Parker learns that she is not alone, that there are others like her. They are called Spirit Guiders and they are tasked with helping release the negative spiritual energy around people and communities. As she spends time with them, learning about her gift and what they all bring to the table, she will face a demon more dangerous than the one she faced before. Can she save her newfound friends before they succumb to the darkness? More importantly, will they be able to help her destroy the open fissures between worlds or will she be forced to face this task alone?
The house smelled of cinnamon and apples. Several apple pies were already cooling on the windowsill. It was Agatha’s favorite and today was a special day. Her thirteenth year was finally upon her. At last, she would be considered old enough to make some of her own decisions. One of which would be not to marry. No, she had no desire for that. She wanted to explore, to see the world. To be confined would be an unbearable burden. She strolled into the kitchen, watching the activity going on in preparation for today’s festivities.
“Good day, Miss Agatha.”
“And a good day to you, Miss Sally,” she replied with a curtsy.
“Are you ready for your big day?”
“Oh yes,” Agatha said, smiling brightly. “Is Miss Marjorie back from town yet?”
“Not that I’ve heard.”
Agatha sighed dramatically. “Please inform me when she arrives.”
“Yes, Miss Agatha. I will, straight away.”
Agatha turned on her heels and walked toward the large staircase. She couldn’t contain her excitement as she trotted up the stairs and to the right, straight into her bedroom. She had begged her parents to send Marjorie to town for material. She knew that Marjorie would get the exact kind she had seen a woman wearing last month at a ball Mother had thrown. It was so beautiful. It would make a lovely dress. She strolled to her reading nook and sat on the pillows there, drawing her legs underneath her.
“Please hurry, Miss Marjorie.”
She leaned her head against the cool bricks of the enclosed wall, staring out at the vastness of their property. Her family had settled in this area fifteen years ago. Her father had spent nearly all his fortune buying up the land in the area. She didn’t know how much land it was, but her father had told her it stretched as far as she could see. If that were the case, it was indeed a lot of land.
“What on earth is that?” she wondered aloud.
She sat up suddenly, seeing movement in the trees. She watched carefully, trying to determine what type of animal was lurking there. She saw something step out of the tree line. It almost looked like a man, but that was impossible. He was too tall to be a man. She watched with curiosity as the man got into a crouching position, suddenly turning into an animal-like creature. It was similar to a bear but definitely not a bear. She blinked her eyes and when she opened them again, it was gone.
“Wait! Where did it go?”
She stood, placing her hands on the glass. She peered left and right, straining her eyes to see if she could find it. Had she imagined the creature? She shook her head at that thought. No, she knew she had seen it; where it went was the question at hand. She wasn’t able to contemplate this further as screams bellowed from the first floor. Panic and dread flowed freely through her as she darted out of her room to see what was happening.
“Agatha, run!” her mother screamed from the base of the stairs.
Agatha was frozen at the top of the long staircase. She could hear screaming coming from the other room. Her hands shot to her head, covering her ears, trying to block out the sound. Her mother grabbed her, shaking her out of her trance, and yanked her toward the second staircase. After the first few steps, Agatha’s mind freed itself from its hesitation as she and her mother picked up speed. A shot fired, then another. Soon her father joined them at the top of the steps. They quickly dashed into the master bedroom where her father bolted the door shut. He backed his family up as he cocked his pistol, aiming it at the door.
“Mama, what’s happening?”
“Shh, Agatha. Don’t make a sound,” her mother urged.
Agatha nodded as she stared toward the door. All she could hear was screaming, blood curdling sounds that she was sure she would never forget. Silence then echoed in the air as all noise in the large home ceased. Her heart raced as she clung to her mother’s side. The door burst off its hinges and the creature entered the room. Her father immediately shot at the monster.
“Stay away from my family!”
A peculiar sound filled the room, a cross between a growl and laughter. The beast struck at Agatha’s father, dropping him to the ground, blood seeped through the gaping wound. Her mother dropped to her knees in tears, as the large arm swung again. Her mother landed listlessly atop her father. Agatha was frozen. She couldn’t move, but she couldn’t look away either. With a courage she didn’t know she had within her, she stood straighter, bravely facing the beast.
“Do what you must, but I will not cower before you!”
The creature smiled, raising its bear like paw. Instead of striking her down, it moved closer to her. She fought off her gag reflex as the stench of the creature was overpowering her senses. Its mouth opened and she knew she would die next. All her hopes and dreams for the future would vanish in a moment’s time.
“I will feed off of you for ages.” It growled out before turning abruptly and vanishing out the broken doorway.
Agatha’s knees buckled and she dropped to the ground. Blood pooled around her, the smell making her gag, but nothing made her sicker than the lifeless bodies of her parents beside her. What was she to do now? The thought of it all overwhelmed her as she was overcome with grief and despair.
“AGATHA!” she heard Marjorie scream at the door.
Agatha wasn’t sure how much time had passed but when she looked up, she saw her distraught caretaker in the doorway. Marjorie gingerly stepped over the destroyed door and made her way to Agatha. She kneeled down and touched the young girl’s face. Her eyes held such sadness that it brought on more tears from Agatha.
“They’re dead, Miss Marjorie. Everyone is dead,” she sobbed.
“Come, let us make haste,” Marjorie told her, standing and helping her rise up.
Marjorie looked at the dead body of her mistress and felt the sting of tears on her cheeks. She needed to get Agatha out of this house of death. She was her responsibility now. Her mistress would want that. She carefully stepped over the broken door and helped Agatha over it as well. Agatha gasped as they reached the top of the stairs.
“Don’t look at them, Miss Agatha.”
Agatha couldn’t help it though. There were dead bodies everywhere; many were trying to climb the stairs. There were others on the ground floor, and some that had almost made it out the door. Miss Marjorie was gripping her hand so tightly that it almost hurt, but she understood why, and she was not against it. She wanted to get out of this house as well and once out, she would never return.
“Unhhhh,” Agatha grunted the minute she got close to the door.
Her body began to convulse, and she found it hard to breathe. Her heart raced so fast that she was sure it would burst from her chest at any moment. It was as if she were dying a little inside. She tried to take a step, to cross the threshold of the doorway, but fell to her knees instead, gasping for breath.
“Mr. Sawyer, carry her!” Marjorie ordered.
Mr. Sawyer, the driver who had taken Miss Marjorie to town, quickly swooped Agatha into his arms. He proceeded to take a step toward the door when he was suddenly thrown backward. Both he and Agatha slid toward the bottom of the staircase, stopped only by the dead bodies lying in their path.
“What happened?” Marjorie asked, approaching them.
He stood, shaking his head in fear. He didn’t answer her. Instead, he darted toward the doorway, exiting easily. He looked back at Marjorie who was helping Agatha back up. Something evil had happened in the house and he would not be party to it.
“Don’t leave me?” Agatha begged as Marjorie approached the door.
“Never, my child.”
Agatha lunged against her, holding her tightly. She couldn’t imagine doing this without her. She thought about what the creature had told her, and a shiver ran over her body. He had trapped her in this house. For how long, she did not know.
“Oh look, let’s stop there afterward.” Raine bounced in the front seat as they passed the coffee shop. “Do you think the people who own it are Native American?”
“Well, it is called Native Barista, so I would imagine they are,” Jules said from the backseat, flipping to the next page in her book.
“That would be so cool. Don’t you think, Huntyr?”
He side-eyed her and turned back to the road. His twin sister was a bundle of energy and happiness. He loved her but she also drove him nuts. They had been driving for two days. He wanted to get there, make an assessment, and get out. He certainly didn’t want to stop at a coffee shop. They were already going into this case completely blind.
“What’s the turn?” he asked, ignoring his sister’s question.
“Left at 433rd. I guess it’s a gravel road,” Raine answered, looking at her phone. “It’s the closest they could get based on the story.”
Jules set her book down and leaned forward, placing her hands on the front seat, and looking between her partners. “I know we have been on some crazy cases before, but what exactly are we doing? We don’t really know what the heck is going on and these woods seem to be all around us, so the ‘sighting’ could be anywhere.”
“I don’t know, Jules,” he replied with a shrug. “I think this is the closest that Michael and Adam could figure out with the data points they have.”
“And why exactly are we just randomly looking here? We don’t usually come out willy-nilly like this.”
Huntyr smirked. “Willy-nilly, huh?”
“Shut up, Huntyr.” Jules said, pushing back from the front seat.
“Look,” he said, glancing at her in the rearview mirror. “We go where they tell us to go.”
“Hey, there’s the house,” Raine interrupted. “It doesn’t look like anyone is there,” Raine said as they started down the gravel road.
They parked at the house and stepped out of the vehicle. The house looked like it had seen better days, but the yard was nice. They stared at the tree line, wondering where to begin.
“Are you picking up anything?” Huntyr asked Jules.
