The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 4

“A hidden staircase?” Lisa exclaimed as the ancient-looking steps revealed themselves. She couldn’t help but gape at it- she had only seen things like that in the cinema!

“It came with the building,” Melanie shrugged it off as if this weren’t completely spectacular. “Come on.” Melanie gestured for her to follow, and Lisa felt slightly hesitant about that prospect. While Lisa didn’t believe that her new employer would lead her anywhere too ominous, she couldn’t imagine what good would have gotten stored in such a mysterious manner! Still, she didn’t come all that way only to back out now, so she took a deep breath and hoped for the best as she set foot in the passageway.

When they ascended to the second level, Lisa anticipated seeing some sort of truly magnificent treasure stashed away there, but a part of her feared that a sinister substance existed in these chambers! She would have dreaded listening to Lydia crow about being correct regarding the spooky nature of this town after witnessing a confirmation of the otherworldly activity occurring in there, and she felt tempted to cover her eyes and maintain her plausible deniability of this frightening reality! Her heart beat wildly as they entered into the space, and it truly stunned her to behold…

Books! Boxes and stacks of reading material lined most of the upper floor, and with such an elaborate entrance, Lisa sincerely expected more extraordinary paraphernalia than this! No wonder Melanie’s attitude was so blasé about it! Melanie informed Lisa, “This is the store room. We keep new material as well as items that need reviewing up here. This is also the front door to your new home.”

“It is?” Lisa hadn’t meant that to come across so rudely, but the ad for this job described this opportunity as one that included a studio above the library, and this was not what she had in mind! There were no amenities whatsoever! Lisa wasn’t about to sleep on crates, and she certainly wouldn’t live anywhere without a bathroom! It struck her as ironic that out of all of the scary possibilities that she would have guessed might have driven her out of Melas, a lack of accommodations wasn’t one of them!

“I left the door unlocked. Go ahead and explore it,” Melanie directed her. She indicated to what Lisa assumed was a small closet, and Lisa’s pessimism on her potential pad hadn’t ebbed an inch! In her head, she was already making plans to use the last of her savings to escape from this horrible hovel, but she still felt she needed to verify the facts completely before she hightailed it out of there, so she turned the knob…

Melanie hadn’t lied- Brigfell, indeed, contained a living quarter! It had the same round shape as the public sphere below them, but other than its quirky shape, it was really quite nice! On the right, there was a cushy bed underneath a window with a gorgeous view of the river, and within feet of that, there was a kitchenette complete with a stove, refrigerator, and even a microwave! The appliances seemed a tad outdated, but they were so well kept that she didn’t begrudge their presence at all! Actually, it sort of gave off a comfortable aura like she had returned to the best memories of her childhood! There was a little set of chairs and a dining room table adjacent to it, and on the far left, she saw a restroom with simple but very pleasant decor! It wasn’t huge, but it offered enough hospitalities to tide her over! “I like it!” Lisa declared.

Sounding very much relieved, Melanie responded, “Perfect! Now, there’s a private entrance over there next to the counter, and feel free to watch whatever you want on the tv by your bedside, but if it’s during business hours, remember not to blast it. You’ll start training tomorrow at nine. Since your commute is so short, I hope I won’t see a lot of tardiness to your shifts!”

Was that an attempt at humor? Lisa didn’t think Melanie had the capability to crack a joke! She considered shooting a comedic comment right back, but she was afraid of pushing her luck. She had already created a negative impression on her, and if she kidded around and accidentally offended her, she worried that she may never recover! In order to stay on the favorable side of her new boss slash landlord, she opted to simply smile at her instead. Melanie reached into her pocket and then handed Lisa a set of keys. “Thank you!” Lisa genially regarded her.

Melanie twitched her mouth into a quick grin, and then she briskly articulated, “See you in the morning!” Melanie swiftly swiveled to the exit, and then Lisa listened to her footsteps creaking down the stairwell.

Lisa soaked in her surroundings, and while it felt surreal to call this location home, she theorized that residing in Melas wouldn’t turn out too badly after all! Prior to her having the ability to fully relax, her cellphone pinged. She eagerly opened the home-screen since she suspected it stemmed from Lydia urgently wanting to contact her and ensure that she hadn’t been eaten by ghosts or something along those lines, but to her dismay, it was a social media alert about Tommy getting spotted with his new fiancée! “Ugh! How long are you gonna haunt me?” she huffed as she switched the app’s settings. She wanted to stew about that jerk’s persistent presence, but then she noticed that there was an unopened text from her cousin, so she decided to make better use of her time by addressing her family rather than her foe!

After positioning herself on the bed so that she got more of a panoramic scope of her riverview, she aimed her camera and clicked on the icon to get the photo. Suddenly, a cold draft unexpectedly filled the room! It danced across her skin and gave her pronounced goosebumps! She tightened up her sweater, and then she closed the curtain to keep out the chilliness. She felt a bit sad to say goodbye to such a beautiful sight, but she reasoned that she was going to be there for a while, so it would be there when the sun’s rays were more pronounced again. As she bragged about her waterfront property to Lydia, she happened to espy a white glare in her picture. She didn’t like that shot, but she didn’t want to let more frigidness in, so she let it slide and sent the message as is. 

The fog thickened as she walked down the road, so she used her device to light her path forward. It irked her that she had to perform this task at all, and she bitterly thought that people who riled up hungry people ought to get locked up! She eventually observed illumination in the distance, and she felt slightly mollified to reach a point where the finish was close! When she got near enough to the figure, she discerned the Wicked Fresh Pizza logo and knew she had stumbled into the correct person. “Are you Lisa Bassett?” he queried, which she nodded to. “Thank you for meeting me by the old courthouse! It’s a safety protocol, you know?”

“No, I don’t know!” Lisa couldn’t hold back her urge to snap a smidgen. “What is so unsafe about going to a library front?”

“Are you kidding me?” the pizza guy reacted in aghast. “That joint is brimming with unfriendly spirits!”

Lisa dismissed that concept, “I’ve been there for hours now, and I haven’t seen a single one!”

The pizza guy retorted, “That won’t last long! There’s not enough sage in the world to cleanse Brigfell!”

“Oh, come on! Just ‘cause it’s next to a graveyard doesn’t mean it’s possessed by anything scary!” Lisa argued.

Something went down there!” the pizza guy countered. “Whenever I went there, I started freezing, and then I had difficulty getting myself out of a depressed funk! That doesn’t occur anywhere else I go in this region!”

The iciness he described disturbed her slightly since it resembled a similar experience with her, but she still felt determined not to let him or anyone else shake her, so she stoutly stated, “I don’t believe in the supernatural!”

He insisted, “You will!” Lisa snatched her order from the pizza guy, and he gladly sped his bicycle away from the area! As Lisa headed back to her house, she got a prickly sensation throughout her limbs thinking about his prediction! She brushed it off and resolved to relax the rest of the night!

As Lisa took a shower, she heard the floorboards outside of the library entrance creaking. It startled her at first, but then she recalled that Melanie might have come to work early to get stuff done preceding the training of her new employee, and she exhaled a little easier. It would take a while for her to get used to having housemates that ran an enterprise beneath her feet!

It felt so strange to leave for her shift two minutes prior to its beginning, but she reckoned that this oddity would merely get added to the list of quirks that she would have to get accustomed to. While she dashed out the door, she spotted a piece of paper attached to her studio’s entrance. She read it outloud, “Lisa, I had some last minute things to do at my kids’ school, so Delron will train you today. See you soon!” She remembered the treading she detected earlier, and she figured that this explained it. She shrugged and went downstairs.

The shelves were devoid of any individuals, and upon an initial inspection, Lisa came up empty. She speculated that this Delron fellow may not have been aware of his added duty, and she fretted about being the sole employee present at this venue- she knew nothing of their standard procedures! She perceived the sound of a book falling behind her, so she presumed that her coworker’s proximity was there. When she turned around, she located the tome that perpetrated that noise, but no one appeared to be around! She felt perplexed by this, but she conceived that it had not gotten shelved properly and tumbled as a natural consequence to that. She put it away real fast and returned to her quest.

She caught a glimpse of a short man with curly, black hair outside of the building, and she hypothesized that this could have been him. She ventured outside, and she saw a scrawny, bespectacled dude around her age with a cigarette in his mouth, and as he shakily brought his lighter up to his jawline, he became aware of Lisa’s company and inquired, “Do you care if I smoke?”

“I have asthma,” Lisa replied.

“So do I,” the man admitted.

Lisa probed, “Then why are you smoking?”

The man took his newly lit smoke out and instantly snuffed it. “You’re right! I shouldn’t do it! And I did promise my husband I’d quit- I should stick to that! You have my full permission to yell at me if you see me doing it again!”

“Okay!” Lisa giggled. “I take it you’re Delron.”

“Oh, where are my manners? Delron Faulkner at your service!” Delron extended his hand to her, and Lisa gladly shook it. Finally, she met someone in this hamlet who wasn’t so dark and gloomy! “Pleasure to meet you, Lisa! I was just about to do the book drop. Join me!”

He strolled over to an old-fashioned, metal receptacle that Lisa initially supposed was a mailbox. He produced a key, and he educated Lisa, “We empty this every day at nine and again at four. Some of our customers prefer to return items here rather than go inside.”

Lisa opined, “I don’t understand why! It’s gorgeous in there!” Delron gave her a half grin, but he clearly decided not to remark on that statement. He retrieved a full bin and replaced it with an empty one, and then he motioned for her to accompany him into the library.

Delron instructed her, “Go through them one by one and check for damages or bugs or whatever.” That sounded painless enough, and sure enough, once she processed enough, she saw that it was! Her confidence on her capability to handle this position heightened tremendously! After several minutes of this, she was in the midst of feeling like she had reached a sanguine groove when Delron abruptly grabbed her wrist, and with his face as white as a sheet, he warned her, “Don’t move another muscle!”

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 3

As soon as Lisa stepped off of the bus, a woman with a scraggly, gray wig and dark, tattered clothes stuck her long, warty nose within inches of Lisa’s face and froggily greeted her, “Welcome to Melas! Explore my streets… if you dare!”

Once the witchy figure finished cackling, Lisa pointed out, “You know, they never caught any actual witches, don’t you? How dangerous could the streets be from innocent victims?”

“Boy, you’re a delight!” the witchy figure muttered in a slightly more masculine voice. “If you’re not into the festivities, why did you come here?”

