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Darkness Within

A novel by:

AC Willis

Copyright 2013 AC Willis

First Edition United States

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or otherwise without written permission of the author. Inquiries about reproduction can be sent to: AC Willis 11034 Springfield Road Denham Springs, LA 70706 This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people is entirely coincidence.

To my mother, for teaching me to love books To my father, for teaching me how to work hard To my husband, for blessing me with the most beautiful children, And To my own struggles with darkness, which have fostered self growth. Without you all, I would not have a story to tell.

Chapter One Define Yourself

August 30, 2013 In the springtime sun, I glisten and glow. The sunshine glistens throughout my pores and everybody knows my name. I am Awen, descendant of Celtic deity. I scribble on the paper before making it into a ball and depositing it with the collection of beginnings I had written today. I am 17, a senior in high school, and ready to embark upon the most anticipated journey of a persons life: college. My GPA is well above average, I have participated in enough extra-curricular activities to occupy a small army and I am active in charity. I can fill up the pages of an Admissions Application with ease. Despite these facts, I had

Application with ease. Despite these facts, I had yet to complete one single admissions essay. I am already accepted into local colleges which require no essay but I am not satisfied with that. The college of my dreams is Harvard University. I want to stand among the elite Ivy League student body and be counted as part of the selected few. My father is a professor of the arts there but I have asked him no favors in the admissions process. I want to know that I have been granted access to the prestigious University based on my own merit. The application has been completed for a couple of months now but I have had no success with the Admissions essay. Two simple words kicked the edges of my pounding head: Define Yourself. As far as Admissions essays were considered, it should be an easy task. Im sure the University is looking for the ability to look inward and describe what you see. It should be simple to define myself. For all intents and purposes, I appear to be a normal teenage girl. Aside from my bright red hair and stark Grey eyes, which set me apart physically, I am a normal looking teenager. I am captain of the cheer leading squad and president of my schools Key Club. I take delight in charity work (at the urging of my father) and have a

work (at the urging of my father) and have a decent size group of friends. I am in between boyfriends but I have dated in the past. I love clothes, shoes and technology. I watch videos on-line and update my status whenever I go to the bathroom. However, these things do not define me. They are merely products of my age and culture. They do not begin to touch the inner depths of my soul or explain my purpose on this earth. These things will not help me gain entrance into Harvard University. Writing an essay about these things would paint me as shallow and be off-putting to Harvards Admissions Board. Painting myself as a normal teenage girl will not help me stand out as Ivy League material. The problem isnt knowing myself. I know I am not shallow. I have spent a fair amount of time searching the depths of my soul and I am certain that I know myself, and those around me, a lot better than a large majority of my fellow seniors. In fact, Im certain that I know myself better than most adults. The problem is not peering into the depths of my soul; the problem is that the things that lie there should never be spoken. Firstly, my mother died as I was being born.

Firstly, my mother died as I was being born. This has left me with a mental list of questions about myself, and my heritage, that I feel will never be answered. My dad does not talk about her often and I dont even know her own parents names. Before she died, she named me Awen but I have never been given indication as to why she chose the name. Sometimes I imagine that she took one look at me and simply decided that Awen is the name suited me best or that there is some tie to my heritage hidden in the choice. These are just guesses and the aching feeling of not knowing takes hold of me every time I try to discover her motivation for choosing the name. I know that I share in her love for studying humankind and (like her); I plan to study Anthropology at Harvard University. Looking through her notes one afternoon, I found a study she had begun about Celtic Druids. The Druids define Awen as flowing spirit, explain it in the same manner that Christians explain The Holy Spirit, and use it at a chant to end their prayers (much like Amen is used in our society). She has given me the gift of an unique name and whenever I introduce myself to people, it often becomes the subject of prying questions. Embarrassed that I cannot offer a complete explanation, I simply define it as the hand of god.

Although I may have simplified the explanation of my name, the sad truth is that I am left unknowing why it was chosen in the first place. The notes on the Druids were the last notes entered into my mothers logbook before going to the hospital to give birth. As I sat in the foyer reading her words, I was left with a numbing feeling that my naming was an accident. She was dying, was that simply the last thought that had wondered into her head? If it were not an accident, I ponder, that would explain a lot. My life had been unusual to say the least and some of the best parts of me are locked inside a box and hidden carefully within myself. While my most private truths set me apart from the average, how do I explain to the Harvard Admissions Board that I hear whispers in the wind? The Awen that the world knows is a carefully constructed ruse that I play out day after day. I have quilted together all the best pieces of myself and I wear it around like a coat of many colors. I see hints of the same thing in people around me every day. I am privet to the truth behind the strangers lie. Whenever I ask a

behind the strangers lie. Whenever I ask a friend how shes feeling and she responds with an Im fine, sometimes I see a crack around the edges. In those moments, I know the truth. I know that the Im fine is her ruse. I see deeper into her words and realize that what she means is Im tired of fighting. I am working day and night on college applications but I dont even know what I want to be yet. Why must we construct simple lies for the complicated truth? My truth is far more frightening than the uncertainty and fear which most people lie to cover. I hear things. I see thingsI can do things which are terrifying. When I was 13, Alecster Jones and his brothers were teasing Cleary McQuintock in my front yard. Cleary was a kind hearted boy with two different color eyes but he was always targeted by bullies for his differences. I was in the back yard, using my powers to manipulate the snow when I heard them teasing him. I ran around front in his defense and punched Alecster Jones. In that moment, I had wished something bad would happen to him. As he fell backward, he stumbled into oncoming traffic and in the front of a moving vehicle. When I was 15, my stepmother and I had

When I was 15, my stepmother and I had gotten into an argument. My dad sat in the living room , pledging not to get involved. She stood in the kitchen, preparing dinner. As our voices rose, I felt a heat rushing through me. Im not certain whose anger was the greatest but when the two came together, in one quaking moment, the pot rack began to rumble. One by one, the dishes began to fall and we stood in silent awe. We have never spoken of the event. In fact, we have never spoken of anything really substantial. My stepmother plays out one of the most carefully constructed ruses I have ever seen. Most of the time, she is completely ruled by fear. She is afraid to be judged. Most of all, she is afraid to be known. She focuses most greatly on her outward appearance, because she doesnt want anybody to peer inside. She doesnt want anybody to see the pieces of her soul that she folds up and tucks in the corner. I could gather up all her simple lies and fill the Grand Canyon. The majority of incidents that have occurred are much less terrifying, though. I discovered, at a tender age, that I simply see things differently than the whole of society. The first fall breeze, for instance, may signify the need for a jacket for most. For me, it signifies a change in energy; in power. It is a telling sign

change in energy; in power. It is a telling sign of a great wheel of nature which is ever churning. Society teaches me that these things are to be feared and mocked. Anything which cannot be understood is to be hated and feared. This is the zeitgeist of our time. So, instead of moving against the current, I ebb along. I flow through my life, blending into the societal fabric around me. There are times when I dream of changing everything. I imagine myself standing on top of a building in the public square, completely exposed for everything that I am. I watch the crowds in the streets cheering me. They accept me for who I am and feel comfortable to shed their own simple lies for complicated truths. Unfortunately, I do not do this. I trudge forward, carrying half of myself around at a time. I compartmentalize. At this current moment, its college applications and quiet reflections. Later, its pizza and movies with my best friend Lacy. For these tasks, I adorn different masks and play different roles. Later tonight, I will shed my skin and travel to an unseen land. I will face real terror and darkness. I will confront it and I will change it.

darkness. I will confront it and I will change it. In these moments, I feel more complete than at any other point in the day. Although I am not concrete in knowing whether my nighttime ambitions are based in fiction or reality, I feel more real in those moments than any others in my life. Maybe I should put that in my Harvard essay: Awen Murdock: Travels the realms and hunts shadows. Hears whispers from the divine in the wind. Loves pizza and romance novels I scoff at the idea as I gather my books, change clothes and head out to meet Lacy.

Chapter Two Defining Normality

Lacy Winters is the most normal person I know, not that I have a good basis for understanding normality. At 55 and 140lbs, she is athletic and witty. Her long blond hair is always smooth and compliments her soft hazel eyes. She dresses well and concerns herself with fashion but with moderation. Lacy is the type of girl who will adorn a hip ensemble during the day and then run errands in her track suit after school. Perhaps normal isnt the best word to describe Lacy. Perhaps the correct word to use is balanced. Of all the things about Lacy, it is her ability to just be that I admire the most. There is an unprecedented ease about her. She does not try and form to societys opinions about her.

and form to societys opinions about her. Instead, she simply exists and in doing so, she fits in perfectly. One of the things I love most about Lacy is her laugh. It never seems forced or fake and when she laughs and the air around her expands to greet the room. When Lacy laughs, you laugh with herthats just the way it is. Of course Lacy holds her fair share of simple lies. She stays true to the Im fine lie and That sweater is great on you lie. However, she is less cracked and tattered around the edges than most people. She has secrets but they arent bottomless pits constantly tempting to drag her under. Lacys secrets are much more manageable. When Im with Lacy, I almost forget my own differences. I almost feel normal. Maybe its because shes the most honest person I know. She is as comfortable with her ruses as she is her reality. She isnt afraid to peel back a few layers occasionally and allow strangers to peer inside. By the time I arrive at her house, Lacy has popped a bag of popcorn, set up a selection of movies, and ordered pizza. She is setting on the love seat in her familys theater room and as I walk in to greet her, she gives me her most

walk in to greet her, she gives me her most honest smile. This is my favorite Lacy smile. It is a smile which says, genuinely, I am happy to see you. Lacy gives me the rundown of her day as we wait for pizza to arrive and then we move on to selecting a movie. I am amazed at how easy it is to simply exist in this moment. Im not looking for secret messages, hidden lies or buried agendas. The sensations that I feel are relaxed and muted; not rushing and overwhelmed. I think for a moment about how easy it must be to constantly exist in this manner. Lacy sits across from me, texting on her phone and gossiping about school. She is a human, in the most natural state. In this moment, she is a ray of sunshine in the early morning but as life pulls at her, she will darken and tear. She will experience heart break and sorrow as great as her joy and she will rebound. She never concerns herself with anything greater than herself, she simply moves forward. She simply experiences life. Spending the evening with Lacy fills me with light. Basking in her normality, I try it on. I wear it like a new layer of skin and loose myself in the thought of it. However, I am

myself in the thought of it. However, I am reminded that I am not suspended in the same state of normality that she is. I do not experience life as simply as she does. My life is something different; something unnatural. Before night falls, I return home. My head is reeling with thoughts of Harvard, Lacy and life. I walk into my room, noticing the catch on my window is broken. A gentle fall breeze blows through the window and a familiar sensation flows through me. I stand for a moment, allowing it to flow through every fiber of my being. This moment is more normal to me than an entire days worth of moments. I am alone with the wind: alone with my thoughts and for the first time today, I am alive. There is a familiar tension in the air as it surrounds me. I feel it rushing throughout my body and tugging at the edges of my soul. For a moment, I am balanced: I am whole. I am both knowing and known.

Chapter Three Distraction

I spend some time in my room before moving through the rest of the days motions. Downstairs, my dad, Diana and I make small talk. These moments feel wasted as energy is expended without result. What good is chatting about the weather when I could be outside myself; experiencing it? What do we gain from wasting moments on this menial small talk, instead of making true and honest connections? I retire to my room, exhausted. It is 9pm on a Friday night. Tonight I will fore-go the experiences of teenage normality. I will not spend the evening on a friend of a friends front yard. I will not go to the movies with a prospective boyfriend, have dinner with the girls, or spend the evening with Lacy, watching

girls, or spend the evening with Lacy, watching movies and gossiping. Not tonight. Tonight I must rest for tomorrow is not my own. I am tired but as the world chirps onward around me, it feels too early to sleep. I click open my laptop and look for a distraction from my thoughts. I check my email which really just means that I delete all the junk mail that has been collecting there for weeks. Then, I update my status: Staying in tonight. Art benefit for charity tomorrow#charityrocks. I truly love social networking. I can send a message to my aunt in Arizona, make a new bestie from London and let my dad know that dinner is ready by the click of a mouse. I can do all this without putting on any makeup, worrying about my outfit or producing painfully fake smiles. In the world of social media, I am both connected and disconnected to the world around me. It really is a perfect balance for somebody like me. I spend an hour posting and reposting, commenting and texting before I realize that I have a psychology paper due Monday. Tomorrow, I will be busy with a charity event with my dad and I are attending together. Sunday is church followed by Sunday dinner

Sunday is church followed by Sunday dinner with the extended family and an evening at the salon with Lacy. There is no time for me to put it off so I sign out, mute my phone and begin writing. The paper is about the science of sleep and the meaning of dreams. I begin by writing: Sleeping is one of the most mystical aspects of human life. At night it appears that life blinks shut for a while. Humans strip off their ruses and discard their simple lies for quiet rest and honest dreams. Everything sleeps. Plants, animals, and humans unite in their need to close shut and exist in a natural state of animated suspension. Even the lights in the city sleep. This is a true testament that human progress is drenched in imitation of nature. Sleep is scientific. It can, and has been, poked, prodded and tested. It can be explained. Dreams, on the other hand, are not so easy to test and nearly impossible to explain. For some, dreams are a distant reminder of the human sub-consciousness. For others, dreams are illusive and distant. They are either never had, or never remembered. Dreams can be aching reminders of the

Dreams can be aching reminders of the past, indicate the future or be frightening displays of human terror. As the waking mind closes, humans are left exposed and vulnerable. There are no simple lies in a persons dreams, making them more real than an entire days worth of fake smiles and forced emotion. I stop writing and think about my words so far. If dreams are any indication of the human subconscious, what do mine say about me? I ponder as I tap the eraser of my pen against the book of paper in front of me. If dreams represent the honesty behind the lie, my truth is frightening. I re-read, revise and settle for sticking to the facts and disregarding my own opinions about the subject. I make no mention of mysticism and when I am finished, my written thoughts seem normal and well adjusted. The descriptions are bland and tainted with facts but they are not implicating and pointed. I tuck the papers away, wishing I had the guts to be more candid in the writing of it. It is 11pm and my eyes are heavy as I close my computer, turn off the light and settle into bed. The night around me is quiet and stale. The city slows and I feel a sense of collective sleep. I feel the humans around me as they climb into bed, close their eyes and drift into their honest dreams. One by one, they blink out like the city

dreams. One by one, they blink out like the city lights and I begin to blink, as well. In those quiet moments before my conscious brain numbs, I think of my mom. What did you dream about? I wonder and I drift off to sleep.

Chapter Four Shadow World

I startle at the absence of my body. What I am now transcends my physical being and represents the nonphysical aspects of myself. It is a part of me that I keep tucked deep down inside, hidden by a carefully constructed outer shell. It is a body made of spiritual matter and represents everything about me that is unnatural. The body of my dreams is a stark contrast to my physical one. My bright red curls and stark Grey eyes are replaced with smooth, flowing silver and deep, glowing amber. My physical body is athletic and stout while my dream body is waifish and thin. Here, I float through the shadows with soft, careful steps.

In this world, I must adorn a cloak of shadows. It is long, flowing and tattered at the end. It moves without me as the material for it was once the living shadow of a twisted tree. On my first night here, it was stitched together with beams of the moon by my companion, Cai. Thinking of that night, damp chills flow throughout my body. I must blend here, I remind myself as I wind the path toward my favorite hilltop in this twisted forest. I pull my cloak tighter and trudge toward a great, gnarled tree on the top of the hill. In these short moments, I have time to reflect over the events that had brought me here. Until I was 13, I was set apart by my peers by slight differences. To overcome this, I had to learn to compartmentalize and blend. On the eve of my 13th birthday, however, I changed. I was capable of doing things that werent normalthings that were unnatural. It started with little things like the ability to drop the temperature of a room or the ability to sense the moods of everyone around me. I saw these things as harmless. Although I hid it away from everyone in my life, I practiced in private and these powers steadily escalated. I would dream of the good I could do

escalated. I would dream of the good I could do with them; the lives I could change. I never, once, thought the powers to be evil or corrupted, until the day that Alecster Jones ended up on the hood of a car. It was on the very day that I traveled to this shadow world for the first time. On that night, I was scared and alone; rolled into a ball under the shadow of a tree. I was surrounded by indistinguishable figures. My light was the only thing shining in that vast forest of condemned souls and they were hungry for it. They were moving upon me with intent to rip it from me. They were trying to consume me. I wept with the fear of a terrified 13 year old girl and my body shook at the absence of light and evil intent in their eyes. It was the most hopeless I had ever felt. As the inevitability of the end of my life closed in on me, I slammed shut. For a moment, the beaming light dissipated and was replaced with mocking darkness. This bewildered the stalking shadows. Confounded, they froze. A moment of uncertainty hung in the air as my mind registered my options. I moved quickly and climbed to the top of the tree. There I stayed

climbed to the top of the tree. There I stayed hidden as I watch the shadows descend. Breathing a sigh of relief, something broke inside me and a bright light burst from inside. The lurking shadows returned and were on high alert and there was no place for me to hide; no way for me to run. Out of the darkness, came a deafening screech. A strange sense of hope filled the air as I watched the shadows dissipate, one at a time. I was bewildered by the events that had just taken place and blinded by the darkness. I could not see the source of the noise. I sat at the top of that mammoth, darkened tree for what seemed to be ages. I was waiting but for what, I didnt know. Was I awaiting a savior to scoop me up and carry me out of this wasteland or was it a hungry soul who preferred one on one odds in my consumption? I was trapped: there was nothing to do but wait. The moments that I sat in the top of that tree, Alecster Jones was all I could think about. I had wished an accident upon him and it had instantly happened. I had decided that this was punishment for my actions earlier in the day. I had been given a gift and I directed it in the most malicious manner. Now, I would pay and soon I would be a walking shadow, just like the ones that had tried to consume me. Just like the

ones that had tried to consume me. Just like the last lurking shadow, my unlikely savior. It wasnt you the voice rang in my head without an uttering sound. There was something strangely familiar about itit was the voice of the wind. What? I spoke out loud, searching for its origin. It came to me again, in a slow silent rhythm. The accident with Alecster Jones wasnt your fault. I basked in these words. I clung to the familiarity of them. Like most things in your life, it was beyond your control. It was the string of fate pulling you along. How... I began. Dont speak, youll be heard. It came quickly and warningly. I took a deep breath in, focused my mind and spoke a language I had spoken so many times. I spoke the language of the trees, the wind and all things without a voice. Show Yourself. It was a simple sentence but I reveled in it. For the first time in my life, I felt truly whole.

I heard the crack of the limb before I actually saw him. He was a medium-sized owl. With dark black feathers and glowing with purple eyes, he was both shadow and light. I gazed at him for a moment, stunned at his beauty. My name is Cai. He offered. There was shakiness about it and I sensed an unease growing within him. I am Awen, I know. Come, we have a lot to talk about. He covered me in the cloak and led me to a great, twisted tree on the top of a hill. It was the biggest tree in the forest and he showed me how to enter it. He made it my safe haven. That night he explained the mystical workings of the world to me. He explained human fate and the goal of the diviners to maintain balance in the world. He described how diviners move in and out of human lives, guiding them and directing them toward their fates. He told me that he was a diviner and that he had been there in the moment that the altercation between Alecster Jones and I had

altercation between Alecster Jones and I had occurred. Confusion played on his face and I could tell that although he was sure it hadnt been me who had caused the accident, he wasnt sure who or what had. We talked for hours that night and I could sense something within Cai which he was hiding. He was being honest to me but simple lies invaded his truth. I knew, in that moment, that Cai had his own boxes stuffed with parts of him that he did not want to show me. That was four years ago and since then I have traveled here to meet with him nightly. Some nights we hide in the great tree, talking. Other nights, danger lurks and we are forced outside, into the shadows. I was clumsy at first and brought danger upon us. Eventually I learned to drift along without making sound or foot print. I learned to fight and I learned to hunt. As I approach our meeting place, Cai is waiting for me. The contrast between his dark black feathers and the silver tufts of hair on his body create an omniscient glow which mimics the moon. His purple eyes gaze at me and I instantly know that tonight is a hunting night. In this place, hunting is crucial for survival.

In this place, hunting is crucial for survival. At first, I remained hidden in the shadows while Cai defended us. It was my only choice. I did not have the confidence necessary to fight back and Cai was insistent that I not try. All that faded away as I pulled back the layers and proved that I was too strong to back down in a fight. Now were a solid pair. We move seamlessly, reading the meaning in each movement of our partner. We engage in a dance of dichotomy and harmony. Together we stalk and devour. I have never been so known than when Im hunting with Cai. He understands my intention without a murmur from my lips and he always counters. There is a unspoken promise of protection between us and when Im hunting with him, I feel whole. Tonight we follow a beam of light down a twisted path. Fog creeps up around our ankles and we trudge forward. The footsteps are heavy and clumsy. The scent of fear rises in my nostrils as Cai hastens his pace. I pause, slinking between two shadows. I remain hidden and study the vibrations. The vibrations tug at my edges as I draw a deep breath. Another figure becomes apparent, slinking along behind the light. The wandering

slinking along behind the light. The wandering spirit is being tracked. The figure moves from shadow to shadow, taking the shape of each one. It does this without detection and only the feeling of it allows me to pinpoint where it is. His vibrations are low and taunting. It is certain that this will not be a quick hunt. It is also certain that nothing good can come of the being making contact with the wanderer. Beings with vibrations this low do not strike quickly. They do not simply feed off any light that is present. Beings like this stalk. They mock and torture and push their prey to the edge of psychological distress. When they take form and attack, they consume the entire being. After the battle, there will be nothing left of the wanderer but an empty shell. This is a very dangerous being, I confirm and the light cast by the wanderer grows brighter as it moves toward us. Cai is above stalking and I await the signal. The being steps out of a shadow and into a form. The seams of him cling to the shadows as his shadow body separates itself from its shadowy cloak. His face is twisted in a gnarled look of hunger and satisfaction as he moves closer to the wanderer. Before he can make contact with the wanderer, Cai swoops in on him from above. Screeching fills the air and I rush toward the being.

Cai engages before I arrive and as he consumes the shadows, I pull back my cloak. Exposing my own light, I move quickly to infuse it into the shadow being. My pure light fills him and he quakes from the inside. He rips at the seam, spilling tattered pieces of shadow and beams of light into the darkness around him. The shadow being is no more and the wanderer is safe from harms way. I pull my cloak tight and move carefully toward the trembling wanderer. We rush forward away from the location of the battle and I help the wanderer find her way home. Cai and I glide hopefully toward the great tree. Great hunt. He whispers in my mind. I tug at the cloak, sending a solid beam of light toward him. It shimmers against him and he delights in it.My own light boasts at the sight of him in this moment. I dont know what events brought him here or what his motivations for protecting the wanderers here are. Im not even sure if hes a light being or a dark one but I know he is good. As he flows through my beams of light, they flow through him and I stand in admiration of his beauty. Before we return to the great tree, I feel the familiar

return to the great tree, I feel the familiar tugging of waking moments and I fade seamlessly back into reality.

Chapter Five Art

6:00 am My alarm clock beckons earlier than I wish it would on a Saturday morning. I awake to the aching feeling of stepping into a new reality. I am groggy from my sleep but as my senses awaken, I smell bacon frying in the kitchen. A hint of sentimentalism flows through me and I am motivated to get out of bed. My thoughts are scrambled and unfocused as I get dressed and brush my teeth. The morning grogginess dissipates as I comb my hair and pull it back into a pony tail. Today is a makeup free, jeans and t-shirt day. I carefully choose clothes that are nice but disposable. I dont want a favorite outfit ruined as Im painting with the children.

In the kitchen, dad has prepared breakfast. He is standing at the island, reading an art magazine. He is getting older and his black hair is peppered around the edges by a dull Grey. As children, we are self interested and often ignore the aging of our parents. As we grow and gain the ability to look beyond ourselves, new revelations about our parents come to light. This is one of those rare moments when a child is faced with the mortality of their parent. The toll of the years he has lived and the battles he has fought are clear to me on his face and I stand back in awe of it. The edges of his dark brown eyes had once been smooth but are now with muddled with choppy lines. These lines tell the story of his life. The deepest lines, I know, have come from the death of my mother. They are the hardened lines of a grieving husband, alone in the world without the warmth of his wifes love. These deep lines branch with thin ones, caused by the task of raising me alone. These lines are softer. They are lines of constant worry but hold hints of laughter and love along the way. Unfortunately, these lines are the only evidence left of my mothers death. My dad does not speak of it and for all my ability, I

does not speak of it and for all my ability, I have never gaze beyond his wall at the pain hidden within. He has managed to tuck away his pain, adorn his own ruse and move forward but the effort this has taken lives within those wrinkles and in the distance between us. Standing in the door way of our kitchen, I feel honest joy at the thought of spending the day with him. Noticing me, he glows with the light of a father proudly gazing into the soul of his daughter. He greets me with a warm smile and I return it gleefully. The lines around his mouth are less pronounced, denoting that he had managed to maintain a smile even in the darkest moments of his life. Are you ready, Wen? He asks as I set down for breakfast. Yes, indeed. I reply. We eat to the sound of our conversation. We talk about the charity event and plan for the day to come. The words hang on the outside of us like a shell. They are words spoken out of necessity rather than meaning. A simple lie hangs on the edges of his words and I know he is holding something back. I finish my meal and clear my plate. As he

I finish my meal and clear my plate. As he does the same, I ask him if he ready to go. His reservation speaks for him before he opens his mouth, and I know that we will not be alone today. Sorry, Wen. He explains. Diana just wants to take an interest in my work. I excuse his explanation, hiding my true emotion with a ruse. I tell him that Im excited about spending the day with both of them and he warms the generosity of it. The complicated truth is that I am not excited about spending the day with both my dad and Diana. The moments that were mine and his alone were so few that I cling to them. I had graciously welcomed Diana into many aspects of our life together but art is mine and his alone. She had never attempted to engage in this part of our relationship before and the thought of it tickles me with anger. I am generally not an angry person, except as it relates to Diana. Something about her worms its way past my light and pokes at the darkness within. Mostly, I maintain my composure in the face of it but I can tell that it will be a challenge for me, today.

I set alone with my thoughts and when Diana and my father come to greet me, I fold up my anger and stashed it away. I fold it carefully, hoping it will be fine in my hidden box. I can only hope that I have locked it up tight enough.

Chapter Six Paint and Blood

We walk into the community center, 30 minutes late and sweating from the effort of carrying out supplies in. By we, I am referring to my father and I. Diana cannot carry any boxes because she has just gotten a manicure. Diana explains that it is important she doesnt mess up her manicure because she has a meeting with a new supplier Monday. Appearances are everything. She chirps as we set the boxes down and begin preparing for the day. I do a quick inventory of myself. Drenched in sweat and without makeup, I must fall short to her standards in every way possible. As we set up, I compare Diana against every other person in the room.

