Read American Goth Online

Authors: J. D. Glass

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Thrillers, #Contemporary, #General, #Gothic, #Lesbians, #Goth Culture (Subculture), #Lesbian, #Love Stories

American Goth (6 page)

BOOK: American Goth
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Cort threw her a toothy smile in the half second before thought became action, before the challenge was answered and they were off, the hunt purposeful now: to rout the invading dark force, human adepts and nonincarnate beings who attempted to invade, to twist and remake, this level of the Astral that reflected the Material.

If they could do so, then the Law would be followed: as above, so below, and that part of the Material world would pay the price of their failure to defend now and the Dark would grow, would find it that much easier to further invade other parts of the Astral when the rotation of the planet brought other sections of it to the same vulnerable point.

Ann already knew her position here, Cort had told her clearly. “Don’t engage—track, hunt, seek—announce what you find.”

“What if I don’t know what to do?” she asked. “What if I don’t do it right?”
What if we’re overrun?
was the question she didn’t ask.

“Once we’ve started, follow the hawks—watch where the lines break, spot for sneak attacks. Learn to see, to fight with your sight. If…” He hesitated. “If the line falls, then you do what you must—but that won’t happen,” he said and gave her a sharp grin.

“How do you know?”

He looked at her a long moment. “Because it can’t,” he said, his voice strong, determined.
“It simply can’t.”

Anacrusis

I see, I forget. I hear, I remember. I do, I understand.

—Chinese proverb

Two weeks later, and my shoulders were so tired they burned with pain that seemed to have voice, a voice that sang high-pitched in my ears; I opened my eyes to find my head had bowed, but I’d held the blade Cort had given me, had held it up and high.

Each physical training session was now followed by an Astral one, and they were both grueling. I repeatedly faced images, realities, possibilities with varying levels of probability above, things that could or would manifest in myriad ways on the Material unless stopped there.

Everything Cort and I did now revolved around the focus of Light, to strike with compassion, understanding, to remember always that every conscious being arose from and was meant to remain a part of the Light, all growing,
evolving
, toward a level of understanding, of being,
existing
, that was beyond my limited human senses and biology to comprehend fully.

Rigid training and discipline—hence, the kneeling position with arms upraised—would ensure that my physical mind and body would act and react from force of habit as opposed to emotion, and in turn, my mind, my intentions, my sense of spirit were etched indelibly upon the metal lattice of the blade’s structure due to the constant physical contact, attuning our charges as it were, in the same way that a magnet groomed metal and transformed it. In the process, I became able to perceive the intentions of those who had held it before me, before my father. I could now easily discern the energy, the spirit in which it had been formed, because its essence
lived
, a heart of Light literally buried into the crosspiece from the hilt to the first few inches of the blade.

I felt it every time I held it, and each time I did so a growing sense of comfort with the weapon, with its embedded presence that was fast becoming an extension of myself, grew.

“Let me help you,” Cort said as he removed it from my hands, then guided my arms down. “You’re pushing too hard,” he said gruffly, but his hands were as gentle as they were strong when he rubbed my shoulders against the numb and the ache then carefully removed the weights I still wore.

“I just want to
get
there already, you know?” I told him, and I could hear my voice sounded as tired as I felt. I was so tired, in fact, I skipped our usual friendly argument about the color of the scabbard—we disagreed as to whether it was a deep blue or black—and sat back on my heels. The nausea and headache that accompanied it forced me to use all my will to fight the natural pull of gravity, and the hyperreality of the Astral hunt and chase as well as the images those…things…had thrown at me—anything and everything that could have been or possibly be, all in an attempt to draw me out, to either fight or quit—continued to whirl through my mind.

A burst of friendly cheer that made me smile flared through the room as Elizabeth entered the study, hair bound as always—pulled from the sides and loose at her shoulders, the ends curling over her white blouse.

The wire-rimmed glasses she wore couldn’t hide the sparkle of her eyes. “I think you might need this right about now,” she said as she smiled at me in return and handed me a heavy, hand-fired mug, glazed in graduated shades that ranged blue to copper, the solidity and warmth of it welcome against my chilled palms.

“Thank you,” I told her before I sipped at the milky tea.

She nodded and after making sure I’d neither choke nor drown myself with my almost complete lack of fine motor control, she placed a plate of scones next to me. Cranberry and pecan, I noted. I was a fan of those, and Elizabeth baked them herself in the more than ample kitchen.

“Here,” Cort said as he took a throw blanket from the settee and threw it around my shoulders. I tended to feel cold after sessions, and the blanket prevented the chill and stiff from setting into my shoulders.

“I’ll take care of the room later,” he told me.

I smiled my thanks at him over the mug as the deep blue, almost black wool gently scratched against my neck.

I was almost fully recovered; at least the disorienting nausea had abated, and the throb in my head had faded to manageable annoyance, as he crouched down before me. His gaze matched his tone in solemnity when he spoke.

“Elizabeth and I”—and he glanced up at her for a moment as he took a breath—“we both think you’re ready to know, to understand a bit more about the Law. There are things you need to understand, completely, because there are consequences and…” He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly and the lines around his eyes tightened as his face worked. “This is part of who you are, and who you’re meant to be, love. It’s my job to make certain you’re guided to it.”

“I’ll take it from here,” Elizabeth said as he hugged me.

I nodded against his broad shoulder, steadied by the coal-tar soap smell, the same as my father’s, which suffused his shirt.

“Okay then,” he said as he released me and rose, “and if you’ve questions, after, please, ask either of us, both of us, however many times you have to, until you understand. Promise me?” he asked as he stood by the doors.

“I will.”

He winked at me as he walked to the door. “I’m in the workshop if you need me later,” he said, then left.

Elizabeth had already partially set the room to rights and had pulled a seat before the fireplace for me.

