It took Ninah two days to get over the exhaustion of the exorcism. She slept through most of those two days, face buried in her pillow, waking up just enough to use the bathroom, and awakened refreshed and stronger. Her inner-sight and energy paths were clearer, too, and more concepts came together in her mind.
She reviewed the exorcism in her head and wondered why she hadn’t seen the energy connections before. For years she could sense energy, gather it and work with it; mainly simple things such as getting rid of negative energies from houses and objects, and finding ley lines and nodes in the ground. Sitting on top of a node to meditate was a serious high.
The new connections gave her more to think about.
The image of the poor girl occupied her mind. Over and over she considered her actions: did she do the right thing? Was there nothing else she could have done? And since when does she run into a situation and start tossing matrix balls at someone? Ninah had a younger sister, Laura, who was about the age of that poor girl; it wouldn’t have been the first time holding a child in the midst of a nightmare.
That was no nightmare, though. Of all the places she had cleaned out, she had never seen objects flying around. Things like that don’t happen in real life. Smoothing local energies was one thing; telekinesis was another. Did the girl’s mind break in some region that wasn’t normally used? A region that held those types of fictional gifts?
Ninah tossed and turned, telling herself that she should have tried something a little more mundane before playing the high wizard. And where did that come from, anyway? Shaking feathers, tossing salt, and smudging was her usual style, but she hadn’t even thought to bring any of her usual tools with her when she went with the sheriff.
She pulled the covers up over her head.
It was a growing headache that finally kicked her out of bed to get something to eat. Once her mind began to respond to the nourishment, she decided the odd smell was herself so she took a shower. With food in her belly and her body feeling refreshed, she got dressed and went up stairs to her store.
Since she still didn’t know where to build a home, she made a studio apartment out of the basement in the store while the renovations were going on upstairs. She really wanted a small house nearby; nothing fancy, just a quiet place to rest and recharge. That old house across the field kept drawing her attention. Maybe she needed to go out and take a closer look. If it wasn’t falling down around its foundation, it might have possibilities.
A look at the computer told her that Thayer had done very little damage over the past couple days. New notices for local events had been added to the bulletin board by the front door, and a bag of cans and boxed food were sitting in the large collection box in the kitchen.
Deciding to literally sweep out the dust, she propped the door open and swept the doorway and sidewalk. When she was done, she went into the store and found a large, furred creature lounging on the couch in the middle of the room. It opened a baleful blue eye, stared at her for a moment, and went back to its nap.
“And who are you?” she asked it. She was ignored. Well, the cat wasn’t harming anything, and all book stores needed a cat, so she let it be and went back to the desk to check her inbox for new orders before opening a box of t-shirts with snarky statements and pictures on the front.
When Thayer came in, she pointed at the enormous black and white cat that had ignored her insistent requests to leave.
Thayer grinned. "Oh, that's just Kissa," he said. He went to the couch and gave the cat a scratch on the ears. "She's Severance's owner. She's probably checking out the new situation. Don't worry; she's a big baby. Aren't you?" Thayer playfully grabbed the thick mane around the cat's neck and gave her a shake. Loud purrs buzzed the air. The cat yawned, displaying large, pointed teeth, and went back to her snoozing.
"I thought she was a mountain lion or something," Ninah grumbled as she straightened a shelf. Thayer smiled.
"No, just a Maine Coon," he said. “She visits where she will.”
Kissa's human came into the store around ten a.m.; he didn't seem surprised to see his cat lounging around.
"I'm sorry," Severance immediately said with a long-suffering sigh. "She has a mind of her own. Kissa, really." The cat yawned again and ignored him.
Ninah kicked herself into responding. He was still shimmering. And the sigil blinked for him. "It's okay," she said. Never before had she been struck speechless by a person. The air around him was thick, rich with spices.
A gray, two-button suit coat hung around his narrow hips, and well-worn jeans hugged his muscled thighs and tight butt that was made for hanging on to. Ninah told herself to stop drooling. "She startled me a little, but she's been well-behaved.”
