The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 14

With one last thread of hope lingering in her voice, Lisa asked Delron, “Was he, like, a nice judge who tried to save the innocent victims and put a stop to that madness?” She clasped her hands together and prayed for this to be the scenario! She didn’t think she could have handled it if he condemned guiltless individuals to an unjust demise!

Shaking his head sadly, Delron answered her, “Melas didn’t have any judges like that! And unfortunately, Judge Basset was the most senior member of the court, so he made most of the rulings in those trials!”

“My ancestor sent dozens of people to their death, and none of them deserved it!” Lisa sunk into one of the chairs by her kitchen table. Her mind had trouble absorbing this fact, it just didn’t seem real! She had always believed that she came from a long line of honorable citizens, and until the present instance, she saw no evidence to contradict that! How could so many benevolent men and women have come from that vile monster?

“Twenty five to be precise. A hundred fifty more were awaiting trial for witchcraft, but they got saved when the governor intervened after someone accused his wife.” Delron espied the appalled expression on Lisa’s face, and he apologized, “Sorry! I know this can’t be easy for you, but don’t let this change anything! Humans have roamed this earth for thousands of years, so odds are we all have an ancestor who committed a heinous act!”

Lisa countered, “But how many folks have a relative who destroyed as many lives as mine?”

Delron argued, “Not a lot, but a few out there have descended from worse! Cruel dictators, mass murderers…”

“Tell that to the vengeful ghost! I’m sure she’ll lay off when she realizes that the man who sealed her fate isn’t the most evil person in the history of the globe!” Lisa caught a glimpse of herself in a spoon, and she recalled how the spirit revealed to her that she had the judge’s eyes, which prompted her to push her reflection out of her vision! She didn’t know how she would ever cope with viewing an image of herself ever again! She couldn’t blame the essence for harboring such acrimony over the matter! If she had gone through an unjust execution like that, she would have become beyond angry too! That point addressed another aspect of the issue too… “So, this ghost is getting revenge for the witchcraft trials?”

“It would seem so,” Delron confirmed. Lisa buried her face into her palms, so he tried to console her, “But the good news is we can narrow down who the ghost is from the twenty five victims of that period! If we can identify her , maybe we can find some clues to stop her from hurting anyone else!” Lisa appeared unmoved by his articulation, so he offered, “I can do some research on my own if you’d like! I’ll show you tomorrow, ‘kay?” Lisa shifted her hands, but she didn’t respond to him, so he pat her wrist as he exited her home.

Once she was alone, Lisa found herself wishing she had that he stayed- she felt as though she couldn’t trust herself! Did any of the judge’s inklings get passed on to his descendents? Her muscles grew numb, and she didn’t feel confident she could regain the strength to carry on! How could she knowing what she knew? How could she fight that apparition when she had a valid reason for her hostility? Her ex’s fans accused her of being a terrible person- maybe they were right! Maybe she wasn’t worthy of taking the lead on saving this town…

All of a sudden, she felt a familiar force brush by her ankles! “Hester?” The cat’s form manifested by her kitchen! “You forgave me? How could you? I’m awful!” Hester mewed sympathetically prior to her disappearance. She disliked that early departure, and she stared at the spot she stood in hoping that she would return! After a few seconds, she noticed the nearby trash can, which had her juice-soaked clothes sticking out of it. She remembered how many bystanders could have gotten seriously hurt from that incident, and she recognized the importance of collecting herself in that moment! She wasn’t like the judge, she wasn’t going to allow the blameless to suffer! She decided to get her thoughts back in line by grabbing her purse and heading out!

Underneath a sign that said, “Welcome to Shade’s Thrift Shop,” Lisa saw that the red tagged items were half off, and she took a mental note of this as she went into the women’s shirts. Every once in a while, Lisa glanced up to gauge what the others were wearing in order to finalize her choices. She could discern that several of them were gossiping about her, but she ignored it because this outing’s purpose was to relax her thoughts, and she had no desire to boggle her brain with whatever claptrap they might have been discussing! Besides, constant whispering had become background noise to her! She pondered whether or not this normalization boded well for her mental health, but she figured that when her outfits blended in and, more importantly, when she defeated the great evil that plagued this region, she would hear a lot less rumors about herself!

When she got to the women’s pants, she detected someone staring at her from the corner of her eye, which struck her as unusual since most of her neighbors would take a quick peek and move on. She couldn’t comprehend why anyone would fix their stare on her like that, so she turned herself in their direction to determine their motive. She expected somebody sinister, but to her surprise, he was rather handsome! Not as good-looking as Adam, but he was still someone that allured her! Well, for a minute anyways… She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was something off about him! He had smoldering eyes, but they ogled her in a fashion that one might use when zeroing in on their prey! He also seemed more well-dressed than the normal etiquette for a typical second-hand store shopper! She deemed it necessary to go get in line and dodge whatever advancement he intended for her!

While she waited in the queue, a deep, raspy man behind her spoke, “You’re Lisa, aren’t you?”

Lisa spun around and cringed to learn that the well-dressed man took a position close to her! She probed, “How’d you know my name?”

“You’re the one everyone is talking about,” the man pointed out. “Must be nice to have reached celebrity status, huh?”

“My ex is a celebrity, and his fame didn’ interest me whatsoever!” Lisa asserted. “I was actually kinda hoping he’d take more time off and we could get a cozy home in the country… just the two of us…”

The man conversed, “I was only joking! It’s gotta make you mad to constantly get treated like that!”

It stunned Lisa to receive this empathetic observation from him! Not a lot of citizens in Melas showed her any kindness, and it felt quite refreshing to get support! She began to consider that perhaps she had misjudged him. “Yeah, of course! It got old real fast!”

“What are you gonna do about it?” the man inquired.

“Uh…” She certainly couldn’t reveal her actual plan, so she hatched up another plausible explanation, “I’m just gonna do what I can to get ahead and show them that they didn’t get to me.”

The man pressed her, “What do you plan to do to get ahead?”

Something about his timbre altered, and Lisa got the vibe of a slick salesperson coming off of him! She privately urged the individual ahead of her to go faster so she could get out of this interaction! “I wanna continue improving at my job in the library, and then I’ll work on making a few friends.”

“That’s it?” the man puzzled.

“What more could there be?” Lisa shot back.

The man interrogated her, “Don’t you want to make them pay for what they’ve done to you?”

Lisa didn’t like where this conversation was heading! She had no clue what he meant for her to inflict upon her wrongdoers, and, quite frankly, she didn’t want to know! She wasn’t positive on how to reply to this man, but luckily for her, the cashier became free! She rapidly relayed to him, “I don’t wanna make them pay! All I wanna do is pay for my clothing! Excuse me!”

She assumed that she had successfully broken away from this freaky dude, but to her dread, the cashier posed to her, “Will you be paying together or separately?”

“Separately,” the man informed her. As she rang Lisa’s garments up, the man catechized, “So, you don’t have any desire to get vengeance of any sort?”

“No!” Lisa insisted. She hated confrontations, but she was more than willing to tell this jerk off! She built up the necessary steam to do so, but then she caught a glimpse of his pending purchase- an array of glass bottles like the ones that JT acted so protective over! Clearly, those bottles carried some kind of significance, and she now had the opportunity to discover exactly what that may have been! “What are those for?”

The man glanced down at them as though he forgot they were in his possession, and he hurriedly explained, “The witching bottles? They’re protection against dark spirits. They won’t help you get vindication against the rumor-mongers though!”

Lisa stamped her foot in frustration! “I don’t want to do that! Will you please-?”

“You’re lying!” the man accused. “I saw a strange haze hovering over this place before I came in, and my buddy, Marshal, said it was there this morning by JT’s home! You’re planning something, aren’t you?”

“Did you say that…?” Lisa’s veins coursed with fright! She visited this establishment to gain peace, and instead, she would have to fight a paranormal battle! The cashier handed her a couple of bags, but she couldn’t complete her transaction without verifying the accuracy of his claim! If he was giving her the truth, then she didn’t deem it prudent to evacuate the area! Most people wouldn’t fabricate a statement like that! But, then again, he was comrades with that conniving sheriff, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for him to practice deception… “Marshal and you are close, huh?”

As the cashier rang him up, he substantiated that, “We’re best friends personally and professionally! Ezekiel Bibber, attorney at law, at your service!”

Ezekiel handed her a business card, and Lisa scoffed at that gesture. “I’ll pass!”

Lisa marched towards the exit, but Ezekiel shouted after her, “Start searching for a decent defense lawyer! I have a feeling you’ll need one soon!”

She chose not to react to that as she reached the entrance to the outside, and she crossed her fingers that he wouldn’t follow her so she could authenticate his account on the mist! To her shock, the door wouldn’t budge! She furrowed her brows, but she didn’t have a second to spare! If the malevolent phantom had honestly picked this building to haunt, she had to move urgently! She swiveled around in order to use another means of leaving, and Ezekiel leered, “You’re gonna attack us, aren’t you?”

Prior to her ability to deny that allegation, a woman from the other side of the facility yelled, “I can’t get out!”

“This door’s jammed too!” a second lady declared.

“What’s going on?” the cashier fretted.

Ezekiel virulently broadcasted to everyone, “She’s punishing us for all ‘cause I offended her!”

Lisa refuted, “That’s not true!” It didn’t seem like anybody believed her, but it was difficult to verify that since the entire space proceeded to fill with smoke…

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 13

“He killed her, didn’t he?” Lisa guessed. Delron didn’t say anything, so Lisa assumed the worst! Her family had always made a considerable effort to show others kindness, and she couldn’t have imagined anyone she was was related to acting out of spite or maliciousness! She had an inkling that her premise would prove wrong, but she still relayed it to Delron anyways, “He must’ve done it out of self defense! Or protection! That ghost doesn’t act very innocent, so she couldn’t have been the victim! … Right?” She desperately hoped that Delron would confirm this theory, and she didn’t like the look on his face that suggested she mischaracterized her ancestor! A valid motive for this crime had to have existed! She refused to believe it didn’t!

Delron slowly admitted, “Well… he didn’t actually put his hands on her… He-.”

Prior to him getting the chance to finish his thought, Melanie walked through the door! “No!” Lisa wailed. She couldn’t help it! This interruption had come at such a pivotal juncture, and her spirits deflated knowing she would have to wait for an indeterminate span to hear the vital truth not only about her kin but the vengeful essence that threatened this region! Melanie gave her a peculiar stare, and she recognized that she didn’t want to get into hot water with her boss, so she lied, “This clown thinks Captain Shirkner is superior to Captain Stucard! He’s gotta be joking!” Lisa chuckled and inwardly prayed that she was convincing.

“Is this from a novel?” Melanie puzzled.

“Actually, Galaxy Trekkers was inspired by a novel! Not a lot of people know this, but the writers got the idea from reading Prohibited World…” Delron got onto a soapbox regarding this subject, and Lisa was grateful for this distraction from her clumsy faux pas! She also felt glad Melanie didn’t know anything about that show because she wouldn’t have possessed any real evidence for the argument she brought up! Her dad previously mentioned this spat amongst fans of the series, and since Delron talked about it earlier, it was the first thing that came to her mind other than her phantom problem! Now that this crisis got avoided, she was left with another- the perplexity of what her forefather did that made Delron become so tongue tied! If he didn’t lay a finger on her, could his offense have been that bad?

Later, Lisa and Delron shelved publications in a rather agitated manner. Lisa could tell that Delron wanted to discuss this issue as much as she did, and she reckoned that he also got miffed by the lack of delivery requests they got that afternoon! They needed an opportunity to chat about this development in their supernatural case urgently, and it just wasn’t happening! It drove Lisa crazy! What if this clue would cure their crisis, and another incident transpired by their lack ability to take action? She glanced at her watch, and she saw that it was almost time to empty the outdoor book drop off! She thought she could tag along with Delron and that they could use this break to discourse over this vital topic…

The phone rang, and Melanie picked up the receiver. “Brigfell Library! This is Melanie speaking, how can I be of service?” She listened to the caller, and then she responded to them, “Oh, hello! Hold on just a second…” She turned to Lisa and directed, “Take The Red A to the Jeffrey Draw House. Sorry, but you’re not ready to do the book drop by yourself!” Before Lisa could object, Melanie shifted her attention back to the telephone, “Sorry, Mister Commissioner! So, what’s going on?”

Lisa lamented her ill luck, and Delron gave her the title that was needed and instructed her, “Go past JT’s house and turn left on Stephens Street. It’s got a sign in front of it.” His expression clearly indicated he would speak to her further on in the day, and Lisa nodded in comprehension preceding her departure.

