Looking for a new laptop

Hello, friends.

I am researching for a new 2-in-1 laptop. I am hoping for it at the end of the year or early next year. Depends on my savings. I have none right now. I live on a disability income.

Right now I have an Asus i7-8565U. Yes, I know, 8th gen. I am way behind. I need to get a new battery for the pen. Not sure if it will work anymore. Well, I want to upgrade to an i7 12/13th gen with a 1 TB hard drive. So far, this is what I found…

What laptop do you use for writing and editing books?

Writer’s desk makeover

I have these two. I was thinking of pastels for my desk makeover. Maybe black and white instead. I don’t know. I know I want it clean and organized. Aesthetic pleasing. I plan on upgrading the computers. Laptop maybe this year and tower next year. I am running on 8th gen stuff. What are your ideas?

Here is what I have so far with office supplies.


Read The Hooded Figure before slipping down to the fiery gates of Hell. Don’t want you to get lost, now.

James dropped his head and twisted around toward the group. His dark brown eyes glowered at the teenagers as they huddled in a circle. A sneer appeared, and a roar of sinister laughter crawled up his throat and through his crimson lips. “Now,” he slapped his palms together and rubbed, “what game shall we play next?” James placed his fingers on his jaw and caressed the tip. “Hmm, let’s see.” A finger tapped his chin. “Ahh, yes.” His glare pushed the group back a few steps. He glimpsed at his wristwatch. “Hmm, a half-hour before midnight.” And nodded, “Yes, plenty of time.” His head snapped up, and his face softened. “Let’s get in a line.” And he patted his hands together. “Come now, in a line.”

Sophia, Elijah, and Ava stared at each other, frozen in terror. Their hearts raced, breath rapid and shallow. Their faces drained of blood.

An icy hand grasped Ava’s arm and jerked her from the others. James dragged her three feet from them. “Now, now, Ava. I said, get in a line.”

Ava closed her eyes and lowered her head to avert eye contact. Her body quivered in fear. The shiver intensified when James’ frigid body embraced her. He lowered her head onto his chest and played with her purple and brown hair. A frosty breath blew into her ears. “Don’t worry, dear little Ava. If you survive the game, I’ll take you home with me.” He angled his head to view Sophia and Elijah. “I’ll finish raising you myself.” The corner of his lips rose as a chuckle vibrated from them. “Get. In. Line… Now!” Sophia and Elijah obeyed. 

James paced and raised a finger. “Now, a candle.” He stopped in front of Sophia and turned. His fingers rose to her face and lifted her chin, and he leaned in closer. He cupped her head in his hands. “Go to the kitchen and grab a candle, my sweet.” 

The girl’s body swayed. “Yes,” slid out from Sophia’s pink lipstick lips. 

James lifted his head. “Go, now.” She nodded and raced to the kitchen.

Rooted to the floor, Elijah watched James instill fear in Ava and seduce Sophia. I must do something. But what? 

Sophia returned with a medium-sized black and red pillar candle and gave it to James. “Is this what you wished?” 

James peered into her eyes; mouth pinched. “Yes, dear.” His hands curled around the candle and lifted. He shifted and sauntered to Elijah, whose arms rose. His palms faced the ceiling. James placed the candle on the hands. “Here you go, Elijah, my boy.”

Elijah tried to shake his head but to no avail. He struggled to speak. “Mmm, mmm.” But his locked lips stopped the sound. 

“Now, Elijah.” James shook his head and planted a finger on Elijah’s lips. “There’s nothing you can do.” He slanted his head and snickered. “If you want out, you must play the game.” James peered into Elijah’s eyes and nodded and tapped Elijah’s head with his finger. “I know what goes on in that mind.” James glared at Ava and back to Elijah. “Dirty little mind.” He smirked. “Didn’t know young teenagers thought that way.”

James strolled to Ava, stopped, and did an about-face. He stared at the line and fluttered a hand in the air. “Now, to the bathroom.” James had controlled the group’s movements and forced them to follow.

They entered the bathroom, and James placed Elijah in front of the mirror. He moved Ava a few inches behind him, and Sophia stood opposite her. Their reflections peered back. Pale, tear-swollen eyes and dread washed over their faces. 

James glanced at his wristwatch. “With the lights off and the doors and windows closed, we’re good to go.” He handed Sophia a book of matches. “Now, sweetheart, give these to Ava.” He watched their every move. “Now, Ava, my love, light a match.” Ava snapped a match out of the book and scrapped the head against the striker, and it lit on the first try. “Now, give the match to Elijah.” Her hand shook as she passed it to Elijah, who steadied himself and pinched it from her. “Now, light the candle.” Elijah did what James asked. He dropped the match in the sink, and the flame fluttered out. “Now, stare in the mirror and wish for something, besides fleeing from me. Visualize it in your mind. Wait until you feel a presence in the room.” Perfect timing, 12:01 am

The hair on their bodies stood on end, and goosebumps formed on their arms. James rubbed his palms together and grinned. “Now, repeat after me. ‘I’m aware of your presence, and I welcome you into this home. Come now.’” They repeated after him. “Now say, ‘We will play a game of Hide and Seek, until three.’” They repeated the phrase. James inhaled; head tipped back. When he exhaled, it straightened. “Now, boy and girls, go run and hide.”

Elijah dropped the candle into the sink and dashed off with the girls. They separated and hid. A harsh growl rattled the windows, and heavy footsteps shook the house. The temperature plunged below zero. Their breath formed a mist in the air every time they exhaled. Ava hid in the study behind the couch. She snatched a blanket from its arm and wrapped her chilled body. Elijah pulled a coat from the hallway closet and put it on to keep warm. Sophia, stuck in the food pantry, folded her arms around herself as hypothermia took over. 

“Ammit, Ammit, Ammit.” James exhaled. He paced in the front room, the biggest room in the house. “You see, she’s an ancient Egyptian demon. She yearns to devour souls and the meat and blood of humans.” A howl vibrated the home. “She’s ravenous right now.” He peeked at his wristwatch. “You have until three. When you hear the tone, run to me.” If you can. “And you’ll win your wish.” 

Time clicked by as Ammit sniffed the air, searching for them. She searched room by room and tore the doors off the hinges and yanked the curtains off the rods. The demon flipped beds and chairs. She stomped her way to the first floor. Ammit entered the front room and paused by James, who petted her. “Go now, find them.”

Ammit entered the kitchen and split the pantry door in two and peered inside. She licked a frozen Sophia. The beast expanded her crocodile jaw and slid Sophia down her throat like an ice cube. She swung around and sniffed the air. Her pace slowed, and she shuffled her way to the hallway, and laid next to Elijah’s closet, and fell asleep.

A putrid stink of decaying flesh filled Elijah’s mouth and nose. Bile rose in his throat, and he fought to keep it down. I can’t let her find me.

“Hmm,” James’ voice echoed through the house. “Sophia’s gone.” He waved his hand in the air. “That’s okay. I didn’t want her. She was too… cold for me.” He guffawed.

