The next day we made the 2 – hour Drive to Plymouth after spending almost 3 hours tearing my house apart to find the unit key. As organized as I normally was, I had managed to store the key in an unmarked shoe box filled with other odds and ends under my bed.
We drove through the downtown area — which was deserted. Growing up, Sundays was teeming with Farmer’s Market sellers and patrons while live local musicians played in the center of town. I hadn’t been here in almost 5 years. The last time we had taken this road we were headed to the cemetery at the edge of town to put Grandma to rest.
Seeing the corner store and the local cafe triggered memories of Liam and I growing up. He’d pick me up from school, and we’d always stop at the corner store for snacks and the cafe next door because it was the only place in town that carried Jones Soda. We’d sit on the park bench, sneaking our snacks in before heading home to eat grandma’s dinner. Honestly, I’m surprised we didn’t end up with massive cavities the way we’d put away that candy.
We pulled up to the storage unit, which was only a few blocks away from the house Liam and I grew up in. When our grandma died, our father handled the task of packing up all of her belongings, placing them in a storage unit and handing me a key. He wasn’t a major part of our lives after our mother died when we were really young. Grandma immediately stepped in to take care of us, and he let her. He was never a big fan of her, or of us, for that matter. The last time we saw him in person was just a few days after her funeral. He dropped off keys to the storage unit, and said, “See ya.” That was the last we heard of him.
I was never very comfortable being too far away from Grandma, but even after she passed, something kept me close. Maybe this was why.
My skin crawled as we searched the numerous aisles of units for the right number. There was something unnerving about being surrounded by the countless uniform cement and metal structures. I felt caged. The long corridors were becoming a blur and I tried to focus. I was hoping we’d maybe run into another human as we walked, but it was completely empty.
“Here we go. Unit 112,” Liam said. He unlocked the door and opened it. We were quickly met with the scents of pan-fried chicken and rose water. Just like grandma.
I stepped in first, flipping the light on. There was a couch and an overturned arm chair on the left wall. The far back wall was stacked with boxes. I saw cooking utensils poking out of some of them, and records out of others. How the hell were we going to find a journal in the midst of all of this?
“Welp. Let’s get to work,” I said, and began uncovering a box in the far corner, while Liam started in the corner opposite me. It seemed like half of the boxes we searched through were full of numerous mystery novels and cookbooks. How many did she have? After some time, going through what was certainly way too many boxes of unopened mail, I threw the envelopes down and stood up. There had to be a better way to find this damn journal. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.
“If I’m supposed to find this journal, Grandma will lead me to it,” I said.
I stood still, holding my arms out. I began doing the same visualization I used when reaching out to Liam, sending my energetic feelers through the room. Even though I still couldn’t feel Liam’s presence, I continued to reach. After a few moments, I felt a tug toward the corner he was in, and focused more energy there. I opened my eyes, held my hands out toward the corner and walked closer. My hands began to tingle toward the 2nd row of boxes.
“Over here,” I said. Liam removed the top row of boxes, and my hands tingled more. I closed my eyes again.
“We’re getting closer.”
I could hear Liam picking up more boxes, and as he moved one, my hands instinctively followed it. I opened my eyes and he was looking at me with raised eyebrows. He opened the box, and we were met with another pile of junk mail.
“No, it’s there. I know it,” I said, my hands still tingling. I hadn’t put them down yet, and wasn’t sure if I could. They seemed to be attracted to whatever was in that box. Liam dug through the mail, tossing it aside until he uncovered a carefully tied satin scarf wrapped around an object. I immediately reached in and picked it up. I brushed off the tiny specks of paper, and sat on the open floor space in the room. I wasn’t sure why I felt I needed to be so careful with the scarf, but I couldn’t help it. I slowly unfolded it, the tingling in my hands starting to dissipate.
Inside was an undyed leather bound journal, worn to a beautiful patina. I opened the pages and flipped through. The handwriting was beautiful, flowing cursive writing. Skimming the dates, it looked like she wrote in it for at least ten years before putting it away.
“We found it,” Liam said, over my shoulder. A chill suddenly ran through my spine.
You must leave, a voice said in my head.
“Let’s get out of here. Something’s off,” I said, standing up. I felt dizzy for a moment as I tucked the journal into my bag.
“Don’t have to ask me twice,” Liam said, and we locked up the storage unit and made our way out of the maze. Just as we were turning the corner into the parking area, two men in black suits blocked our path. The larger of the two stepped forward, and Liam immediately stepped in front of me. Seeming to ignore the gesture, the large man looked past him directly at me and said,
“Ms. Cabot, our superior would like to speak to you. Alone.”
“Alone?” I asked, looking from him to the other person suited up behind him. They looked like a couple of mafia goons, and that didn’t make me want to meet anyone they knew.
Big goon nodded. “It is just a quick drive to get to them, Miss.” I stepped back, clinging to the back of Liam’s shirt.
“Where?” I asked.
“We…can’t say, Miss.”
“Yeah…hard pass. I have no idea who you are or why anyone would need to see me.” Big goon took a step to the side to get to me, and Liam met his movement. He placed a hand firmly on the Big goon’s chest, though it seemed with the right pectoral flex, he could easily lose it.
