Issue #30: Strange Times At Dayspring College

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 4

“Honestly?” JC asked rhetorically as he shook the ice in what had formerly been a cup of cola, “I don’t remember.” The pair was walking along the Riverside Trail in Wagner Park, not headed anywhere in particular, just enjoying the day and each other.

Lisa playfully gave him a sock in the arm. “Some romantic you are. I remember when we first met perfectly. It was seventh grade.”

“I don’t even remember seventh grade.” JC said sheepishly.

Lisa continued without acknowledging his admission. “You tried to copy off me in Civics and Mr. Cameron thought I was letting you. That’s the first time I ever got in school suspension.”

“Yeah, and you punched me for it.” JC recalled.

“I thought you couldn’t remember back then?” Lisa smiled.

“The memory of pain just rushes right up to the surface.” JC said, holding an imaginary wound in his side. “You were pretty violent back in middle school. We used to joke that when we got to high school, you’d join the wrestling team.”

A nervous laugh escaped Lisa. She briefly reflected on the night before when she’d kicked out a goblin’s kneecap and used her staff to brain two more after they’d proven resistant to her offensive spells. All three had bawled and mewled in pain as she drew the magic circle to send them back to Faerie. “Good thing I grew out of it.”

“You just hit me in the arm two minutes ago.” JC smirked. Lisa stuck out her tongue at him. “Oh, I just remembered!” JC slapped himself in the forehead for almost forgetting. “Next week is the annual Slate Family BBQ. Wanna come?”

Lisa smiled. Despite having broken up with JC several times in the past, it seemed that they were always together for the barbeque. It sent a warm feeling of nostalgia through her. “Of course. I’ll—“

Her cell phone started playing Made of Weird by Escape is the Only Option; the tone she reserved for Cyn’s ‘work’ phone.

“Hold that thought.” She gave JC a reassuring smile and flipped the phone open. “Hey, Cyn.“ She stressed the other girl’s nickname to tell her that she wasn’t alone.

Wandering aimlessly along the sidewalk on Library Row, Cyn split her attention between looking for ghosts or other lurkers and the phone call. “Hey, Lisa, really hate to bother you, but we’ve got nasty happening.”

Lisa held in a sigh. Of course it wouldn’t be a social call. “JC, this is about… uh… girl problems.” Lisa made up a lie guaranteed to make sure JC didn’t want to overhear, “You might want to walk on ahead.” JC didn’t need to be told twice and headed off at a trot.

“Okay, Cyn, what kind of nasty are we talking about? Do you guys need… me?”

“Not yet.” Cyn replied. “I’m calling to see if I can rule a theory out. What can you tell me about ghosts?”

Making sure there was no one in earshot, Lisa stopped walking and leaned on the railing overlooking the river. “They’re not dead people for one. They’re what happens when a lot of stray emotional energy clumps up on the Astral Plane. Think ‘dust bunny’.”

“Dust bunny with big, pointy teeth?”

“Not usually.” Lisa shook her head. “Most of them aren’t even strong enough to affect the Material Plane, much less hurt anyone. The number that can has gone up after the thing at ConquesTech, but the worst I’ve had to dissolve was breaking windows and babbling.”

“So none that, say for example, threw a two hundred pound bench at someone?”

“Cyn, what happened? Is someone hurt?”

“No, Warrick did his metal bendy thing and kept it from coming to that. We’re not even sure if it’s a ghost yet.” Cyn continued on her way. “Is there any way we can tell if it’s a ghost or not?”

Lisa chewed her lip. The magical problems in Mayfield had been few and rarely harmful. The goblins, for example, were just on a stealing spree. All of them had been sort of Occult’s defacto domain. It felt weird to not be involved. Still, she wasn’t one to mislead her friends when she could avoid it. “A real ghost will be easily visible from the Astral side.”

She didn’t have to tell Cyn who she was talking about. “Looks like I’ve got another call to make. Thanks for your help. I’ll let you know how it turned out.” With that, she hung up.

For a few moments, Lisa simply stared at the phone. Was it really her responsibility to police the magical world in Mayfield? Was that what she had appointed herself to when she decided to become Occult in memory of her aunt?