A few hours passed, and Ava peeked out from behind the couch and crept to the desk. Her heart-thumping woke the slumbering beast. Its nose sniffed the air. Ammit shook her lion’s mane and rose onto her hind hippopotamus legs and stretched. The creature shifted her body to her front lion legs and again shook her mane. She sniffed at the door, let out a snort, and licked it before searching for the beating of the heart. 

Ava darted to the closet and twisted the knob. The door creaked open, and she slid inside. The meditation she did helped slow her breathing and heart rate. I hope this works. She glanced at her wristwatch. 2:45, fifteen more minutes, I hope. 

The den shook at every step Ammit took. The demon pushed her way through, breaking the door frame. She tilted her head and glanced around the room. With a grunt, she withdrew. The vibration of her footsteps faded. 

Ava let out a sigh of relief. The paneling behind her exploded. Ammit’s mouth clutched down on her legs as her hands tried to grasp the doorknob. The demon dragged the girl to James. His face went from a sinister smile to a dissatisfied frown. 

Tears smeared Ava’s mascara, and it trailed down her cheek and dripped off her chin. Blood gushed out of her legs as Ammit’s razor-sharp teeth tore deeper into her flesh. 

James kneeled and caressed Ava’s pale cheek. “I hoped you’d survive this game.” He lowered his head. “What was your wish, my love?”

Ava shook her head, and her forehead wrinkled. “You already know.”

James nodded. “To flee from your parents.”

Ava nodded.

He stroked Ava’s matted hair. “And now?”

Ava’s body shook. She peered into his eyes. “Anything to stay alive.”

He slid his hands to her chin. “Anything?”

She nodded.

James grinned. “The things I can do to you when you become of age.” 

“I’m yours,” she whispered.

Humm, are teenagers easy these days, or am I missing something? No thrill of the hunt, I’ll pass. Let’s get this over with. James shifted his head to Ammit. A roar rumbled out as her jaw expanded and scooped Ava into her mouth. 

A lone tear appeared and dripped from James’ eye as Ava’s last word echoed in his mind, ‘NO!’ He sneered at Ammit. “Do you know how hard it is to find someone like her?” 

Ammit stomped away. 

James glanced at his wristwatch. “Tick-tock, three minutes, the tone will be… well, you know.” He stared at the hallway closet door. “Looks like you’ll win, Elijah.” 

Elijah slapped a hand over his mouth when Ava’s screams died out. He glanced at his wristwatch, and the tone of three peeped. He flung the door open and sprinted to the front room. Elijah froze when a beast with a combined body of a lion, hippopotamus, and crocodile glared at him. The demon shadowed him. I’m wasting time. The demon swayed and hacked salvia all over Elijah. He shook his head. Something stuck in her throat. It’s now or never. Elijah backed up a foot and darted toward the beast and slid under her into the front room. James’ grin faded into anger. 

Elijah jumped up and placed his hands on his knees. With each exhale came a word. “I. Made. It.”

James took off his wristwatch and strolled to Elijah. His rage subsided, and his grin returned. He held the watch in front of Elijah’s eyes. “Five after three.”

 Elijah shook his head. “Impossible.”

James gazed over Elijah’s shoulder and nodded at Ammit. “She knows how to hold people off. But, she has something caught in her throat. She would’ve shadowed you longer.”

Elijah shook his head. 

Ammit turned toward Elijah and James. She hacked once more, and a black boot flew from her and landed next to Elijah’s feet. He jumped back.

James placed a hand on Elijah’s shoulder. “She knew where you were… all along. The demon stopped you from crossing over, just long enough for you to miss the deadline.”

Shit, now what?

James studied Ammit. “It’s not fair. You get what you want, but you eat what I want.”

James pressed his chilled body against Elijah. He wrapped his arms around Elijah’s chest and whispered in his ear. “Dear, Elijah. She opted not to eat you. Guess she had her fill. But, she wants something else.”

Elijah’s body tremored. “What?”

James’ grin widened. “She wants… you.”

Elijah shook his head. “NO!”

Ammit stood upon her hippopotamus feet and embraced Elijah’s with her lion’s feet. She absorbed him, and a hum from the demon echoed in the house. A black swirl appeared, engulfing the beast. 

James glanced at his wristwatch as he fastened it back on his arm. “Time to see what Liamy boy is up to.” A fiery portal opened, and he strode through.


The wind moaned in the night. The moon’s light glared through the leafless branches scraping against Liam’s bedroom window. In the dim-lit room, a group of high schoolers chanted his name, urging him to enter the darkness of his closet.

James’ firm hand gripped Liam’s boney shoulder. The seventeen-year-old boy leaned in and whispered in Liam’s ear. “Come on, Liamy boy. Not afraid, are you?” 

Liam shook his head and drew a deep breath and exhaled. “No, I’m not afraid. I… I don’t want to burn the house down.”

James patted Liam’s shoulder and snickered. “Listen, boy. You won’t burn the house down. “With your luck, you won’t survive.” He stepped away and pointed toward the window. “Can someone close those curtains? The room must be pitch-black.” James returned to the chant. 

With the bedroom drained of light, Liam reached for the doorknob and twisted. The door creaked open, and the group’s chants intensified. He stepped into the blackness and peered over his shoulder to turn toward the door. James slammed it shut. 

Liam’s fingers moved through his short golden hair. “I can do this.” He reached into his jean pocket and lifted out a book of matches. The boy’s fingers shook as he flipped it open, snapped one off, and held it in front of him. Liam’s body froze, and he uttered no words for a few minutes. He took a deep breath and exhaled. 

A bang on the door caused Liam to jump. “No voice, did you forget the words, Liamy boy? Are you chickening out?” James chuckled. 

Liam’s eyes squinted, he cleared his throat, gathered his nerves, and steadied his voice. “Show me the light or leave me in darkness.” With his stubby fingers, he lit the match and closed his eyes for a few minutes. The sole sound was the beating of his heart. Once again, he reached for the knob and twisted. Liam stepped out, and pushed the door shut behind him, making sure not to glance back. A slight breeze from his lips blew the match out, and he grinned at his classmates. “Hmm,” he shrugged, “didn’t scare me one bit.” The sixteen-year-old shook his head, “Nothing happened. This game’s a scare tactic.”

The group laughed with Liam. James threw the curtains open. The light from the moon’s glow through the branches lit the darkened bedroom.

Liam motioned to the group. “Let’s go pig out on snacks and drinks.”

The group dashed down the stairs. James was the last to leave when the closet door squeaked open. He glimpsed over his shoulder. Hmm, guess Liam didn’t shut the door, or the latch is broke. He shrugged and hurried down the stairs to the kitchen. 

A shape peered out with a hood over its head, and eyes glowed of crimson. The creature glared at James as he left the room. 


Sophia took the rubber bands out of her pink hair and let the waves sweep over her peach shoulders. The fifteen-year-old girl glanced over to the wall and pointed. “Liam, what’s that?”

Liam, startled, glimpsed at the wall and back to Sophia. “A phone.”

Sophia chuckled. “A phone? Don’t your parents have cell phones?”

