Jack Gloria shook the cold, black bottle in his hands, feeling the paint swish up and down. He looked up. A tall, brick building stood firm in front of him. The bricks were a coal, metallic color, one that he decided to spray with a mahogany paint. He pressed down on the cap, adding the finishing touches on the knob—a lock.
Locked doors lined the back of the building, facing nothing other than a deserted lot. Each stood proudly in thin strips, making the lone space seem ominous and crude. Jack sighed. He re-shook the bottle, starting another door an inch away from his previous one.
He never got in trouble for dishonoring the school’s property. His principle never confronted any of the students about the doors.
No one seemed to know it was him.
He heard passing rumors among the teachers and students, and understood why no one painted over the graffiti. Everyone had hardship in their lives, something that bothered or shook them up. The doors had an air about them that reached out to people. An air that emitted a sadness that resonated deep inside of people's inner beings, except for Jack’s. He saw passed the sadness, had a profounder point of view. A monster lurked beneath those deceitful mahogany doors, a darkness that he felt was groping restlessly to try and reach him.
But there was no escape. Every day, for the past year, as if he was under some kind of hypnosis he would come back for more. Painting the same thing as yesterday and the day before that. Didn’t matter if it was raining or shining, the locked doors would stand confidently with new editions every passing lunch period.
He couldn’t explain it but he felt this distinction in the ambiance, a change in the restless wind. A shift among the blowing tree branches. He knew someone was behind him, before the clapping started.
“Bravo, bravo. So this is where you disappear to?” said a girl.
Celesta. Jack could recognize her voice from anywhere, even though they never held more than two minute conversations before. She was an outcast, like him. Her short hair was dyed purple. Dark clothing covered her small frame, shading her lite skin with a gray tint. A silver snake pendant hung around her neck, looking out of place, but the way she wore it seemed to shroud the necklace with importance.
“What do you want, Celesta?” he asked, without turning around. His gaze never left the doors.
“Nothing, witch boy. Just taking a stroll.” She leaned against the wall, lazily crossing her arms over her chest.
Jack’s body stiffened, his solute casting a shadow over the painted doors. “Don’t call me that,” his voice lowered into a dangerous whisper. He wasn’t a witch. He was human and didn’t want to be anything else. But that one, important fact didn’t seem to change anyone’s minds.
He cursed that fateful day in first grade when the school bus rolled over to Mrs. Gloria’s house and she stood by the door waiting for him, tapping her foot against the patio floor in an endless rhythm. After, the rumors never died of Mrs. Gloria. She was creepier than her house, and Jack seconded that. But why did he have to get stuck in the middle of the rumors? Mrs. Gloria adopted him, he wasn’t related to her whatsoever. That didn’t stop the mean kids, though. They used to call him the witch’s child, not because they actually believed in witches, but for the sake of teasing.
“When did you become so artsy? I got to admit, it doesn’t suit you. Adds to the creepy,” she said, ignoring his remark. She made hand motions that pointed at his clothes. He wore a plain buttoned down shirt, and jeans. The buttoned down shirt was Mrs. Gloria’s doing. Apparently he wasn’t allowed to dress like a hoodlum. He was already a disappointment.
He dropped the spray paint bottle. It clinked against the ground, and rolled over, touching Celesta’s black sneakers. He turned around to finally face her.
“Don’t you have something else to do? Like scare away rats?” he asked, a little annoyed.
“I thought that was your job.” Celesta snorted. She burned him bad. She blew a bubble with her purple gum, the color of her hair. Others may have done the distinctive hair style to look cool, but Celesta seemed to enjoy looking different than everyone else. Be intimidating and noticeable, in a sense. Jack didn’t understand that need. He craved to be like others, to fit into a group. To be a part of something bigger than himself. Never different. He was sick of it. He felt different than everyone else for his whole life.
“If you’re just here to dis me, please leave. I’m busy,” he huffed, picking the bottle up and looked back at his work. He ran his hand through the cracking paint.
“I always wondered what the doors meant,” she added, blankly. “What are they supposed to do anyways, lead you into a different dimension?”