More importantly, did her friends need her now? She knew Laurel wasn’t in town, which meant they wouldn’t have access to the Book of Reason. But she also knew, from Cyn’s colorful interpretations, how Kareem could attack extremely efficiently from the Astral side. He would probably be better against ghosts than she was.

Unconsciously, she touched the outline of the Digi-book of Reason that was always in her purse next to the prepared illusion that made her into Occult. There was no guarantee that the thing they were dealing with was even a ghost at all and then they really would need a Book of Reason…

She sighed, envisioning JC’s face when she lied to him about going to help Cyn with her ‘female problems’. Another Friday night down the tubes.

***

Much like the museum, Dayspring College’s Central Library was effectively dead over the summer. The only difference was that the museum closed, but the library was open twenty four hours a day.

This arrangement was the perfect job for Augustus. Not a fan of going to sleep before three or waking before noon, he found it was also a good excuse to sit and read in relative quiet without being called anti-social.

Of course, having a girlfriend sort of automatically dispelled accusations of a lack of social life. At least it had until she’d broken up with him with neither reasons offered nor warning given. And so he’d returned to the books.

At first, he’d looked for advice there. But the library had an ironically small number of self help books. Then he’d discovered that the rare books vault wasn’t locked in any serious way and used the thrill of reading things very, very few people had or would to take his mind off things.

That’s how he came to be reading from a vellum bound tome, and how he didn’t notice Juniper, Warrick and Tammy approaching until they were almost on top of him.

“Hi, Auggie.” Juniper offered a casual wave.

Instantly, the book was snapped closed. “Hey, Jun. Hey, Warrick. What brings you guys to this side of campus?”

“Actually, we wanted to ask you what else you know about the strange things happening around here.” Juniper said. “We think we may have just seen something like it.”

“I’m Tammy.” Tammy pouted because she hadn’t been introduced. “Warrick’s sister.”

“Uh… hi.” Augustus waved back to her. Returning his attention to Juniper, he shrugged, “I really don’t know much more than I told you. What happened to you guys?”

“I was crossing the plaza in front of the Humanities Building,” Warrick related, “And this girl was passing out fliers when I heard a voice shout ‘terrifying!’ and then we almost got flattened by a bench that got heaved at us.”

Augustus had stopped listening at the part with the girl passing out fliers. “Girl with fliers…” he echoed. “Was she about yea high, blonde?”

“Yeah.” Warrick said, wondering what that had to do with anything.

Shoulders sagging, Augustus frowned. “Deborah.” He stated flatly. Worry crossed his face. “Is she okay?”

“Your girlfriend?” Warrick blinked. “Yeah, she’s fine. The whole thing missed and broke up on the ground.”

Tammy cocked her head as if hearing something strange and peered over the top of the desk. “Weird book.” She said, noting the interlocking geometric shapes interrupted by wavy lines embossed on the cover. “Looks like the Nerconomicon or something.”

Augustus blew out a relieved sigh. “Thank god she’s alright.” He remembered part of Warrick’s earlier statement. “But she’s… she’s not my girlfriend anymore. We broke up a couple of weeks ago.”

“Oh.” Juniper said. “I’m sorry, Auggie. I didn’t know.” A brief span of silence passed through the room. “Well, the good news is Cyn thinks you’re cute?”

“Huh?” Both men present were shocked, more for Juniper’s matter-of-factness than from the actual content. Augustus shook his head though. “That’s nice, but It’s a little too soon for me.”

Warrick shrugged. “Hey man, I see where you’re coming from, but I think you should keep that in mind. Cyn’s a great girl. Any guy would be lucky to have her.” A perverted portion of his mind added ‘especially if he finds out about the shapeshifting’.

This is where it is coming from.

“Oh shit.” Warrick whirled and came on guard for another attack.

There was an apologetic and embarrassed feeling and then Warrick clearly recognized Kareem’s mental voice. I am sorry, Warrick, Juniper. It is only me. Cyn called me and asked me to investigate the Astral Plane around the college.

“Are you okay? Did the ghost make you spaz out or something?” asked Tammy, who was not included in Kareem’s mental communiqué. Augustus also looked concerned.