Liam shook his head and let out a faint giggle. “Yeah, that phone is a backup, in case something happens to the cell phones?”

Sophia shrugged. “Old school.”

A huge grin formed on James’ face when he overheard the conversation as he entered the kitchen. “I got an idea.” 

Elijah rolled his green eyes. “Now, what?”

“Liam, do you have two black cords or ropes?”

Liam shrugged. “My dad has some in the basement.”

James shook his head and fluttered his hand at Liam. “Well, dude, go check. Oh, yeah, are all the windows opened in the house?”

It was early in the fall. The weather was cool enough for them to open the windows. “Yeah, why?”

“Don’t worry.” James waved off Liam. “Go round up the material.”

“Ava?” James yelled. 

A sigh escaped from her mouth. “What?”

“Do you have sage in your handbag?”

Ava nodded. “A small one.”

“Can you cleanse the whole house?

Ava nodded and clutched the sage from her bag.

“Oh, yeah, Ava, open the doors first. At least for now. When you finish, flush the sage stick in the toilet… and close the lid.”

Ava squinted her eyes and nodded. What’s he up to, now?

Liam walked to the basement door. Why is it cracked open? Did mom forget to shut it when she did laundry? His fingers slid up the wall and flipped the light switch, and the light flickered on. The boy rushed down the stairs to his father’s workstation. He snooped around for a few cords or ropes. Liam found both and snatched them up. James can decide which one he wants to use. When Liam turned toward the stairs, the light cast a shadow of a hooded figure on the wall. Liam blinked, and the shadow faded. With his heart racing, he fast-tracked up the stairs and flung the door shut. His body slammed against the wooden door, his breath… rapid. Deep breaths. My eyes are playing tricks on me. Uneasiness crept over his body as he returned to the kitchen.

James patted Liam on the back. “Magnificent job, Liamy boy.”

Liam shook his head and shrugged. “What’s going on?” 

“You’ll find out soon… enough, Liamy boy.”

James peered at the cords and ropes and grasped the ropes. He laid them out and measured each one with the scissors and ruler he found in a drawer and cut them to 19.685 inches. He glared up at Sophia. “Hey, pinky, can you grab the salt and spread the stuff at the entranceway of the front and back door?” James grinned. “Better spread the salt around the windows, better safe than sorry.”

Sophia snatched the salt from the table. Her eyes narrowed at James, who glanced back at her and smirked. 

James nodded toward Elijah, “Elijah, my boy. When Sophia and Ava get back, go shut the doors, curtains, and windows. Plus, turn off the lights.”

Elijah sighed. “Hmm, sure.”

Everyone returned to the kitchen and stood around the circle table. James clapped his hands together. “Now, place your cell phones, and any other electrical equipment on the table, but first, shut them off.”

Everyone gawked at each other. With reluctance, one by one, turned off their cell phones and electrics and placed them on the table. 

James motioned everyone to the rotary phone on the wall. “Here, Liam.” He handed him a wind-up wristwatch. “Your house.”

Liam shook his head and rolled his eyes. “What do I do?”

“Glad you asked, Liamy, my boy.” James pointed to the phone. “Now, the delicate part. You must dial 20496888 without picking the phone up or touching the handle.” He raised his index finger. “First, you must count to 13.”

Liam shook his head. “You gotta be kidding?”

James smirked. “Scared?”

Liam stood straight, shoulders back. “Hell, no!”

James tilted his head toward the phone. “What are you waiting for?”

Liam stood vast; his hand steady. One by one, he dialed the numbers; he made sure he did not touch the handle. “Done. Is that all?”

James shook his head. “We’ve just begun.” He handed Liam a rope. “Now, tie this to the handset. Make sure it’s tight, we don’t want the darn thing to fall off when you use it to pull the receiver off.” He peered deep into Liam’s eyes. “Pick the handset up by the rope and place it on the countertop. Now, you can dial, 25515823. You must count to 13 and then say,” James glanced at the group and back to Liam. “Hello? I need a cab?” James pointed to the rope. “You’ll tie the second one and remove the first one and burn the sucker.” He handed a lighter to Liam. 

Liam did what James said. I must be desperate for friends if I’m doing this shit.

James smirked, and the tip of his lip rose. He gestured to the group. “Now,” he tilted his head toward the front room, “let’s take a peek out the window, shall we?”

The group, distrustful, accompanied James to the front room window. They glanced at each other, murmured, and shook their heads. 

James placed his arm around Liam’s shoulders and leaned his head toward the window. “Liamy boy, drawback those curtains and tell me what’s outside.”

Liam grasped the edges of the curtains and dragged them to the side. He froze; his mind did not comprehend the sight lying before him. The midnight sky turned vacant, no stars or moon lit the earth. The harmonies of nature ceased. In front of the house, a black taxi. 

The rest of the group peered out the window, and all they saw was the full moon and the twinkle of the stars. Their eyes fell upon a light misty shadow in the shape of a car floating on the road. They peered at each other and shook their heads in disbelief.

James grasped Liam’s arm and dragged him to the front door. “Go on. He’s here for you.” He fluttered his hand, “I’ll lock the door behind you.”

Liam shook his head. “No!”

James’ grin grew broader, and he shook his head. “You don’t have a choice.” He clutched the doorknob and twisted, forcing the door open. He thrust the lever on the screen door down and threw Liam out and bolted the door behind him.

Liam pushed on the screen door lever. Damn it. He locked that too. He turned to the taxi. Nothing’s going to happen — just a figment of my imagination, just a dream. James laced our drinks with something. He had too, well, mine. Liam traipsed and climbed into the back seat of the taxicab. The door shut and automatically locked. He peered at the driver’s seat, and he saw a black-hooded figure. 

Liam’s eyes grew heavy, and he fell asleep. When he woke, he was still in the cab. Next to him was the wristwatch James had, and he glimpsed at it, 3:30 am. The car halted, doors unlocked, and the back door opened. His gut told him to keep his eyes focused on the floor. The flop on the seat next to him sent shivers down his spine. Once again, the doors locked.

A familiar voice filled the interior of the car. “What a delightful night for a ride. Don’t you think, Liamy boy?”

Liam turned his neck and glared through his bangs. James sat next to him; a grin appeared on his face. “Oh, Liamy boy. You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Done what?”

“Oh, I neglected to mention, didn’t I? You shouldn’t speak to, or look at, anyone who gets in the cab with you.”


“You should’ve gotten out of the car when it was moving. It would’ve been quick, with no pain. But now. It’s a different story.”

“What’s going on?”

James patted Liam’s shoulder. “Remember when you were in the closet.”

Liam nodded. 

James’ voice deepened. “What happened?”

Liam glanced around the taxicab. His forehead scrunched up, and he shook his head. “The match didn’t go out. And… and I didn’t turn around in the closet. Plus, I… I didn’t peer behind me when I walked out and shut the door.

James chuckled and rubbed his chin with his fingers. “True, but something happened when you left.”


“The door didn’t shut.”

Liam shook his head and stared at his shoes for a minute. He glanced up at James, but he vanished. The black-hooded figure that was in the driver’s seat loomed over him. He looks like the shadow from the basement. A black misty fog rolled inside the hood.

