“Other Necromancers can’t see it?”
She blinked comically at me. “Do you smoke a lot of ganga, or what? That info is pretty basic.” Sensing that I didn’t, and it wasn’t, at least not for me, she ran a hand across her face. “Necromancers, especially strong ones”—she tapped her chest—“can feel the Line, and the plane around it. It’s like bat sonar. We can create an image in our mind’s eye from feeling it, but no, we can’t actually see it. I wouldn’t be able to draw it if my life depended on it.”
That took me aback a little. I’d always thought my magic was less than interesting. I’d certainly never thought, in my wildest dreams, that I could do something above and beyond what highly paid magical workers could do. Then again, I’d never thought I could rip souls from people’s bodies, either.
It was crazy that my mother had never reacted to any of my magic growing up. If she’d known how rare it was, or how surprising some of my skills were, she’d never given me any sign. No wonder the neighbors wouldn’t let her play poker in their weekly games. She’d probably been banned for always cleaning them out.
I shrugged it off and struggled to get back on track. “Right, well, at the government building, the magical wall keeps any spirits inside from crossing over. It effectively keeps them in a magical box. They couldn’t leave the building, not even to the beyond.”
“And here…they can’t leave the building, but they can crossover.”
“Correct.” I started walking again. “Here, he’s bringing them in, but allowing them to cross over. He’s not keeping them.”
“What’s the point?”
“And now we’ve come full circle. That was my question. Why expend the energy?”
She rubbed her nose, thinking. “Maybe this is someone’s way of playing god. We can’t all be Demigods, but some want the power of one. Maybe this is his or her way of feeling powerful.”
“Or maybe Valens doesn’t want any loose spirits messing with what he has going in that house at the end of the street.” I forced myself to walk back to the house in question, with its waiting spirits.
“There were no entities,” Clare said, catching up to us, still holding a bell.
“Great work, Clare,” Bria said, her tone so seemingly genuine that I doubted Clare knew it was sarcasm.
“Do you think this was done by the same person who closed off the government building?” asked Jack, who’d been with me when I first felt the weird wall closing off the Line.
I stalled in front of the spirit-stuffed house and scratched my head, staring at the mess of faces in the window, all vying for space to look out. “I honestly don’t know. But if it isn’t the same person, they are obviously talking to each other. The principles of what they are doing is the same. And equally as fucked up.”
“Oh good, you swear.” Bria nodded in relief. “The suit threw me, I have to admit. I was worried you’d be a Mary Sue.” She turned and looked down the street. “I can do magic summoning a spirit, and I can keep a spirit in a body, but I cannot cover a house with magic. I can’t keep a spell stationary for an extended period of time. And I wouldn’t have the first clue about blocking off the Line.”
We all stared at the house for a silent beat until Clare finally said, “Shall we finally go in?”
This was why people hated Mediums.
“Now.” Clare pushed in close, right at my back. She had a large and small bell squished in her meaty hands. “If you’ll just head on in and go to the right…”
Bria opened the door, walking into the depths. I stepped forward to follow, but as soon as she got out of the way, bodies dressed in ragged clothes crowded into the doorway. The side of a man’s head was singed black, a woman’s ear was half torn, and another man was missing a hand, the stump also singed black. Hands clawed desperately at a waiting Bria, standing in their midst.
“What?” she asked, confusion crossing her expression.
“I’ll just squeeze in past you.” Clare bumped me to the side as she passed, allowing me to backpedal.
“What’s the problem?” Bria asked, leaning against the doorframe.
I sucked air into my lungs while shaking my head. Hollowed eyes and twisted expressions stared out at me from beside her. Behind her, a man babbled about nothing.
“Those people look deranged.” I pointed beyond her. “They are busted up and freaking out. One woman is screaming and beating her hand against her head. Their clothes and whatnot tell me they’re from different walks of life, but they have similar issues, which means something in this house is probably messing them up.”
“Yes, but…” She put out her hands. “It isn’t messing me up. So we’re good.”
