First place story
By Em Hanning
The static voice of the yoga instructor from Sabrina’s laptop echoed from the coffee table. It was pushed to the edge of the couch to make room for her green yoga mat. With her feet planted firmly on the floor, she went to enter another pose when her cellphone’s ringtone alerted her from the kitchen. She leaned down and pressed the space bar to pause the video. Sabrina grabbed her towel to pat off the sweat from her forehead and neck.
She picked up the cherry phone and answered without looking at the caller ID. “Ms. Perkins, thank you for answering. This is Dr. Rupert and as I was going through your file,”
“I’m quite healthy. You’ve seen this the last month,” she interrupted.
“Yes, I understand. You aren’t the issue. You are a perfect candidate for one of my patients that need an organ transplant.” Dr. Rupert leaned back in his rolling chair after dropping her file on his desk. The light surrounding him was dim, illuminating only from a single lamp.
She put down the towel on the island counter top and adjusted her weight to her right leg. “Organ transplant. Why, in your right mind, think I would want to give up my organs for a stranger?”
“Just come to the hospital, meet him, and we can discuss everything before you make your decision.” Sabrina stared at her hand still firmly pressed on top of the towel.
The hospital was cold with hues of bright white and blue scattered around the waiting area. Sabrina sat in a lounge chair furthest away from any actual patients. She held her tan clutch centered on her lap, but it occasionally moved with her bouncing her leg. A nurse came up from the hallway and called her in. The colors of the waiting room extended passed the heavy, brown double doors. Once passing the corner, the spikey brunette hair of her primary care doctor stood out amongst the people gathered around him. She twisted her neck slightly just enough to let off a slight pop, not ready to hear what he has to say.
The nurse took his attention from the conversation and he reached out his hand towards Sabrina. “Ms. Perkins, glad that you can make it.”
“I wish I could say the same,” she said, pulling back her hand. “What do I need to know?”
Dr. Rupert stood up straighter than he was in response to her seriousness. He clinched his jaw slightly, but didn’t lose his smile. He gestured her into the hospital room where a man laid in a johnny gown. “This is Louis McKay. He is slowly losing multiple organs including his liver, a kidney, and quite possibly soon, his heart. We are doing our best to keep him comfortable, but as the days continue on, he only gets worse.”
Sabrina watched as the pale frame of Louis sat up. He shared a weak smile before taking a sip from the paper cup at his bedside. “It would be an honor if you are able to sacrifice yourself to help me get better,” he said.
“Sacrifice? Isn’t that term a little loaded?” She crossed her arms over her floral blouse, the tan clutch in her hand.
Dr. Rupert interjected, “In his religion, a sacrifice just means someone giving up something, even something small, for someone else.” Louis eyed Dr. Rupert in confusion, but quickly agreed.
“An organ donation isn’t ‘something small,’ Dr. Rupert. Especially not when he requires more than one.” Sabrina looked at the clock ready to leave at any moment. “If there isn’t anything else, I will take my leave.”
Her primary care doctor quickly took her arm before she could walk out the room. She tugged it and looked at his meaty hand wrapped around her wrist. He stared at her pleadingly but also with this strange sense of domination. “You must stay. You haven’t been told everything,” he whispered. Sabrina hesitantly moved back towards the center of the room, and Dr. Rupert let her arm go. “I know this is a lot to take in all at once, but you have to help him. He is a high ranking member of the cu—congregation, and according to his religion, the first applicable sacrifice—candidate—needs to be used.”
Sabrina pushed her bangs from her eyes as she looked at Louis in the bed. His smile was gone and his expression serious. She gathered her thoughts and looked at Dr. Rupert. “I am not a part of said religion, and you talk like you have already made this decision yourself. I don’t agree with letting a healthy person die for a stranger especially when there is no connection what-so-ever. I am leaving, Dr. Rupert.” She walked to the door and touched the frame with her hand before exiting completely. Without looking back, she continued, “If you continue this nonsense, I will find a different primary physician.”
Sabrina took down her hair from her pony tail and leaned back in her office chair. She finally sent out all the emails to her clients. Looking at the corkboard on the wall adjacent to her, she noticed Dr. Rupert’s card tacked to it. She leaned forward and opened a new tab on her browser. With haste, she typed in the search engine to hopefully get some answers on this “religion” she was completely unaware of. Sabrina wasn’t religious in the slightest, but she wasn’t an atheist either. She just lived her life where it took her.
After a few moments, the results loaded up. Something inside her, felt like it got lodged in her throat. Her eyes widened reading the first result: cult. She thought about the conversation Dr. Rupert was one-siding with his pleas. She shook her head, pissed off she didn’t catch the correction sooner. What kind of cult was Dr. Rupert into, and with that Louis McKay? Sabrina exited the tab and shut her laptop without a second thought. Picking up a dry erase marker from the pencil holder, she wrote on the to-do list next to the corkboard: change doctors.
Before she could turn around, a hand instantly covered her mouth. She felt a pinch on her neck and threw her elbow back. A groan was heard behind her as she frantically got loose and hunted for her scissors. Her vision went blurry then faded to black.
The scent of jasmine and peppermint—an odd combination—tickled Sabrina’s nose as she started to regain consciousness. As her vision returned, small flames danced on the wicks of the elongated candles around the room. The dim light made it harder to make out the figure’s faces, but she was able to see that each of the silhouettes weren’t wearing the stereotypical cloaks. The figure closest to her tosses the thin stick of burning incense on the table. He grabs a chair next to it and pulls it in front of her. He sits down and tilts his head, examining her before making any contact.
