I grew up with magic. It wasn’t a choice. I remember one time growing up and there was a little black girl standing at the edge of my bed. My door was locked and so was my window. There was no way she could have gotten in. It was fucking terrifying. She didn’t speak at first. She just started bleeding from her fucking mouth. I watched in horror for like ten minutes. I was so scared I pissed my bed and when I was done pissing she said one word.
One word I’d never forget.
Imagine that. Imagine being a kid and having to deal with something like this and not knowing why. I told my mom and she said I was imagining it. My mom never wanted me to grow up with magic especially after my sister was murdered. The thing about magic though is that it followed you…everywhere. Literally. That little girl followed me to school. She followed me on the bus. “Grace.” She followed me to the toilet. “Grace,” I thought I was losing my mind.
I stopped eating. I started to wrap my meals in my napkin and leave them at the edge of the bed. Soon it was enough for her and she disappeared. It wasn’t until much later that I found out this little girl was a spirit of an old ancestor. She was looking for a sacrifice. She was looking for an offering.
It wasn’t something that I wanted. If I could choose, I’d be in college right now. I’d have a boyfriend. I wouldn’t be getting kidnapped by demons and needing to be rescued by vampires. No matter how sexy they are.
You can’t run from magic. It always follows you.
And it will always ask you for grace.
“Is it them?”
I look across the room know I shouldn’t be here in this guy’s apartment but the truth was…I was horny and this Pietro was definitely attractive. He made thin look good. It’s the next morning and there is someone at the door.
“Is it them?”
He nods, “It’ll be OK. One second OK?”
He says it but I’m nervous none-the-less. In the next few minutes Aiden, the commander of the Elite Guard walks next to the threshold. I spy him from the area that I’m in. He has his military uniform on. It’s dark blue with red piping. It looks really interesting, to say the least. There is another guy with him… another vampire. I hear Pietro from the door.
“This better be important Pietro,” Aiden says, “We have important things to do.”
I overhear them talking about me.
“It’s a witch doctor that was attacked by a demon.”
“There are demon attacks every day now.”
“This is different. There were a bunch of them. Winnie’s dead. The kid says he went to hell. He may have some information we can use.”
“And you’re in your underwear because…”
“I was just being accommodating.”
“You fucked a guy you should have been protecting?”
“Fucks a strong word commander. Let’s just say I showed him some vampire hospitality with my dick.”
“Good god, Pietro.”
“I know. I’m a fuckin mess. Chew me up later about it General. I need you to hear what this guy has to say.”
I get real quiet when the Ambassador walks in. Vampires freaked me out. This was coming from a boy who literally communed with spirits. There is something unnatural about them. Maybe it’s how handsome they all are. Maybe it’s how perfect they are. My brother Micko joked that he never met an ugly vampire. Maybe it was the fact that they lived forever. They had forever to fix their look. Or maybe you weren’t allowed to become a vampire unless you were perfect. Either way, there is something quite unnatural about him. When he walks in he sighs as though tired. I don’t know if it’s disappointment in Pietro or if he really just doesn’t want to be here.
“The Ambassador’s brother?” he asks as soon as he sees me.
Pietro lifts up his eyebrow. I don’t think he knew who my brother was. I wonder if he regrets what happened yesterday. I wonder why I care about what Pietro thinks about me. Truth is, Pietro reminded me of someone. Maybe it was how loose he was with his lips. He seemed open to talking about just about anything. I enjoyed it. It felt free and that was something that I was attracted to. It was opposite of the person I was. Mickson Boss, brother of Micko Boss. Micko was the ambassador of the Witch Doctors. He basically led us especially since the absence of the Witch King Genesis.
“Here’s some coffee…”
“Vampires drink coffee?”
“Not really. Can’t speak for everyone. For me, the shit does a number on my stomach. And by a number, I’m talking 1000. But sometimes I like to brew it and just smell it. And it’s good for moments like this. Moments where you share your story about hell.”
Pietro is still in his underwear when he sits next to me. Over us is Aiden. Aiden hasn’t smiled since he walked into the room. From the little I knew about Aiden, he was walking fire. That’s the best way to describe him. All duty on the surface but bubbling right underneath was all this passion. He was really good to look at and even mesmerizing but he had a temper out of this world and was just waiting for someone to light that flame. He stares at me with those daring eyes. He’s daring me to waste his time.