James’ voice echoed from the driver’s seat. “What a pleasant night for a drive.” As he drove into the blackened void, a blood-curdling scream rose from the back seat. The creature consumed Liam’s body and soul, leaving no trace of the boy.

James snickered. “Now, for the next kid.”


The county modernized the old rusted truss bridge over Bear Creek.  At one time, the branches of the trees on both sides of the streamlet reached out to each other like long-lost lovers. The steel embraced the darkness the thick leaves provided. Now, the County had slashed the blackness away. The glow of the sun lights its way through onto the newly paved concrete bridge. Nothing remains of the framed platform, but its dark secrets.

Jessy gripped his steering wheel. “The new facelift doesn’t rewrite the horrific history…” He shook his head, “it covers it up.”

The stars twinkled in the moonless night, and the wind roared at the gray sedan where the four teenage boys took refuge. The decayed leaves around them formed mini tornados, and the trees groan at the bending of their limbs. The boys jumped at the cracking of sticks coming from the right side of Jessy’s car.

Mike peered out his window. “It sounds like footsteps…” He pointed to the overgrown section near the bridge, “coming from where the old stone cabin used to set.”

Tom cleared his throat and glanced out his window. “Yes, the old stone cabin.” He shifted his attention to Jessy and Mike, who sat in the front seat, and to Danny, who sat next to him. The boy’s index finger rose and pushed his eyeglasses up from the middle of his nose. “I remember my mom talking about this with a few of her high school friends.” He brushed his long brown bangs from his eyes. “They used to come out here before they moved the cabin.”

Danny gazed out Tom’s window. His eyes widened when he noticed a man in overalls wielding an ax. “Hey… hey, guys!” His arm lifted from the seat, straighten out, and his index finger rolled from a fist position, right under Tom’s nose. “Do you see that?”

The man caught the stares of the boys as he disappeared into the woods. Soon, the hair on the teenagers’ arms stood on end. The vibration of deathly screams of a woman, two children, and a yelp from a dog pounded their way into their ears — the blow of an ax against bone resonated in the night air.

Jessy turned his gaze back to the group. “What was that? Please tell me the dark is playing tricks with our minds.”

The other three boys turned their attention to Jessy. Fear ran down their spines, and all three shook their heads. Mike noticed a figure from the right side of his eye, and he twisted toward it. He saw the same man standing in the car’s headlights. His ax hung inches from the road and dripped with blood. A growl came from him, which caught the attention of the others. Red eyes glared back at them. Suddenly, the man turned his attention to the woods.

Tom pointed. “Look at that, guys.”

The teenagers followed his gaze. Three orbs flew out of the woods and danced in the air. They multiplied many times to form bodies. A woman, a small boy, and a girl. White smoke rose from the ground, and a sinister howl echoed in the night’s breeze. A black form of a dog with glowing white eyes appeared next to the woman and children.

The ax wobbled end on end on the road. The man in front of them backed up and rushed toward the bridge. His family and dog were in hot pursuit.

Jessy wrapped his fingers around the gear selector, he pulled out of the park position, and placed it into drive. He topped his speed at two miles per hour. When he arrived at the bridge, above the hood of his car were dangling feet. The boys rushed out of the car with their flashlights. The beams fell on the swinging corpse of the man. Their attention shifted to the family that faded into a white mist, along with the dog. When the teenagers glanced back up, the man vanished.

Danny shook his head. “How? This is a concrete road. There’s nothing anyone can hang themselves from.” He looked up. “There is no steel, no tree limbs, nothing.”

Jessy shook his head. “Danny, Danny, Danny boy. Remember, this bridge used to have steel above us. He must have hung himself off that steel when the ghosts of his family came for him.” He scratched his head. “I guess he’s doomed to repeat this pattern for the rest of his life.”

Mike swung his hands in the air. “Let’s get out of here.”

Tom and Mike agreed.

As they headed toward the car, they gesture to Jessy, who waved his hands. “Come on. There’s more to this bridge.” He motioned to them. “Come on, let’s check it out.” He titled his head. “Not afraid, are you?”

“Man,” Mike stomped the road with his foot. “We’re not into this anymore.”

“Yeah,” Tom shouted.

Danny stood silent and shook his head.

Jessy lowered his head. “I’m so disappointed in you guys.”

Fog rose from the thicket and scaled its way up to the sky. It enveloped the stars, and no one could see a foot in front of them. The three boys rushed into the car. When they glimpsed at the driver’s seat, there was no Jessy.

Mike gripped the front seat. “Where is he?”

Tom and Danny shook their heads. The car moved forward with no driver. The boys turned to look out the back window and saw Jessy, his eyes glared red, pushing the vehicle onto the bridge. Fire sprung up around them, and figures hung off the tower steel of the old bridge. A deep voice rumbled from behind them.

Jessy’s arms outreached, “Welcome to HELL!”

The boys in the heated car screamed, their skin bubbled as the fire cooked them.

A woman floated down from one of the high steel bars. Her cloak rippled in the air. When the woman landed, she pulled off her hood and placed a delicate hand on Jessy’s brown hair. “Good boy. You make your mother proud.” Her eyes were a crimson red, and her dark wavy hair glistened off the fire’s light. “Each generation,” she lifted her right hand and formed a fist, “I will snatch a life…” She tilted her head toward her son, “or two.” She glanced back to the melting car, “I will take the lives from those who hung us as witches until their numbers dwindle… to nothing.”

Jessy glanced up at his mother. “Why can’t we take them all now?”

“Hmm.” The woman peered at her only son. “There is no fun in that.” A sinister giggle erupted from her throat. “Taking a few at a time,” she tilted her head, “leaves them scared. Wondering who’ll be next.”


Fourteen-year-old Sally sat in the swivel chair in front of the desktop computer. She scrolled through the social media news feed. Every line, every post broke her heart. People in America fighting against each other. Racism filled the computer screen. The young teenager feared another Civil War was brewing.

Sally’s cursor was on the x at the top right of the screen to close it when a message popped up. Sally usually ignored her family’s posts, but a burning sensation inside told her to read this one. When she clicked on it, her brown eyes widened. It was from her brother.

“America is a Christian country, and everyone else should leave. If not, hang them all!”

Sally checked on the rest of her family’s posts. Shockwaves vibrated through her body. The woman she looked up to most in this world, the one who told her to work hard, to be whatever she wanted to be was a fraud.

“You’re born a female or a male, and there is nothing in between. Those who think they are something else are going against God, and they will burn in Hell.”

Tears rolled down her freckled cheeks and dripped on her keyboard. The family seemed open-minded. No one ever discussed politics and life around each other. But Sally never had gone to their church. No matter how much her mother and brother begged her, she never went. I’ll go this Sunday.

Sally slid on her lavender dress and matching pumps. Her purple hair formed waves over her head and down the middle of her back. She strolled into the kitchen where her mother stood in her blue dress and white high heels. Her red hair was up in a bun, and red lipstick was painted on her lips. Her green eyes popped with the right colors to create a smoky look. Sally’s older brother, with his cropped red hair, was in a gray suit with black dress shoes.