“Ha. Ha. Very funny,” he said, “but I’m only human.”
“I didn’t say anything--.”
“You implied it,” he remarked, glancing at her. “Besides, if I really had powers don’t you think Mr. Fission would be dead by now for assigning the six chapters of calculus over the summer?”
Her black lips curved into a sickening smile, as she tilted her head to the side. “You’re right.” She took the bottle of spray paint from his hands.
“What are you doing?” His eyes widened.
“Helping you,” she said. She sprayed an empty part of the wall, outlining another door. Jack smiled back, a darkness glinting in his eyes.
“I can’t believe today’s the last day.” She was trying to make small talk. He cleared his throat, deciding to play along.
“Yeah,” he agreed.
“I won’t miss this place,” she said, meanwhile focusing on the door. Jack winced. He almost admitted he would miss the school but caught himself beforehand. Anyplace was better than Mrs. Gloria’s.
“Did you hear they’re having a party tonight?—in Brandon’s house,” she continued.
“Really?” he said, nonchalantly. He rubbed his chin. Something was missing from the doors.
“We’re not invited of course,” she said, giving him a quick glance. He didn’t catch any sense of hurt in her voice, but her words told him otherwise. Why did she wanted to be invited anyway?
He merely shrugged. His schoolbag was pushed off to the side, collecting dust in a corner. He unzipped it and pulled out a black pen. Perfect, he thought. He began to write words on the doors hinges. Words that didn’t make any sense. Latin words. He hardly glimpsed at them. He shoved the pen in his pocket. That was better.
Celesta perked up an eyebrow at him. “Okay,” was all she managed to say. She took a step back from the wall, handing the cold bottle back to him, while fingering the snake necklace around her neck. Jack averted his eyes. In his mind's haze a memory was barely floating to the surface. He put a hand on the wall to steady himself. He didn’t like snakes.
“See you around, witch boy.” She saluted, like a general, meaning she had to take leave and he saluted back. Her gray clad figure disappeared as she turned the corner, leaving him alone to mingle with his daemons.
It wasn’t long before he heard her screaming. The sound was shrill and girlish, something Jack never thought would dare escape from Celesta’s mouth. He dropped the bottle, broken from any trance he was in.
Go, help her. She must be hurt, said a soothing girl’s voice in his head.
Don’t risk it. Stay safe, stay here, countered a masculine voice.
He put a shaky hand to his forehead. A sharp pain cut through his brain and throbbed continuously. Dark circles were etched under his eyes. The voices were among the strange things that appeared that year, and the nightmares. It was the year he had enough. Of everything.
I’m sorry, Jack. I had no choice, said the girl.
He didn’t understand what the voices were saying, nor what they were. He pushed away from the wall, bolting down the corner. One thing he did understand in his mind’s fog: Celesta needed help. A friend. He always wanted friends.
She stood in front of two senior boys, a year older than her and Jack, and had muscles the size of a body builder’s. He didn’t recognize them. They were olive skinned, wearing black t-shirts, and one of them had her silver necklace dangling from his fingertips. Jack finally understood what Mrs. Gloria meant about the word hoodlum. He frowned, not happy with her. He would never turn into that kind of creature.
Scram. They’re not paying attention to you, said the masculine voice to Jack. These guys can easily pummel you.
You’re not afraid, Jack. You’ve dealt with harsher things. Help her, said the girl voice.
Celesta’s hands were balled into fists as she began to spit a flurry of curses in their direction. Now that sounded more like Celesta.
“Give it back,” she growled.
Before Jack could open his mouth, another boy stepped out of the shadows. A sense of pride had settled over the boy’s face, probably since the day he was born. He put a hand on Celesta’s shoulder, nodding in her direction like he had everything under control. Jack slapped his forehead. Tom White’s head had always been too big for his small, birdlike body and now he was probably going to pay for it. Jack faintly wondered where the kid got his jaunty behavior. Tom wasn’t anyone important in the school, maybe this was his way to prove himself.
