The electric thunder of her pounding heart engulfed her eardrums. Fear seized her very core. Her whole body began to tremble, and as panic took a stronghold of her chest, the sacred fire burned in blazes of blue and pink hues. The heat began to rise, and smoke billowed throughout the space. Jo struggled to breathe, looking for ways to escape, but she was not alone. She noticed a loose beam over the fireplace, engulfed in flames and perilously teetering above this strange-looking man as he lay whimpering in his blood.
With smoke-filled lungs, she made her way over to the stranger and dragged him toward the door, away from the imminent dangers. Intrinsically, Jo knew she had to save his Soul. Humanity depended on it. By some miraculous means, she tapped into her divine feminine power and began the induction of his soul bondage reversal.
Jo summoned his DNA lineage to resolve the soul contracts that had hoarded violent masculine energy in his ancestry. She also chanted the revocation prayer removing all curses of past patriarchal systems and domination of the family unit. This broke the cycle of his family’s curse and past life agreements to set his soul free.
The shadows of oppression emerged from this stranger in a grotesque and contorted hue of black smoke, emanating a sense of foreboding and dread. As the darkness was defeated, the demonic entities screamed in protest, exposing their ugliness by glaring into Jo’s eyes, threatening her Soul’s existence.
Terror gripped her heart. Jo began fighting off the cold, evil clutches of these sinister shadows. She feared for her life as the intensity of high pitch shrieking enveloped her ears and her head with an explosive pressure until blood drizzled down her nose. BANG! BANG! BANG!
“Jo, are you awake? You can’t be late for school again!” The sound of her father’s voice snapped her out of the horrific nightmare. Jo felt enormous relief wash over her entire body. This had become her sleeping ritual since that fateful night three months ago, when her mother, Lilac, was taken hostage by a homicidal maniac.
“Yes, dad, I’m awake,” she muttered in a hoarse voice. Jo felt like her body had been dragged through a war zone. She was a mess, drained and exhausted. Jo could not focus on her mundane daily routine or even school, for that matter. She was not in the right frame of mind to write her science test. Her marks at school were pathetic, and at this rate, Jo worried about passing the tenth grade. She needed to score some sleeping pills if she was going to make it through this semester.
She reached under her bed and grabbed the glass bong she had been given by her friends for her birthday. Jo needed to take the edge off before facing humans. It took all her energy to sit up on her bed and take a couple of bong hits before deciding which mask to wear for the outside world.
Jo loved her family and was grateful for her parents, especially after her mother Lilac had survived the horrific ordeal, but they were always in her space. She could not confide in anyone about her frequent nightmares. She did not understand why it felt so real. It was as if she was present when her mother and her aunt Rose were tortured by their crazy half-brother that held them captive in a remote prison-like basement.
The whole situation had been chaotic. Even after three months of family healing and therapy, Jo was still traumatized by the events and the disillusionment of her ancestral bloodline. Lilac had explained what transpired on the night of her fiftieth birthday to her sister Liz and their dad Adam, but it had not been an easy conversation learning the truth about their family heritage.
Jo could sense the responsibilities her mother was carrying—the weight of all the light in the world against the unending darkness. Lilac was still recovering from the vicious assault, building her strength and health gradually to the level before the incident. The energy she expended on destroying the generational curse that had afflicted their family, took a toll on Lilac. They all recognized that the world was an obscure and vulnerable place. The balance between light and darkness had to endure, or the rest of humanity would face dire consequences.
Jo realized that her family’s lineage was plagued with darkness. It was in their bloodline, and her mother had almost lost her life to finally defeat it. Lilac had uncovered the ugly truth of the demonic entities that possessed her father’s parents. This ancestry curse was spiritual bondage handed down from one generation to the next, fully exposing its ugly teeth of cruelty and abuse. It was evident that Lilac’s father, Dragan, was a product of his environment, and continued to evolve the vicious cycle of hate and violence on his own children.
Dragan’s maternal lineage was questionable since it was said that their powers stemmed from black magic. However, it was Dragan’s father’s bloodline that had a soul contract with a dark entity from past lives, where there were unfinished lessons or powerful vows that needed to be fulfilled. These dark energies caused emotional pain, trauma, and dysfunction from one generation to the next, until the curse was broken. On that momentous night, Lilac resolved the karmic law by releasing the evil that possessed the last male heir of her bloodline, through the power of compassion and forgiveness.
