Sally came out of her daze and risked a peep downward.
They were over purple blue ripples, painted with a gold streak as the sun neared the western horizon. Lavinia’s wild shrieks were loud in the ear pressed against Lavinia’s chest but with her exposed ear, all she could hear was the wind’s roar.
Lavinia, still crazed with pleasure, was unavailable and Sally didn’t want to beat on her chest to get her attention because flight speed was what they needed. They were still over the Atlantic ocean, with no sign of land.
She hadn’t realized flying fast would be so noisy. Lavinia’s body made a small pool of calm but not much. The wind whistled around her. Over the last two days, Sally had learned to force herself to breath calmly; she got enough air in spite of the feeling that she was suffocating.
Idiots! We were idiots! What possessed us? Sally wondered. Flying out over ocean with no navigation device, no clear idea except that Lavinia is on some beeline to wherever we’re going.
But she knew. She could see clearly now why she’d been such a fool. Sometime in the next few days, I’m going to face an evil in a dark forest. I know nothing for certain except that it will be more terrible than anything I’ve faced before, and although I’ve taken this task on, I don’t want to do it.
She’d hoped for lots of quiet alone time with Lavinia but so far, eyes watering from wind and wind-whipped hair, trembling in Lavinia’s strong arms, she’d had no interaction with the shrieking, orgasming Lavinia whatsoever, except for two or three times when she’d clearly forced herself to check in on Sally at great effort (and her speed quickly dwindled to zero every time she did so). Even when they’d landed in some farmer’s field last night, Lavinia had fallen quickly asleep and they hadn’t connected this morning before Lavinia grabbed her, leaped into the sky and started the lesbian porno video again. Isn’t her voice box going to blow up?
Why, Sally wondered, did she feel so sure that they had to go to that evil clearing, find the dead man, touch his body? But she was sure that doing so would reveal something that she had to know. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know whatever it was.
The nightmare grabbed her again for a moment: the palpable presence of evil, the horror and despair. It had been easy to sit in the comfortable (if elderly) camper as Lavinia drove the pre-dawn streets and think about going into the presence of evil but she would be there in just a few days. She had been raped when she was seventeen; she still quavered at the stink of beer breath, the icy edge of the knife blade at her throat, the pain of the bruises on her body and the sight of the shards at the edge of a grimy broken window that she’d fixed her eyes on as her body was pinned down and forced open. Afterward, she had forced herself to walk down that same street many times, especially after she had started her strength and martial arts training, and gradually she’d mastered the fear. But what she was doing now was like heading back to that corner where she’d been grabbed without any training, still a helpless seventeen-year-old, weak and pathetic.
When Sally’s watch told her 5 pm had come and gone and there was still no break in the endless blue, she got truly worried. So far they had encountered no more than a few scattered clouds and whenever Lavinia flew into shadow for a few minutes, she slowed but had more than enough oomph to fly out again. But there was a band of clouds at some distance ahead.
Sally was exhausted, and hungry. Yesterday, still over the United States, she’d gotten Lavinia to land a couple of times so she could dig food out of the duffel bag. This morning she had thought to stuff food and a small water bottle into her coat pocket but to get at it, she was going to have to will her wind-chafed hands to let go of their death clasp of each other behind Lavinia’s back and trust the endlessly undulating (but, mercifully, not slick with sweat) nude body to keep her safe.
If she wanted to try and find out where they were, she would also have to let go in order to lever her smart phone out of her pocket and she was almost sure she’d have no signal out in the middle of the ocean. But they weren’t in a mountain valley or anything, and didn’t radio signals travel around the world? It was at least worth a try to see if they had signal. She could check updated weather conditions, if she could get the GPS program to work she could get some idea how far they were from land, or from some island.
There was still nothing below, no speck of land, no passing ship. She was lonely! This was awful! She was sure that if she beat on Lavinia with fists or smacked her face or screamed several times, she’d get her attention. But what good was that if they instantly stopped moving? They had to make miles to get off this deadly blue sea.
