Chapter 4: The Awakening.
The evening shadows of dusk fall on the cabin by the lake. The horizon set aflame. Soon the crepuscule of night comes to devour what is left of the light. Hours dwindle by and soon the siblings find themselves in bed. Sleep eluding them both.
Cece rolls on her side, her arms folded on the pillow, head resting on her hand. She looks back at Litha, his frame nothing but a large shadowy lump.
“Hey,” she whispers. “Hey, you awake?”
“Yeah,” the lumps says. “After what gran-gran said. I don’t think I’m ever gonna sleep again.”
“You think we’re the… Ah-Ku-re,” she carefully enunciates.
“What else? I believe the story, even if gran doesn’t.”
Suddenly her pillow vibrates, muffling a series of notification. Cece lifts up her head and slides her phone out. She flaps over on to her back.
Holding her phone to her face, wincing at the intense light. She unlocks her phone, eyes adjusting, as she skims over the message sent by an unknown number. Her eyes widen at the texts.
Unknown: Hey, it’s Meeko.
Unknown: From town. You know, the guy your brother hates.
Unknown: Apologies for texting at such a late hour. But I got bombarded by phone calls from old friends of mine, they want to meet up on Wednesday, for coffee (yep, adult stuff)Would you like to join? I know that they would absolutely love you and your brother. And vice versa. I hope to you hear from you soon, too.
By the time her eyes meet with the last full stop, her grin reaches the corners of her eyes.
“Hey, Meeko just texted me. He wants to know if we would like to join him on Wednesday, to meet up with some friends of his.”
Litha lifts his torso up, slanted in her direction, propped up on one elbow. He looks over at her, the screen’s light reflecting on her face like a spotlight to showcase her smile.
“He's texting you now?” He taps his pillow aside to pick up his phone, squeezing the flank. The screen blinks to life, he recoils from the light then his eyes zoom into the time shown in the right-hand corner.
“Okay it’s not that late, but still.”
Cece saves him as a contact and turns her screen so that the light shines on him. The look of sheer disapproval on his face, so prominent despite the darkness.
“So should I say yes or definitely yes?”
Litha falls back down, one hand behind his head, staring at the ceiling blankly. “You know I’m not going. I rather read newspaper articles with grandpop.”
Cece fists her phone, and places it down beside her. “C’mon, you have to go. It will look weird if I show up and you’re not there. When he specially invited you and me.”
Litha makes a grotesque sound like he swallowed something bitter. “Oh, please. He doesn’t give a rat's ass about me, he only invited me to look polite. A way in, to get to you. Sorry to be a cockblock. But I’m not sorry.
She takes back her phone and types a reply.
Cece: We would love to. Just say where and when ;)
Switching off her phone, she slips it back underneath the pillow, giddy with child-like excitement.
Eventually, the siblings find rest, drifting into the land of dreams. But this time. Only horror awaits them both. A harrowing nightmare plagues their mind, seizing them in joint terror.
A vision of a child sinking in water, neither drowning nor surviving, his ankle gripped by skeletal fingertips dragging him deeper and deeper into the aqua abyss. Abruptly an ethereal blue light shines and envelops the entire vision until everything in sight is nothing but meres of glowing blue. Its gleam seems to ebb and as it fades into the darkness, the water turns black. And in the black waters, skeletal fingers breach the surface, the hand shooting towards them both.
Simultaneously, Cece and Litha snap upright. Their chest heaving as if bellowing for air. Litha clutches onto the loose material of his muscle tee to feel it drenched in sweat. With pinched fingers, Cece peels off her satin top that sticks to her chest, shaking it out with a few tugs.
The siblings swap experiences and realise that they dreamt the same dream. And both of them comprehend the shared feeling, and that it might mean more than just a dream.
Cece scrambles out of bed and slips her feet into her flip-flops.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going back to the shed. I’m not about to be haunted by some African legend. True or not. I need answers.”