Sally’s mother turned from the kitchen counter and slapped her palms together. “Oh, look at you.” Her long legs created big strides. In less than a second, she stood in front of Sally. She placed her hands on her daughter’s cheeks. “You can use a little make-up, though.” The mother patted Sally on the head and turned her attention to her son.

Sally rolled her eyes. Me, make-up. Never.

“Sally, dear.” One side of the mother’s lips rose as the other side pulled downward. Her hand in the air and toward the red SUV. “Why don’t you sit in the front, with me.”

Sally gave a slight smile and nodded to her mother.

The sun hid behind gray clouds, and the temperature dropped a few degrees as they got closer to the church. When they arrived, Sally was astonished to see all the women wearing pastel colors and high heels. The men wore suits and ties. What is this, the Stepford Wives?

Once inside, the family took their seats. Everyone turned around, eyeing Sally, then turned back to each other and whispered. Yeah, yeah, the black sheep of the family is here. Shock waved over Sally’s grandparents, uncle, and aunts.

The service was straight out of the Holy Bible. Old Testament, not the New Testament. Everything Sally believed in, her family’s church didn’t. Sally’s been to other churches, and they were not like this one, they accepted the differences in people.

After the service, the pastor pulled Sally aside. “The next time you come to church,” he placed his hand on her hair, “you better have your natural hair color.” He turned and stomped away.

Who says I’m coming back?

Sally dashed out of the church and ran all the way home. Her family would be there for the rest of the day. They had lunch and other affairs to attend. Sally unlocked the door and slammed it shut, raddling the pictures on the walls. She ran to her mother’s room and to the closet. There, a safe on the floor. After a few tries, she discovered it was her brother’s birthdate. Too damn easy, mother.

Sally snatched her birth certificate and threw it in the bathtub. She dashed from picture to picture, ripping herself from them, and tossed them in the tub. Any evidence of her existence, she threw in. Her long legs, like her mother’s, dashed to the garage and grabbed the gasoline, and rushed back inside. She poured it all over her stuff, struck a match, and set everything on fire. She changed into jeans, tennis shoes, a rock T-shirt, and a hoodie. Before she ran out to get her bicycle, she set her room ablaze.

Sally had enough money from mowing lawns to purchase a bus ticket to the furthest town she could afford. She hiked through the forest and found a deep cave.

Sally’s family came home with half the house burned down, and they feared Sally was inside. The firefighters assured them no one was inside. The family moved into the mother’s parent’s home and did not search for her for a few days. They assumed they upset her, and when she calmed down, she would return home. She never did.

The family hung flyers all over town and nearby towns. The mother called Sally’s friends, but no one knew where she was. Months went by, and there was no sign of her. One spring day, 500 miles away from Sally’s home, cave divers came a crossed a skeleton with flesh slithering off. DNA showed it was Sally.

Sally’s mother placed her next to her father at the graveyard. Her tombstone read:

“My dearest daughter, mislead by the Devil, and now lies by his side.”

A year passed by, and the anniversary of Sally’s death was upon the family. In a month, one by one, they died by fire. The mother perished in a fiery car accident. The brother died by falling into a campfire, and the grandparents’ home blew up because of a gas leak — every member of Sally’s family, dead.

Everyone at the church whispered to each other, “It was the ghost of Sally.” When someone mentioned her name, a few days later, they died by fire.

You see, once you hear about Sally’s story, you are on her fiery list. The way she perceives it, anyone who learns about her will die by fire.


Lance swept me off my feet. His strong stature reminded me of a logger or a mountain man. Little did I know the hidden secrets this man held deep inside. Lance revealed the darkness, not long after we said, “I do,” and I regretted it not soon after. If I had known, I wouldn’t have said, “Yes.”

I met this towering man at the grocery store where I worked. I was a small meager girl in my twenties, and held many jobs, from cashier to customer service to stocking shelves. That is where my deep brown eyes spotted Lance, stacking soda boxes. I shied away and peered at him through my long brown bangs.

A few months later, Lance smiled at me and said, “Hello.”

Lance’s strong deep voice vibrated through me. I returned the greeting with a slight smile. The two of us talked about the weather, music, and work. A few weeks went by, and he asked me out. It had been years since anyone asked me out on a date. My mind was racing, and the words poured out of my mouth, “Yes.”

I dashed off to see my best friend, Peggy, who worked behind the scenes. She monitored prices and did price changes. She sat at the computer, checking on prices when I popped up behind her.

With my hands in the pockets of my red smock. “Hey, Peggy.”

Peggy turned around, the light reflecting off her blonde hair. “What is it?”

My body swayed back and forth. “You know that guy, Lance, that works for the soda company?”

Peggy’s forehead wrinkled, and her head tilted to the left.

I raised my arm. “Lance is the tall guy.” I brought my arms to shoulder length, “With the broad shoulders.”

Peggy nodded. “Yeah, okay.” A smile washed over her face. “I know who you’re talking about.”

I did a little hop and smacked my hands together. “Lance asked me out.”

Peggy stood up, and we jumped with excitement.

On the first date, I found out Lance was the son of a preacher. Good values. He never missed work. Good work ethics. As time went on, I met his mother and his family. I saw how Lance doted on them. A good family man. I started going to church. Lance showed nothing but the good in himself.

My heart was full of love. I couldn’t wait to start a family with this man and grow old.

Lance said the four magic words, “Will you marry me?”

My heart beat faster, and my eyes answered Lance before the words rushed out of my mouth, “Yes!”

We got married in a court of law. It was not outlandish, and a high school friend was the maid of honor. I floated on a white cloud that was about to turn gray, filled with thunder and lightning. It was a month later when Lance’s secrets started to wiggle out from deep inside his soul.

Lance came home drunk every night. His friends came first, and me last. He talked to other women online and ignored me. Whispers floated on the wind to my ears of Lance’s flirtations with women at all the stores in town. My head was in my hands and tears streamed down my cheeks, and I couldn’t believe this. Why would he do such things?

One night, Lance came home drunk. He grasped my arm, pulled me to the bedroom, and threw me on the bed. He clutched my hips and flipped me over. The man I married disappeared. A demon seeped through his skin and ripped my pants off as I struggled to break free. He was too strong for me.

“Lynn, have two choices: take it up the ass, or watch me fuck another woman in our bed.”

I caved in and gave Lance what he wanted. When he finished, he passed out on the bed, and I curled up in a ball. It shocked me at what happened, and I prayed it would never happen again. I was wrong.

While Lance was at work, I found out he told the women online that I was his sister. My research into his dark side led me to a world I did not want to be a part of. His drinking got worse. His infidelity, he boasted about it to all who listened.

One day I gathered my courage to ask him why.

“You are doing what I say. I’m your husband.”

This whole time I thought we were equals. How could I have been wrong?

“I want an open marriage, and thought you did too?”

I froze in my tracks at those words. My heart broke, and all I wanted to do was die. I never said I wanted an open marriage. I don’t believe in such a thing.

