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Chapter 23

“What?” I stopped walking again and gasped. She nodded at my astonished expression.

“When a witch lives for more than seven hundred years, she slowly starts to lose her powers. I’m 620 years old, Alexia. I’m slowly fading away. Even if I’m still alive by the time I’m 700 years old, I won’t be able to use my powers. None of my spells or magic will work. I don’t have long. Even now I can’t do every spell. I won’t always be here to kill Michael each time he reincarnates. What happens then? What happens when I’m not here and he comes back? Nobody will be able to stop him.” She said everything in such an unflustered voice that if it weren’t for her blank eyes, I would have thought she was joking.

She stood like statue in front of me. No emotion whatsoever was present in her eyes. It was like she had already given up.

When I didn’t answer, she looked at me with compassion. “That’s why I’m so desperate for you to do that spell. If you do this, then it’s over. The town is safe. You know I’m right.”

“Why didn’t you tell us this before?” I rasped.

Sarah shrugged. She walked several steps then waited for me to catch up. When I caught up to her, she said. “I didn’t have the courage. I didn’t want to believe that I was losing my powers. I was kind of living in an illusion, believing that I was still capable of doing every spell. But then Michael happened again. Then you came. I had to accept that I wasn’t the same anymore.”

“Are you going to die soon?” The question tumbled out before I could stop myself. I chastised myself silently. How could I be so heartless and ask such a question. My mom always told me I had no filter.

Sarah laughed humorlessly. “I don’t know how long I have. Not all witches are the same. Some die when all their powers are gone, and some may die before. But I can feel my time approaching. My powers are growing weaker each day.”

We were quiet for some time and then a thought registered in my mind. Glancing at Sarah, I gave her a look.

“I’m confuse about something.”

“What is it?” she asked, looking straight in front of her.

“If Michael is cursed to reincarnate in this town every time, then how come nobody knows about it? What about all the time he reincarnated? There’s no stories about it.”

“That’s because I erased everyone’s memories after killing him every time. And I never gave him a chance to wreak havoc. I always killed him before he was able to do much damage,” Sarah replied lightly.

When I didn’t say anything in return, she glanced up at me. “I’m a powerful witch, Alexia.”

Looking down, I let out a sigh. It was obvious she was.

“But not powerful enough to stop Michael this time,” she whispered.

Her words felt like daggers and my back stiffened.

“OK, so what’s the plan?” I changed the topic briskly. Talking about impending death wasn’t such a great topic, considering I would be a sacrifice very soon.

Sarah patted her backpack and spared me a quick look. “I have my book of spells in here. I will show you the spell that you need to read. Just read it out loud while you’re in the circle that I will put you in.”

“I’ve never read a spell in my life. I mean I’m not really a witch so would that work?”

Sarah huffed and gave me an impatient look. “God, Alexia. I’m not that stupid. I would never have called you here if the spell wouldn’t work. You were a witch in your past and you are a witch now too. Just a dormant one. If you do this spell all your past memories will come back and your powers will awaken. The power of a dormant witch is only awakened when they cast their first spell.”

I didn’t reply because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say. We walked quietly for a while but Sarah suddenly stopped walking. I almost ran into her, but I grabbed on to her arm before I tripped over my own feet. “Did you hear that?”

My eyes widened and I scooted closer to Sarah. “Hear what?” I whispered.

I flashed my flashlight around us, looking for anything unusual but Sarah slapped my hand away. “Don’t. It will attract him here. Just keep your flashlight pointing down.”

I didn’t verbalize my agreement because I wasn’t able to voice anything. Sarah, who was always calm, looked suddenly frightened. That scared me the most.

We didn’t move for a second. We stood still, listening for Michael. When we didn’t hear anything we both moved a step forward, in unison. When I heard a feral growl, I stopped, pulling Sarah with me. “Oh my god.” I felt my hands starting to tremble. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know the spell. The spell circle wasn’t ready. We weren’t ready.

Sarah was immobile beside me. “Don’t move!” she whispered urgently. She didn’t have to tell me twice. My whole body was shaking so much with the adrenaline and fear that if I’d moved I would have fallen flat on my face. Moving wasn’t really an option.

I felt a cold breath on the back of my neck. I stiffened with the knowledge that it was Michael. The growl that vibrated from behind me confirmed that.