Litha wipes his face with his hand and parts from the embrace of the bed to stand barefoot beside his sister. “I gotchu.”
Together, they both make their way to exit the house through the sliding door. Grateful that despite the renovations, an alarm system was not on the list; a testament to the typical small-town safety stigma. They trudge down the slope, the cool midnight air blows a chilled breath, a light breeze stroking their bare skin. A crescent moon hangs in the Cimmerian sky, floating amidst the sea of stars.
Litha tackles the door open and walks onwards.
Cece hits the light and marches to the tome, left exactly where she placed it, in the centre of the worktable.
Litha moves to retrieve the staff.
She flips the book open, her hand roams the first page, fingers outlining the hidden words. Then she carries on, guided by instinct rather than reason. She winnows through it until she reaches the exact midpoint and halts. The one page that she holds by its ends feels different from the other pages, not denser, but not normal either.
Litha straightens, the staff standing tall next to him.
Cece examines the page, fingers scanning the course texture on either side and then feeling its rims. That is when she feels the difference.
“When I was in primary school. I had Mrs Jeffery as my teacher the one year,” she says, and Litha’s expression instantly sours at the name. “She was terrifying, and one day I made a huge mistake in my workbook. So, to cover it all up, I stuck the pages together with glue. And she was none the wiser.”
Using her nails, she digs into the tiny seam of the rim, gradually it starts to riven off. Her theory holding true.
Two pages stuck together starts to make a small, ripping sounds. Cece continues carefully, mindful of its possible age and inevitable sensitivity.
The pages bloom open, separating completely.
Litha strolls forward to stop at her rear, peering over her shoulder.
The crystal awakens from its slumber with a brilliant shine, greeting them its phenomenal blue radiance. Cece glances sideways at the staff in his hand, glowing a pulsing blue. She then focuses her gaze on the pages and the illumination begins. A torrent of blue light pours through the inscriptions, emboldening them to reveal itself.
Cece takes the time to study the passages. Then she realises that the writing works left to right like it was written completely backwards from section to section. And what she sees is a nerve-wracking sight, her stomach clenches.
“Can you… see it?”
She nods absently.
“Okay.” Dubious. “But how? Even if you can see it. I’m sure ancient African tribes weren’t writing this thing in English.”
She nods again. “It’s not English or any language I have ever seen.” Enthralled, her eyes never departs from the page as she tries to explain it in a way that makes even a slither of sense.
“It’s like… at first, really bad writing. At first glance, impossible to read or even to make out the language, let alone understand it. But when I focus on the symbols and take time to read through it. The bad writing becomes legible. I’m not understanding it because its English….”
She takes a hiatus to explain it to herself.
“It’s like my mind is...decoding it or something. With each line read. I can understand it like my mind is translating it for itself.”
Comprehension dawns on Litha and he lifts his other hand to wag his index finger. “Yeah like… Percy Jackson, the first movie, when he was in the museum. He could read ancient Greek, even though he never learnt the language.”
“So what does it say?”
Cece's eyes skim from bottom up and she recites an extract:
By the words of the one, it is done.
By the heart of the other, can it be undone.
The threshold marked clear and the boundary drawn.
The breach will be torn and those who had Her scorned.
Chaos and death, She will spawn.
As if summoned. Something inside of her takes over. Holding her consciousness hostage.
“Eka luem servas los na tu emna ke,” Cece chants torpidly.
Besieged by an unseen bond. A phantasmal hand grips his mind. Standing numbly beside her, hypnotised. Litha joins in involuntarily.
Together, they both chant.
“Rakoslom ve esua lu powa.”
“Nes tropsves lem.”
“Nes tropsves lem.”
With each spellbound echo, the light in the crystal swirls like a roiling blue storm, a pearlescent glow burns brighter and brighter with each mantra resounding into the ethereal ether.
Electric blue fire spills into their irises.
A ball of twanging power erupts within them, infusing into every fibre of their being, coursing through their veins.
“Nes tropves lem.”