She frowned, scrunching her brows slightly as she tried to pick up any spiritual energy. She sighed and shook her head. “There are remnants, but I can’t pinpoint it. Maybe we have the wrong area.”
Huntyr turned to the door and motioned to the girls to follow him. He knocked a couple of times, but there was no answer. They could hear barking coming from the side of the house. Raine immediately started over there. Sunni was growling and baring her teeth at the intruders. Raine reached her hand toward her as she approached.
“Raine, come on, leave the dog alone. It’s going to bite your hand off,” Huntyr stated worriedly.
“No, she’s sweet, I can tell.”
“Yeah, she looks real sweet,” Jules mused, leaning against the side of the house. She pulled a book out of her bag and began reading.
Raine sat in front of the growling dog, just out of reach. “Hello sweetheart. My name is Raine. What’s yours?”
“Raine, the dang dog is not going to answer you,” Huntyr announced with frustration.
Raine ignored him. She continued to speak to Sunni, her voice raised slightly. Sunni stared at her, her head tilted to the side, her ears alert. She then sat down on her hindquarters, as Delilah ran out of the doghouse and plopped down next to Sunni.
“Oh, where did you come from?” Raine asked with a smile at the little Chihuahua.
“The doghouse, Raine. Even I saw that it came from there,” Huntyr answered her.
Raine looked over her shoulder and glared. “Why do you have to be a jerk about everything?
“I’m not a jerk.”
“Yes, you are. You are always so negative.”
Jules glanced up from her book and rolled her eyes. Those two may have been twins, but they were polar opposites of each other. Raine was sweet and overly optimistic about pretty much everything where as Huntyr was your basic loner who didn’t really like anyone. Jules understood though. He had been through a lot and was not happy about this life they were living. She sighed, set her book back in her bag, and walked over to them.
“What do you guys want to do? Argue with each other or go investigate?” she asked them.
“We’re not arguing,” Huntyr and Raine answered in unison.
“Yeah, sure you’re not.” Jules glanced over toward the trees. “Let’s just check it out and let headquarters know there was nothing to that goofy story that they found.”
Raine turned to the two dogs and pet them quickly before standing up. “Bye,” she told them with a wave and caught up with her brother and Jules, who were already walking toward the tree line.
“The story said that there was a demon in the woods surrounding the town. It was defeated by a local resident who was not named,” Huntyr glanced at the girls with a shrug. “Based on the descriptions in the story, it’s got to be around here.”
“Well, let’s get in there,” Raine said enthusiastically. “I am definitely picking up some energy in that direction,” she pointed in the direction of the now closed entrance.
“I am too,” Jules concurred as they drew closer to the pit. “There was definitely something bad here.”
Huntyr looked at his sister. “Call it, Raine. See what happened.”
Jules pointed to the charred ground. “There, Raine. I feel a strong energy there and” she pointed to the pit, “over there.”
Raine nodded and kneeled down. She touched the ground where Misokinala perished and closed her eyes. She held on as the scene before her changed. She saw the creature and a young girl. The creature was trying to attack her but every time it did, light pierced through it. It reared back and swiped at the girl’s chest several more times before falling backward. The girl opened her eyes and approached it. She touched its head and spoke to the beast before the creature rose in the air, screaming and howling in pain before falling to the ground. Raine was pulled back from the memory before she saw what happened next.
“Raine, are you alright?” Huntyr asked concerned.
She nodded and caught her breath. “That was intense. We need to find that girl.”
“What girl? The one from the story,” Jules asked.
“Yes, what I saw her do in that vision…” She shook her head. “I have never seen that before. We need to find her.”
Jules nodded and looked at Huntyr who already had his phone out calling headquarters. “Adam, pinpoint my location and tell me what you know about the owners of the house near this position.” He hung up and looked at the girls. “I figure we start with the owners of the house. They may know something.”
“Don’t we already know that?”
“Well, they did a cursory search but that’s it. I want them to go deeper.” He turned to his sister. “What exactly did you see?”
“This girl, I don’t know. She was strong. I can’t even describe what I saw; only that she actually killed a demon. Not banished, but killed. None of us can do that.”
“It’s going to take a little bit for Adam and Michael to dig deeper,” Jules told them both. “But we already know that they own that coffee shop that Raine wanted to go to. Let’s go check it out. Maybe we can get a feel for whether they know anything about what happened. They might even know who the girl is.”
Raine smiled widely. “Let’s go.”
Jules turned back to the old bonfire pit. There was still a strong negative energy emanating from the area that made her stomach ache, but the energy felt contained somehow. Like there was a lid placed over it, keeping it from being released. That thought caused her to shudder. What was buried inside there?
“Whatever’s in there, you stay put,” she mumbled to the opening and then turned to catch up with her partners.
They quickly entered the vehicle and backtracked to town, parking in front of the coffee shop. It looked busy in there. There were people going in and out. You could see that most of the tables were already full. That would make it hard to get the owner alone to talk about what may have happened near their home.
“What’s the plan, Huntyr?”
He didn’t answer right away; distracted as he watched a couple exit the coffee shop, holding hands. It still stung when he saw couples like that. People had told him that it would get easier, but it never did. Why did these people get the life he couldn’t? He watched as they juggled their coffee, while getting into their car, laughing at themselves. Raine nudged him slightly. He smiled at her concerned expression and looked back at the coffee shop, back in business mode.
“We’ll order a coffee and find a seat. I’ll read the room and see who the best candidate will be. The owner is probably here so we can maybe casually ask if she has noticed anything strange around her house.”
“She’d be lying if she said no,” Jules stated indignantly, knowing the amount of energy there would be impossible to ignore.
“Exactly!” Huntyr agreed.
“Some teenagers just walked in,” Raine said quickly. “I bet they might know who the girl is that I saw in the vision.”
“Okay, let’s do this!” Huntyr said as he opened his car door.
The minute they stepped inside Native Barista, the smell of coffee and fresh baked goods filled their nostrils and made their stomachs growl. Nobody seemed to notice them, which was good. The more inconspicuous they were, the better. Jules looked around the room, concentrating on the auras present. That was her special gift. She could sense the positive and negative energy around people and things. Whereas Raine could call on the spirits, make them show her what transpired in a situation, and Huntyr, well, he was what they called a truth seeker. He could tell if people were lying or trying to cover things up. He could also sense whether someone was good or bad. The three of them were a team. They were the best Spirit Guiders that headquarters had, which was why they had been sent to Grieselton, to investigate a random story that Adam, one of their computer experts, had found online.
“I’m not picking up any negative energy in here,” Jules whispered.
“There she is,” Raine gasped, as Parker exited the kitchen and walked to the register.
“That’s the girl you saw in the vision?” Huntyr inquired.
She nodded. “I’m sure of it.”
“You weren’t kidding, Raine. The energy surrounding her is insane. It’s attaching to everyone in here,” she said looking around, noticing that the colors around the patrons were suddenly more vivid.
“Come on, let’s talk to her.”
“Welcome to Native Barista. What can I get ya?” Parker said enthusiastically and then swallowed as she stared at the three individuals before her.
The man looked too old to be in high school but not old enough to be seen as an adult-adult either. She guessed maybe his early twenties. He was tall, at least six-feet, with dark hair and green eyes, and a very distinct set of scars on his right cheek that were partially covered by facial hair. The girl beside him looked similar. Same dark hair but her eyes were more hazel. They had the same bone structure and Parker wondered if they were related in some way. The last girl was blonde and petite. Her eyes had the look of someone older but her stature and little girl face made her seem really young. Parker could see that the three of them had very distinct colors swirling around and through them. She hadn’t seen anything like that since the day Ophelia gave her the Kuamsha Roho tea. Parker glanced at her friends, who were watching the exchange with interest.
“My name is Huntyr Overstreet,” the man said, causing her to look back at him. “This is my sister Raine, and our colleague, Jules Valerio.”
“I’m Parker,” she said hesitantly. “What do you want?”
“Just to talk,” Raine answered sweetly.
“What happened in the woods near your house,” Huntyr chimed in.
“I don’t want to talk about that.” Parker sagged a bit.
She didn’t know who they were, but she knew the incident with Misokinala was not something she wanted to drudge up again. The small blonde woman touched her hand and Parker felt a wave of calmness float through her. The woman had her eyes closed and was swaying slightly. Parker wanted to jerk her hand away, but there was something inside her that told her not to.
“Let me get through the evening rush and then we can talk,” Parker finally said, somewhat hesitantly.
The blonde woman released her hand and smiled. She looked a little tired now. Perhaps that was a side effect of connecting with people like that. The girl identified as Raine stepped forward and looked at the menu before giving Parker a bright smile.
“What do you recommend?”
“Our Chokecherry Splash is our signature drink.”
“Perfect! Three Chokecherry Splashes and three of those blueberry muffins.”