She tried moving her arms and legs, but they were clearly restrained to the chair by what she assumed to be some cheap rope since it was cutting into her skin. As her vision cleared, she can make out what the guy in front of her was wearing: a dark blue shirt button up and a black tie. He had a ginger beard that didn’t match his hair. His glasses weren’t intimidating in the slightest. “Wake up, Perkins, it’s time to get down to business.”
“Who the hell—?”
He cut her off before she can continue. “Rupert had us get you. We just know we need to keep you here until he needs you.”
“Why’d you wake her up then?” one of the others asked.
Glasses turned to the one with the red tie. “I’m in charge, I can do what I want.”
“Rupert ain’t gonna like it.”
He stood up from the chair in front of her and grabbed Red Tie by his collar and motioned to the third who, in response, came up behind him. Glasses turned to her and smiled. “Excuse us.” Glasses and the third shoved Red Tie out the room. She listened closely until she didn’t hear their boots clomping on the floor.
Sabrina pulled up on the ropes with her skin still tearing, but soon got it to break. She reached over to one of the candles and used it to burn the rest of the rope enough to free her legs. As soon as she was out the chair, she beelined out the room and down the hallway. The walls were unkept, and the blue and gray paint was chipping off, cumulating piles on the floor. Sabrina eyed the elevator hoping in this part of the building it worked. She pressed the button multiple times, but the lights didn’t turn on. “Fuck,” she mumbled, but as she turned around the door opened.
Her eyes connected with another who was positioned in the elevator car. The boy looked younger than the other cult members from earlier. What caught her off guard wasn’t that he was a member of the cult but that he was eating the stem of a rose, thorns and all. She backed up staring at him confused.
“I’m going to take the stairs,” she said. He went to speak, blood trickling from his mouth, but the door closed before he could say anything.
The elevator rumbled for a few moments before it screeched back down to the lower floors of the building. Sabrina shook her head bewildered at what she just witnessed. This cult was full of weirdos and her doctor. Why would he even be part of something like this? A shout alerted her back from where she was and the two that escorted Red Tie out the room appeared from the door and immediately headed in her direction.
At the corner, Sabrina headed directly towards the stairs. She slammed her shoulder into the wooded door, but it didn’t budge. She tried the other with the same result. She frantically pushed on the doors and even punched the little windows. They had to just be stuck; why would they be locked? With one more good hit with her shoulder, one of the doors shot loose from its prison just as soon as Glasses and Third turned the corner. After a glance in her direction, she headed down the stairwell.
It wasn’t but a few moments before the members in their semiformal attire was now climbing down the stairs in close pursuit of her. As she wrapped around each of the staircases to get to the floors below, Third jumps over the railing and lands on the one right above her. He slides himself on the stairs and jumps to the solid floor of the next level instead of taking one step at a time. Sabrina was just about to take the first step down when he wraps her arm and pulls her back, slamming her against the small sign on the wall that had a dulled-yellow number four on it. She went to swing, but he easily caught her fist and pinned her back with his arm between them. He grabbed her shoulder, with her blouse in hand, and turned her where she was facing the wall as he took her arms, twisting them behind her back. He used his body weight to keep her there while waiting for Glasses to get back down and he leaned in to whisper in her ear. “You lucky we can’t do to you what we just did to our ‘friend.’”
Sweat trickled down her faces and adrenaline pumped through her blood as she wanted to fight but knew she would likely get caught again. Glasses made it to the level. With what she could see, he took off his glasses and was wiping small beads of sweat from his forehead with his tie. “Glad you are here, dude.” He put his hand on Third’s shoulder and he grunted in response. “Let’s get this bitch to Rupert.” Third pulled her off the wall.
Dr. Rupert shook his head at the sight. “You two are lucky I had another way to keep her contained. Weren’t there three of you idiots?” Glasses went to speak, but Dr. Rupert held his hand up. “It’s not important. Our cop friend will keep her in good hands.” He paced about his office for a few moments and looked at them with a smile. “You know, maybe I have the perfect place to keep her.” He looked over at Sabrina being held by the officer in the corner of the room in handcuffs and got the officers attention. “Strap her to a bed and put her in the same room with our patient. She could learn a thing or two about who she is willingly sacrificing herself to.”
The cult’s officer escorted Sabrina to a hospital bed down the hallway from Dr. Rupert’s office. “On the bed.” Sabrina sighed and turned so the officer can undo the handcuffs tightly conformed around her wrists. Without hesitation he put the free cuff around the bar of the bed. She sits on the gurney without protest as the officer took out his spare pair. The fresh metal was cool against the warmth from the light abrasion. He attached the other to the opposite bar, and she laid down, letting her head relax on the pillow beneath. It was the first time since her yoga session whatever morning it was. Time was not something in her favor at this point.
She was soon pushed into the same room as Louis McKay. The officer left them alone and shut the door behind him. “He must be prepping for you then.” Sabrina kept her watery eyes on the room’s ceiling, trying not to acknowledge him. Louis chuckled but instantly started coughing. Once the coughs subsided, he said, “Doing this is such a great honor. You are going to get to serve a higher purpose.” He waited for a reply for a few moments before continuing. “Rupert is kind of out of his mind with not giving me any other options besides you, Ms. Perkins. There must be something special he sees in you.”