Their voices melded together, their volume ascends, reaching an apex. “Ursaka tom urelentis. Elue pakolos!”
The glow explodes out of the crystal and rushes through the shed like a phantom ripple, juddering its weak walls.
Immediately the light in the crystal thaws into hollowness. The pages of the tome swallow the glow and the smouldering blue flames in their eyes, extinguished.
The eerie siege on them both, relinquished.
Somehow, they awake to find their fingers firmly entwined together. They rip their hands apart.
Pummelled by a tide of nausea, Litha stumbles to the side. He stops himself forcefully and uses the staff to keep him steady. Fully dependant on its support, both hands clutching onto it.
Biliousness inundates Cece’s mind. Black dots swim across her vision, the ground and the roof start to blend together sickly.
She fumbles back and her back hits the shelves, crumbling completely to the floor.
Litha glances down at his sister and the sight helps him sober up quicker. He shakes his head vigorously, eyes blinking like he's malfunctioning, feeling something inside of him recede within his inner depths. But not vanishing entirely.
Using the staff as a walking stick, he takes a few steps to her and lends her his hand. Cece peeks at it and heaves up her arm up to clasp her hand with his. From there he hoists her up to her feet.
“What the literal hell?”
Cece places a cold hand on her simmering forehead. “I don’t know… I don’t think I want to know.”
Litha gapes at her, gob smacked. “No, this time I actually want to know what in the hell possessed me to chant spells or some kind of shit!”
He stares at the staff, wide-eyed. Stable enough, he chucks it on the floor and it lands on the ground with a mind-rattling clangour.
“I want nothing to do with this. I know that I’m no religious saint, but I ain’t a spell-casting witch either.”
Cece snips a glance at the tome still open on the worktable. “What do you think we should do then?”
Litha lets out a dry laugh. “Do what I tell every character in a horror movie to do. Get rid of it.”
She struggles to gather words. Uncertain, she says, “These things don’t even to belong to us. Even so. Where could we dump them?”
He gives her a look. “We both heard gran. She wants nothing to do with them either. She even tried to get rid of them before we did. But this time, we will do it right.”
He goes after the staff, bends and picks it up.
Cece copies and walks over to lug up the tome into her grasp.
Litha nods to the door and pioneers ahead. Exiting the shed, he takes a beeline down the lawn towards the lake. The grass sprinkled wet, tickling underfoot. They journey ahead to climb up the short and wide wooden steps, then they march down the bordered and elongated pier with moulded rails on its flanks. Cece and Litha stop at the brink.
The summer night sky enchants the waters under a mystic midnight blue charm, the surface glimmering. Silence yawns into the unknown, the world of Lakeshore still and serene. In the distance silhouettes of natural formations can be seen, belted with the artificial lights of night owls. Residents on the other side, still stirring.
Litha moves the staff to hold it at an horizon, aligned with his shoulder, it's foot aimed at the moon, ready to throw it like a javelin.
He looks at Cece expectedly.
She sighs and splits her legs into a squat; she holds the tome between her legs, ready to pitch it like a rugby ball.
“One,” Litha initiates.
“Two,” Cece says.
Together, they say, “Three.”
In unison, Litha catapults the staff into the night sky and with all her might, Cece flings the tome into the air.
With a loud plop, the staff dives into the water and the tome lands in with a heavy splash. Sinking.
“Well… that was fun while it lasted.” He drapes his arm around her shoulders, hand dangling. “At least I can cross being an ancient, mythical protector off my dream list.”
Cece chuckles, tenderly gripping his wrist.
They swivel around and journey back to the house. Once they crawl into their own bed, each finds a new sense of peace in their slumber. A morsel of solace that they ended something perilous before it could even begin.
However, deep within the lake, in the heart of the Azura. A potent light emanates from the depths, so bright it lucidly reflects itself against the shimmering waters. A drawn-out fissure of light, glowing, as if the hand of God struck a lightning bolt on the surface.
Igniting the light. The seal tearing away. A gap opening.