“I live here now,” Lisa conveyed to them.

The witchy figure frowned considerably at this notion, and they dryly bade her, “See you around, neighbor!”

As Lisa walked away from that scene, she said to herself, “I’m off to a great start!”

While the witchy figure gave salutations to another person in their periphery, Lisa soaked in the scenery. She espied a blocky, gray building that had a silver-lettered sign with the words “Bayside Estates” etched on it, and while it certainly had a view of the ocean down a small hill, Lisa wondered why they put this institution by a bus depot rather than the water! She found it slightly odd, especially since it labeled itself as luxury condominiums! It gave off a cold vibe, and she questioned why well-off individuals would want to spend their money there! She suspected something off about this site, but when she recalled how her cousin described most of the citizens of this district as strange, she shrugged off any leeriness she had and determinedly aspired to prove both of their first impressions of Melas wrong!

Once she passed the obstruction of Bayside Estates, she beheld a long, cobblestone road with a variety of Colonial Tudor construction. The pictures she had previously viewed of Melas’ downtown area looked much more clean, but in reality, the avenue’s stones seemed slightly uneven and often unmatching. The structure of the edifices appeared slightly unbalanced as though a transcendental force kept them from toppling over, and Lisa would have guessed that they were condemned if it weren’t for the scores of patrons popping in and out of the various businesses there! She couldn’t comprehend it, but she realized that she would simply have to get used to her new surroundings!

The boulevard was fairly quiet, which sort of relieved Lisa but also disturbed her- why wouldn’t the community socialize with each other? Living in quarters close to the tourists’ zone usually meant dealing with a lot of clamor on the main arteries, but not in this case! Many denizens chose to keep to themselves, and a lot of passersby avoided eye contact with one another! The few who chose to congregate talked in whispers or hushed tones! Lisa got perplexed by this until she caught someone telling her friend, “Do you see that flashy outfit? Who does she think she is?” Lisa gazed down at her garments, and she didn’t esteem that her pick of attire was so egregious until she studied everyone else’s outfits. Most people wore neutral shades, and the handful who dared to sport a bit of color donned soft hues. Lisa’s bright fabrics definitely stood out! It disheartened her to perceive that she may need a totally new wardrobe, but with how little she possessed at the moment, she convinced herself that she would have had to do this anyways, so perhaps it was for the best.

She came to a fork in the road that stemmed from a town square, and an ancient architecture loomed over the entire plaza. It had a large plaque indicating that it was the old city hall! It left Lisa awestruck to envision the corrupt trials that led to the unjust executions of the Puritan era, and although she read that their sentences were carried out elsewhere, this epicenter’s shady wood radiated their pain and anguish! A glum mood began to overtake Lisa, but when she remembered the eerie phenomena that supposedly occurred within these borders, she purposefully cast that sentiment out of her mind and moved on! 

The right path had a much more inviting appeal than its counterpart! Its bustling shops brimmed with cordial folks, and the sun radiated over the rooftops. A scarcity of stragglers trudged through the left, and shadows cascaded throughout the thoroughfare! Lisa would have loved to have sought the comfort the right path suggested it had, but her new home laid on the left, so she peeled her eyes off of the ulterior boundary and convinced herself the quiet darkness appealed to her!

The further down she went, the rarer it became to spot anybody milling about! She theorized that perhaps the influx of visitors ebbed and flowed like the salty brine. Speaking of the shore, Lisa discovered that this terrain edged by the sea! She could smell the salty mist and hear the crashing waves, and she couldn’t grasp why more Massachusetts tourists didn’t frequent this locale! She could see a tuft of grass next door to her destination, and she assumed it stemmed from an adjacent park. It baffled her as to why the region had been so readily abandoned, but she reckoned that it may prove advantageous to her to have this gem remain clandestine- she could keep this secret all to herself!

Lisa turned to Brigfell Library, and she could hardly believe that this place existed in real life! Its lofty height coupled with the outlandish layout of the trim gave it more of a cartoonish facade! It reminded her of a drawing she created in her childhood depicting a fairytale cottage, and a part of her felt positive that entering the facility would instigate the wrath of a wicked sorceress or something! She could only imagine Lydia seeing this establishment- she would have begged her not to set a single toe into a house that probably harbored a multitude of apparitions! With the defiant mindset of proving her viewpoint as incorrect, Lisa went inside!

Immediately, Lisa felt something brush past her legs! Fearing that she had accidentally released someone’s pet, she stuck her head out of the door and cried out, “Psst! Hey! Get over here!”

“Most people start with hello!” an unamused female from behind her chided Lisa.

“Sorry! I think I might’ve let an animal out!” Lisa apologized.

Upon facing the lady, Lisa raised her eyebrows in a slight shock! She sounded so nice over the phone, but this lady gave off the distinct perception of antagonistic venom! Her fierce frown made her round head appear almost sharp, and her glasses only magnified the contemptuous stare she emitted. Her rigid stance made her plump body look anything but soft, and her curly locks practically melded into her charcoal dress! Lisa speculated that her previous vision of trespassing onto a villainous chamber may not have strayed far from the truth, and she scolded herself for not giving her new boss more of a chance! The lady furrowed her brows at Lisa, and she stated, “I don’t have any animals! I’m actually allergic to cats!”

Lisa puzzled, “Really? I could have sworn…” She glanced out of the window, and she didn’t see any hints of furry creatures running around, so she pondered what else could have possibly manufactured that sensation…

“Ahem… You must be my new assistant!” She shifted her timbre to a more falsely sugary inflection and jovially extended her hand to Lisa. “I’m Miss Romero, but feel free to call me Melanie!”

“Nice to meet you… Melanie!” Lisa shook her hand, and she strove not to wince as she touched Melanie’s icy palms! Lisa had never handled a corpse before, but the clammy texture of Melanie’s skin was exactly how she would have thought it to feel!

Melanie smiled at her, which somehow rendered her more intimidating! “It’s a pleasure to meet you! Let me give you a tour!”

Lisa was so preoccupied by the non-existent critter escaping that she failed to notice the unusual arrangement of this space! The public’s sphere was circular, and a small maze contained shelves that were at least ten feet high! As Lisa marveled over this oddity, Melanie explained, “This is where we store most of our books! There isn’t square footage to expand out, so we went up! Don’t worry, we have ladders!” She tapped on an old but sturdy set of steps that attached to rollers and a rod that encompassed the entire labyrinth.

“Do customers ever fall off of those things?” Lisa inquired as she ogled its massive altitude.

“Actually, most of our clients prefer to have their titles delivered,” Melanie replied.

Lisa’s optimism deflated when she received this information. “Deliveries? Oh, um, I don’t have a car…”

Melanie assured her, “That’s fine! I have a bike for you to use. Your new coworker, Delron, has a car, but he prefers to use the bike ‘cause it’s easier to peddle through the alleyways than it is to fight through traffic!” Lisa felt a rush of relief, but this jubilation got subsided as her curiosity tried to forecast how maintained these alleys were. She sincerely hoped that they weren’t as daunting as the ones she watched in movies…

“Over here is our RAH section!” Melanie had gone on without Lisa knowing it! Lisa scurried to catch up to her as Melanie continued, “RAH stands for rare and historical. If you handle anything over fifty years old, it’s absolutely imperative that you wear gloves!”

“Alright,” Lisa acquiesced. She kept her internal interrogation of why she had such a high emphasis on that rule to herself- it seemed weird, but she didn’t want to enhance any bad opinions that Melanie may have gotten about her already by acting too nosily or something!

Melanie gestured to a region by this glass case, and she spelled out, “Here’s our reading lounge. It hardly ever gets used, so make sure to dust it every once in a while.”

Lisa got entranced by this setup! A couple of plush, leather couches and chairs gathered around an antique fireplace, and a large window gave this nook a breathtaking scope of a waving river, a lush field, and even a bit of the Atlantic! Lisa’s heart skipped at these accommodations, and she couldn’t wait until she could peruse through a pleasant novel over there! One aspect of this arrangement mystified her though… “How could anyone opt to get their books delivered when this cozy corner exists?”

“Well, because of the graveyard, of course!” Melanie responded in a fashion that attempted to hide her obvious condescension on the issue.

“Graveyard?” Lisa’s face contorted into an expression of confusion. She had not come across any graveyards, and yet Melanie had uttered that in a manner that indicated that it should have been plain for her to see! She didn’t want to further Melanie’s probable belief of Lisa not having as much sanity as she did during her interview, so she studied the scene outside to discover what she was referring to. It suddenly dawned on her that the acreage she hypothesized to be a park got utilized for another purpose entirely… “Oh, yeah! That!”

Melanie knowledgeably briefed her, “The Corigiles Cemetery is one of the oldest graveyards in the country! Some of the original inhabitants of Melas are buried there…” Lisa glanced at it with more profoundness. If that property dated back to the sixteen hundreds, then that meant the witchcraft victims were likely beneath those tombstones! The momentous event that birthed this municipality’s spooky reputation ended within feet of where she now stood! Melanie tentatively asked her, “Does… Does this scare you off?”

If her cousin was present, she would have most definitely advised her to run and never return! Lisa had no intention of adhering to that apprehension though! The concept of residing next to the catacombs and coffins was gloomy, but she was determined not to allow it to daunt her! She firmly answered, “Not at all!”

After breathing an exhale of alleviation, Melanie articulated, “Good! Then there’s one more piece of matter we gotta go over…” Melanie approached the fireplace and tugged on a decorative candlestick. Lisa found this action sort of bizarre until the wall opened up…

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 2

Lisa flipped open a small laptop, and a rather stern-looking woman appeared on the screen. The woman coldly greeted her, “Good afternoon! Is this…?”

The woman stared at a frilly, pink bulletin board with pictures of a bunch of cartoon princesses and mermaids on it, and Lisa quickly explained, “It’s my cousin’s kids’ room. I’m staying with them for a while.”

“I see…” The woman raised an eyebrow and then jotted down some notes, which made Lisa cringe. She got so used to the childishly decorated room that it didn’t even occur to her that this may not have come across as professional! She was surprised that an establishment that works with kids would conduct themselves in such an austere manner, and she dreaded the picture of their pupils’ severe routine! She could only imagine how horrible it must’ve been to attend classes there! If she didn’t need a job so desperately, she would have ended the interview right then and there! Since she did need it so badly, she crossed her fingers and hoped that the rest of this conversation would go more smoothly! The woman focused back on Lisa, and she stoically stated, “Thank you for applying to the Sanderson School System! You may begin your presentation when you’re ready.”