There was a decade’s worth of negative energy that gathered around Jo’s family like vultures, but it seemed that they were finally free from its influence, or so they thought. Although Lilac did not divulge the details of her childhood trauma, Jo intrinsically felt the depth of the scars that her mother and her sisters carried. She had always sensed it, even as a child. But Jo also witnessed the light that emanated from their wounds, how they were in a constant state of healing, love, and forgiveness. The divine feminine energy that surrounded her mother’s family empowered her. She felt connected on some level and knew that she was safe when her family was by her side.
However, the darkness wasn’t completely gone; it kept whispering in Jo’s ear every night, in a sinister and debilitating way. Unless Jo could figure out what was transpiring in her subconscious mind, she could not disclose her dreams to anyone. How would she be able to articulate the unexplained? Was she doomed to the genetic disposition of her bloodline curse?
Jo had done some research on her repetitive nightmare, specifically about the symptoms she had been experiencing. According to some sites, the sensation of her head explosion was described as a conscious out-of-body experience.
She learned that, apparently, her dreams were an unconscious astral projection, where the spirit wholly separated from the physical body. During her sleep, Jo’s Soul left her third-dimensional physical reality. This was triggered by her pineal gland, which was also referred to as her third eye, releasing dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
Jo was fascinated by the effects of this hallucinogenic; it was the molecule that propelled her Soul out of her physical body when she slept or when she had a near-death experience. It was her subconscious mind that controlled this phenomenon. She learned that, during astral projection, she could willfully control her Soul’s voyage.
Conversely, effectively projecting the unconscious mind required Jo’s intuitive and graceful ability to surf the waves of impulses freely. This required a command and detachment from sentiment, particularly fear. However, during her nightmares, Jo felt utterly paralyzed by the internal emotional turmoil she experienced.
As she dissociated from her physical body during her dream, she began to feel as if she was floating with her astral body, able to explore the room, pass through walls and windows and even fly out into the night. Jo could not understand how to quantify the perception of travelling through space and time and was feeling quite frustrated by the whole concept. She frequently wondered if she was losing her mind.
Every night she went through the same experience and it felt so real and lucid. She felt herself travel to different astral planes, seeing layers of ethereal realities shaped by energy and light codes. Jo wondered if her state of mind and thoughts guided the experience. One night, as she was recording her most recent experience in her dream journal, Jo started thinking about her best friend, Nisha. She began imagining her house only to realize that she had projected herself to that place through astral travel. Jo had manifested dream figures, objects, changes in scenery. However, she had a difficult time differentiating between her nightmare and the hallucination.
Jo felt discombobulated, stuck in a constant loop of racing thoughts about reality and the significance of these nightly events. The intensity with which she focused on this phenomenon was frustrating and troublesome. There was a level of duality that was occurring in her mind, but Jo had been resisting her heart and intuition. This internal conflict had her questioning her very identity, plunging her into isolation and withdrawal from the world she had perceived all her life. She instinctively knew that there was a foreboding of forthcoming change.
Jo was fully aware of the alcoholism and addiction tendencies that ran in her family. This fear vibrated in every cell of her body, but she was desperate for a quick escape from the turmoil that had taken root in her rational thought process. Jo was overly cautious not to disrupt her family dynamics with her baggage. They did not need any more drama, especially while her parents were still recovering from the trauma of the abduction. There was enough anguish and gloom to last her family for decades. She was determined to keep silent and endure the suffering on her own.
Jo and her sister Liz both adored and admired their father. As they had recently learned, the world contained many cruel and unkind people, but their father was not one of them. Adam loved and cared for his girls boundlessly, and he strived to portray a strong, honorable role model. No one is without struggles or challenges, but Adam worked hard to heal his childhood wounds. He was grateful for his family, especially after the tragic incident three months prior, and he cherished both his daughters. Adam knew they were both destined for greatness.
Her sister Liz was four years older than Jo and was the perfect daughter in their father’s eyes. Liz was in her second year of a top-notch university in pre-med, living in a luxury student apartment. She graduated high school with honours, dated the perfect boyfriend and socialized with her popular friend group. She had the perfect body, long lustrous hair, sapphire blue eyes, and full pouty lips. Liz was lucky to have a circle of friends in high school that were all athletes and student council leaders. Jo felt that her sister embodied the perfect child persona that their father had always admired.