Looking around, taking in the soothing energy of the store, he noted the protective sigils that were hung around the room; they were meant to be homey, kitchen-witch hexes, which most people wouldn’t take a second look at, but he could see the talent that went into them. A Native American dream catcher with appropriate bones, feathers, and stones hanging from it, Amish hex art woven into doilies, Celtic knots holding up containers of living herbs and spices, and the fantastic sigil on the floor in front of the door which he saw had sparked when he walked on it. A bit of a shaman in her, he guessed. So where did the matrix work come from? Did she do ceremonial and shamanic magics?
He watched her with an intensity that Ninah didn't know how to deal with. She tried not to redden under his gaze. "I wanted to check in with you, make sure you're doing alright after all the hullabaloo. I would have checked in earlier, but I was on rotation at the hospital."
The door to the upstairs loft opened and Thayer came down the stairs, a rag tossed over his shoulder. He saw Severance and smiled.
"Hey, Sev," he greeted the man. "Glad to see you." He lifted his shirt, showing off a well-proportioned, smooth chest. "I think it's infected."
Ninah noticed a post attached to a small nipple. It was a little red. The nipple, not the post. Severance poked delicately at the surrounding skin, wrinkling his nose.
"What'd you do to it?" he asked. "Go wash it with soap and water, and put a band-aid over it while you are working. It’ll cushion any friction from your shirt. Or just take the shirt off. Sometime today, go to my office and have Kayla give you a shot. If it's still red in two days, or it looks like it's getting worse, it'll need to come out." The shirt was put in place. "Please tell me you didn't get anything else pierced."
"Nothing else," Thayer said with a grin. "But I'm contemplating a tattoo."
Severance shook his head and shooed the boy out the door.
"Kids," he said to Ninah.
"He cleans well," she said with a shrug. He smiled and sat on the couch, pulling his monster onto his lap. The cat began buzzing as her chin and chest were scratched.
"So how are you?" he asked Ninah.
She went over and sat across from him, her five foot six frame easily folding into the cushioned chair, legs pretzeled. "Wondering about the concentration of magics in this town.”
The doctor studied her, his face not betraying his thoughts at her picking up on the current topic of conversation within the group. And she wasn’t ready to talk about the incident with the girl. "It is interesting, isn’t it? I’m not sure why; I’ve looked around, and although this was Native American land, there doesn’t seem to be any special significance attached to the land that would bring the Talented here. The
Pacific Rim has always had a reputation for
phenomena, but we’re not a Bermuda Triangle or anything.”
Ninah nodded thoughtfully. His conversational, friendly tone was easy and welcome, displaying none of the arrogance that most doctors seemed to think they were entitled to. “I’m not getting a specific spot, either,” she said. “The whole town is vibrating with it. Any word on the teenage girl?” Her question was rushed into the conversation as she studied her hands held between her knees. Her knuckles were white.
"Won't wake up," Sev said gently, making the leap from one subject to another. "Her brain is working on automatic, for now. She'll stop breathing in a couple of days, her grandparents will make an extremely difficult decision, and she'll return to the gods until she's ready to try it again. She's at peace."
Ninah felt the truth of his words. Shaking inside, she asked, “Did I kill her?” Ninah looked down at her palms, wondering if she could live with herself if she had mortally damaged the girl.
“No,” Severance quietly assured her. He reached over and put a large paw over her smaller hands, giving a squeeze. “She was hurt long before we came to her; some people are born with their wires mixed up in their head, and that’s no one’s fault. If anything, her suffering is over. She’ll reincarnate, and we can only pray that the gods will take pity on her and give her a better life the next time around. I’ve had people die on my watch, so I understand your fears. None of it was your fault, Ninah, keep telling yourself that.”
She swallowed hard and gave a nod. "The sheriff doesn't seem surprised by anything," she commented after a moment. His hand was large and warm, a little rough from work, but soft enough to sooth his patients. Should she tell him she had never done magic like that before? She could cleanse a space, but she had no idea how she knew what to do with serious issues. And why did the sheriff come to her when he had access to Severance?