Parker nodded and rung them up. As she stepped aside to make their drinks, she watched them peruse the coffee shop. The man was talking to the other two intently. She wasn’t one hundred percent sure of what she was doing, but she did get the distinct feeling that those three strangers may have some answers to the many questions she had. And, who knew, maybe, just maybe, she was not the only one with this gift she never wanted and perhaps these people could help her.
Parker literally waited until nearly everyone was out of the coffee shop before she walked over to the three strangers who had said they wanted to talk to her about what happened with Misokinala. Her gut told her that she needed to hear what they had to say, but another part of her wanted them to leave her the heck alone. Her gut won out when she thought about what her grandfather had told her. He said to always listen to her gut. After the incident with Misokinala, he had stayed with them for four months. He taught her so much about their history, the medicines they used, and their prayer songs.
“Are you guys seers like Ophelia was?” Parker asked, sitting down.
“We all have different gifts we bring to the table,” Raine told her.
Parker scrunched her brows and looked between them. “That doesn’t really answer my question.”
“I am close to what you would call a seer,” Jules intervened. “But we call ourselves Spiritual Empaths. I can see the auras of people and sometimes even things and places.” When Parker looked at her confused, Jules smiled and continued. “I can tell if there is the presence of negative or positive energy, pretty much anywhere. Like the woods, near your house.”
Parker inhaled sharply and nodded. “You felt that?”
“Yes, I did. And you, you are a Spiritual Empath as well, correct?”
Parker shrugged. “I don’t know what I am.”
“You’re special,” Jules replied, touching her hand lightly.
Parker nodded and looked at the others. “And what about you two?”
“My brother and I have different gifts. I am what’s called a Spirit Caller,” Raine spoke first. “I can call on the spirits to show me the residual of spiritual events, good or bad. It’s how I saw what you did.”
Parker chewed on her lip nervously and glanced at the man that identified himself as Huntyr. “I’m what’s called a Truth Seeker. I can see if people are telling the truth or not and sometimes, whether there is evil within them.”
“That might be a good trait to have in politics,” Parker joked. He narrowed his eyes slightly so she changed the topic. “Where exactly did you guys come from?”
“Our headquarters is based in Colorado,” Huntyr answered coolly.
Parker chuckled. “Colorado, huh? The whole state?” she smirked.
He crossed his arms and shook his head. “Of course not. That’s ridiculous.”
“Well, you don’t have to get mad about it,” Parker shot back.
“I’m not mad. It’s just a ridiculous question to ask.”
“It was a joke. Lighten up. Why can’t you just tell me where you came from?”
“Because we don’t give our location out to non-Spirt Guiders. It’s for our protection,” Jules stated calmly.
“Spirit Guiders, what’s that?”
“Let us explain from the beginning,” Raine started until her brother cleared his throat. “At least as much as we are able to.”
“Okay,” Parker replied curiously.
“Our organization started over thirty years ago. Our Founders met in college and realized that they all shared something in common.” She leaned a little closer to Parker. “They could see spirits.”
“Can’t a lot of people see them?”
“Yes,” Jules interjected. “But the Founders combined their gifts and were able to actually help people.”
“By ridding them of evil entities,” Huntyr spoke.
“So you’re like Ghost Hunters?”
Huntyr rolled his eyes and made a loud grunting sound, which caused people to look in their direction, including Parker’s friends. His sister touched his crossed arms and shook her head at him. He sagged a bit but relaxed his posture. He set his hands on his lap and glanced at the three girls two tables away from them. They were still watching. The blonde one gave him a smile and then turned away. He furrowed his brows and turned back to Parker, trying to remain composed.
“We are in no way associated with people like that,” he growled under his breath. “What we do is not a game or TV show. It’s real.”
“Okay, calm down,” she sighed and leaned back in her chair. “So, how did you hear about what happened? It wasn’t in the paper or anything.”
“Our tech guys, Michael and Adam, routinely peruse the internet for possible sightings,” Raine said, before her brother could answer. “They have a list of keywords they use.”
“Usually the stories are just urban legends,” Jules added. “Or kids, you know, creating creepy pasta.”
Parker nodded. She wasn’t sure what that was but she would go along with it. “And they found a story about me?”
“Not you specifically,” Raine answered. “But they were able to trace the IP address to Grieselton.”
“Really? Only a few people…” she stopped and closed her eyes, twisting her lip between her teeth.
“Do you know who wrote it?” Huntyr asked calmly.
“I have a feeling, but I’ll need to verify it.”
She wanted to look over at her friends, but didn’t want these strangers to suspect them. Especially this Huntyr guy. He seemed to be teetering on the edge as is. She had already pissed him off twice and they had only spoken for a short time. She glanced at the three people in front of her and contemplated. She was almost positive it was Amber who posted the story. She was the one that was on all of those ghost hunting websites.
“Will whoever wrote the story get in trouble?” She finally asked tentatively.
“Oh no, not at all,” Jules answered with a laugh. “It’s just what brought us here.”
Parker nodded. “So you came down here to investigate whether the story was true?”
“Basically, yeah,” Raine smiled. “Will you tell us what happened?”
“It’s kind of a long story.”
“We obviously have time,” Huntyr told her.
Parker sighed and then told them everything. It had happened six months ago, but, somehow, it was still fresh in her mind. She imagined it always would be. She still teared up as she talked about the loss of Kyle and Ophelia. She missed them both tremendously. In truth, things had been fairly easy after she defeated Misokinala. Things went back to normal or at least as normal as they could when you’re destined to defeat evil. She had just finished her junior year and she had nothing really planned for the summer besides hanging with her friends when she wasn’t working at Native Barista.
“That’s it,” Parker announced when she was done.
The three looked at one another and then back at her. They definitely had some lightbulb moment that Parker wasn’t aware of. The perky one that reminded Parker of Amber spoke first.
“Parker, we would really love for you to join us in Colorado.”
“Whoa! Umm, yeah, I barely know you guys. You tell me some wild story about a secret society of ghost hunters,” she glanced at Huntyr who furrowed his brows, but she continued, “and what, I’m supposed to just hop on a plane and come with you? I don’t think so.”
Huntyr started to say something but Jules stopped him. “I know it sounds a little out there, but isn’t what you are experiencing kind of out there as well? Wouldn’t you like to learn more about your gift and how to control it?”
“I would, but why can’t I do that here?”
“Because we have responsibilities at home,” Huntyr interjected furiously. “We have a job to do, people to help.”
“Okay, seriously, dude, you need to chill. I know how to make this tea that could help calm you down.”
“Huntyr, quit it!” Raine reproached while Jules stifled her laugh.
He breathed in deeply. “Look, if you don’t want to join us, to help fight evil in the world, that’s fine, we’ll just leave.”
Parker rolled her eyes. “I didn’t say I didn’t want to help. Just that you can’t expect me to just talk with you guys for an hour and then presume I’ll just up and leave with you. I’m only seventeen. I kind of need parental permission.”
“You’re only seventeen?” Raine asked in shock, she had thought she was older.
“What? You don’t want me now?”
“No, it’s not that. We just have rules. You have to be eighteen before you can become a Spirit Guider.”
“Cool, well, come back next year then,” Parker stated annoyed.
“How about we stick around for a bit,” Jules suggested. “You could show us around. We can talk more about what we do, and maybe you can come for a visit. See if you would like to join us. If you do, then when you are old enough, you can be a Spirit Guider.”
“Yeah, sure,” Parker agreed. “Alright. I need to get back to work. Since you obviously know where I live, you can swing by and get me tomorrow morning.”
“Sure,” Jules replied as Parker rose from her seat and headed back to the counter. Jules turned to Huntyr and Raine. “Call headquarters. I don’t care if this girl is underage. We need her. Her gift is extraordinary.”
“Fine,” Huntyr huffed, pulling out his phone.
Jules looked back at the girl. There was something about her. Something special. At the same time, she seemed haunted and weighed down by her gift. She needed help controlling it. If she didn’t, she would go insane like so many Spiritual Empaths do. She smiled slightly. She needed to get her to headquarters. She just hoped the Founders agreed with her assessment of the situation.
Sage sat across from her daughter, who was sitting on the large round chair with both Sunni and Delilah. She was not one hundred percent on board with this idea, but she was trying to remain open. Her grandfather had told her to trust Parker, but she wasn’t sure that meant going off with people she had just met.
“Parker, are you sure you can trust these people?”
“Yeah, actually I am. Remember, I have ‘the gift’,” she said with a shake of her hands.
Sage laughed. “That doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong.”
“True, but I really didn’t pick up any bad vibes from them. They were telling me the truth the other day and honestly, maybe they can help me,” she finished with a shrug.
“I hear them coming,” Sage said, looking toward the door.
A few minutes later, there was a knock. Parker went to answer but Sage waved her off. When she opened the door, she gasped slightly. She had only seen them briefly yesterday in the coffee shop, but now they were up close. The man grimaced and looked away slightly. Sage immediately wanted to slap herself for her reaction. It was just that the massive amount of scars on his face had simply startled her.
