to. I was sure that he had used his power pushing him faster. Kneeling down beside me he took my hand in his pressing his lips soothingly against my skin.
Coarse and cracked my voice scared even me as it spoke, “Can we try again?”
Without raising his eyes from my pallid hands I watched his hair wave to and fro. “No, I wouldn’t dare. It would kill you, of that I’m sure.”
“What is one more death?”
“There was a time when I asked myself the same question.” Marcus spun around on his knees and lowered himself so that he was leaning on my bed. He had kept a hold of my hand which he pressed against his cheek. “What harm would it bring to my life if my heart would discontinue once more? Would it really end my life? No, it never did, not really. But it was you that broke through the cracks of this curse.”
“Marc,” I tried to stop him.
“No, Ash.” Marcus cut me off to continue, “You broke through and understood it as none of us had, except maybe Blyth. But what is one more death when you feel as though there can never be enough. You pray that the next one will bring you peace and finally end your life for good. After years of trying and never succeeding you begin to lose faith in death afraid that it will never find you. Then one more death comes and you are faced with your own mortal ending. Ash, it is terribly frightening to see my own image in the mirror. What’s worse though is knowing that time is continuing drawing me nearer to a death that I am more petrified of now than anything else in this world. Keep your lives safe, the ones that you have left and live for the rest of forever.”
Now I was divided between two options to continue our conversation. I could continue to try to apologize to him for bringing him to this point, when I didn’t truly mean it. I had though felt in this moment that I had owed him that much for the extent of his helping me rid myself of this pain. Or I could let him in on a conclusion that I had found in our latest trial to free my soul of Blyth. I had chosen the latter because I had tried expressing my regret earlier and he had ended my words before they could begin.
“I feel that it will take a life of mine to get him out of me,” My chest ached with my words. This was the most I had spoken for some days now. “Whether you want to take one or not, I will have to die to complete this. The only way you can rip a soul from the body is to kill it.”
“I was afraid that you would say that.”
I ripped my hand away from Marcus, “I have died for many things, many stupid things, in this life, but this one actually makes sense to me.”
“Ashley” Marcus turned and in that same moment my body shifted so that I was facing the ceiling. I had avoided his eyes for days now, and he has been the same. Since that moment in the bathroom we’ve looked at each other, but never actually looking. “Why would you risk such a thing for something that you could have avoided in the beginning?”
“Because Marc, I was young, dumb and naïve to think that he could actually love me. He swore to me that he would be my heaven, and I vowed to be his. All my choice has brought me is Hell.” I lowered my voice, but the anger was present.
Marcus crossed his arms and laid his chin on them. His eyes watched over me, “I have no doubt that he loved you just as he had a great number of women. If not he would have never trusted you enough to keep his soul.”
His words drove through me like a knife. “He used me for a vessel just as you had at one time. I am nothing more than something to protect his soul.”
“Protect his soul?”
“Tell me, you knew Blyth quite well, what exactly is he?” Instead of staring at the ceiling I now held up Blyth’s crystal studying the murkiness inside. All of my anger had dissipated with Marcus’ ignorance. “I know that he isn’t the devil that Matt would like to think. The devil is said to have no soul, but he does. When I dream, they are not mine. I see flashbacks or memories of his life. I never get the entire story, as they are just like dreams that fade in and out. I’ll tell you one thing I do know, he is much older than he let your mother believe.
For however long he was alive they’ve been after him. Matt fears Norcia, but I have feared something else since Anthony was born. As soon as they realized that I had his soul, I’ve been their target. It wasn’t until Michael had come that I was able to comprehend that it wasn’t Blyth playing with my mind, but them. They want my death so that they can steal his soul. I don’t know if they want to bring him back or just take it for themselves.
Marcus, it has to be kept safe, and if it is possible to place his soul into that ball we will all be safer. He must have thought that I would live a couple thousand years like him, but I don’t feel that I will make it that far. I have the powers to keep them at bay, but they will find away to break me down. I’ve seen it. I have seen them break me down and take it, but I’ve never lived long enough to see what they want with it.”
“Ask Michael who he works for and then you might see the pieces falling together.” I groaned sending the mysterious ball back to my dresser. “But I swear if you break the vow that you had entered upon agreeing to do this for me, I swear I will end your life.”
Marcus raised both of his hands as he started getting up from the floor. “I understand nothing leaves this room. Do you want to try getting this unbearable love out before we try killing you?”
I pulled the red sphere to in front of my eyes. “I think I understand enough of this to do it myself as soon as I have the energy. Marc, you never answered my question before. Why haven’t you placed your love for me inside one of these?”
As soon as Marcus stood up I looked at him this time waiting for my answer. He ignored me completely as he started towards the door. A loud howling came from somewhere downstairs and it got thunderous as he opened the door. “I’m hungry. I think we should break and get something to eat.”
Without even blinking I ripped the door out of Marcus’ grasp shutting it. Just before it had completely closed I caught a glimpse of Matt getting ready to run inside laughing hysterically. It slammed in his face. “Damn it!”
“Tell me now!” I demanded.
Marc stood facing the door, but I could imagine the distain on his face through his voice. “That is of no importance. Now if you would please, I would love to eat.”