"He's cool with it," he said. "Rick is highly observant. He's been here for about six months, and didn't even blink the first time a door slammed in his face. He… there’s something going on with him; I haven’t pinpointed it, yet. Even my totem’s whiskers are a-quiver."
Her totem’s ears went straight up in Rick’s presence. Ninah frowned, realizing she hadn’t heard from her totem since she had woken up from her long nap. "He isn't from here? He and the boys seem as though they've been here forever. And why would a door slam in his face? Is the entire area spooked?”
He frowned and picked at his pant leg. How much should he tell her? Wolf was insisting that she needed to be allied with them for whatever was in the near future, but she wasn’t a … He spotted the watering statue of Enki and then looked closer at the statues set among the hexes. Inanna, another Enki, Ningishzida, Ereshkigal, and a quarter moon points up. If he considered the quarter moon as in the same pantheon as the other three, it was for Nanna-Suen. A Middle Eastern shaman? That was very rare. They had only just met, he knew nothing about her, and yet if those were her patrons, she had access to some very old magics. Severance began to reconsider his previous conceptions he had based on a hasty first meeting.
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” he said after a moment. “There’s some sort of power node here, and it’s been messing with energy. The door slamming in Rick’s face had more to do with an angry teenager than spooks.”
“I’ve cleansed a lot of places, and I’ve never seen psych stuff like that. A few lost spirits, but nothing like what we saw with the girl. And now two in one small town?”
“I know,” he said with a nod. Things flying around were new to them, too. There had never been any physical proof of such things outside horror movies; only those who believed in it reported it, which said much about the human mind, and little about reality. “Believe me, we’ve been looking into it. It hasn’t been happening for long; only about two years or so. Nothing has been changed here, though, so we don’t know why the area has become active.”
He paused, startled.
“Subject change?” he asked instead of answering her question.
She didn’t even twitch. “Sure.”
“We were wondering what your plans are for that church across the street.”
There was that ‘we’ again. Ninah wondered if the local magicians had a union.
“How did you know?” she asked. Roaming into private business from the astral plane was rude.
He smiled. “I wasn’t peeking,” he said. “It’s a matter of public record. And a few of my patients are a little outraged that it was sold to a private concern. I’m just curious.”
Her frown cleared. “Oh, right. Well, upstairs is for public rituals and meeting rooms, downstairs is for private rites. That moon pole will be dedicated to Nanna-Sin. I was thinking of a public party to celebrate the re-dedication of the building and land.” Would she have to explain who Nanna was? Most Pagans were European trads, and most of them were Celtic. Nanna wasn’t European at all.
His eyebrows raised and he chuckled. “I would love to see that one,” he said. “And I might take you up on meeting space; we usually do it my house, but that gets problematic when patients come knocking at odd hours.”
Ninah wrinkled her nose. “Please tell me you don’t do
begged. He didn’t have the creepy energy that went along with Ceremonial
magicians, but one never knew.
Severance grimaced. “Gods, no,” he said. “We’re pagan, not ceremonial. There are five of us – me, three other men and one woman. My sister, actually.”
“So no sex rites,” Ninah guessed with a smile.
“Not as a group, no,” he said, equaling her smile. Ninah considered his words carefully and then groaned as her head hit the back of the chair
“You’re gay,” she whined playfully.
He laughed. “No, but I am bi,” he admitted. “My partner’s name is Shara.”
He chuckled, made an instant decision, and leaned over to tap her knee. “Can you close up for a while? I want to show you something.”
“Sure,” she agreed. While she closed the store, Severance took out his cell phone and dialed. He sent Kissa packing, too. The large cat flicked her tail at him and walked sedately out the door.
“Hey, meet me at the old house,” he said into his cell phone while Ninah locked the doors. “The guys,” he explained at her look. “My sister lives in
so she isn’t here, but the guys live here in town.”
“And an old house?” she asked.
Severance shook his head as he handed her into the front seat of his car. “I don’t want to bias you,” he said. “I’d like for you to take a look at it and tell me what you think.”