Passing JT’s house again jangled Lisa’s nerves! She could see that the crowd around it had dissipated, but she felt quite certain that, at any second, someone would pop out of the abode to confront her about the bloody incident! She wanted to avoid it completely, but the avenue she needed to take was right behind it! She thought perhaps that tiptoeing by the place could keep her concealed, but soon, it became apparent that she couldn’t totally hide from an interaction because somebody occupied the window space! She cringed, took a deep breath, and inched closer to the individual…

It was a crime scene investigator examining the antique bottles arranged on the ledge! She breathed a sigh of relief to have escaped from an ugly tift, but she wondered how long she could continue to dodge this type of occurrence! She noticed that the investigator haphazardly strewed the bottles when he finished with them, and she grew vaguely curious as to how they treated the rest of JT’s decor and furnishing, but she didn’t dare to try and peek further into the interior! She didn’t think that this crew had heard the Board of Tourism’s accusatory hypotheses of what caused the havoc, but she didn’t care to find out!

After she turned onto Stephens Street, she saw her destination at the end of the road. It was a three story, colonial brick house, and other than having the most advanced age of anything else on that block, it also stood out for incomprehensible reasons. Its hue had a brighter tone than its neighbors, and yet somehow, it appeared darker than the rest! It gave her the creeps, but simultaneously, it also gave off a familiar aura as though she had previously visited this spot! She didn’t know what to expect as she opened the white, rod-iron gate, but she knocked on wood that, for once, she would experience a more pleasant conversation!

Lisa tapped on the entryway, and soon, the large, oaken door slowly creaked open. With her visage pressed against the crack, a disheveled woman with her curly, red hair slipping out of a head scarf, warily greeted Lisa “What do you want?”

“Uh, I’m from Brigfell. I have your book.” Lisa held it up so that the woman could view it.

“I didn’t order anything from there!” The woman eyeballed her suspiciously.

Lisa was new at this job, but she hadn’t gotten the impression that their system would produce any inaccurate requisitions, so she insisted, “Someone at this address did!”

A pale, young boy handed the woman a cellphone, and following a glance at the screen, the woman changed her tune, “I guess my husband ordered it.” She snatched the fictional work from Lisa, and then she seemed to search for her words, “So… I… You…?” 

It baffled Lisa as to why the woman was trying to start a conversation with her! She considered that maybe she was simply shy and wanted to take a stab at establishing a connection, but something about the manner in which the boy ogled her indicated something different. His deadpan gawking put her on edge, so she decided to politely bow out. “Have a nice day, ma’am!”

“No, wait!” the woman called after her. Lisa’s instincts prompted her to hurry from the premises, and logically, she couldn’t fathom a favorable outcome from staying here. She felt a tad guilty about leaving her until…

“”Miss Bassett!” Sheriff Marshal genially approached her. Lisa grimaced and instantly understood why her intuition wanted to whisk her away from the vicinity! Lisa kept walking since he didn’t seem to be stopping her in an official capacity, but whatever his intentions were for this meeting, Lisa knew it couldn’t have been good! “You met my wife, Bridget, I see…”

It dawned on Lisa that Marshal probably requested that story for this exact purpose, so she put extra speed into her step. “Yup! I delivered the book to her. Enjoy!”

Panting slightly, Marshal tailed her. “Thank you! You know, my wife runs this group for-!”

Lisa interrupted him, “Not interested!” As she returned to the main boulevard, she could hear him giving up his conquest of her!

This interaction made her mad enough that she temporarily forgot the possible consequences of passing JT’s house until she heard him shout, “How dare you!” Lisa jumped from shock, but once she absorbed this abruptness, she mentally prepared herself to apologize and appease his anger. It bewildered her to see JT hadn’t directed his ire at her at all! As he rearranged the bottles he had on display, he scolded someone in back of him, “Don’t ever touch these!” Lisa cocked her head inquisitively since she couldn’t figure out his basis for going ballistic from the misplacement of these possessions, but she certainly didn’t want that ire shifted onto her, so she scurried out of his scope!

Lisa dismally swept the library floor as she waited for five o’clock to come. She glanced over to Delron, who was dusting the seldomly used lounge, and she observed that he had been gazing at the nearby graveyard. She pondered if this stemmed from his knowledge of her ancestor’s actions or if he merely desired to shield his emotions from Melanie, but regardless of his reasoning, Lisa sensed a great sadness building from within him. If it was unrelated to their apparition debacle, she would have liked to have assisted him in bolstering his mood, and it pained her to know that they wouldn’t get an opening to deliberate any of their quandaries privately! She sighed as she completed her task.

When the clock chimed due to it reaching the top of the hour, Delron immediately dropped his duster and announced, “Gotta run! See you tomorrow!”

It suddenly occurred to Lisa that she could see Delron pass her home from the outside staircase! Hoping to catch him before he removed himself from her proximity, Lisa mimicked his move and proclaimed, “Me too! Bye!” She rushed up the steps subsequent to the fireplace before Melanie got to voice her confusion at her employees’ behavior!

Lisa propelled herself as swiftly as her asthma would permit her to, and she beseeched the universe to not have let him travel too far from her location! As she exited her studio, she fretted that she was already too late! She did not want to endure a night of painful rumination on this business, but she readied herself to accept this disappointment when she emerged into the exterior. To her astonishment, Delron was already ascending to her level! “Thank goodness!” Lsia exhaled in alleviation!

“Don’t thank it too soon!” Delron warned her as he went inside of her property.

“So, who am I descended from and what did he do?” Lisa didn’t beat around the bush in this instance in order to prevent another distraction from interfering with her gathering of the facts!

Delron suggested, “You should probably sit down first.”

Lisa barked, “I don’t wanna sit! I’m way too tense for that! Just tell me now or I’ll go insane!”

“Alright!” Delron steeled himself up to deliver this news, and then he regretfully revealed, “Your ancestor in Melas was Judge John Basset, and he presided over the court from sixteen eighty six to seventeen o six.”

“Hold on, he was a judge in Melas in the late sixteen hundreds? So… he oversaw the witchcraft trials?” Lisa sincerely wanted to be incorrect on this, but her entire body flooded in horror as Delron nodded…

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 12

“What is it?” Lisa eagerly asked him. She had no idea how he got a clue so quickly considering he was exposed to this ghostly dilemma not so long ago, but if he had any insight into the matter, she would have greatly appreciated it! Any tidbit that moved them forward even in the slightest iota would have given her a tremendous boost!

Before Delron could give her an answer, the front door opened! Lisa and Delron assumed that it was Melanie coming back for something she forgot, but to their shock, it was somebody much taller than her! “Woah! We have a customer?” Delron reacted in bewilderment.

A voice that carried a strong and soothing tone that Lisa instantly recognized responded to Delron, “Yeah… Why is that so weird?”

Lisa’s heart fluttered when Adam came into view! She felt relieved to know that the strange encounter at the Dennison fire hadn’t scared him off completely, but she also reveled in basking in the beauty that this man emanated! Delron filled him in, “Everyone’s afraid of setting foot into this place! Some people venture outside of it, but most won’t even go within a block of Brigfell!”

“Wow! I knew a lot of individuals were spooked by this library, but I didn’t realize they were that spooked by it!” Adam shook his head in dismay. “I guess I shouldn’t point out how close Blackthorn Orchard is to Harvest Moon Hollow- the Halloween Hoedown would probably be a ghost town if they ever found that out!” Adam laughed, but Delron and Lisa couldn’t bring themselves to do it. They each smiled at him when he looked in their direction though. “Well, anyways, I came to see if you had any rockabilly music to use for the party. I have some Halloween CD’s, but you can’t exactly square dance to that!”

“Sure! I’ll grab some for you!” Delron volunteered.

As Delron disappeared behind a shelf, Lisa found herself feeling awkward again as she stood alone with Adam! She met a few celebrities in the past, but this was the first time she truly felt starstruck! She wasn’t totally sure why either! His handsomeness definitely played a role in that, and his niceness helped, but there was something else that really drew her to him… “You’re welcome to come, just so you know!” Adam offered. 

Lisa hadn’t realized that she had fallen into a torpor until he said that! She felt embarrassed that she had acted so carelessly, and she hoped he hadn’t noticed how goofy she behaved! She also hoped that her cheeks weren’t reddening as she gave him a reply, “Welcome to what?”

“The Halloween Hoedown,” Adam clarified. “I sent invitations out weeks ago, but everyone in town is invited.”

“Oh, the whole town is coming?” Lisa strove to hide how crestfallen that made her become. She recalled how Melanie told her that Adam was the most popular guy in Melas, and with all of the gossip coming from her neighbors, she wasn’t certain she wanted to attend! She couldn’t imagine herself having very much fun if jerks like JT would be there, or worse, Abby and her two crones!

Adam commented, “Well, I dunno if the whole town will be there, but they’re certainly invited! No one is turned down at Harvest Moon Hollow!” He paused and added, “You should come! It’ll be fun!”

Lisa bit her lip. With the majority of the population turning against her like they had been, she wondered if they requested her presence there in order to pull some sort of vile prank! If nasty pieces of work like JT and Abby admired him, how could she trust him? She wasn’t sure what to tell him, but fortunately for her, she didn’t have to because Delron resurfaced and proclaimed, “Here! I found a couple of collections that should do the job!”

“This looks great! Thanks, guys!” He threw them a grin prior to turning around and heading towards the exit. Before he left, he halted in his tracks and circled back to them. He then gingerly brought up, “Have either of you seen anything odd going on around here?”

“It’s Melas at Halloween time, of course we’ve seen odd things!” Delron nervously chuckled.

Adam clarified, “Okay, odder than usual then.”

Lisa and Delron hesitated in their reply. Lisa hadn’t discussed this with Delron yet, but her judgment of this issue was to keep it secret so that they could continue their investigation unimpeded, but it may not have been so obvious to Delron. He seemed to have followed her cue at the Board of Tourism meeting, but would he relent to Adam before she could warn him not to do it? Adam was very charming, so Lisa esteemed that Delron would give in eventually, so she opted to speak up and hopefully head off any release of information that should have stayed secret! “I’m new in this city, so I don’t know what’s considered normal here, but the grocery store flooding and the random house-fire does seem a tad abnormal…”

“It’s abnormal even by our standards!” Adam relayed to her. “But speaking of the Dennison fire, you know that mist hanging over some of the houses that day? I saw it over Blackthorn Orchard!”

“Really? When did this happen?” Lisa’s muscles tightened up upon hearing this- she simply couldn’t handle another apparitional attack that day! She had dealt with two yesterday, but at last they were spread out to give her hours of a break! Never contending with more attacks again would have been preferable, but if she had to vie with more, she at least wanted a period of rest so she could plan things out! Actually, she really aspired to resolve this catastrophe prior to the next incident occurring at all, so she crossed her fingers that his revelation didn’t signify that anything else was imminent!

Adam reported, “It was yesterday afternoon. I was working in the yard when I saw it. I drove by the property to ensure everything was alright, and the area was just as quiet as it typically was. It left after dinner, and as far as I know, nothing went on over there. Maybe the mist was nothing and I’ve lost my mind!”

Lisa couldn’t in good conscious allow him to question his sanity when his instincts had drawn him so close to the truth! She reassured Adam, “I don’t think you’ve lost your mind!”

“Thanks!” Adam beamed at her, and she could have melted by this gesture! He appeared to have gotten bolstered by her vote of confidence, and it buoyed her spirits to have had that sort of effect on him! Plus, he seriously looked dreamy when he gazed at her like that! It was almost tempting to beckon him in for a kiss, and she swore in that instance she could have been successful in that endeavor… Adam abruptly cleared his throat, and then he reminded her, “Don’t forget to join us at the Halloween Hoedown!”

“Sounds like a blast!” Lisa lied. As he departed, she recalled that his relationship to some of her adversarial figures may put her in jeopardy, and she pondered if he aimed to toy with her emotions for a sinister purpose…

Lisa noticed some movement out of the corner of her eye, and she glimpsed over to it only to see Delron trying to light up a cigarette! “Delron!” she snapped.

Delron swiftly stashed it away, and he apologized, “Sorry! This whole day has been stressful though! I don’t like keeping secrets!”

“You won’t have to for long ‘cause we’re gonna nip this problem in the bud!’ Lisa avowed. “So, tell me what clue you found out! I’m dying to hear it!”

“Oh! Well, you were the one who shared it with me!” When Delron observed her startlement over that assertion, he explained, “You said she wanted to especially target you ‘cause you had family in Melas, so if we can trace your ancestors, we could learn her identity! It’s not much, but my history professor husband always says if you want to know what will happen in the future, you must study the past! If we can learn her story, then maybe we can learn her motivation for this violence and use that knowledge to put a stop to it!”

Lisa initially felt surprised by this notion since she expected him to divulge information about how to combat a dangerous entity, but his logic in learning what happened to this villainess while she was still alive made total sense! In any case, she had no other leads to go on, so she deemed it worth a shot! “I’m on board! Ooh, I’ve always wanted to do one of those ancestry sites!”

Delron asserted, “I’ve got more access to historical records than they do! Tell me the name of one of your grandfathers.”

“My dad’s dad was named Hawthorne,” Lisa stated.