“Presentation?” Lisa puzzled.

The woman’s eyes flashed in a slight annoyance, and she somewhat irritatedly asked, “You received the email with the presentation topic questions, correct?”

Lisa answered, “Yeah, but I sorta assumed that those were just things you were gonna bring up. I missed the part where you said to prepare a presentation.”

“Uh-huh. Well, Miss Bassett, if we do choose to hire you, I would suggest that you read your messages in their entirety moving forward!” the woman rigidly advised her. Lisa kicked herself for not following the instructions more clearly, and she thought that the woman would conclude the interview immediately, but instead, the woman directed her, “Go ahead and present whatever replies you prepared.”

“Oh, okay! Um, let me find them…” Lisa hurriedly scrolled through here phone, but it took her a while to find the email that the woman previously referred to. The silence created a notable discomfort, but unearthing what she was searching for didn’t alleviate the dour ambiance- she hadn’t actually prepared a response to anything! The inquiries were fairly generic, so she didn’t take a lot of care to do research or jot down any ideas to them! She took a deep breath and aimed to wing it the best she could, “Alright, about me: I’m Lisa Bassett, and I’m thirty six years old. I have a degree in English, and in my spare time, I like to read funnily enough!” Lisa chuckled, but the woman’s expression didn’t budge, she went on, “Number two, what I’d like to get from the position is stability, a chance to grow my skills, and a positive environment…” She trailed off on that part as it became apparent that was not part of the company’s mantra! She cleared her throat and continued, “My best quality is my determination to get the job done no matter what, and my worst quality is not reading emails thoroughly!” She tittered, but, once again, the woman did not reciprocate. “And five: where I see myself in five years. I…” She found this topic difficult to fathom! Up until a few weeks ago, she pictured herself as a housewife to a rockstar, but at the present, she had no clue where she would wind up! She nearly got misty over this concept, but she set her doubts aside and lamely relayed, “I’ll go as high as I can and do my utmost to make a difference to others!”

The woman wrote a couple of things down, and then she addressed Lisa, “Splendid. Well, I have a few other candidates to speak with. I’ll inform you of our decision by Wednesday. Have a nice afternoon!”

After she signed off, Lisa closed the notebook and stared at the ceiling in an attempt to absorb this interaction. She had lofty expectations for this opportunity, but because it was such a disaster, she was forced to reckon with the mindset that she wasn’t about to be employed, she would have to return her hunt elsewhere! She accepted this fact with a sigh and headed out of the room.

“How’d  it go?” wondered a woman with similar features to Lisa carried a box into a nearly bare kitchen as she heard someone entering into the living room.

“Oh Lydia, it was awful!” Lisa slumped onto the living room couch in a defeated fashion. “She didn’t like the way I answered her questions, and those questions were actually supposed to be part of a presentation!”

Lydia’s brows furrowed upon receiving that insight. “A presentation? Were you applying to be a teacher or a student at this school?”

Lisa dejectedly shrugged. “I dunno! I’ve never heard of a presentation being part of the interview process! Is that a new thing or something?”

“I don’t think so!” Lydia affirmed. “It sounds like she was being lazy to me! Maybe this chick doesn’t have any real conversation skills and wanted you to do all of the work for her!”

“Maybe! She had a pretty icy attitude the whole time!” Lisa ascertained.

As Lydia loaded her box, she opined, “It doesn’t sound like a great place you wanna be working at! You probably dodged a bullet there!”

Lisa morosely muttered, “Yeah, and I jumped right in front of another one! What am I gonna do? That was my last chance!”

“No, it wasn’t!” Lydia encouraged Lisa while she taped up the box. “You still have three days before my bunch and I take off for California. A lot could happen in three days!”

“Or it could be three days where nothing happens!” Lisa argued. “I’ve been unemployed for over three years, and everyone wants somebody with recent experience! It’s not fair! How are people supposed to get experience if no one gives us a shot?”

Lisa stacked that box on top of a small pile, and then she offered, “You could always come with us to Angelwood! I know it’s on the other side of the country, but you wouldn’t have to worry yourself to death about getting a job right away!”

Lisa politely declined, “With the positions I seem to be qualified for, I’d never be able to afford it there! Not even with roommates! Besides, Tommy and the bimbo live there; if I moved there, he’d get the impression I was chasing after him!”

“That prick really spoiled everything!” Lydia grumped as she assembled another box.

“Tell me about it!” Lisa concurred with that sentiment. 

Lydia put more kitchen items into the new box, and she consoled Lisa, “Something will turn up for you!”

With her visage filling with dread, Lisa articulated, “Something did turn up for me, but it’s so not what I wanna do! Still, I’m out of options- I gotta take that job in Melas!”

“Lisa, no!” Lydia objected. “That was such a low paying job for all you’d have to do!”

“It was low paying ‘cause you can stay in the studio on the premises,” Lisa reminded her. “I’d have work and somewhere to live…”

Lydia catchized, “Isn’t it weird to have a library with an apartment above it?”

Lisa informed her, “Kinda! But Brigfell is a super small library for a super small city, the rules are different! Apparently, it used to be someone’s house ages ago! I have always wanted to work in that industry…”

“Yeah, but in Melas?” Lydia contended. “That town is so creepy!” 

“It has a dark history, but it seems like they’re really exploiting their past just so they can get more tourists who like spooky stuff to visit!” Lisa countered. “Yes, the witchcraft trials were horrible and those twenty five people didn’t deserve to get killed like that, but that was over three hundred years ago! Things have changed since the sixteen hundreds!”

Lydia riposted, “Have they though? The people who live there are, like, completely strange! There’s a darkness to them like they possess a wicked secret, and a lot of eerie things occur in that region- things no one can explain…”

Lisa waved that off, “You’ve been watching too many Halloween movies!”

“This is different!” Lydia disputed. “They built a city around where innocent blood was spilled! That creates some bad karma…”

“Yeah, for the wrongdoers!” Lisa reasoned. “Why would the spirits of the victims bother individuals who had nothing to do with their murders?” 

Lydia shook her head. “I don’t know! I don’t know how it all works, but Melas is definitely haunted!”

Lisa scoffed, “Seriously? You think the entire territory is brimming with ghosts or something?”

“Yes!” Lydia insisted. “Too many incidents transpired without a single logical cause behind them! Objects get moved around, it gets cold on warm days, moods sour with little to no motive… But that’s on a good day! Fires have broken out from nowhere, and some of their citizens reported hands tightening around their neck when they were all alone! People have fallen out of windows and got their bodies submerged under water! Lisa, you can hear screams in the wind! Is that something you wanna deal with?”

“I…” Recalling the sinister howl in the storm’s gale from the night she split with Tommy, Lisa began to falter on her stance on this subject. Was the source of the shrieking tone really echoes of pain from yesteryear? She considered the validity of her claims, and she pondered if she was making the right decision. She wanted her independence, but if it wasn’t destined to last long, would the move even be worth it? A horrific demise would have been a far worse fate than going back to a two-timing ex… She remembered how her anxiety from that juncture fooled her into falsely judging that she had run into peril when she hadn’t, and she resolved to not fall for that sort of trickery again! “Humanity has often blamed magic for what they don’t understand! If someone doesn’t see an immediate rationale for an incident, they automatically blame the paranormal! All of what you described has legitimate evidence behind it, but people ignore it ‘cause they believe what they wanna believe! These scary stories are simply that- stories!”

Lydia’s confidence in Lisa’s plan clearly remained doubtful, and Lisa had to turn away from her line of sight. She felt slightly irked by her intentions to instill fright over her proposed course of action, but she was more irritated by the tiny part of herself that deemed Lydia’s words rang a bell of truth! These tall-tales of the supernatural had to be mere forms of entertainment- they couldn’t be real! Could they?

Once a moment of silence had elapsed, Lydia apologized, “I’m sorry! I know I’m two years younger than you, but my mom instincts took over ‘cause I don’t want you to go anywhere dangerous!”

“I’ll be fine!” Lisa assured Lydia. “I know it’s not the greatest location to reside in, but I’ll make the best of it! I could have a couple of nice neighbors there, and I could make some friends that are awesome enough to make it worth staying!” Lydia’s lips skeptically twitched, so Lisa added, “At least its bad reputation will keep Tommy far out of my hair!”

“That’s for sure!” Lydia giggled.

Lisa was pleased that she had lightened Lydia’s disposition, but she could hardly savor that feeling! She now brimmed with apprehension on the premise of enduring another change, and she had to ignore the ill sensations gnawing at her stomach in order to take the next step toward solidifying a new chapter in her life! She took a big inhale, and then she told Lydia, “Okey-dokey! I’m gonna call the library and tell them I’m coming to Melas!” Thunder boomed instantly following her uttering that, but that was a total coincidence… Right?

The Darkest Wishes of Melas, Chapter 1

With slightly shaking hands, she struck a match. Success! She carried the small flame to a black, Halloween candle, which felt sort of odd to her. Yes, obviously, a candle’s purpose is to light up whatever space they occupy, but she originally bought that solely for decoration! Her boyfriend didn’t care for any festive embellishments, but she liked to bring out a couple of small things whenever he was working. Now she could only pray that wax didn’t drip out and blow her secret…

Lightning cracked unexpectedly, and this abrupt cacophony caused her to drop the taper! She groaned, and as she picked it up, she admonished herself for getting so frightened! It wasn’t as though she had never experienced a blackout before! Plus, the gray skies and howling wind made for the perfect atmosphere during this spooky season, so she reasoned that she should have been enjoying this spectacle, and yet she wasn’t! As she gazed out of her large, penthouse window, she couldn’t rid herself of these nerves! She wasn’t sure if it stemmed from the deserted street of a normally bustling downtown area or if it was the somewhat human reverberations that emanated from the forceful gale, but something felt different that night! The air had the aura of a climatic horror movie scene, and nothing she could say to herself would convince her anxious brain that disaster was not near…

Suddenly, the lights flickered back on, which made her jump! Wasn’t this the outcome she wanted? She tiptoed across her posh living room, and after a visual scan of the terrain, she determined that everything was exactly as it had been preceding this dark experience- so why did it seem as though it had gotten tampered with? She glanced into an ornate mirror that hung on the wall by their bedroom, and her pale, beige skin had somehow become even paler, and her golden-brown irises were surrounded by red lines. Her deep brown hair appeared to have lost some of its luster, and her hunched over posture gave her already thick curves a more round shape. She felt shocked by seeing how much this had affected her! Especially since absolutely no ounce of logic supported her apprehension! She decided to ignore her heebie-jeebies and take more practical steps in this matter!