“I apologize, that was very rude of me,” she said to the man.
“It’s alright, ma’am,” the petite blonde said. “Is Parker ready?”
“Yes, come on in,” Sage replied, opening the door to let them inside. “Can I make you a cup of tea or a coffee?”
“No, thank you,” Raine answered sweetly, but then eyed the pastry on the table.
Catching her looking, Sage quickly brought a plate of muffins over and offered them to everyone. They each grabbed one as they took a seat, unsure what to do. Sage set the plate on the coffee table and took a seat on the sofa, near the blonde woman.
“Parker says you are from Colorado.”
“Yes, we are,” Raine responded as she petted Sunni who was eating it up.
“They can’t say, Mom,” Parker interjected, standing and grabbing her jacket. She eyed her mom as she slipped it on. “It’s kind of a secret,” she whispered to her.
Sage frowned at the secrecy. “When will you be back?”
“Early evening,” Parker told her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Love you, Mom. I’ll see you later.”
On cue, the Spirit Guiders rose from their seats and followed Parker out the door. Parker walked toward what she presumed was their rental vehicle. She glanced at her Nissan Altima that she got a few months ago. It was a good car and got her around, but it had close to 200,000 miles on it. But her mom said that if she took good care of it, she could trade it in after graduation and she would get her a new vehicle that would get her through college. Parker shuddered at that idea. She wanted to go to college and up until six months ago, she had been planning for it, but she wasn’t sure how that would work with this crazy situation she was currently in. She couldn’t think about that right now. She needed to focus on the task at hand.
“This is a nice rental,” she admired as she slid onto the backseat.
“It’s not a rental,” Huntyr replied, getting behind the wheel.
“What? You drove here?” Parker asked amazed, that was a long trip.
“We always drive if possible. We never know what’s going to happen or how long it will take when we go on an investigation,” Jules said from beside her.
“Oh, okay. Guess that makes sense.” She leaned up to the front seat. “I thought we should go to Blood Mountain first. That’s where I met the Spirit People.”
Huntyr nodded and looked at Raine. “Plug it in.”
Parker leaned back and looked at Jules who already had a book out. It was something called Thirty Eight and it had a picture of a girl on a horse on the cover. She wondered what that was about. Sensing her watching her, Jules set the book down and smiled.
“Is he in charge?” Parker asked, thumbing towards Huntyr.
“Sort of. He’s just more forceful than we are, so we let him be the leader of our team.” She grinned when she saw Huntyr’s expression in the rearview mirror.
“Gotcha,” she replied and motioned her head toward the book in her hand. “What are you reading?”
She lifted the book up. “It’s called Thirty Eight. It’s this coming of age story about this Native girl that goes on the Dakota 38 Memorial Ride. Have you heard of it?”
“Not the book, but the ride, yeah. They go on it every winter to commemorate the Dakota men who were hung.”
Jules nodded. “I like the story so far. I’ll let you read it when I’m done.”
“Thanks,” she replied, not knowing what else to say.
It was silent in the vehicle as they drove to Blood Mountain. Jules was reading and Raine was looking up information on her phone while Huntyr drove quietly. Not that she herself was a big talker, but the silence was somewhat deafening. As they started up the mountain, she felt a bit uneasy. She hadn’t been back since she and her friends had visited the first time. She wondered if the Spirit People were still there, after all, she did kill Misokinala, the demon they were guarding the opening from. Maybe they were released as well and could join their brethren. That thought brought a smile to her face. She hoped it was true.
“Pull in over there,” Parker told him as they approached the spot she and her friends had been too.
Huntyr did as she directed and parked the vehicle in the visitor enclosure off the side of the road. They each stepped out and felt it immediately. While Huntyr didn’t see things like his sister or Jules did, he could sense the strong spiritual waves in the area. Jules was standing with her eyes closed, taking in the spiritual energy around her. It felt good. Raine was smiling, her palm slightly raised.
“Are you calling the Spirit People?” Parker questioned.
Raine giggled and shook her head. “No, just taking in the power.”
Parker looked at the other two and motioned her head toward the barricade. “We have to go down there.”
She was surprised that none of them asked if it was safe or even if it was illegal. She supposed that they must have to do things like this on a regular basis and wondered if she would as well. It surprised her that she was already considering going with them. Her grandfather had taught her a lot as had Ophelia, but she needed to learn how to control her gift and these people obviously knew how to do that. It made sense that she should go and learn from them.
“Don’t go near that well right there,” Parker told them as they reached the bottom.
“Why,” Huntyr asked, stepping toward it.
“It’s where Misokinala first breached this world.”
Huntyr immediately turned to Raine. “Call it, Raine.”
She nodded and kneeled at the edge of the well. Parker stared at her nervously as she raised her palms over the opening. She mumbled some words that Parker didn’t hear that well and then froze in place. Her body started convulsing, terrifying those near her. Parker dropped down beside her, grabbing her, to pull her away from the entrance, when she felt the all too familiar sensation of spinning in a tornado. She braced herself for what would come next.
Parker found herself standing beside Raine next to the well. She could now see what Raine was seeing. The creature, unafraid, had crawled out of the well and had immediately approached a group of young Cherokee men who were nearby, hunting for deer. With a wicked sneer, he had flown to them, going from one man to the next, whispering in his evil tongue to them, turning the men on each other, and causing them to kill one another. He stepped over their bloody bodies and reached to the sky before turning abruptly and staring directly at Parker. It’s disgusting skeletal face with burned skin falling off of it was just as terrifying as it was six months ago.
“Who are you?” It’s voice echoed in the air.
“I am the one who will kill you,” Parker replied defiantly.
He sneered, his sharp teeth glistening with blood. “Then I will destroy you.”
Parker shook her head and gave the creature a smirk. “You will fail.”
“Raine,” Huntyr said, panicked as he pulled her onto his lap.
Parker fell back, away from the vision, and started breathing quickly. Jules came over to her and touched her hand to Parker’s forehead. Parker’s breathing started to slow down and normalize. She coughed several times as she sat up. She fumbled with the purse she now carried everywhere she went, until she was able to unzip it. She pulled out her special blend of sage and lit it, letting the smoke fill her nostrils. She approached Raine and blew the smoke along her body and then into her face, as she prayed for her in her Native tongue. Raine breathed it in and soon was relaxed and calm.
“What is that?” Huntyr asked, thankful that whatever it was had helped his sister.
“It’s a mixture of sage and imphepho. My grandfather suggested that I mix them together, that they would complement one another and help me recover from the visions quicker.”
“Thank you,” Raine said sitting up. “I do feel better.”
“You’re welcome,” Parker smiled as she sat back and tried to settle down a little more.
“What did you see?” Huntyr asked, stroking her hair gently.
“He came out of the opening and approached some hunters. They were just kids and he turned them on each other. It laughed when they were all dead.” Rained shuddered at the memory. She turned to Parker. “The creature was saying something I didn’t understand. Did you?”
Parker sighed. “Yes, for some reason that I don’t understand, I can hear the language the spirits are speaking.”
Huntyr furrowed his brows. “How is that possible?”
She shrugged and Jules stared at him annoyed. “Didn’t she just say she didn’t understand?”
“Sorry, this is all so…” he stopped and shook his head.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people that can do that.” Parker sincerely hoped.
“Not that I’ve seen.” Jules answered. “But don’t worry, Parker, we’ll figure it out.”
“What did it say to you?” Raine asked.
“It asked who I was and I told him that I was the one that would defeat him. He told me he would destroy me.”
“But that was a past event. How could you interact with it like that?”
Parker shook her head and leaned back, looking up to the sky. “I don’t know.” She then fell backward on the ground and covered her eyes. “It’s happened before.”
She felt tears prickle at the corner of her eyes as the realization of what she had just done. She had altered the past; again. She made contact with Misokinala before she was even born and in the process had inadvertently ensured that the creature would seek her out when she finally arrived in Grieselton. What she had essentially done was place a huge ‘X’ on her back. She really was the reason Kyle was dead, as well as Mark and Ophelia, and so many others.
“Parker, are you alright?” Jules asked with concern.
Parker shook her head, trying to control her tears. “Ophelia,” she paused and swallowed thickly. “She always told me never to interact, only to observe, but that’s so hard to do.”
“You’ll get better at it,” she smiled at her and looked around. “Are the Spirit People here? I don’t really sense their presence.”
“I don’t think they’re here,” Parker answered, thankful for the change of subject. “I don’t feel them either.”
“We should go,” Huntyr stated forcefully. “Raine has overexerted herself. She needs to eat and then to rest.”
Parker nodded. “That’s fine with me, but I need to do something before we go.”
“What’s that?” Jules asked.
“I need to seal this entrance.” She looked at them all. “I know it sounds crazy but I am tasked with closing these entrances into our world. I should have already done it, but I didn’t want to come back here. But,” she looked towards the well. “I need to close it, just in case some other entity decides to wander through.”