“Hawthorne Bassett… His father was Matthew Bassett, and he lived in Botwulfshire most of his life. His father, Clifford, also Botwulfshire. Clifford’s father, Nathaniel…” Delron’s brows furrowed as he studied his phone’s screen.

Lisa’s interest piqued at this juncture! Did he discover something about her great-great-grandfather that pertained to their phantom predicament? He didn’t say anything else, and that was unacceptable to her! If he found anything that could help them defeat this supernatural enemy, he definitely had to spill the beans! “What is it?”

Delron disclosed, “It shows Nathaniel moving to Botwulfshire in eighteen fifty six, but it doesn’t have any other records besides that, not even a birth record! It’s like this guy came out of nowhere!”

“Woah!” Lisa expressed as she witnessed this irregularity for herself. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this ghost says I’m related to someone who played a part in her murder and one of my ancestors has no record! Something transpired that he wanted to hide from the world!”

“He must have changed his name,” Delron surmised. “Did you hear about any other names that your relatives went by?”

Lisa mulled it over for a minute, and then she notified Delron, “I can’t come up with anything! Maybe my cousin knows something…” Delron shrugged, and as Lisa pulled Lydia up in her contacts, she prayed that she was privy to that vital data! “Hey there, Lydia!”

With a children’s show blasting in the background and the sound of food cooking prominently protruding into her ear, Lydia greeted her, “Hi, Lisa! What’s the matter?”

“Nothing’s the matter!” Lisa fibbed. “What made you believe that?”

“You usually text me! You only call when a catastrophe is afoot,” Lydia pointed out.

Lisa put as much cheer into her speech as possible as she addressed her, “Everything’s great! My coworker and I… got bored, and since his husband’s a history professor, he can easily trace people’s lineages. He was doing our dads’ side, and we reached a dead end. Nathaniel Bassett has a record of arriving in Botwulfshire, but after that, it’s blank! We’re assuming he changed his name, so I was just curious to see if you knew about any other names that run in our family…” Lisa tried to convey complete casualness, but inwardly, her heart was pumping wildly at the possibilities of her response!

Lydia went silent for a few seconds, and then she apprised Lisa, “Actually, I remember seeing Granpda Hawthorne’s baby book, and someone wrote in it with his last name misspelled. His great grandpa scribbled it out and wrote, ‘Never forget the second t!’ in all caps. Try Bassett with one t.” A kid started crying, so Lydia briefed her, “I gotta go! ‘Kay, bye!”

With a flood of excitement coursing through her veins, Lisa turned to Delron to review this news. He appeared to have been ten steps ahead of her, and his face grew pale at what he gazed at! “What’d you find?” she inquired with burning intrigue.

“I’ve located your Melas ancestor…” Delron professed. “And I think I figured out what fate the ghost endured…”

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 11

“I’m the witch!” the man claimed. Lisa got confused by that assertion, so, with overt irritation, the man clarified, “The one who greeted you at the bus station!”

Lisa could have kicked herself for not coming up with that explanation herself! With the threat of a ghostly attack imminent, it hadn’t occurred to her that ordinary instances were possible! She sheepishly regarded him, “Oh! I didn’t recognize you without the costume!”

The man indignantly reacted to that claim, “It’s not a costume! It’s a persona! When I wear street clothes, I’m JT Ernice, but when I don the witchly uniform, I’m Fredwina the Welcomer!”

“JT! What are you doing out there?” a man cried out from within the dwelling.

“It’s not my fault this is taking so long!” JT quarreled. “I can’t force the delivery people to gain an iota of competency for us!”

Lisa bristled at that slant! They neglected their load due to their concern for the safety of the malevolent essence’s target, but if she knew what a nasty piece of work JT was, perhaps she wouldn’t have rushed so much! Perhaps he sort of deserved whatever she had in store for him… Lisa shook that concept out of her thoughts! Even if JT wasn’t so pleasant, he hadn’t merited whatever physical or psychological torture this villain planned on executing! She felt somewhat guilty for partly causing this spat by not assisting Delron with retrieve the books, but she wanted to stay behind and observe this newly haunted abode in case somebody got assailed, but now that she knew how discourteous their patron was, she wished she let Delron wait here while she got the publications! She recognized that Delron likely did have this knowledge, and she made a mental note to chew him out about it later!

Delron finally arrived, and he asked JT, “Where do you want them?”

“On the shelf behind the round table.” JT stepped aside in order for them to enter, and both Lisa and Delron grabbed an armful of tomes. As they lugged it inside, Lisa’s imagination went wild wondering the different possibilities of what they may encounter in this visit!

“You may as well have let them take their time!” a portly man with bushy, red mutton chops grumbled from a wooden table with grin trim on the countertop. He was wedged between a giant woman wearing fluffy, pink frills and a robust old man leaning back in his chair twiddling his thumbs. A guy with a short stature and round spectacles, which made him resemble an owl, smoked a pipe between two empty seats, and the billowy haze he emitted filled up the room! Lisa didn’t feel confident she could spot signs of the unusual from this strange lot! The portly man went on, “Almira is using the restroom again!”

His colleagues groaned, and the pink woman complained, “Almira always takes ten years to use the facility!”

The others concurred with her sentiments, and Lisa was glad they had to go outside since they could escape from that awkwardness! She had hoped that Almira would have emerged from the latrine and confronted her jerky coworkers, but unfortunately, she did not! The owlish guy opined, “If she knew that we were on such an important deadline, she should have avoided her digestive triggers!”

“Here, here!” the robust man agreed. “This is quite irresponsible! Why must we keep her employed?”

“Blair, you know she’s the best at what she does! She’s a marketing genius! We’ll have to settle and make peace with this delay!” JT sat down and pouted about this inevitability.

Delron and Lisa retrieved one more set of titles, and when they returned, the pink woman declared, “I’m not waiting for the end of our project to open this wine up!” She grabbed a bottle of merlot, and as she uncorked it, she justified herself, “She can force me to wait, but she can’t force me to do so with jangled nerves!”

As she poured a glass for each of the members present, Lisa and Delron finished their delivery. Delron pulled Lisa to the side and asked, “Should we stay and watch out for… whatever that was?” 

“We can’t just stay in their house,” Lisa hushedly answered. “We could hang around the outside and-.”

“You two can go now!” JT gestured towards the exit. “Your services are no longer needed.”

The owlish guy not so quietly whispered, “What? Are they expecting a tip?” The bizarre bunch chortled at his jab, and neither Lisa nor Delron knew what to do other than vacate the premises. They both felt uneasy about leaving them alone with that venomous apparition, but it didn’t seem like they had a choice. Lisa wondered how long it would occupy this building, and she was trying to gauge how long she and Delron could hover around the perimeter when suddenly…

Lisa and Delron froze in their tracks when they heard the five individuals behind them all do a collective spit-take! They turned around and were shocked to see blood had splattered all over the counter! None of the people in this party appeared to have gotten hurt, but they all appeared ill! The owlish guy braced himself against the stand, the pink woman was retching into a nearby houseplant, JT cradled himself by wrapping his arms around his knees, and Blair was writhing on the ground! The owlish guy groaned, “We were poisoned!” 

“That wasn’t poison! That was blood!” JT weakly examined the glass, and Lisa could see that the liquid inside was, indeed, bodily fluid!

“It was merlot when I poured it!” the pink woman asserted before vomiting once more.

A middle-aged woman with long, frizzy hair and a black dress that reached the tips of her shoes came down the stairs and gasped, “How did I do that?”

Delron enquired, “What did you do?” Almira pursed her lips, and with wide eyes and a pale visage, she refused to say another word.

“We need to call nine one one!” Lisa decreed as she denoted that Blair had become more still and showed no suggestions of getting back up again.

“But they wouldn’t do much good against the-.” Delron cut himself off when he caught sight of Almira’s interest in their dialogue heightening. He bit his tongue as Lisa got on the phone.

The paramedics wheeled Blair out of the room as they examined the other subjects, and as Blair’s aides espied somebody at the entrance, one of them reported, “It appears to be four cases of haemochromatosis- they drank a toxic amount of blood!”

A familiar voice puzzled, “Why would anyone do that?”

“Oh no!” Lisa cringed. Next to her ex, he was the last person she wanted to deal with at a juncture like this!

“What is it?” Delron catechized.

Prior to Lisa having the ability to reply to him, Sheriff Marshal Hopkins strolled in! He began to survey the scene, and Lisa lowered her posture as though she could hide herself with this movement. Thankfully, JT got his attention preceding his viewing of her! JT groggily snapped, “We didn’t want to! It was like someone was holding the glass and forcing it down our throats!”

Marshal probed, “Who would do something like that?” He swiveled his head and caught a glimpse of Lisa by the stairwell! “You!”

“You can’t accuse me of having anything to do with this!” Lisa defended against the allegations that were clearly forming in his brainwaves. “We didn’t go anywhere close to their drinks!”

“It’s true,” JT begrudgingly admitted, “I wouldn’t let those two touch me!”

The pink woman advised him, “Don’t insult them! We’ll get attacked again!”

Marshal gave Lisa a reproachful look, so she reminded him, “We just established that we didn’t touch them! Don’t you think that they would’ve told you if we made them guzzle down a ton of blood?”

“Hmm…” Marshal concurred with her argument, but he obviously didn’t want to do that, so he glanced over to the eccentric lot as if they could help him out.

“It simply seemed odd that we endured this cruelty in their presence…” the owlish guy remarked.

Lisa folded her arms and posed to them, “What exactly are you accusing us of?”

No one had a logical justification for their theory, so they resorted to eying them suspiciously. Delron bravely spoke up, “They were the ones who brought us in here with their library request, and we’ve fulfilled that. Now, we’d like to return to Brigfell… unless you want to ask us any questions…”

“Do you know anything about what took place here?” Marshal pressed them with a stare that thoroughly scanned their behavior as though he aimed to uproot the slightest tinges of deception that they harbored.

“No!” Lisa and Delron chimed in unison. Lisa wasn’t about to tell this snobby sheriff that she accidentally released the spirit of a vengeful psychopath- she couldn’t picture a beneficial consequence of that! Whether he locked her in a loony bin or in the slammer, she doubted that anyone else would take on this phantom burden! She adamantly rejected the idea of putting the region in peril over this officer’s tunnel-visioned prejudice!

Marshal scowled, and then he unwillingly ordained, “Leave! But remember, if you cause any other funny business, I’ll come find you!” Lisa had a million smart-alecky retorts to his comments swirling through her skull, but as much as she would’ve enjoyed telling off this bombastic brute, she restrained herself in order to prevent this uncomfortable interaction from getting prolonged. She and Delron remained mute as they dashed out of the vicinity. A small crowd had gathered outside of the residence, and they erupted in a flurry of murmurs at their appearance. Delron and Lisa avoided meeting anyone’s gaze as they marched down the street.

As Lisa and Delron shelved the non-fiction section, they heard Melanie vexedly mumbling. Delron checked in with her, “Is everything alright?”

Melanie ranted, “No! Everything is most certainly not alright! I finally got fully staffed, and I have to do the bulk of the work! I can’t believe I have to go all the way across the city to bring someone a single book!”

“We can do it!” Lisa pointed out as Melanie stomped over to the children’s stories.

“No, you can’t!” Melanie barked. “Not ‘til things cool down! Nobody else is gonna accuse our library of misconduct ‘cause the assistants happened to be in the wrong spot at the right time!”

Melanie slammed the door as she departed, and Lisa as well as Delron waited until they heard her car drive off to talk. Delron dropped what was in his hands and frightfully stated, “That was real! A ghost really got the power to really do damage to humans! This is real! It can’t be real!”

Lisa countered, “Yes, it’s real, but it doesn’t have to stay in our reality! How do we get rid of that fiend?”

“I dunno! I don’t even understand how she manifested into our lives at all! Frankly, I just accepted that the Proctor Bible was cursed and never gave any consideration as to how it happened! Maybe I should have- I could’ve stopped this disaster from unfolding!” Delron lamented.

“Don’t beat yourself up over this!” Lisa consoled him. “Sooner or later, somebody was bound to touch it! And it’s probably best it landed on us ‘cause we’re willing to fight this! Not everyone would!”

Delron seemed slightly buoyed by her fortitude and nodded as he strove to build his confidence back up again. With a tinge of trembling in his tone, Delron quizzed her, “What do you know about her so far?”

Lisa lamented, “Sadly, not much! I’ve tried studying information on the supernatural, but I haven’t discovered anything useful! Sorry! I know it’s asking a lot to solve a mystery when we have zero clues!”

“That’s not true!” Delron disagreed. “We do know one thing…”

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 10

The walls shook as Lisa opened the entrance of her apartment! After she slammed the door shut, she took off her pants and shirt in order to avoid getting red liquid all over the floor. She picked up the drenched garments and bitterly declared, “They’re ruined!” She hurled them into the garbage can by the kitchen, and she noted that under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t have sweated about a bit of clothes that became unusable, but since she was broke now, she needed the few possessions she owned to function! She stomped over to her dresser and put on her pajamas; she definitely needed to shower, but she never wanted to go through an experience like what occurred this evening again, so she didn’t want to do anything else but solve this mystery!