She picked up her cellphone, but its battery had died. She intended to plug it into the charger by the kitchen’s island when she heard a loud crash outside! She ran back to the window, and she discerned that it came from the direction of the stadium! Now she had a more valid motive to panic! The person she cared about more than anyone else in the world was slated to perform there that night! She grabbed her jacket and dashed out the door! If she couldn’t call him, she was going to check on him in the flesh!

When she got to the arena, she could see the clamor she witnessed had merely been from a billboard falling down! No one had sustained any injuries, and they were still allowing patrons into the venue1 Phew! She was tempted to return to her apartment to take care of business, but her feet wanted to continue on to the concert. She didn’t know why, she had seen him and his bandmates perform a million times, but she figured it couldn’t hurt to give him a quick visit. So, with a shrug, she headed to the megaplex.

She walked over to a backstage entrance, and a burly security guard blocked her admittance. “It’s okay- I’m Tommy Dane’s girlfriend!” she asserted.

“Psh! Do you know how many girls tell me that?” he dismissively responded to her.

“No, it’s true! See?” She held up her device’s case, which depicted her getting kissed on the cheek by a dashing man with a flowy, sable mane, navy eyes, and a trim, well-dressed body, and it stunned the security guard to get this verification! “Can you let him know that Lisa Basset is here?”

He rather reluctantly spoke into a small speaker, “Uh, Mister Bane, Miss Bassett wants to see you.” He listened to a reply, and then he reported to Lisa, “He says to enjoy the show, and he’ll talk to you afterwards.” He handed her a ticket, which puzzled her a bit. Eventually, she reached the conclusion that he was simply busy, and she resolved to watch the performance in peace.

The concert actually turned out to be a fairly fun venture! All of the songs were painfully familiar, but the band seemed extra enthusiastic about it, especially Tommy! Tommy brought a lot of energy into this performance, and the crowd really absorbed it and went wild! Lisa had enough fun that she almost forgot about the trepidation she endured earlier! It was a weird day, but it ended well! Or so she thought…

Once the attendees settled down from the final song, Tommy set down his guitar and took the microphone. This move piqued Lisa’s curiosity- Tommy always held an instrument while he sang because he couldn’t dance to save his life! What was happening? “Thank you, Botwulfshire! This audience means so much to me, every one of you! But someone here is more special to me than anyone else in the world…” Lisa’s heard rose up to her throat! If he was mentioning her, it could only mean one thing… “Now, you know I like to keep my private life, well, private, but I’ve realized I met the woman I wanna spend the rest of my life with, and I want the entire planet to know it!” Her pulse skyrocketed! After three years together, they had certainly discussed the possibility of getting married, but she had no clue he’d pick tonight to put them on the road to the wedding aisle! “Baby, come up here!”

Lisa bolted up immediately, but prior to her setting one foot towards the stage, Tommy addressed her, “No, not you, ma’am! I appreciate the support though!” Lisa’s spirits plummeted from this rejection! Did he just call her ma’am? She could not fathom  good grounds behind this move! Was it a cruel joke? She couldn’t comprehend why he would have wanted to wound her in such a callous manner! A blonde woman closer to the front stood up, and Tommy beamed at her. “Come here, my love!” Lisa’s mind reeled- this couldn’t be occurring! Tommy loved her and only her, he’s made this clear! Who was this chick? The woman took an awkward stance next to Tommy, and Tommy romantically regarded her, “Annie, I want you to be my wife!” He got down on one knee…

“You bastard!” Lisa bellowed. Everyone swiveled their heads to face her, but she could hardly pay attention to them at a juncture like this! The shock hit her like a freight train, and anger over his betrayal made her blood boil! It probably wouldn’t have stung so much if she saw any sign of an imminent breakup, but she had the impression that they were happy together! And he chose to end things by popping the question to somebody else while she watched? She never pictured him acting in such a sadistic fashion, and now that he had, white hot rage surfaced, and all she wanted to do was tear him apart! 

“Security!” Tommy motioned to some of the guards stationed in her vicinity.

Lisa was filled with too much animosity to go down without a fight! As the guards seized her, she vehemently shouted, “How dare you! After three years, you owe me an explanation!”

Tommy grimaced, and then he snidely snickered to his spectators, “Yikes! I didn’t know a crazy person would ruin my big moment!”

“I’m crazy? You’re gonna act like I’m crazy! You’re the one who-!” Lisa strove to counter that.

“Go home, crazy lady! Go home!” the throng erupted in a chant, and as she got dragged out, they heckled her! Some of them even threw trash at her! She couldn’t wrap her brain around this! Not only did he dump her in a completely vile style, but he had to humiliate her too? Lisa fell limp as they went into the unlit halls of the exit, and she wasn’t certain what to do next!
Later that day, the front door slowly creaked open, and Tommy crept into the pitch black foyer. He cautiously switched on the light, and he was instantly greeted with a pillow violently flying in his vicinity! He ducked, and it hit a decorative vase on a small table by the entryway. A second pillow nailed him in the stomach, and he grunted, “I deserved that!”

Lisa irately agreed, “You’re damn right you do! I gave you everything for over three years, and this is how you repay me?”

“I can explain!” Tommy claimed. Lisa folded her arms in utter disbelief of this statement, but she did not object, so Tommy went on, “My publicist said that sales on our albums went down ‘cause people are over this forty yeard old bachelor thing, and the paparazzi already caught me with her. It had to be her or else everyone would think I’m a cheater!”

“They should think that ‘cause you are!” Lisa yelled. “How could you cheat on me?”

Tommy confessed, “Actually, I cheated on her. I met her four years ago.” Lisa took a second to absorb this fact, and then Tommy apologized, “I’m sorry! I should have told you sooner, but I knew you’d dump me if you knew the reality of the situation! I didn’t wanna lose you…”

Lisa growled, “So, you imagined that I’d be fine with seeing you propose to another girl?”

“I didn’t know you were gonna see the show!” Tommy contended. “I was gonna have a chat with you later, but this seemed a little easier. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, we’ll have to take extra precautions when we go out together….”

“What do you mean ‘when we’re out together?’ You still wanna see me while you’re making plans to marry someone else?” Lisa wondered.

Tommy assured her, “Of course! She’ll be my spouse, but you’ll always be my lady!”

He amorously grabbed her waist, and she pushed him away. “You can’t be serious!” Lisa shrieked. “You want me to spend the rest of my life being your secret mistress? I’d never get to proudly walk arm in arm with my man, I could only hide in the shadows whenever we go out! And… what? If anyone spots us together, I’d have pretend to be your sister or something?”

“Well, since I had to pretend you were a nutty fan today, you’ll have to change your appearance slightly so we can pull that off. Dye your hair, maybe wear colored contacts too,” Tommy instructed. Lisa marched into the bedroom, and when Tommy beheld her taking out a large suitcase, he inquired, “Where are you going?”

Lisa resolutely replied, “Away from here! And I’m not coming back!”

Tommy scoffed, “Where are you gonna go? You relied on my income to survive! The food, the furniture, the utilities, that all came from me! You have nothing to live off of! Your entire existence revolves around me- you can’t go far on your own!”

With her luggage stuffed with as many essentials as possible, Lisa snapped the lid shut, looked Tommy straight into his eyes, and retorted, “Watch me!”

She stormed out of their home without glancing back at him! She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of viewing the tears currently rolling down her cheeks! She assumed that he would chase after her, but he didn’t. She interpreted this as him waiting for her to turn around and go crawling back, but she was determined not to give him that victory! She sped towards the elevator, but then a strange silhouette forced her to slow her gait! It appeared to have been a very tall female with a raggedy attire and an unusually pointed hat. She recalled the eerie sensation she went through earlier, and she approached the individual with absolute caution! Was this the proponent of the malevolence that befell her this evening? The circumstances were so out of the ordinary that a sinister force might have played a role in what transpired! She took a deep breath and caught sight of the culprit, and it proved to be a mere cardboard cutout of a witch advertising the complex’s upcoming events! She admonished herself for getting so easily fooled, and she cast all of that supernatural nonsense out of her imagination as she stepped inside of the shaft and dialed a number on her phone…

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! 

The Hessian, Chapter 21

“No! Don’t burn that refuse!” Kenneth ardently requested as he leapt out of his cot in the sick bay. He immediately felt lightheaded and slumped back down. 

“Lieutenant Harvey! You mustn’t rush up like that!” the nurse with a box full of odds and ends whom he had been speaking to kindly but sternly lectured him. She set the box down and checked on his vitals. “Your pulse is awfully high! What is in this box that got you so worked up?” 

Kenneth told her, “I left something very personal in my coat…” 

The nurse assured him, “I’ll retrieve it for you. You rest!” She combed through the crate of assorted, disposable objects and pulled out his bloodied jacket. She dug into one of the pockets and produced a gold watch. “Was it this?” 

“No. While I would like that back, I had something more important in mind…” he explained. 

“Hmm… There’s nothing else in here except some drenched papers…” she informed him. 

Kenneth urgently demanded, “Give me that!” When the nurse gazed at him quizzically, he grew flustered as he clarified, “It’s a letter from… Well… There’s this woman who…”  

The nurse spared his further embarrassment by cutting off of his sputtering, “Say no more!” She handed him the watch and the mostly red paper, and then she directed him, “Now, you lie still! It takes an entire twenty-four hours for your body to replace the blood it lost, but it’ll be longer if you put a strain on your heart!” 

“It’s too late for that!” Kenneth cryptically remarked. The nurse gave him a quick and polite smile, but she didn’t delve into what he meant by that assertion. She simply went back to her previous task and brought the box out of the tent. 

“Did I hear that right?” another soldier from the row of beds across from Kenneth exclaimed. He shifted his face so that he could keep his casted leg from shadowing his vision, and then he very keenly asked Kenneth, “There’s a woman out there that finally captured your interest?” 

Kenneth felt his cheeks furiously redden, and then he more pertly regarded him, “I’m not prepared to discuss my private life, Sergeant Rainier! Don’t forget- I outrank you!” 