“She said ‘no’, Tiny Tim.”
The little goon stepped forward and touched the big goon’s arm.
“No need to strong-arm anyone, Chad. We only need to explain ourselves,” he said, then smiled at both of us.
“I apologize for my brutish friend here. He’s a new recruit. My name is Melba, and I am the Senior High Priest of the Order of the Mighty. We are a small group who seek to protect the people from deities. People in positions like yours.”
“Positions like mine?” I asked.
“Yes. Those chosen by a deity for a supposed ‘great mission’,” he used exaggerated air quotes. “Laughable, really. Why would a deity choose a human to do a job they can do themselves?” He shrugged at me and shook his head like we were talking about putting pickles on tuna sandwiches or something.
“Wait. Why do you think Krystal is in this predicament? We’ve never seen you before,” Liam asked.
“Ah, well, as soon her kind begin to awaken, a sort of…beacon goes off.”
“For those of us attuned to the marks of those chosen by the gods.” Melba continued. “They send a specific energy signature out into the world. So that we can find you.”
“So what do you want? Do you want to use my abilities for something?” I asked. Little goon laughed.
“Goodness, no. Nothing of the sort. We want to free you of this curse, and ensure that no one else in your family will have to endure this ridiculous chicanery.” I looked from him to the big goon. I couldn’t get a read on their energy. They were concealing it, I could tell. What were they hiding? It was definitely suspicious of them to visit us at the storage facility and not my home, but if they had a way to remove this fucked destiny of mine, I was a little interested.
“So, how would you free me of this thing?”
“That is precisely why our superior seeks to speak with you. I am not privy to the actual steps, unfortunately. If you come with us, all of your questions will be answered.”
I looked over at Liam, who had his arms crossed and was staring down the goons like they were punks spraying graffiti on a church. I elbowed him, and he looked down at me.
“A word?” I said, and pried his body a couple of feet away from the men.
“Are you seriously considering going with these creepy-ass dudes?” he asked.
“Creepy or not, they could have some answers.”
“It could also be a trick. And I’m definitely not into this whole ‘we always know where you are’ bullshit.”
“Add it to the list of reasons I want to get out of this new life path, Liam. So?”
He clenched his jaw over and over again, looking at the floor. Melba and the big guy stood patiently while I tapped my fingers against my thigh. Finally, Liam looked over at me.
“The moment shit gets funny, I start swinging, Krys.” I rolled my eyes.
“All right, tough guy. Let’s go.” I grabbed his elbow and turned, nodding to Melba. Melba nodded back and the four of us started to head for the parking lot.
“Great, if you’ll just come with us in our vehicle —”
“Why don’t we just follow you in our own car?” I asked. Melba paused mid-stride and turned to face me.
“Ah- our headquarters are not known by civilians. We’d need you to come with us. Alone. Our windows are covered on the inside for discretion.”
Now that didn’t seem like a good sign.
“Oh. Okay. Well then how about your superior meet us here?” I added a smile at the end, hoping it might help.
Melba and Big Goon Chad looked at each other.
“Miss Krystal, I must insist that you come with us. We will return you to your brother once the conversation—” I held up a hand and shook my head.
“No. This no longer feels safe. Unless your superior is willing to meet me halfway, I can’t go with you.”
“That’s not how this works, Miss.” The jovial lilt in Melba’s voice had fallen away into a decidedly darker tone. I backed up, and Liam stepped in front of me.
“Get to the car, Krystal,” he said, and then dug his heels into a fighting stance. When had he started practicing? I slowly backed away, keeping an eye on the two. Big Goon Chad lunged for Liam and he quickly side-stepped, grabbing the guy’s arm and kneeing him in the stomach. Chad dropped to his knees and Liam kicked him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Melba had taken the opportunity to dive into a car that was waiting nearby, clearly not much of a fighter. The wheels screeched on the pavement as he scrambled to close the door.
“For an Order of the Mighty, they aren’t that impressive,” I muttered, turning around to hurry back to the car. Suddenly, a dark hood was shoved onto my head, and I was picked up.
I screamed for Liam as loud as I could before they threw me into what I assumed was the backseat of a car. I kicked and swung my arms wildly, screaming for them to let go of me, using the most colorful words I could muster. I heard a couple of “oofs!” and a grunt, while they tried to restrain my arms. I heard someone say, “Just put her in the damn trunk,” and I continued to scream, trying to pull my arms out of their grasp. I then felt a sharp point against my neck.
“One more noise out of you, and I bleed you out on this backseat, girl.” I stopped moving, out of breath, scowling as they cuffed my hands behind my back. We rode in silence for a few moments when a voice said,
“If I take this hood off, will we have any problems?” I shook my head. They pulled the hood off, and I saw that there were 4 men in the car with me. The one to my right had a bloody lip, and was looking straight ahead, and the one to my left was looking out the window, rubbing his wrist. I tried not to smile. It took 4 men to get me in cuffs. Liam would be proud.
Liam. I hoped he was in less of a mess than I was.