Lance left for work, and I drove to my friend’s house. There, where I thought I would find safety, I found something else.

“Don’t knock it until you try it.”

I drove off in dismay. My friend from high school, how could she say such a thing?

My mind went to a dark place. I believed everything was my fault. Deep in my heart, I felt I deserved the beatings, the rapes, and the emotional put-downs.

The man I loved was not the man I thought he was. Nothing we tried would bring Lance back. Not the church, not his mother, and not me. Once again, I caved in to save our marriage.

I failed; I couldn’t go through with it. How can I betray my vows, my beliefs, and my soul? I told Lance this, and my face met with the back of his hand. Days after I got a restraining order against him, the phone calls came.

Lance wanted to save the marriage and apologized over and over. He got his mother involved. She would call every day, asking me to take Lance back.

Lance started to go to AA meetings for his drinking. I trusted my husband and took him back. I went with him for support. Then he stopped going, and his dark side returned in full force. By December, I feared I would not live in the coming new year. I saw myself in my mind’s eye, six feet underground. The marriage killed my emotions and my mentality. Soon my body and soul would join them.

With the help of my father, I got the courage to kick Lance out. He called me every day, and his friends monitored me. They reported everything I did back to him.

I was yet to be free of this demon.

The day of the divorce came in 2002, and Lance did not show up. I did not tell the judge the real reasons. It was a deal Lance, and I made. He would go through with the divorce if I didn’t bring up the abuse. I wanted to be free, yet I felt Lance still had control, and I did it again. I caved in and did what he wanted.

I was now working at a fast-food restaurant. I worked my way up to an assistant manager.

A handsome man in a long black leather jacket walked in. A co-worker was working at the grill when he said, “Hi, Bruce.”

I dashed to the back. My cheeks turned bright red.

For a few months, the co-worker kept talking to me about this guy he knew named Bruce that lived in Kentucky. I kept saying no to him. I told him, “I am not ready for another relationship.” Deep inside, I told myself I needed time to heal.

The co-worker did not give up, and now there Bruce stood, and he was there to see me. My shyness kicked in, and once again, I peered at him through my bangs. We dated, and two years later, we married. By then, I was feeling the effects of my first marriage.

Lance kicked me with steel-toe boots in my back. The pain increased as the years went by. My mental health got worse, fear that he was around the corner.

Lance kept calling and knowing everything that was going on with my life. When he couldn’t call me anymore, Lance reached out through Facebook and tried to win me back. He talked about divorcing his wife for me if I ever went back to him. Why would I go back to a demon? I blocked him.

Now, I am in therapy for my mental health. The doctors diagnosed me with PTSD, chronic depression, and social anxiety.

I have nightmares about Lance. He comes to me as a black form with his voice and threating me.

When Bruce and I wrestle around, my PTSD kicks in, and I flinch. I know we are playing, but I cannot help myself. It is an automatic reaction. I don’t want to leave home, in fear, my ex-husband will be there, or someone he knows will see me and report back to him. I peel the dead skin from my arms to keep my mind quiet. Stabbing pain slices through the left side of my back and down my thigh, making it hard to stand, walk, or work.

I tried to regain, at least a part of my life by going back to school. Now I have an AA in Communication from the University of Phoenix. A BA in English and Creative Writing and an MA in Creative Writing. Plus, I am finishing up my MFA in Creative Writing. All three degrees are from Southern New Hampshire University.

My heart races knowing the end of my education is near. I have used the schools as crutches, and it will be ripped out of my hands soon. I am not ready to let go. I don’t want to let go.

Bruce thinks I am ready to face the world. I disagree with him. I am scared to death of other people. Afraid I will screw up big time, and that I am not good at what I do, even though people say I am.

Bruce told me, “No matter what, I will be at your side.”

My second husband has stood by my side through thick and then. Not saying we did not have our problems. We separated for a few months, but it did put our lives in perspective and strengthened our marriage. He is a beautiful man, and I would be lost without him.

We have our future to look forward to. The plans are a good-running truck and a trailer to live in. Travel the world until we find our way to our new home. A place where the grass grows green, the birds sing, the trees dance, and we become one with the universe. Where he can teach people to protect themselves, and I write stories that scare them into hiding. Where I can view out the window the wilds of nature playing in the backyard, I can lift my eyes to the sky to view the glow of the Northern Lights. That place is where I will become healed.


The snow powdered the ground as Elaine unlocked the front door and pushed it open. The creak of the hinges echoed in the empty home. She closed the white steel door and latched it. When she spun around, the thudding of rocks hitting the door and the loud taunts from a group of teenagers from her tenth-grade class ringed in her ears.

With her head held low, Elaine shuffled into the kitchen and dropped the backpack on the dinner table. She shifted to the refrigerator, and her eyes widened, a piece of paper hung on the freezer door.


I won’t be home tonight. 

I am staying at Shelly’s, or is it Sharon’s, oh well, it’s someone’s house.


Elaine sulked as she left the kitchen and up the stairs to her room. At least he left me a note this time.

Elaine changed clothes and headed to the bathroom. She shut the door and pressed the lock on the doorknob. Her bunny slippers ears flopped back and forth as she sauntered to the cold porcelain bathtub. Elaine pulled the stopper up, wrapped her small fingers around the handle, and twisted it on. Steam rose as the water rushed out like a waterfall.

The young girl placed a candle on each of the four corners of the tub and lit them. The heat of the fire released a relaxing scent of lavender. She untied the robe, and it fell to the white tile floor. Elaine stepped into the tub and slid her way in, warming up her skin as she sat in the water.

With her hair in a bun, she peered over her left arm. The light of the candle flickered off the metallic surface of a razor blade. Next to it, a note.

Dear Father,

I can’t stand this anymore. The teasing at school about my size, my glasses, and the clothes I wear. I am tired of being shoved and stomped on. I can’t deal with them yelling at me because I won’t do their homework or let them cheat off me in class. I can’t take the teachers siding with them over me because they have money, and we don’t. 

Plus, I miss mom. She stood by me while you were cheating on her while she was sick. You weren’t there when she passed away in the hospital. You were too busy with one of your waitresses like you are now.


The fifteen-year-old child shut her eyes and rested her head on the wall.

“Elaine,” a voice whispered.

Elaine snapped her eyes open. Beside her was her mother, floating in the air.

The apparition raised her arm. Her delicate fingers beckoned Elaine. “Come with me.”

Elaine closed her eyes and counted to ten. When she opened them, the apparition was still there, surrounded by a luminous white light. “Mother.” Tears streaked down the child’s cheek, and she reached out and grasped her mother’s hand. “Where’re we going?”

A corner of the ghost’s mouth lifted and nodded its head. “You will see.”

No sooner, Elaine stood; the ghost whisked her away to a damp place. The sound of running water echoed off the stone walls surrounding her. She glanced at her mother. “Where are we?”

The woman extended her hand in front of her. “Grotte de Lourdes.” She stared at her daughter. “Come.”

Elaine followed the ghost to a stone tub full of fresh water.

