Here we are again, my friends. It’s time for another chapter in the latest Matticus/Revis collaboration. Hope you enjoy!
“Fight it?” Jake asked incredulously. “How in the hell are we supposed to fight it? The only thing we have that’s had any effect on it is this book,” he held it out for her to see, “and we have no idea why.”
“There must be something in there that explains it,” she returned. “Have you even read it?”
“Not the whole thing, no, but I’ve read half of it.”
“Then the answer must be in the second half somewhere.”
“You’re probably right, but…” Jake’s sentence was cut off by a loud pounding coming from upstairs. It had to be the physical hand trying to break out of the bathroom. “We’ll find out later, when we’re far away from here.”
“It won’t matter where we are. It’ll follow.”
Jake took a long look at his mother. “What aren’t you telling me?”
She smiled sadly. “I’m your mother. There’s many things I’ve never told you.”
Another loud sound interrupted his train of thought. This time, he was pretty sure that the bathroom door had been broken down. “Hurry up and skim through it,” his mother instructed. “I’ll do what I can to keep it away from you.”
He wanted to argue, but did as he was told. As he flipped through the pages to find where he left off, the book slipped from his grasp and fell to the floor. Jake hurriedly picked it up. When he did, it was opened to the About Author page. After just a glance, he could tell that the words on the page had nothing to do with the author at all.
Jake read the page quickly and then looked up to his mom. She was looking towards the stairwell. There was a thumping sound that could only be the hand stump jumping down one stair at a time.
“You were right. We have to fight it.”
His mom didn’t look at him. “What does it say?”
“Once a spirit has started to take on a physical form it must be destroyed before it can regain its entire form or it will become unstoppable.”
“Great. It’s only arm. Let’s destroy it now. So, how do we do that?”
Jake smiled, “With fire.”
His mom snorted. He couldn’t see but he was sure she had rolled her eyes too. Jake had always loved playing with fire and might have nearly burned down the house a couple times. He would never admit that, of course, because he had the situation under control each of those times. But, they might have been getting close to getting out of his control. They might have been very close.
The sound of the hand coming down the stairs was getting closer. It was nearly to the bottom.
“Just with fire? No other instructions? A direct flame? Just heat?”
“It didn’t specifically say…”
His mom looked at him, almost smiling, “I have an idea.”
She grabbed her keys from off the counter and walked over to the locked cabinet that was at the end of the cupboard. Moving quickly, she unlocked it and pulled an unmarked glass bottle out of it and handed it to Jake. Once that was done, she opened their junk drawer and got out the long lighter she used to light candles. Onto the next cabinet she went, pulling out an aerosol can of cooking spray. Her materials all gathered, she turned to her son.
“Grab a couple of cups and fill them up with what’s in the bottle.”
“What is in the bottle?” Jake interrupted.
“A very potent alcohol. Now, be quiet and let me finish.” She waited a beat to see if he’d follow her direction. When he did, she continued, “As soon as you see the hand, douse it with the alcohol. Then, when it’s covered, I’ll use the cooking spray can like a flame thrower to set it on fire.”
“That’s a great plan,” he added when he thought she was finished, “except won’t that also set the kitchen on fire too?”
“There’s a fire extinguisher under the sink. If it works, we put the fire out. If not, we’ll have other things to worry about first.”
Not knowing what else to say, Jake grabbed the cups and began to pour while his mother grabbed the fire extinguisher from under the sink and put it within reach. The sound of the hand was growing ever closer as he poured the alcohol out as he was instructed. That’s when a thought popped into his head. If the spirit’s goal was to rebuild its body in order to become unstoppable, why was it here at his house? The only reason it would be here is if it thought the rest, or at least part, of its body was in the house with them.
At the sound of his mom’s voice, Jake immediately picked up the cups and flung their contents at the source of the hand’s sounds. He turned to see his mother ignite the cooking spray as it left the can. Her lips were moving like she was speaking, but no words were coming out. Then, for the blink of an eye, the flames turned the deepest black.
The flash of black was gone so quickly that under normal circumstances Jake would have assumed his mind was playing tricks on him. These were not normal circumstances. What the heck did Mom just do?
He didn’t want to get closer to the stairwell in case the hand survived the flames and raced for him, but he wanted to see what was going on too. Jake edged his way towards the sink so he could grab the fire extinguisher when needed and hoping to get a clearer view of what was happening.
The spray of fire didn’t seem to be making it far enough to reach anything on the ground. Jake moved another step closer to the sink. Then all of a sudden the hand flew away from the stairs. His mom tracked its progress with her torch and managed to catch it in flight. The alcohol ignited in an orange burst and the hand landed on the counter next to Jake perched on its fingers. The flames covered it and the smell of burning flesh clogged his nose.
He wanted to move further away but he had nowhere to go. The burning hand began to step forward. Chunks of flesh sloughed off, revealing the tiny bones working together to inch across the counter. It was horrifying and fascinating. Jake couldn’t look away.
The alcohol began to burn off, the flames sputtering and shrinking. The hand shuddered and then began to move forward faster. Jake backed away until he ran into the wall behind him. We should have run when we had the chance, he thought.
Then the hand was doused again in flames. His mom had come up behind it and was spraying it with her improvised torch. Her lips were moving again and the flames went black. As soon as the black flames touched the hand, it exploded into thousands of shards of scorched skin and bone pieces. The ghostly hands that were controlling it turned into a mist and floated downward, disappearing in between the wooden floorboards beneath their feet.
Jake wanted to question his mother. He needed to know what was going on with the black flames and the exploding hand. She didn’t give him a chance, however, because she had immediately grabbed the fire extinguisher and began spraying down the kitchen with it. Taking a step back, Jake tried to wrap his head around everything that had happened to him lately, but it was all too much, especially when he noticed that there was no longer any trace of the hand that attacked them. Despite the sheer volume of pieces that shot away from the explosion, none of them remained anywhere that he could see.
“Before you ask me anything,” his mom broke into his thoughts, “let me explain. If you have any questions after, you can ask them then.”
Jake nodded his head in a stupor, expecting an explanation that would likely make no sense.
“Your father practiced what he called the ‘dark arts’. To be honest, when he first told me that, I thought he was joking. He always loved things about magic and dragons and all that, so I didn’t think much of it. He even made me memorize a couple ‘spells’ that were supposed to help me ward off evil. It was important to him, I could tell, so I just went along with it. Now I’m glad I did. That fire trick was one of the things he showed me.”
“Mom,” he started tentatively, “what happened to dad?”
She shook her head. There was more than a quiver to her voice, “Let me finish.”
Looking away, she sighed, and then she slumped to the ground, her back against the wall and the fire extinguisher across her lap. Jake thought she looked tired, which made sense for all kinds of reasons. It was technically when she’d normally be trying to get a couple hours of sleep, plus the craziness of the last few minutes.
Jake asked, “You okay?”
His mom smiled at him. It was a real smile, not one of the forced ones she so often had displayed in the last couple years. There was more than a hint of sadness to it but it was genuine all the same.
“Your father warned me,” she said a moment later, “that every spell has a cost. I’m exhausted.”
Jake, worried, started towards her. “Come on. We have to get out of here.”
“No, no,” she waved him away. “We’ve got some time. It can’t come back now for at least a couple hours. That’ll be long enough for me to get my story out and for us to prepare. I’ll have to teach you the spells your father taught me.”
“I’m…” Jake sputtered, “I’m going to learn magic?”
“If you want to live through this, then, yes.”