“Wouldn’t the Spirit People have done that already?” Raine asked.
Parker shrugged. “I’m sure they did something, which is why they aren’t here anymore, but I want to be sure.”
Jules nodded and looked at Huntyr. “You take Raine up to the car. Give her one of those candy bars we have in our bags. I’ll stay with Parker and help her.”
He nodded and helped Raine up. As they started to make the long trek up the makeshift trail, Parker set out to preparing the entrance as she had done with the one near her home. Jules watched her, not interfering with the process, but ready in case Parker needed her. When Parker had finished, she gathered her things and started walking toward the trail with Jules following behind her.
“How did you learn to do that?”
“Ophelia taught me.” Parker answered casually. She glanced at Jules, who looked generally interested in what she had to say. “We were studying my gift because she said what I have is rare,” she said with a shrug. “She had a lot more to teach me, but she died before she could finish my training.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Parker. It’s hard when we lose someone special to us.”
Parker nodded and glanced at her. “Who taught you?”
Jules gave a half smile. “I didn’t learn to control my gift until I became a Spirit Guider.”
“Really? Geez, how did you manage without any guidance?”
Jules lifted her sleeve slightly. There were old razor marks there. “I thought I was going crazy. It scared me to death and I didn’t have anyone to talk too. I just,” she paused and shrugged slightly. “I felt too much. Then one day, I saw this online ad and test,” she laughed at the memory. “It was crazy, but I knew I had found my home with the Founders. They understood and had a plan for helping people.”
“Why do all of you refer to them as simply the Founders and not by their names?”
Jules smiled. “I don’t know, it’s just habit I guess. The three of them were the first Spirit Guiders and do pretty much everything together. It’s hard to refer to one without the others.”
“So this organization is big?”
“Probably not as big as it should be.”
“What do you mean?”
“What we do is hard. It takes a toll on us emotionally, as well as physically. Not everyone can handle it.”
“What do you mean?”
“You saw how Raine reacted. She only gets that way in the presence of pure evil. She’ll probably rest the remainder of the evening, but some people, they just don’t recover from the encounters we face.”
She nodded. She understood that feeling. “When I first started seeing Misokinala, I would faint. It was pretty embarrassing.”
Jules chuckled. “The energy transfer is what does that.” When they reached the top of the hill, Jules touched Parker’s arm, stopping her. “Parker, I hope you are considering coming with us. I really think we could help you learn about your gift.”
Parker nodded. “I am considering it. I know I can’t do this on my own, especially since I don’t really have control of what I can do.”
“I swear we are not crazy.”
Parker laughed. “Yeah, I picked that up already. Although, Huntyr, I’m not so sure about.”
Jules chuckled and then became serious. “He never wanted this life, but he couldn’t leave his sister to do it alone.”
“They seem pretty close.”
“Yes, that’s because their twins.”
“Really? That’s kind of cool.”
“Once you get to know him, you’ll see he’s a decent guy.”
Parker laughed. “I’ll take your word on that.”
They got to the car and entered without haste. Huntyr drove them to a local diner so that everyone could have an actual meal. The diner felt very old fashioned, but the food was good. They had all ordered burgers and fries, after all, it was hard to mess that up. Jules wasn’t kidding when she said that Raine would be out of it. While she did eat her food, she wasn’t as talkative as she had been prior to the encounter on Blood Mountain. Parker wasn’t sure why she wasn’t as affected as Raine, but she was thankful for it. Huntyr seemed in better spirits as well. As they were all talking, Parker noticed what looked like a charm bracelet on his wrist.
“Wow, that’s pretty,” she said, touching it softly. Parker felt the sensation in her belly and knew she was about to see something.
The restaurant swirled quickly and soon became a car. There was a young woman driving and a man in the passenger seat. She couldn’t see their faces because she was now sitting in the backseat, but she could hear them very clearly.
“This is crazy. What about me? Don’t I get a say in this?”
“You do and I’m sorry, but I can’t let her do this alone,” he said. Parker immediately recognized the voice of the man as Huntyr.
“This isn’t fair,” the girl said angrily.
He turned in his seat to face her. He had a sad expression on his face. The woman glanced his way, but her look was cold and angry. She started to say something but a horn blazed, which drew her attention back to the road.
“No,” Parker yelled as the car swerved, rolling several times before coming to a stop.
Huntyr was unconscious, the right side of his face pressed against the broken glass. Parker turned as an arm dropped limply in front of her. On the wrist was a charm bracelet.
“You can’t do that,” Huntyr practically yelled, pulling his arm away from her. “That’s private.”
“I’m sorry. I… I… I can’t control when that happens to me.”
He had tears in his eyes. “You can’t do that,” he repeated. He rose from the table and bolted toward the men’s restroom.
“I’m so sorry,” Parker cried into her hands. “I swear, I didn’t mean to do that.”
“It’s okay. We know you don’t have control of your gift yet” Jules said comfortingly. “He just needs a minute to calm down. He’ll be okay,” she tried to reassure her.
Raine turned away from the direction her brother went and looked at Parker. “The rule is we don’t ‘see’ things without permission.” She turned back to the place her brother had gone. “We all have stories we don’t want others to see.”
“I’m sorry,” Parker repeated, wiping her eyes. “He’ll never forgive me for that.”
Raine smiled at her, touching her hand. “He will. Don’t worry. I’ll talk to him.”
“And you will learn to control it,” Jules told her, rubbing her shoulder. “We can help with that.”
Parker nodded, watching for Huntyr’s return. She couldn’t believe this was happening. That she had seen something she wasn’t supposed to see. At least, now, she understood why he was so angry all the time. She felt a little closer to him at that moment because she knew what it felt like to lose someone you loved. That had happened to her as well, when Kyle died. She had to make this right with him.
The last couple of days had been pretty intense for Parker. She had spent a great deal of time talking to the three Spirit Guiders. They had an interesting tale, one that intrigued her. Apparently, they were part of a larger organization based in Colorado, of all places. They stated the three Founders had met in college and discovered that together they had great power to combat evil and help people. The rest of the story they advised she would learn at the facility, which she would be heading off to in a few days.
“Parker, are you sure about this?” Sage asked from the door.
Parker chuckled and looked at her. “Not a hundred percent, but, I get a good vibe from them and Grandpa told me to trust my feelings.”
Sage stepped inside the room and took a seat on the bed. “I don’t think Grandpa meant running off to some compound in Colorado.”
“Mom, it’s not a compound,” Parker laughed, taking a seat beside her. “I trust them.”
“I know you do.” She looked down, twisting her fingers together before she looked up and frowned. “I think it’s the mom in me that’s paranoid about you going alone.”
Parker hugged her. “I battled a demon, Mom. I think I can handle myself.” Sage started to respond, but Parker laughed before kissing her cheek. “Trust me, Mom. If things get carried away, I will leave. I promise.”
She nodded and looked at the things Parker was packing. “You are bringing a lot for a week.”
“I don’t know what I’ll need. I want to make sure I have Ophelia’s journals and my medicine bag.”
Sage chuckled. “That still makes me laugh.”
Parker grinned. “I know. I don’t know what else to call it though.”
After the incident with Misokinala, Parker had put together a bag of what she considered essential medicines in case she came in contact with an evil entity. She had used an old pow wow purse of her mom’s with a long enough strap that it went over her shoulder and rested on her hip. She had everything she thought she might need in it, including Ophelia’s old satchel, something that she would never be able to part with. She now only carried the special mixture of medicine in it that she used to seal the entrances.
“It fits,” her mom said, bringing Parker out of her thoughts. “It makes me wonder what it would be like if you were a real doctor.”
“Mom, that was never in my cards,” she said with a grin. “I hate math and science, which I believe might be important in the pursuit of medicine.”
Sage laughed. “Yes, that would be important.” She hesitated for a moment before asking her next question. “Have you thought any more about going to college?”
Parker watched her for a moment and got up, gathering a few more items that she wanted to bring with her. “I’ll take the ACT the next time it comes around, but,” she turned around and leaned against her dresser, “I think my path is leading me away from that.”
Sage ran her hand up her neck and into her hair. She hated this; hated that her only child would not attend college. She wanted that more than she probably should, but it was true. It wasn’t until this past spring when Sage was expecting to pay for the ACT preparation course that she realized Parker was no longer considering college. It had broken her heart.
“I know that’s hard to hear, Mom. I’m not trying to be difficult. I just have so much on my plate right now.”
“But college is what’s going to help you in the long run.”
“That might be true, but I can barely concentrate for high school. How could I possibly manage college?”
“But if you don’t try, how will you know? Besides, how do you know that this gift you have will stay with you forever? Maybe it’s a passing, I don’t know, phase,” Sage said, grasping for anything.
“I don’t think it’s a passing phase, Mom, but who knows, maybe if these people can help me control my gift, then I’ll be able to go to college.”