“Please, daughter. Step into the bath.”

Elaine did what her mother asked and stepped in the cool water and sat. Goosebumps rose over her body.

The ghost placed one hand on her forehead and another on her back. “Now, lean back.” The spirit pushed her daughter under the water for a few seconds and released her.

Elaine opened her eyes to find herself back in her bathtub. She sat up out of the water and breathed. Hope rushed over her. Her depression disappeared, and joy filled her heart. She ripped up the suicide note and threw away the blade. A breath of cool air blew by her ear.

“The water of Lourdes heals more than physical wounds and diseases. It can heal the soul.”


My perfect twin sister. She has flawless skin, perfect hair, and excellent grades. She is the most popular girl at our high school, is the class president, and the head cheerleader. Plus, she gets the lead in the school plays. It will not surprise me if she becomes the Prom Queen.

She laid out her path. She wants to spend time in the Marines before using her scholarship to the ivy league college of her choice. Her goal is to become the best politician the world has seen. Not shocking. She can debate with you on any topic. If you are against abortion, she will talk you into supporting it. If you are for it, she will talk you into opposing it.

You would think, being her identical twin, I would be like her. Nope, I am not. Ever since I was a two-year-old, I have caused problems at school and in my family. I got suspended from school for bullying and the destruction of property. When I got older, I skipped school, did drugs, and got drunk. My life is one big party. Heck, I pretend to be my sister to get dirty photos on her. You know, for when she becomes President of the United States, and all. Nothing like casting doubt for the voters.

I stumbled out of my chair this afternoon. My sweet, perfect sister, dressed in my clothes, asked a favor from little ole me. Why would I do anything for that stuck-up bitch? When I heard what she wanted to do, how could I refuse such a request?

My older sister, by a minute, at least that’s what’s written on the birth certificate, wants to go to a party.

She kneeled and reached out for my hands to help me up. “I want to feel what it is like to be you, little sis.”

After we stand up, I glance at the mirror. My face flushed, and my eyes wide. I look back at her and point. “You want to be…” I pointed to myself, “me?”

Her smile brightens the room. She nods. “Yes.”

I tilt my head and gaze into her eyes. “What party?”

She scans the room before returning her gaze to me. “Joey’s.”

I froze, shocked in what she said. It took a few seconds to gather my thoughts. I shook my head. “Joey Apt?”

My sister nods.

Joey throws parties in secluded places. They are full of booze, drugs, and sex. Those are my kind of parties, and I plan on going to it tonight.

“Listen…” she places her hands on my shoulder, “I want, for once in my life, to party. To not care about anything or anyone.” She takes a deep breath in and exhales. “I want to be you.”

I shake my head. “You got to babysit tonight for the Pengears’.”

She removes her hands from my shoulders and places them on her hips. She tilts her head and gives me the puppy dog stare. “Can you cover for me?”

I take a step back and lower my chin. “You want me…” I point to her, “to be you?”

She nods. “It’s not like you haven’t done it before?”

I shrug. “Sure, why not?”

She jumps for joy and tells our parents she is going out with friends. She runs out the door before they can say anything. She’s got my moves down.

I get dressed in my sister’s clothes. I wipe my makeup off and brush my hair. I’m not used to pretending to be her like this. It will be nice to see her in trouble for once. Dad and mom are none the wiser.

The Pengears’ live a block from us. The night was cool, the stars out, and the moon lights the way — a beautiful night for a brisk walk.

When I arrive, I see Mr. Pengear in the SUV. He nods at me, and I nod back. I skip up the steps and ring the doorbell. Mrs. Pengear answers with a big grin. “It is nice to see you again.” She points down the hall, “Sam is sleeping in his crib.” She glances at the kitchen, “You know where everything is at.”

I nod to her like I understand. I will snoop later. See what I can steal.

I smile up at her, showing my pearly whites. “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you and Mr. Pengear doing tonight?”

She moves to let me inside, and she reaches for her coat and purse that hang on the wall posts. “Dinner and a movie.” She glances down at me. “We should be home around eleven.”

I smile and nod my head.

She rushes out the door, turns, and waves.

I close the door and lock it.

I swing my arms and scan the house. When I hear them pull away, I skip to the kitchen. I open the refrigerator door, and my wide eyes sparkle with glee, imported bottle of beer. Heck, they won’t miss one or two.

I stroll to the front room, and I see the big-screen television is on. The parents plugged it into the baby video monitor. I shake my head. Thought people had small ones, not big ones. A little overprotective, are we?

I plop on the couch and glance to the left, on the table was a smaller video monitor. Yes, let’s see what channels these people have. I change the HDMI to the streaming channels on the big screen. I flip through them, Playboy, awesome.

After chugging down two beers, watching one porn show, and three episodes of True Blood. I glance at the baby monitor. Shouldn’t the baby be cooing or moving?

I stand and tiptoe to the baby’s room. The only light in the room was a soft glow of a cloud shape lamp in the corner of the room.

I peer over the crib. Something is not right. I reach in and peel back the cover, revealing a small pillow with a note pin to it.

We are sorry, but we cannot let you ruin your sister’s life. We must make a sacrifice.

I shake my head. “What the Hell?”

Behind me, I hear the creak of the closet door opening. I turn around. Long skinny fingers with sharp talons appear one by one on the side of the door. The door swings wide and then darkness.

I open my eyes and see red flames dancing around me. The smell of rotting flesh burns my nose — screams penetrant my ears. Chains bound me to the smoldering ground.

My sister’s voice invades my head. “There can only be one of us. Welcome to Hell, sis.”


When it comes time
for the Grim Reaper’s call.
Don’t mourn me at all.

No tear will you shed.
No sorrow will you feel.
When the Grim Reaper calls for me.

Your life is your own.
That, I will not disrupt.
No need to let you know,
when the Grim Reaper called for me.

You don’t know me in life.
Why know me in death?
Remain where you are.
No need to know
when the Grim Reaper called for me.

My one true love
is all who knows,
when the Grim Reaper called for me.

It is him,
and him alone,
who will set my ashes free.
After the Grim Reaper called for me.

My ashes are one
with Mother Earth.

They fly in her breeze,
nourishes her soil,
and swims in her seas.
All thanks,
to the Grim Reaper’s call for me.

Now my soul awaits
for the Grim Reaper’s call
for my one true love’s soul.

Until that day,
when the Grim Reaper
calls for him.
I will haunt you all.

My fiery rage,
you will know.
The damage,
the suffering,
will grow.

You may ignore me
in life,
but not
in death.

For when the Grim Reaper
comes a calling,
I will be the one
calling you.


The full-moon beams shined through the skylight as I entered her room. She decorated the ebony wood walls with picture frames of ancient drawings, symbols, and photos of her ancestry. The surge of energy from the Myrtlewood floor shot from my bare feet to my head and cleared my mind. For once, in nineteen years, I could step back into deeper thoughts.