“Why should we, right John?” said one of the boy’s, with the imprinted skeleton picture on his shirt. “This seems like it’s worth a lot of cash.”
The other boy—John—nodded.
“She said to give it back,” reiterated Tom. Jack couldn’t help but smirk. He had a sick feeling the boys would beat Tom to a pulp and Jack wanted to see it. He couldn’t understand why.
John laughed. A feeling of unease must have took hold of Celesta, because her expression turned fearful. She probably didn’t think Tom could help her either.
Jack, said the girl voice, help them. You don’t want to see anyone hurt.
Jack grunted, taking a deep breath in. He couldn’t think straight, and he would later argue so, that that was the precise reason he stumbled into the middle of the fiery conflict for a snake necklace. The word snake rebounded in his brain.
He stepped in front of Celesta, blocking the boys’ view of her. “There’s no point to this. Just give it back,” Jack said.
The hoodlums glanced at each other, probably making a secret agreement. They didn’t seem to care about Jack.
“If you ever want to see the necklace again I would suggest meeting us in Brandon’s party tonight—uh—so we could make a fair trade,” threatened John, dropping the act. His eyes were directed at Tom. “And I suggest losing the rentals,” John decided to add after sneaking a glance at Jack.
Jack pursed his lips, comprehension dawning on him. Celesta wasn’t the true target, nor was he or anyone else. They were just victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time—victims of an affair to get Tom White out in the open. But why?
In the next second, John flung his bag against Tom’s head, knocking Tom to the floor. Both of the hoodlums snickered as they ran away with the necklace. Celesta helped Tom up, a tear rolling down her cheek.
“Thanks for try--,” Celesta began. Apparently she was the touchy, feely type. It was hard to tell by her appearance.
“They’re getting away!” Tom yelled at Jack, his eyes glowering. “Why didn’t you chase after them?”
Jack tapped his foot against the ground, an impatient gesture he acquired from Mrs. Gloria over the years. He decided to ignore Tom’s remark. He knew for a fact chasing them wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe maim him.
“Do you know them?” asked Jack.
Tom shook his head, slowly. He didn’t seem to understand. “No, why?”
Jack turned to Celesta. “It was important, wasn’t it?” He had trouble thinking anything to do with snakes was important.
She looked down at the ground, as if she was embarrassed. “It was my mother’s before….”
He flinched. He didn’t mean to, but he couldn’t stop himself. Parents had always been a sensitive subject for him. After all, his abandoned him when he was only two. But still, he resolved to help her. Those boys stole something that had value to her. And Jack didn’t want to admit it—but he had a thing for Celesta.
An idea, like a serpent, slithered into Jack’s mind. He just needed one object to help him fulfill it.
No! Squealed the girl’s voice in Jack’s head. Don’t get violent!
You read my thoughts? Okay, the voice thing was getting creepy. He shoved his hands into his pockets. Sometimes there was no choice but to get violent.
He looked at Tom. “You can’t go tonight.”
“Why not?” argued Tom.
“It’s obvious they want something from you, and they’ll get it if you go. Since its Celesta’s necklace, I think she should be the one to retrieve it.”
“Alone,” Celesta blurted out, sounding disconcerted.
Jack shook his head, a smile stretching across his face. “How do you feel about crashing a party with me tonight?” he said aloud. He rubbed his hands like a child about to do something scandalous.
Jack’s earliest memories stretched back to staring out a spotless window, his small hands struggling to hold the heavy, crimson curtains back. Wind would rustle, stirring the trees. Boys and girls his age would play all kinds of games in the park across the street from Mrs. Gloria’s house. They usually played basketball. He used to dream of shooting in a slam dunk, like LeBron, meanwhile having the cool air ruffle his hair. He used to press so close to the window that his nose touched the glass. He just wanted, wholeheartedly, to go outside. He just wanted to be with the other kids.
Now, as he stared out the window all he could think of was Celesta and her necklace. Crashing the party would be one thing, escaping from Mrs. Gloria’s house was on another whole sphere of complicated. When he was younger he would plot out dozens of schemes to escape. The only thing that ever stopped him: he had nowhere to go. No one would want him.