“Why’d you leave the witch towers?”
“I went looking for a…boy,” I state.
“Someone I was interested in, romantically. He disappeared and I went to go find him.”
“Fuck.” That last part comes from Pietro. He spits the curse word out of nowhere as though he’d been possessed and forced to say it.
I’m kind of surprised he says it. I think it catches him off guard. Aiden shoots Pietro a stare though and Pietro gets real quiet like a good soldier. I cross my arms though and just look back at Aiden. To say that I’m a bit intimidated by the vampire was an understatement, so I was going to be as honest as I can, even if that meant making things weird with me and Pietro.
“We weren’t dating. Not official. Just putting that out there…”
I look at Pietro when I say it. I don’t think it really matters though. I can tell he’s a bit turned off by it either way.
Aiden could care less, “Finish the story. How’d you end up in hell?”
“Tracked him there. Using magic. There’s a portal. A portal straight to hell in the forest. That’s where the demons came from. I got caught for a while. I was taken to their dungeons. ”
“They have dungeons?” he asks.
“They have a whole outpost out there in the forest right at the gates of hell.”
Aiden looks at the other officer in the room. All of a sudden they seem very interested in my story. I’m shocked that this was news to them. I’m shocked that they didn’t know where the demons were located. Had anyone crossed into the forest since the demons attacked? I look over at Pietro to see his reaction. He still looks bothered.
“Wait so if that wasn’t your boyfriend, did you want him to be?” Pietro asks.
It’s clear he has one thing on his mind.
“Pietro enough,” Aiden grunts, before turning to me, “Would you know how to get back there? Would you know how to show us how to get back to these gates?”
“Why would I want to go back? I barely escaped…”
“How’d you escape?”
I am going to say more but I can’t. A butterfly flies into the room. It flies across my face. It’s slow. It flaps it’s wings too close to my face, almost settles on my lips then flaps away. Two seconds later it returns and does the same thing as though in deja vu. It’s strange. Strange enough to make me raise an eyebrow. In my life, you pay attention to natural elements that seem to have been manipulated. This wasn’t the behavior of butterflies in the wild. Something was off…
That’s what magic was. Magic was natural phenomenon manipulated in some way.
And even now it was following me. There was no escaping it.
“Genesis?” Aiden asks raising an immediate eyebrow, “He’s alive?”
“That’s impossible. I thought the entire royal family was wiped out…” the guy with Aiden says.
I open my mouth to say something but nothing comes out. Not even a whisper or a whimper. I literally can’t say anything. I clasp at my throat wondering what was causing this. I still feel the tingle of where the butterfly went past my lips.
“What’s up with you?” Pietro asks me, “Don’t get quiet now.”
I tap into my throat. Pietro didn’t understand it. None of them did. I understood it though. I knew what was happening here. I knew what was happening when I feel the presence at the door and I hear the doorbell.
“Expecting company?” Aiden asks.
“Only you guys.”
I knew who it was even before Pietro walks over to the door. The reason that I can’t talk is because of a spell. Magic was being used to keep me silent. And it’s when the door opens I realize that they’ve found me. The witchdoctors.
There are about 6 of them. Three of them have on red…from the Sacrificial coven. There was only one sacrificial coven and that was my coven. It was the coven that I was raised in. There were three other representatives from the other schools of magic though. Talisman in their deep purple robes who came from the voodoo line of puppet mastery, a divination seer in pure white robes and wand-wielding castor in black. They were all had on hoods carrying with them a mystique that makes Pietro take a step back all of a sudden.
I know he’s a little confounded that they are here.
The leader of them takes off his hood.
“My brother’s not saying another word to you,” he explains to Aiden, “He’s coming with me. Now.”
Micko Boss has arrived. He gives me a nod. It’s a nod that is telling me to get up and bring my ass over to him. My brother has grown out a beard since I’ve last seen him. It makes him look a bit more serious and mature. I get up and make my way across the small apartment. My eyes lock with Pietro.
“Ambassador Micko, you’re interfering in Elite King’s Guard business,” Aiden states.
My brother could care less.
“There is no king. Unless you haven’t noticed.”
“Not according to your brother.”