Her silk dress and designer heels are a stark contrast against the jeans, t-shirts and flip flops throughout the room. I am happy that everyone else in the room have chosen function over formality and dressed in a way that was appropriate for the event. Compared to everyone else, Diana stands out as the only fashionista in the room. All the canvases in the room stare at her in mocking glory for she is the only piece of art that had already been painted. She is beautiful and I hate her for it. Diana quickly becomes the theme of the day. As we are setting up, she talks about fabric choices and buttons. When the children begin pouring in, she approaches the mothers. Conversations about fall fashion and discounts flow between them. I realize in this moment that Dianas sudden enthusiasm about art is driven by raising sales, rather than bonding with her family. The notion of it rises in my brain and stems a rumbling of anger from inside me. It rolls over me like waves and I fight to contain it before it breaks free and rushes over my shores. She is standing a few feet in front of me and as the anger burst from inside me, a child trips. He tumbles toward her, struggling to

He tumbles toward her, struggling to maintain balance. She moves toward him with her arms outstretched in an effort to steady him. The scissors in his hand cut a deep gash in the palm of her hand. Blood gushes from her palm and into the floor as the event staff work to bandage her hand. Instant apologies and panicked attempts to treat the wound shuffle around her. For a moment her eyes shift toward me and she stares into my soul. It was my fault, I think. And she knows it

Chapter Seven Light in the Darkness

Sunday, September 1, 2013 Waking up from a night in the shadow realm, my mind is groggy and aching. The accident with my step mom had lain heavily on my soul and as I entered astral form, my light was muted. I shone brightly enough to cloak but the difference must have been noticeable because Cai decided we would forego hunting for the night. It was a rare night without incident as we found shelter in the great tree. Cai is a storyteller and he fashioned an ancient fairytale for me. The story he told me was laced with fairies, giants and magical creatures of every shape and size. Not sure if it was set in a

shape and size. Not sure if it was set in a physical or mystical world, I listened to his words carefully. As he spoke, my soul was lifted from the pit of darkness encapsulating it. The guilt which had taken seat in the deepest recesses inside me had subsided and I was filled with the magical wondering of a child. In the darkness of the tree, I lifted the edge of the cloak and allowed glimmering light to flow around us. Together we were suspended in the rushing emotion of it. A sacred elated joy is extended from my being to his and he softens to it. The flashes in his eyes register a sense of pride which is a mystery to me but compounding to my own joy. While he was delighting in creating joy within me, I was delighting in creating pride within him. My earthly body was slow to register my souls pride and human reminders of my previous guilt soaked into me as the day progressed. During the mornings church service, I had to relive the story of origin for Dianas injuries over and over. One by one, concerned congregation members approached and offered kind thoughts and prayers for her injuries.

With each motion of empathy, I withdrew further into the corners of myself. I imagined a large florescent arrow above my head, implicating me as the cause of the accident. In my mind, I paint a picture of a witch being burned at the stake for mingling with the devil. As the service moves on and the church fills with joyful song, my light is ignited. By the end of the service, the edges of my guilt have subsided and I am full of grace. In this moment, I feel a connection to the divine which equates to the rolling winds in the bows of a great tree. I am as full of light right now as I was in the great tree with Cai last night. The mingling of bodies at the end of the services strikes more uncomfortable conversation about Dianas injuries. Feeling implicated, I look around nervously but nobody points their finger in my direction. Nobody looks at me as the girl with supernatural powers who speaks to the devil in the wind and creates accidents which result in tearing flesh and flowing blood. Would they accept me, if they knew? I wonder as I slink out the door of the church. Or would I be crucified for my differences?

Dad is waiting with the early preparations of dinner when we arrive home. He never attends church services with Diana and me. Pleased that dinner is already started, Diana takes over preparations as she cites all the reasons why dad should have attended church with us this morning. The conversation takes a sharp theological turn and my head reels. The preparation of dinner becomes a catalyst for the faith versus logic debate. Somewhere in the middle of the two, I do not weigh in on the conversation. As the tension in the air builds, I excuse myself to my room until dinner. Lacy has already arrived when I pull into the parking lot of the downtown caf. It is a small caf and a popular meeting place for the creative and the young. Inside, the soft flowing sound of Indie Folk music gives the small log building a rustic feel. I find my way to the table where Lacy is already setting. As I approach, she smiles at me from the rim of her Late. I order an ice coffee and as we wait, we fill the air with small talk about music, school and fashion. These moments are easy and conversation flows between us without expectation. Lacy is glowing, today. Her hair is pulled

Lacy is glowing, today. Her hair is pulled back out of her face, highlighting her eyes. Setting across from me, she leans forward when she speaks and shifts position in her seat often. Excitement and wonder at the prospect of Lacys intention intrigues me and so I begin to poke and prod at her secret, begging it to reveal itself. Is that a new shirt? I offer, hoping the mention of something new will nudge the conversation along. No. She answers simply, road blocking my attempt. Well, theres *something* new about you today, I cant quite put my finger on it. I relent. No, nothing new She smiles Nothing exciting I pry further. I see her secret slowly turning inward as she avoids the subtext in my comments. The excitement building within me is too much and it bursts forward without prompting. Lacy Winters, you have a secret! Rule number one of best friends: never keep secrets The rules were put in place when we were in

The rules were put in place when we were in the 6th grade and we hardly recite them now. They are reserved for emergencies or when one friend is refusing to share something seemingly exciting. Okay, okay. You know me too well, Lacy begins and then a sense of reservation hangs in the air. Do you remember Alecster Jones? Memories of crushing bones and blood tainted flesh come to mind and I cringe. Lacy, you havent No, noits not like that She exclaims, surprised at my innuendo. Well, the Fall formal is coming up and a girl has to start looking early if shes going to get a good date I roll my eyes at the thought of it and she glares at me expectantly. With reservation she continues, Were meeting him later. Lacy, this is not a good idea Hes bringing a friend She lends, teasingly. I begin my objections with the obvious. The last time I had seen Alecster Jones was when he

last time I had seen Alecster Jones was when he was being carried off my lawn on a stretcher. Before I make my way down the list to Im too busy to date, she has interrupted me. Rule number four: best friends are always honest It hung in the air between us. She has seen my bluff and raised it. I roll my eyes at her and concede to hear her out but I know that I will not like what is coming next. Its been 6 months since you and whatshisname called it quits. Remy I corrected. See, thats what Im talking about. What kind of name is Remy? You always date these introspective artist types. When you break up, you spend months moping around about it. Its not healthy. She sighs and takes a sip of her Late. My coffee arrives and I politely tip the barista before making serious eye contact with Lacy again. She rolls her eyes at me and leans forward before continuing. This is it! This is senior year, we dont get another shot at this. So what is this, an intervention? You can call it what you want. I just want to go on a double date with my best friend. I want to flirt, giggle and hopefully talk my way

want to flirt, giggle and hopefully talk my way into a good date for the fall formal. You can completely ignore Cleary if you wantbut you shouldnt My mind fumbles to make the connection between Cleary and Alecster. How can they be best friends? When had this happened and why am I just noticing it? Perhaps Lacy had a point. I have spent a large portion of my life putting on a ruse. I have stood back and gazed at life without experiencing it. I decided that I would give teenage normality a chance, even if the thought of Cleary and Alecster in the same room makes me want to vomit. So, I can assume were not going to the spa. I offered, reluctantly. Were going bowlingwait we? Does this mean youre in? Excitement rushes over her and it spills out onto into the air around us. She leans across the table and gives me a generous hug. It is the type of honest hug that one would expect from a best friend. It is the kind of hug which says I owe you one. We arrived at the bowling alley before the boys. I tried to mute my cynicism as my inner commentary notes that we had time to go to Lacys and (painfully) conduct outfit changes,

Lacys and (painfully) conduct outfit changes, hair and makeup. My mind turns to thoughts of death as I ponder what the delay could be. The boys arrive 15 minutes later. The smell of danger and taunting trouble fill the air as Alecster Jones approaches us. He has grown taller and stronger, and the growth looks good on him. He is sporting a black and grey checkered shirt with skulls in negative space paired with skinny jeans and checkered skating shoes. A myriad of chains lead from his front to back pocket. His dark black hair is combed back, highlighting his deep brown eyes and his olive skin. It feels like it has been ages since the incident and I have purposely avoided him since then. I do not like the feelings of persecution that stir within me when I am around him. Surprisingly, he greets and hugs me first. I guess the persecution is one-sided. I consider as the warm of his energy surrounds me in embrace. I am bewildered by this thought when Cleary Mcquintock comes into view. His torso has grown, evening the overall proportion of his body. He is still very tall but it seems to fit him more now. He is dressed more relaxed in a white t-shirt and black jeans with the same

white t-shirt and black jeans with the same checkerboard skating shoes. His hair has straightened out. Now, it sets in shaggy array around his head. His eyes are the same familiar amber and blue two-toned that I loved when we were kids. The kindness was still there, too and I sighed a breath of relief. Being best friends with Alecster hasnt completely ruined him, I suppose. He greets me with a hug. Although it is more nervous and reserved than the strong onearmed greeting that I received from Alecster, it is honest and warm. It is the kind of hug that seems to say Its been too long, old friend. I smiled in delight at this and the pleasure on Lacys face is undeniable. The conversation begins as a simple greeting between old friends. It is slow and halting as we work to feel each other out. In all its awkwardness, it is nice. It is exciting, like the first day of school and I revel in the normality of it all. Just as Im beginning to open up, the conversation takes a sharp, twisted turn. I saw you, Saturday. Cleary begins. Ohyou did? I respond with surprise.

Yeah, it was at that charity event at the community center. My stomach begins to knot as memories from the day flood my mind. I havent talked to Lacy about what happened to Diana yet. I dont want to talk about it, and I resent Cleary for brining it up. I try to shut the memories off but I feel a familiar anger rising in the pit of me. I dont want to remember. Not now. Not in this moment when normality is so close . Picking up on the conversation, Lacy chimes in with Oh yeah, how was the charity event, Awen. I know you were excited about it. I saw your status. Before I could answer, Cleary answers with, It was awesome! Awens step mom was brutally attacked by some kid with scissors. Shock registers on Lacys face as the thought of me not telling her about it plays out in her mind. I glare at Cleary and read the responses to the statement on the faces of my friends. Reactions vary between Alecster and Lacy. Lacy registers surprise and concern while Alecster revels in the bloodletting of it. Anger builds inside me. It must be apparent because Cleary immediately apologizes for

because Cleary immediately apologizes for being insensitive. I just thought maybe you didnt get along that well with her because you didnt rush to help her. I was coming to talk to you when it happened, thats how I saw it. Im really sorry. He is genuine in his apology and I am working to fold up my anger and tuck it into a carefully guarded corner when Alecster makes a comment that tugs at the edges of it and pulls it out for everybody to see. You know, Awen. You sure do have a knack for spilling blood. The manner in which he says it isnt implicating or harsh but it crawls inside of me and pokes at my guilt. It is too late before I register it as a joke and before I can recall, my open hand is headed for the side of Alecsters face. The print of my hand on his face is white and stinging but it only lasts for a moment. I didnt hit him hard and he is not angered by it. Slowly, heavy silence rises from the scene. I await disgust and condemnation from my friends. Before I can apologize, the silence is broken by nervous laughterAlecsters was the first. His laugh is a light which eases the tension and the anger within me slowly dissipates. I felt relieved that my anger has resulted in stinging flesh, rather than flowing blood and I

stinging flesh, rather than flowing blood and I bask in the normality of it all. Before I know it, we are bowling as if it had never happened. The evening ends with the exchange of phone numbers and promises to see each other at school tomorrow. The ride home becomes a period of quiet reflection. I think of how darkened I had become after Saturdays incident and how I have been repaired slowly, by the people around me. I had taken a piece of light from Cai that night in the great tree and sown it together with a piece of light from Lacy, Alecster and Cleary to create a blanket for my soul. It isnt a complete repair for the guilt I am feeling but it is a good patch. It is enough to keep me from tearing at the seams. It is enough to make me feel normal

Chapter Eight Fighting Sleep

I lay sleepless. For hours I toss and turn, avoiding the pleading weight of my eyelids and drifting mind. It is a fight between my pillows and I as they draw me inward and I pull against them in protest. I do not want to sleep, because I do not want these rare feelings of normality to fade against the background of looming shadows and beckoning prey. I do not want to be reminded of the dual aspects of myself which threaten to steal normality from me. Finally, the numbing of my arms win over my brain and feelings of falling spread throughout my body. My spirit separates and I flow toward the shadow realm. Hurrying to make up for lost time, I arrive at the great tree quickly but Cai is not there. There is no familiar

quickly but Cai is not there. There is no familiar greeting or indication of what the nights activities will be. In the place of Cai, there is only silence. Far into the shadow forest, I hear the swooshing of wind through the trees. The speed and urgency of the noise denotes that the being is flying fast. It is a being who is afraida being that is running from something. Fear collects in my throat as a slow realization rises up inside me. In a dash I flutter toward the fading sounds of flapping wings. I must float faster, I urge myself. I must exceed his speed to catch up with him. I dont know how far the stalking being has chased Cai away from the tree but I know I must catch up with him. I know he is in trouble, and I have to help himI have to protect him. The chase comes into view as I top a hill. Cai is flying high and through the twists and turns of the trees, making him a hard target. The stalking being is chasing at speeds which rival that of Cai. He is tall and stretching, giving him a good reach. The shadows which comprise his body are woven. Like shadow wicker, he is stretching his limbs upward towards the wings of the trees in passing. He is manipulating the shadows around him

He is manipulating the shadows around him and causing them to stretch in front of the retreating owl. Cai has no time to plan an attack as he is focusing on dodging the beings attacks. Unsure of his game plan, I scramble for one of my own. It is clear that a frontal attack on this being will result in becoming entangled in a cocoon of doom by his mocking shadows. I know that the most useful weapon in this war is the element of surprise and Im the surprise. I stop for a moment to carefully pick up a long stick. Then, I make haste to recover the time lost by this action. As I rush forward, I mentally prepare for the battle ahead of me. When I am close enough to the shadow, I take a deep breath and rush for it. Anticipating my move, Cai flies back and forth in front of the being, causing it to stop and try to pin him down. I move quietly and stop just behind the being. Then, I focus all my light and force it down my arm and into the stick I picked up. As my light moves past the edge of my cloak and into the stick, I visualize a great, glowing sword. The image becomes concrete in my mind and the thought of it transforms the stick in my hand. Without giving the being a chance to sense me behind him, I move quickly and with intent. Targeting the areas near where the

intent. Targeting the areas near where the woven shadows intertwine, I push the sword into the shadow being. Once inserted, I allow a surge of light to flow through my arm and into the blade. A deathly scream hallows throughout the forest as the being implodes. I recall my light, being careful to fully cloak and look toward the sky. Cai is no longer in front of me but behind, whooshing through the air in the direction of the great tree. I follow, making haste and closing the gap easily. Once I am closer to him, his voice quakes throughout me. Where did that come from? He exclaims in discovery of my new ability. He always seems to be in anticipation of me and this is the closest he has ever come at being surprised by my actions. Perhaps it is because this is the first time I have acted without his cues. In this moment, I feel like his savior. Waves of pride and appreciation wash over me and I consider if this is what heroes feel like. Somewhere in the back of my mind, there is an aching reminder of darkness. I push it back and bask in the moons soft glow. For a moment, I forget about bowling with Lacy. Engaged mutual elation with Cai, my

Lacy. Engaged mutual elation with Cai, my notions of normality shift away from the human world. Everything physical in my life is behind me now. This moment becomes more real and tangible than the memory of the evening and I cling to it. I bask in the feelings of familiarity this forest holds for me and for a moment, I consider never returning to my physical body. In the human realm, normality requires stepping out of familiar bounds and grasping at it. For me, it is an unattainable and ever changing illusion. Tonight, twisting the familiar path toward the great tree blanketed by shadows, I feel normal. When I am with Cai, I feel as if Im stepping into myself and being truly known. I feel wholeI feel at home.

Chapter Nine Temptation

Some mornings, I wake with distant memories of the shadow world. Other times, I wake with aching reminders of my nighttime activities that stick with me throughout the day. Today, I awake slowly and I can feel the shadow world folding itself into the crevices of the wall, into the darkness of the closet and under my bed. The darkness of the shadow world rolls off but I am left with a reminder of the nights events. I feel strong in my human body and confident to face the day. Memories of wielding the sword of light leave me feeling powerful and hungry to push the boundaries of my abilities. This is an unfamiliar sensation to me, as I have always pulled back from my abilities

as I have always pulled back from my abilities in my aching need for normality. Last night was the first time I had pushed my own boundaries. No doubt that the inspiration had come from the blanket of light sown together by my friends in the past couple of days but the wielding of it had been all me. I had imagined it and then setting image into reality, formed it out of my own light. I had then wielded it with confidence and saved the life of one of my closest, most trusted, friends. Reality dawns on me and I grab my hairbrush off my nightstand. Armed with the brush, I stand in my room, trying to re-imagine and re-forge the sword. The limitations of my earthly body quickly become apparent, to me. I am able to reform the sword in my mind and feel the rush of energy as I push it down my arm. I feel the rising heat as I form the sword in my hand. However, It is short and limp compared to the sword I had wielded the previous night. Although I feel the heat rising from it, my earthly eyes cannot see it. In this world, the sword which had been physical the night before is nothing more than a ball of energy and a distant memory. The feeling of it is different in human form than astral form yet it is familiar and powerful.

than astral form yet it is familiar and powerful. At first, I can hold it for only a moment before it would release itself. Becoming drained and frustrated at this, I start focusing on releasing it in short spurts. To do this, I have to pull up less of my light and focus it so that it leaves my body quickly. These moments of private practice take me back to a place in my life when the discovery of myself, and my abilities, had brought me so much joy. It is a wondrous time void of abandon and for the first time in ages, I am uninterested in normality. Here I am, standing in my room clad only in my underclothes, with my un-brushed hair clinging to my sweat filled face. My morning breath has not been treated by my toothbrush and my body cries for a shower. All my ruses are folded up and lying on my bed while I stand in the middle of my room, fully exposed. The sound of footsteps is unintelligible to me, until they stop and the door of my room slowly creeps open. I turn to greet the creaking of the door and an angry Diana. I can read the intention in her face and immediately knew that I was late for school. I see a great burst of anger welling up inside her and her eyes threaten release of it toward me. She must be terrified at the sight of me and I

She must be terrified at the sight of me and I stand frozen. My legs are bent and I am squatting with my right hand outstretched toward her. Taking a deep breath to calm myself, I release the tiny ball of light that I was conjuring before the door opened and it flies in her direction. As she opens her mouth to speak, the tiny ball makes contact with her and her edges soften. She pauses a moment before reacting to the scene in front of her and I watch as slowly her anger is replaced with realization. In this moment, she is doing something foreign to her nature: she is thinking before reacting. Im glad youre taking an interest in yoga, Awen. She starts before firmly adding: but youre going to be late. You know I hate to be late. Hurry up and get ready for school. We have 15 minutes. As I rush through my morning routine, I have to wonder if her reaction is a coincidence. She had spoken firmly but she hadnt yelled and she hadnt threatened to ground me. She was somewhere between extremely angry and frustrated. I had seen a familiar flash of anger in her eyes when I turned to greet her. What should have followed was a great blast of anger.

The biggest cardinal sin in Dianas book is being late. I can recall many occasions when my father had woken up late or spilled coffee on his shirt and had to change. When this happened, Diana would always fly off the handle. This time, she had chosen to warn me instead of berate me and I feel prideful in the face of the positive change I have created within her. Ten minutes later, I am ready for school. I stand downstairs, heating a bagel to eat on the way to school when Diana comes down to greet me. She is wearing a white shirt, silver vest, black skinny jeans and a pair of designer boots. I look at her for signs that the effects of my energy are wearing off but she gives no indication of seething anger. Instead, she simply greets me, asks if I am ready to go and drives me to school. At school, I move throughout the day debating the logic of the mornings events. In Philosophy class, I consider the possibility that it was all a coincidence. During math class I debate with myself that it was statistically feeble that there was a connection between myself and the sudden change in Dianas mood. By lunch I realize that I havent taken notes in any of my morning classes and I dont know if

any of my morning classes and I dont know if Lacy is even here today. What I am sure of was that I am not sure if anything that happened this morning was real. It isnt until Chemistry class that I have manage to blink back into myself. During a discussion about the scientific method, the solution suddenly becomes apparent. There is no way to say for certain that the events of this morning were neither random nor connected because I dont have enough evidence to support either conclusion! My thoughts arent any more focused when I set down to a pile of unknown homework. It seems like nothing in my world is concrete or known and I have moved from the wondering stage into the planning one. I find myself feeling reserved at the prospect of using my new power because I can not be sure what the consequences of my prospective experiments will be. However, the thought of using my new power again builds an intense excitement without me that I cannot shake. When I was 13, I had experienced a similar sense of excitement. The first time the familiar aura glow of those around me began to pulse with meaning and emotion, I was alive with

with meaning and emotion, I was alive with wild excitement. I leaned in slowly to my powers then. I built rules for myself and still operate by them strictly. I bite back the excitement enough to allow myself safety and anonymity. The excitement growing inside me now is wilder. It roars inside me like a caged animal, begging to be set free. My mind plays with wild fantasies of the things I can do with it. I have to force myself to look around the edges of it to see the complicated truth. I have to force myself to look down the different pathways that each experiment could lead me. By the time bedtime beckons me, I have managed to complete most of my homework and eat dinner with my family. All sense of normality has left and I break every routine that I have constructed to foster feelings of being normal. Although I try, I cannot focus on the environment around me. Making idle chat seems menial against my thoughts and so I disengaged. I set silently and lost in thought while the world moves on around me.

Chapter Ten The Great Tree of Life

It has taken too long to get here, I think as I plant my feet on the soot floor of my shadow world. I had gone to sleep as suddenly as the sun had lay down its head onto the horizon. Still, the anticipation of meeting with Cai has pressed on the edges of my mind all day and the minutes it takes me to travel the path to the hill are heavy. When I arrive, Cai is waiting for me in the bows of the great tree. A rush of anticipation flows through me as I approach him. I feel no lurking danger or aching fear in the air around us. I search his glowing eyes for indications about his plans for tonight. I am hoping for a hunt-free night. In my mind, I have concocted a list of experiments which I want to try with Cai.

list of experiments which I want to try with Cai. I am not sure how open he will be to the idea but I am determined to convince him. I approach him with what I hope appears to be a normal level of excitement. He counteracts my excitement by not offering a greeting. He is stone as he carves the rune Elhaz into the side of our great tree and begins inside. My feet are lead as I follow him. Once inside, I set in static silence, waiting for him to begin the conversation. With no indication of his mood, I bite back on the excitement welling inside me. He begins slowly. Im thankful for you saving my life last night. I sense honest gratitude in his words and motions. I also sense pride and bewilderment, as well as fear and reservation. I never expected you to show such he pauses for a moment. I can tell he is choosing his words carefully. He knocks few possibilities in his mind before he settles on the correct verbiage. decisiveness. He states at last. Decisiveness? My mind screams back at him. I had forged and wielded a sword of pure energy. I had held it in my hand and used it as a weapon against his attacker. I had done this after following the sound of his fluttering wings

after following the sound of his fluttering wings in the darkened forest. I had done it to save him and he had the nerve to refer to the act as only decisive? It was heroism, is what it was I blurt out at him before the thought registers as harsh. I try to gather them up and stuff them back into my mouth before they make impact but the effort is useless. I set for a moment, searching for an indication of Cais reaction. He gathers his thoughts slowly and the edges of him soften. It was heroic. He smiled. It was also risky. The tension between us falls and he recounts for me the story of that night, before I arrived. He was waiting for me by the great tree. He grew worried about me and his ears were perched, searching for signs of danger. When he heard the scuffle in the forest, he rushed toward it in fear that I was in trouble. He had seen the flowing, cloaked figure and assumed it was me before he registered that it was a trap. At that point, the shadow creature was behind him and he was on the run. The rest is history but the tale of how hed ended up running scared in the forest sends chills down my spine. The exciting prospect of my new

my spine. The exciting prospect of my new power dulls and a familiar guilt aches in its place. It was my fault, I murmur. It is the slightest whisper and is almost lost in the grandness of the great tree. Despite the stillness of it, Cai responds. When you first arrived, I explained fate to you but you were so young. I held back in explaining it to you because I feared you wouldnt fully understand it. He talks for a while about things that are familiar to me. He talks about how fate pulls humans along and how the twists and turns in life send them traveling different paths for specific purpose. When Cai describes fate, it is apparent that he holds a reverence for it. He talks about it like it is an old friend. I can tell that he trusts fate and has concluded that it was the reason he was led into the shadows. He explains how humans should never anger toward fate because it is a tool for progress. In Cais mind, humans would be static without the forces of fate propelling them forward. He explains how it must have been

forward. He explains how it must have been fate which had made me late on the very night that the creature would be lurking. Some things in life are coincidence. He explains ..but others are too perfect to be called that. When the things that lead up to an event sync up just right, this is when you can be sure that its divine plan. I am instantly reminded of this morning, when Diana walked into my bedroom at the very instance that I was releasing an energy ball in her direction. He pauses for a moment before continuing with his explanation, seemingly to assure that I am paying close attention to what he is saying. There are things I have never told you. There are things about you and me and the hands of fate that I can never tell you. It is the weight that a diviner must carry for the human. For when a human knows his fate, he either tries to avoid it or he tries to follow it. Either way, he is sure to stray far from it. He looks at me for understanding and I nod him on although my mind is knocking around the words, you and me and the hands of fate. These words leave an aching wondering inside of me but I do not mention this to him. I do not want him to stop talking and I look for more hidden messages as he speaks.

A lot of humans are very good at understanding fate in this manner. They see it, very basically, in a self-centralized way. Humans may turn inward to it and see how it affects their own personal lives. They may even make connections from time to time about how individual paths intertwine and the hands of fate. However, humans are limited in their ability to understand the brevity of fate as it relates to the entire human consciousness. He emphasizes human consciousness as if it is something that I should take note of. He then tells me of the crann bethadh or the great tree of life. He tells how the ancient Celtic people used to revere this tree as a connection between the human world to the divine one. He depicts a great tree with intertwining branches and explains how these branches form never ending twists and turns which signify the birth, life, death and renewal of all things, even humans. Each side of the great tree is balanced with the other, symbolizing balance and harmony in the world. These great intertwining branches serve as the path of life. In order for balance and harmony to exist, each player must be at an exact point on the tree at any given time. In order for a human to progress through the cycles of birth, life, death and renewal, they

cycles of birth, life, death and renewal, they must continue following the branches to the top. He pauses for a moment to gage that I understand his words. What happens when balance and harmony are interrupted? I ask. A dark notion glazes over his eyes. Then progress halts. He answers bitterly. They were simple words which were only given meaning by the way he spoke them. I can see the aching connection he has with this concept and decide not to press further. It would be impossible for humans to unravel the branches of the great tree. Diviners, alone, are blessed with the ability to understand the intertwining of the branches. By the time humans come in view of their destiny, they are often in the midst of it and trying to see too far ahead will often leave the human entangled. He sighs a heavy breath and adds, carefully, It was a moment of synchronization which led you to discovering your ability to wield energy. It was fate. I delight in the thought of it. The reservations that I have about using my new power slowly drift into the silent night. Then Cai speaks sternly, You must not use it.