She sat on her bed and opened up a book on the paranormal. After a minute or two, she recognized that she was reading stories about encounters, and she didn’t need anymore reminders of what it felt like to be in the vicinity of a ghost! She skipped ahead to the next section of the publication, but it was more of the same! She kept scanning the pages to search for keywords that would reference the information she needed, but it became apparent that this tome had wasted her time! She threw it across the room and rubbed her temples in frustration.

All of a sudden, the sensation of an animal rubbing against her skin was detected by her legs! No creature was in the room with her, so that only meant one thing… “No! Not again! Not tonight!” Lisa bolted up and commanded, “Show yourself! Quit playing games and do it already!” Lisa braced herself for another violent confrontation with that villainous spirit, and…

A transparent cat manifested itself into the studio! It no longer bore color, but Lisa could tell that it used to be darkly hued. It had a collar with the name Hester imprinted on the tag, and Lisa felt imbecilic for getting so worked up by what was clearly a departed pet! Its sweet face appeared so hurt by the harsh tone she used on it, and a pang of guilt stung her! She hated to afflict an innocent soul like that, so she earnestly apologized to Hester, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know! I thought you were someone else, and-!”

Hester disappeared, and Lisa howled in tribulation! She couldn’t believe she had chased off the only individual who showed her kindness that eventide! She leaned against the wall to keep from collapsing onto the floor, and as she contemplated all of the various disasters she caused, she felt the surface beneath her get cold! She glimpsed behind her, and she caught sight of the open curtains by her window. She fixated on the rushing river in the rear of her abode, and she pondered why a chill always set in whenever she beheld it. She decided that it didn’t matter at the moment and violently pulled the curtains shut.

She parked herself in front of her reading material again, but she realized that her brain was too fuzzy to absorb anything else until morning. She questioned what fresh chaos would emerge as a result of her inaction, and then she speculated if she would ever gain any luck in this town! She theorized that perhaps she wasn’t meant to stay in Melas. She dreaded the concept of searching for a new job after doing it nonstop for the last three weeks, and moving after arriving only days ago daunted her, but she couldn’t picture herself surviving much longer at this rate if she stayed! She concluded that once she dealt with this phantasm issue, she needed to escape this place! With a heavy sigh, she grabbed her phone and began combing through the employment pages again!

Delron was chatting with Melanie at the checkout counter when Lisa burst into the front access with a couple of armfuls of bags! “Forgive my tardiness!” Lisa breathily belted out. “I was completely out of food, and the only grocery store open in this city is on the complete opposite end from us!”

“Why didn’t you just go to Dullahan’s?” Melanie probed. “It’s only a few blocks away!”

“You didn’t hear what happened at Dullahan’s?” Delron canvassed Melanie, and when she indicated she hadn’t, he filled her in, “It flooded real bad, and they gotta close their doors to assess the damage.”

Lisa strove to not seem so regretful about that event. She may have prevented disaster in that instance, but she still held responsibility for that apparition’s mayhem! She certainly didn’t mean to cause harm to anyone, but still, she couldn’t shake the shame for not doing more to prevent this disaster from unfolding! She was going to make things right, but in order to do that, she would have to ensure her continuation of this mission by pretending that nothing was wrong and throwing suspicion off of her trail! She couldn’t let anyone interfere, and she needed to act as soon as possible in case she obtained employment elsewhere, so they could think what they want about her impact on her ex, but they could not know her culpability in this endeavor!

Melanie was too lost in thought to catch sight of her shift in mood. She surprised Lisa by abruptly airing her thoughts, “…Well, you’re not late now, but you will be after you put your stuff away…” She mulled it over for a flash, and then she decreed, “You’ve got five minutes to put away your perishables, and then you gotta assist Delron with the next delivery.” Lisa nodded in comprehension, and not wanting to waste a single second, she dashed upstairs.

Lisa went down the outside stairs and saw Delron loading up their delivery bicycle with several titles. “Wow, someone doesn’t wanna go outside on Halloween!” Lisa joked.

“Oh, quite the contrary!” Delron politely differed. “These are for the Board of Tourism. They wanna do some final research before the holiday travel really picks up! People come here to get scared, and they make sure they’re truly frightened by using as much accuracy as feasible!”

“The History of Witches,” Lisa read the cover of a collection that she loaded onto the wagon. “The witchcraft victims weren’t witches in reality though! So, how is that accurate?”

Delron told her, “Well, they wouldn’t get a lot of visitors by acting like peasant farmers, would they?” Lisa tittered at his quip. When they got everything packed, Lisa eyeballed the overly filled cart with concern, but Delron anticipated her worry and assured her, “Neither of us are riding this! We’ll each take a handlebar and wheel it to the Head of Tourism’s house.”

They each grabbed a side, and as they towed their vehicle, Lisa observed that the street was empty. It registered to her that she had the optimal opportunity to admit to Delron what she did! She would’ve preferred to have kept it to herself completely, but she could see she was struggling to reach a viable solution on her own, so she had to find out if he could offer her any aid in this dangerous conquest! She fretted that her assessment of his character had been incorrect and that he would blab her secret to everyone, but something in her gut said that it would prove prudent to involve him, so she took a deep breath, and…

“Do you ever watch Galaxy Trekkers?” Delron queried.

“Huh?” Lisa had gotten so focused on her complicated crunch that it almost blindsided her to hear him bring up anything unrelated to that topic. “Oh, my dad was into that show, but I never got into it. Listen, I-.”

Delron interrupted her, “It’s my husband and I’s favorite! Denis texted me last night and showed me a picture of one of the professors in New Orleans. Doesn’t she look like Prynne Dimmesdale?”

Without really glancing at the photo, Lisa relayed to Delron, “Yeah, sure. Look, I need to-.”

“The professor hadn’t even heard of Prynne Dimmesdale!” Delron prattled on without the slightest hint that he had caught on to Lisa’s need to make an important admission. “Can you believe that? She’s the spitting image of Captain Nichols, and no one ever-!”

“I touched the Proctor’s Bible!” Lisa blurted out. She didn’t want to behave so rudely, but she had no clue how long it would take to get to their destination, so she felt as though if she didn’t immediately confess to her grave blunder, she wouldn’t get another chance! “I got distracted by some shit my ex-boyfriend started on social media, and I accidentally grabbed it! Now, there’s a ghost who wants to get revenge against the descendants of those who got her killed, and the entire town is a target! I’m so sorry!”

Lisa expected Delron to get angry and lecture her, but also considered that he would get scared and perhaps even have a panic attack. What she didn’t anticipate was confusion! Delron’s brows furrowed as he drank in her words, and after a brief period of consideration, he puzzled, “Huh? Was this a dream you had?”

Following an exasperated sigh, Lisa reiterated her point, “No! I thought I was dreaming at first, but the ghost is real! She endured a terrible murder, and she’s been waiting to get payback against our ancestors by hurting us! Especially me! Evidently, I had family here a long time ago!”

“Ghosts can’t hurt people though!” Delron perplexedly argued. “They can’t do anything more than bother the living!”

“She can do more than that!” Lisa contended. “She created the flood at Dullahan’s! And she started the fire at the Dennison home! I don’t know how she does it, but she can make things appear out of nowhere! At first, she just spilled cranberry juice, but soon, the store changed into a red river!” Delron seemed alarmed by her remarks, but it was obvious that he hadn’t accepted her explanation. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

Delron cagily reacted, “Well, I… um…”

All of a sudden, the air around them grew frigid! A breeze barreled by the two of them, and it carried a devious cackle with it! When it passed them, Lisa asserted, “She’s about to strike again!” Delron’s visage lost color, but through his stiffened muscles, he nodded in consent.

They trailed the movement of the gale by the effect it had on the objects in its path. It flew to the townhomes next to the old courthouse, and it became more translucent as it dove into the first dwelling in the row! The chosen vessel emitted a slight glow, and Delron denoted, “That’s Mister Ernice’s place! That’s where we’re supposed to go!”

“Then, that’s where we’re going!” Lisa decreed.

“But…!” Delron initially objected to this notion, but then he begrudgingly acquiesced, “What are we gonna find when we get there?”

Lisa responded, “No idea!” She steeled herself for a dark, inevitable undertaking, and then she marched towards the afflicted terrain. Delron gulped, but soon, he joined her.

The windows were slightly foggy and offered Lisa no insight into what may have been transpiring in this edifice. Several antique bottles were lined along the edge of the glass, and they remained untouched, but she did not take that as an indicator of safety and security within! She didn’t overhear anything heinous occurring, and she prayed that it stayed that way! She crossed her fingers that they could respond hastily enough to save those who dwelt within these walls! Lisa knocked on the door, and she as well as Delron waited for Mister Ernice with bated breath…

“Oh, finally! Help has arrived!” a male with a slim figure and somewhat softened features dryly proclaimed.

“Whatever you need, we’ll do it! What’s happening?” Lisa pressed him.

He gazed at them peculiarly, and Lisa couldn’t understand why he would bear such an ungrateful attitude towards two individuals willing to rescue him from his plight! The man opened his arms up and gestured towards his surroundings. “Where are they?”

Delron catechized, “Where are what?” It suddenly dawned on him, and he groaned, “Oh no! The books! I’ll go grab them!”

The man clicked his tongue in annoyance as Delron jogged back towards their load, and then he griped, “You forgot the books? You had one job! Seriously, is this what you moved to Melas to do?”

“How did you know I moved to Melas for this?” Lisa feared that the malevolent essence may have given him personal information, and she apprehensively wondered what else he may have been privy to! She still aspired for a rational reason for this though, so she probed, “Do I know you?” 

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 9

“There you are!” Melanie exclaimed as soon as Lisa walked in.

            “I’m so sorry!” Lisa apologized. She wasn’t sure how Melanie pieced it together, but it seemed as though she discovered that Lisa had unleashed the curse of the Proctor Bible, and Lisa was prepared to endure the consequences of her heinous accident! “I didn’t mean to! And I’ll do everything I can to make up for it!”

            Melanie appeared taken aback by her groveling demonstration. “Wow! You don’t have to act so dramatic about it! I expected you to get lost on your first long run like that! I’m just glad you made it back okay! I got a little worried when you didn’t call us for directions!”

            Lisa felt foolish for emoting so much without knowing Melanie’s true intentions with this discussion! Although John began to suspect her involvement rather quickly, so she reckoned that it would only be a matter of time until others would cast an accusatory glance her way! She considered biting the bullet and confessing to it right then and there, but she feared that Melanie would fire her for this misdeed! She wouldn’t have missed Melas if she got forced to leave, but she didn’t have anywhere else to go from here! Plus, guilt would have eaten her alive if she left town after unleashing a terrible evil over the land! She wouldn’t have been able to live with herself if she didn’t do all she could to stop this phantom’s malice prior to her departure! In that instance, it occurred to her that she needed to take action towards a solution in this matter! Especially in the present moment since she was the only one who knew any of the facts! She inwardly prayed that she could thwart this vengeful apparition before she did any serious damage to anyone!

            “Did you give Mister Farrington his book?” Melanie inquired.

            “Yes,” Lisa replied with a slight hesitation. Technically, Adam took the book back as he walked away from the crime scene, but he received his order, so she felt justified in giving her that confirmation.

            Melanie told her, “Then we’re square! No more worries, alright?” Lisa nodded, but she privately thought there was not a conceivable measure for her to take to erase her present apprehension! She had an extremely valid motive for letting her anxiety flourish, but if she was going to pull off solving this dilemma, she recognized that she was going to have to sharpen her acting skills and convince the community around her that nothing was wrong. She smiled at Melanie, and then Melanie instructed, “Why don’t you assist Delron with his project?” Lisa readily complied and was glad that she had a good reason to break eye contact with her!

            Lisa approached Delron by a short shelf, and she drummed up as much enthusiasm as she could as she posed to him, “What are we working on?”

            “We’re updating the new publications,” Delron explained. “Find any that are labeled as May or sooner and take them off of the…” He peered at her curiously, and then he probed, “Is there something bothering you?”

            “Nope!” Lisa lied. She discerned from Delron’s expression that he didn’t buy her claim, and she chastised herself for not exercising enough caution! Delron looked at her with genuine concern, and Lisa was tempted to divulge the details of her predicament, but with Melanie in earshot of them, she didn’t dare! She figured Delron was likely to be more discrete since he possessed authentic empathy, but Melanie most certainly did not! Still, she couldn’t fake like she felt fine in this juncture, so she decided to supply Delron with a fraction of her reality. “There was a fire in the neighborhood by Harvest Moon Hollow! A boy got carried out by ambulance! It was scary!”