Sergeant Rainier acquiesced, “Alright, alright! I won’t pry! I just remember it was mere weeks ago when we would invite you to go meet some women with us, you would always say you’ve already met the best one! I’m happy for you! I thought you’d be pining for your late wife forever!” 

“So did I!” Kenneth admitted. 

“I was married once, so I completely get the grief,” Sergeant Rainier related to him. “I didn’t want to even think about courting another woman for the longest time! But after a while, I realized that Edith would not want me to spend the rest of my life lonely! So, I no longer believe that a person can only fall in love once- it will happen for me again one day!” 

Kenneth kidded, “Wow, Sergeant! With all of your distasteful jokes you continually tell, I never would have pegged you for a romantic!” Sergeant Rainier chuckled. Kenneth sat himself and posed to him, “When you still had Edith in your life, how far would you have gone to keep her safe?” 

Sergeant Rainier responded, “For Edith? Why, I would have done anything for her! I would’ve gone to the ends of the earth to protect her! I would have even died for her!” Kenneth seriously contemplated this statement, which Sergeant Rainier took note of. “Why?” 

Kenneth bit his lip- he revealed too much! He didn’t know how to address his query, and while he certainly didn’t want to consider saying anything about his plan to help Clarissa deal with Alastor’s diabolism, he knew he couldn’t just leave his comrade in silence after a comment like that! Fortunately for him, the nurse returned, so he affirmed to him, “I’ll tell you later!” As he rolled over and feigned sleep, he felt a twinge of guilt for making him that promise since he had no intention of fulfilling it… 

The physician walked into the facility the next morning, and since most of his patients were sleeping, he did not greet anyone. He nearly took his position by the operating table when he had to do a double take from a peculiar sight! He petitioned the nurse, “Did you discharge Lieutenant Harvey?” 

“No! He said you did so he could take care of an emergency!” the nurse reported. She chewed on her fingernails as she stewed over her actions. “I was busy with burning the rubbish, so I assumed that you had gone into the tent and-.” 

“I most certainly did not authorize that!” the physician hollered. He espied some curious eyes peek open upon hearing this development, so he canvassed the group, “Where did he go? Did he hint at it to any of you?” 

Sergeant Rainier piped up, “He went to the ends of the earth I expect!” The physician and the nurse gave each other puzzled glances as they pondered the meaning of that reaction. 

The physician burst into Kenneth’s tent, and he growled when he saw that it was empty! One of his neighbors heard the commotion and inquired, “What’s going on?” 

“Lieutenant Harvey is missing!” the physician frantically uttered. 

“Calm down! I was one of the men who brought him to you, remember? I know how frail his condition is! He couldn’t have gone far!” the officer reasoned. The physician nodded at his logic, and his nerves were slightly assuaged by this rationale. The officer knocked on the tent next to his and commanded, “Get up! We’re forming a search party!” Bernard poked his torso out of his lodging a few spaces down in a manner that suggested he needed clarification to what he thought he overheard. “Scour the grounds, everyone! He’s got to be around here somewhere!” Bernard swore under his breath because he very much doubted that proclamation to be true! 

After extensively searching over the camp, the commanding officers huddled together in a panic. One of them anxiously queried, “Do you think the British mercenaries got him?” 

Bernard made them flinch when he abruptly relayed to them, “His horse is gone. He’s left the premises! But I’m almost positive I know where he went…” 

“We can’t wait any longer!” Gabby relayed to Clarissa. “If we don’t leave now, we’ll miss the ceremony!” 

“Oh, I now! I just…” Clarissa ceased her nervous sweeping around her freshly and ornately decorated tavern and confided to Gabby, “I’m reluctant to leave The Leafy Taverne! Alastor knows that all of Colfrith will be in here, so it would be the optimal time for him to exact his revenge! And with no one guarding the establishment, who knows what sort of traps he could lay out in our absence!” 

Gabby pointed out, “Alastor does not lay out traps- he chooses a victim to possess and inflicts horror upon the people around them! Right now, his entire selection pool is at that church! Well, unless he decided to target one of us, but somehow, I can’t imagine that he would do that because it would take away his ability to blame us for his crimes!” 

Clarissa ceded to her argument, “You’re right! Perhaps we can discover his object of manipulation before he can get his hands on them! Actually, he’s a ghost, so he doesn’t have any hands…” 

Gabby and Clarissa laughed at her quip, and then Gabby recommended, “Come on! Maybe this wedding will be fun and give us a much-needed break from all of this tumult!” 

Clarissa set her broom down and walked towards the exit with Gabby. “Somehow, I doubt that will be the case! Even if Alastor doesn’t show up, Drusilla has pronounced that gown’s Elmira forced her party to wear as horrendously garish!” The two ladies chortled again as they went outside. After Clarissa locked the door, she glanced back at her home and hoped that she made the correct decision! 

Their late arrival forced them to get seats in the back of the chapel again, but Clarissa preferred it this way in this instance so that she could study the crowd in its entirety. The little boy who spoke up in their support yesterday gazed up at them with his eyes sparkling in admiration, so Clarissa politely greeted him, “Hello!” He shyly leaned into his mother upon that acknowledgement, which made Clarissa grin. She glanced across the aisle and spotted Nigel staring at her in fear, and when his mother shielded his vision from her, she noted the stark contrast between the boys’ behavior. But they weren’t alone! She could see several necks crane back at her with intrigue, but plenty of others stared with blatant mistrust! Clarissa whispered to Gabby, “The fact that half the borough despises us comes as an improvement is a feat I never thought I would celebrate!” Gabby chuckled, and they both returned to their watch over the masses. As far as Clarissa was concerned, no one especially stood out to her, so she could not fathom who Alastor would mark as his next means of chaos! 

All of a sudden, a string quartet blared out from the altar, and practically everyone jumped from this abruptness! They hastily shifted their attention to the end of the aisle where the groom’s party solemnly walked down to the dais. The bride’s party went next, and as Drusilla marched past Gabby and Clarissa, she nodded towards her dress and subtly cringed at it. Clarissa’s amusement over this prompted her to consider engaging in some merriment until she detected a howling wind swooping around the building! She knew it had to have emanated from that vengeful phantom because that sort of occurrence did not happen naturally! She didn’t reckon that someone with so much evil in their soul could enter onto sacred grounds, at least not without severe repercussions anyways, but then again, she realized that he managed to overcome the barrier around cross necklaces… She then wondered if they were safe inside of this structure… 

When Elmira entered into the room, everyone stood up as she regally made her way to her betrothed. Clarissa recalled trembling from nerves at this stage of her nuptials, but Elmira didn’t seem to bat an eyelash during this process! Clarissa found this somewhat perplexing, but then she reminded herself that Elmira was not about to marry a man who would end up betraying his people and boxing them into a nightmarish fate! Of course, she didn’t have any inkling of that when she took his hand, but perhaps a part of her sensed the deviousness in his character… She mused that if she were to ever to tie the knot with Kenneth, she couldn’t picture herself feeling quite so petrified… 

A gust of air momentarily shook the parish, and while a minute number of guests seemed slightly concerned, the majority of the audience paid no mind to it. As the gale sounded as though it was slowly gaining strength, Elmira appeared more bothered by Drusilla’s presence than a potential attacker’s! She shot Drusilla a resentful glare as she passed her, so Clarissa deduced that Drusilla’s participation had been enacted at the behest of her father. Drusilla’s expression indicated that it took all of her willpower not to roll her eyes at that gesture, and Clarissa tittered, but she kept her grip at the ready to deploy her measure of protection at a split second’s notice… 

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony…” Pastor Absalom began the ritual. The billowing breeze grew quite audible, but Pastor Absalom simply talked over it, “Elmira Montgomery, wilt thou have this man as thy wedded husband to live together after God’s ordinance in the estate of matrimony?” 

“I do!” Elmira avowed as the screech of the wind became impossible to ignore. 

Pastor Absalom went on, “Wilt thou obey him, serve him, and honour him in sickness and in health?” 

Elmira affirmed, “I shall!” 

“And wilt thou forsake all others, keeping thee only onto him, until death do you part?” Pastor Absalom enquired. 

“I will!” Elmira promised. The edifice shook until the brink of breaking until she made that pledge! As soon as she attested to that agreement, the potent tempest vanished! The attendees furrowed their brows and softly murmured amongst each other, and Gabby turned to Clarissa for answers. Clarissa was clueless as to its significance! Even after the commemoration concluded, no one ascertained a trace of that unusual weather current! 

Once it was over, Cornelius and Elmira stood on The Emerald Rose’s steps with radiant smiles as their well-wishers congratulated them. Clarissa and Gabby departed from the scene early to open up the inn for the reception. As they journeyed by the lamppost where Elmira hung her painting of Alastor, Clarissa could have sworn its lips curled into a wry smirk! The skies were eerily calm, and during her route back to her home, Clarissa couldn’t help but anticipate the worst was far from over… 

The Hessian, Chapter 20

“This town shall burn to the ground!” a demonic voice shouted. Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla raced out the apothecary and were horrified to have seen the candle shop on fire! But that was hardly the most disturbing sight that they saw out there… 

“Father?” Drusilla cried out when she espied the man who appeared to have produced the frightening pronouncement. 

Cornelius instantly turned around upon hearing that recognition, but he did not look like himself! His eyes were severely dilated, and he bore a wicked smile! He raised one of his hands as if he was about to throw something, and Clarissa could see that Drusilla was in too much shock to evade this maneuver, so she seized her and dragged her back inside! They made it within a split second of his projectile landing where they once stood, and the lightning bolts he emitted left a scorch mark on the cobblestone! 

Once they were out of his scope, Clarissa grunted in pain as she winced at her aching arms! Gabby nearly commentated on this, but then she saw Drusilla nearly dart of the door, so she immediately grabbed her! Drusilla shouted, “Let me go! I have to save my father!” 

“Drusilla, your father isn’t here right now!” Gabby emphatically uttered to her. Drusilla started to object, so Gabby reiterated her original message, “Alastor’s got him! Focus on defeating him!” 

“Alastor’s got him? Do you mean that fellow is possessed?” the apothecarist puzzled. 

Cornelius bellowed, “Your shelter shall not save you! One way or another, you shall face me!” 

An electric flash enveloped their periphery for a brief instance, and when it vanished, the walls were covered in flames! Clarissa queried the apothecarist, “Does that answer your question?” 