“Jack,” called a stern voice that seemed as loud and wild as the wind. “Stop staring and sulking. I need you to go to the white room, sweep the floors, and--”
“Just throw me in the oven already,” he cut in, his eyes never leaving the window. “Aren’t witches supposed to do that?”
“Your dark humor doesn’t suit you, boy.” Mrs. Gloria walked out from the kitchen. Her stooped form appeared from the shadows, revealing a wrinkled face twisted in disdain. She crossed her arms over her ample chest and wore no expression upon her ancient features.
He moved his face, slowly, from the window. He wanted a few more minutes…but he felt himself being sucked, forcefully, back into a world he didn’t belong to. His nose left a white mark on the glass, which he wiped with his sleeve so Mrs. Gloria wouldn’t get upset.
“What do you need from the white room?” He asked. He’d been send so many times up there that he no longer shuddered when he heard its name.
Mrs. Gloria scrutinized his face with her dark eyes. He played around with his features to make them expressionless, but it was no use. When he was little she would make him feel fairly uncomfortable. He would avoid her for days just to escape those eyes. Now, he saw no point in even squirming. She could read people like open books--he was never able to hide a thing.
“Jack, we had covered this a long time ago. If you ask me to go outside one more time I’ll turn you into a snake,” she warned in a tight voice. She had the capabilities to perform her threats and he knew that well. He hated feeling vulnerable near her. She could perform any kind of curse on him, at her leisure. That was why she probably adopted him—a human--instead of a witch. To make him be able to submit to her will, without being able to threaten her back. And do all the chores, without complaint.
He sighed, thankful she couldn’t read the part of sneaking out. He may have been getting better at hiding things from her after all. He put up his hands in defeat. “I know, I know. What do you need me to get from the white room?” he asked again.
“Scorpions, worms, and basil,” she spat, “and get it quickly, I’m running out of patience with you.”
“Yes, your majesty,” he answered, giving a slight bow of his head. “Whatever you desire is my command. Although, I really wish you would desire less.”
“Don’t mock me, boy,” she snarled.
He smiled mischievously, knowing he bothered her. Lately, he decided to get a little more daring with Mrs. Gloria, like he wanted to test her borders. Although, he had been doing this with extreme caution. He hated snakes, and preferred not to be one. He turned on his heels and made his toward the white room.
With a single turn of the knob, on the lone door located on the second floor, a jungle appeared. Not a literal jungle, a rather organized one.
The white room was divided into cross-sections, with nothing but a curtain separating each species of plants, rodents, bugs, and lizards. Mrs. Gloria wanted every living thing in the room to only interact with their own. Jack thought she was a hypocrite. She allowed the animals to interact with their own species, yet didn’t mind to adopt a human and trapping him with her own species—a different species. If only she would have held that under consideration, too.
Glass cages and pots were filled. The sound of rodents’ constant pattering feet echoed, and a faint smell of coffee encompassed the ambiance since Mrs. Gloria enchanted the room.
First, he rummaged through a utility closet set off to the side which she had stocked with all supplies needed to help trap the critters. He acquired metal tweezers, and containers.
He knew the snakes’ eyes, as always, were following him as he made his way toward the bug section. Jack opened the scorpions’ glass cage. It wasn’t fun to look at them. Their slimy, bug-like bodies swarmed and jumped all around, their black eyes were beady and merciless. He jabbed at them with the metal tweezers. He disliked getting scorpions, not out of fear, it was too strenuous just to get one.
He grabbed a few scorpions with the tweezers and held their jittery bodies firmly. It felt like he was fighting to hold onto a piece of ice, their bodies slipping away. He placed them in the container and closed the scorpions’ glass cage so no others could escape. Next, he walked up to the plants section of the room, which was infested with all kinds of herbs, leaves and flowers.
Confession time--he ignored the pair of working gloves, waiting for him on a pot. He didn’t care if Mrs. Gloria claimed they were for his safety. They were hard to put on and take off. Besides they made his fingers feel gooey, like sticking his hands into very oily dough. He snipped a few leaves from the basil, with his bare hands. What?--it wasn’t like he was dealing with poison ivy. He felt he knew his fair share of plants.