Micko looks over at me. It’s pointless wondering how he knew that I had made my way back to the city. The divination user standing at his side probably told him what I was up to. Micko seemed disappointed. Witches were much more private than the werewolves and the vampires in the city. We tended to stick to ourselves. Even without speaking I can tell that he’s disappointed that I said as much as I’d said to the Aiden.
“We’ll be taking our leave. Come on Mickson.”
“Ambassador,” Aiden stops him, “If Genesis is alive we can get him back.”
“We don’t need your help with Genesis.”
I didn’t know Commander Aiden very well. I only knew things I’d heard about him. And from what I’d heard about him, he didn’t seem like the type to ever sweat. The revelation that Genesis was alive all this time, however, makes him sweat. I am surprised when he reaches over and grabs Micko. He causes the Castor who is with Micko to drop his hood and point a long oaken staff at Commander Aiden.
The vampires aren’t aware that with a thought, that castor could engulf the commander in flames if he wanted to. Luckily Micko knows enough to pull away before anything escalates.
“That’s not necessarily true. I can put together a team. A rescue team. Do you know what this would mean if people knew Genesis was alive? Do you know what it would mean if he returned?”
There is all this hope in Aiden’s voice. I didn’t know what it was like in Eden for this past year. I had no idea aside from Pietro’s reaction to the death of his partner. He was sad about it but at the same time, I don’t think he didn’t expect it. It was almost as though death had become expected and that was saying a lot because vampires were immortals.
The immortal city wasn’t safe anymore and I knew what Genesis would bring. He would bring hope that maybe the beautiful experiment which was Eden wouldn’t come crashing down after all. That hope is lighting that match that I know is in Aiden right now.
“The witch doctors are not interested,” Micko states, “Good day, commander…”
Micko’s voice is cold when he says it. It’s cold and final.
And just like that, he turns and we start to leave. I look back at Pietro and Aiden. My eyes meet Pietro. I feel like I’m letting him down walking out like this in the middle of my explanation but my loyalty is with my brother.
I don’t miss the witch towers. They are in the middle of the city. The stone walls are still as dark and as cold as I remember but I don’t remember it being so militant. There were clearly castors patrolling everywhere. This was once a place of learning and education but now things had completely changed. There was fear in the air. Fear and struggle.
I don’t realize how much panic there is until I’m in Micko’s office with Angelica Atwood as she goes off dramatically.
“What were you thinking sharing information with vampires without consulting us first? Have you lost your mind Mickson Boss?”
It doesn’t take long to realize that Angelica Atwood was the one who cast the silence curse. I am barely listening to her when I look past her head and see a number carved into the stone.
It’s strange the number is carved in Micko’s empty room. Everything happened for a reason and I knew I had to pay attention to everything. I want to ask but Angelica is just talking. She is standing over me waving her finger. When I left she had been the Headmaster for the new students learning about the studies of magic. I doubt that has changed by how she’s speaking to me. The girl was the definition of being “by the book”. She had always been seen as one of the strongest witches in my coven and it was her discipline that made her so exceptionally talented.
“Angelica, can you give me and my brother a minute?”
“Fine. Tell how him ridiculously reckless he’s being letting those monsters in…”
Angelica reluctantly leaves clearly wanting to chew me out even more. As soon as she leaves I take a look at my brother. He looks hard at me and then as though we’re both thinking the same thing we just walk to each other and embrace. We hug. The hug feels good. It’s a hug that I need at this moment. It’s a hug that lets me know that regardless of what is happening around us, we are family. And that’s what important.
He holds me for a few minutes, playing with my hair like he used to do when we were kids.
“I’ve missed you,” he tells me.
“I’ve missed you more. Shit been crazy in Eden?”
My brother releases me. I regret asking him about it so soon. I should have let him hold me for a few more minutes. It feels like that is what he wanted to do.
“We let the darkness in and it’s growing. The demons are attacking the city and they are getting better at it.”
“What do they want?”
“They want access to the gate that leads out of Eden. The magical gate. They want access to the gate that leads to the human world. Angelica blocked it off with a sacrifice…” Micko explains.
“That’s good. Humans have no real defense against demons…” I state.
It was up to us to protect them from the threat that hell posed. If the demons got past the magical gate that led out of Eden and to the human world, God knows what would happen. This was just another way that Angelica was showing her wisdom by closing off the gate.