“Can you just shut up? You’re basically killing a healthy woman who has her whole life ahead of her for what, a stupid made-up cult?” She still didn’t look at him.
“We are the Brotherhood of Psi. We believe there is psychic phenomena happening throughout the world, and we are examples of it.”
Sabrina scoffed. “Examples? Please. Parapsychology is a joke.” She looked at him.
“It isn’t parapsychology.” Louis reached for his water and took a sip. “Everyone in the brotherhood, or at least the ones in the higher authority like me, have experienced some type of psi.”
She pulled at the handcuffs. “This is bullshit.” After pulling on them a few times, they started to cut more into her wrists.
“Doing that isn’t going to get you anywhere.”
“Just leave me alone.” She kept pulling at the handcuffs. This was the last pain she was going to feel. Probably the last conversation too.
“Sabrina.” His voice cracked slightly.
She partially sat up and shouted, “Don’t you dare try to connect with me when I am about to die because of you!” Her eyes widened as soon as the monitor attached to him started beeping and he was still on the bed.
Dr. Rupert quickly rushed in with a cart and looked at the monitor. “Shit. His heart is going out. We need to stabilize him and get him to surgery now.” Sabrina stared in horror not ready for what was coming next. Dr. Rupert head up the defibrillator paddles. “Clear.”
It took two shocks from the defibrillator before Louis’s heart started beating properly again. The surgeon that was going to be operating on him came into the room and looked at Dr. Rupert. “We have the room prepped. You can bring him in.” The surgeon looked at me for just a second and left without a word.
Sabrina laid back once again feeling defeated. Not event he surgeon would say anything to stop this from happening. It made her rethink how many people around this hospital could be in this cult or being paid off by them. She just stared at Louis’s bed as they got him situated to be moved to the operating room. Dr. Rupert went over to her bed and tilted his head examining the wounds on her arms and legs from the rope and handcuffs. “I’m sorry it had to come down to doing it like this.”
She shook her head and looked away from him, getting her last view of the outside. “You aren’t sorry at all. Don’t pity me.”
“You were going to donate your body to science anyways.”
Sabrina pulled on the handcuffs again trying to get her anger out in some way other than freaking out on him. He put his hand on hers, pressing it to the bed. She glared at him. “Don’t touch me. I don’t have the choice anymore. You are taking my life away for something you might not even know is real.”
Dr. Rupert chuckled and shook his head. “You still don’t understand.” He let go of her and walked out the room. The nurses replaced him and started prepping Sabrina for surgery.
She stared at the light above her. This was the first time that she was remotely calm about any of this. Her arms were outstretched similar to being crucified. Maybe this was what she was meant to do. Maybe the life that she built up was only to keep her organs in as healthy shape in her incubator until they were needed. Sabrina looked ahead at the surgeon scrubbing his arms on the other side of the glass. Dr. Rupert was in there talking to him. She trusted that man with her life for a while, but now he was just a stranger. The surgeon backed in through the door and stood there still looking at Dr. Rupert. “Are you sure this is going to happen?” Sabrina watched as Dr. Rupert nodded. The aids put the coat and gloves on surgeon, and he walked over to her. His arms stayed in the same position as he looked down. “You won’t feel a thing, and it will all be over quickly.”
She nodded. She wanted to cry or even let a single tear fall, but nothing was coming. No more waterworks for this soul. She turned her head back up to the light and started counting backwards from a hundred like the anesthesiologist told her to until everything was dark.
Sabrina stirred. The beeping on the monitor increased in rhythm until she started to wake up. The familiar blue and gray surrounded her in the room, but something was off—besides the splitting headache. She narrowed her eyes to the white board across the room that read: 21 days post-op. She brought her hand to her head and felt the bandages wrapped around it. What the heck happened during that surgery? She was supposed to be dead.
Second place story
By Alice Logan
I hopped down from my husband’s truck, and examined the scenery around me. It was getting dark, and the path through the woods was becoming narrow, too narrow for the truck. “I guess I’m walking from here.” I said to myself. I grabbed my purse and locked the truck. I felt very nervous leaving one of the last things from my husband in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully, it won’t be a problem for much longer. It has been three months since Tyler was killed, and it has not gotten any easier. I do not sleep, and when I do manage to fall asleep with the help of Trazodone, I have dreams that I wish I could just stay in forever, or they are nightmares that I wake up screaming in. There is no in between. I barely eat, I stopped working and seeing friends.
Aurelia was something like a myth in my small town. The scary old witch in the abandoned cabin in the woods kinda myth. Myth or not, I was desperate. I needed her to bring my husband back to me. I want the love of my life back, and this is my chance.
Walking through the woods, the cabin appears through the thicket of giant trees. I almost stop in my tracks, but will myself to keep moving. This has to happen. No matter how scared I get, Tyler is worth it.
I did however, stop about five feet from the walkway, when I noticed the door begin to open. My heart races, no one knows I’m out here. I am scared out of my damn mind, but I have nothing else to lose.
A beautiful young woman appears at the door. She has long dark hair that ends at her hips, dark grey eyes, and she’s wearing a simple dark purple long sleeve dress. With her looks aside, I still felt uneasy. She is a witch, and not Glenda from Wizard of Oz either. She smiled at me, “You must be Ruby.” She stated. “We have been expecting you.” She moved to the side and swept a single hand, motioning me to enter. I take a big breath, and successfully encourage myself to walk up the walk, into the cabin.