“We have to get out of here! Oh, but as soon as we set a foot on that road, he’ll incinerate us!” Gabby fretted. 

“Not necessarily!” the apothecarist disagreed. “You could send out the mugwort first!”  

Clarissa quizzically responded, “Send out the what?” 

Drusilla broke free from her hold and determinedly declared, “Unhand me! I got this!” She weaved through the small blazes and went behind the counter. She quickly grabbed two bottles and rejoined the others by the entrance. She placed the small one in Clarissa’s palm and directed her, “Drink this!” She told the apothecarist, “Someone on your remedy waiting list is going to have to wait!” Before he could react, she threw the larger bottle that she retrieved out onto the street… 

As soon as Cornelius saw movement out of that exit, he hurled lightning to it! The instant his trajectory hit the vial, smoke billowed up high! Gabby grasped the apothecarist’s wrist and pulled him out of the fiery building, and Drusilla as well as Clarissa dashed out shortly afterwards. They all hid behind some large barrels, and as the fog cleared, Clarissa downed her elixir. She could feel its warmth trickle down her throat, but it hadn’t quite reached her limbs yet when the haze cleared. She considered shielding herself until it did, but then she heard something that let her know that she wouldn’t have time for this tonic to become effective… 

“Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion goes about seeking whom he may devour…” With one extremity in a sling and the other holding a Bible, Pastor Absalom had read out loud to Cornelius! Cornelius swiveled his focus to him, but prior to him striking Pastor Absalom, Clarissa burst out of that hiding spot and flung salt at him! Some of it hit his skull, and he let out a roar so voracious that its soundwaves knocked Pastor Absalom and Clarissa to the ground! 

“Your malevolence shall be your downfall!” Gabby thunderously announced as she used the inferno that Cornelius had set to light her strand of sage, and after it ignited, she held it up like a torch and marched towards Cornelius. Cornelius let out a gust of wind that snuffed all of the combusted material in the area, including her sage! He didn’t stop there- clouds appeared out of nowhere and raised him several feet into the sky above them! 

Drusilla stoutly addressed him, “Father, you dropped this!” She tossed a cross necklace to him, and mid-flight, Cornelius shot it down! He aimed his palm at her, and… 

For a moment, Clarissa swore she saw a flash of Cornelius’ green irises! He swiftly shook his head, and his dilation returned while he attacked some bystanders! Clarissa’s mind reeled from witnessing that spectacle! The strength imbued in the medicine she took kicked in, and she used it to pick herself up! She posed in a stalwart stance and braced the heightened gale as she mentally prepared herself for this critical juncture… 

“Lucy wants you to come back, Cornelius!” Clarissa vociferated. 

“Don’t talk to him!” Cornelius growled following another burst of jade hue shined through the darkness. 

Clarissa ignored that directive and urged Cornelius, “I saw you fight him, Cornelius! Keep going! Do it for Lucy!” 

Cornelius hollered, “Cease your blather!” 

He gestured as though he intended to emit more bolts, but Clarissa interrupted this process, “What about your daughter, Cornelius? See what you’re doing to her!” 

Clarissa alluded to Drusilla, who was on the floor cowering down with tears rolling down her cheeks! Cornelius’ visage nearly normalized, but then something violently jerked his neck in another direction! “Don’t pay attention to her!” Cornelius’ fiendish alter-ego commanded, which made Clarissa’s heart flutter with hope of her plan’s effectiveness! 

“Lucy would hate what you’re doing to her!” Clarissa ardently articulated. 

“She’s lying!” the deepened voice within Cornelius argued as the mist slowly lowered him down. “This town deserves to get destroyed for the monstrous anarchy it unleashed onto the world!” 

Cornelius’ normal tone croaked out, “No!” 

His irregular voice differed, “Your bid for freedom will initiate disorganization and tumult throughout the earth! You know this to be true! We must destroy these people!” 

“But these are my people! And this is my land!” Cornelius’ usual talk countered. 

“You don’t deserve it!” his alter-ego hissed. “You need to give it up for the sake of humanity!” 

Cornelius shot back, “For the sake of humanity? You claim to care about your fellow man, but you continually commit atrocities against them!” 

His alter-ego quarreled, “If they simply did the right actions all along, none of this would be necessary!” 

“So, you believe it’s necessary to torture and slaughter innocent people? How does that aid your cause?” Cornelius challenged him. 

“I-!” the alter-ego attempted to justify his behavior. 

Cornelius cut him off, “No! I don’t want to hear it! Away with you! Now!” Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla watched as Cornelius’ eyes flickered between black and green, and they could see the control of his movements constantly shifting in its nature. The trio of women crossed their fingers and hoped for the best, though the event’s lengthy duration gave them momentary doubt on the odds of its success. Clarissa inwardly speculated whether or not they should intervene, and then suddenly, Cornelius fell backwards onto the cobblestones! They heard Alastor’s angry roar above their heads, and a forceful breeze vacated the vicinity! 

Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla were almost certain that the bloodthirsty specter had departed from that sector- almost! None of them wanted to fall for one of his traps, so they wordlessly agreed that they needed to approach the situation with caution. Drusilla slowly edged closer and closer to Cornelius and petitioned him, “…Father…? Is that you…?” Cornelius didn’t respond, and as she approached his very still body, Gabby and Clarissa readied themselves to defend her. “Father, are you alright?” She stood over him, and… 

Cornelius abruptly grappled her and pulled her down! Clarissa and Gabby raced towards the pair with their adrenaline pulsing high from the expectation of a fight, but instead, they saw that Cornelius was beaming as he gave her a hug! With teardrops of immense relief, Cornelius conveyed to her, “Oh, Drusilla! I’m so glad that you’re safe!”  

“Why? Why would you rejoice her safety when she’s the one who put you in this debacle in the first place?” an onlooker snidely commented. 

“She would dare to go after her own family! What a shame!” another member of the crowd chimed in. 

A woman refuted that claim, “She and her colleagues helped relieve him of his symptoms! Why would they incite the incident and then remedy it?” 

A man contended, “To appear blameless for the crime! They should not get credit for cleaning up the mess that they created!” 

“They made him appear regular again!” a small boy piped up. “They made him get better!” 

“Only because they made him worse before that!” a little girl asserted. “My mother said they’re saying a dead man is doing all this scary stuff, but how is that possible?” 

Clarissa notified them, “It was witchcraft, but not from our hands!” 

One of their neighbors folded her arms and probed, “Oh really? Who committed this sorcery then? Was that the dead man too?” Some of the spectators chuckled in agreement, and Clarissa wasn’t sure how to quiet this critique. She knew that her late husband did the brunt of that heinous ritual, but based off of what they gleaned at the apothecary, Alastor obviously played a role in that misdeed! She knew eventually she had to overcome her discomfort of disparaging Brenner’s upstanding reputation, but she didn’t know how she could expose the truth when she was still striving to decipher what the facts of this scenario even were! She felt pressured to make a decision hastily- her silence was starting to insinuate her guilt! 

“Maybe if we lock them up in a prison cell, they couldn’t get their clutches on us anymore!” an additional neighbor suggested, and many of his peers vehemently concurred with his sentiments! 

“Absolutely not! I’ve heard enough!” Cornelius authoritatively yelled. He tried to pick himself up to make his point, but he couldn’t exactly muster the strength, so Drusilla, Gabby, and Clarissa aided him in this endeavor. He leaned on them like a crutch as he avidly orated, “I will not have unfounded accusations ruling my village! You cannot confine a person based off of a hunch or rumor! Unless you have proof of any laws that they have broken, you have no justification for jailing them! Now, go about your lives and be thankful that you still have them!” A few instantly heeded his word, but several individuals seemed somewhat defiant. Cornelius gave them stern glares, which made them obey, but Clarissa could hear a lot of mutinous muttering that pondered whose side Cornelius was on. 

As the masses dispersed, Gabby inquired to Cornelius, “How are you feeling, sir?” 

Cornelius replied, “Like a weight got lifted off of my chest! It felt so odd- one minute, I’m running a simple errand, and the next, I have this orb within me controlling my every move! I could sense my muscles getting used, but my vision was blackened and my nerves were numbed to all of my activity! It was like I was in a dream, and I had to struggle to wake myself up! It is a miracle that I can control my own locomotion again!” 

“Indeed, amen to that! Your bride will be so grateful for this blessing too!” Pastor Absalom brought up. “Unless you are too ill to carry on with the ceremony…” 

“No, no! I’ll be in tiptop shape before tomorrow! Oh, but speaking of my fiancée, I was supposed to grab some… Oh!” He glanced at the scorched candle shop with mournfulness. 

Pastor Absalom offered, “I have some that you may borrow. Feel free to lean on me!” 

Cornelius accepted his proposition, “I appreciate that!” Prior to his leave, Cornelius genially regarded the trio of women, “Thank you for everything! I’ll see you all at the wedding tomorrow!” And, with that, the two parties went their separate ways. 

On the route back to the inn, Gabby remarked, “It feels sort of funny that something so ordinary as a wedding could transpire in the midst of all of this chaos!” 

Clarissa stated, “I doubt that anything about this wedding will be ordinary!” As they climbed the steps to the tavern, they detected some furious wailing echoing from the northern woods… 

The Hessian, Chapter 19

“Prepare the operating table!” the physician of a large tent full of sink and injured soldiers directed the two nurses behind him as four men brought a person in on a cloth stretcher. 

“My wounds aren’t that serious!” Kenneth objected in a very labored tone. 

The physician used alcohol to sterilize his hands as he disagreed, “If your maladies were so minimal, then you would have entered into this facility on your own accord!” 

One of Kenneth’s peers relayed to the physician, “He lost a lot of blood out there!” 

“A bullet merely grazed me! None of this is necessary!” Kenneth proclaimed as they lowered him onto the surface that the nurses prepared for him. 

“I admire your willingness to serve, Lieutenant, but you won’t be of any value to the Continental Army in this condition!” the physician sternly addressed Kenneth as he utilized his scalpel to cut the bloodied and holed-up shirt off of him. “If this laceration reopens on the battlefield, you may not be fortunate enough to visit my ward next time!” A nurse handed the physician a wooden spoon, and the physician held it near his mouth. “Bite down on this!” 

Kenneth protested, “I don’t have time for this! I need to warn…” 

Bernard peeked his head into the enclosure and observed another officer assuring Kenneth, “We’re well aware of the British scouts who invaded our territory! Thanks to you, the Red Coats won’t learn of our location!” 