“It seemed like a good idea at first but there are issues. The vampires are going through a blood drought because their only source of blood comes from internal donations within the city from witches and werewolves.”
“They are drinking us?” I ask.
He nods, “Let’s just say not a lot of people are lining up to donate blood to them. The wolves are just as bad. They don’t like living in the city. They prefer the forest but with all the demons it’s not safe. They are not adapting well to city life. Then there are the witches.
It’s the only way to keep the demons in Eden. Lucifer has been…overthrown.”
“His name is Lafayette.”
The darkness of the name is powerful. It sends shivers down my spine. I watch as Micko walks over to his desk. I can see bags underneath his eyes. He looks like he’s been stressing. If the bags don’t make that clear enough then it’s definitely the bottle of Russian Vodka that he pours into a glass and begins drinking desperately in the next few minutes. I swear it’s just obvious that Micko isn’t enjoying this at all.
“When I was in imprisoned by the demons I heard the name whispered in the cells. It was almost as though by ghosts…”
I didn’t know why the demons kept me alive at first, but then I started hearing the screams. It became clear that they took prisoners in order to torture them for sport or maybe as a source of food. I wasn’t sure. A part of me wants to block out those memories completely. I don’t tell Micko all that I went through. He got emotional when it came to things like that. If he knew half of how bad it was, he would definitely have taken Aiden up on his offer.
“Is he really alive?”
Genesis was the witch king. He was the only witch doctor Eden had ever had but was related by blood to the Vampire King. He was a powerful witchdoctor and a dangerous one. Personally, I thought he was a low-down man-stealing dickhead but he had royal blood and at a time like this, an image like that would be welcomed I believed. I saw the hope it gave Aiden. Maybe it would help motivate a lot of other people as well to take a stand against the demon attacks.
“He’s alive,” I state, “He’s not being held the prisoner, not in the way that I was. He’s under…house arrest. Him and his baby.”
“The baby is going to grow up to marry Lafayette. It’s the only reason he’s being kept alive.”
“So what’s the witchdoctor plan?”
“For getting Genesis back?”
Micko looks over at me and shakes his head, “We can’t risk it. It’s way too dangerous.”
“You can spare a few witchdoctors to join Aiden’s team.”
“We can’t spare anyone,” Micko explains to me, “Not now.”
“But your son. Innocent. My nephew. He was taken by them too.”
I look over at Micko. I know bringing up Innocent was a sensitive topic. Innocent was possessed by the demons and he had joined their ranks. Micko had never really been happy since then. He had never really smiled. Knowing that it was such a sore topic, I expect him to at least get desperate. I knew my brother and I knew he would do anything to get his son back.
But Micko just shakes his head at that moment.
He just shakes his head, crosses his arms and states blankly, “Innocent is gone, Micko. And so is Genesis. The witchdoctors won’t lose any more people.”
I’m angry. I’m disappointed. I’m in my room in the West Tower. It’s on the fifteenth floor. The room is like a dormitory. It has a bed. We ’re not really allowed to decorate. I think Headmaster Angelica made up that weird ass rule because there were enchantments in the stone and she didn’t want them to be ‘tainted’. It made for a rather bland room and with everything that has been going on, I find myself just turning off the lights and going to sleep.
It’s not too long until the tears come. Tears of knowing everything that the demons had put me through. Tears hearing the tortured souls back at the gates of hell.
In the darkness, I hear movement, all of a sudden. Something is at my window.
Something scraping it.
My heart starts beating. All of a sudden I remember the scraping sounds of the demons from my cell when they dragged in another one of their victims across the grounds. I remember seeing the blood as the skin on the person’s back was scraped across the floor. If the person was lucky they’d be put in a cell. If not, the demons would eat them alive right then and there. I remember the sounds of the screams. I remember how random the decision was.
I remember wondering if it was me.
My heart bounces out of my chest as I jump up. This wasn’t my imagination. Something was coming through that window. Something! I reach to the side of my desk and grab a knife out of the drawer.
I don’t use it to cut the person who is crawling through my window at that moment. I use it to cut myself.
“A sacrifice to you…”
I draw my own blood. The spirits liked blood. All of a sudden the spirits of my ancestors flock to me. They light up the room appearing out of nowhere. The spirits wrestle the intruder to the grown and pin him there from the inside out. I can feel the intruder spit at that moment feeling the weight of the mystic powers taking him down.