            Delron reacted compassionately, “Dang! That’s awful!” As they scanned through the titles in this section, Delron interrupted a somewhat heavy silence by pressing her, “Are you sure that’s all that’s disturbing you?”

            Lisa adamantly stated, “Yeah!” It wasn’t honest, but she put force behind her conviction in hopes that Delron would drop it until they were alone. Delron seemed unconvinced, so Lisa changed the subject, “So, I heard your husband is a professor! What does he teach?” That got Delron chatting animatedly! Lisa was pleased he became so engaged, but it was hard to concentrate on what he relayed to her! She kept eyeballing Melanie and beseeching the universe to give her a basis to leave so she could swiftly search for an antidote to the poison that got released onto the world!

            “Welcome to Dullahan’s!” a clerk in the produce section greeted her in a fashion that did not make Lisa feel welcomed. With the level of unfriendliness in his tone, she didn’t think a response was warranted. A few other shoppers stared at her incredulously as they passed by, and Lisa tried to avoid eye contact with them. She didn’t want to account for her role in the Dennison fire until she had a plan to prevent another disaster, and a twinge of guilt ran through her due to her lack of progress in that realm! She had meant to immediately do research on that subject, but she didn’t even know where to begin! Brigfell had a lot of tomes that talked about ghosts, but she didn’t really see much on how to get rid of them! She wished that this small grocery store delivered food to their customers so that she could have kept working! She let out a frustrated sigh as she navigated through the market’s layout!

            “Hmm… sage…” Lisa gazed at a container of herbs and contemplated purchasing it. Some of the information she read about the supernatural swore that burning sage was an effective act of protection against unwanted specters, but Delron did not share that opinion whatsoever. She wondered if it was worth a shot right as a bottle of cooking wine got placed next to her. She glanced up to view who had become adjacent to her, and no one else was there! Nobody could be seen in her entire periphery! She wondered if this served as a sign that the spiteful essence had manifested there, but she dismissed that as implausible. Surely, she wouldn’t strike in such a crowded facility! She felt fairly confident that her theory had merit, but just to exercise prudence, she dashed to another sector!

            As she scanned through the coffee, Lisa overheard a familiar voice articulate, “Look, ladies! It’s her!” She rotated her head towards the sound, and she grimaced to verify the source of the chattering was, indeed, Abby along with Ann and Beth! At a stressful phase of life like this, she seriously didn’t want to deal with these three snobs! She strove to ignore them, but then Abby directed her cohorts, “Go tell her!”

            Ann objected, “She’ll know by my invoice that we’re no charging her for the session she walked out on!”

            “I know, but we need an excuse to start a conversation with her,” Abby conveyed to Ann. “You know, so we could find out more about… you know what!”

            “What?” Beth enquired. Abby and Ann ogled at her with admonishment, and after a short spell, it clicked for Beth. “Oh yeah! I’ll go over there! I’m not afraid!”

            Lisa broke off her pretense of not detecting their words and apprised them, “None of you needs to come over- I can hear you! Thanks for not charging me for that class! That’s all you’re getting from me!”

            She attempted to storm of somewhere else, but then Abby remarked, “You do realize that coffee is bad for you, don’t you? There are vitamins that do a better job of-.”

            “I’ll consider it!” Lisa fibbed as she made another bid for distancing herself from that trio.

            “I’m only trying to help!” Abby assured her.

            It might have been convincing if Ann and Beth weren’t snickering behind her. With a hint of vexation in her speech, Lisa affirmed to Abby, “I don’t need any help!”

            Instantly following that sentence, a can of coffee ruptured and shot myriads of grains onto the floor! The triad of termagants cackled delightfully, and Lisa successfully used their distraction to dart away from them. Her blood boiled at their callous antics, but her mind got more preoccupied with how that coffee burst. She couldn’t fathom how that could have occurred naturally, but she chose to believe it was possible so that she could carry on with her errand.

            “There she is!” a stocker very interestedly expressed to his colleague as they stacked jugs of cranberry juice into the shape of evil eyes. Lisa gritted her teeth- she very much doubted that they got so enrapt by anyone else in there!

            “I’m shocked she would have the gall to show her face in public like that!” The other stocker vehemently shook his head. Lisa grew miffed by their gossip until she remembered the near tragedy she unintentionally set in motion, and then she lamentably admitted to herself that their chitchat had merit! She speedily swiped a loaf of bread and started marching away from the scene… until…

            The first stocker shouted to her, “Why can’t you just leave Tommy alone?”

            Lisa’s veins returned to coursing with a burning animosity at the reference to her ex! Regardless of her unexpected release of a terrible spirit, she didn’t deserve to get vilified for what transpired at the proposal concert! He cheated on her, and she was getting punished for it? It didn’t seem fair! She wanted to rebuke their slander, but she also wanted to move on with her day so that she could return to her antidotal research that vitally needed to get done. She prepared herself to not pay attention to them and travel to an area far from where they were, but several onlookers grew intrigued by the stockers’ antics, and she no longer felt that she could shop there in peace! She begrudged the process, but she hoped to hasten the ordeal with a speck of cleverness! She smartly swiveled her heels, met their focus, and retorted, “I did! He’s on the other side of the country, isn’t he?”

            A handful of people chuckled at her riposte, but most were aghast at her audacity. The second stocker scowled and chided her, “You know what he meant! Why did you have to hurt him like that?”

            “‘Cause I’m wicked!” Lisa sardonically laughed like a stereotypical antagonist. “There! Is that what you wanted to her?”

            “You think this is a joke?” a nearby shopper catechized her. “The man was a saint!”

            Lisa folded her arms in defiance of that premise. “Have you ever listened to his lyrics? He literally sang about worshipping the devil!” Nobody relished absorbing that detail, but she sensed a obstinate attitude towards the truth that would make it impossible for anyone to side with her, so she announced, “I could give you my version of the event, but none of you want to accept that maybe Tommy Dane isn’t so perfect, so I’m gonna continue with my task! ‘Kay? Bye!”

            Feet away from her original position, Lisa froze- the wrathful entity from the library was floating above them! No one else appeared to have noticed though, and preceding her ability to call attention to it, the embittered shopper who had recently spoken out encouraged the stockers, “Give it to her, boys! I want you to bury her!”

            Based on the gleeful smile on the ghost’s malevolent visage, Lisa knew that his phrasing had given permission for mayhem to reign! She spun around as if she could warn the throng of the pending disaster, but it was too late! One by one, the bottles in the display exploded! Bystanders fled from the blasts, but it did little to benefit them- the aisle soon became a river of red juice! Lisa grabbed onto a support beam, and while she braced herself from getting swept off, she observed that the amount of fluid rushing through the building was far from what the broken vessels contained! It spooked her to realize that the otherworldly being could manifest materials from elsewhere!

            The liquid reached her waist and threatened to rise further, but Lisa wasn’t going to let herself or anyone else get buried in this swill! She spotted an emergency exit close to her, so she used all of her strength to kick it open! Her effort was successful, and the perilous stream drained out of there! When the danger elapsed, Lisa surveyed the vicinity. It didn’t seem as though anybody sustained any serious injuries, but they were quite shaken up! After a minute of stunned silence, Abby hollered at Lisa, “What did you do?” Lisa couldn’t give her an answer!

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 8

Lisa hit the breaks on her bicycle immediately! A cloud of dust spurred from the dirt road, but Lisa could hardly care about that at the moment! Her heart was beating fast, and she had to calm herself down from this near accident! Lisa was already on edge going into this expedition, and this odd appearance only made matters worse! She took a deep breath, and…

            The fox gave out a happy little bark prior to scampering into the woods on the other side of a covered bridge! Lisa laid her head on the handlebars, and she inwardly shamed herself for getting scared by such a gentle creature! Other than its abruptness, it did nothing to cause her to think she was in peril! So, why was she this nervous? She pedaled through the unavoidable wooden tunnel, and her eyes kept darting from left to right as though she expected something else to dart out in front of her path. The structure was sturdy and gave no indication of foul play, and yet the further she went, the more her apprehension grew! She couldn’t fathom a single reason to have this belief… Unless her phantom vision was real…

            She emerged from the other end unscathed, and she took a deep breath of relief! She thought this served as evidence that her fears were unfounded, but then she saw a sign that she may not have been in the clear yet… A billboard for Harvest Moon Hollow loomed over her, and while she adored the festive presentation that it projected, her closeness to this site made her anxiety heighten! The vengeful spirit said that she wanted to get revenge on the descendants of her wrongdoers in this town, and Melanie said that Mister Farrington was the most popular man in Melas, so was there some sort of connection there?

            Sunflower stalks surrounded the pumpkin groves, and Lisa found it absolutely enchanting! She hated herself for it though because she felt as though she was falling into a trap of false security! She headed towards a quaint farmhouse since she assumed the library’s client would be waiting for her there. The yellow paint emitted an aura of friendliness, and the large porch had so much room for entertaining! She adored the decorations that were sprinkled throughout its front- it was exactly how she always wanted to decorate her own home, but Tommy never let her do it! She gazed at the display wistfully, and she had to literally shake herself out of her fervor so that she could resist temptation!

            Lisa heard a noise coming from the direction of the crops. She turned to face it and braced herself for the worst! Whatever nefarious plot that the villainous essence had in store for everyone, she felt sure that she had chosen this precise juncture to enact it! Her blood pressure skyrocketed… and then it fell as she saw that the perpetrator was simply a man working on some horses in an old-fashioned red barn! She got irritated by her apprehension continually spooking her, but she couldn’t help but theorize that perhaps it was on high alert for a reason…

            “Mister Farrington?” The words escaped from Lisa’s lips before she could stop herself! She was hoping to be able to drop off his book and run, but if he didn’t find it and complained, she knew she would get in hot water with her boss. She certainly couldn’t risk that, but she hadn’t mentally prepared herself to interact with him! She didn’t know how she would have done that considering she knew very little about this man, but it would have made her feel more confident to cope with whatever he had to offer if she had mulled over some possible scenarios for this instance! It was too late for that now!

            “Be right there!” Mister Farrington told her. He had a strong but very kind voice, and Lisa found it strangely soothing! She couldn’t figure out why she instinctively gravitated to him until he started walking over to her…

            Based on Melanie’s formal framing of his name, Lisa assumed that Mister Farrington was an older person, but he actually looked around her own age! He didn’t have the appearance of a farmer in her mind either- with his smooth, olive-toned skin, slick, onyx hair, and sparkling blue eyes, he seemed more fit for a cheesy holiday rom-com! When he gave her a big, toothy grin, her point only got exacerbated! The man was swoon-worthy enough to make her jump to the conclusion that his image couldn’t be real! Someone surely was setting her up for something! She wondered if that apparition concocted some type of mirage to lull her into danger, and a part of her got persuaded to drop off the publication he wanted and flee…

            When he got closer to her vicinity, she still had the urge to escape, but not out of a cautionary measure to avoid a dreadful adversary… She suddenly recalled her total lack of sleep, and she knew she was far from presenting herself in her finest form! It didn’t assuage her fretting to view all of the dust that collected onto her clothes! She esteemed that she didn’t stand a chance of impressing him, and that truly bothered her because she had a newly acquired desire to recreate one of those sappy romances she envisioned a man of his caliber to star in! She strove to drum up something clever to win him over, but all she could produce was, “Are you Mister Farrington?”

            She deemed that line as lame, but he smiled at her again and pleasantly responded, “Yes, but please, call me Adam!”

            “Hi, Adam! My name’s new, and I’m Lisa to this city!” She instantly realized she screwed that up and blushed furiously. “I mean… I… I’m Adam! No!”

            “Nice to meet you, Lisa!” Adam extended his hand, and Lisa gladly shook it! His skin definitely had a worker’s texture, but its tepid touch bore the comfort of a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day! She almost didn’t let go, but she made herself do it and quickly too in order to avoid sparking an uncomfortable situation! Adam inquired, “You here to buy some pumpkins for your yard?”

            Lisa replied, “No, I wish! There’s not a lot of room on the staircase to my studio, and I can’t decorate the bottom ‘cause that’s the library’s territory…” She cringed upon her accidental release of that information! Everyone in this region was so terrified of Brigfell that she felt certain that he would get creeped out at the knowledge of her residence and want nothing to do with her going forward!

            Adam discerned, “Oh, you’re here to deliver my party planning guide! Sorry, I made you go all the way out here! I’m just so busy with everything that needs to get done in this place that I didn’t have the time to get it myself!”

            “You’re not afraid to go into the library?” Lisa gasped in awe of that concept.