Now Im confused. You just said that fate I know what I just said, he interrupts. Im sure the discovery of it was handed to you by fate. Im also sure that there will be a time when it will be necessary. You must not use it foolishly. It is not a thing to experiment with. You must be mindful of the intertwining branches of life around you. He went on to explain how my other powers are possible because I pull from something. He tells me that I can pull at the forces of nature or from the emotions of the humans around me, without affecting the intertwining nature of fate. He explains how these abilities help guide me because they required that I stay connected to the outside forces around me. When he turns back to the subject of my new ability, his voice grows steady and warning. Some powers are pushing powers. Imagine an instance where a human would use a power to change the moods of the people around them. The sentence is implicating and pointed. That person then begins to upset the balance of the world around them. This is because emotions are human motivators.

because emotions are human motivators. Emotions lead to decisions and decisions move humans along the tree of life. As he explained this, my thoughts begin to trail. I cant say that Ive ever seen fate as he described it. I do not fully believe that my small actions could have an impact on such a large, orchestrated system. After all, I am only one person in the whole of humanity. There is no way that my actions could have an impact on a large scale. I hold Cais words close to my heart, as he was my closest ally, but my brain is busy justifying my need to experiment with my new ability, despite his warnings. Cai is building up to telling me something else when my spirit begins to float up and toward my waking body. I cling to the familiarity of the great tree, resisting the pull of myself from it. My attempts are futile and the look in his face as I begin to fade is pure disappointment. Tomorrow night, I think, hoping he can still hear me.

Chapter Eleven Padded Box

I awake to the gentle breeze of the wind on my cheek. The latch on my window is let and the window swings open. I bask in the gentle rays of the morning sun before getting up and getting ready for the day. My mind is heavy with the conversation from the night before. Cai had given me a lot to think about and as I choose my outfit for today, I notice that the eagerness of the previous day has subsided. It is much easier to bite back on the excitement and refrain from planning how to use my new power. In fact, a familiar need for normalcy creeps back into me. I decide to forego the usual jeans and t-shirt for something a bit trendier. I know it will delight Lacy that I am trying and (hopefully) make up for my

am trying and (hopefully) make up for my behavior the day before. I decide on a bohemian style nit poncho with a white tank top underneath, paired with distressed skinny jeans. I accessorize with a diamond studded bangle bracelet and a long, flowing chain necklace. I use product to activate my curls and allowed them to lie freely on my head before covering the top with a knit beret. I add some mascara to highlight my eyes and lip gloss for my lips and with that, I am headed to school. Lacy is waiting, eagerly, for me by my locker. Surprised at the effort I have taken with my appearance this morning, Diana had stopped by the coffee shop to treat herself, Lacy and me to a Latte for breakfast. I carry the cups of coffee toward Lacy with excitement. She flashes a grand smile at me and I warm toward it. I return it with a generous hand of my wave and continue forward, the lattes in hand. My mind flashes forward and I imagine what would happen if I tripped toward Lacy, spilling the coffee. I imagine rage welling inside her as she blots hopelessly at her shirt. Then, I imagine myself sending the smallest ball of positive energy at her, changing the trajectory of her mood.

I feel temptation quaking through me. A lingering reminder of the previous day floats around the edges of me. It is begging me to pay it attention. My teeth sharpen at the thought of power and my mind races to fight the pull of it. My knees become wobbly from the exertion of the struggle. I steady my body and my mind, taking control of my own urges. I push back the need for power and replace it with the memory of my favorite Lacy smile. I allow myself to realize the consequences of giving in and using my powers. I force myself to imagine Cais disappointment in my weakness. Slowly, I walk up to Lacy. Very normally, I greet her with a smile and offer her a Latte. She repay this with her biggest Lacy smile and I delight in my decision not to humiliate her. She looks me up and down for a moment before raising her eyebrows and stating, Seems like somebodys in a great mood today. Thats because I am. It is a simple lie covered by my effortless smile and affection toward her. The complicated truth is that I am breaking at the seams. I want nothing more than

breaking at the seams. I want nothing more than to spill hot coffee on my best friend simply to indulge in using my destructive power on her. I had almost asserted my love for power over my truest friendship and I ache at the shame of it. I slip into my best ruse, choke down my turmoil and stuff it in a new box. It is a heavy box with a padded lock. It is a box which I hope I can keep hidden deep down inside me and locked forever. It quakes and crashes inside me, taunting me with the inevitability of a breakdown. I spend the first half of the day trudging forward and trying hard to erase the mornings incident from my mind. I pick at the world around me, stealing little pieces of light and using them to cover the quaking box. I recover slowly but by mid-day I have moved easily into my normal routines and began to envision hope on the horizon. When I meet with Lacy for lunch, I notice a beaming light around her. She wears a smile which tells me that she is on the brink of overflowing with excitement. I welcome the gaiety of it and move toward her with the hope that I can use her light to help stifle the need to use my new power.

As I set down, I bask in her glow. There is only one thing that makes a teenage girl flush the color of a pink tinted rose: love. I almost anticipate the words as she is speaking them. Alecster Jones asked me to the Fall Formal. I allow myself to revel in the excitement with her for a bit before obliging to listen to every detail of the encounter. As I listen to her, I admire the ease with which she experiences her joy. The flirty hopefulness bouncing around her is contagious and the prospect of new love rolls off her and into my soul. I allow myself to be filled with it and as we discuss the possibilities of the night, I feel truly normal. It is such an astonishing revelation that a few hours previous I had stood in the hallway, struggling against myself. As I set beside her underneath the arms of a great Oak Tree, planning an inevitable shopping trip, I realize that this is not a ruse. I am genuinely excited about shopping with Lacy. The gentle autumn breeze flirts against my skin and I allow it to flow throughout me. The wind is telling me that this feeling is important. I understand more about fate in this moment than I had during my entire conversation about

than I had during my entire conversation about it with Cai. I know that the wind is telling me it is okay to experience normality. It is saying that it is okay to admit that somewhere deep inside of me, I am hoping that I will have a reason to shop, as well. Later that night, I set in my room for a long while. The light from the sky has faded and is replaced by the glowing bulb on my desk. As I turn it on, it reaches to greet me with glee. As I turn it off, it retreats and hides behind the veils of darkness. I repeat this a couple times while I gather my thoughts. The incident which occurred earlier with Lacy weighs heavily on my mind and turns my thoughts toward the light bulbs struggle with darkness. I note how, when lit, darkness is constantly crashing around the edges of the bulbs glow. Taunting the light, the darkness seems to take over the bulb as I turn the switch on the lamp to off. When I turn the light on, I can see the barrier of light that is created. The light seems to extend itself outward from the bulb, keeping the shadows at bay. Like me, the bulb is in constant conflict with the darkness which surrounds it. As I flip the switch of the light of

surrounds it. As I flip the switch of the light of the lamp off and then on again, I wonder how long it will be before the darkness crashing on my outside will overcome my light. I am saddened for a moment at the lights inability to embrace either the light or darkness completely. In this moment, I am in complete control of the bulbs light destiny. It cannot embrace either one completely. It must exist in duality until it burns out. For a moment, I empathize with the light and decide to let it burn brightly for the rest of the night. I must be going crazy, I consider at the thought of empathizing with a light bulb. Slowly, I drift asleep to the light from the bulb bouncing playfully around the room.

Chapter Twelve Superhero

Last night wasnt exciting. Cai and I hunted but I felt no urge to use my new power and Cai didnt mention our talk about fate. Everything in the shadow world was normal. I scoff at using the word normal to describe anything that happens in the shadow world. As I am getting dressed for school, I mentally note the things that most teenagers consider normal. Then, I compare it to the list of things that I consider normal. I rejoice in knowing that some of the things on an average teenagers list are also on my own while I recoil toward the things on my list which stick out horribly. There must be other people in the world like

There must be other people in the world like me, I consider before tossing on a knit dress, some black tights and boots. It is a little dressy for me to wear on a school day but it was on top of the pile of items that Diana had recently donated to my closet from her store, and mind is too preoccupied to worry with choosing an outfit. On the drive to school, I consider all the modern tales of magick that exist. Of course stories of people with powers like mine are often tossed into the grinder and when they come out, the heroes are given a name and a cape. Superhero stories differ greatly from mine, though. Firstly, I have no one to save. Except for the wanderers in the forest and Cai, I have never actually used my powers to help someone else out. I have thought about it before and decided against it. Actually, I decided that I like my home, school and my life better than a padded cell or a government laboratory somewhere. Secondly, there is nothing in the world for me to fight against. Every good superhero has an equally great super villain. The hero is often propelled to fight against the villain, thus giving him a purpose. Maybe I need a villain to fight against.

I think about fate for a moment and consider how Cai had said nothing happened without a purpose. I decide there must be a villain out there somewhere for me to fight. I might even meet up with them one day and engage in an epic battle, thus saving part (or all) of humanity. I giggle at the notion of it as we pull up to school.

Chapter Thirteen Blackout

Today has been a pretty standard day, as most Wednesdays s are. Wednesdays are often stale because the excitement of the weekend wavers into Monday and it is too far from the downhill slide into the next weekend. Today, however, seems to beam around the edges with excitement. Lacy is still high on the previous days invitation to the Fall Formal. I delight in her giddy giggles and bashful smiles every time Lacy and Alecster pass each other in the hallway. Lacy decides that she cant wait until the Fall Formal to have a sequel date with Alecster. She then proceeds to attempting to talking me into staging a double date with her, Alecster, Cleary and myself. My overt objections to this

Cleary and myself. My overt objections to this idea do not stop her from planning. The only problem would be that you would have to make it seem impromptuimpromptu is a word, right? Yes, but I tried to object but she cut me off. Never mind, problem solved. She whispered and covertly pointed to her right. My eyes widen as I turn to see Cleary McQuintock making his way to the tree we always lounged under at lunch time. I quickly glance down at my outfit and I am glad that I had at least dressed nicely today. Ello. Clearly looks nervous as he greets me, directly. I stand to greet him and suddenly become self-conscious that this is not the right thing to do. I feel awkward being in such close proximity to him and realize that my abrupt change in position must signal to him that I am eager to see him. I fumble with my hand as he greets Lacy. The air between us falls silent as Lacy fades into the background of our conversation. I can almost feel our auras touching as he fumbles with his hands. We have been silent for too long

with his hands. We have been silent for too long so I decide to break the silence. Wheres your sidekick A half-baked grin crawls across his face. Were not superheros or misfit cops. He laughs and then looks down. But Alecsters right over there. He adds, pointing behind him. I kind of wanted to talk to you alone. This caught me off guard and I hop Lacy hasnt heard him. The thought of talking to Cleary alone is frightening. Before I have the chance to protest, Lacy stands up and walks toward Alecster with a skip in her step. Were alone I look around and notice the student bodies around me. well, alone enough He laughs and the conversation gains momentum. We talk for a moment about Chemistry class and his uncles dog. I wish he knew how much I hate idle chitchat I am thinking when the topic of the conversation floats seamlessly into the Fall Formal. He takes a deep breath before asking if I am planning on attending. I shrug at this and he replies with, Id like to see you there.

replies with, Id like to see you there. Confusion plays out on my face. For a moment, I had considered that he had changed the subject of our conversation as a setup for asking me to go to the dance with him. Cleary bumbles as the creases on my forehead grow. I meanwellI didnt mean that I will be glad to see you there. This is getting worse. I close my eyes and sense his aura. I read his emotions and determine that he is trying to ask me to the Fall Formal, he is just lousy at it. I put my hand on his shoulder and pass the tiniest bit of my light into him to calm him. I am about to tell him I would love to go to the Fall Formal with him when a smile spreads on his face. He stands before me now, confidence restored. Looking refreshed, he steadies his speech and actually asks me to go to the dance with him. I tell him, genuinely, that I will be delighted to go with him. Jubilation plays out inside me. Flashes of shopping in the city with Lacy for formal gowns runs through my mind as Cleary turns and walks toward Alecster and Lacy. I fear my happiness will be short lived as I feel the edges of my best hidden box quaking inside me. I

of my best hidden box quaking inside me. I choke back the temptation with the light spreading inside me from the prospect of the Fall Formal. The temptation is easily managed. It is not the feeling that is overtaking me and sending me to my knees in despair. The white hot feeling spreading throughout me is something darker than temptation. As my stomach churns and I begin to see blurred bodies moving forward me, I struggle to identify the foreign sensations in my body. Danger registers first and then morphs, slowly as the waves begin to take me over. Before I black out, the wind brushes through my body. It attempts to calm me without prevail and the tree sends a single vibration into my body. The word it speaks is foreboding. With that, everything goes black. I lay in the nurses station. My mind is alive but my body is stationary. I can hear my dads voice but I cannot respond. I realized then that I am somewhere between awake and asleep. I lay for a moment, focusing on the voices in the room. I can vaguely make out the words: not respondingcomahospital. I am screaming in my head in the direction

I am screaming in my head in the direction of the floating voices when I feel the pinch of a needle going into my arm and a cool liquid flows through my veins. I feel myself drifting farther from the waking world as the sound of shuffled feet fills my ears. Am I being moved? Whats going on? I scream in my mind before I fade.

Chapter Fourteen Dream

As my mind begins to stir again, I find myself inside a dream. I have traveled to the shadow world every night for so long; I have forgotten what it feels like to dream. I walk into a white room. It is completely empty except for a white padded chair in the middle. Against my best judgment, I walk toward the chair and set down. A screen lowers before me and I stare toward it with trepidation. There is no opening music or sequence. It is simply a string of unrelated memories. A woman drops her phone and bends to pick it upa man takes a wrong turn... This makes no sense to me and my mind scrambles to make

no sense to me and my mind scrambles to make understand it. Suddenly, I see the woman who stops to pick up her phone narrowly avoiding being hit by a delivery boy on a bikethe man who took the wrong turn avoids what would have been a fatal accident with a semi-truck. More random sequences and their effects play out on the screen before me. My mind moves quickly and makes every connection. As I process the movie playing out in front of me, I am reminded of Cais explanation of the intertwining branches of fate which governs human destiny. I watch as the smallest change in environment or pause changes the momentum and direction of each individual in the movie. My head is spinning when the screen goes white. The pause in action pulls my full attention and I stare blankly at the screen for a moment before it starts playing again. This time, the slow hum of a violin plays throughout, muting the voices of the players. I watch as the incident with Alecster Moody is played out on the screen. In the wind around me blows a shadow. Just as Alecster is propelled into the street, the shadow forms into a body which stands in the distance, watching the scene unfold. The scene ends before Alecster ends up

unfold. The scene ends before Alecster ends up on the hood of the car. White screen plays for a few seconds before it begins, again. In the new memory, I am nine and the fall breezes blow. I pull back my jacket, arms outstretched. I remember this. I was speaking with the wind. I remember and then the aching feeling of being rejected by my peers at this stage in my life tugs inside me. The same shadow lurks in the background of the memory, its purple eyes set on only me. I watch as the kids tease and mock me. The familiar ache of my difficult youth fully returns and I fight to contain it. Just as the teasing kids walk away, the screen goes white again. I take a deep breath, afraid of what I will see next. Just as I have composed myself, I see a little girl with red curls playing under a tree on a hill. I recognize the location as my hometown in West VirginiaThe little girl is me. I watch as I climb to the top of the tree, stretch out my arms and feel the rush of the wind. I speak to it as it flows throughout me. A shadow is blowing around the tree and suddenly I am propelled downward. Before I hit the ground, the screen goes white. My mind shuffles to make a connection between the seemingly random events of my

between the seemingly random events of my life playing out on the screen. The last memory comes quicker than the other two had and my head is still spinning when it starts. A hospital roommy father is thereand a woman... I had seen a picture of my mom once, stuffed in the bottom of a shoe box my dad keeps hidden. I realize that it is my mother who is lying here in the hospital bed. The latch on the window is let and a shadow flies in. Its an owl. The focus of the memory switches toward my mother and father. a voiceless baby enters the worldmy moms face cries the joyful tears of a proud mothershe speaks but I cannot hear her wordsI watch as her arms go limp and she slips into a great abyss My father clings to my baby self in the movie and the me of today weeps deep sobs inside the dream. The pain of watching her die rips at me from inside. Still, I want to rewind the movie. I want to pause it as she is smiling down at me. I want to remember the look on her face forever. Instead, I set staring at a white screen. The soft violin changes tempo and becomes a roaring anthem for the coming scene. The time period has changed. This memory

The time period has changed. This memory occurred ages ago. I look over the hill at a sea of flying axes and mangled bodies. I am confounded. This memory holds no value and appears to be of no relation to the previous ones. Nothing is what is seems. A voiceless notion rumbles in my brain and forces me to take notice of the scene carefully. Its forcing me to look for a connection between this memory and my life. Suddenly, a mad axe wielding man tops the hill with tear stained eyes and bloodstained hands. His eyes are purple, a stark contrast to his pale skin. Purple eyes the thought sticks out to me, begging me to pay attention to it. I watch as he begins to murder without abandon. The familiarity of his purple eyes My mind reels to recognize them; to place them somewhere in my own existence. the purple eyes of the shadow being hiding in the background of my earlier memories.. I am frozen as dark realization creeps over me. I claw desperately at all the memories I hold with Cai in the shadowy forest. I have always sensed a reservation within him but still, I trust him. He is the only one who really knows me. He is my only true friend. I had only ever seen him in the form of the owl in the shadowy forest but the eyes are an

owl in the shadowy forest but the eyes are an unmistakable proof that he is the same being in the scene. Now he is flesh and blood in front of me, killing without abandon. He has been there throughout my entire life. He is watching over me, isnt he? My mind struggles to feel confident in our relationship. In every scene of the movie, something horrible had happened. Each time the shadow had been present, a hole was torn in my soul; some of them deeper than others. My mind replays the memory of my dying mother. He cant be the cause of my darkness, can he? As the screen goes white, the edges of the room begin to fade into darkness. The air is sucked from the room as I fade back into myself and I find myself gasping. I feel movement and hear voices exclaiming. As I open my eyes, I see Diana and my dad standing over me. Nurses come in to assess my health and I am alone with my thoughts again. What had felt like ages in my dream has only been one true hour. The doctors can find no reason for my black out and send me home with orders to rest, but I dont want to rest. I never want to rest again because with rest comes the shadow world. With the shadow world comes Cai and I know now that he has betrayed me.

He has been present during every dark snare in my life and I dont want to think about him as the cause of it all. Still, it is the only conclusion that makes sense and anger wells inside me toward him. I wrestle with the notion that Cai is not capable of hurting me in that manner but then his murderous eyes flash before me. The truth is that I have no evidence to support any different theory and as I am being discharged, I realize that I will have to see Cai eventually. I realize that I will have to kill him.

Chapter Fifteen Sleepless Nights

I havent slept for two days. The doctors orders have sentenced me to bed rest and this bed is beginning to feel like a prison. I have spent most of the time since my blackout watching TV and replaying the dream in my mind. Remembering the movie that played out before me, I have tried to tie everything together in a neat little package but it will not fit. Instead, it all lays before me in a jumbled mess, threatening to destroy my reality. I have compartmentalized to deal with the loss of my mother, being an outcast as a child, and to hide my powers. Now, I realize that my break with normality could have been avoided. If Cai hadnt intervened in my life, I would not be the

hadnt intervened in my life, I would not be the segmented, broken mess I am today. Deep thoughts of betrayal plague my mind as I fight the urge to drift toward the shadow realm. I had believed him when he spoke about fate. I had trusted in him for advice. The darkest recesses of my soul seethe with anger as I think about it. For a moment, I think about allowing myself to drift into the shadow world, simply so I can face him. I am imagining the consumption of his soul by my hands when I hear footsteps approaching my door. As the door swings open, I see my stepmothers smiling face. Diana has taken care of me for days now. She seems genuinely worried about me and even acts tenderly to me as she approaches my bed. Do you need anything, honey? she asks, hiding something behind her back. I glare at her, wordlessly. She sighs a heavy sigh. Listen, your father said if you dont take it, hes going to come up here and give it to you with force her eyes are pleading me to concede. I had refused to take the sleeping medicine that the doctor prescribed. Now, I watch as panic plays out in her eyes. I consider telling her off and accusing her care for me to be a ruse. I consider telling her that I think she is a selfish, shallow person and that I wish my father had never met her.

and that I wish my father had never met her. The truth is that I sense absolutely no ulterior motive to her actions and my edges soften toward her. She thinks Im not sleeping because Im afraid I will not wake up the thought startles me and I feel sorry for causing her distress. I glare at her for a moment more before putting my hand out for the pill. She shakes her head no and I open my mouth, where she places he pill. She asks me to swallow and then checks under my tongue. She leaves the room, pleased with herself and I rest my head on my pillow. I am startled by the softness of it and before the medicine has a chance to work, I am drifting away. The shadow world is on the horizon. Its time to face my destiny.

Chapter Sixteen Soul

The shadow world seems darker than I remember as I step onto the soot covered ground. I walk for a moment before I realize that it is I who am darker, not the world around me. I still need to cloak but barely. The events of the past few days weigh heavily on me and reach deep down inside my soul. I can feel the pain of betrayal clawing at my insides and tearing gaping holes inside me. As I moved forward, I hear the fluttering of wings overhead. I pick up a stick and charge my energy into it, trying to conjure the great sword of light that I had previously. However, my tainted energy does not conjure a great sword of light. Instead, it conjures one of mocking shadows with pointed light as the blade.

I stand in fear of it as I realize that it is a reflection of my soul. Before, the sword had been a great burst of light in emulation of my bright spirit. At that moment, the darkness was on the outside of me and my soul was pure light. Now it is darkness within and light without. I consider the price I will pay for seeking revenge. I consider the last bit of light within me completely covered in darkness. A pleading voice quakes through my head as I consider these things You can come back from thisall you need is a little understanding. I know it is Cai but I dont want to hear his words and I shut him out. He is a great manipulator and the biggest betrayer in my life. I will not give him the chance to talk me out of fulfilling my destiny and ripping him from this world, once and for all. I have all the understanding that I need! I have seen you for what you truly are.I yell into the darkness around me. I cannot see him but he is near and I search the great forest for him. I quiet my mind and send him a taunting message You are a coward! You hid behind your wisdom and betrayed my trust. I dont care what the price for my revenge isI dont care if its my soul. I will consume you, Cai. Anger flows

soul. I will consume you, Cai. Anger flows through me but the night is silent and so I call to him again. You were hidden in the shadows as my mother died with me in her arms and now youre hidden as I stand before you, declaring a battle. Show yourself to me. Let me see how great of a warrior you really are! In that moment, I am blindsided by the rapid fluttering of Cais wings. He flies behind me quickly and with force. In one move, he knocks the stick from my hand, destroying my conjured sword. Before I can counter, he isssetting on my shoulder and whispering ancient words into my ears. I am surprised by how quickly he overcomes me and I stand frozen by his words. Suddenly, my body goes limp and I am completely surrounded by darkness. I awake to the stiffness of an unfamiliar form. I am still in the shadow world but Cai is not around. What did he do to me? I think as I try to run and find him. I am running slower than I usually do when I realize that my legs are short and weak. Instinctively, I lift my wings and fly toward the river that surrounds the shadow world. The sensation of it feels familiar. It feels as if I have done this for ages. I gaze into the water and see the purple eyes of an owl gazing back at me.

A voice rings throughout my body, Its the only way. This will not hurt you, but I need you to see what I have seen. I need you to experience what I have experienced. My thoughts will become your own. Dont fight it; it will all be over soon. Then, you will know everything that I know and we will be one. I fight against Cais body, trying to break free. I feel myself slipping into his mind and then I feel my own thoughts and intentions slipping away. I feel a gentle tugging inside as I the lines between Cai and myself become thin. The tug becomes more intense and I float backward in time, toward the beginning of Cais story.

Chapter Seventeen Cailleach

We all sell our souls, don't we? Some do it for the bread on their tables, other for the love of silk and pearl. For me, it was the taste of blood and metal. The roar of war and the smell of death became the catalyst for my consumption. With every murder, I drifted further and further from my destiny and the world around me drifted further and further into darkness. I cannot tell you who I am, for I have been known by many names. I cannot tell you an age because human years cannot equate to my antiquity. I can say that, within the scope of human understanding, I have always existed. In one form or another, I have walked the shores of the human realm for ages. I have lived and

of the human realm for ages. I have lived and died by the sides of man. I have felt human love and hate; hopelessness and triumph; joy and sorrow. I understand what it means to be human. I even empathize with them but I am not human. To explain what I am would confound the human imagination, yet everyone knows me. I am the glimmer of hope and recognition behind a strangers eyes. I am the whisper of things unknown, a healing hand. Humans refer to my kind as diviners. We are the seers, healers, psychics and mages of the world. We are made of matter from the unworldly realms and have become the makeup of many worldly legends and myths. We are a collective group who remain hidden in the bodies of man and while human imagination may fumble toward our discovery, it will never truly grasp who or what we are. The first thing that must be understood is that our purposes and destinies are not to provide parlor trick magic and predict lottery numbers. Our souls exist only to protect and guide the human race; to act as a connection of the human spirit to the divine one. For all intents and purposes; we are immortal. Once our human shells parish, we

immortal. Once our human shells parish, we simply move on. For a diviner, there is no promise of heaven or threat of hell. We are sentenced to live out eternity on the earth, as the help-mate to humans. The rule that governs us is simple: don't become involved. We move through the histories of man, guiding and directing humans. We lead them down a path which is intricate to maintaining balance and order in the world. Sometimes we must guide a human to the light and sometimes we must guide them to the darkness. For this reason, diviners are not inherently good or evil. When the time comes, a diviner must be capable of committing both good and evil deeds. We may lift a soul out of a pit of darkness or plunge it there, without pride or remorse either way. Once a task is complete, we must move onto the next life and so on and so forth. It can be quite taxing, even to a benevolent being, to exist in this manner. To know a human so completely and to never be known; to be responsible for the successes and pitfalls of so many oblivious souls and to experience the strength of human emotion without the ability to reciprocate. Many diviners become complacent in their duties and betray their own destinies. These diviners are hunted and sentenced to live forever in the shadow realm.

Chapter Eighteen Stalking Shadows

There is no light here only darkness and damnation. The twists and snares of this forest are a reflection of the souls that dwell, and hunt, here. The darkness is lightly kissed by the soft pale light of the burning moon. It is the same moon which shines in the human realm and my only connection to the world I once loved. I exist here only in spirit form and as the moaning spirits close in on me, I spread my wings and fly upward, toward the canopy. For a moment, my wings are covered by the glow of the moon. Warmth spreads through my body and takes seat in my eyes. The warmth within me tugs at my memory, pulling me back in time and back into her arms.