The cabin was small, a single kitchen, wooden dining room table with two chairs, and bed all within first glance of the place. The entire cabin is bright with candlelight, and there are various labeled jars and fabric bags with different things in it all through the cabin. It is clean, but very cluttered. The woman goes to sit in one of the chairs accompanying the table. A cauldron sits in front of her, as well as a mortar and pestle for grinding spices, and a athame knife.
“I am Aurelia, please tell me what brings you.” As she speaks, she motions to the empty chair in front of her. I sit in the chair, and clear my throat.
“Aurelia, I wish you to bring my husband back from the dead.” I say. “It’s my fault he was killed, and I want him home.” My eyes start to water.
Aurelia simply nodded. “I can help you, Ruby. I do need to warn you, the path you are about to go down is not going to be pleasant. The benefit will need to outweigh the risks. Are you prepared for these risks?”
I have a hard time speaking, but I am prepared. I simply nod. Aurelia smiles, but this smile is dark, as if something else entered her body at this moment. “Then, let us begin.”
Aurelia began working. Putting some things in her mortar, grinding them into a fine powder, putting them into the cauldron. I only caught a glimpse of what she grinded. Spices, plants, is that bone?
“Let me explain how it will work.” Aurelia starts. “energy cannot be destroyed or created, only replaced with something of equivalent worth.”
“So, in order to bring life back, I have to take a life?” My heart dropped to my stomach. I couldn’t imagine myself killing anyone. Aurelia smiles at me.
“Yes, but not in a way you think. It’s not a murder, but a self sacrifice. Using another person will be easier and better. That person must understand the agreements and sacrifices as well. Stealing energy by murdering someone won’t work the same. Do you have anything from your husband?”
I nodded, dug into my purse, and handed her a plastic bag, containing Tyler’s beard comb. Aurelia took it, pulled some hairs from the comb and added it to the cauldron. She then gestured for my hand. I gave it to her. She picked up the knife, and pressed the blade into the palm of my hand, hard enough to draw blood, but not hard enough to be aggressive. She put a few drops of blood into the potion, then cut her hand and added her own blood. She mixed, picked up a vial, and filled it up with the potion she was mixing into it.
“Now” she starts, as she hands me the vial, “Once someone has given their okay to have your husband occupy their mind and body, have them drink this, and they will become your husband.”
“Just like that?” I asked. It seems too easy.
“Just like that” she smiled at me.
“What about the risks?”
“I cannot tell you what the risks are. They happen differently for everyone else. You just need to be prepared.”
“Thank you Aurelia, I don’t know how to repay you.”
Aurelia smiled, “You will repay me, and you will see how very soon.”
I thought about those words on my way home. I started to think if it’s worth it, but it is too late now. It’s done, and I already have the person who is willing to give me their body and mind.
Zackery has always been there for me when I needed him. He agreed to meet me at my house and drink the potion. His car was already in the parking lot of my apartment. I park my car next to his, clutch my purse to my chest as I exit the car, and make my way to my apartment.
As I enter the apartment, he is sitting on the couch, with his shoes propped up against the table, drinking a beer. He smiled as I walked through the door. “Hey Bee.” He always thought it was weird that people take the first part of their names as nicknames, so he took the last part of my name as a nickname. He thinks it’s the most clever thing he’s ever done. I am hoping his personality stays while my husband takes control of him.
He jumps from the couch, and rubs his hands together. “Let’s do this thing.” I pull the vial out and hand it to him.
“You really don’t have to do this.” I am suddenly afraid of losing my best friend. I am not sure if I could lose my best friend and my husband within a few months.
He shrugs me off. “I want to see how much this hocus pocus works.” He takes the vial, “What am I supposed to say again?”
“I sacrifice my mind and body to bring back Tyler Williams.”
Zack beams at me, “I love you, Bee.” He repeats the magic words, and chugs the whole vial.
We stop and wait for something to happen. Anything to happen.
“So…..” Zach starts to rock on his heels, “is this it?”
I start to become frustrated, but relieved. Aurelia seemed to be a fake, but why? She didn’t ask for money or anything. Did she just give me something just to mess with my head? I sigh.
“I guess it is.” I sink down to the floor, and start to cry. I feel hands on my shoulders pulling me in for a hug.
“Hey Bee, it’s alright. We did what we could right?” Zach holds me to his chest for a moment as I sob. Once I was done, Zach gets up. “You should eat. You haven’t eaten all day.” Without an answer, Zach goes into the kitchen. I stay on the floor and stare off. I’m not hungry. But I suddenly feel exhausted, the day weighing on me. Not wanting to use energy, I crawl until I reach the couch, and pull myself onto it. I cover myself with the throw blanket and cry until I am asleep.
I awake to a noise and the smell of spaghetti. The sun was starting to set, casting beautiful rays of orange and purple through my window.
I get up, and make my way into the kitchen. I freeze in the archway into the kitchen. The back of Zach sure looks different. He is taller, and broader. His hair turned darker, almost black.
“Zach?” I asked. Hoping someone didn’t just break into my house, kill off Zach and decide to finish dinner before offing me on my own couch.
The man turned around and smiled at me, showing beautiful white teeth underneath a thick beard.
“Hey Ruby.” Tyler said when he made eye contact with me.
