Tormented

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Manipulative

Salem

I’m in line at the local campus coffee shop. There’s a Christmas tree in the corner of the room, a song about winter playing softly above my head. It’s still dark out, and not many people appear to be up yet. I’m next in line, ready for my usual morning coffee.

I order a peppermint mocha. ‘Tis the season, after all.

“I love your outfit,” the blonde barista tells me, her hair slicked back in a faux-hawk.

I’m wearing a lilac velvet ribbed quarter-sleeve shirt, light wash high-waisted skinny jeans, and a lilac faux fur coat, paired with my favorite nude stilettos. It’s a pretty normal outfit for me.

“Thank you,” I say, smiling politely as I pay and move down to the bar to wait for my drink.

“Switching up your order?” Someone asks.

I look over and find a cute guy with auburn hair. He’s tall, skinny but muscular, and these amazing blue eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I say apologetically. “Do I know you?”

“I deserve that,” he says, deepening my confusion. “Salem, where have you been?”

“Deserve what?” I ask, bewildered. “I don’t think we’ve ever met. Though you definitely seem to know me.” I take a step back, a little worried for his mental health.

He cocks his head to the side, his eyes probing mine. “You’re being serious,” he states. I nod, eyebrows raised. “You don’t remember me?”

I smile. “I think I’d remember you if we’d ever met,” I assure him. He’s definitely hot. Even if he is having some sort of mental episode.

“Salem!” Someone calls, coming up behind us. “Hey, baby,” he greets me, wrapping his arms around me and pressing a kiss to my temple. “Sorry I’m late.”

I smile. “Not a problem.”

“Nathan.” The auburn-haired guy glares at my boyfriend.

Nathan just smiles in return. “Leopold. It’s been a while. How’ve you been?”

“What the hell have you done to her?” Leopold demands angrily.

Nathan tightens his grip on me, pushing me slightly behind him. “I don’t believe I know what you mean. However, I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from talking to my girlfriend anymore.” He grabs my drink from the bar as the barista slides it towards us, a bewildered expression on her face. “Get help man,” he says, patting him on the shoulder as he pulls me away.

I try not to, but I can’t help but glance back at him. His pleading eyes send shivers down my spine.

“What was that about?” I ask Nathan once we’re out on the cobblestone path.

“Nothing,” he assures me, shaking his head. He sits my drink on a table in front of the shop, smiling mischievously at me as he presses me against the wall. His lips meet mine and I smile against them. They part in a gasp as his tongue finds mine. His hands grip my waist and I’m breathing hard, my heart racing. “I love you,” he whispers in my ear before pulling away to look at me.

I smile, breathless.

“We’re going to be late,” I scold playfully.

“Let’s skip,” he urges.

“No,” I tell him, eyes narrowed.

He stares me down for a moment before sighing, handing me my coffee and then wrapping his arm around my shoulders and pulling me towards class.

We sit at the back and I sip disdainfully on this too-sweet drink. I like these.

“Alright, class,” the professor, my father, says as he calls us to attention. “We’re going to start today with a demonstration of advanced principles of manipulative magic. Salem and Nathan. Would you mind demonstrating?”

We both nod and head to the front of the room.

“Salem, manipulate Nathan into doing what you want.”

I tilt my head, staring into Nathan’s eyes. “Bark like a dog,” I command.

His eyes glaze over and he does as I say, earning a few chuckles from our classmates.

“Waltz by yourself,” I say.

He begins swaying around the desk in swooping circles.

“Stop.”

He does, his eyes clearing as he walks over to me. “Bark like a dog?” He asks, rolling his eyes.

“Salem, manipulate him without using verbal commands, please.”

“Is that possible?” One student asks. “I didn’t think manipulative magic could be used with nonverbal commands.”

My dad nods. “Usually, no, you cannot use nonverbal commands, but it also depends on the strength of the witch. Salem?”

I nod, staring into Nathan’s eyes. He smiles at me, challenging me. Slowly his smile disappears, and I can see the struggle on his face as he fights me. I can feel something in me snap and a darkness settle in. His eyes glaze over and his rigid expression relaxes.

He glides over to the student who asked the question.

“Strength of a witch determines the level of command. This is an advanced magic class, is it not? Are you advanced? Or just well-read?” Nathan asks, his voice monotonous.

“Both, I suppose,” the student answers indignantly. “I just wasn’t aware it was a possibility.”

Nathan laughs, a frightening, hollow sound. “Anything is possible when one wields enough power.”

“Is this not black magic?” A different student asks, her voice high, fear evident in the pitch.

Nathan walks black over to me, his eyes clearing as he takes my hand and pulls me back to my seat.

“Class,” my dad addresses us. “Black magic does not mean bad magic. We’ve been taught for centuries that the dark arts are evil, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have access to the most powerful magic in the universe. We have access to magic that could make us invincible. We’d be at the top of the food chain, and yet we allow humans to have power over us. It is a myth that we lose ourselves in black magic—in fact, black magic allows us to be who we really are! So why are we being denied the opportunity to use everything Bastianna has blessed us with. And yes, it was Bastianna who blessed us with the dark arts. It’s blasphemy to even think that dark arts are a curse from the fallen high priestess Donatella. We need to be teaching the truth, not hiding our heritage. It’s our right as witches to have full access to ourselves. So in this class, we will be learning dark arts. We won’t shy away from the things previously deemed evil. If anyone has a problem with that, feel free to drop this class.”

A few students stand to leave, unimpressed with my father’s speech. He looks at me and I understand at once.

I get up, standing in front of the door, blocking their exit. Cold seeps into my bones and I can feel the darkness again, pulling me under.

“Have a seat,” I tell them, watching as their eyes glaze over, surrendering themselves to me. “We’re all friends here,” I assure them, but I sound menacing, even to me. “No one leaves this class,” I say, expanding my reach to every student in the class—about 30 in total. “My father is broadening your minds, training you to be the best versions of yourselves. Let him in.”

Everyone sits back down, staring expectantly at my father like the mindless zombies they are. I fall into my chair next to Nathan, feeling drained. He pulls me close and kisses the top of my head, warming my cold bones.

“You did great,” he whispers.

Did I?

It felt great in the moment—the power is exhilarating… then why do I feel so exhausted now? Why do I feel guilty that I’ve forced these people to stay?

No. There’s nothing to feel guilty about. My dad has done nothing wrong. Black magic is the superior magic by far. With enough practice everyone can access it, and use it to better the world, with my father taking the lead.

My father can rule the world, and I can help him. That’s such an honor that I shouldn’t be wasting time feeling guilty. I should be enjoying spending time with my boyfriend, making friends, and helping my dad reach his goals.

The supernatural world should be the only world. My father will make sure that happens.
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