She smiles her deepest smile and my soul radiates. Diviners cannot truly feel emotion. This radiation is the closest I will ever come to feeling love and I only feel it when I'm with her. Her soft blue eyes flutter playfully and her bright red hair is bouncing in the sunlight. She tilts her head and her aura widens to light the room. She wants me to kiss her, I think and hesitate. I shouldn't be here. I shouldn't think the thoughts that come to mind when she takes my hand and pulls me close. I shouldn't dream of a world where we could be together. A world where I could experience the soul aching love that I know all humans feel; the love she must feel for me. A world in which fate wasn't so cruel and shadows didn't lurk; threatening to steal her away from me. She rises to my lips and plants the softest kiss. I feel a deep wave of light rush through me as we meet and for a moment I forget that I am immortal. I forget that it was fate that brought me here, to be with her and that in a few short hours she will be dead...and I will have been responsible for it. The tree that I am perched in shakes and I am ripped from my memory as suddenly as I

am ripped from my memory as suddenly as I arrived. The walls of my 5th century home fade and are replaced by the staleness of the rotting air. I am still in the shadow realm, it is the 21st century and she is dead. I am on the radar and I must move, lest I be consumed. The beings that exist with me are as twisted as the trees in the dark forest and ever consuming. I am not on the hunt tonight and therefore I am potential prey. I must keep moving, keep flying. As the shadows close in behind me, I am met with more on the forefront. This is the price I a pay for remembering. Memories of her always fill me with her light and in the land between the living and dead, the slightest glimmer can cast a beacon of doom. I must cloak, I think, but first I must fight. I turn and fly backward, toward the stalking shadow being behind me. I fly under a twisted, arching tree, tilting sideways and gliding forward. The shadow being lurches forward, his face twisted in an eternal screech. It happens in an instant. I make contact with my razor claws first, ripping at his shadow body and in his delirium, I consume his soul. A small blast is emitted, knocking back the

A small blast is emitted, knocking back the impeding beings. I instantly fly upward, passing the canopy and glide among the stars to the largest tree in this part of the shadow realm. This place is where I landed when I was cast here by The Council. Broken and tattered, I lay beneath the bow of the tree hoping to be found. In those early days, I wished for consumption. I knew that I could not die so I had settled for living eternity as a hopeless, soulless shadow in this dark land. I clung to my human form because it was all I had left of her and as I sat in wait, I recalled every memory of the human realm that I had ever had. It didn't take long for the shadow beings to move in on me and at last the moment for my consumption had arrived. As the shadow being approached, I was reveling in a memory of her smile when I heard her voice. It was a memory of her but it was as real as the doom I was facing. She was grinding herbs in a mortar when she said "You have a beautiful spirit". I was suddenly propelled toward preservation and shifted into an owl, flying upward and away from my attacker. I vowed that I would never lose any part of myself that she held so dear. I would not allow her memories of me to be betrayed and I would do

memories of me to be betrayed and I would do whatever it took to survive, as she knew me. For the sake of surviving here, I learned to stalk, to hunt, to cloak. That night, I carved an opening in that great tree and with the rune Elhaz (ale-hawz), representing unity of human and spirit; I sealed it so that it would be a safe haven for me here. Then, I set myself to understanding my new world. I categorized the beings here, from lowly shadow walkers to demonic spirits and protected the humans that sometimes traveled here by accident. Even in her death, she propels me...a true testament to her spirit.

Chapter Nineteen Redemption

The moon hangs high above me. I am perched directly above the wanderer. I am waiting; stalking. A cool breeze rushes through me and my claws stand on edge, signaling that a shadow being is near. As the dark being stalks the wanderer, I stalk the dark being silently. He moves in without notice, flowing toward the wanderer with intent. Not today, I state to myself. Then, I set my body in motion, propelling myself toward the attacker. In one swoop, I reach him. I attack and consume without abandon and the wanderer is safe. He turns to great the commotion but he sees only me, drifting toward the darkened sky. You are safe now. I murmur before

You are safe now. I murmur before gliding upward to the top of the great tree. I close my eyes and allow myself a moment of gratitude. There may never be redemption for the things that I have done but tonight I can be comforted by the fact that I have done some good in the world. My thoughts are interrupted as I am frozen mid-air. Pins and needles prick my body as I feel my limbs going numb. I am not flying but floating upward. The pieces of my spirit are detached from one another and I am not a physical body but pure matter. I am being propelled upward but toward what? I have not traveled the realms for ages and I delight in feeling my astral body once again. In my first weeks in the shadow realm, I tried desperately to project myselfto escape my prison. After a while I resigned that I will never again feel the separating of body and spirit, never again float through the realms as pure matter and I would never again see the human realm. Why now? I had to wonder. What events have transpired that I had been permitted to travel? Who or what was propelling me upward and where was I destined to land? My thoughts are interrupted, my mind suddenly goes dark

are interrupted, my mind suddenly goes dark and then I knowit is The Council. Callieach The voice comes to me without sound. I can feel my name quake through my spirit and its the only thing I can see, hear or touch. When The Council speaks, the words are felt instead of heard. They rush through you as no more than a breeze and present themselves as mental images which you must construct. This is a natural reaction, as all beings are extensions of the divine and somehow, the messages are clearly understood. The Council speaks the language of the divine. The divine does not have a mouth so it cannot speak and eyes so it cannot see. Still it is ever seeing and ever speakingit lives through us and everything around us but we will never see it or touch it or fully understand it. Even for the diviners who have more divine knowledge than any other being in the universes, the divine is a mystery. Humans have attempted to quantify this unknowable thing since the first sunrise. Some of these attempts are futile and betray the very spirit of the divine. Others are close in definition but still fall short. It is the nature of the divine to remain undefined and unknowable for the quest of it is what gives it power. I am, right now, as close as

what gives it power. I am, right now, as close as any being will ever be to the divine. Suspended in a state of nothingness, I can feel more clearly the spirit of the divine than any man will ever imagine. You have been summoned before The Council to account for your past. You were charged with unspeakable acts against the divine which plunged the human realm into the Dark Ages. You were sent to the shadow realm to spend eternity alone. Are the Dark Ages over? Am I redeemed for my failures? I think back, eagerly. The Dark Ages ended nearly 900 years ago. You have been brought here for another reason. There is a new darkness threatening the world. The newest generations of humans are feeble and weak in their faith. They are disconnected from the natural world, from each other and the divine spirit. This new threat is exploiting these weaknesses and could dismantle the very foundation of the world. Fear envelops me. Could this be the end? No other realm is so filled with as much light and love as the human realmto see the destruction of it would destroy a part of myself that I held sacred, even in the shadow realm. All

that I held sacred, even in the shadow realm. All the lives I have touched, the paths I have crossed and the places I have been will be gone. The destruction of the human realm will destroy me as wellit will destroy my memories of her. I dont mean to emphasize her and as soon as I do, I am interrupted. We have been watching you, Cailleach. You have watched over the wanderers, protected them even. You have experienced moments of light in the darkest places and you have the strongest will to survive. The Council is not concerned about the reasons behind these things. The only thing that matters is that it is a testament to your goodness. You have been alone in the shadow realm for ages and you are the most removed of all diviners from the corruption. The last part was spoken carefully. We are granting you an opportunity. Redemption? I didnt dare think the word but it flowed through my head as though it was my soul speaking. Redemption, The Council answers pleasingly and then continues, but it will not be easy. We do not want a repeat of last time. You are to stay the path, let fate guide you AND DONT BECOME INVOLVED.

My spirit beams. Throughout the ages I have come to feel as though I would never return to the human realm. I thought I would never be filled with the power of the sun or hear the whispers of the wind. I thought I would never touch foot on earthly soil again and that I would never have a chance to right my wrongs. It will not be hard, I thought, because I will be doing it for The council interrupts my thoughts again and this time the words are much firmer, You must forget about her. There is danger for the diviner in loving humans. You, more than any other diviner, should understand this. We are sending a new spirit into the human realm. She is the incarnation of pure divine light and the last weapon we have against the darkness impeding upon the world. You must surround her always, for her entire life. You must guide her toward the light but you MUST NOT grow attached to her. She will remind you of your past but you must always remember that she is not the same spirit that lured you in 900 years ago. My thoughts darken at the word lured. The Council is implying that I was lured but into what? Was the connection I had with her a trap? Were there forces, outside the divine, that

trap? Were there forces, outside the divine, that were working to alter fate then and now? Could it be that her love for me was a farce? The questions flow through my head in an uninterrupted stream. The visage of her lips in my memory is as clear as her living flesh. To realize that the pressing of these lips against mine wasnt true would be a fate more damning than another lifetime in the shadow realm. You are the only one who can do it. You are the only one with enough resolve to protect and guide her. The world that you know has changed immensely. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is safe. You must go; the time has come for her to be born. As I float toward my new destiny, my thoughts reel. Through the ages in the shadow realm, it was her who propelled me forward and now the thought of discovering it was all a lie makes me want to run back there and hide for eternity. Unsure of my success, my last communication with The Council was simply, Well be watching youclosely. June 21, 1996 Summer Solstice The Summer Solstice is the day of the year

The Summer Solstice is the day of the year with the greatest light. Although it is the crowning of the sun and occurs in the brightest time of the year, it is a promise of darkness returning, as well. Not sure if nature mimics real life or if real life mimics nature, I note how closely this resembles my current reality. Returning to the human realm has brought light upon me that I cannot equate. The roaring wind and crashing waves provide me with a connection to the divine that I havent felt in ages. However, on my own shores, darkness impedes. I consider the councils words carefully as I reconstruct their words. The implication that I was lead into a trap confounds me. I feel hopeless and at the hands of the manipulation. Is this what fate feels like? Humans are constantly cursing fateperhaps it is because they feel as if they are being pulled along without any real choice. Perhaps they feel as if everything in their life is fake and worthless; an agent of fate that is beyond their control. My thoughts are interrupted as I am directed toward the mountains. The ancient rocks whisper welcoming messages with glee as I guide, formless, toward my destiny. Its good to be home, I beam as I approach the place where she is being born.

Home, I consider. The human realm is so real compared to my twisted, shadowy prison. For a diviner, the presence of darkness without light (and conversely) is an unnatural state. We are balancers and thrive off the crashing of light against dark. Today, on the solstice, light shines throughout. Still, there is an impeding darkness as I move from the foothills of the mountains into what humans now refer to as cities. The change that has occurred over the past 900 years is staggering and my connection with the divine is muted as I travel along the streets of this concrete play land. I am nothing more than a whisper of the wind as I settle into the room to greet this new spirit. I am distracted by the brightness and noise of the room. The humans who are overseeing the birth of the child are many. Is this normal for this time period or do they know the importance of the child? I wonder before remembering that the last time a savior was born, all that were present were the childs parents and a few barn animals. The lines of worry on the doctors face startle me. I have seen this expression many times before when I had been sent to carry a spirit into the otherworld. Death hangs in the air, stale and achingly. The rush from it is

air, stale and achingly. The rush from it is astounding to me, as I have not felt a connection to human emotion in such a long time. The thought of death in the air at this moment in time is disturbing. I think of The Councils warning: Nothing is sacred. Nothing is safe. Could it be that the corruption is here now and the forces of darkness are at play at this very moment? I consider for a moment that the corruption could be attempting to steal the new spirit from the world before she has a chance to fulfill her destiny. I push these thoughts out of my head and force myself to focus on the events before me. I feel hopeless as I await the outcome and am delighted to hear the screeching of new life. A light fills the room as the doctor announces the birth of a baby girl and I feel at ease that the girl is safe. The mother beams with delight as she snuggles her newborn child in her arms. She smiles at her husband, the tired smile of a new mom and cries. We will call her Awen. She moans and the room is filled with a deafening pitch, unlike anything I had ever heard. The mothers arms go limp and the baby is scooped up by the husband as the doctors rush in. The separating

husband as the doctors rush in. The separating of spirit and body is undeniable to me but unseen by everyone else in the room. As the spirit of Awens mother floats toward The Otherworld, the joy in the room is tainted by an aching darkness. In the joy of her birth, Awen has also been tainted by darkness. She is pure light on Earth. Still, darkness crashes and booms around her. I watch her cooing at her father, beaming pure light into him and I realize that his sorrow is lessened. Through tears he grips her, clinging to her light and promises to protect her forever. She is the light in the darkness; the beckoning sun. Born on this day of greatest light, she must traverse the depths of human misery to bring light to the world. She is cursed with a fate so arduous that it will always be threatening to destroy her. She must be strong in facing her destiny for she is both savior and sacrifice

Chapter Twenty Protecting Awen

April 11, 1999 Her red curls glisten in the springtime sun. The flowers glow to meet her, acknowledging her light. She has grown into her role so greatly that even the trees stretch their energy to greet her. As she climbs onto the bow of the great tree in her floral print Easter dress, the spirit of it lowers toward her. The spirit of the trees abound by her touch and for a moment, they are one. Her father sees her as dreamer and worries that she doesnt communicate well. What he doesnt see is that she communicates more clearly than any other child. She speaks the language of the divine and everything she

language of the divine and everything she touches if filled with her glowing light. She understands the whispers of the wind and infuses her will into the sky. When she is happy, the sun beams back at her with delight. When she is sad, tears well in the clouds and fall upon the world around her. She is so in tune with everything and everyone around her that words become useless. One look into her soft blue eyes promises secrets from The Otherworld, creates trust, and communicates her feelings perfectly. She does not state her needs with words, she does so with intention. In this moment, her intention is to climb the tree and feel the wind as it blows through the bows of it. Her intention is to touch the divine. At this state, she does not need to define it, she only needs to feel it and as the spirit of the divine rushes through her, she tumbles. Crashing downward, her human instinct awakens and fear flows from her. My spirit surges toward her as I scramble to soften the blow. The wind answers my surge and together we protect her from harm. Her spirit softens and all fear dissipates. She thanks the wind and as her father rushes to coddle her, her eyes shift toward me. A moment of

her eyes shift toward me. A moment of recognition plays across her face as he carries her away. Stunned, I recoil. She didnt see me, did she? I had promised myself, at the beginning, to be nothing more to her than a whisper. I will not assume a body or become a part of her life. I will always be around her without ever letting her know me. This was the only way I can remain detached from her. This was the only way I can stay uninvolved. As I watch her play, I am reminded that humans are connected to the divine and sometimes recognize it in the eyes of the diviner. I have experienced this recognition before, in the eyes of many but never outside of human form. Never before had a human acknowledge me so clearly while I was in spirit form. I have never felt gazing eyes fall upon me as I lurked in the shadows of the trees. She knows nothing of the world yet I feel as if she understands. Does she know who I am who she is? Does she know of her destiny? Impossible, I think as she climbs upon her daddys lap for a story, shes just a child.

Chapter Twenty One Divine Intervention

September 15, 2005 School has complicated Awens life. She finds learning easy and she excels academically. However, she is learning quickly that other children do not communicate in the same manner that she does. As childhood begins slipping from their fingertips, her peers have stopped seeing the beauty of the Earth and have begun focusing on fulfilling more societal needs. When the fall wind blows, Awens peers pull their jackets tighter and trudge forward, as they race toward their houses. Awen opens her jacket to feel the rush of it and takes note of the changing energy in the air. She stands in awe of

changing energy in the air. She stands in awe of nature and her peers stand in awe of her weirdness. How can they be so deaf to the voice of the divine, she ponders of her peers. How come youre so strange? They mock her in return. Awen is beautiful and friendly, like a delicate flower. She sees the intention of the rising and setting sun and she delights in it. There are times that she feels separated from the rest of society, as if she is made up of completely different matter than her peers. In these moments, her light is dulled and a familiar ache returns. I read the questions as they flow through her mind: Would she feel so alone if her mother had survived? What kind words would she have offered in these moments of despair? She sets at her kitchen table as her Father prepares dinner. Her homework is on the table in front of her but her thoughts are unfocused. How was your day, Wen? Art calls from the kitchen. It was great. She said. We did an

It was great. She said. We did an experiment with batteries that was pretty cool. Thats great. How was art class? He is always asking her about how she is doing with her painting. He wants so badly to foster creativity in her. I started a Pop Art piece today but nobody else knows who Andy Warhol is. Awen returns with hesitation and then adds, It is fine though because I got to tell the entire class about him and even got to show them some of his work. It was exciting. This is how she talks to her Father. She always highlights the best parts of her days for him so that he will feel ease about her development. She knows he worries about how she is doing in school and how she is getting along with her peers. Art realizes that she is different than other children but he can never pinpoint the reason. He always attributes her differences to the loss of her mother. Although he has done everything within his power to fill this void, he knew he was falling short. There are things that only a mother can provide to a young female and Art was aware of this. When he met, and fell in love with Diana, he felt as if he was

fell in love with Diana, he felt as if he was mending this tear in Awens soul and that it would supplement, but never replace, the greatest loss that his daughter would ever experience. I understood this, as well, and when I brought the two together, I knew that Arts fatherly instincts would work in the favor of the divine. In memory, the plan seems great but it isnt going as smoothly as I, or Art, hoped it would. Diana is limited in her capacity to understand Awens needs and has fallen short of making a true connection with her stepdaughter. Tonight that is all going to change. I think as I slink in the shadows around the room. I have tried to allow the natural forces of humanity to propel the two together but it hasnt work. So, I have devised a plan to bring the two together. As Awen sest, exploring the depths of human despair, I travel toward Diana. Using my spirit to guide me, I flow through the city and to Dianas, a beauty boutique on the other side of town. Diana is processing a new shipment of bow ties when I arrive and I have to consider what method to use to get her home early, before Awen goes to bed.

I have tried using the wind and rain to speak to her. I have tried to send her messages through the natural cycles of the Earth and it is never successful. In these moments, she simply curses the meteorologist and moves onward with her day, always focused on the latest trends, sales reports and cash flow. She is so disconnected from the divine that I know I will have to employ more modern means of communicating with her. As she stands, counting the ties, lightning strikes the power pole outside her shop and the power to the entire block is cut. As the traffic lights blink to silence, screeching tires and twisted metal denote a crash. Diana has to close down the shop and take the long way home, which will give me time to alert her to Awens distress. In the car, pop music blasts on the radio and I realize that she will not hear my whispers here, either. The modern world is riddled with distractions and the diviners job is now more arduous than ever. As the storm moves in closer, static playes throughout the cars radio and Diana turns it off, leaving us alone at last. Slowly, I begin to feed her images. The first is of Awen alone at recess, sketching a picture

is of Awen alone at recess, sketching a picture of her teachers mood. It is a beautiful array of deep purples and muted greens, denoting her teachers wisdom and prosperity. The second is the memory of Awen sensing the wind and being teased by her peers. Each time, I emphasize Awens emotions and paint the picture of a little girl who is being ostracized by her peers. I paint the picture, in her mind, of a little girl who needs advicewho needs a mother. Dianas expression or thoughts give no indication that my message has registered. She pulls into the driveway, grabbing her briefcase and goes inside to greet her husband and stepdaughter. Dinner continues uneventfully and small talk flows with the passing of bread. I lurk in the room, unseen, and count my efforts as fruitless. Pondering a Plan B, I am pleasantly surprised when Diana displays a rare moment of tenderness toward Awen and offers to help her complete her homework. Alone in Awens room, Diana and Awen talk about the required reading. Awen warms toward Diana and realizing this, Diana speaks candidly toward her. She speaks of a time, as a child, when she is ostracized by her peers. Awen responds to this and tells her step mom that shes never had that problem but she has a

shes never had that problem but she has a friend who has. She asks her step mom what advice she should offer to her friend about this issue. Offering advice to a young child is a delicate task and a rite of passage for all parents. Children cling to the words of adults like security blankets and the wrong advice can alter the path of a child. For Awen, this is a monumental occasion, for she has never received advice from a mother figure and it is something her soul needs. For Diana, it is a test. Whether she will be an instrument for the divine plan will be decided from the outcome of this simple communication. I am suspended around the pair, searching for meaning in their expressions. As they speak, Awen chooses her words very carefully, revealing only the parts of her soul that she is most comfortable with. She dances around the edges of the truth as if it is a dangerous pit that may cause her death, if she does not step carefully. Diana senses Awens reservations and speaks in generalities. Her hesitation matches that of her stepdaughters and so the two engage in a dance. It is the dance of two people trying each other out. Like a new pair of shoes, each is

each other out. Like a new pair of shoes, each is deciding if the other fits. The conversation ends without any useful advice being given. Dianas response to her stepdaughters problems can be summed up by this statement, If the other children dont like something about you, you should change it. As advice goes, that will never work for Awen. Giving up her appreciation for the divine would be the equation of ripping off her shadow and casting it into the sea. There are warm moments between the two and Awen replies to Dianas statement regarding her transformation from a book worm to a fashionista with a humorous You mean, you gave up reading to be popular? In this moment, the two of them share a giggle and the edge of Awens pain is numbed. She may never meet her mother but perhaps she has found a female role model that she can trust. By the end of the conversation, Diana has neither failed nor passed my test. It is certain that she will not be writing a manifesto of childhood advice anytime soon but she has achieved a connection with Awen that astounds me. The past years have created a wall within Awen that nobody, not even her dad, has been able to climb. She is terrified of criticism and

able to climb. She is terrified of criticism and has become meticulous in her interactions with other humans. This will never do, for the light of the world must have the ability to communicate. She must be able to reach all of humanity on an intimate level. She must accept and be accepted alike and she should never hide the depths of her soul out of fear. I decide that I will have to bend my rules and make contact with her. I will help guide her in the safest possible way. That night, as she drifts to sleep, I construct myself into a shape which resembles a human form. I touch her head lightly and whisper into her ear. Chameleons do not shed their skin; they simply change the color of it. It is a mask. They do not conform, they simply blend. She drifts to sleep and her dreams are filled with chameleons of every size and color. They are congregating in her mind, formulating a plan. Awen sees them as nighttime entertainment. She enjoys the playfulness and as they move from rock to grass, she is amused by them. She is unaware that they are teaching her to blend, while staying true to herself. By the rise of the sun, Awens dreams have solved

the rise of the sun, Awens dreams have solved her problem and she wakes to greet the day without abandon. Today, she decides, will be better than the last.

Chapter Twenty Two Cruel Intentions

December 21, 2009 Every day, I stand in awe of her progress. I watch as the wind swirls around her, creating a small vacuum and lifting the snow flurries which have accumulated around her legs. They dance in rhythm around her and swirl upward, encasing her. She sets still, her intent focused on the wind as it carries the snow around her, when she is startled by a commotion in her front yard. Freak! they taunt as Cleary McQuintock lies hopeless in the freshly fallen snow. They are circling him like buzzards and taking turns throwing snowballs at the helpless boy. Cleary often becomes fodder for the bullies. Cleary is a

often becomes fodder for the bullies. Cleary is a thirteen year old boy with long legs, long arms and a small frame. His hair is a dull red, making him stand out among the crowd. A little wavy, it seems to set on top of his head in delicate folds. On his face sets a pair of eyes unlike any other in this small town. The left eye burns a deep amber while the right shines a deep blue that seems to permeate through your soul when he gazes upon you. All in all, he is a good looking boy. He is kind and smart and so the girls at school have befriended him. Jealousy plays out, as it tends to do with boys this age, and results in thrown punches and bloodied noses. The bullies would target Cleary because of his differences and because his way with the ladies. They would taunt him about his eyes and beat him up regularly. Cleary isnt defenseless but he is kind and gentle and would never fight back. This is the third time this week that the Jones boys have chosen to taunt Cleary in this manner but it is the first time that Awen had been present. She bolts around the house in a heated rage, grabs the oldest of the Jones boys (Alcester) and shoves him backward toward the sidewalk. She rolls her fist into a tight ball and hits him in the jaw, slinging him back into the road. As he falls backwards, she hopesno she wishes that the

backwards, she hopesno she wishes that the Jones boys would get what is coming to them. Art and Diana step outside to greet the commotion in her front yard and they watch in fear as Alcester is falling backward from the sidewalk to the street and in front of a moving vehicle. It happens in slow motion. Without much time to react, Awen focuses her energy on the wind and wraps it around him, cushioning the blow. Still, he is hit by the front of the moving vehicle and his body is propelled upward, crashing into the windshield. Blood flows from the scene in the street and emergency services are contacted immediately. The ambulance arrives and Alcester Jones is taken to the hospital with nothing more than a broken arm and a few deep cuts. As they load him into the ambulance, he is exclaiming his sorrow for picking on Cleary and vowing to never bully another child again. Guilt quakes Awen. Every fiber of hair on her head, throughout her limbs and in the pit of the stomach, an aching pulse of darkness ascends. Nobody blames Awen for the accident. It is just a case of bad timing, they comfort her as she sat on the sidewalk, her head resting on the top of her knees.

She will not listen to them. Their words roll off her and her expression is mute. Of course they dont blame me, she pondered. They dont know what Im capable of. It is true, they dont know what she is capable of. Since the chameleon dream when she was nine, Awen has become a master at blending. By the time she received her powers, she had mastered the art of socialization and she was very popular. She may not be fully human but she plays the part well. She studies normality and understands society. Because of this, she knows that society will not accept her if she reveals her powers. So she keeps them balled up inside of her. Like all well kept secrets, she lends it to nobody. She only practices when she is alone and uses her powers discreetly. The secret has grown within her, creating a feeling that she is alone in the knowledge of it. So when she had wished doom upon Alcester Jones, she alone knows the power she is emitting. I know what Im capable of, she thinks and silently holds herself, alone, responsible for his injuries. Blowing playfully in the breeze around her, I tease at her edges and beckoned her to open up to me. Her shell hardens and she places the dark edges outwardly, so that I will not be able to penetrate. She feels so alone in her guilt that

to penetrate. She feels so alone in her guilt that she will not even let the wind give her comfort. I wish I could communicate with her. I wish I could show her that I, too, know what she is capable of and that she is not capable of causing this accident. I wish I could show her, with some vision or dream, that some other force has caused the accident to happen. It has been done in an attempt to instill guilt and sorrow within Awen and hinder her from using her newly gained powersand it is working! I cant make her see because it wasnt something that I, myself, fully understood. I shudder at the thought that I can not pinpoint where it had come from. I am sure that it was a diviner and that this diviner is acting against the goodwill of this realm. I just dont know what form this diviner takes or how they are able to commit such an act without detection. Perhaps I am inadequate to protect her. Had the years in the Shadow Realm hampered my ability to act as a diviner? I realize that I, too, am alone in this moment. As above, so below. Awen and I are disconnected in body but connected in our loneliness and inadequacies to understand the gravity of these events. Later that night, Awen sleeps and I am

Later that night, Awen sleeps and I am hunched in the corner of her room pondering ways that I can protect her. I am mapping out a list of trusted people in her life to pinpoint who the rouge diviner may be when I am startled. Awens spirit begins to float out of her body as she sleeps. The separation of spirit occurs quickly and as the astral body takes form, I prepare to travel. Awen has never projected before and she has certainly never traveled. What is propelling her, now, to travel to a distant realm? More importantly, was she traveling to some place safe? As her astral body floats upward and away, I make haste: following her to a place unknown.

Chapter Twenty Three Distance

I set in the corner of her room, waiting for her to fully awaken. The morning breeze gently blows a kiss on her soft, pale cheek as she comes into her waking body. It has been moments since we had sat in that great tree, talking about fate, yet it is worlds away and my distance from it makes me nervous. I had peered into her eyes and seen understanding. I knew, in that moment, that she was considering the possibility of the danger that could arise from using her new power. Now, I find myself wondering if my warning will play in her head whenever she considers using it. As she wakes, I slip further away from her.