            “Nah!” Adam asserted. “I live next door to Blackthorn Orchard, so, you know…” He espied the blank expression on Lisa’s visage, so he supplemented his sentence, “Or maybe you don’t. Blackthorn Orchard is supposed to be super haunted too. People say they can hear a woman’s scream from there, but no one lives there anymore! And some claim to have seen a sad specter walking the grounds. I dunno, I haven’t seen evidence that anything is there except for old trees! I mean, I guess it’s far enough away that it could happen without me noticing it, but still…”

            Lisa’s morale got a boost from his sensible assessment, and she found the premise of inviting him to Brigfell alluring, but she worried that he would interpret that as a salacious proposition, which would have been terrible for customer relations… unless he went for it… She pushed that preposterous notion out of her thoughts and instead focused on another aspect of this conversation that intrigued her. “So, you don’t believe in ghosts?”

            Adam shrugged. “I’m not one to rule anything out, but I have yet to see any concrete proof that ghosts actually exist!”

            As if on cue, a woman’s shrill shriek sounded in the distance! Adam immediately glanced over to where the Blackthorn Orchard was located, but Lisa could tell it came from the south. She craned her neck towards that sector, and then she exclaimed, “There’s smoke!” Neither of them had to consult each other on how to react to this dilemma- they each heeded their instincts and sped towards the scene!

            Lisa took the bike to the grounds of the incident while Adam fled on foot. She got there slightly prior to his arrival, and she swore she was going to stumble across a horrible spectacle at the dwelling she previously passed with the eerie fog hovering over it, but the episode occurred next door! Several neighbors ogled at the tremendous inferno in horror, and Lisa wanted to share their sentiments, but she couldn’t repel her curiosity over the occasion! She had no proof of it, but she had a sneaking suspicion that this fire stemmed from supernatural means…

            “What happened?” Adam probed as soon as he got a full glimpse of the terrifying transpiration.

            “It came out of nowhere!” an onlooker filled him in. “No explosion or anything! All of a sudden- poof! The Dennison house became a giant torch!”

            Adam and Lisa faced each other questioningly. Neither of them had to say out loud that it seemed like a spooky coincidence for them to talk about the paranormal seconds before an unexplainable blaze breaking out! Lisa knew that Adam would want to search for a logical rationale for this calamity, and Lisa sincerely hoped he would discover something! Anything other than the evil she may have unintentionally released…

            A firefighter emerged from the flames with a teenage boy on his shoulder, and while a lady who was presumably his mother ran over to check on him, a guy standing with his family close-by let out a hideous howl! “I killed him!” he wailed.

            “Sweetheart, you did not!” his wife reassured him. “He’s going into the ambulance, so he’s still alive! Besides, you had nothing to do with this event!”

            “Yes, I did!” the husband argued. “I told him to turn his music down! I was just trying to meet a deadline, I didn’t want this!”

            The wife stated, “Asking him to lower the volume of his songs didn’t make their house burn up!”

            Her husband insisted, “If I had just learned to block it out, then everything would’ve been fine! But no, I let a stupid report cloud my judgment…”

            “John! You never left your office! You didn’t do this!” his wife affirmed.

            “I let the pressure get to me!” John cried out as if he hadn’t heard his wife at all. “I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean it!”

            John’s wife queried, “What didn’t you mean?”

            With a sniffly sob, John admitted, “I got so annoyed at him that I wished their home would get scorched and force them out of our lives forever! I wanted to get some peace and quiet! Not like this! Not like this!”

            Lisa’s heart beat wildly! She remembered the writing in the Proctor Bible vowing to make people’s darkest desires a reality so that they would tear each other apart, and she started to believe that the malevolent force she unleashed propagated this somehow! The feeling only grew when John’s wife attempted to solace him, “Sweetheart, thoughts can’t do harm!”

            Her phrase prompted Lisa’s insides to squirm into tight knots! Right as she was thinking it was more and more likely that her haunting vision manufactured this, John caught sight of her and manically interrogated her, “Why do you seem so guilty? Did you do this to me? Did you? ANSWER ME!”

            John’s wife escorted him into their abode, and as Lisa watched the water from the extinguished building trickle into the street, she inwardly berated herself for inciting a near tragedy! Adam articulated to her, “I’ll grab my book as I head out. Nice to meet you!” Lisa watched him leave, and she felt positive that he would avoid her from then on! She was devasted that she had ruined everything from this heinous act, and that position only got magnified as a maniacal cackle blew by in the wind…

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 6

“It’s just heat from my anger!” Lisa told herself as she stared at the Proctor Bible with wide eyes. “My burning rage caused its temperature to rise! Curses aren’t real!” She nearly convinced herself of this concept since it seemed so logical, but then the book began to move! She dropped it out of fright, but it did not plummet to the ground! Instead, it went upwards and floated in the air! Lisa climbed down the ladder to distance herself from this spooky spectacle, but her feet froze as she caught sight of it in her periphery! She gazed up in horror as the tome got enveloped by an eerie glow, and the circumstances behind this feat practically broke her brain! It had no rational reasoning, this outlandish oddity was so unbelievable that she wondered if she was dreaming! That sentiment only got exemplified when an almost transparent substance cascaded out of the pages! “I’m definitely dreaming!” Lisa exclaimed. “I have to be! This has gotta be a nightmare!”

“I’ve been awakened!” a menacing female’s voice cackled. The wisp that had emerged from the text formed into a woman’s figure, but a woman who lived long ago! Her long dress was embellished with ornate ruffles, and her hair’s half pony had been twisted in an antiquated fashion. She might’ve been a beauty if it weren’t for her malevolent smile and eyes full of spiteful venom! She observed Lisa’s scared stance with delight, and then she snickered, “I was hoping I would get you!”

Lisa queried, “Get me?” Panic truly set in at this juncture! How was she supposed to defend herself against a being who didn’t seem to exist in the natural world? She couldn’t think of anything else to do but find out what she was doomed to face. “What are you going to do?”

The spirit flew closer to her and responded, “What am I going to do? I’m going to get my revenge, that’s what! The entire town played a role in my murder, and since then, I’ve watched their descendents work, play, and do all of the things that I’ve never gotten a chance to do! No one shall get spared!”

“I’ve only been in Melas for a day!” Lisa protested. “I had nothing to do with your death!”

“Oh, yes you did!” The spirit came within inches of her visage, and Lisa wanted to look away, but she was frozen to the spot! “I know those organs of sight! They once belonged to the wretch that sealed my fate! I recognized you the instance you arrived! I’ve been placing my enclosure where you may touch it by accident during your entire stay! Once that vigilant man warned you of the consequences of this action, I thought you’d never lay a finger on it, but here we are!” She wafted into a higher position again, and then she celebrated, “I am free, and now, nothing will stop me!”

Her essence disappeared, and the Proctor Bible fell to the floor! For a moment, Lisa’s apprehension paralyzed her. Her shock made this experience difficult to absorb, but after the library seemingly settled down, she reflected on the information she gleaned. The woman got killed in an abhorrent manner, and she wanted to punish the current residents of this hamlet for the heinous act their ancestors did. She didn’t give Lisa any clues on how she intended to do that though! Her family from long ago apparently had a large part in this crime, and yet the spirit hadn’t done anything to her! The whole interaction was very odd, and Lisa reckoned that she needed to gather more facts in order to make sense of it all…

The one piece of evidence she had was right in front of her- the book! Delron had expressly forbade her from coming into contact with it, but seeing how that ship had sailed, she picked it up. She opened it, and on the leaf next to the title, someone wrote, “I’ll make all of their darkest wishes come true and watch them tear each other apart!” What did that mean? She couldn’t make heads or tails of it! How exactly would giving people their most vile aspirations cause them to harm one another? And how could a ghost accomplish that…?

Lisa heard the back door open, so she immediately closed the tome and backed away from it as though she hadn’t been anywhere near the forbidden commodity. In doing so, she crashed into the scaffold where the books waiting to be put on the high shelves stood. A few of them knocked down, and as she instinctively gathered them, Delron, unbeknownst to Lisa, got into her vicinity and inquired, “Having some trouble?”

Lisa jumped at the abruptness of his presence, and then she hastily replied, “No! Everything’s fine! Why wouldn’t it be?”

“It’s alright!” Delron chuckled as he helped her gather up the pile. “I’ve bumped into that rack a million times! It’s no big deal- these publications are tougher than you’d-!”

“What’s wrong?” Lisa asked after Delron gasped.

Delron pointed to the Proctor Bible. “There it is again! It’s lucky I caught that! You were moving so fast that you might’ve missed it!”

Lisa nervously tittered, “Uh, yeah! Disaster prevented!” As Delron went behind the checkout desk, Lisa forced her tone to convey as much nonchalance as it could while she probed, “What do you picture would happen if someone did touch it?”

“I have no idea!” Delron articulated as he picked up the accursed book. “I hope I never learn what it is!”

“Yes! Me too!” Lisa concurred with unconvincing confidence. 

Delron returned the taboo title to its stockade, and then he glimpsed at her with concern. “Are you okay?”

Lisa hesitated. She was responsible for whatever mayhem that spirit was set to unleash, and it would be a mere matter of time before someone would pinpoint her for this wrongdoing! She esteemed that she should show some responsibility and admit her grave error from the beginning, however, it seemed like an insane subject to even broach! What if he didn’t believe her? She wouldn’t blame him if he displayed doubt since she scarcely believed her own recollection! It suddenly occurred to her that her animosity could have reached such a lofty level that it made her see a scene that wasn’t actually there! What if she had simply hallucinated that whole bit? Until she knew more, she couldn’t reveal anything, but she had to tell him something! “I… uh… I felt, like, an animal or whatever brush against me, but nothing was in the room with me…”

“Didn’t I warn you that Brigfell has ghosts?” Delron regarded her in an I-told-you-so way.

“I know!” Lisa acknowledged. It relieved her a tad that he bought that claim, and it wasn’t actually a lie! She did have that encounter yesterday! She then got struck by inspiration of how she might get access to answers without confessing to anything! “Is it possible for a ghost to harm people in the living world?”

Delron climbed the ladder, and as he put away their ware, he mulled it over a little. “Hmm… I’ve heard of apparitions causing people to trip, which can result in injury, but I’m not certain they can do any genuine damage to anyone.”

Following an exhale of alleviation, Lisa remarked, “Thank goodness! Still, they’re not really beneficial to have around! How would one get rid of a ghost if it turned up?”

“I dunno! Some individuals swear by sage, and others are adamant that salt is effective. I’m skeptical that any of that stuff actually works though! If it was that easy to shoo them away, we wouldn’t have any phantoms in this city, would we?” He espied Lisa’s disappointed expression, so he assured her, “Don’t worry! They’re harmless nuisances, really! I suggest learning to ignore them.”

“What if you can’t ignore them?” Lisa posed to him.

Delron recommended, “Well, if you’d like to learn more, you can always do research in a book. I know where you can find a few…”

Lisa laughed, “You don’t say!” They each reacted to this hilarity, but in the midst of their shared mirth, Lisa felt the sensation of something brushing against her legs! For a second, she feared it might have been that malicious mirage reemerging, but then she recognized that it was something much smaller. If it wasn’t for Melanie’s allergies, she could have sworn a cat had chosen to visit her! No such creature existed in this space though, which prompted Lisa’s anxiety to resurface! She didn’t say anything to Delron though- he already said that he didn’t know what to do about it other than ignore it, and that’s exactly what she chose to do.

After her shift, Lisa collapsed onto her bed. The work she did was fairly physical, but she imagined that it would have been easier to push through the grind if she wasn’t so emotionally exhausted too! She turned on the television, and a male news anchor announced, “…And that brought the stock down for many companies! Not so much for places like Jupiter Chocolates and Nestling’s! Candy manufacturers doing well a week before Halloween, that’s a shocker!”

His female counterpart guffawed at his quip, and then she segued, “Speaking of shockers: the world is still celebrating the engagement of the rocker  Tommy Dane! Well, almost everybody. One fan at his proposal concert certainly took it hard! Some on social media are positive they’ve been able to identify the jealous spectator, but no one seems to know where she is! We’d love to know for sure and get her side of the story!”

“My side of the story, yeah right!” Lisa grumped as she turned the TV off. She rubbed her temples in frustration as she pondered, “Is there anyone out there on my side?” She contemplated it for a spell, and then she concluded, “There has to be! I won’t give up ‘til I’ve found them!” She took a gander at the events getting held in Melas that night, and an evening yoga class caught her eye. She bolted off of her bed and grabbed her sweatpants out of hopes of attaining a couple of advocates on her behalf!

Lisa headed down the staircase and, suddenly, she was bound in a blinding light! Her first thought was that her paranormal phantasm appeared once again, but then a man’s speech communicated to her, “What are you doing?”

“Uh, walking…” Lisa didn’t see any other approach to an enquiry as inane as that other than emitting a smidgen of snark.

The man retorted, “Going for a walk, huh? That’s an awfully weird trail to use!”

“What are you talking about? I haven’t even gotten out of my house yet!” Lsia couldn’t comprehend his motive for this line of interrogation!

“Your house? I have on my file that this dwelling unit is vacant,” the man stated.