My first reflex was to turn and run away, but Sarah’s hand around my wrist was like a band of steel. I felt a hand on my left arm. Caressing up and down. It was cold, and I flinched against it. That earned me another growl. But this one was a warning.

I felt him moving closer to my back, and I choked back a sob. Why wasn’t Sarah doing anything? But most importantly why wasn’t Michael attacking us? My heart was thumping like bass drums in my ears, rapidly becoming deafening. I closed my eyes tightly against the fear, begging for this to be over soon. When I felt his sharp teeth against my bare neck, I couldn’t stop the scream that tore out of my throat.

Everything happened so fast then. I felt Sarah let go of me and I quickly jumped out of Michael’s hold, running a few steps away. I heard an angry snarl from Michael and then a howl of pain. I swivelled around fast to see Sarah poised directly in front of me, hands pointing outwards as if to ward off Michael.

“Spiritus a spiritus! Take this soul and cast away this evil. So mote it be. So mote it be,” Sarah chanted calmly over Michael’s howling. I didn’t really understand what she was saying, but it looked like it worked when she said it again. I saw Michael turn his angry gaze towards me before he vanished.

“Did he just vanish?” I asked, shocked beyond comprehension.

“No. I can’t do vanishing spells anymore. He’s too fast for your human eyes. He ran away.”

Sarah turned towards me, and I saw the tension drain from her shoulders. She sagged against one of the nearest trees.

“Damn that was close,” she said without looking at me.

I looked around myself, making sure that Michael wasn’t hiding anywhere ready to jump on us.

When I didn’t see anything other than just trees, branches and darkness, I moved towards Sarah.

“What did you do?” I asked her.

“My spell protected us from him. He ran away because its impact was too powerful. If he’d stayed longer, he would have gotten hurt,” Sarah replied calmly.

When I got close to her, I asked quietly. “Why didn’t you do something right away?”

A look of guilt passed over her face. “I panicked. I guess I just froze. Your scream snapped me out of it then it all came back to me. I’m really sorry.” Sarah looked dejected.

I put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a gentle squeeze. “It’s OK. Thank you, by the way. If it wasn’t for you, I would be dead by now.”

I wasn’t saying that just as an act. I was really thankful. I didn’t realize until that moment. If it wasn’t for Sarah, I really would be dead. Not just me but so many other people.

Sarah’s miserable expression changed to a determined one. “We don’t have much time before he returns. He’ll be really angry. Like seriously angry.”

I wasn’t surprised, considering Sarah had just attacked him with some kind of banishing spell, anyone would be angry, murderously angry.

“This is where we are going to do the spell circle. Let me do a spell barrier so that we are protected as we prepare the circle,” Sarah continued quietly. I nodded without saying anything.

Sarah gave me a feeble smile before stepping away from the tree. She stood in the middle of the small clearing, arms raised and palms facing away from her. Sarah closed her eyes and started to murmur. I couldn’t hear the words at first, but as I watched her lips move, I realized that she was chanting. It became louder as she continued.

“By the power of earth, air, fire, and water, I beg thee protect me from the danger that threatens me. So mote it be. So mote it be.”

I saw a flash of light and felt a sudden impact on my body. My breath came out in a whoosh but as quickly as everything happened, it ended as quickly. I barely had time to comprehend what had just taken place. One minute I felt like my body was breaking, and the next minute I was standing there looking at Sarah.

“Sorry,” Sarah apologized. She gave me a sheepish look and walked quickly over to my side. “I should have warned you. You were standing right at the edge of the barrier, that’s why you felt the impact. I should have told you to move more inside.”

I gaped at her, trying to wrap my mind about what she was saying. When I didn’t say anything, her expression changed to a worried one. “Are you OK? Did it hit you hard?”

I opened my mouth to answer but nothing came out. I wasn’t feeling any pain if that’s what she was asking. When I’d first felt the impact, it just felt like a football player had run over me, but I didn’t feel anything after that. Maybe I was in shock.

I wanted to say that but instead “No. I think I’m fine,” came out. Sarah looked relieved and pulled me by my hand towards where she was standing. My feet dragged behind me, refusing to co-operate. I really wasn’t ready for whatever we had to do.

Sarah stopped and gave me a confused look. “Are you sure you’re OK? You’re acting a little weird.”

Her words made me explode unexpectedly. “Of course I’m not OK. What do you expect? We just got attacked by Michael. I almost died and then you come in doing your voodoo spell and BAM he disappears and then you do that barrier spell, which you forgot to tell me I was in the way of and I got this crazy impact. I literally thought I was going to die. So yeah, I’m not OK!”