“Fuck can you stop it already?”
The voice sounded familiar.
I dismiss the spirits thanking them for their aid in a quick prayer and turn on the lights to see Pietro holding onto his stomach still in pain from my sacrificial curse. I run over to him at that moment.
“Damn I couldn’t even have my Romeo moment in peace without you going all Voldemort on my fuckin ass.”
I look over at him. He’s ridiculously attractive even when he is immobilized. I help him to my bed and just look at him in complete confusion.
“How the hell did you get up here?” I ask, “My brother stationed guards all around the building…”
“I scaled the side of the building.”
“Are you joking?”
He lifts his eyebrows, “Why? Did my vampire strength turn you on?”
“Didn’t get that ass wet just a lil bit?”
He smiles with this sense of accomplishment, “Dope.”
“You climbed the tower just to get to me?” I ask, “That was fuckin’ dumb.”
“This coming from the guy who got imprisoned by demons trying to chase a crush of his.”
“That was different.”
“Me and this guy, Puck, had a bond.”
I say the words before I mean to. They just sort of slip out of my mouth. Right after I say them I immediately regret the words that are coming out of my mouth.
“Unlike me and you huh?” he asks.
“Let’s not go there. The sex was great but it’s not like we’re in love.”
He grunts, “Hell, never said that.”
“Why are you here Pietro? Headmaster Angelica would turn you into a frog if she found you were here.”
“Well if I was a frog you could kiss me and then I’ll be back to myself in no time.”
“Pietro I’m serious.”
He stops smiling long enough to look over at me with a serious expression, “I came back for you. Aiden’s making an elite team. Vampire, werewolves and witches, he saids. The only problem is that there are no witches joining. Unless…”
“I can’t. My brother would kill me.”
“Nah. He wouldn’t kill you. Not really. Do you want to know who will really kill you though? Like no-shit, dead-as-fuck, murder your ass? Those demons will do it. Whether you sit around in this goddam tower or not. We can’t keep this up much longer. There’s something you don’t know.”
“Eden is under threat.”
“Haven’t we always been under threat?”
“Not all at once. It seems like they are just testing us. They were just kind of dipping their feet in the water with the random murders. There hasn’t been an all-out attack. Aiden won’t admit it but I overheard him talking about it. The demons are getting ready for something. Something big and I don’t think we are going to survive it.”
My heart skips a beat.
“So you should come with me. Join me,” he states, “I want you to join the Elite unit with me….”
My heart is wandering when he talks. I had always been loyal to my brother. I didn’t want to be involved in this fight. That’s why I had run away in the first place. I was trying to get to Puck and get the hell out of Eden. The truth is I never found Puck. Running from my issues had gotten me caught up in the forest by demons and imprisoned.
I couldn’t run from this fight.
I grab his hand, “Sure.”
He looks down at my hand, “What are we holding hands now?”
He grabs my hand back up, “I never said that made me uncomfortable…”
“It’s just…” I start off, “I was with someone for a long time and he did me wrong. Really wrong. And it’s just hard to trust people again.”
After having sex I didn’t know what Pietro thought about me. It was just…weird, to say the least. Pietro may have had Puck’s personality but he reminded me of my ex, Whyte. My ex, Whyte had the same body as Pietro and almost a similar facial structure. I’d never gone so far physically with Puck. With Pietro, it’s the first thing we did. The sex was awesome. It was fucking mindblowing and for some reason all of that made me feel uncomfortable as hell.
“I hate to break it to you but Puck’s probably dead,” he tells me, “A lot of people are probably dead. I don’t know what’s going on between the two of us but we’ll never get to know if you don’t come with me. And not just because we won’t get to spend time together. It’s because we will be dead too.”
He made a damn good point.
I nod, “Let’s get out of here…”
Scaling down the side of a skyscraper on a vampire’s back has to be one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. It also has to be one of the sexiest. At some point, Pietro goes into a freefall with me on his back only to catch himself a few floors down by digging his hands into the stone. He’s so strong that he cracks the stone when he catches himself. I know he’s showing off because of me but the fact that he’s doing it is kind of sexy.
He wants to impress me and I like it.
“You didn’t piss yourself did you?” he asks.