As she wakes, I slip further away from her. The days are gone that I could dance in the air around her without notice. From the first time she traveled to the shadow realm and came to know my spirit form, she had begun to recognize me in the wind. She had began to separate the whispers of the divine from my own. Now, I am on the outside of her life and bound to her only as Cai. I can watch from a distance but it is becoming increasingly difficult to guide her in the human realm. I linger around her from a distance and as I wait outside her bedroom window, I ache to be near her. As a diviner, I have always been so sure in knowing the outcome of things. Surprise has never been an element in my life. Watching Awen wield the great sword of light was the first time that I had taken part in events that I felt were beyond my control. It was the first time in ages that I had seen the unfolding of events which appeared to be beyond the reach of fate.

Chapter Twenty Four Corruption

I experience a few more memories of Cai watching me from the distance. I especially note a tugging pain welling inside Cai as I reach up and touch Clearys arm and I note the flow of worry through him as he watches me from the shadows in the hospital room. Then, I feel myself floating back into my own astral form and I look around for Cai. He sets above me, in the great tree, surrounded by solemn silence. Thoughts of Cais love, his betrayal and his redemption swirl in my mind and crash against words such as savior and sacrifice. Cai has been lurking in the shadows around me my entire life and it is

shadows around me my entire life and it is obvious that he means no harm to me. Instead, he has been guiding and protecting me the entire time. Cai starts slowly toward me and speaks in a careful tone, Do you understand, now? I nod slowly before asking, In the dream I hadyou were He cut me off, It was a horrible thing, what I did. I killed a lot of innocent people. He hangs his head in shame. Her name was Edolina. It quivers from his lips and I know he hasnt spoken the name in some time. She was the kindest spirit that I had encountered, at that time. She was gentle and lovely, and she was very lovedby many. She had a small child whose father had died in the war. The child was meant to grow to be a great warrior, propelled by the untimely death of his mother. A heavy sigh wells inside him before he continues his explanation. I had broken the one rule of a diviner. I had become involved. When it came time for me to cause her death, I couldnt do it. In that moment, I saw the childs sweet innocent face change into a raging maniac of war. ItI he whispered I felt love. Diviners arent supposed to be able to do

love. Diviners arent supposed to be able to do that. He stares into my eyes for a moment, trying to conceal his thoughts from me, before finishing with, She died anywayand I cursed The Council for it. I cursed fate and turned my blades on innocent men because of my own despair. I disrupted the balance and harmony in the word and so what you humans now call the Dark Ages began. He takes another heavy breath, I deserve an eternity here, in the shadow realm. I deserve the attack you came here to perpetrate upon me. I cannot die but the pain of it would be more welcome than the memories of that time in my life. He studies my reactions to his words carefully. I am speechless and emotionless as I try to imagine the pain surging through him. A smile spreads across his face. You, Awen, are my redemption. You are the worlds redemption. You have more light and beauty inside you than an entire continent of todays humans. You have always struggled with your abnormalities but you need to know that this is how youre supposed to be. Youre supposed to be a light into the world. Everything I had just experienced and learned builds within me. Slowly, I feel the

learned builds within me. Slowly, I feel the parts within myself begin to rearrange. I feel as if I have truly seen myself for the first time, through the eyes of Cai. I understand, now, the connections between all the seemingly random and unfair things that have occurred during my lifetime. I may not be a superhero but I do have a purpose. Even with lingering fears about how it will all end, I feel fulfilled. I feel justified. Why didnt you tell me, sooner? I ask, halfway knowing the answer. I couldnt. That would have changed the trajectory of your entire life. His eyes narrow. As much as my past haunts me; as much as it hurtsI know it was meant to be. If it werent for the path I have walked, I wouldnt be here to protect and guide you. I have never known a diviner to be subject of fate before and I dont fully understand why I am. There are things that are hidden, even to me. The word hidden kicks a door open in my brain. So, who is this corruption that The Council spoke about? I dont know. A sense of failure fills his eyes. I can see the things in your life that are out of place. I can see that youre being tugged away from your true destiny but I cant see who

away from your true destiny but I cant see who is doing the pulling. Ive tried very hard but they remain hiddeneven to me. I do know that it is somebody close to you. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is safe. The Councils warning echoes in my head. So, I do have a villain to fight against, I just have to figure out who it is. As the words flow through my mind, I feel the familiar tugging of my spirit to my body. Noticing this, Cai speaks hastily, I do not know whats coming next! Whatever or whoever is trying to derail you is striking harder. I do not know when I will see you again. You have to know that I will always be around you. I will always guide and protect you. Fighting the tug toward my waking body with all my might, I ask How do I know what is fate and what is circumstance? How do I separate the plan of the divine from the plan of my foes? You do what you always do. You listen, you feel, you see. Everything you need is within you. Its time to open yourself up and trust these things. Its time to end the struggle and climb toward the top of the Great Tree of Life. His words fade as I lose the fight against my own

words fade as I lose the fight against my own spirit and float back into my body. I awake to numbness and stinging throughout my entire being. The memories of the shadow world are groggy and slow to wake. As the edges of my room come into focus, I try to concrete them in my mind. I try to place everything I have learned on the edges of myself. I look at the clock. I have been asleep for 14 hours. The mornings sun is smiling at my window and the smell of bacon and eggs wafts up the stairs and into my room. My spirit feels foreign in my human body and I can feel the compartments and boxes of myself opening up, slowly. I get dressed and without suppressing my light, I walk downstairs, toward my family.

Chapter Twenty Five Appreciation

My dad and Diana are setting down to breakfast when the noise of me entering the room causes them to look my way. The sight of me startles them. I hadnt considered what I must look like with my unkempt hair and teeth that are in need of brushing. They both stare at me for a moment before Diana brakes the silence. You look like you slept well There is something more to her words and as she speaks them, I realize that it is small talk with large intention. She means to say that she is glad to see me doing well but in her simplicity, she only offers this pleasant greeting. She stands up and pulls out a chair while my dad scrambles in the kitchen, tossing pancakes and bacon onto a

the kitchen, tossing pancakes and bacon onto a plate for me. He is nervous, I can feel it in the vibrations around him. I had been so caught up in revenge after the blackout and the dream that I hadnt even considered what he must be going through. The look on Dianas face as I walk past her is astonishment. My dad and Diana both freeze in anticipation of my next move. I wrap my arms around my dad, giving him the warmest hug I can manage. His edges are rigid as he half-embraces me. I can feel a rock solid wall between us as we stand in a silent embrace. My dad has done as I have and learned to compartmentalize. It is a coping skill for raising a child through mourning and I can feel him pulling back, hiding is pain from me. I release first and looking him in the eyes, I smile a kind smile. It is the kind of smile that a child gives to their father to show admiration and appreciation. With hesitation, he returns the gesture. The edges of his wall crumble slightly but the foundation of it remains intact. I see the worry in his eyes as he studies my face. He had watched my mother die in a hospital bed 17 years ago. It is a wound which has somewhat healed. Time and new love has created a patch which just covered the scar.

Seeing me lying in a hospital bed, hopeless and without the certainty of life, had ripped at the patch. Old pain is surfacing and I can see it welling up inside him. Another emotion is peeking at me from behind the wall. I focus on it for a moment but rusty with my empathy, I cant get a clear feeling on it. For so many years, I have been selfish. I have focused on finding normality and struggling with my identity that I have forgotten to take inventory of those around me. My dad and Diana are top on that list. Diana has been by my side since I came home from the hospital. She has dealt with me with temperance and patience that I have never seen from her before. In this moment, my edges toward her soften. I give her a gentle smile which says, Thank you for being there for me as I set down to eat breakfast. Small talk replaces the awkward tension in the air and I welcome it. I realize now that this idle chit-chat is a way to fill the air between bodies in a room. It isnt the topic of conversation or words that matter but rather the connection from one human to the other. I make a mental note to be a better daughter as my dad and Diana fill me in on the news I missed while I was sick.

I feel the clicking of my brain as I try to make room for Cais memories in my own life. In the spirit world, they were easy to understand but a veil of reality has closed around them and I find myself trying to make sense of everything again. My human brain looks at things in a much more logical manner than my spirit one does and I find myself rationalizing everything around me. I begin this by looking inward and then without. Cais memories create a more complete view of my life. By gazing in from the outside, I am aware at how segmented I have become. I allow these to highlights to run freely through my human brain as I stare at Diana across our breakfast. She isnt my mom and she doesnt understand me but she tries. I decide in that moment to try and open up to her and let her in. I decide to let the world in and start living my life, before it has a chance to end. I fill the time in between breakfast and lunch in my room, thinking about everything that has happened this week. As the questions about my purpose and destiny crash on the outside of me, they beg to be answered. I know I must unravel the mystery. I must find the source of corruption in my life and face it. I

source of corruption in my life and face it. I must face my destiny. In order for that to happen, I am going to have to change the way I do things. Someone close to me is the source of The Corruption in my life. Looking at the situation in a divine manner isnt solving the problem. I realize that in order to solve the mystery, I am going to have to look at it in a very human manner. In my search for normality, I have constructed walls and boundaries to hide behind. I catalog actions and reactions of others but I have never acted or reacted on my own merit. Cai is the only person in my entire world who has ever seen any honesty out of me. To everyone else, I am a mirror image. I am a mock human, not an authentic one. It is no wonder that I cant pinpoint who in my life is being honest with me because Im not even honest with myself. I realize in this moment that honesty will be the key for tracking down the source of corruption in my life and I use this realization to allow myself to move forward without focusing directly on the corruption. Like the things in my past, the things in my future will unravel with time and understanding. I know I must start within. I must fix myself first and then begin to look for indications of the corruption in my life.

look for indications of the corruption in my life. I must stop mocking life and begin living it, for it is the only way I will ever meet my fate. The truth is that there are other reasons why it is important that I begin to experience life. Cai had referred to me as both savior and sacrifice. These words kick around inside my head and cause me to recoil. I know that something great is upon me and the feeling that my life will be a lot shorter than I had hoped takes seat within me. Anytime man faces their mortality, the lingering question is how have I spent it?. When I ask this question, I dont like the answer. Seeing life through Cais eyes made me fill like I was less than human. Cai sees humans as incredibly intricate beings. He is in awe of the human ability to connect; to feel. This is exactly what I need. I need to begin to truly connect to the people around me. In order to do this, I am going to have to open myself up. I am going to have to truly be known. I need to risk seeming imperfect at times, in exchange for being real. As it stands now, I feel more like a diviner. I feel more like I am being forced to stand on the edge of humanity in observation of it. I do not want my life to end before I ever allow myself to experience it. I am surrounded

allow myself to experience it. I am surrounded by people whom I care deeply about and I want to have the chance to allow them to truly know me. I want to allow them to love me back. I want to open up and show Lacy the beauty in the sunrise or help my dad and Diana hear the whispers in the wind. I have spent my entire life feeling ashamed at how differently I see, and experience, the world around me. I want so badly to open up. I want to know that when Im gone, there will be some trace of true testament to who I am left behind. At this point, there simply isnt. The Awen Murdock that everybody knows is a lie. I decide that I will not allow the weight of my destiny pull me inward but use it as a catalyst to push me forward. I will allow everything that I keep hidden to be seen and (hopefully) appreciated. It will take some time but I will start small. I promise to allow myself to live in the moment more and attempt to have true interactions with those around me. News of my recovery trickles down and Lacy calls to say she was on her way over. I hurry to take a shower and get dressed, ensuring that I seem as healthy as possible. I am excited to get caught up on everything I missed at school during my 3 day absence but nervous to

school during my 3 day absence but nervous to hear how Cleary reacted to the incident. I havent really had time, until now, to consider how my blackout looked and I wonder if Cleary will change his mind about taking me to the Fall Formal. I throw on the usual t-shirt and jeans but decide to blow dry and straighten my hair. I also put on some makeup and set on the bed, reading a book while I wait for Lacy. Im somewhere in the middle of solving the latest mystery when I hear Lacys vehicle pull up in the drive. I fight my urge to jump up and rush downstairs to meet her. Instead, I stay lounged on my bed, trying to focus on my reading. In the moments that I wait for her to get out of her car, knock on the door and exchange pleasantries with Diana, I re-read the same line in my novel a few times. Finally, I hear Lacys footsteps, leading her up the stairs and into my bedroom. She knocks quietly and I roise to open the door. A ray of sunshine beams from her when she sees my face. I watch as the weight that has been collecting within her subsides. She gives me her best Lacy smile and I feel at home in it. For once, I dont try to emulate her smile but I give her an honest one of my own. It is not as big or bright as her own but it says, simply I missed you.

With that, the familiar pieces of our friendship fall in place. Before I know it, we are setting on my bed and she is filling me in on everything that happened at school while I was gone. Most of the news focuses around the Fall Formal. It is a conversation of whos going with who and I cant believe she turned him down but between old friends it is much more than that. Its like slipping into a favorite sweater. These are the routines which define our friendship and for once, I dont allow my mind to stray too far from the conversation. I refuse the urge to bask in her normality or wonder if my reactions are out of place. Instead, I give my full attention to her words. I allow myself to exist in the moment with her and hope I am giving her the attention she truly deserves. Im surprised you havent asked yet. Asked what? I am caught off guard by the question. I think Im doing a good job at listening to her but I dont quite understand what shes talking about now. Cleary? She says his name as if I should be realizing the meaning behind it. My mind clicks backward to the question that I had been

clicks backward to the question that I had been pondering as I was getting ready to see Lacy. Oh, yeah, I was wondering that. I decide to try on some human vulnerability. I didnt ask because I am afraid I wont like the answer. She seems taken back by my honesty. I can see why you would feel that way. There are some people at school who thought your blackout was kind of weird She doesnt know how much those words hurt. I hate the thought of seeming abnormal and I have to work to fight back my ruse from slipping up and taking over. She notices my reservation and continues quickly. But nobody important. Just people who dont know you. People on the outside of megreat, thats everybody Cleary is very worried about you. She says, hoping it will make me feel more at ease. Its almost like she has known about my ruse all along and so she appreciates this moment of tender honesty that Im giving her. She delights at my vulnerability. A genuine smile slides across my face. So

A genuine smile slides across my face. So he hasnt found another date to the Fall Formal? She shakes her head no and hands me a slip of paper. In fact, he told me to have you call him when you start feeling better. I cling to the paper with fear and trepidation. I have never allowed myself to become excited with things as mundane as school dances and prospective boyfriends. As my own excitement floods throughout me, I delight in the feeling of it. Lacy teases at me for a moment, trying to get me to call him now. We talk for a moment about what I would say to him and what he would say back. She pretends to be Cleary and laughs at my awkwardness in answering her questions. In the end, we decide that it is best I dont call him. Instead, she decides to set up another double date. Its probably best if I handle this in person, anyway. A realization spreads in my mind as she pulls up Alecsters number in his phone to text him. So, how are things with you and Alecster? She looks up from her phone and a light

She looks up from her phone and a light surrounds her. He texts me every day. Ive been too worried about you to go out with him but he wants another date. I really like him, Awen. Im genuinely happy for her. Part of my brain begs me to warn her how dangerous he is but the part of me that wants to be human pushes it back. Normal teenagers make mistakes and they allow their friends to make mistakes. As long as he doesnt pick you up on his motorcycle. I tease. She laughs back. Hes not as much of a bad boy as he seems. Most of it is just for show. I must say, I quite enjoy the show. Lacy always has a soft spot for people with a hint of danger around them. I think its because theyre so different than herself. I can identify with this. Perhaps the reason why I feel so drawn to Lacy is because I admire her mundane nature. Maybe this is how humans work. Maybe they find people who compliment them and cling to them. Maybe this is what we need to feel whole. Still, I imagine Lacy and Alecster in the future. Hes hosting poker night in the basement of their house with a group of very questionable characters while shes upstairs baking a quiche. I laugh to myself and realizing that I am

I laugh to myself and realizing that I am drawing inward, I decide to let Lacy in on my thoughts. So, lets say that he likes you as much as him. You guys date through college and decide, when you graduate, to get married. What does that look like? Lacy ponders this for a moment. She must have seen what I did because she laughed. Were quite a pair, arent we? Well, I suppose that either I will tame him throughout the years or he will bring out my wil* side. We both laugh at this. I am trying to picture Lacys wild side when Alecster texts back. Lacy let me read the text. It simply says, Were on babe! Tomorrow 7pm, Menudos sound okay? She replies with a simple: sounds great. For a moment, I ponder the simpleness of their words but push myself outward to experience the moment, rather than assess it. Excitement flows between us. It is an open circuit and it flows both ways, instead of the usual one-way flow we experience. I allow her to pick out an outfit for me and as we discuss hair and makeup choices, I feel like a normal teenage girl. I feel human.

Chapter Twenty Six Fall Formal

September 22, 2013 I have not traveled to the shadow world since after the blackout, when I had tried to kill Cai. It was alarming at first and I missed connection with him and a world that had come to be as real as the waking world to me. I struggle with everything that has happened in that short week and it threatens to pull me back into the darkness that I lived in before. I cling to my light and allow my logical brain to sort out the details. I conclude that the blackout, dream, and the encounter with Cai are all proponents of my destiny. Each had began and ended exactly when they were supposed to. At the end of the

when they were supposed to. At the end of the sequence of events, I have gained the knowledge I need to free me from the prison I have created within myself. These events have given me a purpose and created a new appreciation for my humanity. The origins of my powers are no longer a mystery and I even knew the purpose of them, giving me a confidence in myself that I never thought would be possible. I will not allow myself to miss Cai because I know that his mission has been fulfilled. In showing me his memories, he had given me everything that I need to move forward. He has taught me enough about diviners for me to know that they never became a constant in a humans life. I know that they act as supporters of destiny and once they propel a human in a direction, they move out of their lives forever. Sometimes, I feel him in the wind around me. I know he is close to me and that he will always be watching but he can never again be a real part of my life. I wonder what his inability to truly move on signifies about our relationship. I find myself aching to be near him sometimes after the sun sets and I spend the night, sleepless, recalling our time together in the shadow world. During these times, I cling to my humanity and the

these times, I cling to my humanity and the connections I have with those around me. I cling to Lacy, Alecster, Cleary, my dad and even Diana. This is perhaps the greatest gift that Cai has given me. I have learned to open myself up, just a bit, to those around me. In the absence of Cai in my life, I have begun to make true human connections. Although I am still sure that The Corruption lurks around me, I find that these relationships help build the light within me to keep the darkness at bay. I have not made any progress in figuring out who in my life is an agent for this force but I have come to terms with my past and my future. I am now able to focus on the present. I am learning to live in the moment. Sometime in the future, I will fulfill my destiny and save the world. It seems so heavy to think of it but the truth of the matter is that I have no idea when, or how, this will happen. Furthermore, I have absolutely no control over it. I may be the savior of the world but I am only human. Im sure that some small event will become a catalyst for the events which will lead me toward it but there is no way for me to pinpoint which events will lead me to or deter it from happening.

So, I do the only thing I can. I move forward. Just like every other human in this world, I ride the waves around me. I know when something meaningful happens, I will know what to do. I will deal with it then. Right now, things seem manageable and balanced. The weight of my destiny falls off me and I am just a teenage girl, preparing for my schools Fall Formal. Lacy arrives early, with her dress and a box full of accessories for us to try on. We have a hair and makeup appointment before the guys will arrive to pick us up. Then, we will engage in photo time for our parents and leave in time to make dinner reservations before the dance. My inner voice sees it all as overkill and pointless but I stuff that down. Seeing the light in Lacys eyes signifies that I should allow myself to be excited about it all, too. I push back my inner voice and immerse myself into the activities of the day. We move through our hair and makeup appointments, clinging to the hopes we have for the night and fighting back the fear that something might not go as perfectly as weve imagined in our minds. It isnt until Lacy enters the room for the first time in her dress that it all becomes very

first time in her dress that it all becomes very real to me. She has chosen a bright pink princess dress that is strapless and short. The strapless top is embellished with so many stones that it looks like stars against a night sky and the flowing tool bottom is separated from the top by a strip of fabric and a beautiful silver flower on the front. As she moves from my bathroom into my bedroom, beauty falls around her. To see her in this gown is to witness the birth of a flower in early spring and her eyes are alive with the wonder of it all. I hold my breath, out of fear that saying a word would ruin the majesty of the moment. A smile cracks across her face. She raises one eyebrow and says, That good, huh? I giggle with her and spent a few minutes trying to make her feel as beautiful as she looks. It dawns on me, slowly, why Diana has become so obsessed with clothing. I have always attributed her love for fashion as shallow and materialistic; a testament to the fact that she cared for nothing more than the face value of things. As I watched Lacy twirling around in my room, I understand the power that a great outfit holds for the woman wearing it. We dont adorn ourselves with clothing, makeup and jewelry so that men will stand in awe of us any more than the rainbow appears simply to be gawked at. We

the rainbow appears simply to be gawked at. We do it because of the confidence we feel when we shine brighter than the stars. Although I know Lacy doesnt need anyt more validation from me than she can gain from the mirror, I dote on her. She revels in it and I open myself up to her, allowing her confidence to climb inside me. In this moment, I am proud of the subtle differences that set me apart from every other human in the world. I am glad to be an empath. After a moment, it is my turn to step inside the bathroom and put on my dress. I avoid the mirror until I step outside the room and hear Lacy respond to my entrance with a soft gasp. I see tears welling in her eyes and I realize that she is experiencing the same awe toward my beauty as I felt toward hers. I move into the view of the mirror and with Lacy behind me, I cling to the confidence I had stored earlier. I open my eyes and look at myself for the first time. My dress was similar to Lacys as it is short and has the same sweetheart neckline but its nude color stands in contrast to her bright pink. While it is embelished, the rhinestones on my dress are fewer than hers. It is belted with a simple strip of heavy silver stones. Lacys hair falls around her shoulders in big curls while

falls around her shoulders in big curls while mine is wrapped tightly into a bun on the side of my hair and only a few soft curls kiss the side of my face. Tonight, we are equally beautiful but in very dissimilar ways. Her classic beauty, in contrast to my artsy elegance made us a pair. Although Im sure that every other girl at the dance will feel the same, Im convinced that we will be the brightest stars in the sky tonight. Lacy must sense my sentiment because she spins me around and gushes. We look A-mazing! I giggle and agree. With that, we rush to her box to try on accessories. Lacy looks through the selections with excitement. I have the perfect silver bangle bracelet that will work for youand for me she looks in her box for a moment before pulling out bracelet of her own. The wires of the bracelet intertwine and hold pink crystals on the end. As she puts it on, my mind flashes back to Cais description of the great tree of life. For a moment, my mind is with him and I wonder what he would think if he saw me like this. I dont allow myself to consider it further and force myself to focus on the immediate,

and force myself to focus on the immediate, rather than the past. Lacy has chosen to fore-go a necklace but is busy looking for one that will match my dress perfectly when a knock at the door grabs our attention. It isnt Dianas hard, forceful knock but my dads soft, subtle one. Its unlocked. I greet him, engrossed in continuing the search. He moves into the room slowly and his eyes widen as they fall on me. They are the eyes of a father watching his daughter growing up suddenly and I realize this is the first time he is seeing me as a woman, rather than the little girl he once knew. Pride beams from him but it is subtle and hidden behind the walls he has built. I stand to greet him with a hug and he extends a box to me. I tug at the ribbon and lift the top to see a single strand of pearls. I run a finger over the surface of the smooth pearls and an aching feeling flows from it into me. My eyebrows crease, I stare into his eyes. Before he can speak, I utter, These were moms. Genuine surprise sneaks past his wall and blasts into me with full force. Yyes, they were. He stammered, How did you know? Suddenly ashamed of my admission, I recover, Lucky guess? He sighs a deep breath

recover, Lucky guess? He sighs a deep breath of relief and offers to place the pearls on my neck. I gather myself and oblige his offer. As he slips them around my neck, he whispers so sweetly in my ear, She felt so beautiful when she wore these. They were her moms. I categorize the thought in my mind and add it to the short list of things I know about my mom. So, she had a mom, too I thought sarcastically. Looking at myself in the mirror, wearing her pearls, I find myself drawing inward. Wearing my moms pearls to a formal gown should be a joyful experience I remind myself but she should be here to give them to me, herself. I sigh and fight back tears. On the edge of a breakdown, I am relieved when, a moment later, Cleary and Alecster beckon at the door. In this moment, I am able to cling to the excitement surrounding collecting pictures and the hope lurking on the horizon for us all. The rest of the night flows by in an endless sea of compliments and smiles. I cling to the light around me as we file into the dance hall. I spend the rest of the night, trying to avoid the rolling tide of darkness generated by the pearls and thoughts of my mothers absence. Cleary is the perfect date for the night because his

the perfect date for the night because his childish wondering is still very much alive. He is amazed by the beauty of the dance hall and the beauty within me. When he gazes into my eyes, its as if hes seeing me for the first time and I revel in the feeling of it all. Even Alecster manages to be a perfect gentleman and he and Lacy quickly become the talk of the dance. Somehow, their differences arent as separating as they once seemed to be. When he takes her hand and leads her onto the dance floor, their auras intertwine. His edges soften to greet her and she hardens the smallest bit. They seem to meld together into one single, solitary beam of light. The world slows around them and I smile to think that Lacy has found something true and rare. I watch as he kisses her softly and realize that they are two souls on the edge of love. The beauty of it startles me and a single tear rolls down my cheek. The night stretches on and its very late when Alecster and Cleary drop us off at my house. Lacy bids me farewell with a promise to call and recount the night first thing in the morning. I move quietly to my room, trying not to disturb my sleeping family and stand in front of my bedroom mirror. I am just about to change into my

I am just about to change into my bedclothes when the latch on my window comes undone and the wind blows softly in around me. I force myself toward the window and I feel like I am being watched. Is it the moon? I wonder. Or is it Cai? I gaze into the sky for a moment, longing for a sign that it isnt the moon looking at my from beyond my window. Closing my eyes, I try to feel the vibrations in the airnothing. I sigh and begin to close the window when a familiar voice quakes throughout me. You looked beautiful, tonight.. With that, I am alone again. A smile spreads across my face and any lingering darkness that might have been around me dissipates. I close the window, take off my mothers pearls and store them in the trunk at the edge of my bed. I change clothes and melt slowly in between my blankets. Visions of dancing owls play out as my mind falls into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Twenty Seven Confidence

October 31, 2013 The fall formal had given me a glimpse into Clearys kind, childlike nature. In a world of brutish men, he was a dream. He looked at me and his eyes were alive with the wonder and beauty of my soul. It had made me feel like a wild and delicate flower, blooming for only him. I fell into him that night and we have been a collective breath since. Since that night, there has been a strangeness growing within Cleary. Its as if Im watching the death of all the things I love about him. What is being reborn is an overzealous version of himself. It manifested slowly and it

version of himself. It manifested slowly and it was endearing at first, to watch his confidence grow. I quite liked seeing him become more sure of himself and becoming more extroverted. It was even alluring for a while. He started going to the gym more often and developed an infinity for showing off his body. Now, it seems as if its escalating into something fool-hearted and reckless. He had used his new found confidence to step out of Alecsters shadow and make new friends. Alecster, Lacy and I stand on the outside of Cleary and his new friends as he recounts his newly acquired pick up lines. Some of them are genuinely witty but most are crude or sexist and I am disgusted that these words are coming from his mouth. The crowd breaks up in a roar of laughter and praise. A few of the girls in the group stare at him with starry eyes and he basks in their adoration. Im right here! I think as I watch the scene playing out in front of me. I fight back on my anger and try to refrain from telling him exactly what I think about his pick up lines when Lacy looks in my direction. She is standing directly to my left, her arm intertwined in Alecsters and for the first time tonight, I take stock of Alecsters reactions.