In the middle of the room, the tarot reader sat in a chair made of African Blackwood. Her long hair reached to the small of her back and donned black and white feathers and beads. Her sleeveless maxi dress was a yin and yang of brown and green, the colors of Mother Earth. Around her neck dangled a diamond Sun-Cross and her Amethyst Pentacles encircled her wrists. When she smiled, her pearl-white teeth brighten the moonlit room.

Her slender fingers swept across the white cotton tablecloth. Cards shot from her hands and formed a fan of sixty-nine tarot cards face down. As I glanced at this marvel, I noticed it was the Daemon Tarot by Ariana OsborneWhere did she hide them? Where did they come from? Her arms are too small to conceal a deck of cards.

Her brown eyes met mine. Her lips turned up, and her right hand floated in the air, below her chin level, and motioned me to come to her. I sauntered to her, and the other African Blackwood chair scooted back. How did she do that? I glanced at it and back at her. She nodded her head, and I slid into the chair and scooted it forward.

She tilted her head to the left. “Welcome to my home, Sophia,” her voice, was angelic. She placed her right hand over her heart and tilted her head to the right. “My name is Luna, and I will guide you tonight.”

How did she know my name? I nodded to her, and her smile grew.

Her fingers fluttered over the cards. “What would you like to know?”

My fingers intertwined themselves, and my right heel tapped the floor. Luna leaned over the table, her hand touched my skin like a feather, and her fingers grasped my twitching hands. “No need to worry, my dear.” The scent of lavender rose from her and engulfed the room. Her hand was silky smooth. She leaned back, placed both hands over the cards, and closed her eyes. “Pick three cards, Sophia.”

My right hand reached out, and the nervousness stopped. It was still, and my foot ceased to shake. My thoughts deepened, my back straight, and my head held high. I took my index finger, Oh, what does the Daemon Tarot bring? The past, present, and future, and slid three cards out of the fan spread.

Luna scooped up the rest of the cards. The three left behind; she slid to the middle of the table. Her delicate fingers turned each over from left to right. There before I was my past, what is happening now, and what will happen. When? Only time will tell.

Luna outstretched her arms, and her eyes fixated on the cards. “Oh, kind Sophia. The past, I see, is Orobas, the Great Prince of Hell, and he is upright. It is he who never lies, for true answers he seeks from all things, from the past, the present, and for things to come.”

I glanced at the card and at her. Her eyes, her arms, and her body did not move. “What does he say?”

My breath quickened, my eyes closed, and I gripped the tablecloth as a deep voice echoed in my ears. “You too, seek the truth in others, and yourself. Never change.” My eyes snapped open, and I gazed upon Luna. A smirk formed on her young face.

Her red lips parted. “I am the same as you. Truth is all I seek, from my spirits to animals…” she pointed at me, “to humans.”

I lowered my head and glanced at my hands. “I trust animals before I trust humans.”

The tarot reader’s head inched back as her eyes targeted something on the skylight. I followed her movements and saw a Great Horned Owl looking upon us. His eyes met mine, and a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge surged its way into my mind.

I glanced back at Luna, who was back in the position she started on. “Oh, kind Sophia. The present I see, it is Ronove, the Marquis and Great Earl of Hell, and, he too is upright. He may look like a monster, but don’t let that fool you. His words can charm any human he encounters.”

My head shook. Does this mean my words will flow from my mind to paper? Will I no longer be an outcast in my family? The rest of my body followed, along with my voice. “What… does… he… say?”

Like Orobas, Ronove voice soothed into my ears. I closed my eyes, and my body relaxed. My soul listened. “You do not know, for they do not speak, but your words flow and connect too many. There is no need for me; in time, more words will appear and reach many. Don’t let fear stop you.”

A tear formed as I fluttered my eyes open. I saw Luna, her head tilted with a slight grin, and tapped her right temple. “Remember these wise words from Orobas and Ronove, for they gave you the answers to what is to come.”

I glanced down at the card last card and then up at Luna. She, who was, once more in her starting position. “Oh, kind, Sophia. The future, I see…” She paused; her smile turned to a frown; her bright eyes dimmed. “It is Beyrevra. Everyone fears him, from spirits to animals…” She looked deep into my eyes, “and humans.”

I clutched my hands. My breathing increased, and my heart tripled in beats. I tilted my head to the side, and my forehead crinkled. “And what does he say?”

As I sat there, no voice came to me as it did with the others. My eyes darted the room, looking for something, a sign. Then it happened. Luna’s room shook. I swear to you, a 7.9 earthquake hit. Everything flew off the walls. Picture frames broke, spreading glass over the floor. A sound of nails across a chalkboard penetrated my mind, then a low growl laugh. I placed my hands over my ears and glanced around the room. On the wall, behind where Luna sat were words scratched in. I KNOW WHAT YOU FEAR, AND THAT FEAR WILL OVERTAKE YOU, THAT I WILL MAKE SURE OF.

I closed my eyes, place my hands over them, and screamed. I felt Luna’s warm embrace and her angelic voice whisper in my ear. “Beyrevra gave you a warning. Orobas and Ronove gave you the power to win.”

Her lavender scent faded, and a new fragrance overwhelmed me. It was the odor of the forest. I spread my fingers and peeked out. Luna’s small trailer vanished. The stars twinkled, and the forest breeze carried the songs of the crickets and frogs. The moonbeams lit the way to my car. I turned a three-sixty, trying to figure out where she went. When I arrived, her silver bullet trailer was here, with white lights encircling it. How could it have vanished?

I stared at the site where her trailer once appeared and walked backward to my car. I dug the keys from my jeans pocket and clicked the unlock button. I opened the door and slid into the seat, closed it, and started the engine. Full Circle by Loreena McKennitt pounded from my speakers. I drove home with the song on repeat.

When I entered my one-room apartment in the low-income house high-rise, I found my oil diffuser on with the scent of sandalwood floating in the air. Who turned that on? I strolled to my computer and woke it up from its slumber. Luna’s words repeated in my mind, Beyrevra gave you a warning, and Orobas and Ronove gave you the power to win. I scratched my head. Could of Luna, Ororbas, or Ronove turned on my diffuser? Or, did I leave it on? I got up and checked; I set it for six hours, and chances are, I left it on.

My fear is, all this time in school for communication, creative writing, and editing, I will fail. My family is waiting for me to fail at another adventure. My fear, I will never heal from my depression, stop picking at my arms, and live a normal life. My fear, to be alone in this world of over a billion people and locked in this one-window tomb. All enough to say goodbye, to run into those woods and hide. That is what Beyrevra wants. But Orobas and Ronove, say otherwise. They want me to fight. To write. I have an audience, and like me, they could be afraid to say they like my work.

I must not let Beyrevra get to me. I will not let him win; I will not let fear win. I will use what I learned to conquer my fears instead of beating myself up over them.

I walked to my bed and lay down and found myself safe in my blanket sanctuary. My eyes were on the verge of closing when a cranky voice echoed in my ears. “I will wait. Time, I have. You may have won this battle, but not the war.”

A smile grew on my face. There are always going to be battles to fight, but they will come fewer as the years pass by. As for the war, it’s never-ending. For we all must fight to live, and that is one war worth fighting for.