“No one is safe! I need to go!” Kenneth attempted to sit up, but his body wouldn’t budge! 

“What you need to do is bite down on this spoon while I treat your injury!” the physician retorted. 

Kenneth wanted to resist, but since he didn’t have the ability to walk away from this scene, he reluctantly relented, “Fine! Let’s get this over with!” 

As the physician began to untie Kenneth tourniquet, an additional serviceman reassured Kennth, “Don’t worry, sir! We have our camp well guarded- no harm shall befall us!” Kenneth’s eyes expressed doubt in this premise, but he couldn’t object since the physician started to sew up his wound. Bernard knew exactly why Kenneth was so distressed over security, and it wasn’t for their own! As that same gentleman comforted Kenneth, Bernard prayed that Kenneth’s agitation wouldn’t cause him to reveal their secret! “We’re just lucky that you needed to replenish your ink supply when you did! Wait, were you trying to send a warning to someone? Is there more danger that we should know about?” 

Bernard panicked at that invitation to divulge his classified information, but Kenneth was in too much pain from the stitching process to reply to him! His alleviation multiplied when the physician told Kenneth, “Don’t speak! Take in deep breaths through your nose!” Bernard cringed as Kenneth groaned from the procedure, but once the physician finished, Bernard released his tenseness! The physician notified Kenneth, “You can relax now! The hard part is over!” 

“I… don’t… agree!” Kenneth breathily disputed. 

“You’ll be alright!” the physician gently pat his wrist. While he wrapped a bandage over the legion, he instructed the nurses, “Prepare a bed for him.” 

Kenneth argued, “No, I can’t stay here!” 

The physician dissented, “You can’t hold your own head up let alone a rifle! Besides, I need to watch for signs of infection.” The four soldiers that brought Kenneth in transported him to the cot that the nurses indicated to, and the physician went on, “You should be back on your feet in the next day or two!” Kenneth nearly sounded off again, but the physician cut him off, “This isn’t up for debate! You must rest!” Kenneth steamed over this concept, but he didn’t have the strength to do anything more than give him a defiant look, so he begrudgingly accepted his finality. Once he saw this, the physician sympathetically queried to him, “Is there anything else I can get for you?” 

“Get me Bernard!” Kenneth requested. “I mean Private Malin!” 

“Will someone go fetch him?” the physician petitioned the men who carried him in. 

Bernard stepped in and announced, “I’m right here!” His comrades gazed at him in surprise, and Bernard sheepishly apologized, “Sorry! I saw the entire event transpire, and I wanted to see if he was alright!” 

One of the troop members cordially regarded Kenneth, “We’re glad you’re okay, Lieutenant Harvey! If you’ll excuse us, we must brief General Washington on the incident.” 

Kenneth weakly lifted his healthy arm to salute them, and they swiftly returned the gesture as they exited the area. As the medical staff cleaned up the surgical sector, Bernard knelt by Kenneth’s ear and whispered, “Do you want me to write that letter to Clarissa?” 

“No!” Kenneth quietly declined his offer. “The postal rider won’t come by until the region has been cleared! Our correspondence won’t arrive fast enough!” 

“Well, what else are we supposed to do then?” Bernard asked. 

Kenneth answered, “We’re going to have to go to Colfrith ourselves in order to tell Clarissa and her allies what we learned from Father Clarence!” 

Bernard responded in astonishment, “Go to Colfrith ourselves? Sir, at the present, you couldn’t leave even if you were physically able to!” 

“As soon as I’m fit enough to mount my steed, we’re departing for Colfrith!” Kenneth declared. “You’ll likely have to create a distraction so that I can escape from sick bay!” 

“With all due respect, sir, that plan seems so risky!” Bernard fretfully remarked. 

Kenneth shot back, “So is every moment that goes by where we don’t give them this tool they need to stop that murderous ghost! Do you want the ladies to keep gambling with their lives as they fight this heathen?” 

Bernard’s expression flooded with misgivings on this prospect. “Of course not! I simply… Well… I’m going to pen that message in case we can mail it sooner than expected!” Bernard hastily vacated the tent, and Kenneth moaned in exasperation. With an avid appearance of sheer determination, he strove to pick himself up! 

Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla were sitting at a table reading in silence when they heard scratching at the front door! That put them all on edge until they heard some mewing accompanying the scraping! “Oh, it’s Lucy! I’ll get it!” Drusilla cheerily volunteered. 

“Who’s Lucy?” Gabby inquired. 

“It’s what we’re calling the pussycat who frequents this yard!” Drusilla replied. “She’s named after my mother.” 

Gabby opined, “Well, that doesn’t seem fair! You got to grow up with your mother- I lost mine as a small child! We should call her Ellen after my mother!” 

Drusilla asserted, “But at least you have a chance of seeing your mother again! I won’t get that opportunity until my time on this earth has ended!” 

“You have a potential beau to comfort you. What do I have?” Gabby countered. 

“We’ll call her Lucelle after both of your mothers,” Clarissa decreed. The other two women still seemed a little litigious, but they accepted her pronouncement. Clarissa struggled to turn the page, and after an arduous minute of attempting this feat, she noticed that the other two had been watching her do this. “I’m okay! Well, not completely, but it’s nothing to fret over! My arms got sore after holding on to that lamppost for so long.” 

Gabby advised her, “You ought to see Doctor Cuthbart about that!” 

Clarissa declined that preposition, “I’ll recover after a trice of relaxation!” 

“And what if we must tend to another victim of possession?” Gabby challenged her. “These attacks have become more brazen, so what are the odds that you won’t need to your limbs today?” 

“I’ll get that!” Drusilla let the others know after the meows and scratches returned. 

Clarissa initiated a counterargument, “If we invite him in, then-!” 

Drusilla let out a shrill scream, and Clarissa as well as Gabby instantly stood up and readied themselves to assist her. Drusilla stepped aside and let them view the offense that set her off. “A mouse! Oh, but it’s dead!” Gabby observed. 

“It appears as though Lucelle brought us a present! I suppose she heard of our meat shortage and aimed to help!” Drusilla kidded. She was about to shut the door when… 

“Good afternoon, ladies!” Doctor Cuthbart politely greeted them from the front porch. 

Clarissa gave Gabby a quizzical glance, and Gabby attested, “I had nothing to do with this!” 

Doctor Cuthbart corroborated that claim, “She’s quite correct! I was sent here by… some concerned citizens. They entreated me to examine you after what happened yesterday.” 

“We hardly sustained the most precarious maladies! Surely, we are not your highest priority!” Clarissa commented. 

“Well, your physical well-being isn’t what evoked their disquiet…” Doctor Cuthbart gingerly revealed to them. 

Clarissa rolled her eyes, and then she probed, “How much of a payment would it take for you to leave us be?” 

Doctor Cuthbart took exception to that, “How dare you! I swore an oath to care for my patients, and money does not…” Clarissa held up a small pouch of coins, and he changed his tune in a flash, “Have a nice day!” He accepted the funds and vacated the property. 

“The nerve!” Clarissa slammed the door and immediately regretted it! “Oof! In my fit of anger, I temporarily forgot about my injury!” 

“Perhaps you should have had him examine you!” Drusilla weighed in. 

Clarissa refuted that, “He was sent to test my sanity- I would have only given him an opening to manufacture evidence for that cause!” 

Gabby somewhat anxiously articulated, “But you need medicine!” 

At that moment, Clarissa got struck with an idea. “I shall get medicine, just not from him!” 

As the trio of women walked down Hallow’s Alley, they fixed their eyes downward while they traveled. Drusilla dolorously mentioned, “I’ll be glad when this is all over and we can interact like normal people again!” 

“The worst part of it is that we have no inkling how long it will last! We might not get a window of normalcy for months or even years!” Gabby lamented with dread. 

“Oh, come now, you two! We must think positively! We already have enough to stress about, let’s not drum up anything to add to it!” Clarissa advised them. She heard a strange buzzing sound and wondered out loud, “What’s that racket?” She picked her head up and saw a storefront with an exorbitant amount of flies flocked beside it! “Oh good! It’s an abnormal occurrence, but not one we have to deal with! Oh, we’ve arrived!” They discerned that the apothecary abutted the infested candle shop, and they avoided the insects as much as possible as they entered inside. 

An exceptionally older man with slightly milky eyes greeted his patrons, “Welcome! How can I help you?” 

Clarissa conveyed to him, “We need an anecdote for pain.” 

“I’m afraid I’m fresh out,” the shopkeeper apprised them. “A lot of folks have suffered from this symptom lately, so much commotion! The world’s gone mad! Anyways, I can put you on a list and have it made for you in a few days! Or, if you’d prefer, I can sell you the ingredients and have you brew it yourselves! You would simply need my book of… Oh no, wait! I lent it to another fellow! And his friend who may have been foreign. He said something in a funny language…” 

“The people you loaned the novel to… were their names Brenner and Alastor?” Gabby enquired of him. 

The old man pointed a knobby finger at her and exclaimed, “That’s it! They were the ones!” 

Drusilla interrogated him, “And this literature they borrowed… Did it have spells in it?” 

He confirmed, “Yes, but I don’t use them! I only reference that publication if I can’t remember a recipe!” 

The trio of women stared at each other incredulously, but prior to them delving into this matter any further, a scream rang out from the candle store… 

The Hessian, Chapter 18

“Oh, it’s you!” Clarissa exclaimed as she stepped out onto her front porch. She gazed down at the friendly, black kitty, and it licked its chops as it eyeballed the contents of the small, white bowl in her hands. “How did you know that I had food for you?” Clarissa placed a hand on one of her hips as she stared at the feline incredulously, and as it blinked at her with a blank look on its face, Clarissa expressed her thoughts out loud, “I don’t know why I’m expecting an actual response from you!” She set the bowl down and told the cat, “It’s just a bit of potatoes and gravy. I hope you like it! I’m not really sure what you eat!” When she stepped away from the bowl, it sniffed the chow a little and then, to her delight, it began gobbling the meal down right away! “Oh good! I’m glad this is acceptable! I don’t really have any meat to spare! You see, I upset the butcher… Not on purpose! Actually, I did the right thing and helped him! But somehow, everyone thinks I’m the one invoking the ghost that’s possessing them and my rescues aren’t heroic since I caused them, but I did nothing of the sort! Nor would I ever!” She sat down on the stoop, and as her animal companion munched away happily, Clarissa chatted with it, “Do you know about the Hessian phantom that’s plaguing our village? I imagine you must! Well, I’m toiling away trying to save them from this murderous specter, but the more I assist with this matter, the more cause I am for their bane! It’s really quite frustrating, but one of these days, I’ll figure out how to defeat this villain! Then they’ll beg for my forgiveness after they realize what they’ve done! I bet the Hefersmith will be more than willing to supply me with a plethora of meat when that day comes! I promise you won’t want for hearty sustenance then!” She glanced at the creature who was eating, and she remarked, “Why am I telling you all this? It’s not as though you can understand me! And yet, somehow, I feel as though you are listening!” It paused its consumption to focus on her, and while she gave it a pat, she decided, “It you’re going to stick around, then you’ll need a name! What about Washington like the Continental Army’s great general?” 