His face is stone. His eyebrows are creased and there is a notable amount of tension in his jaw as he watches his best friends show. Not sure if this is the sign of jealousy or worry, I change my focus back to Lacy who is begging for my attention. Her face is playing out an array of emotions; most notably, concern and dismay. I see the pleading in her eyes and know instantly that she feels uncomfortable and wants to separate herself from this situation. I nod in agreement and walk toward Cleary with trepidation. The conversation stops and tension arises as I approach my boyfriend. I feel like an intruder in the center of the circle which is obviously reserved for Cleary alone. I lean into him and whisper sweetly into his ear, I think its time we head home. He scoffs, gives me a kiss and bids me goodnight. He is obviously not ready to give up the attention he is getting and would rather me spend the rest of the night without him. I turn and walk toward Lacy who lets go of Alecsters arm and intertwines it with mine. The three of us walk for a while, amid the roar and excitement of Halloween festivities. We remain silent until we are well out of ear shot and the laughing voices of Clearys group have faded into the trick or treats around us.

We stop at the street corner and take a seat on a group of hay bales that the city has used to decorate the streets. We sit, silently, with our thoughts until Lacy breaks the silence. Whats gotten into him? I look at her in agreement. I wish I knew In this moment, something tugs at me and tells me that I should know. The word into crashes against a distant memory in my mind. My thoughts turn dark as my memory rolls back to the day he asked me to the fall formal. I had pushed the smallest bit of confidence into him. Could this really be related to his sudden burst of cockiness? In this moment, I feel as if Ive pulled on a string that should never have been pulled, thrusting Cleary into a direction that he shouldnt be pulled in. My thoughts go back to Cais warning about the effect my power could have on the fates of those around me. Alecster responds with silence and as he stares blankly into the sky, Lacy continues, No, really. Doesnt he see how those jokes were insulting to women? He should not be acting like that! Its wrong. Its rude! I cant believe he would do this to you, Awen. She thinks about this for a moment, as she tries to

thinks about this for a moment, as she tries to peer inside me. She knows I am suffering and wants to console me but there is no way for me to let her in. I am closed shut in this moment and trying desperately to recount the events which have lead to Clearys demise. You know what, Im going to go back there and give him a piece of my mind! She stands up and Alecster gently takes her arm. Ill talk to him tomorrow. It is the first time he had spoken since Clearys new friends had shown up and the harshness in his voice startles me. I look deep down within him and see the source of his conflict. Alecster had once been a cocky, fool-hearted boy himself. It wasnt until that day, when I pushed him into the road, that he saw the error in his attitude. In a big way, Cleary McQuintock was part of the event which had changed the trajectory of Alecsters life. Now, he knows he will have to try and do the same for Cleary. Lacy and Alecster offer to walk me the rest of the way home but I decline. I need a moment to be alone with my thoughts. I bid them farewell and set alone, listening to the whispers in the wind. It speaks to me in singular words as if its hinting to something

into, fate, trajectory The significance of the chain of events are begging for my attention. I am reminded how limited I am in my ability to know things; to understand things on a larger level and all the unanswered questions that I have avoided recently flow through my mind like an endless sea of wondering. The answers to these questions are ever elusive and seem farther from me than ever as I sit and stare at the Halloween moon. My soul kicks inside me and something primal is awakened. Cai and the shadow world seem closer tonight than they ever have before. As the cold night air surrounds me, I reach out and grasp the unseen. I can almost touch it I think. I find the brightest star in the sky, close my eyes and pretend it is Cai. I gather all the free energy inside me, fold it up tight ball and send it toward him. I need you, Cai I feel a rip inside me as the thought becomes part of a collective consciousness that was previously untouched by my spirit. I feel it rising and the intent is heavy in the air before it separates and floats away from me. It is an odd feeling and leaves me tired. I slowly walk home, my head ready for a

tired. I slowly walk home, my head ready for a deep nights rest.

I lay in my bed, somewhere between the sleeping and waking worlds when I feel the familiar separation of my body and spirit. Delighted by it, I react and inadvertently force myself awake. I feel my spirit snapping back into my body and disappointment floods my mind. I might have been traveling to the spirit world, I think. I allow myself to drift toward sleep again and will my spirit to travel. Neither sleep nor walking comes and by 3a.m., I am frustrated and exhausted. I set up in my bed and stare out the window at the night sky, wondering if Cai heard my pleas for him earlier. My head begins to spin and the world around me fades into the background of my mind. I am awake, yet I am dreaming. My mother appears before me. She is wispy and flowing; a spiritual rather than a physical incarnation of herself. She motions for me to follow her and I stretch my spirit toward her in response. I follow her as far as I can, until I feel the tether between my spirit body and physical

the tether between my spirit body and physical one growing thin. She stops and stares at me. You must understand the past to unlock the future Her thoughts become words in my head. She waves her hand and the colorless space around us fades into a basement. A young girl is kneeling in prayer before a great, stone alter. Her long red curls kiss the back of her faded nightgown and I quickly place myself in time. It appears to be the early 80s; the girl is somewhere around 10 years old. She raises a blade in front of her anthame my mothers spirit corrects. She raises an anthame in front of her and begins to chant. She points it in every direction, saying a different chant each time. Before she finishes, the scene changes and we are now in the middle of an antique store. The same woman is standing in the middle of the room, chanting and waving a bundle of herbs sage she corrects again. a bundle of sage around the room. It appears to be early 90s and the woman is approximately my age. She is chanting again

approximately my age. She is chanting again and the spirit matter around the room distills as she does this. Finally, we find ourselves around a great bonfire. The young girl is now a woman and as she turns in circles around the great fire, I can see shes pregnant. She turns and smiles a big smile in my directionits my mother. My brain fumbles toward discovery as I feel the pull of the real world arching upon my dream. As I slip away from my mother, I grasp for her and she echoes one last thought into my mind. This is how you were supposed to be raised. Define being cut off from view by interposing something With that, she is gone and my reality is physical again. I am not left with an aching pain of the loss of my mother but alive with wonder. I move from the bed to the computer with haste and use web search to do as she had said. I type in the words, define: cut off from view by interposing somethingthe word occult pops off the screen and into my mind with a jolt. Was my mom awitch? I wonder. Subsequent searches of anthame and sage confirm this in my mind as I consider her advice: You must understand the past to unlock

advice: You must understand the past to unlock the future. A lot of things in my life could easily be explained by the realization that my mom was somehow part of the occult. My feelings on the matter are split between wonder and amazement and fear and condemnation. I have been taught my entire life that the occult is dark and mystical; something to be feared. My mind reels with questions as I finally drift to sleep. How can I make a leap into something so dangerous without heavy consideration? Who do I know that would even know of such things?

Chapter Twenty Eight Goth Kid

The tension in my physical body is one of outward shame. It is the kind of shame that comes from thinking about things that one knows are forbidden. Internally, I delight in the thought of it. Outwardly, I cower behind walls, hoping no one ever discovers my secret. I search for information about the occult in secret and udder nothing of it to those around me. The only thing I have discovered about the occult so far is that its too big to easily define. I have rifled through collections of text and found so many different branches of religions which deal with the occult. At first, I was overwhelmed and surprised that there were so many different types of faith unknown to me. After a while, the surprise fades but I am still

After a while, the surprise fades but I am still very overwhelmed. I need something with a direct connection to my mother but I have no real way of pairing down the choices. I have grown hopelessly tired of the search and began to take the dream at face value. Perhaps my mothers message wasnt so specific and literal. Perhaps I am simply looking for some truth which is obstructed. It does not necessarily need to be something of occult valuedoes it? I ponder these things as I watch Cleary attempting his new favorite stunt; a handstand on the stair rails outside our school. I roll my eyes as his band of friends cheer him on. The group can only be described as his followers at this point, and the group dynamic is growing into something wholly unhealthy. I have grown tired of telling him that these stunts are dangerous and pointless. Now, I just sit and watch, hoping he doesnt crack his head open on the concrete. Lacy and Alecster join me under the tree and we begin to eat lunch silently. The tension between Alecster and Cleary has grown very obvious since Halloween night yet I admire his dedication to his once best friend. He is now on the outside of the group but he is ever watching. I think of Cai and a familiar ache for him rises within me.

Cleary is now standing in the middle of the stairs, giving what appears to be an acceptance speech for some imaginary award he won by doing the headstand. What is it, the most dangerous and annoyingly cocky stunt award? Lacy notices the disgust on my face and guesses at my thoughts. Are you guys even dating anymore? I consider her question and realize that I, too, am on the outside of Cleary these days. I dont know the answer to this question and tell her so. She is in the middle of her latest what a jerk rant when a scuffle between Cleary and some guy Ive never seen catches my eye. Cleary is yelling at the boy. Apparently, he had knocked Cleary and interrupted his fake acceptance speech. Stealing the spotlight is not tolerable to Cleary and so he has decided to throw his frustrations at the unknown guy with full force. This is not a good idea because he is bigger than Cleary by a few inches, broader across the shoulders and dressed solely in black. Even his fingernails are adorned with the color and his dark black hair fell in his face. His eyes burn a deep amber anger toward Cleary. Expecting him to take a swing, Alecster

Cleary. Expecting him to take a swing, Alecster stands and begins toward them. The goth kid simply rolls his eyes, hoists his bag higher on his shoulder and walks away from Cleary. A slight flick of his wrist is unnoticeable to everyone else but I recognize the shadowed energy flowing from it and toward Cleary. Cleary follows after the guy and trips over the tiny ball of unseen matter, almost face planting on the pavement. This infuriates Cleary and he yells profanities at the guy, who simply keeps walking. A sly smile spreads across his face as he walks by us and I study him. There is something on the edges of him which both draws me in and repels me. His energy being made of shadow cannot be an indication of anything good but the fact that he had openly used magic intrigues me. Of course, nobody but me noticed it, but it was a signal that I need to get closer to him and figure out what hes all about. I can see anger literally seething toward the top of Cleary at the thought of his outburst being ignored but he compensates by boasting to his followers that he would have killed the guy anyway and Alecster returns to us. I realize that Lacys eyes are locked on mine and I watch as a smile spreads across her face.

Hes the new kid. Came here from Ireland. Hes American, though. Hes kind of weird, dont you think? I nod toward her in false agreement. The sounds of Clearys rants float into the middle of Lacy and I. Hes exactly what you DONT need to get over Cleary. This is true I consider and silence falls between us once again. My mind is alive with thoughts of the new kid and as the bell rings, I realize I hadnt finished my lunch. Catching up with Lacy, I ask her if she knows the new kids name. Cameron, I think. She looks at me hard. Seriously, dont even think about it. Her tone is serious and warning. I feel the feeling of outward shame and internal excitement rise within me once again. I tuck it away with my other secrets and remind myself that a little investigation into Cameron wont hurtI hope.

Cameron is in a few of my classes: philosophy and history. Mostly, he just sits in the back of class and tries hard to not look interested. I see it as a ruse, though, and it only intrigues me further. He doesnt talk to anybody

intrigues me further. He doesnt talk to anybody and rumors fly around the school about him. His dark appearance and seemingly inward nature have earned him the label goth kid and the hallway almost parts itself when he walks down it. Its obvious that he doesnt want to make contact with any of us and the rest of the student body is too kind to oblige this for him. I, on the other hand, am dying to get closer to him and peer inside. I want to see beyond his ruse and discover his secrets. I want to know what is hidden within him, despite the danger. You have enough danger in your life. Lacy had remindes me when I divulge this to her. I know she is talking about Cleary and quickly change topic. I am tired of defending Cleary to her and trying to explain that he has gotten better lately. He hasnt, actually, but I feel guilty because I know that his change in behavior is my fault. I know that she wont understand my loyalty to him because I can never tell her about my powers and what I had done to him on that day, so long ago. So, I lie to her and stick to Cleary like glue. I am determined to dive into the occult and figure out a way to help himto save him. That conversation is a distant memory and Lacy is skipping school to spend the day with

Lacy is skipping school to spend the day with Alecster when I top the hill and head toward Cameron, alone. Drowning out the world around him with headphones, he sits alone and reads every day at lunch. I, alone, become the welcoming party for him but I harbor deep feelings that this is a very unwelcome gesture. I set beside him and he turns his eyes toward mine. I see everything and nothing in his expression and I realize that he might be the only person here with more tightly guarded secrets than my own. My mind races to react to him and I realize that I havent thought this through. After a long pause between us, he speaks. His voice is deep and seductive. The simplest, hello draws me in more than a thousand words out of Clearys mouth. Panic plays out in my mind and I respond with a stupid question. Why do you always wear black? It is quick and fumbled and I must look like a pure idiot to him. He looks at me with serious eyes and a stone expression, Im in mourning. I know, instantly, that its a lie and my

I know, instantly, that its a lie and my forehead creases at his response. of what? Dublin. Thats where I came from. A smile spreads across his face and the tiniest chuckle emits from his throat. The expression on his face is changed from stone to playfulness. I soften for him and my nerves fade into soft laughter. Its an act. He says, seriously, after a while. I dont like letting people in. The truth falls between us and I nod in genuine agreement. Not sure where to go with the conversation, a comfortable silence falls between us. The best friends in the world are comfortable with each other, even in silence, I had heard someone say once. I never understood it until this moment and am trying to figure out how I felt about the realization when I feel the glare of Clearys eyes upon us from across the yard. Cameron notices it, too. Nodding toward Cleary, he asks, Your boyfriend? I nod as a sense of shame waves through me. Great. With that, he is up and walking away. I am left, alone, with only the angry glare of Clearys eyes to keep me company. Later, I lie to him about my involvement

Later, I lie to him about my involvement with the goth kid, citing a philosophy question for class as the reason I had to talk to him. Cleary accepts the lie and in a rare moment of kindness, he kisses me on the forehead softly. It is in moments like this, when the old Cleary peeks at me from behind his over confident demeanor that I feel the most at easeand the most guilty. My thoughts turn toward Cameron. He might be the key to understanding my mistake and fixing Cleary I consider but without proof, I cant allow myself to get too close to him. I have felt a growing distrust toward those around me. Everything had been so perfect at the Fall Formal. Now, I am watching as the hands of fate twist my world into a very dangerous and dark direction, again. It seems as if The Corruption is still at play in my life and I feel helpless against it. My only plan is to figure out how to reverse the effect I have had on Cleary before it ruins him. The feelings of distrust I feel are especially justified toward Cameron. Every search I did into shadow energy confirmed my suspicion that I should approach with caution. Hes more than that I think as I recall the glimmer of light I had seen in his laughter today. The dark clothes and hard exterior may all be an act but

clothes and hard exterior may all be an act but there is still something dark lurking within him. He is also mysterious and mystical and he may just be the answers to all my problems. A seemingly magical soul showing up just as I am pondering the workings of the occultseems too convenient to me. I argue with myself. With that, I turn off my light and drift into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Twenty Nine Syncronization

Im beginning to understand how people become obsessed. I have been staring at the back of Camerons head for the past 20 minutes, trying to gather information about him. I read his vibrations and feel nothing more than listlessness. His emotions are tied up into little balls and tucked behind a carefully constructed wall. He wears a ruse of an uncaring nature and uses it to keep people at a distance. This has only intrigued me more and I want to crack open his vault and stare at everything he is hiding. Mr. Panchet is at the front of the room and I feel a wave of frustration flow from him, covering the entire class. It gets my attention and for the first time this period, I realize that

and for the first time this period, I realize that there things in the room, beyond Camerons head. He raises his voice, startling several students awake. Yesterday, and the first part of today, we have been talking about the fall of the Roman Empire. Many of you have been asleep for the entire discussion. His eyes cast a burning glare in Camerons direction. So, I think I want someone to tell me why this is important to everyone in this room. Nobody volunteers an answer You, Darkie Daine He points at Cameron who is half asleep at his desk. Everyone turns to look at him, startling him awake. Mr. Panchet continues, Thank you, Cameron, for joining us. Allow me to catch you up to the rest of the class. You were just about to explain to the rest of us how the fall of the Roman Empire is relevant to everyone in this room. He beings to speak but it is a quiet murmur and Mr. Panchet interrupts him, sternly, Front and Center a hushed silence spreads around the room as Cameron reluctantly stands up and makes his way to the front of the class. He looks nervous and implicated as he begins to

looks nervous and implicated as he begins to speak in low tones. He is looking at his feet as he begins to speak and I strain to take in every word uttered from his lips. Our society is very similar to that of the Roman Empire. Understanding what caused their society to fall will help us see when problems arise in our own. He raises his head and locks eyes with mine. I feel as if hes speaking directly to me now and a heat begins to spread within me. Everything that has already happened is somehow connected to something that will happen in the future. Its like pulling strings on a ball of yarn. Any one string could have an effect on any other string on that ball. Mr. Panchet stares at Cameron with raised eyebrows as he finishes and heads back to his seat, avoiding further eye contact with me. The teacher stands in front of the class, visibly gathering his thoughts before he says, Thanks, Cameron. That was very lovely put. You should be more involved with class, I really think you have a lot to contribute to our discussions here. With that, a thought clicks in Mr. Panchets head and he is filled with a hopeful ray of light. Okay, so this is what were going to do. Im going to pair you up in groups of two and

Im going to pair you up in groups of two and were going to create an environment of open dialog. Each group will complete a project explaining how ancient society has impacted life today. In one week, you will present your findings to the class as a teamthis will be a big part of your term grade! He quickly begins to set up a lottery and randomly pull names for pairs. I wait, hopefully, as the pairs are called. Cais words regarding synchronizing of events that are the ordained by fate plays through my head as I am paired with Cleary, instead of Cameron. Cleary is giving me a thumbs up gesture from across the room and for a moment, I see a glimmer of kindness in his eyes. I smile in delight toward him but the glimmer disappears as he mouths the words, Its all you babe and shoots me with a hand gun gesture. I roll my eyes, feeling a bit used and disappointed when Mr. Panchet begins to pair the last group. Noahs partner will be Cam Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the slight movement of Camerons hands under his desk. Mr. Panchet rubs his eyes and glances quickly from the paper to Cameron and back again. He face turns a pale white and he places his hand on his chest as he corrected himself. Ahem, Im sorry. Ive

as he corrected himself. Ahem, Im sorry. Ive made a mistake. It looks like Noah and Jessica will be paired, leaving Cameron as the odd guy out. He takes a deep breath and locks eyes with Cameron. Which group is going to volunteer to accept Cameron as a member? Again, Nobody volunteers. I shoot Cleary a pleading look and he returns it with daggers. I see Cameron glancing in my direction and I realize that every moment he is left unclaimed only solidifies his feelings of being an outcast. I break eye contact and stand up to volunteer. Mr. Panchet, I would like it if Cameron could join our group. Protest plays out on Clearys face but Mr. Panchet is relieved by the notion. His world is spinning and he nods his head in acknowledgment as he sits down in his chair. I read his vibrations and realize that he is a man between two worlds. Logic tells him that his eyes were playing tricks on him yet a smaller part screams within him that the name on the paper had actually changed before his eyes. With that, the bell rings and Cameron shoots me a silent Thank You., before sleeking out the back door of the class unnoticed.

I move through the bodies in the hallway, trying to escape to my next class before Cleary catches up to me. I feel the heat of his anger on my back and I know that I have failed, miserably. He is moving down the hall like a freight train and instead of running, I decide to face him in confrontation. I plant my feet firmly and make direct eye contact with him. It is a look of stone and as he approaches me, my power seems to slow him and diffuse his anger. Before he can speak, I toughen my voice and confront him head on, This is not going to be an issue, Cleary McQuintock. My voice was hard and strong and everyone around use stops in response to it. He raises his eyebrows and begins to protest but I cut him off. You heard how he answered that question about the Roman Empire. I know I dont have to explain my reasons for doing it to you. I dont care how you feel about it because we both know youre not planning on doing any of the work anyway. At least I wont have to do it all alone this way. I can see the anger building inside of his brain yet he has no words to fight back. We stand silent for a while and the gawking observers around us begin to move again. His only response is a muted Whatever as he

only response is a muted Whatever as he brushes past me and onto his next class. I feel alive and powerful in this moment and as I turn to walk forward, I notice Cameron leaning against a locker a little way down the hallway. He nods in adoration of my power as I walk past and my body blushes at the notion of it. He has seen me for more than I appear to be and I know Im going to have to work harder to remain hidden from him in the future.

Chapter Thirty November

November 20, 2013 The moon outside my window glows as the cold wind blows stiffly against the naked trees. I feel the pull of energy in the world around me growing stronger and death smiles at me from beyond the tree. I smile back at it and sense a familiar shadow creeping on my lawn. The essence of it rises to greet me and I know Cai is watching me. This has been happening a lot more often lately and as I sit and gaze out my window, I wonder what his inability to truly move on signifies about our relationship. I find myself aching to be near him sometimes after the sun sets and I spend the night, sleepless, recalling

sets and I spend the night, sleepless, recalling our time together in the shadow world. I wonder if he is stuck somewhere between worlds as he awaits my meeting with destiny and if him being outside my window signifies anything. I decide to separate myself from my thoughts and walk to my desk to prepare room for tonights visitors. Mr. Panchet had taken a weeks vacation after pairing us into groups. The substitute was left without lesson plans and so we spent the week pretending like the project didnt exist. Upon his return, Mr. Panchet had handed out a schedule of presentations which allowed for the groups to present over a period of two weeks. The earliest groups on the list had reacted in panic as they knew they would have to pull an all night session preparing for the presentation. The weeks have almost passed and only the last few groups, ours included, still had to present. I am particularly bummed about being last to present because I hadnt planned on attending school on the Friday before Thanksgiving break. Traditionally, Diana and I had spent the day in the city, shopping on the Friday before Thanksgiving. We have always foregone Black Friday shopping for this tradition, because the crowds are slightly thinner and we usually find equivalent deals.

This year, she will go alone and I will give the presentation before signing myself out and meeting her in the city. I suppose that we dont really recognize the importance of tradition in our lives until its interrupted. I spent a moment in reflection about mine and Dianas relationship and just as I have concluded that one actually existed, the doorbell rings. I hold my breath as I walk down the stairs toward the front door. Before I have time to guess which one of the guys has arrived first, I hear mumbled voices at the door. Great, its both of them, I think and with a sigh, I open the door to greet them. My mind spins in quick comparison of Cleary and Cameron as they stand before me, side by side. Cleary is pale and thin compared to Camerons dark presence. While Clearys smile shines as brightly as the night sky, Camerons eyes beg to invite mystical secrets into my world. Their energies greet me as two completely polar opposites and it takes me by surprise. It is as if the forces of light and dark have come to visit but I am not really sure which one is which. As I welcome them in my home, they compete to be the first to take my hand. This competition is more annoying than flattering

competition is more annoying than flattering and I offer my hand to neither before heading up to my room silently. Defeated, they follow both in step and silence. Once the door to my room shuts, the arguing begins. We have met 3 days this week and havent gotten anywhere. Every idea that Cameron presents, Cleary shuts down. Not wanting to do any of the work himself, Cleary hasnt presented any ideas of his own. It has become clear that Cleary is only present at our group meetings to chaperon and I have had enough of it. I stand before them, begging them to listen to me but they keep arguing, instead. Finally, I raise my voice. ENOUGH! Silence falls between them. They look to be a pair of children who are being scolded by their mother as I begin to lay down the law. We have to present this project in 2 days. I dont know about you guys but I plan on attending college in the fall and I cant allow my grades to slip simply because you two meat heads cant get along! Clearys eyes widen as Cameron peers at me through eyes of wonder and adoration. In this moment, I realize that my strength scares Cleary but delights Cameron. I revel in this for a moment before proceeding. I have already

a moment before proceeding. I have already decided what I am doing for the project. I set down at my computer and bring up a Title Slide which reads Christmas Then and Now. I stand back up and point at it. Anyone with an objection can leave now and show up Friday to present. Cleary stands up, gathers his things and heads, angrily, toward the door. Expecting Cameron to do the same, I stare at him until Cleary is out the door and starting up his car. I didnt think that either of them would stay and I had only prepared the title slide. Feeling nervous and embarrassed, I take a deep breath and confirm. Youre not leaving, too? Cameron glares at me for a moment before a smile spreads across his face. No, I think its a great idea. Im actually curious about where you are going with this. He raises his eyebrows in anticipation and I sigh toward him. I decide that honesty best serves the situation and admit to him that I hadnt expected either of them to stay so I only made the title slide. Well He smiles a great, satisfied smile and takes out his cell phone to order pizza. Once he hangs up the phone, he continues

Once he hangs up the phone, he continues speaking its going to be a long night. We make small talk as we wait for the pizza to arrive and I learn about the world of Cameron. His dad is an architect and his mom is an artist. The family moves around a lot and I fill myself up with his words as he describes the different places hes been, from France to Iraq. I realize that moving around so much has been difficult for him and this is probably the reason he prefers to keep a distance from people. Its a shame because there is an elegance about him that is rare and captivating. I attribute this to the fact that hes a writer and listen carefully as he reads me some poetry from the journal he keeps stashed in his bag. Finally he admits that his dad is working on a building project in the city. Its supposed to be as big a big deal; something about the design has caught the eye of local media. It will be finished in June and my parents will be on to the next city. By then, I will be 18 and I plan on staying here and attending Harvard for journalism. I find myself smiling at him too much and I am relieved when the doorbell rings and he goes downstairs to pay for and bring up the pizza. In his absence, I gather myself up and put on a ruse. It is a ruse which says I am very serious

ruse. It is a ruse which says I am very serious about completing this project. I do not have time for small talk. Behind the ruse, however, is a girl who wants to know as much as she can about a boy; a girl who wants to spend the rest of her life basking in his elegance. Hopefully, he will never see beyond the ruse. I dont need to invite any more trouble into my life.