I shook my head and swallowed hard, eyeing the surly-faced man staring at me through the window. Streaks of black ate away at the skin on his right temple. A look of vicious ruthlessness barely hid the desperation in his eyes.
Jack leaned against the porch railing and crossed his arms over his chest, his gaze rooted to mine. Without knowing how, I knew he was asking me if I wanted to go. If I gave him a sign, he’d leave with me, right now, without question.
I blew out a breath, his support lending me strength.
“Don’t touch me when we’re in there,” I told Bria quietly, starting forward.
“Got it.” She stepped back and turned, totally at ease with the situation and my curt demand.
I wished I could say the same.
At the door, I dropped my head, slipping into a trance so I could pull my magic around me, creating a barrier between myself and the spirits. Usually I would infuse this same magic into inanimate objects so I wouldn’t have to constantly expend the effort. If only I’d been allowed to bring my Honda, I would’ve had some supplies.
Another connection filtered into my anxiety-soaked mind.
I used my magic to push spirits away. I could infuse objects with it. What would be the difference in drawing them in instead of pushing them away? Surely that’s all this spirit trap maker was doing.
But then he was trapping them. I still didn’t understand the logistics of that. Not yet.
Tightening the magical barrier I’d set around myself, I lifted my head and faced down a barrel-chested man with a grim face marked with jagged white scars. Black scored the side of his body, blistering the skin on his arm and blackening what was left of his shirt. He blocked the door with grim determination.
“We don’t need your kind here,” he said in a raspy voice bubbling with liquid. Red appeared at the creases of his lips before overflowing and dripping down his chin. Blood, even in death.
My stomach swam. “And what kind is that?” I asked.
His eyes squinted a little, nothing more than a flicker of movement. He shifted his weight before stepping to the side and turning, arms still crossed. Eyes tracking me.
“Well that was a sudden change of heart. You’re not very good at sticking to your guns, I must say.” I barely stopped myself from holding my breath as I crossed the threshold.
Unlike the other houses, this one didn’t have a lure. It had a warning—do not cross. Except I had, and the magic dragged across my skin like little hooks, looking to catch in my squishy middle.
I frowned and stalled, taking in that feeling. Trying to categorize it.
A woman rushed at me, her arms held wide like she was coming in for a bear hug.
“No.” The man shoved a grisly hand through the air. The tips of his fingers were gone, and the nails had melted away, too.
The woman staggered to a stop, her body stooped and eyes wide. Her mouth hung open, and if she’d been alive, a line of drool would be slipping down her chin.
Bodies edged toward me, some with hands hooked like claws, the faces curious, angry, or out to lunch. A man reached in before stalling, no doubt feeling my magic. Anger flitted through his eyes as he pulled his hand back slowly.
“You’re the boss around here?” I asked the large man. I was gearing up to push further in. I’d never been around this many spirits at one time, and never had I encountered spirits this…tumultuous.
“We ain’t got no bosses,” the man said, his scars dancing across his cheek.
I nodded, edging along the shiny wooden floor toward the opening that led to a living room. Victorian-era chairs, all kept in great condition, were arranged in formations conducive to conversation. A light purple rug stretched across the floor, and through another shallow archway, I could see a dining room chair pushed up to a table.
The house thrummed around me, vibrating with power. The aching desire to cross over the Line echoed from one spirit to the next, each boosting the effect on my body.
I deepened the trance until the colors in the house shifted from the normal color spectrum humans could see to the dizzying ultra violets of the spirit world. The Line materialized, above and a little left of me, a burst of blues and purples spreading out from a solid black line that pulsed like the doorway to a black hole.
The Line didn’t always appear in one specific place. It randomly moved around for reasons I couldn’t decipher, but the colors and feelings were always the same: dark and scary, yet welcoming. The contrast denoted the fight between my logical human mind, taking in the majesty of the sight, and my emotional intuition, feeling the actual intent behind it. My brain versus my spirit.
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