She’d tough it out. But she had to get an idea of how much more time they had. That meant: she had to first eat and drink something to clear her aching head and belly and be able to think straight. And she had to at the very least use the calculator on her phone to try to do some math with whatever information she could find, even if she couldn’t go online.
Lavinia had seen the clouds ahead and was angling upward to fly above them. Sally had bundled up that morning for cold air. The layers had helped with the wind but now they were climbing and the air got colder. It still wasn’t too bad. What would she do if to fly above the clouds they had to climb to airplane altitudes? She’d seen movies where cabin pressure was lost and people had to bundle up against icy cold and use face masks for oxygen.
She wanted to shriek, “Hold me tight, I’m going to let go for a while!” But that would interrupt whatever Lavinia was concentrating on that made her go. Hands, she ordered, unclasp. I’m perfectly safe. Unclasp now.
She managed to force her right hand to let go of her left but she kept the left hand pressed against Lavinia’s spine where it did its best to suction itself to one of her vertebrae. The right hand snaked around, never breaking contact with Lavinia’s solid form. Heart thumping audibly even over the roar of wind, she plunged the hand into her jacket pocket. She’d stuffed a granola bar, a bag of Dorritos and an apple into that pocket.
And a pentagram. The pentagram which had been on her bedside, and which Charla had handed to her as she left. The pentagram she’d almost left behind, telling herself that if she was meant to take it, she would be reminded of it.
She barely knew whether she was soothed by the presence of the charged object or made more frantic by it.
She wrapped her hand around the granola bar, then realized she’d need both hands to tear it open and released it again.
I’ve killed vampires! I’ve jumped from windows! I’ve thrown myself into the middle of a crowd of the undead and I bit out the throat of one of them! What is wrong with me? She was just plain terrified of heights and nothing was going to change that, not even the presence of a possibly magic thing.
The day before the meeting at Walter and Jesse’s house which had ended with facing her KerriAnne, confronting Charla and fleeing with Lavinia, the lovers had spent an afternoon in the store owned by Jesse and Walter’s white-haired rainbow hippy neighbor. The store was called Rainbow’s Curio Shoppe, the old hippy’s name really was Jessica Rainbow and she sat quietly eating roasted vegetables behind the counter.
Sally held up a cheap crucifix of pressed wood. “Right,” she said, “let’s get some of these things established once and for all.”
“Nothin’,” smiled Lavinia.
She reached out, snatched it from Sally’s reluctant hand, pressed it against her forehead, even put it in her mouth and twiddled it like a Groucho Marx cigar. “Nothin’ at all.”
“Okay, scratch crucifixes.” Sally’s heart had sped when Lavinia grabbed the thing. Now she took it, wiped it off with a quick embarrassed glance at the shop owner, and put it back in the bargain bin and picked up a Star of David. “Mogen David,” she said, the wry gleam in her eye recalling the time Lavinia had called her a “helpless goy” for not knowing what that meant. She held it just out of Lavinia’s reach.
“Good memory, you,” Lavinia smiled at the memory. “Of course, you’re still a helpless goy. Mmm. Gimme here.”
With the same wordless caution with which she had once handed a wooden stake to Lavinia, Sally passed over the religious symbol.
Lavinia turned it over curiously. It was made of gleaming metal in the blue and white colors of Israel. Shyly, she pressed it to her heart then, with an I dare you to say something glare at Sally, kissed it.
As she handed it back, Lavinia explained, “I felt this gush of love for it that I ain’t felt since, jeez, ever. Maybe ‘cause I was raised Jewish? I don’t know. I hated synagogue when I was a kid. Seemed like it would never end. Anyway, sure didn’t burn me or anything.”
Sally set the star thoughtfully back down. Rummaging through the bargain bin she found a square of cloth with a green star and crescent, held it out to Lavinia. “How about Islam?” she said.