“Well, that is one definite positive of this whole thing.”
Parker walked over and kneeled down in front of her. “College will always be there but… if the world is overrun by demons, what good will an education do?” Before her mother had a chance to answer, she continued. “I have a better understanding now that while there are other people out there that have gifts, mine is unique. The creator wouldn’t have given it to me if he didn’t want me to use it to help others.”
Sage stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. “I trust that you know what you’re doing.”
“Thanks,” Parker said before rising to her feet. She picked up her small overnight bag. “I better go. I’m sure the girls are already there, waiting impatiently for me,” she finished with a laugh.
“Have fun,” Sage replied, watching her daughter dart out of the room.
Parker took the stairs two at a time, both Sunni and Delilah following close behind. She opened the door, allowing the dogs out. Instead of going to the bathroom though, Sunni ran over to Parker’s car. She jumped against the door, trying to get in.
“Geez, Sunni, stop. You’re scraping up my car.” She scratched her behind her ears. “You can’t come with me. Now go potty!” Sunni tilted her head, her ears perked up. “I mean it, girl, go,” she ordered, pointing in the direction that Delilah had run.
When Sunni had finished, she let both dogs in the house and jumped into her vehicle to make her way to Enya’s house. That was still the girls’ go-to-house for sleepovers. Although, if you were to ask any of them, they would tell you that at their age, it wasn’t really considered a sleepover, but ‘hanging out’. She enjoyed staying at her friends’ homes. She always felt great around them, and somehow, with them around, she didn’t feel like such a freak. She pulled up in front of the modest house and headed for the door.
“Hey, girl,” Enya said at the door, giving her a tight hug. “Everyone is already here and we ordered pizza.”
“Cool, did you order my fave?”
“Yes, of course.”
They both trotted down the stairs and into the basement. Mal and Amber were already having a heated discussion about some anime thing they both liked that Parker and Enya were not in the loop about. They often found it hilarious, watching them go round and round about it. Both girls enjoyed anime, and Korean anything. They had tried desperately to get Enya and Parker into the latest K-pop sensation, or to watch one of the K-drama’s they enjoyed, but it just wasn’t something that Parker was interested in. The girls turned when they heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
“Hey, Parker,” Amber yelled and jumped up from the beanbag chair to give her a hug.
“Hey,” she replied, hugging her back and fist bumping Mal. “Whatcha girls arguing about now?”
“Nothing,” Mal stated innocently.
“Whatever. She keeps arguing with me that Yuri and Otabek is the best ship when clearly Yuri and Viktor are the only true ship out there.”
“Alright, well, since I don’t know either, I’m for both,” Parker laughed as she plopped on her chair.
“You can’t be for both, Parker. That’s not how it works.”
“Ignore her, Parker,” Mal said, sitting back down. “She’s nuts, remember,” she finished with a laugh.
“I am not!” Amber replied, throwing a pillow at her.
“Will you girls quit it?” Enya intervened.
“Fine,” Mal said raising her hands in defeat. She then turned in Parker’s direction. “So… you’re seriously going to go to Colorado by yourself with a bunch of strangers?” She looked toward Amber and Enya. “Am I the only one that thinks this is a bad idea?”
“Mal, come on, how is it a bad idea?” Parker stated. “I’ve already spent the last few days with them. I trust them.”
“Seriously, Parker? That’s your justification for doing something so freaking crazy, even I think it’s crazy?”
Parker shook her head. “I have no control of this thing that I can do. It pops up all the dang time. They can help me.”
“How do you know that they aren’t going to use your gift for bad? There are people that would take advantage of your gifts. Have you thought about that?”
“Mal, stop,” Enya jumped in, trying to settle her down. “We don’t understand what’s happening with Parker. If these people can help, it’s probably a good idea.”
“Are you telling me that you think this is cool?” she asked Enya, annoyed. “I mean, that dude with all the scars. He looks freaking scary. What if he tries to kill her or something?”
“He doesn’t look scary,” Amber insisted.
“Really, Amber. He looks like he has been in jail or something.”
“Mal, that’s mean. You don’t know anything about him. How could you say that?”
“Oh my God! You have the hots for him, don’t you?”
“What, no.” She looked down and away.
“You and your lost causes,” Mal retorted with a huff.
“Thinking that you shouldn’t judge him because of how he looks is not me going after a lost cause.” She glared at her friend. “And I’m sure it’s not his fault his face is all scarred like that.”
“It’s not,” Parker added and stopped when they looked at her. “I kind of saw what happened to him.”
“What happened to him?” Enya asked.
Parker sighed and shook her head. “I can’t really say. He got real upset when I saw it by accident. His sister told me that the rule is that you don’t ‘see’ things without permission.”
“Were they upset with you, too?”
“No, the girls said they understood that I didn’t have control.” She leaned forward a bit. “It’s such a trip because they can turn their gifts on and off, like flipping a switch,” she finished with a snap of her fingers.
“That’s kind of cool.”
Parker nodded and turned to Mal. “I know going with them so soon seems reckless, maybe even dangerous, but I swear to you, I don’t pick up any bad vibes from them. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel like they are being trustworthy. Please tell me you are on board with this.”
“Hey, you know I always got your back. I just want you safe and after what we went through, I’d feel a heck of a lot better knowing exactly where you’re going because Colorado is freaking huge.”
“Yeah, there’s a lot of secrecy about the organization.”
“I’m still confused,” Enya asked. “I mean, how did they even know about what happened?”
Parker looked at Amber, who immediately looked down, twisting her fingers together. Parker hadn’t told any of them how they found out. At this point, she wasn’t sure what she could or couldn’t share, especially after the way Huntyr had responded. In regards to the story, she always suspected Amber and seeing her reaction right now, her suspicions were confirmed.
“They read a story online,” Parker finally answered.
Mal and Enya immediately turned to Amber. “Did you write something on one of those ghost blogs of yours?” Enya asked incredulously.
Amber nodded slightly and looked at Parker with pleading eyes. “I’m sorry, Parker. I didn’t mean to. It had been six months, so I thought it would be okay, especially since I posted it under an alias.” Her eyes passed over here friends’ shocked faces. “I didn’t use anyone’s names or descriptions. I was really vague about it. I only mentioned that it occurred in Georgia.”
“They traced the IP address to Grieselton,” Parker stated casually.
“What?” she asked and covered her face. “Am I… in trouble?” she mumbled into her hands.
Parker shook her head. “No, they were only going to seek you out if they didn’t find anything in the woods near my house, but they sensed something happened. One of the girls, Raine, she’s a Spirit Caller.”
“What’s that?” Mal interrupted.
“It means she can ‘call’ the spirits to see what happened.”
“That’s what you can do,” Enya inserted.
“Yeah, I can. Anyway, Raine was able to see what happened and when they went to the coffee shop they recognized me immediately.”
“Are they all Spirit Callers?” Mal asked curious.
“No, one is a Truth Seeker. That’s Huntyr, the one with the scars. He can tell if people are lying and he can see if someone is evil. I don’t know what exactly that looks like though. Jules, the other girl, she is a Spiritual Empath, she senses the spiritual energy around people or things. She can do like I do, you know, see the auras around people.”
“That’s a trip, Parker,” Amber said, happy the topic had moved away from her and the story she wrote.
“Because you can do all those things.”
Parker shrugged. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. That is kind of a trip.”
“Nice change of subject, Amber, but you don’t get off that easily,” Mal said to her.
“I can’t believe you wrote something,” Enya added, disappointed. “I thought we all agreed that we wouldn’t talk about it to anyone.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” she said, flustered. “I honestly didn’t think anyone would see it. Let alone trace it to us.”
“What exactly did you write?” Parker asked.
Amber stared at them for a long time before frowning slightly. “Hold on,” Amber replied, digging her tablet out of her bag. She scrolled a little and then handed the tablet over to Parker. “Here it is.”
Mal and Enya huddled around Parker as they read Amber’s description of the events that occurred. Parker almost laughed… several times. It was written as a camp ghost story. Something kids might use to scare each other. It was so over the top that she couldn’t imagine why the Spirit Guiders thought it was worthy of an investigation.
“Wow, Amber. That was really… something,” Mal stated, going back to her chair and plopping down.
“That’s not how it happened,” Parker said with a chuckle.
“I know. I purposefully made it that way, mixing the truth in with the surreal.” She shrugged, letting out a sigh.
“Were you trying to create your own urban legend?” Enya laughed.
“No, well, maybe. Why not? It was better than most things out there.”
“So how many comments did you get on it?” Mal asked, scrolling to the end. “Holy crap, girl. That’s a lot.”
“Some people didn’t believe me,” Amber said with a grin. “But most thought it was true.”
“Look at all these people that thought it had taken place in their own towns,” Enya said stunned.
“I know, that’s what was cool about it,” Amber replied excitedly. “The setting was general so it could be anywhere.”