Lisa informed him, “Your file must not have been updated recently then. I moved in yesterday.” The man was silent, so Lisa assumed he didn’t accept her assertion, which prompted her to supplement her sentence, “You can call the branch manager if you need to verify that!”

The man requested, “Dispatch, can you call Missus Romero and ask if she has any tenants in her studio?” Lisa finally figured out that she was interacting with a police officer, and while her muscles lost their tenseness that the culprit may have been something sinister, it bothered her to get treated like a criminal! “What’s your name?” he demanded.

“Lisa Bassett,” she relayed to him without an ounce of friendliness due to his unfounded accostment.

“Well, Miss Bassett, fortune smiled down on you tonight! You were vouched for,” the officer somewhat bitterly briefed her.

He turned off his overly bright illumination, and Lisa gazed at his smarmy mug. His nose was upturned like he caught a whiff of a foul stench, and his beady peepers exuded no warmth or friendliness. Lisa guessed that he expected her to thank him, but his behavior was abhorrent enough that she couldn’t resist mentioning, “That wasn’t fortune, that was facts!”

The officer challenged her, “My intuition is never inaccurate! You can’t tell me you’ve never done anything bad!”

Lisa was about to do exactly that, but then she recalled touching the cursed book and unleashing the evil essence from within it. She couldn’t honestly proclaim herself to be fully innocent, but this jerk didn’t seem to have any evidence against her, so she opted to leave without uttering another word to him. 

As she grew distant, the police officer shouted, “I’m Sheriff Marshal Hopkins, don’t forget my name!” Lisa ignored him and tried to cleanse this ugliness from her mind as she traversed towards the yoga class.

The Hessian, Chapter 23

Everyone screamed as they beheld this horrific sight- Alastor’s specter hovered above their heads! Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla were too numbed from their shock to make a move, and while the others began to run for cover, all Clarissa could do was wonder what they could do! Drusilla’s sage was still burning, the salt that Gabby used against Elmira during her possession remained on the floor, and Clarissa’s crucifix was still very visible, but since none of that deterred him at the present, she could not fathom what other actions they could take to combat this relentless foe! Her mind went blank, and prior to the point where she could drum something up, Alastor bellowed, “Don’t think that this ends my crusade against you traitors! Vengeance shall be mine one way or another!” 

His arm elongated and barreled towards Clarissa! As his outstretched grip neared her, Kenneth raced over to intervene! To his astonishment, someone beat him to the punch! Lucelle jumped in front of her, arched her back, and hissed at the ghostly marauder, and Alastor recoiled! Clarissa smirked and prodded him, “What’s the matter? Are you allergic to pussycats?” 

“Delay your demise if you must! I’ll get to you eventually! I’ll get all of you! But today, I’ll start with this one!” He unexpectedly lunged his extremities to Elmira! Elmira made a bid to leap out of harm’s way, but Alastor still got her! She desperately tried to anchor herself to the floor with her fingernails, but he was still able to drag her out the door, shrieking resoundingly as she disappeared into the night!  

“Clarissa, wait!” Kenneth clasped onto Clarissa’s wrist as she attempted to dart into a rescue effort. Clarissa couldn’t understand why he would delay any assistance to anyone who was in urgent need of it, but instinctively, she knew that a dedicated officer like him wouldn’t have done this unless he had a very good reason for doing it, so she gave him her utmost attention! He swiftly revealed, “A great blessing can drive out an evil presence! Only a strong spirit of good can overpower great evil!” Clarissa nodded in comprehension. She had no inkling on how she would implement a defense like that, but she reckoned that she would figure it out when the time came and ran out of the building!  

She could espy Alastor’s eerie glow heading towards the northern woods. Several trees and rocks blocked her path, but Clarissa pushed past each and every one of them! She had a hunch where they were heading, and although she didn’t follow the motive for doing so, she knew it could not have stemmed from anything good! Sure enough, she found the two of them above his unmarked grave, and Clarissa was alarmed to see Alastor covering her mouth with some sort of oily substance! Elmira could do nothing more than grunt in fear- she lost her ability to move her jaw! As Elmira’s eyes filled with frightened tears, Alastor maniacally mocked her, “Any last words?” Elmira strove to express herself and couldn’t, and Alastor relished in his cruelty towards her! 

Clarissa spoke up, “You know damn well she would plead for her life, which you would try to deny her! Try! She’s going to get out of this scrape because she deserves it!” 

“What are you doing?” Alastor questioned Clarissa. “Do you actually believe you can negotiate a favorable outcome in this matter?” 

“This isn’t a request! This is the truth!” Clarissa declared. Her logic puzzled over this move, but her instincts took the reins on this undertaking! Some inner truth indicated Kenneth’s insight was accurate, so she rolled with it without hesitation! “She doesn’t deserve this fate!” 

Alastor scoffed at that. “Really? After all of the mistreatment she’s dealt to you, you’re still going to defend her character?” 

Clarissa could discern that he aimed to sway her from this path, so she resolved to pursue it further! “Elmira only acted from what she thought was morally proper! She isn’t a bad person!” 

“She absolutely correct!” Gabby joined in after she, Drusilla, and Kenneth arrived on Kenneth’s steed. “She may hold some misguided views, but she’s not wicked!” 

“She enslaved you! She treated you as less than human!” Alastor argued. “How could you-?” 

Gabby did not get deterred by his antics. “She may have done some less than optimal deeds, but she didn’t come close to the inhumane behavior that you’re displaying right now! She did not merit this punishment!” 

Drusilla concurred with this sentiment, “I agree! She’s chosen actions I may not be partial to, but she’s family, and I want her to live a happy life!” 

“She’s a loyalist!” Alastor hastily brought up to Kenneth. “Don’t tell me you support her cause!” 

“I don’t approve of her rhetoric, but I’ll fight for her freedom to express herself in any manner that she pleases!” Kenneth affirmed. “Her liberty should not get taken from her like this! Especially when a reprobate like you tricked her into it!” 

Bernard rode into that locale with Cornelius and Oceanus behind him, and Cornelius immediately ran towards his bride! “Elmira!” She gazed at him pleadingly, and his heart visibly ached for her! 

Clarissa ardently addressed Alastor, “She isn’t perfect, but she is loved by many who want her to return to them safely and soundly!” 

“My daughter is still so young!” Oceanus marched up to the area and robustly remarked. “She has yet to experience motherhood, raising a family, all of the things a woman ought to experience in her lifetime! She has so much potential as a new wife! And a painter! She even painted you! How could you do this to her?” 

“I never liked that portrait!” Alastor spat. “And she’s not the only one who will meet their doom! You’ll all pay for condemning me as well as the rest of the planet to anarchy and-!” 

Clarissa interrupted him, “You got yourself hanged, not her!”  

Alastor retaliated, “If more people like your boorish husband listened to me, none of this would have occurred! Instead, this snake watched as her fiancée killed me!” 

“She also saw you kill people she cares about! Why should she pity your demise?” Clarissa retorted. “We pity her plight because she did nothing to garner such torture!” Clarissa could see his eyes flickering between the various townsfolk arriving on the scene, and he seemed bothered by the empathetic expressions staring at his victim, which struck Clarissa with inspiration! She grabbed both Kenneth and Gabby’s hand and stated, “May she be safe! May she be prosperous! May she be blessed!” 

“May she be safe!” Kenneth asserted. 

Gabby tacked onto that, “May she be prosperous!” 

Drusilla took Gabby’s hand and recited, “May she be blessed!” 

“Stop it!” Alastor growled. 

“May she be safe!” Bernard took Drusilla’s hand and joined in. 

Cornelius didn’t fully recognize why this activity seemed beneficial to them, but his gut compelled him to take Kenneth’s hand and shout, “May she be prosperous!” 

Oceanus took Cornelius’ hand and firmly vociferated, “May she be blessed!” 

“Silence, you simpletons!” Alastor hollered. 

“May she be safe!” the apothecarist echoed. 

Mister Basker yelled, “May she be prosperous!” 

Pastor Absalom called out, “May she be blessed!” 

Slowly, more and more citizens of Colfrith participated in this practice, and Alastor’s anguished cries for them to desist grew more and more frantic! The villagers increased their volume as his bluster appeared to diminish, and Clarissa could feel the air getting less and less heavy! The atmosphere became pleasantly warm, and Clarissa beamed with pride as her community came together for this cause! Alastor displayed intense hysteria after a long stretch of this, and Clarissa could sense Alastor’s presence waning to the brink of breaking! She inwardly prayed that no obstacle would impede their progress! Then, all of a sudden… 

Alastor let out a piercing wail as he dropped Elmira to the ground and balled himself into a cradling stance! As his image gradually began to vanish, he bellowed, “This changes nothing! I’ll be back one day soon!” 

Clarissa shot back, “Not if we can help it!” Alastor gave her one last glare, and within seconds, he was no longer apparent! 

For a moment, no one budged an inch! Everyone remained quiet as they glanced around at their surroundings in order to verify that this was no deception, and when the distant sound of chirping birds reached their ears, Drusilla spoke up, “It appears he is truly gone!” 

“We’d better investigate the vicinity just to make sure he isn’t luring us into a trap!” Kenneth recommended. Clarissa agreed, and she, Drusilla, Gabby, and Bernard slowly crept forward towards the fallen log where his unmarked grave rested. Clarissa’s pulse raced- she wanted to believe that this nightmare was over, but she didn’t want to give in to her optimism in case she was going to receive a terrible upset! When they reached their destination, Clarissa was almost too reluctant to peek at what existed on the other side not wanting to invoke another episode of supernatural wrath, but she forced herself to do it because they needed to know the truth, and… 

“Aaahhh!” Elmira screamed and flailed her limbs wildly! The crowd gasped, and for an instant, Clarissa worried that she had become possessed once more! She was in a fetal position when they found her, and for a while, it seemed as though their dilemma had yet to diminish! When Elmira realized that she was no longer in peril, she breathed a sigh of relief! She felt around her mandible and joyfully discovered, “It’s gone!” She craned her neck up and gladly exclaimed, “He’s gone too! And I’m still alive! Thank heavens!” She sprung up and tightly wrapped her arms around Clarissa. “Thank you! Oh, thank you! You saved me! I can’t imagine why, I was horrible to you, but I’m so grateful!” 

Clarissa smiled at her gratitude, but it took a bit to process all of this! One minute, she was battling to thwart the worst outcome from befalling on them, and in the next, everything was fine and the person who had been the least kind to her was embracing her and genuinely offering benevolent accolades to her! It was all surreal as though she had entered into some sort of dream! She didn’t know what to say back to her other than, “It was the right thing to do!” 

Elmira faced her and dissented, “No, it was more than merely right! I treated you most unfavorably, and you still came to my aid! Most people in this situation would have let me succumb to my downfall, but you rescued me! I would like to apologize for all I’ve done to you, but somehow, I don’t think an ordinary apology will suffice! You’re a better human being than I am, and I am very much in debt to your service!” 

“As am I!” Oceanus echoed. 

“Me too!” Missus Morrison put in. 

One by one, everyone took a knew before her in order to beseech her forgiveness! Clarissa got so overwhelmed that she didn’t know what to do with herself! She was profoundly appreciative of this gesture, but she became so affected by her emotions that she nearly fainted! Kenneth caught her, and she was able to brace herself against him! She stared deeply into his eyes and told him, “If it weren’t for you, I… I simply…” She couldn’t vocalize how profoundly she valued his dedication to her, and she settled on honestly blurting out to him, “You know I love you, don’t you?” 

With a broad grin on his visage, Kenneth responded, “You know I love you too, don’t you?” They kissed each other passionately! Clarissa’s entire body lit up with ecstasy upon his touch! She had no clue that bliss like this could exist on Earth or that she would be fortunate enough to feel it! 

After they broke apart, Bernard suggested, “Lieutenant, we’d better leave before General Washington sends the entire Continental army to get us!” He turned to Drusilla and assured her, “We’ll be back though!” 

Bernard gave her a peck on her hand, and Cornelius appeared as though he wanted to object initially, but then he opted to convey to him, “You and your fellow soldiers will always be welcomed in Colfrith!” 

Kenneth and Bernard both mounted their horses, and the entire congregation waved goodbye and gave them a hardy send off! Once they were out of sight, Clarissa squeezed Gabby and Drusilla and enthusiastically regarded them, “It was so opportune to have you two assisting me in this journey! You’ll always be like my sisters! Always!” 

“It was our pleasure!” Drusilla reacted jovially. 

“Indeed!” Gabby concurred. “No, how about we don’t spend the happy couple’s wedding night on a mass murderer’s final resting place?” 

Cornelius decreed, “This site shall not be dedicated to him! He cannot claim this forest as his! I’m hereby ordering that a memorial be built to honor all of who perished due to this brutality!” 

Elmira added, “But my painting of him should remain here! If he hated it, it should stay above him forever!” Everybody agreed, and as they pleasantly gabbed during their return to the inn, the deadened trees began to blossom once more! 

