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Chapter 44: Sharing the Passion

“No!” Their hands unlinked as Lilly and the Zilla broke out of their shared vision at the exact same moment. The last image Lilly saw before her chair slammed backward onto the carpet was a pair of dilated hazel eyes peeked through a slit in a body bag. They were Bobby’s. She’d traveled back to the warehouse fire, tasted the ash of cremated humans.

Zilla shot out of her chair and hurried over to her apprentice. “Lilly. I’m here. Come back to this astral plane!” She took control and eased the frightened girl toward the loveseat.

Eyes wild Lilly fought to get free. “Zilla?” Was she an apparition too? The unwanted vision in her mind resisted surrender.

“It’s me dear. Sit down.” She deposited her on the loveseat then boomeranged back to the table, slipped her hands into a pair of soft cotton gloves. Picking up the cherished crystal ball, she lowered it into its protective box and reinstalled it in the secret cupboard. She hurried over and plunked down next to Lilly. “We are done. I’ve put it away. You are safe and here with me. Talk, I can help you. Initial contact with the Dustman can be unsettling.”

“You think?” The slang she had picked up while listening to clients spilled out. “Get back, Zilla. Don’t come near me.” Like a mortal among gods, she hugged a pillow to her chest, burrowed into the soft cushions, and pulled her feet under her to be smaller.

“Zilla, you said it would be like walking in a dream, but that was a nightmare. My nightmare.” She shivered.

“You’re amazing.” The gypsy gushed and gaped at her Lilly with genuine awe. “Your first time scrying and you pulled me in. I traveled back in time with you. I should have warned you. The Dustman enters where you are most vulnerable, the emotional centers of the mind. The warehouse fire is your weak spot, an unhealed wound. It is a swinging door into your third eye chakra.”

“My amygdala?” She had anticipated the trance would be similar to her connection with Skye. This was anything but. Skye didn’t demand or push into her thoughts. Whatever was facilitating her vision targeted and attacked with sharp nails bared. The idea that her emotions were a chink in her mental armor disturbed her. She felt defenseless. Would Zilla’s Dustman come and go without permission? She missed Skye more than ever and hoped never to encounter that mind invader again. “That was awful.”

“You’ll get used to him.”

“What? Get used to—no. I can’t do that again. Ever!”

“I insist. With gifts like yours, you’ll take part in every séance.”

“I…I can’t.”

“Lilly, think! We have at our fingertips a great opportunity.” She rested her warm large hand over Lilly’s. “Today we reached a new and higher level of awareness. If we combine our talents and learn how to control and tame this raw power, we will be in a position to wield great influence. We could control our own lives and live them on our terms. Not at the whims of men.” Her hand tightened over Lilly’s as she said the word ‘men.’ “We could become the advisors to the rich and famous. Presidents. And I’m not just talking about the heaps of money we would rake in.”

The back of Lilly’s neck grew clammy. “You want me to ‘find’ people’s secrets so we can blackmail them?” Her voice was less than a whisper.

“Dear Lilly, knowledge is power, but it is also protection.”

Sure. Her cage would be silk-lined. Did everyone in the world want to manipulate her for their own uses? Everyone except for Bobby.

“The Dustman, I’ve heard that name before.” It came to her. “When you read my tea leaves it was a nickname for the planet Saturn.”

“Yes, dear. Saturn is a strong force, a magnet for the senses, as is the Dustman. I knew you would put it together. Clever girl, this is a good sign. Bravo!” She clapped. “Now that he knows where and how to get inside and connect with your inner eye, the next time will be easier. You have no idea how extraordinary you are. Together, the three of us will be invincible.” Balanced on the edge of her seat like Oprah interviewing Madonna, Zilla rocked. “Tell me everything you experienced.”

“I saw the tunnel you described. Then a dark focused energy field. I felt its weight, it was heavy on my mind.” Her voice quivered with the remembering.

“I’ve been seeing that shadow since I was twenty. My mother told me dark energy is the strongest. Our shared vision is proof.”

“I can’t believe your spirit guide is real.” She was half appalled and half astonished.

“The Dustman has been coming to the women in my family for centuries.”

“The same being more than two hundred years?”

Zilla nodded. “Go on. What else?’

“It lacked details, definition. Is it pure energy?” Lilly sat upright and held her head. “What am I saying? This is absurd. Science trumps fantasy. There has to be another explanation. Angels, spirits, avatars—they don’t live in crystals.”

“Who says it lives? Spirit, not mortal. They exist on a different plane. Only a gifted seer could breach that stratum.”

“That’s why you had me read those books on the physical, etheric, astral, and spirit planes. You were preparing me for this.” Recalling the specifics escaped her. She never bothered to memorize nonscientific data.

Zilla smiled, raised her eyebrows impressed.

“No, Zilla. This is all stress related. Not only are angels and avatars not logical, this…this doesn’t feel right. It’s a fable. A story your family built to rationalize a scary event. Some information is missing. Your account of history is incomplete.” It came to her then that if their positions were reversed and Zilla met Skye, she might also have doubts. “This is an impossible conversation.”

“You must have faith in the stars. Acceptance will come in time.” Zilla stood. “Sit, relax. Take a nap. Supper isn’t for another hour or so. Pull yourself together. No more lessons today.” Zilla patted Lilly’s head and left the room as the curtains closed behind her.

“Go to sleep?” Was Zilla kidding? If only Lilly could sleep this day, her life, out of existence even for a few hours it would be a miracle.

Alone, separated from her jailer on a soft sofa, and given a command to sleep was a rare event, but her mind had no intention of resting. There was something working inside her. It flooded her with conflicting emotions and it wouldn’t let go. Instead she focused on this new dimension to her captivity and how to add it to her getaway plan.

Every night she plotted the escape plan with Bobby. Their conversations gave her hope and a goal that brought order to her jumbled sequestered life. Then this séance with Zilla happened and tossed her back on the merry-go-round of chaos. Once again her life spun out of control. If the Dustman was in her mind could it deduce their plans? And what about Zilla?

An idea glimmered at the edge of her consciousness. Skye’s name had been linked with a diamond and the Dustman with the quartz crystal ball. Could Skye be like the Dustman? If that were true then Skye was clearly a manifestation of a benevolent entity, the opposite of Zilla’s dark energy partner.

How do Nautilus and my father fit into this spirit world?

Lilly had a puzzle to solve. Her trained brain never gave in or gave up when teased with a dilemma. Her intellect would not allow it. Mental gears clicked into place. She applied scientific process and pounded at this brainteaser with all her intellectual faculties.

Then it came to her: the next plausible step. Power, she needed more brainpower. She also needed an ally. Someone who knew her intimately and supported her gift of being a savant. There was but one person who fit that bill. Someone who had never hurt or let her down—Skye. The decision was made. She would try contacting her imaginary grandmother one more time and plead with her to help.

Previous attempts had been made from inside Zilla’s cupboard with a moonstone in each hand. This undertaking would be away from that walk-in freezer. Alone and with many crystals at her disposal, she would cover her body with a ton of moonstones.

Inspired, she went to the secret cupboard, opened it, and removed all the moonstones on the shelf. Her teeth chattered. The cold deepened. Fingers stiff, she filled her pockets, tucked some of the stones into the pouch of her pink kitty sweatshirt, slid the door closed, and ran past the mirrors to the sofa. She wrapped herself in the crocheted afghan and pulled it up to her chin. If Zilla reappeared to check on her, it would conceal the lumps in her clothes and besides she was shivering.

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