Chapter Thirty One Breakup

Things between Cleary and I changed after the group project. His moments of tenderness faded and we began to distance ourselves from each other. By the end of Thanksgiving break, we had barely spoken. We had become two parts of one whole at the Fall Formal but now we stand more separate than we had ever been. It is a weird feeling; being torn into two separate pieces. I feel like part of my soul has been left with him and I will never be whole again. I wasnt surprised when he had asked for a break up. In fact, Cleary seemed more level headed than he had been since I watched the monster inside him take over. As we said our goodbyes, I sensed the weight of loss on him. I

goodbyes, I sensed the weight of loss on him. I sensed his pain and regret but it was without anger and resentment. He did not hate me because we had grown apart or blame me for ruing his live. Instead, he reacted with dignity and elegance. I felt sad, not for the way things had turned out but for the way they could have been. I had peered into his soul at the Fall Formal and seen the most beautiful garden. I wanted to dance there forever but instead, I smashed all the statues and burned the flora to the ground. I quickly realized that the sadness I was feeling was mostly for myself. It was selfish of me to feel sadness because without me, Cleary had a chance at regaining some sort of normality. Still, I was guilty because I know I had stolen something valuable and rare from him. I know I had stolen his innocence. This guilt fostered a sense of responsibility in me for Cleary. I felt responsible for his future and the ways in which my irresponsible use of magick had changed the course of his destiny. It was this responsibility that made me hang onto him for a much longer period than I should have. Now, I am excluded from his world and still my guilt propels me to cling to him. For the past few weeks, I have watched him closely. I expect

few weeks, I have watched him closely. I expect his recklessness and cockiness to grow and I wait for my consequences to catch up to him. Instead, he has gotten rid of his band of followers and taken to rebuilding his dads hot rod. He and Alecster had even reconnected and it seems, after all, that I was the thing in his life that was bad for him. A sense of closure grows within me as I consider these things. I am able to walk away from the romantic relationship that we had but Im still bound by my perceived responsibility for him. In this moment, I think of Cai and all the people whose fate was his responsibility. I wonder how he ever fully closes the door and moves onto the next soul. As a familiar tug in the wind propels me toward my destination, I think of how he is on the outside of my life now with nothing to do but watch and hope Im making the right choices.

Chapter Thirty Two Light in the Moon

December 8, 2013 Things have really gotten muddled with the whole Cleary break-up mess. I feel disconnected and distracted from my mission to learn about the occult. Now, as I head into the city, I am alive with the excitement of rekindling this flame and the possibilities of making a connection with my mothers past flood me with light. The abstraction of the dream had grown into reality when I traced the antique shop from it to Salem. It appears to be under the same management and so I have decided to spend the day digging for my mothers secrets. I arrive at the antique shop just as it is

I arrive at the antique shop just as it is opening from lunch. I walk inside with the wide eyes of discovery but learn quickly that the owner is out. I leave a message with the desk worker and walk around the shop. I feel strangely at home here. The familiarity of it lingers from the dream but somehow I feel my mothers presence around me, and I become certain that she was a frequent visitor, here. She was maybe even a friend of the owner. I find myself pulled from case to case in the shop. I have never before been surrounded by physical objects that were so alive. I feel the joy of a little girl as I hold an antique doll in my hands and the love of an old couple as I run my fingers across a brass candle lamp. Through Cleary, I have learned that we leave pieces of ourselves within the people we love. I never considered the thought that we did the same with the objects that we love, as well. As I feel the history of the owners rising from everything I touch, I realize what a treasury this antique shop is. I had learned, after my dream, that witches used sage for cleansing negative energy and keeping bad spirits away. I understand, now, why this shop would require this service often. I wonder how many times my mother has walked these floors and touched these display cases.

these floors and touched these display cases. Surely, a lot has changed since she last visited but my mind becomes filled with thoughts of her as I browse the selections. As I focus on her, I feel myself being pulled around the shop. Finally, in the back corner of the shop, I find a dusty case full of books. The case is alive with energy as the books compete for my attention. Most of the selection is of handwritten books and I find myself alive with the possibility that many of these books are singular copies. My hand brushes over each book spine and I delight in the energy that lies within each one. I feel my hand slowing and it comes to a halt on the spine of one of the printed books on the shelf. I pull it out slowly to discover that it is a series of articles about witchery throughout history. A sense of familiarity flows through me but I do not recognize any of the authors names. I am on my way to the front with it when the jingle bells of the front door alert me to the fact that I am no longer the singular shopper in the store. I make my way to the counter and hand the book over to the sales clerk, sheepishly. She smiles a bright smile. A lover of books, huh? It is said in such a manner which also means that she identifies

manner which also means that she identifies with me. I take a guess and consider that she is a reader, not a writer and smile at her wordlessly for I am neither. This book is very special to the owner. All the authors are local and she knows them personally. Its not that old. It was probably printed in the early 90s but she always keeps a copy of it in stock, just in case somebody comes by and wants one. She seems pleased with her helpfulness but its not really the information I am looking for. Fully aware that we are being listened to, I only respond with a requisite acknowledgment. I then take the paper bag that holds the unknown novel and head toward the door of the shop. I feel loss at the connection I felt with the things in the shop and promise myself to return soon. As I walk down the street, clinging to my purchase, I feel a familiar energy on my back. I turn, expecting to greet the wind. Instead, it is Cameron and he is lugging a large box clumsily toward me. The smile on his face is warmer than the midday sun and I barely notice his struggle with the weight of his package. Hey. He says with heavy breath. We stop on the sidewalk and things grow awkward as he sets his box down against a building and then sets himself on top of the box. Sorry but this

sets himself on top of the box. Sorry but this thing is really heavy. He motions toward the box beneath him. I laugh at his awkwardness and join him in setting against the building, although I chose to set on the concrete, rather than my book. Well, what is in the box? I have to ask. Oh, its an old type writer. Sometimes, I feel nostalgic and use them to write. Its crazy, I know. I shrug, not sure of a good response for this. It certainly isnt crazy but its really not normal for a teenage boy in this time period, either. Its not crazy that you write on a typewriter. It might be a little crazy that you are carrying it down a city street in the middle of the day, though. He looks surprised at my honesty. Hey, Im just saying He laughs at my sudden seriousness as he slaps me on the back. I just bought it from the antique shop. I would be in my car, driving down the street with it but I dont actually have one. Im headed for the bust stop now. My eyebrows crease as I try to reconcile him not owning a car. Youre not toting that thing on a bus and then walking from the last

thing on a bus and then walking from the last stop to your house with it. Cmon, you can ride back into town with me. With that, we are walking again and he loads the typewriter into my car. We decide to get a bite to eat in the city before heading home. For a moment, I consider that a little more time in Salem might be valuable to my search and that Cameron is a good distraction from the reasons I came here in the first place. Cameron is great company and he fills the silence in the car with his jokes and generous laughter. Before long, I reconcile that he might be just another distraction but hes a pleasant one. He is also useful and I allow myself to lean into spending the day with him. Silently, I promise myself that I will make the best of this opportunity. We linger at the restaurant and around town until nearly dusk before conceding and heading home. I find it so easy to be relaxed when Im around Cameron. I allow him easy access to everything human about myself. Still, I carefully tend my inner boxes and construct a wall between him and any given indication that I am anything more than human. I need him to think I am naive so that he might offer information that is useful to me, freely. As the lights of my car light the path in

As the lights of my car light the path in front of us, I become aware that I havent been successful in guiding the conversation toward the occult. Every attempt I have made has been blocked by his own tending of his inner boxes. We play this game of send and return until the rows of houses begin to signify that the city is far behind us. With my window down, the wind blows playfully at my hair and an idea sparks within me. I turn sharply left and head for the park, instead of our homes. He responds with delight as I park the car and we trade the concrete pavement for the soft, green grass. The stars in the sky light a path to the top of the hill. Like children, we follow it and find ourselves sitting under a great tree. The vibrations of the roots warm the ground as we set down. The cold breeze blows gently, tossing my hair and the moon beams dance off the dark black streaks of hair in his eyes. Like the moon, he is dark and mysterious but as the edges of him bend toward me, I see a childish playfulness alive in his eyes. Its a beautiful night. He smiles and I feel as if the compliment is aimed at me, rather than the night sky. I nod in shy agreement and stare at the blades of grass dancing between us. I feel a bending of nature toward us. Its one

I feel a bending of nature toward us. Its one of those nights when it feels like the forces of nature are part of the human experience. At this moment, the moon and stars are playing to Camerons mystery and creating an emotional atmosphere between us. I consider the history of the tree for a moment and picture all the lovers, old and new, who have set under the bows of it making vows of romance. I wondered if the tree resents humans for this or if it delights in it. Cameron is watching me as the notion ticks through my head. There is always something dancing on the corners of his eyes which makes me feel as if he is the answer to every problem I could ever have in this life. He smiles a half smile at me. It is a mixture of his light and dark aspects and it creates a great longing within me for him. It tells me that something mystical lived within him and I want to climb inside and take a look around. I want to know his past, his present and his future. I want to share in his secrets and see the universe exactly as he does. The world around us seems so alive tonight, doesnt it? He says, staring into the night sky. The wind dances around him, trying to answer the question he had asked. It is saying it is alive. If he hears it whispering in his ear, he doesnt seem to notice.

I am watching the wind trying to get his attention when, undeterred by my silence, he points at the moon It must be the full moon. The brows above my eyes crease as I try to make a connection between the full moon and the playfulness of the wind. Fairies It was spoken slow but certain and he made full eye contact with me as the words dance off his lips. It is as if he is pulling at something inside me that is known, rather than presenting a new idea. He stares at me for a moment, waiting for confusion to turn into realization. When this doesnt happen, he raises his own eyebrows and says, Really? You dont know about fairies? I laugh. Well, yeah, I know what fairies are. Ive watched all the cartoons about them. I think I actually wanted to be one when I was younger. Its just that I learned a long time ago to separate fiction and reality. He tilts his head to the side and squints his eyes in my direction. I feel as if he doesnt believe me and realize in that moment that he knows I am lying. There is always reality in fiction. He almost scoffs at the word fiction and guilt rolls through me. I feel as if I have

and guilt rolls through me. I feel as if I have insulted something that is very sacred to him. He shrugs it off, reclaimed his smile and begins to spin a story for me. A long time ago, Victorian Imperialism moved in on the British Isles. The people who lived there were the Scottish, Welsh, Germanic, and Irish people. They were simple people who thought more in terms of communing with the land than in owning it. When the British government moved in, they claimed the land as their own and the peoples native to the land were dispossessed. It is said that these people retreated into the wilderness around the land that they had tended their entire lives. As they did this, they grew smaller and smaller. Before the invasion, they were the Tuatha de Danann, people of the goddess Dana, but afterword, they were forgotten. It is believed that Dana granted them special powers and helped them hide within the trees and rivers of her land. They had honored her in their villages and so she honored them after the invasion. Throughout the history of the Celtic people, legends of the fairies in their various forms were cast. Actually, brownies, pixies and elves all originated from faerie lore and the Celtic people attributed the changing of seasons and the workings of the natural world to these hidden magical beings. Every blooming flower and budding tree is said

Every blooming flower and budding tree is said to be the work of the faeries. The Celtic people believe that without the magic of the faeries, the natural world would no longer hum in harmony with the changing of the seasons. For this reason, they revered the faerie people and gave them offerings of fresh milk and built alters for them in their gardens. Sometimes, the faeries would mischievously bring misfortune upon the natural world and it was said that the offerings that left werent sufficient. It is said that the veil is the thinnest between our world and the magical faerie world on the full moon and so it is believed that the faerie people come out of hiding and dance in the glow of the fullest moon. As he finishes, I feel a heavy sense of mysticism in the air around us. My logical brain becomes alive with wonder and I feel an ache to pull back the veil of the world around me and peer in at the creatures dancing around inside. He must be sensing this because he beams with pride. I just thought thatwell, with your name and allI thought your family was Druid or that you come from Celtic heritage. I dont know how to answer this. A familiar aching for my mother and the need to know returns, tempting to drag me back into the darkened haze which had existed before. I fight

darkened haze which had existed before. I fight against it and create roots in Camerons eyes. I gather my thoughts and tell him the truth. My mom was an anthropologist. She died when I was born. I think she named me Awen by accident. I pause for a moment. The word accident seems shameful and I feel the need to explain it better. I really dont know why she chose the name. I shrugged. I have taken a complicated truth and communicated it very simply. Part of it lies within the words I have spoken but it is the unspoken that tells the whole story. I allow myself to communicate my pain about my mothers death and my uncertainty about my name in action and feeling. I am not trying to cover it with a ruse, I am just allowing it to be. It hangs in the air between us and he clings to the honesty of it. Nothing is an accident in this world, maam. It is cocky and playful; a true Cameronism. Anyway, its not about believing that fairies actually exist. Its about what the belief in them tells us about the ancient Celtic peoples. He sounded like an anthropologist, and I wonder for a moment if this is how my mom would talk to me about things. They saw mystery in the universe. They didnt have science books and search engines like we do.

science books and search engines like we do. They had to find some way to explain all the natural phenomenon around them. It was unknown to them and so it became sacred. Today, we learn why it rains in first grade. Once the mystery is gone, we begin to take it for granted. We never ask why when the rain begins to fall because our logical brains already know. We simply pull our raincoats closer around us and move forward He seems saddened by the notion of this. At any rate, you must not feel like you know everything. There must be something that is mysterious to even you. Smiling at the return of his playfulness, I lean toward him, hitting his shoulder with mine and say, As a matter of fact, I do. I smiled a playful smile, concealing my inner laughter and then continue, I find it mysterious how the majority of people at our school dont know what a dork you are. It is playful and fun but his face hardens at it. I see him slipping from playful to serious and I try to read the meaning behind it. Im serious. Im being honest with you, Awen. Im letting you see parts of myself that I wouldnt let anyone else see. Still, youre so closed to me. I want to know more about you. What do you see as mysterious in this world?

He seems hurt by my inability to open up to him. He doesnt know about the boxes that I keep locked up within myself and I cant let him know my secrets. I want to trust him and let him in. I want to confide in him about my powers and how I hear whispers in the wind. I want to open up about everything that has happened in my life but I know I cant. I dont know if he was an honest friend or a lurking agent of The Corruption. I cant trust himI cant trust anybody. I decide in that moment to and focus the conversation back on him. You are the only mysterious thing in my world. You know so much more than anybody else I have ever met and youre always in anticipation of me. The last thought is tainted with familiarity. He lets out a deep, low laugh. Genuine delight spreads across his face. In this moment, I realize he prides himself upon being mysterious. Now youre calling me a psychic? I returned his genuine smile with my own delight. My logical brain cant figure out how you always know what people are going to door how you always know what Im thinking.

He laughed before looking me in the eyes and becoming very serious. You know, being a psychic isnt that mysterious. Oh, really? I lean back and act surprised. Its not even about understanding the future. Its about being slightly ahead of everyone around you. If you can see into the future, even for a second, you have more knowledge than most. Most people are so self involved and cling to the present or live in the past. They are trying so desperately to keep time from alluding them that they see the future as mysterious or mystical. Its true that the far future is ever-changing and out of reach. The immediate future, now thats a different story! He leans back, allowing the wind to roll through him. I may not know whats going to happen years from now but I can construct a pretty detailed picture of how people will react. I can see maybe five minutes into the future. That makes me seem mysterious and mystical. People stand in awe of it because its more than they have. The truth is that anybody can do this. Anybody can learn to be a psychic. Is that so?

His playfulness returns and dances around him. Even you can learn how to see five minutes into the future. I shrug my shoulders at this notion and shoot a shy smile in his direction. I doubt that. Its true. He rearranges his body, moving it closer to mine. All I have to do is let you in on my secret. I smile playfully, tilt my head and reply with Yeah, whats that? The secret is he leans closer to me, resting his lips very closely to my ear and whispered, Im a wizard. The tension caused by his lips being so close to my face is overriding any thought process that should have played out in my mind. My inner voice begged me to turn my head, allowing my lips to meet his but I fight the urge. I am not looking for romance, Im looking for answers. I remind myself. He pulls back and waits for a reaction. Not knowing if he is serious or joking, I refuse to give him one. I just stare into his eyes. I must seem so simple to him I think as I grasp for a reaction to what he had

I think as I grasp for a reaction to what he had said. He laughs first. Youre funny, Awen. I allow myself to soften and feel the edges of my lip twisting upward as I respond, Oh, Im funny, huh? What exactly about me is funny now? Youre trying to figure out if Im joking or serious. You dont want to laugh at me if Im being serious so youre holding back. I think its funnyI think its cute His eyes lock mine for a moment. See, this is what Im talking about! I pull back from him and gave him a stern look. You know what, it doesnt matter if youre joking. I have the right to make up my own mind about you and I think you are psychic. I think you are a wizard, Cameron and you will never convince me otherwise. Together we laugh, ending it in a collective sigh. His voice is the first to break the silence. Maybe youre right. I find other peoples reactions to me far more honest than the things I know about myself, anyway. This is true for you, too Awen. Im afraid Im not the only mysterious one here.

I hide the flashes of fear in my eyes as I wonder how much he truly knows about me. I have been so careful with him. Theres no way he knows any more of me than Ive allowed him. Im not mysterious I argue. Youre not logical, either. His eyes are challenging. Youre an artist so you must see things differently than most people. You believe in things bigger than yourself, even if you dont want to admit it to me. I see the way you stare into the sky sometimes. Youre doing more than just looking at the clouds, youre peering beyond them. Youre more than a looker, Awen, youre a seer. I feel relieved that he doesnt pry further. He doesnt accuse me of causing accidents or manipulating things around me. He doesnt implicate me as a witch. I wonder for a moment if he is telling the truth about how he knows things that others dont. It sure seems like he is simply reading into my human actions, rather than peering into my soul or gazing down the winding path of my future. Still, I cant be sure and as I try to figure him out, the alarm on my phone goes off, foretelling that curfew is on the horizon.

We walk toward my house in silence. I have never known anybody like Cameron and I feel guilty for using him. We have spent an entire evening without the distraction of modern conveniences. We have spoken of fairies and psychics like it is very normal. It is heavy conversation but it had felt so light. The entire school may categorize Cameron as dark and mysterious because they dont understand his thoughts and actions. If I had to describe Cameron with just one word, it would be natural. Getting to know him, I feel like Im carving out a place in my heart for him. A place where he can exist without the prying convictions of those who dont understand him. A place that he can feel at home. Then, he can tell me all his secrets. I will come to understand all the things that set him apart from normal humans and I will make him feel appreciated for it. People like us had to do this for each other from time to time. We had to create homes within each other because the rest of the world looks upon us with fear and condemnation. He returns me to my front door and stands in awkward silence for a moment. Thank you, Awen. Thank you for listening to me without judgment. Its been a long time since I met

judgment. Its been a long time since I met someone like you. Youre a fresher air than most people I meet. Dont ever change. I am startled by his seriousness in this moment. I love how a simple goodnight from him is filled with so much emotion. I feel validated and important in this moment. Not knowing how to return the sentiment with words, I lean toward him and plant the simplest kiss on his cheek. With it, I push the smallest bit of light inside him. It was a piece of light that I have created just for him. It says, in return, You are more special than you know and I hope you never change. With that, he is gone and I am alone in my room with only my memories to remind me of the night we just shared. I should feel guilty about it. Although Cleary and I have broken up, I am still loyal to him and I should feel like Im betraying him by opening up to Cameron but I dont. I care for Cleary and I have a very strong human connection with him. Cameron, on the other hand, is something more. Hes playing his role as part of my divine mission. While my connection with him is more intense, it is driven by the need for information rather than honest connection.

I can keep the two separated I tell myself. It is more like Im trying to convince myself than I am actually believing it and I drift asleep with thoughts of Cameron in my mind.

Chapter Thirty Three The Typewriter

I awaken from the previous night with Cameron still heavily on my mind. I slept well and it was one of those rare sleeps where problems are sorted out in your head as you dream. I dont particularly recall the dream but the decision rings loud and clear within my brain. I decide that I will open myself to Cameron, completely. I will expose my powers to him and ask for his help outright. I feel guilty in manipulating him and last nights goodbyes only solidify my trust in him. I gather my things and head toward school, with excitement. As I pull into my parking spot, Cameron is setting under a tree. I feel almost as if he is waiting for me but this is impossible as I rarely drive my own car to school. He comes to

rarely drive my own car to school. He comes to greet me and my confidence wavers. Although the decision to be honest with him was already made, I decide to wait for a more private time to tell him my secrets. Meanwhile, my walls are intact and the tiny boxes inside me remain locked and tucked away. I was hoping to see you, this morning. His greeting catches me off guard. Is it possible that he has been thinking of my in his dreams, as I have him? I consider as my cheeks begin to blush. I feel awkward like a young girl with a childish crush and as I stand before him, my mind struggles to find responding words. He laughs at my awkwardness and the weirdness between us fades. Suddenly, we connect as we had yesterday and the first time I talked to him. We connect like two souls who have known each other for ages, rather than two people who do not fully know each other, yet. I left my typewriter in your car. He says after the laughter between us fades. Oh, yeah! Your type writer. I forgot. A little embarrassed about my childishness, I try to work out the line between friendship and romantic chemistry between us. We stand

romantic chemistry between us. We stand silently for a moment with the trunk of my car opened when Lacy, Alecster and Cleary approach us. Hey. Lacy flashes her most implicating smile in my direction. I never considered how being seen talking to Cameron would look to my friends and the rest of the school. Cameron is still an outcast and a mystery to the entire student body, except myself. What is that? She points to the box in my trunk. Oh, thats my typewriter. Cameron replies quickly. Avoiding eye contact, I glace quickly at Cleary. I see a notable amount of pain in his eyes but he bites back on his anger with a clenched jaw. His already established distrust and dislike for Cameron grows as he considers the meaning behind my interaction with him. Like the tiniest amount of confidence I had given him months ago, this too, is threatening to destroy him. Awkwardness sets in as Lacy eyes the typewriter in the back of my car and then me. Somehow the presence of Camerons belongings in my car imply that I have made a connection with him that nobody else has been

connection with him that nobody else has been able to. Before any more questions are cast, Cameron sets off to class. Just like that, the connection between us fades and he is, again, an isolated part of the student body. In his absence, the rest of us concede to the pleading bell and head to class also. As we walk, I assess my friends reactions o the connection between Cameron and I. Lacys is that of complete wonder and excitement. I know she feels as if Im flirting with danger but it seems as if the possibility of it thrills her. I know that she will get me alone later and beg to hear all his secrets. Apart from the fact that he is witty and soft, rather than dark and mysterious, I have none to give her. Even if I have his secrets, they are not mine to give and so I wont. I wonder for a moment if she will be disappointed in this.

I spend the rest of the school day maintaining my innocence to Lacy. I enjoy her implications of romance between Cameron and I and allow myself to wonder what it would be like to hold his hand. In my mind, this simple gesture would solidify a deeper connection between us. We would be linked together and a bridge to the spiritual world that I yearned for

bridge to the spiritual world that I yearned for would be created. Then, I could simply walk across it and into him where I would become as knowledgeable as he is. I could live inside him forever and, in return, he would never be an isolated part of a whole again. In theory, the thought is perfect but the reality of making a deeper connection with him will be much different. It will be difficult for me to be honest with him and allow him to see inside me. I will be vulnerable and unsure as I make admissions to him that no earthly soul has ever heard. I know he will understand me because I have seen him using his own powers. Because of this, Im not worried about him judging or persecuting me. I realize that I am worried about allowing myself to grow. I have always kept myself so well tended. I have barely used my powers and understand little about how they actually work. Yet, I have reacted carelessly with the small amount of power that I do have. This leads me to wonder what I will do when my powers are amplified and controlled. I know, now, that I trust Cameron but do I trust myself? Whats more, I am learning that Cameron is the single most elusive person I have ever met. After our morning meeting, he continues

After our morning meeting, he continues through the day with an almost obvious air of avoidance around him. All day, wherever I am, he is as far away as he can be. I have to wonder if this in response to my friends or myself. So, as I wait beside my car at the end of the day, I find myself wondering if he is withdrawing from me. Perhaps the implications from my friends this morning scared him away. I glance nervously at the school exit but he does not walk through the doors. The students come in waves and as the waves begin to thin in bodies and frequency, I give up hope that he will meet me here. The hopefulness that I have felt all day begins to waver and I consider leaving. By the time the parking lot is nearly empty, I resign and turn to close the trunk of my car. I feel his energy greet me before I hear his footsteps and I turn to see Cameron walking gleefully toward me. His dark hair glows with the light of the early evening sun and the smile on his face beams from a place deep within him as he makes his way toward my car. I stuff away my hopelessness and a budding anger, replace them with a smile, and greet him with playfulness. I was beginning to wonder

He laughs at me and before I know it, we are driving toward my house. The mood in the car is different than last night as we are both lost in our thoughts. The drive is silent and I use the time to work out a plan for revealing myself to Cameron. Step one in the plan is to get him alone. My dad and Diana are away on a trip so I offer dinner at my house to complete this step. That is the easy part. Now, I have to decide how I will actually go about revealing my powers to him and asking for his help. My mind cannot form words that communicate my secrets or answer any questions he might have. I consider simply showing him but I think of Cleary and decide this might not be a good idea. I resign to make him reveal himself to me before opening up to him as we pull into my garage. We set down our bags and I head to the stash of takeout menus by the fridge. I cant even boil water so we have to decide between pizza and Chinese food for dinner. I offer apologetically. He finds this amusing and offers to cook dinner himself. I entertain the idea, considering how cute he would look behind the stove. I pull

how cute he would look behind the stove. I pull myself away from this thought with the realization that I will be demanding his full attention tonight and insist on takeout. We decide on Chinese and go straight to work figuring out an order. After the necessary business is taken care of, we head to my room to await our delivery. The nervousness sets in and my legs feel heavy as we head to my room at the top of the stairs. My mind is alive with possible scenarios but when my bedroom door closes behind us, the strangeness of the car ride is far behind us. I set criss crossed on my bed and Cameron sets in my computer chair directly in front of me. He looks around my room and makes fun of me because I still have a stuffed animal on my bed. I laugh with him and explain that it was my mothers old toy. I hold it in my hands and smell it. I have always imagined that it still smells like her and I take comfort in touching something that she had once held. Suddenly, I am reminded of the book I bought at the antique store and curiosity takes me over. I open my chest and reach inward for the paper bag but I do not feel the familiar energy of it as I do. For a moment, I ignore Camerons presence in the room. Frantically, I search the

presence in the room. Frantically, I search the entire chest, tossing out items as I exclaim my wonder that the book is missing. I dont stop until I reach the bottom of the chest and realize that my efforts are fruitless. Dismayed, I explain to him that I bought the book yesterday and put it in my chest when I came home. I wanted to show it to you and see if you knew anything about it. When I was shopping, it called to me and I had to buy it. I felt an odd connection to the energy of it. Just like that, it rolled from me and into the open air. Camerons response to my admission isnt one of surprise or dismay but rather of satisfaction. A smile spread across his face as pondering takes the form of knowing in front of me. His eyes become alive with delight as he speaks. Well, reading energy isnt exactly logical, is it, Awen Murdock? He moves from the seat into the floor, in front of me. With his legs crossed, he closes his eyes and concentrates his thoughts. I watch in wonder as I try to figure out what he is doing. Slowly, an energy in the air builds between us and it reaches to greet me. Words flow through the energy and crash into me. What else can you do? It is less than a whisper in the quiet room but it rings loudly in my head. He

quiet room but it rings loudly in my head. He opens his eyes and together we delight in the feeling of being truly known. I smile brightly at him before getting up and beckoning him to the window. I open the latch and lean outside, sensing the wind as I do. The lightest flurries wet the window seal and I take a deep breath, connect with them and pull them toward me. The snowflakes swirl in the windows and fall at our feet. I ask them to dance for us and they oblige. They twirl around Cameron and he delights in the feeling of it. When the cold air settles into my bones, I break the connection and close the window. I have never met anybody who can do that Cameron admits and I fetch a towel from my bathroom to clean up the mess. I am preoccupied by the way Camerons compliment fosters a sense of uniqueness within me when another thought occurs to me. So, youve met others who can do stuff like this? He raises his eyebrows when I say this. Well, yes. A few. Havent you? I divert my eyes from him and avoid the question. I do not want him to know how inexperienced I am and I find myself drawing

inexperienced I am and I find myself drawing inward again. The change in energy is notable as I do this and he reaches toward my chin, pulls my face upward and forces our eyes to meet. The look in his eyes is one of affirmation. Without speaking a word, he tells me how special I am and begs me to never doubt myself. The tension between us warms as I study the folds of his lips. For a moment, I wonder what it would feel like to press my lips against his and turn the spiritual connection we have into a physical one. Before I act upon the impulse, the doorbell beckons the message that our dinner has arrived and we go downstairs to greet the delivery guy. The conversation between us is light as we eat our dinner. Cameron tells me that his mom and dad both study Druidry and that he has always been open to the magical world. He recounts some of his experiences growing up in a magical home and I find myself wondering if I would have shared the same experiences, had my mom survived my birth. Mostly, I nod because I dont really have any connection with the things he is talking about. I hang on every word and make special notes about some of the things he talks about. Not wanting to ask too many questions outright, I make a mental note to do a search on Druidry,

I make a mental note to do a search on Druidry, later. The religious practices seem interesting Its not a religious practice, per say, its more of a philosophy. He had been talking about a completely different topic when he speaks those words and his acknowledgment of my personal thoughts startles me. He recognizes my surprise immediately and chuckles. Its the telepathy. I can speak to your mind or hear your thoughts, depending on whether or not I push or pull. My eyes widen at the thought of this. Will my thoughts never be private when Im with Cameron? Dont worry. He corrects. Most of the time, I cant read your mind. You are very good at building wallswe call this blocking. Most people are unaware that people like us live around them and so it never occurs to them to block us out. Thats part of the reason that I isolate myself from others. It can be a bit overwhelming, at times, hearing the thoughts of others. Its also how I knew that you were like me. He smiles at the grouping of he and I together. I knew that you were guarding yourself from me but I still dont know why and I dont know how you knew that I was like you.