As he walked down the steps, with the ingredients, a certain kind of heat took hold of his body. He felt like there were hundreds of fire ants crawling up his skin at once. He dropped the container. The tip creaked open and the scorpions found their way out, scurrying away for their lives across the carpeted staircase. Jack put his hands to his throat. It was constricting, his air tube closing. He gasped, desperately trying to fight for air. That didn’t help. A fire began to blaze in his chest area, where his lungs should have been. He crumbled down the steps, banging against the tiled floor with a big BOOM.
This was it. He always felt like he knew he would end in this kind of way. Humans didn’t belong in the witch’s world. He managed to lift his head slightly to take his last glance of the house, then Mrs. Gloria appeared in front of him. Her arms were crossed over her chest as if the utter sight of him dying annoyed her. A new fear crawled up to his mind. What if she let him suffer longer for not listening to her? Or worse, punish him after healing him? It wouldn’t be the first time. But in this case, the situation seemed to be more urgent. “Please,” he choked out, hating the sense of vulnerability he attained.
She grabbed his hands in her crinkly ones, and a healing warmth ran across his arms, spreading through his body like a virus. And gave immediate relief.
“That was odd,” Mrs. Gloria said, blankly.
He arched his eyebrows.
“You must be allergic to basil.” Then, she smacked him upright the head. He knew it was coming. “I told you to wear the gloves,” she grumbled.
“I’m okay,” he decided to say, while rubbing his throat. “Thanks for asking.”
She picked up the container from the floor, where he dropped it, and caught a few of the running scorpions with her bare hands. The scorpions stung her repeatedly, probably trying to desperately gain freedom, but there were no marks discerned on Mrs. Gloria’s chalky skin. Nor did she look in pain. She dropped the jittery bugs back into the container, as harmlessly as throwing in M&Ms.
She brought the ingredients into the kitchen, spilling them inside of a big bowl, and smashing them with a wooden spoon. He watched her, curiously. Soon enough, the concoction became a green and pink colored mixture. It was a love potion. He always wondered why Mrs. Gloria’s customers wanted it. He didn’t see the point in using a love potion to manipulate another being. It was immoral.
He sighed. With witches, you never seemed to know their purpose. They were wicked and wrong. *That was probably why their witch government was so unstable. Two groups constantly fought for control—the Candies and the Chosen, almost like the Republicans and Democrats of the United States, accept more lethal. Jack’s worst nightmare was to land into the hands of the Chosen. They claimed humans were a waist to the world’s facilities and conducted fatal murders that were covered up easily with their magic.
Out of nowhere, a broom flew into his hands.
“What are you waiting for?” sneered Mrs. Gloria. “Sweep!”
He dragged the broom into the dining room.
“I’m practically Cinderella already,” he purposefully said loudly, pretending to talk to himself. “Where’s my prince? I’d sure like to be swept off my feet.”
“Shut it, or you’ll be the next offering in the Sacrificium!” called out Mrs. Gloria, with her scratchy voice. The Sacrificium was a stone prison were Mrs. Gloria gave offerings—all consisting of flesh and bones--for the angels and spirits. She would usually leave panicky rats and foxes inside, and Jack would make sure to steer clear of that place since the scent of dead animals would leak through. Witches seemed to worship mystical creatures. Jack ignored the many lectures Mrs. Gloria would give him. It creeped him out from when he was a child.
A smile crawled up Jack’s face. Good, he thought. He convinced her that he was annoyed by her request. He usually hated sweeping. The house sparkled, and not a single speck of dust littered the floors. Cleaning was a needless complication, given by Mrs. Gloria because the house apparently had to look “pristine”. Now, it served as the perfect excuse. Getting away from her was his first accomplishment.
He threw open a few closets and drawers, rummaging through all of Mrs. Gloria’s junk. A glass jar filled with eyeballs tipped. Jack caught it, before it could fall, wiping a bead of sweat that trekked down his forehead. The last thing he needed was Mrs. Gloria to be on his heels.