Warrick tossed them a dumb grin. “Yeah, I think I’m a little jumpy. I mean I did just have a bench heaved at my head.” To Kareem, he thought, And something’s here?

Most certainly. Kareem replied, there is some sort of strong emotional energy emanating form this place. I cannot explain it, but it seems to sharpen my ability to sense the Material Plane.

“That’s completely understandable.” Juniper reached over to pat Warrick on the shoulder. Can you tell exactly where it’s coming from? She asked Kareem. The only people I know of here are us and Auggie and he can’t possibly be the one attacking people.

The source is not human. Kareem confirmed. And I am not convinced that it would be harmful to humans or anything on the Material Plane. It is simply the only thing out of place on the Astral.

Warrick pretended to catch his breath from his earlier reaction to Kareem’s entrance. Something broadcasting on the Astral Plane… if it’s not something Ms. Brant made, then it has to be magic, right?

That is what I am told. Kareem gave a mental nod.

Warrick’s eyes scanned the area. Aside from the worried looking Augustus, there really wasn’t anything out of place—except a book that had reminded even his sister of something out of Lovecraft.

Juniper, however, was already out in front of him. “Maybe we should change the subject. What’s that book about, Auggie?”

Casting one more concerned glance in Warrick’s direction, Augustus gestured toward the closed book. “Oh, that? Well, don’t tell anyone, but I borrowed it out of the out of print section.”

“Isn’t that against the rules?” Juniper asked innocently.

Augustus shrugged, “I’m going to put it back and it’s never left the library anyway. As for what it’s about, it’s weird. A lot of fantasy stories but every time someone uses magic, it goes into a lot of detail about how they cast it. Tech manual kind of detail. Here, take a look.” He cracked the book open to a random page and displayed it for them to see.”

“Uh…” Warrick squinted at the blocks upon blocks of bizarre symbols. “What language is this?”

“Cuneiform, maybe?” Juniper offered.

A frown came to Augustus’s face. “Come on guys, don’t mess with me. It’s English.”

“How old is this book?” Warrick tilted his head as if that would help. “Maybe English was different back then.”

A snort came from Augustus. “You guys are having fun with me. Look, right here. Tell me if that heading doesn’t say ‘To Conjure Flame Into Varying Shapes’.”

“Dude,” Tammy shook her head. “It’s says ‘square with a little man, circle with a squiggly line, circle with… water or something… snake, snake, smilie face without eyes, triangle with loops on the end’.”

With that, Augustus pulled the book toward him. “Guys, this isn’t funny. I know what it says. I don’t get it, we don’t know each other well enough to pull practical jokes on one another.”

This could be very bad. Juniper relayed to Warrick via Kareem. It’s another magic book.

But how can he read it? Warrick replied, worried.

Something is coming. Kareem suddenly interrupted. Tunneling through the Astral.

A gust of wind from the center of the room confirmed his statement. A magic circle, filled with a jumble of overlapping sigils that glowed a dim rose color against the faux wood floor, came into being and slowly lifted into the air.

As it did, the sigils drew the form of Occult until the mystic prelate stood there, bathed in rose light, her head bent to gaze at a handheld electronic device.

When the circle faded, she looked up and swiftly got her bearings. Her eyes locked on Augustus and the book. “Get away from the Book, now.” She commanded. Everyone there distinctly heard the capital ‘B’.

Frozen in fear, it was all Augustus could do to stand his ground and clutch the item in question.

“Seriously, now!.” Occult’s voice boomed, enhanced by the magical power she was gathering to her. “That’s the Book of Passions and—“

The glass doors of the library shattered, giving way before a golden body that bounced and skidded end over end on the floor, flopping like a rag doll. Before she had even come to a complete stop, Facsimile was shaking the glass out of her wings and rejoining broken bones. She didn’t let the surprise of seeing Occult touch her eyes.

Instead, she fixed her with a spiteful glare and groaned. “Dust bunnies. Four dangerously glowy dust bunnies are out there trashing Library Walk.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #29: Little Girl LostIssue #31: It Came From a Warped Star >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed

  • Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.