I manage to build a wall between us and cut off his access to my thoughts before the memory of him throwing an energy ball at Cleary pops into my mind. His eyes are pleading for an answer and I try to satisfy his question with saying it was simply intuition. He responds with a look that lets me know he isnt buying my story and I resign. Slowly, I let down the wall and connect with him. I replay the memory in my mind, for him and his eyes dart downward out of shame. I move close to him and re-enact his gesture toward me earlier. I reach toward his chin, pull his face upward and lock eyes with him. With my eyes I let him know that I will never judge him. I let him know that I feel lucky to have met him and communicate how much his affirmations mean to me. I remove my hand from his chin but our eyes remain locked. Even our energies calm and when he raises his hand to my face, I feel his electric currents pulling me toward him. With his other hand on my waist, he pulls me in and tilts his head toward me. We both close our eyes and allow our lips to softly meet. An explosion of energy surrounds us and although the moment is brief, a lifetime of

although the moment is brief, a lifetime of touching my lips to his flashes through my mind. He pulls away quickly and retracts his entire field of energy away from me. Panic plays out in his eyes and in a moment, he is as guarded as ever. For a moment, we were two parts of one whole but just like that, it is gone and he was again an isolated being among me. I did not allow my mind to gather reason for his withdraw. Instead, I focus on what had happened when we kissed. Not knowing if it was he or I who had gazed down our futures path, I stand bewildered. We stand still for a moment. Wonderment dances throughout me as he struggles with his own logic. The awkwardness between us is distracting and I decide there is only one thing to do about it. I carefully guard myself and pull him close, again. I can feel he is guarded to but I dont care. I lift my mouth to his and give him another tender kiss. I feel the crashing in my brain as both our walls crumble around us. The images come more quickly. This time, they are an indecipherable blur and Im not even sure if the people in the pictures are us. Our second kiss lasts longer and I sense that he is as resistant to ending it as I am.

I am so immersed in the moment that I dont hear the front door open and before I know it, my dad and Diana are standing before us with implicating gazes. I pull away from Cameron and stare at them with surprise. Their faces are disproving and seem to say So, this is what you do when were out of town. I sense a small amount of amusement between them but I can not be sure if it is coming from Diana or my dad. From the corner of my eye, I can see Cameron wince and I wonder if this is in response to the situation or the thoughts of my parents. Cameron acts gentlemanly in this situation and introduces himself to my parents before offering to help clean up from dinner and excusing himself. He does not promise that we will talk tomorrow but he forgets to mention the type writer and I know I will have to plan to give it to him, later. It is the unsaid which lets me know that what we started today will be finished tomorrow and it fills me with hope. In his absence, I am bombarded with questions about Cameron by Diana. She asks about his parents and I tell her what I know, which isnt much. She moves on to inquire bout his academic stance and activities. Again, my answers are short and her disapproval of them is

answers are short and her disapproval of them is obvious. Well, it surely seems like you dont know enough about this boy to bet letting him kiss you! It is short and blunt but full of intention. Usually, I would agree. This is why Cameron is only the second guy I have kissed. The first was Cleary. What Diana doesnt understand; the thing I will never be able to make her understand is that the things about Cameron which make him the most known to me cannot be explained. I have connected with Cameron in a deeper an much more real way than I ever have anyone else, including Diana. I allow her to voice her concerns without outward protest but in my mind, I know I dont need her approval. Fate has brought us together, I am certain of it. Sadly, I trust fate more completely than I ever will Diana. Even in all its uncertainty and cruelty, fate seems closer and more intimate than my own parents. I have never before question my closeness to them but as we stood here together, they seem as closed to me as I have always been to them. After listening to their lectures, I resign to my room with thoughts of fate, Cameron and my lost book swirling in my head.

Chapter Thirty Four December 21, 2013

December 21, 2013 It has been almost two weeks since Cameron and I shared our first, and last, kiss. Although I have been let into his world and am learning of all things mystical from him, he still guards himself carefully around me. There are moments when we share energy and romantic tension arises between us but he always pulls away. He never explains his reservations to me and although I am frustrated by it, he always compensates by teaching me something valuable. I have learned about the importance of meditation and through it, I have focused and increased my abilities. I have identified each

increased my abilities. I have identified each one as empathy (which allows me to read others emotions), psychometry (the reading of energy in objects), and Elemental (my ability to focus the forces of nature). I am learning to read Runes and have a natural ability for divination, as well. I have learned about Celtic tree astrology, the Wheel of the Year, and have started studying the history of world religions. I have learned things which astound and enrich me in a way I never thought possible. The thing that has surprised me the most is the realization that the magickal world dances within the human world. I had worked for years to separate the human world from the magickal one so I was astounded to realize that the two are more similar than I had ever imagined. Through understanding, I have easily seen the connection between science, religion, nature and the mystical world of magick. This understanding eases my guilt in learning about the occult, as well as the feelings of abnormality that I have fostered within myself for years. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to explain as it is to experience so I have tried to keep it as secret as possible. Lacy attributes my absence to a secret romantic relationship with Cameron and I and she begs for details every time we are alone (which isnt often). Cleary

time we are alone (which isnt often). Cleary seethes with anger every time he sees Cameron and I together and we havent spoken much recently. My parents disapprove of Cameron, in general, without me adding occultism to their list of dislikes about him. So, Cameron and I are mostly alone in our sharing of these things. From time to time, his parents invite wisdom upon us regarding spiritual matters but they are busy with their own lives and so we move forward in our discovery with only one another as a constant companion. Sometimes I imagine telling Diana and my dad about these things things but I foresee their reaction to it and decide to lock it in a box inside me when I am around them. The journey into understanding myself has been liberating and I delight in sharing my inner boxes with Cameron. Sometimes, when I let him see inside me, I imagine a world without the need for these little boxes. I imagine myself breaking the barriers between the magickal and human world, allowing people like Cameron and I to live without persecution. For a moment, the thought of standing on the building in a public square flashes through my mind and I wonder if this is my destiny. Perhaps I have been given these abilities and traveled this path to expose myself to the world. My logical brain

to expose myself to the world. My logical brain is working overtime as I lay under the tree, waiting for Cameron. The tree stretches beyond itself and reaches to greet me. It pulls me in, piece by piece, until I find myself in a foreign world. It is a world of hidden things. I recall that night a while back when Clearys explanation of fairies made me wish I could peel back the layers of the physical world and peer inside their world. I stand in admiration as I do just this and the faeries greet me with glee. Delighted with the world of the fairies, I move throughout their magical world, taking everything in as I travel. Into the forest, my spirit roams and I am alive with magical spirit. In the distance, a playful light beckons me to follow and I oblige. I feel myself drifting away from the world of the fairies but curiosity wins out as the light grows brighter in my sight. When I get close enough to touch it, it evades me and I hasten my pace. The forest grows dimmer as I chase the light, until it is the only thing that lights my way. When the light disappears, I recognize my surroundings to be that of the great dark forest. The shadows are the same, lurking danger that I remember but the landscape is different. The

remember but the landscape is different. The great tree on the hill seems more distant than it has ever been and I dont recognize the land around me. Lost and bewildered, I realize my great shadow cloak is missing. I am exposed in the darkness and my shining light casts a beacon upon me. I concentrate on locking the brightest parts of myself up to reduce the size of it but I cannot completely hide my light. Scared and alone, I call for Cai. My calls are returned by aching silence and I realize that I am alone. In response to the imminent danger surrounding me, I can think of nothing to do but run. I set my sights on the great tree at the distant ends of the forest and run as fast as I can. I can hear the moaning hunger of the shadow beings on my back as I make haste toward my sheltered place. They close in on me and I turn to fight them, defeating the weakest and evading the rest. With my thoughts focused on safety, my spirit soars through the forest and quickly leaves the hoard of beings behind me. The great tree is in sight now and I feel hope replacing the fear that had taken root inside me. The hope builds against my carefully constructed wall. As it bursts through the cracks, my light shines from me, darkening the shadows around me.

Almost to safety, I glance behind me to assess the danger in my wake. Fear flows throughout me when my eyes are cast on a new, mammoth, shadow being chasing me. It is a being of woven shadows, like the one I faced before but it is larger and quicker. It is a great distance behind me but making stride quickly and I know, instantly, that I will not be able to make it to the great tree before it reaches me. I plant my feet firmly and turn around to face it. In response, it halts as well, and sends a deep mocking laugh through the vibrations of the world around us. Apparently, it is amused by my tenacity and anticipates my next move. The being is somehow familiar to me, although I am sure that I have never encountered it before. My mind focuses on one singular shadow, just above where the beings heart would bend a memory of my mother, dying, flashes in my mind Another shadow gives me memories of Clearys demise. In an instant, I realize the being is comprised, not of the shadow from this world but of my own darkness. It is a being of my own creation and I know if I dont act quickly, it will be my demise. I study the being as it studies me and in its distraction, I pick up a nearby stick, infusing it

distraction, I pick up a nearby stick, infusing it with my light. I focus on Camerons face, the time I spent with the fairies prior to being led into the shadow world and the promise of returning Spring. I conjure a great ball of energy within myself and push it outward to cast a light throughout the stick. What grows is a great, glowing sword, larger than the tallest tree in the forest. Encouraged by my ability, the shadow being strikes. Before I can think, he lunges into the sky toward me. I move out of the way, quickly, and his great fist comes to the ground beside me. The impact of it sends a huge quake throughout the forest and I swing the great light at him from the side. He is too quick to respond to my attacks and the blade makes contact with the being, severing his mammoth calf. The shadows retreat into the darkened night and the being turns his head toward me in surprise. For a moment, we make eye contact and I see a moment of acknowledgment flash across his face. He is deeming me a worthy adversary and I know what will come next will be more intense than anything I have ever experienced in the shadow world. I move quickly and strike toward him from behind. Before I can reach him, he calls the shadows around him and forms a great web

shadows around him and forms a great web from them. He gathers the web and casts it at me. In dodging the web, I find the form of the sword slipping and my footing disturbed. In the second I take to regather myself, reform the sword and begin toward him again, he has created another web. Before I can react, the web is cast and this time it makes contact with my arm and pins me to a great tree. A great mocking laughter builds within him. I have dropped the stick and fear flows through me, hampering my ability to conjure the light. I fight against the shadows and force my light into my pinned arm in an attempt to loosen the grip that the web has on me. A hoard of shadow beings have gathered around us but are kept at bay by the great shadow creature. He has marked me as his own and the other beings oblige this out of fear. Still, they stand on the edge of us, watching as we battle. The great shadow being lowers his head in focus. He calls the shadows cast by my fear to him. Like maggots to a rotting corpse, they join his leg, rebuilding the calf that I had severed. He stands before me, taller and stronger than he was before. Before I know it, he is in my face but he does not devour. His mocking laughter rings throughout the land as I struggle and he taunts.

You dare attack me? You think you can do me any harm? There are more than enough shadows here to regenerate. He stretches out his great arms in conquest, illustrating his command of the world we are in. As he speaks, I focus my light inside me, creating a great ball of light. He sees this and laughs at the effort. Your light is fleeting and will burn out in time. This is my world. On the shadows endure, here. The lesser shadow beings around us bow to him, acknowledging him as a more supreme being. He stands before me, looking out into the forest at them and basking in their admiration. In his distraction, I cast my free arm within him and send through him the ball of light I have been creating. The light flows through him and his eyes meet mine. Astonishment and confusion plays across his face. As the light bursts from within, his shadow form dispels and his moment of glory has become his undoing. I send a second burst of light through the pinned arm, this time freeing myself, and fall to the ground before me. The battle has taken nearly everything that I have within me and I lay on the ground, weak and disoriented. I hear the moaning of the shadow beings around me as

the moaning of the shadow beings around me as I struggle to my feet. My vision is blurred but I can see them moving in on me from all angles. There is no moment for me to feel triumphant and I know that my destruction is at hand.

My astral body is severely weakened and I close my eyes to welcome destruction at the hands of the horde. It never comes and the sound of fluttering wings and a screeching voice rings in my ears as the familiar tug of my body leaving this world signifies that I am making haste for the next. Everything goes black and I feel my soul climb back into my body which is covered with cold, damp sweat. I am under the tree and blurred vision reveals a human body over me, stroking my forehead. I feel the soft caress of the winter air and receive a heartfelt greeting from the tree but my vision is compromised. I cannot move my limbs or receive sensory information from the human world yet. I am slowly awakening within myself and panic sets in as I wait to feel the tingling in my limbs which signifies the battle has left me unscathed. I lay under the tree and in the arms of the mystery human for what seems like an eternity before the light of the world becomes visible.

Slowly, I make out the face staring down at me and realize that it is Cameron. The crease on his forehead signifies trouble and I try to ask him what is wrong but my voice fails me. I try to raise my hand to his but the action cannot be completed. Finally, I send him a look of panic from my eyes to his and he begins to speak softly to me. Its okay, Awen, he speaks to my mind. He sooths me and asks me not to move for a moment. He lifts something cold and damp to my lips but the feeling of it against my skin is numb. It is tasteless to my muted senses but I ingest it, anyway. Cameron explains that it is Schisandra herb and as I chew on it, I feel my physical strength returning. He smiles into my eyes with his own as I begin to form back into myself again. Once I have regained my senses enough, he offers his hand to me and I pull myself up to a seating position. Still unsteady, I lean against the tree for extra support. We set in silence for a while and I meditate, as Cameron had taught me to. I use the energy of the tree and budding Spring to replenish my own energy and to strengthen my mind, body and spirit.

Once I feel complete, I unfocus my mind from the energy around me and allow the weight of events fall onto me. I use my logical brain to form a waking memory of the events which transpired and asses them. As I do this, Camerons energy is focused on reading my mind and understanding the events himself. His eyes widen in fear as he watches the memories play through my head. When my memory is complete, he pulls back from me. Questions crash on the edges of my mind and I look to Cameron for answers. Slowly, he begins to answer my first question. The being that led you into the shadow realm was a sprite. Kin to the faeries, they are mischievous creatures. They are usually pretty harmless and I dont understand why it would lead you into harms way. Once his answer is complete, he returns with a question of his own. You never told me that you travel the realms, yet it seemed like you were familiar with the shadow realm. Have you traveled there before? I explain everything I can to him, starting with how I traveled there for the first time when I was 13. I explain to him how I usually wear a cloak in the shadow realm, to hide my light and how I had traveled there until late last year. I find myself guarded and hiding the events

find myself guarded and hiding the events which truly led to the end of my travels but I give him enough that he can understand the situation. I tell him about Cai and the diviners. Leaving out details of using my powers on Cleary, blacking out, and dreaming, I tell him how I came to know that Cai had been watching over me from birth. I explain the great tree of life and the balance of it to him, as it was explained to me but I do not mention anything about my own destiny. He senses that I am holding back but doesnt push for more information. Instead, he listens to my words carefully and for the first time, I feel like I am teaching him something. I recount a few of the adventures I had in the shadow realm and he listens with wide eyes of wonder. I even tell him about the first time I wielded a sword of light, although I make sure to not mention that the second time I did this, I planned to kill Cai with it. When I finish with my explanation, Cameron takes a moment to process the information I have offered him. I feel confusion radiating from him and the mood lightens as he chuckles slightly. I take offense to it and raise my eyebrows in response, causing him to explain, quickly. You are so different than anybody I have ever met, Awen. Most people study and work hard their entire

Most people study and work hard their entire lives to wield the smallest amount of power. You, on the other hand, are the opposite. Everything you have has come to natural to you and you seem to never question its working. He ponders this for a moment and the act of consideration is visible on his face. Another chuckle emits from him and he ads, humorously, Im actually surprised you are still alive and in one piece. Actually, until I met you, I wasnt in one piece, I think and then admire Cameron for his ability to add light to any situation. Instead of admitting this out loud, I chuckle with him for a moment. The tension in the air decreases and he moves closer to me, allowing our legs to softly touch. He takes my hand and allows his eyes to meet mine. In this moment, I feel as unique to him as the rarest of gems and it fills me with light. His face turns serious and he repositions himself in a manner which tells me that he plans to tell me something important. Now in front of me with his legs crossed and the tips of his fingers touching one another, he takes a deep breath. Because your abilities have come so naturally to you, you seem to never question them. You traveled to the shadow realm for 4 years, without questioning how or why it

years, without questioning how or why it happened. My eyebrows crease as the thought stumbles into my brain. I wonder for a moment why I never questioned it and how my path might had changed if I had. Well, things happen in life and people react to them, right? What good does it do to question something after it has already happened? Its part of the discovery process. In understanding why things happen, we then gain the possibility to change them. You mean, change our fates? I dont think we can actually change our fate. I think things that are meant to happen, will. What we can do is be more prepared to face our fate when we get there. He looks to me for understanding and once it registers on my face, he moves on. Theres only two ways to travel to the shadow realm. One happens with a person who travels the realms goes into a sleep state with extremely low vibrations. Low vibrations?My mind blinks toward the vibrations of the beings in the shadow realm. Are my vibrations the same as theirs? I wonder, shielding my thoughts from Cameron.

Yes. Everything in the universe operates off vibrations. It is the vibrations of the trees which allow you to understand them and the vibrations of energy which allow both my telepathy and your empathy to work. High vibrations are caused by positive energy and low vibrations by negative energy. When a human goes into a state of astral projection, they ride the currents to the different realms. Higher vibrations tend carry people to good places while lower vibrations can carry a person to dark places, such as the shadow realm. So, does this mean that Im a generally negative person? No, I dont think that at all. Light beings can travel to dark worlds. This usually happens if the person goes to sleep in a bad mood. That is why most people who project meditate before sleeping. It helps to restore yourself to a positive mood and center yourself before traveling so you dont end up in the wrong place. Confusion flows through me and I consider all the wanderers in the forest that Cai and I had saved. Slowly the pieces of advice click in my head and I realize that by never searching for an

head and I realize that by never searching for an explanation for my travels, I had failed to understand that I could have saved myself from traveling to the shadow world by meditating and working on my vibrations. Reading my mind, Cameron interrupts my thought process. Not exactly. See, Ive seen inside you and felt your energy. I dont think you were simply riding negative vibrations to the shadow realm all those years. There is another way that a person can end up in the shadow realm, you know? He kicks thoughts around in his mind until he forms the best manner to explain them to me. A person can be pulled into a realm by another being. Perhaps you were being pulled into the shadow realm, instead of actually traveling there yourself. The possibility of it has occurred to me before and I find myself guarding secrets with Cameron, again. My mind considers the lurking threat of the corruption in my life. Maybe traveling to the shadow realm was supposed to be my undoing and was set in motion by whoever is working to disrupt my fate. All this time, I have thought of my travels to the shadow world as part of my fate when they might actually be in opposition of it. I feel my body weakening under the stress of the day and as dusk falls around us, Cameron and I simply

as dusk falls around us, Cameron and I simply set in silent awe of the natural world. Together, we watch as the sun hides behind the earth and the moons glow begins its reign as the supreme source of light. My mind does not wander and as Camerons hand intertwines with mine, I consider what my life would have been like if I had met him sooner. As the twinkling stars begin to kiss the early night sky, I turn to Cameron and study his face. He is breathtaking in the light of the moon and I fight the urge to take his face in my hand and guide his lips to mine. In my mind, I kiss him over and over and allow our two souls to become one. I do not shield my thoughts from him, bravely making my intentions known. I feel conflict rising within him and sense the construction of his own walls. I feel him, as he slowly closes to me and the waves of his energy fail to reach me. Cold distance falls between us and as he turns his eyes to mine, only a painful look of apology is given. It is an apology without explanation and I, too, draw within myself, hiding the full weight of disappointment, bearing down on me. Without romantic thoughts as a distraction, I think about Camerons words for a moment. I have been searching for a way to help Cleary,

have been searching for a way to help Cleary, which led me to find Cameron. I havent actually figured out anything useful for fixing my mistake and in that moment, I accept that I probably never will. I realize that the entire mess with Cleary has done little to serve my destiny, except bring me to Cameron. However, without Cameron, I would never have gained the knowledge that I have now. I marvel at the design of the world, both physical and beyond. As humans, we somewhat understand the workings of the world around us. Fate, on the other hand, is an ever elusive mystery and once we think we understand the windings of our own path, we are reminded just how much we dont understand. I begin to understand that I am now at a crossroads. The path before me is wild and unknown while the path behind me is filled with mystery and elusiveness. Do I move forward as I always have or allow the changing winds of Spring to blow me in unknown directions? This is where my human ability to chose action kicks in and I stand on the edge of myself, pondering the weight of my own free will. After I have regained my strength, Cameron drives me home in my car. He bids me

drives me home in my car. He bids me goodnight and I am left alone with only my thoughts as companion. The Winter sun is gone and the moon hangs close to my window, guarding me from danger. My dad and Diana are gone, again, and a quiet hush falls over my empty house. The silence hangs heavy in the air and my spirit and body become aware of the energy in the house. As the wind kisses the glass of my window, my body becomes aware of the vibrations running through my room. I take a deep breath and open myself to them. Rolling through my soul, they tell a story of transformation and renewal. My mind races to make connections from the chaotic revivals in my life. Images of myself in early fall compared to myself today click through my head, pointing me toward meaningful interpretation. Physically, I am the same red haired, bright eyed girl that I was months ago but I am less tattered around the edges. The darkness within my life had weighed on me and left me with broken pieces that I locked away deep inside myself. The only comfort I found in the world was obtained by wearing a ruse. I was segmented from the world around me and found no real connection with anything other than the divine. Unable to define myself, I found myself

divine. Unable to define myself, I found myself covering my complicated truths with simple lies. I was scared of my abilitiesscared of myself and alone in my knowledge of the magical world. I found myself questioning everything around me, from the death of my mother to my own ability to function amongst the normal population. I look at myself now, from the inside out. Today, Cameron implied that someone must have been pulling me into the shadow world because I was too light to travel there on my own. The memory of the being comprise of my own darkness flashes in my head and I shudder at the thought of it. I know that I have hidden enough from Cameron that he does not have full view of my soul, and I am left alone with the truth. Im darker than he knows, I think and my mind flashes back to my own pondering about the light bulb in my lamp, and realize that I was so bent on covering myself with light that I ignored the darkness growing within and around me. The brightest lights cast the darkest shadows, it is a slight whisper in the room around me but it aches with familiarity. Immediately, I know that Cai is with me in this

Immediately, I know that Cai is with me in this moment and I send out my best light to greet his shapeless form. I think, for a moment, about my teacher and dearest friend and an image of the great tree of life presents itself to me. Slowly, the word balance creeps through my mind and I consider how I have achieved balance in my own life through the chaos of the dark half of the year. I had always seen the little boxes within myself as a mechanism of survival. I was so afraid that the world wouldnt accept me that I never accepted myself. Instead, I hid everything that was real about myself and paraded around in the world, pretending to be something that I am not. I know the world is not ready to accept someone like me, yet but the time is coming that it will be. Until then, I feel relieved to have Cameron to be true with and look toward the future with expectations of growing darkness and beaming light. I know now that being light and achieving balance doesnt come from filling yourself with light to defeat the shadows. It is about knowing that you are a being of both dark and light. Its about accepting yourself for everything that you are and making true connections with the world around you. I know my own balance requires that I open myself up and allow energy to flow

that I open myself up and allow energy to flow through me, and I know that to maintain balance in the future, I will have to exist in multiple worlds at once. I can no longer trade a connection with the human world for a divine one. I am both body and spirit; light and dark; human and inhuman. Suddenly, the wind blows hard against my bedroom window and a burst of it flows into the room. The changing winds of the solstice become a representation for the struggle between light and dark in this world. I know that there is an impeding darkness on the world and that I will be an instrument of salvation against it. In he name of balance, I dont allow my fate to weigh me down. I dont know if the hour of my destiny is upon me or if it will come much later in my life. I accept my human limitations and decide to ride the waves into the future, as if I am as unknowing as the rest of humanity. From the edge of the room comes the lurking reminder of close danger and the need to pinpoint the source of corruption in my world. I dismiss it, and try to focus on the here and now. All the unanswered questions about my past and future seem insignificant in the light of the moon. The world outside my window is bright with festive lights, signifying

window is bright with festive lights, signifying that Christmas is upon the world. I am always amazed at the hope and joy that abounds this time of the year because it comes at the point when the world is the darkest. I watch as the twinkling in the stars speaks to me. It appears to signify that hope is born on this day, and I cling to it. Right now, I am whole and I allow myself to enjoy it. Tonight, I will drift to sleep without the lurking danger of consuming shadows but with time, darkness will try to overcome my light, again. I will struggle to maintain my balance but even in this struggle, I will wake with the rising sun to move through another half cycle of the year.

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