I woke up to the scent of calamus. I had never been a fan of it before, but it was now sending a comforting warmth throughout my body. I knew that I wasn’t at home. The walls were an earthy tan color, and the bed sheets were a rich, vibrant red. I slowly turned my head to the left. In the corner was a small table covered in a gold and black cloth with a statue of a seated goddess, the smoke from the burning roots sitting in front of it on a tiny black cauldron. The sun shone in from the window behind it, illuminating the head of the statue.
I took my time trying to sit up – my limbs seemed heavier than normal, with a strange itchy sensation just beneath the skin, like even my blood vessels had been asleep, and were waking up to start working again. I looked around the rest of the room. Liam was curled up on a settee in the right corner by the door, his hoodie laying across his face. I quietly got out of bed, draping my feet over the edge to give them a chance to wake up. It was then I noticed I was dressed in a brown cotton short-sleeved nightgown.
It was absolutely hideous, rife with pleating and bows. What era was this from?
I set the question aside and walked over to the window by the altar. I must have been a floor or two up. Below me, people were gathered in a town center. There seemed to be a farmer’s market or fair going on down there. The same statue on the altar was also in the town center, but much larger, with a plaque to the right of it. There was an assortment of small flower arrangements and baskets arranged near the statue’s feet.
“Amali,” I whispered. I knew where I was.
I was with the Sisters.
How did I get here? Pieces of last night played in my brain, but it felt fractured. I remembered Kaleb, his strangeness, the voices…and the excruciating pain. I instinctively reached toward the base of my skull. The pain was gone, but I still felt a tingling sensation. The sisters must have found us. I looked back at Liam. He had come to save me, I remembered, but then what?
My thoughts were interrupted by a light knock on the door. I quickly crossed the room and opened it quietly. It was Hannah, from the first night at my house. Her eyes widened, and she gasped.
“You are awake! Finally!”
I shushed her, quickly stepping out and closing the door behind me.
“My brother is still sleeping. How long have I been out?”
“2 days, Sister Krystal,” she said, lowering her eyes to the floor.
“Holy shit. Well…where are we? Like, location-wise?” I asked.
“I am not allowed to disclose that information. But…we are far enough from your home.”
“These vague answers are getting old,” I muttered, walking down the hallway. Hannah hurried behind me.
“I um—I brought you a change of clothes. They’re not what you’re accustomed to, but—”
“Where is Farrah?” I asked, continuing down the hallway.
“Are you sure you are feeling well? We were all so worried, but Sister Farrah said you would be just fine.”
I came to the end of the hallway and turned right. I had never been here, but the layout felt so familiar. As I walked, there was a sense of detachment; it almost felt as if my steps weren’t my own, like I was being led. It was hard to explain. The only other time I recalled feeling this way was when I was knee deep in 2 hits of LSD.
“Can you just call me Krystal, without the sister? It feels weird,” I said.
I reached my hand out to graze the wall. The uneven texture of the stucco was surprisingly refreshing against my fingertips. Stairs marked the end of the hallway, and I began to make my way down.
“Er-Krystal, where are you going?” she asked. I could hear her quick footsteps trying to keep up behind me.
“Well… I don’t really know…” I trailed off as we got to the bottom of the stairs. Directly in front of me was Farrah’s office. I pointed at the door.
Hannah hurried around to face me.
“Did you know where you were going?” she asked. I shrugged.
“Uh…yes-ish? My body just led me here. ” Her eyes widened again (seriously, her eyeballs were going to pop out if she kept letting that happen), and she quickly knocked on Farrah’s office door, and cracked it open.
“Sister Farrah?” her meek voice called into the cracked doorway.
“Sister Krystal has —”
“Ah, she’s awake! Open the door, child; I’m not some mafioso.” Hannah opened the door to reveal Farrah’s office. The walls were covered in books. To my left there was a seating area with two couches and a coffee table. Farrah walked out from behind her desk, and grabbed my hands.
“I am so glad to see that you are well, Sister! How are you feeling?”
“Still trying to figure that out,” I said, sitting down on the couch, feeling the velvet cushions beneath my palms. Farrah turned to Hannah and gave her a slow nod, then sat down on the opposite couch to face me. Hannah stepped out of the room.
“You had quite an intense episode when we found you. You were unconscious, and Liam was quite worried.” So they had found us. Understandable, with the deity tracking device I seemed to have attached to my aura.
“I’d rather not have that happen again. And who were those creepy dudes? The Order— uh..”
“–Of Might.” Farrah finished, a shadow crossing over her face.
“They kidnapped me, and said they could remove this…this…” I tried to find a word that wouldn’t be too offensive. ‘Monkey on my back’ seemed blasphemous.
“They do not have the power to remove your birthright, Sister Krystal. They only seek destruction.”
Hannah returned as Farrah finished, and quietly placed down a tray with a teapot and two cups. She poured into both of our cups, and walked out of the room. At least this time the tea hadn’t been already poured. I could probably trust it. I picked up my cup and saucer.
“So you’re saying you can do it,” I said, before taking a sip. Farrah furrowed her brows.
“But why? Why would you pass up such an immense opportunity?” She grabbed her teacup and took a sip, looking over at her bookshelves.
“Opportunity? For what? No one has even told me why this is happening right now. What is Amali predicting? Fucking lottery numbers? The next pope? President? Because the Order of Might really doesn’t seem to like this situation. And frankly, neither do I.” Another headache washed over me, and I placed my fingers on my temples. The lights in the room started to flicker. Farrah reached over and touched my forehead.
“You are getting worked up, Sister, and that’s no good if you want to control these abilities.”