Jo loved her sister, and they were remarkably close, with a healthy dose of sibling rivalry. She detested the thought of disappointing her father with her perceived shortfalls due to the distress of her nightmares. The buzz she got from whatever was left inside her bong gave Jo the temporary relief from her guilt and the kick to start her day.
She sprayed water on her face, barely getting rid of the eyeliner she had on since the previous day. As she brushed her teeth, Jo observed her reflection in the mirror and noticed how the night terrors had drained the colour from her supple cheeks. Her face had become gaunt and pale. The dark circles under her once vibrant green eyes changed the color to a shade of smoky, dull olive grey. Jo thought of covering them up with some concealer but then changed her mind. As if anyone cares about you, said the voice in her head.
The light in her eyes had been dimmed by the shadows that had taken refuge in the windows of her Soul. Her dark luminous curls were matted and untamed as she re-adjusted her messy bun. She could not recall the last time she ate a healthy meal; her hip bones seemed to be protruding more than usual.
She threw on her favourite oversized grey hoodie over her slim frame, one that belonged to her father’s Alma mater. He had given it to her on her first day of high school, fully expecting Jo to follow in his footsteps, much like her sister Liz. She was tall and athletic, and extremely creative. Her musical talents flowed organically since she was a young child.
But Jo had lost her motivation to create. Over the past couple of months, she only desired to hide from the world, crawl into a tiny corner and drift into the black abyss of space and time. However, she could not indulge in this behavior because she would have to explain her retreat to her family and friends. So, she continued the daily charade.
Jo had grown fond of her father’s overgrown hoodie; she was rarely seen without it. She paired it with loose sweatpants and a pair of sneakers that she found tucked under her bed. Jo quickly glanced into the mirror in front of her wardrobe and considered her effortless look. You look horrid, said the voice in her head.
As she struggled to get her runners on, she noticed the notifications on her new, shiny Android she had received as a birthday gift from her parents. Nisha had been blowing up her phone, wondering where she was. “Late, as usual,” Jo replied.
Her best friend was not going to be thrilled about Jo missing class. Nisha had been away for a week after her anxiety-induced breakdown at the start of the school year. They had been inseparable in grade nine, but lately, Jo felt herself pulling away from Nisha and all her friends. She did not wish to share her feelings with anyone, and smoking pot allowed her an escape. However, Jo realized that she needed something more substantial to shut down the nasty voices in her head.
At the breakfast table, her mother was sitting idly with a book turned downwards. She seemed to be lost in another dimension. Jo came running down the stairs, and in a hurry grabbed an apple to eat on the way to school. The commotion she created made Lilac snap out of her reverie and observe the hasty habits of her youngest daughter. After all, she had prepared a healthy breakfast of eggs and toast, and Lilac was not going to allow Jo to eat only an apple.
“Honey, what’s the hurry?” Lilac’s voice was full of motherly concern. “Finish your breakfast properly. At least have some toast before you begin your day.”
Jo did not feel like being interrogated; however, her attempt to sneak out of the house had been foiled. Her mother’s intuitive senses had been quite heightened. Guess it is mask time, she thought to herself, putting up her walls to hide her truth.
“Mom, I didn’t see you there,” Jo replied and sat in front of her mother. She noticed the lines that had deepened around her eyes and forehead. Jo immediately felt a knot build up in her throat. The sudden realization that her mother was growing older and frailer filled her with a sense of trepidation. She took the toast that her mother had prepared for her and reluctantly spread some jam on it.
“How are you feeling this morning?” Jo asked.
“Better, my love,” Lilac reassured her, then lovingly sized up her daughter and sighed. "Josephine, brush your beautiful hair, sweetheart. Look at how tangled it looks!"
Jo, pretending to be utterly unaware of the mess that was her hair, picked up a loose strand of brown curl from her shoulder. "This looks fine, Mom, and it isn't like I'm going to some fancy dinner party. It's just school. These people see me every day," she responded.
"But you should try to look presentable, don’t you think? If your grandmother saw you right now, she would give me a proper scolding for not paying attention to her granddaughter.” Lilac stared at Jo with concern.