“Come, sit with me, Annie,” she said and patted the seat.

Refreshed enough, I rolled my shoulders and stretched my back under the blanket I still wore as I crossed the hardwood floor and stepped lightly onto the carpet.

Elizabeth folded her hands on her lap and looked at me expectantly as I sat down.

“There are some things that you know quite clearly by now,” she began. “Tell me, what is the first Universal Law, obeyed by default?”

That was easy—we all lived it. “As above, so below.”

“Exactly. And the greatest, the gravest possible sin against the Universe is…?” she asked as she peered at me over her glasses and I took a bracing sip from my mug, the warmth and weight now a familiar comfort.

“To control another.” I swallowed, then answered, “To abrogate free will, to push your own mind, desire, or will onto another.”

“Why?”

“Because…” I hesitated, not certain I could say it, explain it in a way that made sense. “Because it takes someone away from their…their path, from their potential.”

“Good enough, for now anyway. Tell me what you know of absolute right and wrong.”

I took a moment to think about how to answer this properly. “It’s like math,” I said finally. “There can only be one right answer to the equation. All the steps you take to get that result may be right, may be wrong, may be circuitous, but the correct answer is just that, the only solution, and it’s right, for all time, while the wrong answer, no matter how many correct steps to get there, is also equally incorrect, forever.”

“Perfect,” she said and smiled. “There are no shades of gray, ever. But what if there are multiple answers?”

Of course. I chewed my lip as I thought hard and focused on the fire Uncle Cort had thoughtfully lit before he’d left the room. There
were
equations that had multiple answers, all of them satisfying the problem. But I knew this, and suddenly, I realized just how well I knew it. I raised my eyes to Elizabeth’s and smiled. “It’s a solution set,” I said, “a grouping of correct answers that satisfy, each of them necessary, and no others permissible and,” I said as I thought it through, “it argues for the inevitability of certain outcomes no matter what the decision—absolute inevitabilities. Maybe…parallel universes.”

Elizabeth straightened and leaned back against the padded brocade of the settee. “So you’re enjoying the physics, I take it?”

I grinned at her, because I did. “Will it help me build a better amplifier?” I asked.

She laughed. “Maybe, but tonight,” she said and resettled her seat, “we’re focusing on matters…harmonic in a different way.”

She had my complete and total attention.

“If the most grievous of crimes is to take another’s free will, what would be almost equally wrong? Or, perhaps, even worse?”

As wrong as forcing another’s will… “To relinquish your own,” I said, my voice almost a whisper because I suddenly realized the full extent of what that meant, and Elizabeth nodded at me as I felt my eyes widen.

“Yes, Ann.
That
is exactly it. You can’t get drunk, you can’t just go out and get stoned—not that I think you would,” she added hastily, correctly guessing that I was about to protest. “But you already know that to choose to give up your conscious ability to decide correctly, given your abilities—”

“—is to permit the probabilities,” I finished for her.

“Exactly. You know well enough what might happen. And because of this? You are still responsible for end results—there are no excuses, Ann, about being in any way, manner, or form out of control—you know, full well, what laying down your guard will bring. There are those that would commit the crime of stealing, taking freedom of choice—and thus the energy—from another.”

“So,” I said as I considered, “they not only remove the person from their path, they also interfere with the plan, the order of the Universe—this is a direct attack against the Light and its manifestations, right?”

“I’m so very glad you understand that,” Elizabeth said as her expression became grave, “because it means you know the weight of what happened and what you attempted earlier this summer.”

I knew exactly what she meant, and I resisted the urge to rub at the marks on my arm by sipping from my mug in the silence. I stared into the flames as they danced in the grate.

“I don’t…I didn’t really want to
die
, per se,” I said finally. I sat up straight and faced her, to find her eyes as warm as always on me. “I just…I don’t know. Even with the grand plans of the Universe or whatever,” and I gave her a half-hearted grin, “there’s not a lot here for me, you know?”

Elizabeth gave me what I could only describe as a sympathetic glance. “I can understand why you might feel that way,” she said quietly.

“Do you?” I asked her as I fought down the surge of hurt and anger that threatened to flood through me and I shrugged the blanket off my shoulders—I was warm enough. “Do you really?”

She leaned forward and gazed at me intently, held my eyes with hers. “I do know what it’s like to live with the unchangeable, to love, to lose, to regret,” she told me, and I watched the flame dance in her eyes as she said so. “I know what it is to do what you must anyway, to ignore, sometimes to fight, the hounds, to be aware,
always
, of the path. This is what you’re learning to deal with—what you must deliberately choose to live with—and,” she straightened and sat back again, “this brings us very neatly to our second, but most important topic. Binding.”

I raised an eyebrow at her. That was completely unexpected and immediately took me away from the thoughts and the feelings that had started to roil through me. What?

“I know you’ve just come out of an exercise with Cort, but I’d like you to slip into a monitor state—can you do that?”

Closing my eyes, I agreed to try. First I put myself in the Light, the nimbus and barrier that charged and guarded the body. Once that was quickly accomplished, I forced my awareness back to the Material, carrying the ability to see or, at least, accurately sense the energies that whirled and massed around, through, and in us.

“Got it,” I said and opened my eyes to a slightly different world. Hazes, like the waves that drip up off the asphalt and through the air in heat of summer, surrounded different items in the room.

“Can you see the channels?” she asked, waving her hand along her body.

I could, I could see where the energy flowed, the path it took, the centers where it gathered, and the greater areas of exchange. The centers shone brightly, were concentrated masses about the size of a tennis ball that flared in my sight over her head, her heart, slightly below her navel, and if I focused in just the right way, I could see almost through her body to the glowing exchange center that parked almost at the base of her spine.

BOOK: American Goth
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