My legs give out. Tyler reaches out and catches me before I face plant onto our kitchen floor. I didn’t think this would work, but here we are.
My dead husband is currently hugging me, smiling at me, and he looks GREAT. Like nothing happened. How am I supposed to explain this? To real life people. I’m starting to realize my choices may have been rash. Looking at my husband’s face. His amazing face. Something is wrong though. I don’t know what.
“Tyler? Is it really you?”
“Yes love, it’s me.”
“And…..you’re alive now.”
“Yes, I am.”
This moment, I realized he had let me go, and continued dinner. Just like nothing had ever happened.
“Do you know what happened with, Zach?” I asked. I noticed Tyler’s shoulders tense. He does know.
Without turning to me, he says.
“Maybe you should be grateful for your husband being alive. You can’t have everything you want like some spoiled bitch.”
I am taken back. Really? Tyler wouldn’t say this to me. He is also avoiding my question.
“Tyler, your first night back and I don’t want to fight. I just want to know Zach is safe.”
Tyler hits his fist hard against the counter, so hard I jump. He turns and gets inches from my face and says, “I don’t want to hear that name in my apartment again, are we clear?”
I have no words, so I nod.
Tyler stomps out of the kitchen. I hear the bedroom door slam. Great, what have I done.
I walk toward the counter to dish dinner. Maybe dinner in bed will make this fight go away.
I grab plates from the cupboard, and place them on the counter. As I opened the silverware drawer, something caught my eye. Something was carved into the wood inside the drawer. Tears begin to form in my eyes as I read a warning from Zach.
“Bee, this isn’t Tyler. You are in danger. We need help.”
I stand there, staring at the message from Zach. What am I going to do? I hear a crash coming from the bedroom. Shit. I walk over to the bedroom door and knock on my own bedroom door, afraid of what I might find.
“Tyler? Are you okay?” No answer.
I take a deep breath, and slowly open the door. Tyler has his back to me, and he’s breathing heavily. In front of him is my vanity that was smashed to pieces. The pictures of me and Tyler that were on my vanity were ripped in colorful strings of confetti all over my bedroom floor, along with clothing from Tyler’s dresser. Books from Tyler’s bookshelf were shredded and thrown throughout the bedroom. Just about everything that gave me any memory of Tyler was destroyed. My mouth dropped open, and tears sting my eyes.
“W…..why?” I managed to get out. Why is this Tyler ruining my husband’s things? His memory? I have left it untouched since he died, and in five minutes, he completely defaced all of it. Tyler whipped his head toward me. Oh shit. He looks livid.
“You ungrateful bitch!” Tyler spews at me, spit coming from his mouth. He points a finger at me and continues.
“Noone can love you! Only I will ever love you! Only I can bring you up!” He then starts to walk towards me, chest puffed out, eyes wild with rage.
“And only I can have you. Only I can bring you down. For us to be together, we both need to die.” He growls at me.
At this moment, there is no doubt in my mind. This thing has Tyler’s face, his voice, but this is not Tyler, and I have made a mistake. This mistake I made in love, may in fact cost me my life.
Tyler, suddenly, slams into the floor. As if someone tackled him onto the ground. I stare in shock as Tyler fights this entity holding him back from me. I will myself to move, but I can’t. Tyler is thrown against the wall. His arms pinned above his head and bent at the elbow. His legs spread shoulder length apart. He’s stuck, but pushing back. His head turns toward me, no longer filled with hate. His eyes softened.
“You have to run, Ruby.” Tyler says to me, urgently. My husband Tyler. I step toward him.
“No! Don’t come any closer. I don’t know how long I can hold on. I don’t even know how I did this, but I saw everything. I yelled for you to go, but you couldn’t hear me. Once I realized you were in danger, I just appeared.”
“Tyler, I can’t. I can’t leave you. I can’t be without you again. Please Tyler….I need you to come home. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have sent you to the gas station. I wished I would have went instead everyday. Dying would have been so much easier than losing you.” I’m crying again.
Tyler smiled at me.
“Babe. You didn’t tell that guy to rob a gas station. You weren’t able to be there to stop me from stepping in and saving that woman at the gas station. If not there, I would have done it somewhere else. That’s just who I am.”
It’s who I married. Someone willing to risk their life for a stranger. Because it’s the right thing to do.
“I love you, Tyler.”
“I love you too, Ruby. You have to let me go, babe. You are strong. You will make it. I promise.”
Tyler suddenly smacked his head into the wall and screamed.
“Go Ruby!” He yelled.
I found my legs and ran. I grabbed the truck keys, and run out the door.
I drove down the road towards Aurelia’s cabin. The only way I can think of to fix this is by going down there and begging her to make things right. Or make her. Before I pulled out of the parking lot of the apartment, I located Tyler’s .45 handgun in the glove box of the truck.
It was dark and raining by the time I made it to the woods outside of town. I drove through until I found the narrow path I walked down earlier today, except this time, I didn’t bother to stop and walk. I continued to drive, rain and mud being picked up from my tires and splashing all over my windows and the side of the truck. The truck was suspended enough for the tires to drive along each side of the walking path, bumping me in my seat. It was so dark, when I reached the cabin, I almost drove into it. I slammed on my breaks and skidded to a stop. I pulled the gun from the glovebox and clipped the holster to the waist of my jeans, concealing the weapon under my sweatshirt.
No one opened the door to greet me this time. I opened the door myself and peeked my head in.