It wasn’t there. He made a mess of Mrs. Gloria’s documents in her draws, picking up containers to look underneath them. He wasn’t in great spirits when Mrs. Gloria’s black cat, Chocolate, decided to join him in the dining room. He felt her presence like a cold, unnatural wind licking the back of his neck.
“I’m not in the mood,” mumbled Jack to the cat, without turning around.
“Meow,” she only replied.
“Go away,” he said.
“Meow?” She was trying to get his attention.
He glanced at Chocolate, a retort dying on his lips. A black looking music box dangled from Chocolate’s fangs, carvings of poisonous flowers stretched across the box’s surface. Oh, that little Devil of a cat. Jack’s nickname for her was spot on, ever since Chocolate decided to use his homework as a litter box.
He backed away from the closet, slowly, extending out his hand, which didn’t hold the broom, like he wanted to caress the cat. “Hey, there Devil. I know we have our differences but please just give me the Ruach Box.”
A noise escaped from Chocolate’s mouth. It sounded like a snicker. Before Jack could pounce on her, Chocolate swiveled around, bolting toward the kitchen. That Devil probably wanted to rat him out to Mrs. Gloria.
He chased Chocolate across the dining room. She jumped onto his dirt pile, which he collected earlier, and spread the dirt across the tiles, making Jack almost slip. He caught the edge of the table, gaining his balance, before continuing to pursue the stupid cat.
Chocolate knocked down a chair on top of Jack’s foot. A growl started in his throat. He had enough.
He threw the broom, like a javelin, and it slammed against Chocolate’s back. The cat whimpered, stretching against the floor like a wounded animal. Something dark sparkled in Jack’s eyes.
“Don’t toy with fire, Devil,” he said, leaning over Chocolate. He grabbed the Ruach Box from her mouth. A murky power vibrated from the box’s exterior, filtering through Jack’s veins. It welcomed his touch. He breathed in, feeling energized.
Dark energy, extracted from evil spirits, was located deep within the Ruach Box, allowing the beholder to use it as he pleased against his enemies. But energy was a dangerous thing to play around with, and in turn could take out anything within viewpoint, even its commander. Jack felt like he knew how to harness the box’s power, despite the dangers. He read how to use it in one of Mrs. Gloria’s magic books, and the way Jack’s memory worked—it was picture perfect. He never forgot a thing.
“If anything is told to Mrs. Gloria you’ll have to count the lives you have left, because trust me, there won’t be many or maybe any,” he threatened. He fiddled with the box in his hands. Then, he kicked the cat, hearing it screech “meow!” before walking away.
Jack’s heart skipped beats when the sun began to set. He stood, huddled over the window, struggling to keep the heavy curtains open. The sky looked like a canvas, which water colors were splashed on and slowly were dripping down. Big white clouds rolled across the beautiful masterpiece.
He felt himself giving into this cold feeling groping at him. His shoulders began to sag, and his muscles relaxed. The curtains closed automatically, despite his grip.
That’s it Jack. You should get your rest before leaving, purred the male voice.
Fight him, Jack, said the girl voice. You have to leave the house tonight.
Jack’s eyes snapped open, his whole body twitched from his excursion to stay awake. He rubbed his eyes and sighed. He sat at Mrs. Gloria old, wooden piano. He couldn’t fall asleep, no matter if his body craved it that night or any other night. He knew what sleep meant for him.
His fingers danced across the piano keys, playing Still Loving You by The Scorpions. One of the lightbulbs began to flicker, and a warm haze filled the ambiance of the Livingroom, embracing its inhabitants and giving him the feeling he was being watched. He began to hear a cracking noise coming from the window.
This warm touch spread throughout his body until he felt like he was on fire. He couldn’t put his finger on this sensation, which he never felt before—at least to this degree. It was either desire, sadness, or both mixed together to a point where neither could be distinguished as their own. Thoughts that were incomprehensible raced through his mind, but they were merely little buzz noises that he couldn’t grasp.