I was breathing hard by the time I was done with my rant. When I saw Sarah’s eyes widen then start looking around us, like she was expecting someone to jump out at any time, I realized that I was shouting.

I closed my eyes, taking slow breaths until I felt myself starting to calm down. “OK, I’m calm. Let’s do this before I freak out again,” I said when I opened my eyes and Sarah gave me another weak smile.

Sarah took her backpack off her shoulder and pulled out a book from the bag before settling it on the ground. She held the book out and said, “This is the book of spells. You’ll find the spell that you will use on the page that I bookmarked.”

I took the book from her hand and stared at it. It looked strangely familiar, although I couldn’t figure out where I had seen it before. It was big, heavy and obviously old. The leather cover had a surprisingly smooth feel. The binding was creased and when I opened the book, I noticed that the pages were wrinkled and stained. It was obvious that it had been used a lot. When I brought the book closer to my face, a faint musty smell reached my nostrils. The oddly familiar feeling was bizarre to me.

“This used to be Jessica’s spell book,” Sarah said. “Well, it was our book, but when she died it became completely mine. She used it more than I did.”

“Is that why it feels so familiar?” I asked, astonished. Sarah nodded and went back to what she had been doing.

I looked back down at the book and turned the pages to where Sarah had placed the bookmark.

The spell on that page was long and took up the whole page. I didn’t really understand what it meant even though most of it was in English. I stared at the page for a long time until my vision blurred from not blinking. So this was it. The spell that would break Michael’s curse. The spell that would destroy Michael and turn everything back to normal.

“Alexia, can you bring me the bag please?” I heard Sarah ask, snapping me out of my daze.

“Hmm, yeah,” I mumbled back. I closed the book gently and held it carefully while getting the bag. I was holding a precious cargo. All those years and that book of spells was still intact. I wasn’t going to let my clumsy ass spoil it then. I also felt a sudden attachment to it.

When I brought the backpack to Sarah, she took it from me and pulled out six candles. I looked down at her in surprise. As if sensing my hesitation, she gave me a smile and said, “I’ll need the candles to form the spell circle. You’ll be standing in the middle of the circle.”

I felt like an idiot. Of course, she needed the candles. After all the books and movies, I’d watched, I should have known what a spell circle looked like.

“So like in the movies?” I asked her quietly. Was it a spark of excitement coursing through me? I didn’t want to believe that. We weren’t doing this as a joke or just for studying purposes. We were doing this to eliminate a cursed man who was wreaking havoc everywhere.

Sarah huffed at my question. I saw a flash of annoyance appear on her face before it was gone. “Yes, like the movies, but this is real. You do understand what I’m trying to say? We can’t mess this up.”

“Yeah, I know. I know how serious this is. But I just can’t get over the fact that I will be casting a spell that will banish a cursed man who has been roaming this earth for centuries. This is big, and on top of that I’m the reincarnation of the witch who cursed him in the first place.”

Before Sarah could say anything, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand. A shiver ran through me and I felt someone staring at my back. I spun around quickly and saw Michael standing a few feet away from us. He was standing still, his eyes glowing red. I couldn’t stop the scream that tore out of my throat. It was loud and piercing but that didn’t faze Michael.

The only movement I saw from him was the tightening of his fists at his sides. I took a step back and bumped into Sarah, who had also stood up. Michael took a step towards us but stopped.

I felt my heart thumping fast and hard in my chest, like the thrumming wings of a caged bird. “He is there. Sarah, he is standing right there,” I said through laboured breaths.

Sarah squeezed my shoulder. “Yeah. Calm down. He can’t do anything. He’s stuck because of the barrier spell. We’re safe.”

I felt myself relax at Sarah’s words, but Michael’s stare was hypnotizing. I couldn’t bring myself to look away. He looked so angry and aggressive. There was no humanity left in him. I tried to picture him as the gentle, lovable and romantic man that he had been centuries before, but it was impossible.

I saw Michael moving and I felt my body strung tightly. He kept his gaze on me while he slowly started to back away. He gave me a final look before turning around and disappearing among the trees.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “Can we hurry? Please,” I said to Sarah. She nodded and got back to work. I stood staring at the empty space where Michael had been just a minute ago.

“Alexia, I need your help,” Sarah said.