“Ha, here’s where I know something you don’t, big brain,” Lavinia laughed. “That’s really more a symbol of the Ottoman Empire than a symbol of Islam. But anyway. Totally neutral. Anything else in there?”
That was when Sally saw the pentagram. Hand-carved out of deeply golden wood, decorated with spirals and sightless faces that could have been demons or elves or anything in between, it looked far too beautiful to be in the bargain bin.
When she picked it up a surge of power pulsed through her body. She looked tensely at Lavinia, expecting to see Lavinia pushed away by it.
Lavinia watched her curiously. “I don’t feel nothin’. But looks like you sure do.”
Sally turned the object over with tingling hands. There was another pentagram beside it which she liked the look of much more, a silver outline with teardrops of colored glass filling in the five points. But while she admired the second one and thought it was pretty, she felt no surge of power from it.
Jessica Rainbow smiled when Sally asked her about the wooden pentagram. She wore the wool cap she always wore, with its soft cloud of shimmering colors. She smelled of salt and her loose skin hinted that she had lost a lot of weight at some point. “I just grokked that that was going to be for you,” she said in her deep, husky voice. “Totally cool.”
“What do you mean?” Sally was weary of everything having a portent, but it was impossible to be annoyed with snowy-haired radiant Jessica.
“Oh dear, what do I mean?” She popped a piece of rosemary-crusted zucchini into her mouth. “Well let’s see, when it came in, it had a totally good vibe, like right away. First I put it with all the wicca things, right next to a nice athame and wand, but it just didn’t groove with them somehow. I don’t even remember where I wound up putting it. But, dear heart, you just radiate the same energy it does, so I wasn’t surprised when you walked up to the counter with it.”
“It was in the bargain bin with a whole bunch of other religious curios.” Sally raised an eyebrow, just like Lavinia would do. What the hell was an athame?
“Weird, man, totally. I didn’t put it there. I didn’t know I had a stash of religious shit in one place. One of the ghosts arranged it, I guess.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t know. Ever since Jesse and Walter told me you could invite the vampires in, I’ve taken to spending evenings here, letting those silent wraiths move around among the tchatchkas.” (She pronounced the Yiddish word “chawtch keys.” Sally flicked a sideways glance at Lavinia’s bland face and could almost hear the words “helpless goy” in Lavinia’s mind.) “So. They’re playing with religious symbols. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say, hmmm?”
The more they learned, Sally thought, the more confusing things got. First a cat-sized fairy who was the guardian of the home. Then a leather jacket with a magic raven symbol, a one-eyed leather maker who might have been a Norse god, trees that had been vampires and now wiccan pentagrams. Something tied all of this together, if she could only see it, something to do with that dead hiker in the Black Forest, but what, what what?
Feeling like a character in a role-playing game giving the command to “TAKE magic item,” Sally paid for the pentagram. I’m being guided to take this damn thing with me to Germany, she thought resentfully. She put it in her pocket with elaborate casualness. If she was meant to take it, she’d remember to take it, she decided. Otherwise, she’d be perfectly happy to leave it behind.
Jessica smiled her radiant smile and held out a clove of roasted garlic. “Want a bite?”
Lavinia took the garlic, sniffed it, then grinned at Sally. “Nothin’.”
Suddenly crying with frustration at her own weakness, Sally grabbed the apple from her pocket, levered it up to her mouth, took a juicy crunchy heavenly bite. She hadn’t realized how dry her mouth had been. She took another bite, holding the apple with the same death grip she’d used on her own hand. Just the thought of dropping it sent chills of horror through her groin and legs. She ate the apple down to the core, then let the wind snatch it out of her hand.
But now she was fully aware of how hungry she was. A granola bar was in her right hand in her pocket but she couldn’t make her left hand let go in order to tear it open. The world spun; her head buzzed, the tears wouldn’t stop. She couldn’t even get her voice together to swear; all that would come out was helpless blubbering. She was going to pass out and she couldn’t do anything about it!