The cracking sound continued to come from the window, and became louder with each second that passed. His fingers froze on the piano, and he rose from his seat. He felt pulled to this sound—pulled to the widow—with a lost force that he couldn’t resist.
On the window were Latin incantations. But nothing could have been written that was more bizarre than the words Jack found engraved on its thin layer of glass, as if someone used a knife to cut through it. The words stared back at him:
For he is plotting against your soul.
He let go of the curtains, allowing them to drape over the window and cover the melancholy words. He put a hand to his forehead, breathing in deeply. He was seeing things. He had to be.
He stumbled down the steps to the basement. His eyes were glossed over and his face was slack. His room was located between the ghost room--a place where Mrs. Gloria’s late husband haunted with spirits of all sorts, good and bad--and a huge cage that was reserved for a werewolf in need, during a full moon.
He entered his room through the doorless opening. His fingers fumbled, as he struggled to open up a drawer with a single glass tube where a sluggish gray solution swished around. He concocted the potion himself to help him with his troubles lately. He picked up the glass to his eyes, studying its contents. It was a slight higher dosage than he usually took, but under the given circumstances he thought he was ready to take it.
No, said the male voice, what are you doing to yourself?
Found a way to get rid of you, Jack answered.
The voice’s laugh was hollow. You can never get rid of me.
He tipped the glass, discharging the contents into his mouth, wiping any stray drops on his chin, with his sleeve.
He breathed in deeply. A new wave of dizziness hit his head like a tsunami and the voices were drowned out. He tried to smile, for his accomplishment, but he felt too weak. He should have settled for the smaller dosage, but he couldn’t take back what he had done. It was too late.
He toppled over the fur covers of his bed and felt like he was falling, as if the bed was pulling him into a dimension by himself. His head spun and his brain was muddled with bustling, disconnected feelings. Soon enough, he closed his eyes and against his will, lost consciousness.
It was warm...very warm. Jack felt as if he was bundled up in a blanket and being held against someone's chest. A plastic nipple, like from a bottle, was in his mouth and a woman gazed at his face, with a caring and radiant smile. Her features resembled Jack’s, especially her beautiful golden locks. Jack faintly remembered her breath beating down on his small nose. It smelled like coffee.
“I love you, Jack,” said the woman in a sweet tone; in fact, the sweetest tone anyone has ever used with him.
He woke up with a jolt, not allowing the rest of the dream to continue. He covered his face with both his hands. He’d been having that dream frequently for the past year. Lies his imagination mustered to mock him.
“Jack,” a voice said, next to his ear.
He turned and saw Ronald, a ghost boy. Ronald was about ten and wore clothing that Jack guessed were from the 80’s. Ronald’s whole body was translucent and he floated in the air, like a feather. A soccer ball was in one of his arms.
“Would you like to play us?” asked Ronald. His hair was disheveled, and he wore a smile too big for his childish face.
Jack heard other voices. Next thing he knew, a bunch of ghosts decided to come into his room, through the doorless opening. Oh, how he wished he had a door to lock. Music from the sixties was playing and some ghosts decided to have a tea party. A few heads of ghost children popped up from behind Ronald’s shoulders.
“What time is it?” asked Jack, groggily, remembering his task.
“Time to play,” answered Ronald, throwing the ball up and catching it in his hands. The other ghost children cheered.
“Very funny,” he said, not in the mood. He had never played soccer with Ronald since he was ten and lost a bet with him. He had to give him his bed for half a year and had to go to school with constant back aches. “But I’d like to hear the real time.”
Ronald rolled his eyes. “It’s nine pm, bucko. Now, could you play with us?”
“No,” he replied, raising his voice. “And what did I tell all of you about coming into my room in the middle of the night?”
Each of the ghosts paused what they were doing and looked at him. He perked up his eyebrows, waiting for them to listen. As usual, none of them did and they continued whatever they were doing.
Jack sighed. Where was a door when you needed one? He swung his feet over his bed and onto the floor, creeping out of his room.