I went over to where Sarah was kneeling down. She had the candles formed into a small circle. “I need you to step into the middle with the book. With your right foot first. When you are in the middle, kneel down.” I nodded my agreement and stepped into the middle of the circle, just as she had instructed.

After I was in the position she was satisfied with, Sarah gave me a smile. “I’ll light the candles. Open the book where the bookmark is and look through the spell. When it’s time, you can’t make a mistake because one wrong word will mess up everything. The whole spell would change into another spell. We can’t have that. Also, you will have to repeat it in Michael’s presence three times”

I nodded as I couldn’t form any words. This was a big moment for me. Everything depended on me. I was the key to saving everyone and that knowledge settled heavily on my shoulders.

“Can I have your index finger?” Sarah asked gently. I placed my palm in hers without question.

I didn’t pay attention to what she was doing but when I felt a pinch on my fingertip, I hissed and wrenched my hand away from her. “What the hell?” I asked, surprise evident in my voice.

“I need your blood to draw his attention, remember?” I unfortunately had forgotten about that little detail.

Sarah gave me an encouraging nod before taking out the matches she’d brought to light the candles. I looked down at the book and opened the page to where she instructed. I stared at the spell for several seconds before saying it in my head. I repeated it over and over again.

My heart was thumping wildly in my chest. It echoed in my ears, and I was sure even Sarah could hear it. My heartbeat matched my breathing, which was becoming more erratic with each passing second.

“Alexia, you need to calm down. Deep breath in and out. Your panic will mess you up.” Sarah’s voice sounded so far away.

I ignored her and continued to repeat the spell.

“Alexia! Stop!” Sarah hissed. My eyes snapped towards hers. I found her kneeling outside of the circle, a look of panic on her face.

“What?” I croaked. She put her palms out like she wanted to hold me, but quickly snatched them back before they came close to the spell circle.

“You need to calm down. I can feel your emotions from here. It’s not good. You can’t panic, OK?”

“OK” I replied quietly. My voice sounded so small and frightened.

Sarah gave me a look of sympathy. “I can’t touch you now since you’re already in the circle and the candles have already been lit,” she said.

I looked down at the candles and noticed for the first time that they were indeed lit. The yellowish and orange flames danced on top of the candles. I also noticed some white and brownish powder in between each candle.

I looked up at Sarah, confused. She must have noticed what I was looking at because she answered my unspoken question without me voicing it.

“The white powder is sea salt and the other powder is chamomile. Sea salt is used to strengthen a spell and chamomile is important for the spell that we are doing. The spell would be incomplete without that powder.”

“Got it,” I murmured quietly.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

I gave her a humourless laugh. “No, I’m not ready, but I have to do it. It doesn’t matter if I’m ready or not. We can’t delay it any longer.”

Sarah nodded in agreement before standing up. “I’m going to break the barrier spell. This will allow Michael to come in. He will be so angry already and lusting after your blood that he won’t pay any attention to the circle spell. He will try to get at you, but I won’t let him. I will try to slow him down while you’re saying the incantation.”

I nodded several times while she was talking. “If he gets into the circle, even just a finger in, the spell won’t work. You also can’t lose focus,” she continued, without waiting for me to say anything then she stared at me expectantly.

“Are you safe? If you break the barrier spell, he can come after you, too,” I said to her. My eyes widened at the realization that Sarah could possibly die. She would try to protect me, but who would protect her?

Sarah shook her head and gave me yet another smile. “Don’t worry about me. He will be too focussed on you, on his thirst for vengeance and your blood. He won’t pay attention to me. Also I can protect myself. For centuries, he wasn’t able to harm me. He can’t harm me now.”

“OK,” I reluctantly agreed.

“Ready?” Sarah asked, taking a few steps away from the circle.

“I am. Let’s do this,” I replied. I could hear the determination in my words.

Sarah must have heard it too because I saw a proud smile appear on her face. “Don’t lose focus,” she mouthed before closing her eyes. She stood with her legs apart, arms up and palms facing away from her. The same position she had been in when she’d done the barrier spell before.

I heard her mumbling some words that were incomprehensible to me. Then I suddenly felt the wind whoosh around us. I glanced down at the candles and saw that they weren’t flickering out. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked back up at Sarah.

She didn’t say anything. Just stood there and waited. I waited too. For her signal. When I saw her turn her head away from me, I just knew. I knew it was time.

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