"It's not a big deal, Mom!" Jo insisted. "Anyways, I need to leave, or else I'll be late again. Thank you for breakfast!" She darted out of the kitchen and through the front door before her mother had a chance to reply.
Out of concern, Lilac recited a little prayer for the protection of her daughter and asked the Universe for her day to be filled with joy, fulfillment, and positive vibes. She wished she could help her younger daughter discover the power she had within her, but this was Jo’s journey.
Lilac had to relinquish all attempts to control outside forces and outcomes for both of her daughters. She had trusted the intelligence of the universe and surrendered to whatever situation would arise with an open and loving heart. She had come to understand that their experiences would only strengthen their tenacity and help expand their state of awareness in their journey of life.
She could sense a luminous energy within Jo since the day she came into this world. Her inner light illuminated her surroundings, and she brought joy and laughter to her entire family. Even as a young child, Jo was incredibly wise, seemingly guarding some mystical secrets about existence and divinity. Lilac could not quite figure out what that unique essence was, but she was extremely grateful to be blessed with such resilient and loving daughters.
As difficult as it was for Lilac to fully let go when Liz moved into her residence, she had a sense of inner peace. A knowing that her eldest was about to begin her own life journey in discovering her purpose. Lilac felt immense pride as warmth fluttered her core thinking of Liz. She was truly an inspiration, a remarkable human, with a heart of gold. She missed her beautiful face each morning and night, but she was overjoyed and uplifted when Liz shared her experiences and adventures. She was grateful to have Jo at home for another few years.
Sometimes, Lilac felt apprehensive of Jo's sturdy determination. Her younger daughter had been passionately devoted to advocating for the voiceless and the powerless. Often, she would find Jo watching online videos late into the night, fuming at a humanitarian crisis happening across the world. Her concern for the safety and equality of every human being, regardless of their gender, race, or sexuality, made her prone to distress. It had also made her vulnerable to external dark forces as she grew older.
This had been unsettling Lilac. She had been observing her daughter’s anxiety levels over the past three months and noticed her apparent misery and change in demeanour. Closing her eyes, Lilac called out to Archangel Michael to shield both her daughters from external negative forces and envisioned a circle of infinite white light protecting her loved ones.
Outside, the day was gray and dim. The sun hid behind the heavy clouds that cluttered the sky. Jo’s school was a couple of blocks away from her house, so she usually walked instead of driving her car. It did not take long for her to regret this decision since it looked like it was about to rain at any moment. With the air pods in her ears, she hummed along to her favourite track by Tupac:
Everybody’s at war with different things.
I’m at war with my own heart sometimes.
The beats would calm her angst, the thunder of her heartbeat pounding in her ears along with the music. It had been her escape from reality and her sacred space for creativity. It was the only time that the voices in her head were silenced, and she felt at peace. Lately, Jo had been writing music in her journals when she couldn’t sleep. It was as if she was in a trance, channelling some invisible energy force. She didn’t quite understand its significance, but as soon as the music stopped, she found herself emotionally spiralling again.
She was already feeling apprehensive due to her incessant nightmares as she ran down the block, chasing every inch of sunlight she could. Finally, Jo reached her school on time and luckily escaped the downpour that was about to ensue. The Victorian grey and black stone building had been filled with a combination of exquisite stonework and gumdrop. The exterior finish had an ominous feel to it, with its construction dating back to the early 1900s.
Jo had always marvelled at the architecture of this grand building, with its double cornice brackets surrounding the façade of the window frame. The corners were rusticated in the Renaissance tradition. The large central bay window was rounded with decorated Gothic interlaced arches. The main doors of the building were shaped in semicircular fanlights. She felt a presence here of some kind, a vitality in this school that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. It was a foreboding presence, but Jo shook it off as she ran inside at the sound of the bell.
Panting for breath, Jo stopped at her locker and swiftly dug around to find her English Literature textbook. Rummaging through her stuff, she came across a CD that had “MC Jo” scribbled on it with a blue permanent marker. She paused and stared at the disk blankly but was soon interrupted by a slight knock on her locker door. A slim hand slipped from behind the locker door, holding a joint.
“Wanna get high?” a goofy voice suggested. Jo quickly closed the door, and the hand-pulled back with a shriek, dropping the joint on the floor.
