The Witching Hour
I need more time.
Molly stared out of the window, a finger tapping on her kitchen table, the TV on only to provide background noise to drown out the silence. Only a sliver of the moon was visible through the dense clouds. The darkness was pressing. She could almost feel the pressure in the air like a storm brewing.
She eyed the sizeable antique clock standing against the wall, an old family heirloom, the cast corners faded and chipped.
The witching hour.
She snorted—it wasn’t far off. Granted, what she could do wasn’t exactly witchcraft, but it certainly came close.
Scraping her chair back, she stood up, her legs feeling too restless, too agitated, too much like a wind-up feather ready to uncoil.
She needed more time.
Images flashed through her mind as if she was fast-forwarding a show on TV. All the times she’d failed her mentor… All the times she’d been punished, given those sickening sensations of despair, pain, and darkness. Always that suppressing darkness.
Molly walked to her kitchen, grabbed a half-empty bottle of red wine, filled half her tea mug, and took a swig. The warmth and slightly tangy flavor rolled over her tongue and into her throat, an aroma of earth and fruit surrounding her like a comforting blanket on a chilly day.
Her nerves settled a little. Good. Another sip.
Time was up.
Molly jumped, a splash of the red wine falling on her burgundy blouse. Cursing, she walked to the door; she’d have to remember to clean it with some soda later.
She opened the door and shivered, both from the cold wind and the person standing in front of her.
“Come in,” she said, stepping aside.
The figure in front of her strode past her, not taking off their dark, hooded cloak. There was something wrong with the image; it was pixelated and fuzzy, like a picture taken with the wrong settings. Try as she might, Molly couldn’t get a clear image of the figure in front of her.
How was that possible?
“Some wine?” Molly asked.
In her hand, the wine trembled. She put the glass on the table, her knuckles turning white.
“Yes, thank you,” the figure answered in an equally distorted voice.
It was almost as if she was watching one of those legal shows, where they blurred the face and distorted the voice.
But why? Why wasn’t she allowed to look at her mentor? Was this a dream after all?
Molly returned to the kitchen, fetched a crystal wineglass—the only expensive one she owned—and poured the red liquid until just underneath the bulge of the glass. Walking back, she placed it in front of the figure, immediately pulling her hands away and wrapping them around her mug.
“Did you get the documents?” the figure asked.
Molly swallowed and closed her eyes briefly. “Almost.” Her voice cracked.
Molly’s palms started sweating. “I retraced them back to the Romero’s. I only need to identify the correct family—find out what last name they have now. They’ll have the ritual.”
“Hm. Romero, eh?” The figure took a sip of the wine. “I suppose that’s something. But we’re starting to run out of time. I needed those papers yesterday.”
The darkness circled and slithered around Molly, surrounding her—big, sticky, and oily. It weighed on her, even with her mental barriers up. With her mentor, mental barriers were pretty useless, anyway. How often had she tried to keep the darkness out and actually succeeded?
“I know, I’m sorry.” Molly looked down, scratching the back of her hand.
“I know you are.”
The voice grated on her nerves. The darkness bore down her barriers again, prodding for any spot of weakness. Her breath hitching, she reinforced them; she couldn’t lose focus, not again. She wasn’t sure she could bear the crippling feelings of disappointment nor the stinging stab of failure.
“I felt a new presence today,” the figure said.
“Yes, they’ve just started to develop their ability.”
Molly nodded. It’s how things had started for her when she was just nineteen. One horrifying, fateful day, she lost her parents in a car crash. Just like that, the world exploded with a multitude of colors, and voices shouted into her mind. She’d thought she was going crazy.
But then her mentor had found her and told her she wasn’t insane but had these abilities, a power, something pure and right. A thing she could hone and use to heal the world.
That was ten years ago. Molly knew now that healing the world could take many forms.
“I did feel that they have great potential.”
A freezing grip took hold of Molly, turning her veins to ice and making her shiver with fear. She lost focus, only for a second, and a strand of darkness broke through her barriers and entered her mind.
Useless… You’re absolutely uselesssss…
She took another slug of her wine, the glass warm against her ice-cold skin. “Perhaps they’ll make a good sacrifice—to sustain you until we find the ritual and can make it permanent. It’s been some time since you’ve siphoned anyone.”
“Perhaps.” The figure’s voice became even darker.
Molly snapped her head up, looking right into the eyes of the figure—still distorted; still only darkness—and the fear became a bone-shaking dread seizing her heart.
“What else could you do?” Molly whispered.
The figure leaned back, giving off an air of nonchalance. “I was thinking it might be time for some changes.”
“Oh?” Molly tried to sound casual, bringing her glass to her lips and pretending to take a sip.
She needed to focus now more than ever.
“You’ve been a great student, truly. Malleable, devoted, and submissive.”
Molly grimaced. Those were hardly qualities to be proud of. Even if it was true.
“But lately, I’ve been thinking that perhaps I need something else—someone who’s stronger. Willful. Determined.”
Molly swallowed. “That won’t be so easy to find. Let alone train someone up again to my level—that could take years. I don’t believe you have that much time left, do you? You’d have to start siphoning more, alerting the Illuminai.” Feigned confidence—she didn’t think she had any real confidence left.
The figure chuckled. “I think you’re overestimating your abilities.”
“But what about loyalty?” Her voice raised in pitch. “Do you think someone else would just go along with your plan? Not everyone has your ideology, you know.”
Her hand shook. She put down the glass.
“Oh, you just let me worry about the details.” The figure leaned forward.
Molly drew back, her chair scraping over the hardwood floor. “You won’t make it.” Her voice cracked.
“I’m quite positive you will give me all the time I need.”
A black thread shot out of the figure’s chest, piercing through the dark cloud and connecting with Molly’s head.
She pushed herself away from the table.
Her chair tumbled backward, and she screamed.
Something drilled against her mental barriers.
It can’t get through.
If it did, she knew it’d be over. Gone would be her powers. Gone would be her mind. An empty husk, a shell of her former self, was all that would be left behind.
Molly screamed again. She shoved against the force, trying to break the thread.
It was no use.
A maniacal laugh boomed right next to her.
Her mentor. Her confidant. Her tormentor.
A blinding ache spread through her skull, a pressure building on the outside, slowly pushing to break her skull.
Instead, it was breaking down her walls.
Molly let out another desperate cry, tears flowing from her eyes.
The figure knelt next to her, wiping one of those tears away. Almost as if it cared. “The sooner you let me in, the sooner it will be over.”
A part of Molly did want to surrender, to let go. To submit as she had done for a decade. All to please her mentor. Just to be shoved aside as if she was nothing. Nobody.
A sob wrecked its way past Molly’s throat.
“Just kill me. Please.”
It would be better to be dead. So much better.
The hand on her cheek stilled. “I can’t.”
Molly knew it to be true. In a way, it gave her a bit of solace, knowing that her mentor cared enough to not want her dead.
“Are you ready?” A whisper, almost gentle.
Molly closed her eyes. She couldn’t win. At some point, her mentor would break her walls as always, and she would be stripped away of her essence. All she did with resisting was prolong her suffering.
Her walls broke down.
There was a flash like lightning inside her skull, and for a second, she screamed louder than she had before.
But then, there was only darkness.
Blissful, numbing darkness.