By Victor D. Infante
Abigail sits on the edge of my bed, saying nothing. I don’t know where I am, but I can feel nursery rhymes soaked into the walls. They sing inside the hidden hollows of the wood.
I try to sit up, but Abigail rests her hand on my shoulder, beseeching me to stay. I relent, still too tired to do much more.
“So that was it?” I say. “I fight a weird, magical duel with a half-dead crone, and suddenly all the scales of vengeance are balanced? Is that even possible? Because, really, this has been a kind of an impossible day.”
Abigail simply smiles and looks down at me. Philomena is hovering behind her, concern stenciled on her face.
“Where’s Steph and Sara?” I ask. Nothing but Abigail’s patient smile. She leans over to kiss me on the forehead. Philomena is beside me now. She takes my hand, and it’s startling. It’s warm, as though she were alive.
“Goodbye, Whitney Bierce,” says the ghost, becoming more and more intangible again as we speak. “You are a fine witch. This city is in good hands.”
“It’s really not,” I say. “I just unleashed a thousand damned souls. I can’t believe …”
Philomena stares down with a look that’s equal parts annoyance and amusement.
“Then the city will be even more haunted than it was before,” she says, levelly. “I’m certain you’ll be up to the task.”
And with that, I wake, and I know instantly that Philomena is gone. I’m seasick with the thought, the sudden realization of loneliness.
I look up, and Steph and Sara are beside me. “Hey,” says Steph.
“Hey,” I say back, and we both laugh, because neither of us are feeling particularly witty right now.
I push myself up on one elbow, but Steph stops me.
“You still need some rest,” she says, and she’s probably right. “It’s over. Ding-dong …”
“Don’t finish that,” I say, palm stretched upward. I’m smiling, though. Almost happy. I feel like I’ve turned some sort of page.
“I can’t thank you enough,” says Sara.
“You really can’t,” I say, but she doesn’t look hurt, so she’s probably getting used to me. “You can stay another day to rest, but then you have to get back to your own town.”
“And you owe me. Big. Someday I’m going to collect on that. In the meantime, you just work on becoming a real witch, ‘kay?”
Sara leans forward like she’s going to hug me, but thinks better of it, and instead turns to leave.
“OK,” she says. “I’m just going to go straighten up the living room.”
She leaves, and Steph settles on the side of my bed, taking my hand.
“So,” she says. “Is all witchcraft this exciting?”
“This was kind of a rough one,” I say, shrugging. Calm exterior, sure, but right now I feel like I’m being tossed by waves. I squeeze her hand tight, to keep myself from sinking.
“I, uhm, saw some ice cream in the fridge,” says Steph, hesitantly.
“Oh, yes,” I say. “Rocky Road and a Drag Race marathon?”
“You’re on,” says Steph, laughing a little and letting go of my hand. “I’ll see you in the living room when you’re ready.”
And then I’m alone. I touch my fingers to the pendant on my throat, and sigh. Outside my window, I can hear ghosts bellowing in the distance, a thousand damned souls newly haunting the city, a distant thunder I’ll have to face, eventually.
But I’m up for it. Oh, yeah.
Because this is my city.
And I’m only getting started.
THE END … FOR NOW …
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