“Yikes! That hurt, Jo!” Rey scrambled to the ground in search of their weed.
“That’s what you get for sneaking up on me, Rey,” Jo replied. “Also, I’m late for class, Nisha is going to be so mad. Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“You’re saying that as if you aren’t high already. I could spot your red eyes from a mile away!” Rey said, picking up the joint.
Jo was not sure she wanted to tell Rey the real reason behind her bloodshot eyes and the disturbing night she had, so she said nothing further. They both headed towards their classrooms, passing the jocks and the cheerleaders.
“Hey, there’s the school freak! What are you dressed up as today, weirdo? Should we just call you it-face?” laughed Marx, one of the football players as the rest of the group pointed and began mocking Rey.
“Oh, shut up, Marx! Perhaps, you should look in the mirror before you speak!” Jo chimed in, to her friend’s defence. “Don’t mind them, Rey. They are just ignorant assholes.” She gently grabbed Rey’s arm and resumed down the hall, toward their classroom.
Rey was used to the horrific insults and preferred not to use their assigned female at birth deadname. Rey preferred to use gender-neutral pronouns, which had been the cause of bullying and insults all through their youth. Most people around them could not understand or accept that Rey identified as being neither male nor female, that they were non-binary, gender fluid, gender expansive. They had chosen the name Rey to fit with their perceived identity.
“Why can’t these idiots understand that I consider myself a transgender person?” Rey mumbled; head bowed. “They always make me feel like I don’t belong, Jo. Sometimes I wish I didn’t exist,” Rey whispered, thinking of the punishment they used to give to their inner monster.
Since meeting their best friends in grade nine, Rey refrained from cutting themselves relentlessly across their arms, leaving scars upon scars, satiating their self-loathing.
“Please don’t say that, Rey, you are one of the most amazing humans I have ever met! In fact, you must be the most authentic person I know. We all come into this world non-binary; gender is learned based on society’s perception,” Jo responded. “You are so special to me, Nisha, Daphne, Flynn, and Zaxden.” She smiled, as she tried to change the subject quickly. “I have a History class after English, so I’m in awful need of this weed. Listening to Mr. Johnson vent about World War II will literally make my head explode.”
“I’m pretty sure the man has a swastika tatted on his ass!” Rey remarked, focusing on Jo as they both halted in their steps to picture how that would look, repulsed almost synchronously.
“Is there not like an ethical criterion these teachers need to pass to instruct these subjects, especially something like history?” Jo replied.
“I heard he moved here from abroad because of his wife. I think she runs a business selling pebbles from Niagara Falls,” Rey explained.
"Oh, that's an interesting vocation! I would really like to meet that woman,” Jo said sarcastically.
As they were speaking, an elbow nudged Jo on her side. She turned and noticed Nisha. An instant smile lit up her face. Nisha rolled her eyes and opened her arms wide as she exclaimed, "It’s about freaking time you got here!" Rey and Jo gathered carefully in between her arms, and she gave them a tight squeeze.
"Oh, I'm so glad to see you here, Nish! How are you feeling, sweets?" Rey expressed. They had a secret crush on Nisha since grade nine, but Rey was too shy to admit that to anyone.
"Never felt better, especially with the cocktail of meds my doctor had prescribed for me," replied Nisha with a grin. Her physician had finally figured out the right dosage of the anti-depressant medication, Lexapro, that she had been taking since she was thirteen years old. Coupled with a mild sedative, Nisha had also been taking Xanax, to help her manage her anxiety during the day, and Ambien to help her sleep at night.
Jo grinned at her best friend; it was the perfect opportunity for her to get some sleeping pills and maybe a couple of Xanax. Although her gut was telling her otherwise, Jo needed the help of Nisha’s medication to get some much-needed rest. Hopefully, she would sleep without the persistent, recurring nightmares.
“Well, I think this lesson is a lot more valuable than our English class, Nisha. Please educate us on what the good doctor has recommended,” Jo commented, fully committed to skipping class.
“Rey, text the rest of the group to meet us on the south side of the football field. We need to plan Zaxden’s party next weekend; perhaps we'll split that joint, after all!" Jo replied, winking at Rey. She really hoped that Nisha would provide her an extra Ambien as Jo was desperate to escape her nightly rituals.