“Hello?” I called. No answer. I let myself in and looked around. The cabin looked the same. The further into the house I walked, the more I saw something all over the floor that wasn’t there earlier today. I leaned down to investigate. It was black hair. I walked through an archway of a room and noticed it resembled a bedroom. Someone was lying in the bed.
I walked up to the bed and noticed Aurelia lying there, her hair now frayed and white, her beautiful grey eyes faded and her flawless skin wrinkled. She looked up at me and smiled.
“You’re still alive, I see.”
“Am I not supposed to be?” I asked.
“No, but with the way I am feeling, I’m not surprised either.” She paused and coughed. Almost struggling to get air. The more I stood in front of her, the more she seemed to age.
“I get to keep my youth from the souls I sell. By giving away that potion I gave you, I get two souls in one. The soul from the body, and the soul from the widower. That way, I stay young and beautiful. You though. Something happened. The demon posing as your husband’s spirit didn’t kill you. And that body you put him in. That spirit is hanging on somehow. Don’t ask me how. Like I said before, it works differently every time. But this is the first I’ve ever experienced this in my years.”
“You need to fix it.” I tell her. Tyler saved me and Zach is now holding on. I can get Zach back instead of losing them both.
“I’m afraid it’s not up to me. It’s up to you. I cannot give you the answer, you have to find it yourself.” She seemed too content saying this. I’m uncomfortable enough to leave. As I turned my back to leave, Auleria began laughing. I glance in her direction.
“We may have our chance now.” She says, almost to herself, and she started laughing a loud cackle kind of laugh. As if on cue. A loud banging came from the door of the cabin. I wait a good distance, watching the door. No movement. I slowly pull the gun from its holster. As I pull back on the slide to chamber my round, the door burst off its hinges and against the opposite wall.
I point my weapon to the door, listening carefully. I hear an animalistic growl, as the demon posing as my husband emerges from the door. I take a deep breath, not too sure if I’ll be able to shoot this man. He lunges at me, I dodge him but barely. He recovers quickly and tackles me out the doorway, knocking the gun from my hand a few feet away. I have to act fast. Remember this is not your husband anymore. He is bigger, but I can use that against him. I hook his left knee with my right leg, locking it into place. Then, I lock his left arm above the right side of my head with my right arm. Finally, I flatten my left foot to the ground, and pushed up as hard and fast as I could with my hips, knocking him off me. I land on top, and take my left knee, and knee him as hard as I could in the groin. Demon or not, that hurt him. He let put a yelp. I half crawl half crouching run and pick up the gun. Tyler recovers quickly and it on my heels. Don’t stop, I tell myself. I run to the truck, open the door, before I can jump in, he grabs my shoulder and throws me to the ground on my back, this time, I keep hold of the weapon. I aim and fire twice in his chest. He crumples to the ground.
Without stopping to think, I jump into the truck and drive. In my review mirror, I see him get back up as if nothing happened, and start to chase after my truck. I keep the gas pedal floored until I don’t see him anymore. I take a breath. No time to cry, I have to think. Aurelia said she couldn’t tell me what to do, I have to figure it out myself. Tyler said I had to let him go, but how? I shot him, and he lives. I think about materialistic. The demon already ruined everything I kept of Tyler`s that I kept untouched since he died. I then realize I still have one more thing. I drive out of the forest, and make my way to our little town lake not far up the road. I park, and sit, taking deep breaths. I flip down the visor and look at our wedding rings on a chain, taped to my favorite wedding photo of the two of us.
“I love you so much, Tyler.” Before, I can continue, there is a banging on the side of the truck. I look up in time to see the demon in my side mirror, running to my door. I put the truck in park and gun it, driving the truck towards the lake. I have to let go. Images of Tyler flash through my mind as the front of the truck breaks the surface of the water, bouncing my head into the steering wheel and knocking me unconscious.
I awake to someone dragging me from the water, for a minute I’m not sure what happened. Then, I start to remember. Shit, did it work? Who is dragging me from the water. I look up into the face of Zach. Wonderful Zach. It worked. Zach is yelling at me, “ Oh Jesus, Thank God you’re awake, what the hell were you even thinking?!” I smiled at him.
“It worked didn’t it?” I responded. Zach cocked his head at me, confused.
“What do you mean it worked? What worked?”
“Remember? You drank a potion, to help me bring Tyler back. Why do you think you’re in the forest? A demon possessed you and you followed me. Now it worked, because you’re Zach again.”
Worry creased Zach’s face. He shook his head.
“Bee, you called me. That’s why I’m here. You called me and told me you couldn’t live without him. I went to your apartment and everything was trashed. I drove down to your favorite lake, I saw the truck….” He trailed off. I sat up and looked at the truck sinking in the water, feeling content. I squeezed Zach’s hand and smiled.
“I’m okay, Zach. I learned I can love Tyler, and I learned to let him go.”
Witch Which Wished
By Dylan Thelning
As I flicked through the pamphlet I still couldn’t believe what I was reading. “Bring the dead back to life” and “Body tune ups/reconditions and vessels for life bringing. The company itself was listed under “Undrella Cosmetics and Revitalization” and never had I even wasted the time looking at them before. That was until my coworker George pulled me aside and told me the secret of the success this place was having.