We’re in the courtyard. It’s late at night. Real late. The patrols are everywhere so we would have to be relatively quiet getting out of here.
“Fuck no. I’m not scared of heights.”
“No, you’re just scared of intimacy,” he points out, “That’s much worse, right.”
He starts laughing.
“Shut the fuck up…”
“That was a bit rough.”
“No seriously. Shut the fuck up and look.”
He doesn’t realize it but I do. A heavy mist is filling the courtyard. I knew what this was. It was magic. The mist gets so heavy at that moment that I can hardly see in front of myself.
“What’s happening?” he asks.
What’s happening was that we were caught.
“Let’s make a run for it,” I state turning towards him, “Pietro? Pietro?”
He’s gone in the heavy mist. I’m talking to myself at that moment. The mist disappears in the next few minutes and I see none other than the Headmistress herself standing on the other side of the courtyard. At her feet is Pietro tied up in ropes.
“Angelica, let him go,” I state.
“He’s trespassing,” she states.
It’s so like her to be the one up at this hour of the night. Did the woman ever go to sleep? I look over at her at that moment and just cross my arms.
“He came for me. I’m leaving with him.”
“On whose orders?”
“I’m free to do what I want.”
“Not anymore,” Angelica states, “It’s clear you have no concern for the best interest of this coven. You need to return to your room immediately.”
There she was. The red hand of the Witchdoctor making sure that she laid down the law. I sigh a little bit feeling annoyance almost immediately with this. There was a time where she wasn’t so strict. The threat of the demons had definitely intensified things with Angelica. I could see it a mile away.
“Please Angelica,” I beg at that point, “Pietro says something is coming. If there is a chance Aiden’s team can turn the tides of what is about to happen, then we need to take it.”
“It’s too late.”
It’s a weird thing for her to say but I shake off the thought.
“It’s never too late. Genesis is still alive. He always has a plan. He always has an idea. If we can save Genesis then we can save Eden.”
“Let him go,” a voice states.
I turn and see a hooded red cloak appear. I know almost immediately it’s my brother. He walks into the courtyard joining us. When he gives the order he takes his cloak off and reveals himself to Angelica. I can see Angelica have a full conniption over the fact that my brother is picking my side. Usually, Micko didn’t disagree with Angelica. As a matter of fact, it was kind of annoying how often they were in bed together. But right now he was definitely laying the groundwork down.
“This isn’t smart Micko,” Angelica states.
“It’s a free world. He can make his own choices.”
I run over to Pietro and release him from the ties that are holding him. As soon as he is released he grabs my hand.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“Go. I’ll catch up to you,” I state.
I stop at that moment and turn to Micko and Angelica. I watch how they are staring at me. There is something in their eyes. I keep thinking about what Angelica said
“What did you mean by it’s too late?” I ask Angelica.
Angelica looks over at Micko, “You didn’t tell him?”
“It’s a free world, he can make his own choices,” Micko repeats.
“What didn’t you tell me?”
Micko shakes his head, “I’ve been having dreams. Visions.”
“You don’t have a divine vision…” I tell him.
Micko nods, “No, I don’t. I’ve never studied divination. The white bitches believe my ancestors must have come to me in my dreams in order to warn me. I’ve decided to listen to them. We are having a migration.”
“With or without you. The witchdoctors are leaving Eden…for good.”
“This is our home,” I tell him.
“Not anymore. We can live in the human world easier than vampires who can’t age or werewolves who turn. We actually have the ability to blend in with humans.”
Micko was crazy if he thought witchdoctors faced no threat in the human world than he was wrong. We were victimized by them just the same.
“What spooked you in your dream.”
Micko goes into his robe and pulls out a piece of paper. He hands it to me.
“That is a list. A list of names of I was given in my dream.”
It was what was carved in Micko’s office. The number 5.
“5 people who will die by the fallen Angel Lafayette. Mickson. Now you know why I wanted to protect you. You know why we’re leaving. The ancestors are frightened, Mickson.”
I look at the list. Some of these names I could never have dreamed of.
My throat is getting dry thinking of Micko’s list.
“Is this some sort of joke?”
The last name on the list.
“Come with us, Mickson. Leave with us.”
“This has to be a joke,” is my response.
“It’s not a joke Mickson. You are number 5…”