“I don’t want to control them, I want them gone!” I yelled, swatting her hand away. I looked up at Farrah, who seemed unaffected at my outburst. She took another sip of her tea. I sighed, placing my hand back on the velvet couch.
“Please. Put yourself in my shoes. Two days ago, I led a life of comfort. I had friends, a job I love and freedom. And now, everything is on the verge of being taken from me. I’m not some religious devotee like any of you. I am your average woman, leading an average life. Well… was.” Farrah smiled.
“What, exactly, about your life was average? You and your brother have shared a telepathic ability since childhood.”
“Wait, how did—”
“You are already a strong psychic, with empathic and clairsentient abilities that you used to help others through your tarot readings. You already possess the ability to divine the future. To look into the very hearts of the people you know, and bring them additional peace. My dear, you were born for this.”
“But my life—”
“Your life, Sister Krystal, is a product of the gods, and you were sent here to serve a very specific purpose.”
“You need your rest, dear one. You have a lot of training ahead of you. And you should check on your brother,” she said, getting up and walking back behind her desk.
“We’ll talk later.”
I stood up, taking the hint. I walked out of her office and back up the stairs. She sure had a way of ending a conversation.
I wasn’t going to keep arguing with her about something she strongly believed in. No. If I wanted to find a way out of this, I needed to figure it out myself.
Lost in my thoughts, I managed to make it right back to my room, where Liam was skimming Grandma’s journal. I was glad the Order dudes hadn’t tried to take any of my belongings. Amateurs.
Liam looked up at me and smiled.
“That was one hell of a nap, Krys. I’m starting to get jealous of your ability to just sleep through anything. Even your own destructive powers.” I swatted at him, and sat on the bed.
“You can’t fool me. Hannah already told me you were crying like a baby.”
“So you’re really feeling okay?” he asked. I rolled my eyes.
“Jesus, everybody’s asking that today. I’m feeling weird. I’m feeling… like I don’t want this shit happening to me.” He nodded, then held up the journal.
“Welp. I doubt Grandma’s Journal is gonna help with that part, but she definitely got a pretty good account of great grandma Katherine’s life. She seemed to be really fascinated with the whole process. I think she wished it had happened to her.”
“That would have saved me a heap of fucking trouble,” I muttered.
“Stop whining. There’s nothing you can do about it right this second, so let’s just look through her journal and see what we find, all right?” I sighed. He was right. Complaining wasn’t a solution. I should at least try and learn more about how my family dealt with this. I sat next to him on the settee.
Our grandmother had beautiful, flowing cursive handwriting that leaned a little to the right, as if to keep up with the speed of her thoughts. There were rarely any errors on the pages, and the spaces were carefully filled. Liam pointed to a section halfway down one page and read it aloud:
“Mother said that she experienced sleepwalking, terrible migraines, and uncontrollable psychic visions. It made day-to-day life difficult, and she had Lillian at her side to watch her transformation. Lillian was an initiate with the Sisters of Amali, a goddess-worshipping group who has assisted every generation in our family with the Channeling phase. Mother rarely spoke of them, however, and said that we must pay close attention to their words. I don’t believe she truly trusts them. But Lillian was a very close confidante to Mother. So perhaps she was different?”
“Lillian…” I said, trying to recall our grandmother ever speaking of her when she was alive. But nothing came to mind.
We continued to read the pages together, but I was having some difficulty concentrating. In my mind, voices periodically flowed in and out of my head. The words were unintelligible, and more like whispers, but it was annoying enough that ignoring it took more concentration than reading. I eventually had to ask Liam to just read parts out to me while I lay on the bed.
“There seem to be a lot of little notes about Lillian in this journal; she really was close to Katherine. Not just as a recorder of the messages, but with everything. Listen to this:”
“It’s been 3 months since Papa left, and Mama doesn’t seem to be very upset about it. When I asked her if she missed him, she just said, “You can’t miss anyone who was never there, Sweetpea.” I don’t really understand what she meant by that. He was here every evening after work, although very quiet. And whenever Mama would have a vision, he would just leave the room, or call Lillian to come record. Maybe he was upset and just hid it from us.
But Lillian has been such a lifesaver! She gets up every morning, cooks our breakfast — she cooks all of our meals, actually — makes sure I’m off to school, and even helps me with homework when Mama isn’t feeling well. They spend a lot of time together, playing card games, confiding in each other, and every now and then we all go out together. It’s kind of like having two mothers. Add in the weird red-hooded sisters who show up all the time, and I’m just surrounded by so many women! Although the sisters make me feel left out at times, like they’re hiding something, I bet there’s no other house where all of the women are handling everything. The kids at school look at me funny, though, since we don’t go to church, and they always see Lillian with Mama together.”
“Those kids were probably all sorts of freaked out when they saw the sisters,” I said, imagining a coven of red-hooded women, surrounding my great grandmother while she sat in bed reading a book, or at a table eating dinner.
“That, or they thought Katherine and Lillian here bangin’ each other,” Liam said. I threw a pillow at him, and rolled over on my back.
“But grandma definitely seemed to have loved the atmosphere. That must have been wild…” I trailed off, lost in my own thoughts when I suddenly heard a harsh whisper.
“Can you hear me?” the voice said. I quickly sat up and looked around the room.
“Uh, what?” I said. Liam looked up at me.
“I didn’t say anything,” he replied.
I shook my head.
“No, speak with your mind,” the voice replied.
“Like this?” I said in my head.
“Yes. I’m so glad I reached you, Krystal. It’s Lillian. I served Katherine, your great-grandmother. I think we should talk.”