A lady called me over to a window and I now started getting a little nervous. Without even looking up she called “name!” “Tod Lowry” I replied nervously as she searched something out of my view on the computer. “Age and occupation!” she now asked still not having looked up at all. “40 and salesman for Mercedes!” I tried to finish with a little flair so that she would be impressed, but still there was not even a glimmer of a change of expression, that was until she finished entering details. Once done she looked at me hard, I could feel my stomach become a little uneasy as she stared but then she spoke again, “Does anyone know your here? And were you followed” “No and No” I said with a little more confidence knowing the questions were now done.
After a second of looking at her screen she asked me to be seated and wait for name to be called. I turned and looked around the waiting room, there was not another soul there nor did it look like the room ever catered to many people. I looked back to say something to the lady at reception but as my head turned I heard the slam of the window kept at reception so shrugging I made my way to a seat in the back corner so I could face where the doctor should be coming out.
As I started to lower myself into the seat the door next to reception flew open and a strange looking humanoid creature came out calling Tod. I looked around the empty room to make sure there was no other Tod’s around before standing and saying “I’m Tod!” “No shit!” The little I assume person replied gesturing to me to follow. As I approached the door I could feel a weird energy from inside…
It looked like no doctors room id ever been into before, with weird glyph’s and symbols painted on the wall. Directly in the center was an examination bed, but surrounding the bed was not any normal looking surgical equipment. Fear started to rise within me once I noticed that there were daggers among the various jars of goop and odds and ends. I turned to try and leave the room. “where are ya going buddy?” The little guy said pushing me into the room. For his size he was surprisingly strong with no chance of me being able to push back against his might.
I noticed smoke was starting to fill around the outside of the room as I could hear footsteps approaching and my mind raced for reasons to leave and get past the super strong little guy.”Look mate I think I left the oven on and need to just race home super quick!” was the best my mind could conjure up. But he looked at me as if in thought of this request and there may be a shot. But then he started laughing saying I was a funny guy and punching me (seemingly accidentally) right in the crotch.
I wheezed a little and breezed it off when he asked me what was wrong, and made my way over to the examination bed. Now the little guy threw me a black robe and said put this on, and as I took it he shot me a wink and ran out of the room as fast as he could. A door the opposite end to where I had entered flew open streaming in smoke and red light with it. There was a figure in the doorway silhouetted by light, but this person didn’t look like a doctor or a nurse, they looked like a witch!
Now my mind actually relaxed a little as this had to be a prank. “Hahaha good show.. how much did George give you to get me like this?” I asked while she was still entering the room. “Oh we are quick with the questions today” The witch looking woman replied in a very soft spoken and polite manner. “Well are they hiding here then?” I continued after not getting an answer. “Mr Lowry there is no pranks or hidden coworkers here!” She now answered almost angrily before switching straight back to her pleasant voice.
“Now what brings you in here today?” I thought about this question for awhile before sheepishly managing “My wife” Now the witch’s eyes lit up as she said “I thought you came alone” the anger showing through her voice again. “My ex wife I mean she passed and that’s why I am here” Oh! she exclaimed with a little giggle, “My name is Rayonette and I can help you”. I forced a small smile but I started to worry this wasn’t the right choice…
“Okay first things first!” she said taking a seat at a small desk now and looking over at me. “When did your wife die?” “7 months ago now” I answered. “How did she die?” was next and I went through the car accident and her time in intensive care before death. “Very good!” Rayonette exclaimed and standing again and walking over she said “Due to the circumstances and time since death unfortunately there is nothing we can do for your wife’s body… However I can get a vessel and bind her soul to it”. It sounded ludicrous but her confidence as she said this brought back hope still, for even if she did not look exactly the same, I would have my Jessica back.
“I understand but how does it all work?” I asked curiously. “Oh honey we cant tell you that.. but what I can tell you is where running a special at the moment where we have cut the usual price of $15,000 down to $12,000” she finished with a thumbs up and wink, and though it made no difference to me, any saving was always good. “Okay you have the money in cash right” she now asked with her hand out. I nodded and stood up unbuttoning my shirt to show 2 stuffed travel wallets, both with $10,000″. I counted out the $12,000 without actually being asked and then re buttoned my shirt and sat back down.
“Good!” Rayonette exclaimed rushing over to her desk and putting the money in a draw. She then came back with some pictures and laid them in front of me. “Which one do you like” she asked gesturing at the pictures. There were 5 in total and all seemed to be in there mid thirties, which was Jessica’s age. There was a European woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, a Japanese woman with small dimples and a very young face, a Latin woman with a curvaceous body that he thought Jessica might like as she always liked ‘those hips’ as she would say, An Irish girl with wild red hair and green eyes that pierced through the photograph and finally there was a Jamaican girl who had long dreadlocks and deep eyes.
I sat looking at each picture and imagined waking up next to them as Jessica, and if Jessica would like. But the fierce green eyes of the Irish drew me in and my decision was made. “Excellent choice!” she said collecting the pictures and moving them away, and after a moment of silence I asked “What now…”
Rayonette looked up now from the papers and books in front of her and nodded to something behind me in the room. I turned to follow the direction of the nod and there again was the little guy here to take me somewhere. He kept his eyes down low and had no jeers or comments while the doctor was present in the room. Grabbing onto my clothes he started to pull me as he walked back towards the waiting room door. A little panicked I asked “Don’t I get to see the operation” But no response or even reaction was given to this statement as I was continued to be dragged out.
