Aunt Josephine looked at me, puzzled for a moment studying me as if she were waiting on my reaction on how to proceed. I stared at her in shock, trying to find the words and the place in my heart for what I felt.
No words could come after my initial “My mom,”
We sat silently for a while as she finally got up and poured me a glass of whiskey.
“Here, it isn’t much, but I figured it is better than sitting there like some mouth breather,”
I chugged the whiskey and suddenly felt cold. I was so cold that I began to shiver and shake. I was going into shock.
“Here, come lay down on this bed,” My aunt covered me with a blanket.
I must have needed the sleep because it wasn’t long before I fell asleep.
When I awoke, I felt warm, and there was a feeling of love and protection in the air. I could hear music from down the hall of the cave apartment. It was a harp, and there was some singing.
There was a knock at the small door to the room I was lying in.
The door opened, and there was Jack. “Hey, how are you feeling?” he slithered over to me, his bottom half of tentacles covering me back up with the blanket that had fallen off my feet.
“Okay. What are you doing here?”
“I felt bad when I heard about your mom being some evil witch,”
“Can a person have any secrets?”
He laughed, “I overheard the sound carrying to the other side of the corridor. What are you going to do?”
“Figure out what my aunt did to me. My mother is dead; what she was suggesting to me is impossible.”
“Not necessarily,” Jack began. “You see, magic can live long after a person dies. It doesn’t seem too far-fetched when you understand how certain magic works.”
“My mother would never kill her own son. My brother Sam meant a lot to my mom. She didn’t have a wicked bone in her body.”
“What if someone was controlling her magic? She doesn’t have to be alive for the magic to be controlled by someone else.”
Just then, there was a knock at the door. It was my Aunt Josephine with some food.
“I thought you might be hungry. Is this guy bothering you?”
I looked at her sincerity, and I looked at Jack. “He’s always annoying. That is why we broke up.”
Jack laughed. “I’ll leave you to your stew. Call me if you need anything,”
“I won’t,” I half-joked. Truth is if he was saying that someone could be using my mom’s powerful magic after she was dead, then who could it be? I began to look at the stew again and decided I’d rather have a beer. I stood up and grabbed my things.
“Where are you going? You haven’t eaten your dinner.”
“I just need some space. I’m sure you can understand after everything.”
“Of course, tell me how I can help,”
I got into my car and drove to the central part of the town of Eldritch Harbor. There were a few dive bars with burgers; I was sure of that much. I pulled into the parking lot of one of them and went inside. Already those usual Eldritch Harbor townsfolk were giving me an odd look. A stranger was in their presence.
I went to the bar and took off my sweater.
“Deb?” a man from the other side of the bar asked, looking at me with a sort of confused look on his face. There was loud fiddle music playing slowly at the back of the bar.
“No, my name is Celeste,” I said to the older gentleman.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you were a lady by the name of Deb. She moved uptown and said she’d never be back. Sorry, you look so much like her. I can’t help it.”
“That is okay. I need a beer and a burger,”
“Strange, that is what she always ordered too. You sure you ain’t Deb and pulling my leg?”
I felt irritated now. “I’m sure. I’m starving. It has been a long couple of days,”
He nodded and came back with whatever beer was on tap. I didn’t even care what kind it was. I only knew it had to be cold, and the burger had to be greasy. The burger came soon enough, and I devoured it quickly. When I was done, I paid my tab and left the bar.
On my way to my vehicle, I felt someone staring at me. Do you know that weird feeling you get when you see some asshole either following you or just being creepy? Yeah, that feeling.
I turned around to see who was behind me, but no one was there.
I got into my vehicle and started it up. I turned the headlights on, and there in front of the building was a woman who, if I didn’t know any better, was me just a bit older.
Her eyes were black, and I felt the car doors rattle until they both opened. I felt someone using force to choke me.
I closed my eyes, trying to fight it with my magic, but nothing happened. I really thought this was going to be it. Until I remembered I kept a knife in my console. I went to grab it, but my hand began to shake uncontrollably.
A black mass enveloped me until I was nearly on death’s door. I could feel my chest tightening and the muscles in my neck as I struggled to gasp for air. Who was this bitch that had my face? It was one part uncanny and one part fascinating.
Then I felt it. What the fuck was going on? I heard her cackle as she approached me on the vehicle’s driver’s side.
“Oh, how much we do look alike. It is a shame that I have to kill you too. Is that any way to look at your doppelganger, Aunty Jo? Sorry babe, I have to do this. It hurts me more than it hurts you.”
What? This was my aunt? Who the hell was back in that cave?
Then I saw another Aunt Josephine look-a-like, with Jack and two other men in tow. They did something that made the invisible hands release me. I looked in front of my car and saw her there. I hit the gas as hard as possible, but as I drove towards her, everyone seemed to scatter, including my object of murderous desire. She scaled the building like a spider, quickly changed into a Raven, and flew away.
When I looked around, all I could see were three other men, one of which was my ex, Jack and in Aunt Josephine’s blue dress now stood my uncle Arnold.
Once back to the caves, I sat looking at all of them with anger on my face.
“Is one of you stupid goons going to tell me what is happening?”
Arnold was the first to speak. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t have you blow my cover. With the help of these other witches, I could cloak myself as Josephine to infiltrate Josephine’s world and try to put a stop to it ourselves. I heard you were coming to kill her- well, me – and I couldn’t have you kill me, and then none of us would ever be able to try and stop her.
“So you all knew?” I looked at Jack.
“I’m going to leave you with your uncle Arnold to discuss this.”
“You lied to me. You made me think my aunt was good. Why? Why not just tell me the truth right off the bat?”
“I wanted to make sure you were who you said you were and why you were really here. We knew about Aunt Josephine’s plan to kidnap your brother’s child. We had no idea there would be a massacre.”
“If you knew, why didn’t you stop it?”
“We planned to stop her once she and her minion took the baby. Things didn’t go as planned. We had no idea what magic she had once she got a hold of Adelaide. It stopped our magic from working.”
“What did she want her for?”
“She wants to drain the child of all the inherited magic she possesses. Josephine wants her power back. All of it.” he said in a grave tone.
“Why not just take mine? I’m part of her, especially after what she did to that quilt.”
“She couldn’t once you gave your power to Adelaide. Plus, we think the child has a bit of her own power that Josephine wants to harness.”
My uncle Arnold stood and put his palms together. He was still wearing the gown he wore to pretend he was Aunt Jo. “We will find a way,”
“I don’t think Aquamarine is your color. Maybe try red next time. It goes better with your dark brown eyes,”
My uncle Arnold rolled his eyes. “You are a lot like your mother. A bit of a wise ass.”
“Yeah, speaking of that. Why did I see my mom when you- as Aunt Jo- told me to focus on the magic? Don’t tell me my mom is alive or something, or even a ghost! I can’t take much more,”
“She isn’t,” Arnold said sadly. “But her magic does live on, similar to a spirit of her magic, and Josephine knew how to use it. So that day in the cottage, we couldn’t figure out it was Josephine’s dark magic until it was over.”
“So she cloaked her evil magic using my mother’s magic?”
“You could say that. It is more than that. Josephine is using all of us. She has demon-like creatures she controls to do what she wants them to. It is hard when I am now guessing she has an army of demons with their own spells working with her.”
“How are we going to stop her?”
“That is where you and your twin come in,” he smirked.