The library, located near the Livingroom, was his favorite place in the whole entire house. Spotless, ornate couches were set in a semi-circle and bookshelves upon bookshelves were filled with books.
Now, all he had to do was pass time. Every night the same story happened—Jack would read a book so he wouldn’t be claimed by sleep and Mrs. Gloria would come to yell at him to go back to bed, and then settled herself down on the couch. Hypocrite, he would think. He and Mrs. Gloria didn’t like to stay in their rooms overnight since they both had things that haunted them.
He pulled out a spell book and fell back on a couch. He noticed a few hairballs were encrusted between the cushions. At that moment, he wanted to kill Chocolate. The stupid cat always left him a mess to clean.
The book’s pages were yellow and stained. He looked through each spell carefully. He knew most of the spells by heart, he just couldn’t perform them, not that he ever tried. That would have been silly. He was human. He didn’t have magic, nor longed for it really. After his experiences in Mrs. Gloria’s house, he felt like magic only brought hardship.
When he heard Mrs. Gloria’s footsteps, he didn’t try to blend into the couch. He wanted to be caught.
“Hello,” he said, calmly, gently placing the spell book on the coffee table near him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” asked Mrs. Gloria, her face as expressionless as a rock. She had a black night robe wrapped around her body, and she crossed her arms over her chest.
“I can’t sleep.” Some truth with a lie, the hardest to detect. He played with his features until it was as expressionless as hers.
His bluntness must have surprised her, because she stared at him, wordlessly. Usually, on those kind of nights, he would come up with some lame excuse that blamed everything on Chocolate. He never like to admit to anything. Nor did Mrs. Gloria.
“I was actually just about to make myself some of your Chamomile tea, the one you add the Melatonin and Magnesium powder in,” he continued, carefully. “It’s calming.”
Her eyes darkened, like she was trying to discern his expression. She must have come up with nothing because she sighed, and plopped down on the couch, too.
“Then, hurry up and brew some for me too,” she finally decided to say.
He fought back a smile, as he made his way to the kitchen.
He came back with a tray, holding two saucers which contained peach colored liquids. Mrs. Gloria must have caught something in Jack’s face, because she switched hers and his cups. That was okay. He put it in both their teas.
“What are you thinking?” Mrs. Gloria commanded, like she was getting suspicious. She frowned down at her Chamomile tea, which wasn’t completely Chamomile. Jack had taken leverage to what he had put into that cup. He hoped she would never find out though.
He took a sip of his, barely affected by the potion he poured inside. He had been taking the dizziness potion for weeks, he was practically immune to the small dosage. But Mrs. Gloria’s body wouldn’t have the same reaction.
Waiting for her to drink it felt like hours, but he didn’t let his nervousness show. He lived long enough with Mrs. Gloria’s stone face, to be able to make his own.
“Just bored,” was his calculated response.
“Well then, go dust the pantry.” She fingered the saucer’s handle, her hands shaking slightly. He noticed she had been doing that a lot recently—shaking, like she was frightened by something. She usually shook when she thought she was alone. He was aware, after knowing her so long, that she was afraid of being alone. He suspected that was one of the reasons why she kept him.
Others may have felt sorry for the old, widow, but not Jack. She never let him out of the house--the doors always seemed to be locked. She damned him with loneliness too.
He nodded curtly, fading away from the Livingroom. An awful quiet sound encompassed the house. He peaked from behind the pantry to see Mrs. Gloria mixing her searing hot tea with her index finger, a stray scorpion scurried across the table and she caught it, drowning the bug in her tea, before taking a sip. Jack slapped a hand against his mouth. He had seen stranger things, but he couldn’t help but gag.
Complete silence. He chanced a glance again. This time, he found Mrs. Gloria sound asleep, her head laying against the table. He smiled. It was meant to knock her out for a few hours.
He pocketed the Ruach box, along with a white mask. What?--he didn’t need those hoodlums to know it was him. He faintly remembered Mrs. Gloria telling him that mask was called a Camillio, something that attached to one’s inner soul and hid it. As long as it did its hiding job, Jack was fine with it.
As he exited the house, he locked the door behind him.