“And that’s why every Halloween we keep this tradition up!” the tour guide concluded his narrative. “No one ever truly learned what became of Alastor, so on the anniversary of the Coles’ wedding, the city gets cleansed! And that’s why we govern ourselves by decency and goodwill! If Alastor can get past the wall that Cornelius had made for those who were tragically lost during that dark period…” The tour guide used his cellphone to show the commemorative edifice in the north woods. “… then he’ll be met with a resistance of a loving community!” 

“But what happened to Clarissa? And Kenneth and the rest of them?” a young boy asked him. 

The tour guide answered, “Cornelius and Elmira ruled over the borough with a devotion to lightness, and they supplied the patriots with more supplies to secure their fort! After hearing rumors about this region, Gabby’s mom was able to find her and reunite their family at last! Drusilla and Bernard got married, of course, as did Kenneth and Clarissa. Clarissa became a mother to his children as well as a couple new ones of their own, including my ancestor whom I’m named after! Kathan Harvey, at your service!” Kathan took a bow, and all of the children applauded. 

As everyone dispersed to do various other Halloween festivities, the woman from Boston complimented him, “That was a beautiful story! See, this is why we moved her after my divorce! I wanted to belong somewhere with such accepting values!” 

“Well, you’ve certainly got that here! Maybe later we can get some coffee and I can tell you more about it!” Kathan proposed and looked to her hopefully. 

“I’d like that!” she beamed at him, a gesture that he mimicked. As they exchanged phone numbers, her little girl felt a cold wind blow past them! She couldn’t tell if her mind was playing tricks on her or not, but she swore she heard a malevolent cackle drift away from Elmira’s painting… 

The End! 

The Hessian, Chapter 22

As Gabby hastened herself towards the bar with an armful of dishes, the apothecarist beckoned her, “Hey, you! Come here!” 

Gabby curtly informed him, “I work here voluntarily, and I choose the tasks I wish to complete, so with all due respect, I’m not inclined to stop what I’m doing to serve anyone! So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to attend to my own bidding! But if you have a spare minute, could you spread the words to the other guests?” 

“I’m sorry to interrupt, miss!” the apothecarist apologized. “I only meant to ask you to dance!” 

“Oh!” Gabby seemed quite taken aback by this revelation. “Forgive my rudeness, it’s just that… well, no one has ever asked me that before!” 

Clarissa took the plats out of her hands and encouraged her, “Go on, enjoy yourself for a moment! The cleaning probably won’t get done tonight anyways!” 

Gabby sheepishly accepted his offer, “I suppose I can join you for a song or two!” 

The apothecarist locked arms with Gabby and led her to the dance floor. All of the tables had been pushed aside so that the string quartet could play and all of Cornelius and Elmira’s attendees could regale themselves freely, and as they passed the archway that this furniture had made, everyone stared at this odd pair! While Clarissa doubted anything romantic would blossom between Gabby and a man old enough to be her grandfather, it was gratifying to see a kindly friendship forming amidst the bafflement of many close-minded individuals! After Clarissa set the dinnerware onto the counter, she sat down on a nearby chair and surveyed the scene. Everyone swayed with smiles and laughter, even Elmira! Although she put more distance between herself and her new husband, she beamed as they swirled around together! Lately, Clarissa had only seen her scowling and yelling, and even though Clarissa didn’t particularly care for her, it was refreshing to see her mood so tremendously lifted! Indeed, the entire town abandoned their dreariness and festively celebrated this occasion, which made her wonder if Alastor would strike tonight at all! She couldn’t fathom how he would gain the fortitude to withstand such merriment, and yet, she couldn’t shake the notion of something colossal in the works… 

“Egad! A hostess should not have to hide in the corner of her own party!” Kenneth suddenly stood before Clarissa with a wide grin on his face! Clarissa’s jaw dropped- she had no idea she would see him again so soon! He held out his palm to her, which she graciously took. As he guided her to an upright position, he inquired, “Did I shock you?” 

“You most certainly did! I just…” Clarissa had so many emotions brewing throughout her that she didn’t know where to start! “How did you…?” She wanted to query him about getting time off from his military duties, but she decided that wasn’t important enough to fret about at this juncture. “I’m so…!” She almost blurted out how thrilled she was to see him again, but she refrained out of concern of being too forward. “It’s Elmira’s party really, I’m simply…” She rid that trivial point off of her tongue and instead chirped, “Let’s dance!” 

As they entered onto the area of jubilation, several people stared at them with narrowed eyes and a discerning expression, which Clarissa had gotten used to by now, but the reason behind this most recent judgmental scrutiny caught her off guard! While the others took precautions to muffle their whispers, Abigail did not! “Unbelievable! It’s been less than a month since her husband’s death, and she’s already got her claws on another man!” 

Her male companion let out an exasperated sniff. “See! She’s glad Brenner is gone! And yet she continues to claim she bears no guilt in his demise!” 

Those two pranced out of earshot, and Clarissa couldn’t refute their allegations, so she put that business off temporarily and turned back to Kenneth to assure him, “I played no role in his downfall!” 

“I never entertained that concept for an instant! But… it has been mere weeks since he departed, so are you…? Um, if a man did want to court you, wouldn’t it be far too soon?” Kenneth gingerly asked her. 

“Not at all! I’ve already waited an entire lifetime for some romance, so I…” Clarissa saw Kenneth gazing at her questioningly, so she clarified her remarks, “I grew up on a pumpkin farm several miles from here. Colfrith was the closest village to us, and we came every Sunday for church, but we never stayed as long as I would have liked! I yearned to belong here because I grew up quite lonesome at my family’s home! My parents freed our laborers, so a lot of the friends I got to know sought their fortunes elsewhere- not many stayed even though they were offered wages to do so! I dreamt of finding a way to stay in Colfrith, and that’s when I met a lonely bartender. Brenner and I enjoyed each other’s company, but I don’t think either of us were ever in love! I’ve read so many books on amorous adventures, but everyone said that most marriages weren’t like that, they were made for convenience! Still, I had always hoped that Brenner and I might turn our relationship into something more passionate, but we never did, especially not when he began drinking! I was quite fond of him, and I could tell he was on the verge of leaving this earth after years of this, so I grieved for him ages prior to his dying day! He very much convinced me that falling in love only occurred in fairytales, but in the recent past, I’ve learned that’s true, and…” 

Clarissa cut herself off and profusely blushed at her own admittance! She hadn’t intended to announce her private thoughts like that, but she got the impression that she could act with honesty around him, so she turned off the filter of what she should or shouldn’t disclose with the public! She did not reveal his name, but she knew he would inevitably question her on it, and she couldn’t escape from his hold in order to hide! All of a sudden, it dawned on her that if he found that confession so disturbing, he would have loosened his grip, not tightened it! She glimpsed back up at him, and he peered at her in a very serious manner. She didn’t know what this signified until he leaned his head closer to hers! Clarissa’s heart beat wildly as his lips got within inches of hers, and… 

The door burst open, and everyone turned to see who had shown up so late. It was Bernard! Clarissa assumed he had come for Drusilla, and Drusilla had come to the same conclusion and happily skipped over to him. Clarissa was delighted for her opportune luck until she heard Kenneth swearing under his breath! Clarissa grew confused- she presumed that the two were friendly! Preceding her probing into the matter, Kenneth informed Clarissa, “Listen, I don’t have much time! You have to know… I may have found the key to driving Alastor off of this land! You see, it’s-!” 

“No, no, no!” Elmira screeched. The musical instruments came to an abrupt halt, and everyone desisted in their revelry as she ranted, “I do not want these traitorous vermin at my wedding celebration!” 

“Darling! That is no way to talk a visitor!” Cornelius gently scolded her. “Let’s see what affairs they have here and-!” 

“No! They weren’t invited! They’re here to ruin everything!” Elmira raged. 

Bernard attempted to placate her, “Beg your pardon for this intrusion! We won’t be here long!” 

Drusilla frowned at that. “You won’t?” 

“Not of our own volition! We’re under strict orders!” Bernard regrettably relayed to Drusilla. 

“And what would those orders be? Hmm? To terrorize our district some more?” Elmira accosted him. “What are you going to do? Punish us because we no longer support your cause?” 

Drusilla objected to that assertion, “That’s not true!” 

Elmira hissed, “Silence, you jezebel! I’m glad Cornelius kicked you out of our home!” 

“Elmira!” Cornelius reacted in aghast. 

“Oh, are you switching sides now as well?” Elmira confronted him. “Do you support lawlessness and anarchy too?” 

Clarissa dug her hand into her pocket and clutched onto her vial of salt. Elmira was beginning to use Alastor’s language, and he was long overdue for an ambush! The only thing stopping her from dowsing her in that cleansing powder right then was that painting she made of him. She may have simply admired his character and aimed to mimic his words, so she waited to make her move… 

Cornelius disputed Elmira’s accusation, “I’ve taken no sides! That’s my daughter! We may disagree on some viewpoints, but that doesn’t mean we hate each other!” 

“We’re leaving now! You can go back to your ball, we’ll be gone in a trice!” Bernard made this declaration before Elmira could blow her top again, and while she stood there steaming, she did not prolong her tirade. The musicians hesitantly resumed their tunes, and a few of the participants nervously went back to dancing, but everyone paid close attention to the soldiers’ actions with apprehension- no one relished the reoccurrence of her flaring temper! Bernard approached Kenneth and urged him, “Come on, Lieutenant! I know I’m not one to give you commands, but they’ll charge you with desertion if you don’t go back immediately! The only reason they haven’t yet is that I convinced the general that your actions stemmed from a delirium from your massive blood loss!” 

“Massive blood loss?” Clarissa echoed with fright. She was bordering on fainting at the very image of him sustaining such a severe injury, and her stomach lurched with guilt- she sincerely hoped his encounter with that malevolent apparition hadn’t left him too vulnerable in the battlefield! She admonished herself for not doing more to prevent him from getting caught up in that situation! 

Kenneth austerely articulated to her, “Don’t worry about that, I’m fine! Please listen, there’s a possible method to drive out that evil spirit, and it involves-!” 

Elmira marched over to them and bellowed, “You’ve spent more than enough time here- you need to go now!” 

She attempted to push him out of the exit, but Kenneth resisted her effort. “I need to say one thing before-!” 

“No! You must leave this place forthwith!” Elmira roared in a low voice very much unlike her own! People screamed as she lunged for Kenneth, but prior to her laying a finger on him, Bernard put himself between the two and bore the brunt of the assault! 

“Stay away from him, you fiend!” Drusilla hollered as she used a candle to light some sage she hid in her dress! Elmira hissed and leapt from the vicinity while Kenneth stooped down to tend to Bernard. Gabby and Clarissa took out their salt and ran towards the afflicted. 

Elmira chased the crowd on her hands and legs, and while most of her targets got away, she managed to catch a little girl! As she raised Jane towards her mandible, Cornelius shouted, “Elmira, don’t! It’s your wedding day, remember?” 

She ignored him and pursued another cornered group. Gabby flung some salt into her face, and she let out a hideous wail before bounding to another sector. She locked eyes with Mister Basker, and Clarissa swiftly addressed her, “Cornelius is right! You were so excited to say your vows!” 

Elmira snarled and rolled in another direction, which made her land at a pair of boots belonging to Oceanus! “Daughter! What has become of you?” She paused for a moment, but then she hopped over to Missus Morrison, who tried to stab her with a hat pin! Elmira knocked it out of her grip and lunged towards her neck! 

Clarissa dangled her cross necklace in front of Missus Morrison, which made Elmira recoil! As she pulled back, Clarissa urgently spoke to her, “Elmira, your father is scared! Don’t do this to him!” 

“Don’t heed advice from that snake!” Elmira’s alter-ego warned her. For a few seconds, Clarissa worried that Elmira’s prejudice against her would tempt her into siding with Alastor, but then she recognized that Alastor was trying to negotiate with her, so she must have been fighting his influence! 

“You’re a Cole now! The Coles run this borough, you’re harming your own citizens!” Clarissa pointed out. 

Elmira’s alter-ego spat, “You don’t want these dregs under your jurisdiction!” 

Clarissa disagreed, “Yes, you do! You used to paint them as you watched them in your father’s coffeeshop! Don’t forget!” 

“Elmira, darling! Please don’t give up!” Cornelius tearfully beseeched her. “I lost one bride already, I cannot bear to lose another!” 

“Cease this-!” her alter-ego attempted to quarrel. 

Elmira croaked out, “No!” 

The alter-ego howled, “Do not ally with the so-called patriots!” 

“Don’t let him control you!” Clarissa advocated to her. 

“Silence!” the alter-ego barked. 

Elmira vociferated, “You be silent! And vacate my body forever!” 

With one last ghastly yelp, a fierce gale of wind flew out of Elmira! When she fell to the floor, she appeared completely cured of her plight! Cornelius bent down to assist her, but all other eyes were on the ceiling! It instantly became apparent that their danger would not end there!