“Pretty ingenious,” Mal said with a head nod.
“Thanks,” Amber replied with a smile.
They heard the doorbell. Mal and Enya both jumped up, racing each other up the stairs, laughing the entire time. Parker continued to read the comments left on the story. Most were concerned that the creature was not vanquished but, instead, had moved on to another area. Some of them even pointed to a spike in murders in their city that they were now attributing to Misokinala. She smiled, thinking that Enya was right. Amber just may have created a new urban legend.
“Parker,” she said quietly.
“Be honest with me, okay.”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Am I really okay? I swear, I didn’t mean to write something that would get us in trouble.”
“Its fine, Amber. Really, like I said. They aren’t upset,” Parker told her reassuringly. “I guess they have people that scour the internet, looking for stories that might be spiritual in nature.”
“Huh. I wonder what I put in the story that got their attention.”
Parker shrugged. “I don’t know but you’d like them. They’re really cool people.”
“I’m sure I would.” She hesitated for only a moment, glancing up the stairs to see if the girls were coming back. “I know Mal is hesitant but I think it’s a good idea going with them.”
“Yes, they seem like they want to help you and that’s important.” She leaned forward and took Parker’s hands in hers. “We love you and can support you, but we can’t help you in the way they can.”
“Thanks, Amber,” she said, pulling her into a hug.
“What’s going on?” Enya asked as they reached the bottom of the stairs.
“Nothing, it’s all good,” Parker said, standing up. “Now, where’s my Hawaiian pizza. I’m starving!”
She flipped open the box. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
“Oh man, that smells so good,” she said, grabbing a slice.
Each of the girls grabbed their slices; slapping them on the paper plates that Enya had brought down and then repositioned themselves on their chairs. They spent the next several hours laughing and eating, and teasing Amber about her new-found fame as an urban legend creator. When they were finally done laughing, they started talking about subjects that are more serious, such as what Parker would be doing in Colorado.
“I don’t know what to expect.”
“Well, whatever happens, you better be checking in with us regularly, otherwise the three of us are going on a road trip,” Mal stated indignant.
“You’re just gonna drive around Colorado until you find me?” Parker laughed.
“If that’s what it takes,” Mal replied with an arched brow.
“Just be sure to call us,” Enya added.
“I will, but knowing my luck, I’ll end up in the woods somewhere with no cell signal.”
“Don’t even joke about that, Parker,” Amber giggled. “You will jinx yourself and make it happen.
“Well, you are the expert on urban legends,” she winked.
“That’s right so you better listen to me,” she replied, sticking her tongue out at her.
“I am going to do my best to keep in touch and when I get back, we are all hanging out together.”
“You got that right,” Mal answered her.
“When are you leaving?” Enya asked seriously.
“Tomorrow evening. I’m gonna hang with Mom for a bit and then she wants us to have dinner at the house. I think she plans on drilling them,” she finished, only half joking.
“Well, that’s what moms are for,” Enya grinned.
The girls each grabbed a couple more slices of pizza and continued their evening. They ended up staying awake for several more hours, talking about everything, including plans for their senior year. It felt good to Parker to do something so normal. She was desperate to spend as much time with her friends that she could, and getting control of her gift was imperative to that plan.
Parker arrived home from her friend’s house midmorning to find her mom cleaning the living room, which to be honest, was already clean. She didn’t say anything about that. She knew her mom’s go to move when she was stressed about something was to clean. She almost wished she was opening Native Barista today, so that she wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed, but Sage had decided to close shop for today.
“Need help?” Parker asked.
“Just sprucing it up.”
Parker laughed at her terminology. “Did the house need sprucing?”
Sage grinned slightly. “Hey, I found these curtains at the shop yesterday. I had bought them a while back but never got around to putting them up. Can you help me with that? You know I can never get it straight without someone’s help,” she laughed.
Parker picked up the curtains and gasped. These were the same ones she had seen in the window in her future vision; the one where her mother went into the woods. She shook her head of the thoughts. Her mom was safe and Parker had altered that particular future by defeating Misokinala. Her stomach became a tad queasy as a snippet of doubt entered her mind.
“Parker,” Sage called to her, tapping her arm. “Are you okay?”
“Umm, yeah, but ya know, I’m not feeling these curtains. I don’t think that they fit us,” she said causally, hoping to deter her mother from putting them up.
“Really?” Sage asked tilting her head as she looked at the curtains in her daughter’s hands. “I kind of like them.”
Parker shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess they’re alright,” she finished with a dismissive tone, praying that maybe reverse psychology would work in her favor.
Sage shrugged and took the curtains from Parker, setting the packet on the coffee table. “Nah, I’ll wait ‘til you get back from Colorado and we can pick some out together, okay?”
“That would be awesome, Mom,” Parker said with a kiss on her mom’s cheek. As far as Parker was concerned, why test fate. No curtains, no future with Mom in the woods.
“I was planning on making Indian Tacos tonight. Do you think they’d like that?”
“I don’t care if they like it or not, I do,” Parker chuckled at her mom’s expression. “Yeah, I think they would like it, Mom. Of course, I doubt any of them have had it before.”
“Which is why we should make it,” Sage answered with a wink.
“Any excuse for fry bread works for me.”
“Good! You can help me make it after we’re done in here.”
“You got it!”
Parker and her mother spent the next several hours cleaning up nonexistent dust and grime before they started making the fry bread. It was a long process as her mom always made more than she needed. She had never gotten the knack for making a small batch. When Parker teased her about it, Sage had simply replied that she would make soup to go with the fry bread and sell it tomorrow at the store. Parker was kind of disappointed that she would miss out on that.
“I’m going to shower real quick before they get here,” she said after they had made the last one. “Do you need me for anything else?’
“Nope, I got it.”
Parker ran up the stairs to her room and gathered her things. She hurriedly showered and changed clothes, then barreled downstairs where she helped her mom set the table. Then they waited. Parker was itching to eat. She loved her mom’s Indian tacos. She sat on the couch, petting Sunni, who was being particularly needy. Of course, she always got that way when she saw Parker’s duffle bag come out.
“She’s gonna be very pouty when you leave,” Sage said, taking a seat next to her and putting Delilah on her lap.
“Yeah, I hate leaving her behind, but I can’t bring her with me.”
“Delilah and I will take care of her.”
Parker chuckled. “Your new bestie.”
Sage picked her up and the dog licked her face. “Are you my new bestie?”
Delilah wiggled in her hands, trying to get closer. Parker was happy that her mom had taken to Delilah. She wasn’t sure what she would have done if she hadn’t. The poor dog had already lost it’s past two owners in less than a year. She needed some stability. They heard a car pull up, which caused Sunni to lift her head and look toward the door. Parker rose to her feet and answered before they even knocked.
“Wow, that smells delicious,” Raine said as she entered the house.
“Thank you. Come on in, have a seat,” Sage answered, motioning toward the kitchen.
“Is this what I think it is?” Raine asked excitedly.
Sage chuckled. “What do you think it is?”
“Yep.” She stepped over to the counter where things were lined up, buffet style. “So just put the fry bread on the bottom and add whatever you want on it.”
“My mom makes the best fry bread,” Parker stated proudly.
Once everyone was seated and enjoying their meal, Sage decided it was time for her to get some answers. She recognized that her daughter had a gift. Her grandfather had told her that the gift was special and that she would do great things with it, but Sage was worried. So far, these people seemed nice enough, but they still hadn’t answered all of her questions.
“I know that the exact location is supposed to be kept secret but I feel very uncomfortable just letting my daughter go somewhere without having any idea where that is.”
“We understand that it’s a bit scary,” Jules stated.
“And you have every right to be concerned,” Raine added. “While I can’t give you our exact location I can tell you that we will be west of Colorado Springs.”
“Why are you so evasive about this?” Sage asked, annoyed.
“MOM!” Parker started but stopped when her mom’s hand came up and she glared.
“I’m not trying to be, ma’am.”
“Well, you are.”
“We have very strict rules because we have had problems in the past.”
“What kind of problems and will these problems effect my daughter?” Sage replied quickly.
“No, ma’am,” Huntyr continued. “What we do is delicate work. We keep under the radar, not drawing attention to ourselves. People don’t always understand our gifts. They can be misinterpreted.”
Sage stared at him for a long moment before crossing her arms. “I won’t let her go then.”
The Spirit Guiders stared at one another. Sage held her ground. She was not about to allow her daughter to go so far away without knowing exactly where she would be. The man finally nodded and rose, stepping out of the kitchen and into the living room. She immediately heard him on the phone but couldn’t make out what he was saying. She turned her head to see her daughter staring at her angrily.
“Don’t look at me that way, Parker. I’m not opposed to you going, but if they won’t tell me where exactly you will be, then that’s a serious problem for me.”
Before Parker could respond, the man was walking back in the room. He gave the two girls a small head nod, which they returned.