Once back in the waiting room the little guy seemed to relax now and looking up at me gave some advice. “You will hear things, and see flashes coming from the operating room, but I assure you that it is in your best interest to not bother yourself about and just wait quietly” and with that he hurried back into the operating room. I could hear Rayonette yelling something at him as the door swung shut and saw him bowing repeatedly and apologizing, what is this place..? I thought again as I took a seat.
As I sat I could hear faint moaning and see flash’s of light just as I had been told I would, but instead of heeding the warning my mind became fiercely curious to what was happening. At about 45 minutes in my will power to abstain from feeding my curiosity finally broke and I moved to the seat closest to the door to see what else I could see and hear from outside. Once closer I could hear chanting happening withing and tried to work out was being said. It all seemed to be gibberish “Monyano et Stalliano… Munguave din Firoso, et Pa ent Yown?” being repeated over and over, slowly growing in intensity after every few chants.
Finally I could hold no more and I moved to the door, trying to slowly and silently open it a fraction so I could peak. Was there was a narrow gap I could see Rayonette standing over a body that was surrounded by a swirling mist of changing colors. Amazed by what I was seeing I decided to try and slowly open the door a little more, but at this point the door ripped open and I was pulled inside and then darkness…
When I awoke I was laying on the table that had been in the center of the room. A damp rag was placed on my forehead which I assumed was to help the pounding headache I now had. “Good your awake!” a voice rang out and then footsteps started to approach. Above me now stood the Irish girl from the photograph’s and in utter awe of what I was seeing I stuttered “J-Jessica is that you…?”
“Yes it’s me Tod” she replied with a look of confusion. I started laughing as I didn’t know what else to do, it had worked I could fell it. Jessica was back, maybe in a different form but he was back. I sat up to kiss her but as I did she pushed me back down getting a serious look on her face. “I don’t understand why this would be” she stammered questioning herself and me it seemed. But then I smiled trying to comfort her and once her eyes found mine I began to speak.
“Jessica I loved you from the moment I saw you, and when I was granted the chance to marry you, YOU made me the happiest person alive. When you had your accident I thought I’d lost you forever or ‘As death do us part’ but that played on me over and over and over… Then one day a coworker gave a suggestion I looked into it and we can continue our love AFTER death had parted us!” I tried to read Jessica as I spoke but I could not work out what she was making of what I was saying, but then I was cut off as she asked “WHY!”
“What do you mean why?” I now stammered. “That accident was my decision, my death was my own, why am I back?” She replied yelling now. As her voice raised Rayonette entered the room again but now seemed to be defending me. “You leave him alone you hear, he went through a lot for you” I was unsure as to what was happening and remained silent as the two continued to argue. But finally Jessica looked back at me. “I’m a witch and I hated it” was what I heard and everything went quite. “Excuse me….?” I now confused as to what I had heard,
“I’m a Witch Tod and I hate it! It has killed the ones I love and forces me to keep my truth secret to those I want to love!” Jessica exclaimed emotion rising. I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say, so I just stared blankly at her. “I crashed that car on purpose cause I couldn’t live the lie anymore Tod. I did not love you, you were convenient. You didn’t lose me, you lost what you had created when I left. I’m sorry you have to hear this but I didn’t know this magic would exist!”
I was aghast at this and did not know what to say or do. Rayonette cuddled up to me and said “I want this one” and Jessica shrugged her shoulder before a smile grew on her face. “Teach me to get what I want…!”
“What do you mean child?” Rayonette asked curiously and Jessica flared up at this. “I am no child! And you would be wise to work with me rather than be forced!” Rayonette scoffed at this threat chuckling at the thought. Whats so funny Jessica yelled directing her attention to a desk and beginning to chant. I felt and tried to stay invisible at this stage to afraid to say or do anything as I found myself caught between the witches.
But after a demonstration of her ability in which she floated the desk and moved around all the items on and in it. Rayonette realized Jessica was a quite capable witch who had chosen to end her life and now suffered due to Rayonette’s work. And though she did not want to give away any secrets, she could preform the procedure for her. This was to Jessica’s liking who bore a more sinister smile than I had ever seen her wear before, and it gave me chills…
“Whats going on?” I asked still trying to play oblivious and praying I would be let go or forgotten about. But Jessica now turned her attention back to me and just shush’d me. It was if I didn’t have a say in anything that was happening though I felt they were both fighting about me. Eventually they seemed to be wrapping up there discussing moving back closer to where I layed still and also slowing there dialogue. It seemed that Jessica had a love she had to sacrifice before she met me, and her heart forever belongs to them.
But she was fond of my body and would like to use my body to bring back her loved one. Rayonette though seemed adamant that she wanted me whole in exchange for her service and that my spirit without my body or vice versa was a no deal. This point didn’t necessarily seem to be settled I thought but they did exchange a glance at each other like all was understood.
I began to panic and Jessica moved behind my head and held my face gently calming me. “It will be okay and you will still have a life” she whispered soothingly as I began to cry softly. “I want my body” I managed through my sobs, and Rayonette spoke up. “I will be keeping you with your body Tod” she called to me making sure Jessica heard clearly, and her eyes flared as she did a serious of gestures my way. I was unsure of why but then felt a wall of air hit me like a wooden bat and I fell dizzy and unconscious.
When I awoke I hurt all over and couldn’t move. I could hear no one around me and felt alone and scared. And as I lay there I wondered which Witch’s wish came to fruition and if my body was my own still. But safe to say I would never dream of saving the dead again!!