Ginny had fallen unconscious from blood loss. Rachel took her knife back up and shuddered at what she had to do next. She had to cut the flesh that had touched the holy oil. It infected and necrotised the flesh of a vampire, who were not actually undead.
After cutting up her best friend, she reached into the fridge for a bottle of artificial blood and fed it to Ginny. She woke up part way though feeding and screamed in pain. Her wound started to close slowly as security arrived.
She told them everything, except her being human and hunting for her sister’s killer.
When they left, Ginny insisted she stay in the same room. As she cuddled with the sobbing vampire, Rachel couldn’t help but feel like her quest to find her sister’s killer was hopeless.
* * *
There was no heat in the bed with Ginny. The extremely low body temperature of vampires must have been the root of the rumours about them being dead.
It was cold and Rachel was sore from her various fights of late. She’d come close to death that night. When Ginny had fallen asleep she got up and walked around, cleaned the kitchen, and did some studying.
When she went to the washroom, the toilet seat hurt her back. She rolled up the t-shirt she’d changed into and saw a perfectly circular bruise where she’d been hit by the wizard’s spell. It was as wide as her hand was long and just above her bellybutton. She touched it and it stung, the skin felt sensitive. It felt like she had burned her skin and bruised. Looking at her back in the mirror she saw that she had an identical bruise on her back.
“I hope this isn’t all in my head,” she whispered.
The whispered words connected with something inside her and she felt dizzy. A flash of memories burned into her brain.
* * *
“It’s all in your head, Natasha,” Rachel yelled at her little sister when the treehouse was empty.
The adult Rachel could see her younger self and sister arguing about the existence of what they’d always called cryptoids. Rachel was firmly convinced they didn’t exist, it took Natasha’s death to convince her.
Natasha was nine in this memory or vision and Rachel was eleven. It was when she’d stopped wanting to play at hunting mythical creatures.
Adult Rachel tried her best to ignore what was going on and not look at her sister. It hurt too much. Instead she concentrated on the treehouse, everything in it, and everything around it.
“You’re mean and I hate you!” yelled Natasha as she climbed down the rope ladder.
Younger Rachel rolled her eyes and yelled back, “You’re just a baby who still believes in monsters and fairies!”
As she watched the past, Rachel saw something behind her younger self. It looked vaguely human shaped but cloaked in shadows that shouldn’t exist on that bright summer’s day. As she watched in horror the shadow smiled a bright Cheshire cat smile at her younger self and slowly looked up at her. When she started to think it could see her, she said, “Can you see me?” It winked at her and she found herself once again looking at her bruise in the bathroom mirror.
Her phone rang.
* * *
“So I heard you and my sister cuddled last night. Should I be worried?” Ronnie asked as she distractedly walked across campus.
“Not from her,” replied Dowan appearing on the other side of her.
The two men followed her as she continued to walk. After her waking dream she’d contacted her divination teacher, who’d invited her to meet in the morning at her office.
“Ginny’s prettier than either of you, both of you should be worried.” Rachel said over their bickering.
Pulling a coffee from the air, Dowan asked, “How is she, by the way?” He was the one who’d called her after her vision.
Ronnie replied, “She’s fine. Tim’s with her.” When Dowan gave him a funny look, he added, “The little dude is awesome and makes her feel comfortable.”
“He has my gun and he’s a specialist in ‘Metaphysical Transfiguration’,” Rachel said shrugging.
“Do you know what that means?” asked Dowan.
“Do you?” snapped Ronnie.
“No,” replied Dowan.
Both of them burst out laughing and looked at Rachel. “He tried to explain it to me and I think I fell asleep. Something to do with changing things that aren’t tangible into something you can touch and manipulate.” Rachel couldn’t help joining into the laughter. The three of them had to stop walking they were laughing so hard.
Both men knew where she was going. She’d told Dowan when he called and she’d told Ronnie when he and Tim showed up to take care of Ginny.
The three of them walked in comfortable silence until they reached their teacher’s office in the Blue Wizards’ School of Divination and Illusion.
The office was small and cramped. It had four desks shoved in the middle together and it looked like the office was shared by multiple professors. The Hag, their teacher, was sitting with pink spectacles on her warty nose, grading essays.
They awkwardly filled into the room and Rachel told her all the details of her dream, or vision.
“Oh my dear. That’s terrible,” the Hag said, looking distraught.
“Am I getting visions or memories?” asked Rachel.
“Oh definitely a vision. You have great divinatory powers. It’s a rare power for a demi-god. Normally it’s a human trait.”
“Yes. Humans are the most powerful divinatory beings. They can feel the magic around them and use it instinctually. It’s fascinating they have no clue how powerful it is. They call it good reflexes, luck, or gut instincts, but it’s all because they’re more attuned to the magic of time and knowledge.”
“Wow,” said Ronnie.
“You’re human, aren’t you, dear?” the Hag asked.
Changing the subject, Rachel asked, “What about the Shadow Man I saw in my vision. Do you know who that is?”
“Yes but…” she trailed off. Sighing deeply she said, “It sounds like the Smiling Dark. Subridens Tenebris.”
Both men gasped and Dowan said, “That’s just a myth, right? A story that parents tell their kids to make sure they behave.”
“Says the trickster spirit, to the Hag, standing next to a vampire,” deadpanned Rachel.
Smiling, Dowan lifted his hands. “Good point.”
“How do I find it?” asked Rachel, feeling closer than she’d ever been before.
From the crowded bookshelf, a shadow moved. At first Rachel thought it was from the clouds shifting, but it was an overcast day. It floated behind the Hag, and in one swift movement pulled out her heart.
“Shhh,” said the shadow. “That’s enough information for my new bride.”