“We have a property that spans many acres near the town of Whiting. It’s located in the Elk Mountains,” Jules advised.
Sage stared at them for a moment. “I’ve never heard of that town.”
“The closest city you may know is Aspen, but that’s a little bit away from where we will be,” Raine added sweetly.
Sage nodded. “Yes, I’ve heard of Aspen before.”
“Satisfied?” Parker asked, annoyed.
“You better check that tone, Parker.”
Parker closed her eyes, trying to calm down. “Sorry.”
“I’m not trying to be unreasonable. She’s my only child and I need to look out for her.”
“It’s not unreasonable at all,” Huntyr replied.
“Thank you.” She looked around and could see that everyone had stopped eating. “Finish up. I know you have a long drive ahead of you.”
Parker nodded and blew out a breath before starting to eat again. Well, at least now she knew where she was going. She had once driven through the Rocky Mountains when she was little. She and her parents had done a road trip to California to visit some of her dad’s family. She didn’t remember much about it but knew there were a lot of affluent ski areas near Aspen.
“I got it,” Parker said, picking up Raine’s plate.
“Take some of these for the road,” Sage said, packing several pieces of fry bread, along with the packaged jelly she had brought back from the coffee shop.
“I’m going to go grab my bag,” Parker told them as her mom started to clean up the kitchen.
She dashed up the stairs and into her room. Sunni was laying on top of her bag with a sad and pitiful expression. Parker smiled at her and sat on the bed, stroking along her soft fur. She kissed the top of her head and gently pushed her until she got off.
“I won’t be long, Sunni. I promise.”
She made it down the stairs with Sunni following close behind her. She reached her mom and gave her a tight hug. She knew letting her go was hard for her. She was thankful that she hadn’t changed her mind about it. She would never want to defy. She had broken the rules before, but not anything big. This was important though, and she knew without a doubt that she would have gone anyway.
“Love you, Mom.”
“Love you too. Be safe and call me when you get there.”
Huntyr took the bag from her hands and whisked it away to the back of the vehicle. As Parker got in the backseat of the Ford Excursion, she felt a little apprehension dwelling within her. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She couldn’t think that way. She needed to stay focused. These people, these Spirit Guiders, could help her and she needed that desperately if she was going to fulfill her destiny.
“Where will we be stopping tonight?” she asked as Huntyr pulled the vehicle around.
“We will drive straight through,” Raine answered from the front seat.
“We take turns every six hours,” Jules added beside her.
“Huh, well, I’m glad I wore comfy clothes,” she muttered, not looking forward to such a long ride.
Parker glanced at Jules who already had a book out. It was a different one then what she had before so she must have finished the other one. She could see that Raine already had earphones on and what looked like a mask covering her eyes. She leaned the seat back slightly but not enough to bother Parker who was sitting behind her. Parker figured that she must have the next shift and was getting some sleep beforehand.
“Do you want a book to read?” Jules asked.
“Huh?” she turned to her and then nodded.
“I have all kinds. What do you like?”
“I like a lot of styles, but I’d like to read that Native book you had a few days ago.”
“Sure thing.” She turned to her bag and dug through it until she found it. Parker could see that there were at least six other books in her bag. “Here ya go. I think you’ll like it. It’s really good.”
“We can talk about it after you’re done, if you’d like.”
Parker grinned. “Sure.”
“If you need to stop for anything, let me know,” Huntyr said, his eyes on her in the rearview mirror. “If possible, before you need to. Sometimes there aren’t places to stop right away.”
Parker nodded. “I’ve travelled long distance before so I got it.”
He nodded and turned his eyes back to the road. Parker looked out the window for a while and then opened her book. Obviously, this was going to be a quiet trip. She wasn’t used to that. Every time she and her mom travelled, they talked and sang songs the whole trip. This would definitely be a very long ride.
“I almost hate to ask this, but are we almost there?”
“Not much longer,” Raine said, stretching.
They’d been travelling for close to twenty-four hours already. They had made a few stops along the way but basically, they kept driving. They had made their last stop two hours ago for dinner and then were back on the road with Huntyr at the wheel. It felt as if they had been driving in the Rocky Mountains for days. The sun had already set and unfortunately, the further they drove, the darker it became.
“Is that Aspen?” Parker asked, sitting up.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” Raine mused.
“Yeah, but that’s not where we are going?”
“Nope, we’re still an hour away,” Jules told her.
“Okay,” she said with a sigh and leaned back.
The bright lights of Aspen slowly started to fade from view and she was once again left with mostly blackness. Her head titled as her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark. The definition of trees broke through the darkness, and if she concentrated hard enough, she could almost see movement rustling between the trees. She chuckled a bit. Both Jules and Raine were awake and looking out the windows but turned to her when they heard her laugh.
“Did you see something?” Raine asked immediately.
Parker’s brows furrowed. “Was I supposed to?”
“No,” Jules replied, shaking her head at Raine.
“I just thought it was funny that I’m back in the woods.”
“Forest,” Huntyr stated from the front seat.
Parker glanced at him. “Yeah, okay, forest. My point being that there are big trees and there’s always movement.”
The girls laughed. “There is a lot of wildlife out here so don’t go wandering off. I think your mom would actually kill us if something happened to you,” Raine grinned.
“Yes, she would,” Parker agreed and looked toward the window again. “Don’t worry though, I don’t plan to go wandering in the forest,” she emphasized the word.
Huntyr smirked but didn’t say anything. The further they drove, the more that Parker felt uneasy. Not about her company. She had gotten to know them more on the trip and found them to be quite interesting and unique. No, her apprehension came from the environment she was entering. She couldn’t put her finger on it but she knew that there was something that wasn’t right about this.
“Is this it?” she asked when they stopped at a large wrought iron fence.
“Yes,” Raine smiled.
The gates slowly opened and Huntyr drove inside. Parker looked behind her and saw the gates close behind them. They drove up what felt like a gravel road. She couldn’t make out much until they got a little closer. She then saw a series of what looked like cabins. Four to be exact. There were a few that had lights on. She glanced on the opposite side and saw four similar cabins on that side as well.
“The cabins are for the Spirit Guiders,” Jules advised her.
“We live as units,” Raine informed her and then pointed to a cabin to the right with only the outside light on. “That’s ours.”
“Huh, so the three of you live in there?” she said more to herself then Raine. She glanced at Jules. “It doesn’t look that big.”
“I suppose it’s not but there are two bedrooms, one bathroom and a small living room,” Jules interjected casually. “They’re primarily used for sleep anyway.”
“So people share a room?” Parker asked tentatively.
“Yes. One bedroom is larger than the other.” Jules could see her confusion. “Spirit Guiders are always in sets of three, sometimes there are teams with all girls or all boys, but generally it’s mixed.”
“And everyone is okay with that?”
“Sure, being together helps strengthen our bond with one another.”
“I guess that makes sense. Out of curiosity, where do you eat if there isn’t a kitchen?”
“The big house,” Raine said with a smile. “Pretty much everyone hangs out there when we aren’t on assignment.”
“The big house?” Parker asked, confused yet again.
“Yep,” Jules answered, motioning her head in front of her. “The big house.”
That’s when Parker saw it. A large three story home. She knew nothing of architecture but suspected that this was some kind of old mansion. She couldn’t make out the color because of the dim lighting, but it looked tan-ish. Her eyes moved up the structure. There seemed to be several sitting rooms built in, which she found kind of cool. She always wanted a sitting room. The lights were on in one of the top floor rooms, while the middle level was dark. Soon one of the large windows on the first floor became bright. Huntyr parked in front, next to several vehicles that looked exactly the same.
“Wow,” Parker mumbled.
“It was built in 1829 by the Whiting family.”
“Like the town we passed a little while ago.”
“One in the same. The Whiting family started the little mining town but became reclusive. They built this home which is where their daughter, Agatha was born.”
“That’s cool,” she said as they walked up the steps and onto the large walk-around porch, complete with several chairs and a two-person swing.
“Come on,” Jules said with a smile. “Let’s get you settled in.
Huntyr opened the door and stepped aside so the three women could enter. Parker blew out a breath. The place was magnificent. An old fashioned rug lined the large staircase, while others were placed sporadically throughout the room. The place felt old but at the same time, very new. She could see a large room to the right as they stepped through the foyer. There were a couple of people in there that gave her a cursory look and then continued whatever it was they were doing before she entered.
“That’s sort of the rec room. There’s a large television, pool table, and some old school pinball machines.” Raine giggled.
“The kitchen is over there.” Jules motioned to the room that was now lit up. “Did you want anything?” Jules asked.
“No, I’m good.” Her eyes followed movement at the top of the staircase where she saw three people begin their descent down the stairs. “Who are they?” she whispered.
“The Founders,” Huntyr replied with reverence.
to be continued in
The Gifts We Bring
Book Two in The Diakrisis Tales
Out July 28, 2020