“That’s a female,” Drusilla stood in the doorway and indicated to the critter. “Lucy has a nice ring to it…” 

Clarissa puzzled, “Lucy? Isn’t that your mother’s first name?” 

Drusilla confirmed, “Yes. It seems like a fitting moniker for this pet because she’s here for our protection! Plus, I’m sure my father would like to know that I have a form of her guarding me!” 

“He wants to keep you from physical harm, but why doesn’t he stand up for you when you undergo a verbal assault?” Gabby probed as she joined them outside. 

“Public opinion matters to my father! It has to- it’s his public!” Drusilla defended him. “He’s a very logical man, so it didn’t take him long to figure out the truth of the situation. Can you picture the revolt that would ensue if he denounced the vast majority’s opinion?” 

Gabby ceded to her point, “That does seem likely! I wish more people would see the light so that we didn’t have to put up with so much darkness!” 

Clarissa encouraged the other two, “They will when we put an end to this saga, so we must do all we can to hasten that anticipated event! With that in mind, I propose we continue to rifle through the literature regarding supernatural encounters until the entire collection has been studied in order for us to eliminate them as a resource at the very least! At best, we may find another clue that could get us closer to eliminating this threat!” 

“We’d get better answers if we consulted my mother’s old book on magical lore,” Drusilla put in. “Father hid it from me, but I think I know where he stashed it- it’s somewhere in his fiancée’s house!” 

“Are you suggesting that we seek a favor from Oceanus?” Gabby queried. “He’s not terribly fond of us at the present…” 

Clarissa added, “Neither is his daughter! She’s our most outspoken critic! I really doubt that she would grant us admittance to her dwelling so we can search for an object that her intended husband doesn’t want us to have!” 

Drusilla argued, “She’s getting married at the end of the week, so I doubt very much she’ll actually be anywhere near the Golden Nook Brew!” 

“Hmm… We may be able to persuade Oceanus to let us canvass the building if we convince him that he has a tool for witchcraft within his walls!” Gabby articulated. 

“He might!” Clarissa acknowledged with a slight giggle as she envisioned Oceanus’ reaction when they communicated this to him. ‘I guess if he says no, it would still be worth the trip to patrol the area and watch for signs of Alastor! Okay, let’s head out!” 

As the trio of women walked down Hollow’s Alley, the noticed someone nailing a fixture to the lamppost near the coffeeshop, and Drusilla wondered, “Why do I get a foreboding feeling about this activity?” 

Gabby responded, “Because nothing unusual going on in this town has benefited us as of late!” 

“That’s not true!” Clarissa refuted. “It was unusual for a soldier to find himself lost in Colfrith, but it seems like this occurrence came out to our benefit!” 

“Twice!” Drusilla commented with a wry grin. 

Gabby sparkled with interest upon hearing this tidbit. “Wait, is this pertaining to the man you said you were in love with?” 

Before Drusilla could spill this gossip, Clarissa cautioned them, “Ladies…!” She gestured to what laid ahead of them, and the person attaching a large feature to the lamppost turned out to be none other than Elmira! The other two sobered up in an instant, and dread started to seep through Clarissa’s veins- their difficult task became even more complicated from that juncture going forward! 

“There! It’s perfect!” Elmira declared as they approached her vicinity. Very curious about her handiwork, Clarissa and her company went behind Elmira to get a peek… When they beheld this this spectacle, they gasped! Clarissa’s heart nearly stopped upon seeing the dreadful subject- a portrait of Alastor! “Isn’t it lovely?” Elmira swiveled around to gauge their reaction. 

“It’s… very lifelike!” Clarissa anxiously conveyed to her. She sincerely didn’t want to upset Elmira when they needed a favor from her, but she couldn’t prevent herself from becoming spooked by this art! It was so eerily realistic that she could’ve sworn that it had the ability to follow her movements! 

Drusilla inquired, “Why would you display this in the public square?” 

Elmira replied, “You mean other than the fact that it’s a brilliant masterpiece?” Drusilla didn’t say a word, but Elmira ignored that and went on, “Mister Derstreich cannot be here to see my wedding, so by positioning his picture here, he can still see a part of it! Pastor Absalom wouldn’t allow it in the church, and I’m assuming the proprietor of our reception’s venue won’t permit it in her establishment…” Clarissa folded her arms at the allusion to herself as though Elmira hadn’t been acquainted with her or realize that she was there, but she certainly would never let this compel her to assent to having his chilling image anywhere near her residence, so she did not disagree with her claim! Elmira gritted her teeth with an obvious displeasure to having no control over this issue, and then she returned to her original statement, “… He will have to contend with watching us exit the chapel and ride our carriage down the lane!” 

“How… lovely!” Clarissa lied. “Listen, we stopped by because Drusilla left one of her belongings in your household…” 

“No, she didn’t!” Elmira differed. “Everything in there is owned by the Montgomery family! Well, with the exception of a few odds and ends from my fiancé!” 

Drusilla filled her in, “Actually, one of those objects is mine! I’m positive he brought it here in error! It won’t take me long to locate it, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll…” 

Elmira got within inches of her blustered, “I hope you’re not referring to that tome about the occult!” From Drusilla’s surprised expression, she inferred the reality of the circumstances. “That is the purpose of your visit! How dare you come to me and ask me to aid you in your sinful ambitions!” 

Drusilla denied that accusation, “Oh no, no, no! That publication was my mother’s! It has a sentimental value to me- I simply want it for comfort!” 

“Don’t play me for a fool!” Elmira hollered. “I’ve heard accounts of the diabolic performances you’ve engaged in! I shall have no role in this practice!” 

“Gadzooks! These sorceresses are recruiting!” a passerby exclaimed as he and his affiliate paused their gait to view this proceeding. 

Gabby countered that, “For pity’s sake, we’re merely trying to get an implement to combat against this evil reign! We have no interest in partaking in any dark rituals!” 

The other man centered around this slowly growing crowd bickered, “Oh really? So, what would you call the behavior you exhibit during these attacks?” 

“Life saving!” Gabby spat. 

“Perhaps, but what sinister ceremony evoked the life-threatening ambushes in the first place?” the man challenged her. 

Gabby sardonically shot back, “Hmm… I don’t know! It couldn’t possibly be the traitorous spy who vowed to seek vengeance from beyond the grave!” 

The man shrieked, “You have the audacity to besmirch the soul who only wanted to help our village!” 

“How exactly did he help us, Corey?” Clarissa posed to him. “He did nothing more than attempt to sell our information to the British!” 

“It would have been for our own good!” Corey ardently articulated. “We were on the wrong path due to this bid for freedom, and he needed to thwart our efforts in order to keep us safe!” 

Clarissa laughed derisively at that concept. “Oh, yes! Our village has known nothing but safety since his arrival!” 

His male friend who spoke up earlier warily warned Corey, “Don’t vex them- you’ll end up as their next victim!” 

“Oh, this is so pointless! It does nothing to vie to open the mind of one who’s sealed his thoughts shut!” Clarissa motioned for Gabby and Drusilla to follow her back to the inn. 

“Come back here, you snakes!” Corey yelled after them. 

His cohort strongly recommended, “Please, let’s forget about them and go back to our errands!” 

In a deep voice that made the trio of women immediately freeze in their steps, Corey bellowed, “No!” Clarissa, Drusilla, and Gabby turned around and saw Corey’s eyes darkening as he seethed, “They must get punished for their lawlessness!” 

To everyone’s horror, Corey ascended into the air above them! The trio reached for their means of protection, but before they could lay a finger on anything that could have shielded them, Corey spread out his arms and emitted a strong gust of wind! They managed to grab onto the lamppost, but others were not so lucky! A powerful gale enveloped around him, and several people went flying! Many hit the shops adjacent to his proximity, and a couple of individuals did not move again prior to their impact! A few people, including Elmira, clasped onto the fencing around the java room, but their source of refuge showed signs of buckling! 

“What do we do?” Gabby asked Clarissa. 

“We pray!” Clarissa answered her. “That’s about all we can do!” 

Gabby and Drusilla shut their lids, and Clarissa could tell that they were desperately beseeching the heavens to put a halt to this terror! Clarissa mimicked their move, and as she begged the universe for a remedy to this peril, she felt the force of this billowing air intensify! Her hold barely stayed fastened, but she refused to entertain the notion of her pending doom! She continued to implore the atmosphere to calm itself down refusing to bend to the premise of her or anyone’s demise! 

All of a sudden, the blast shifted in the opposite direction! Clarissa and the other two opened their eyes, and they could see the tempest encircling Corey at a burgeoning velocity! He appeared to be suffocating from the typhoon’s effect, and Clarissa cried out, “No!” She raced towards him, and Gabby as well Drusilla closely tailed her! They surrounded him with salt, and in a flash, the turbulent draft flew upwards and away from their periphery! The trio assumed that they had saved him, however… 

The fury that sustained his levitation left without returning Corey to the ground, and the second that it vacated his body, he let out a deafening scream as he plummeted back to the surface! Clarissa did not have the grit to watch what would inevitably come next, so she veered herself away from this sight and covered her ears! This posture didn’t muffle much though- she heard every bone inside of him break! She had no desire to observe his condition, and she harbored the hope that he may have survived the assault, but when blood trickled past her shoes, she craned her neck to verify his status and ascertained that he was no more! 

A heavy silence befell the masses as everyone processed this scene. After a very somber minute, Elmira indignantly requested, “I say my marital vows in two days. Could you kindly refrain from your transgressions on that occasion?”