Guess what; your kid doesn’t *have* to love you.

To paraphrase Cable from Deadpool 2, which I’ve seen at least a dozen times, but can’t recall the exact quote:

“People think they understand pain, but they have no concept of it, beyond their own worst experience.”

It’s the same when you declare to the world at large that you don’t love one, or both, of your parents.

When I tell people I haven’t spoken to my mother in 15 years, most react with horror and/or disbelief. Then, disgust.  I’ve broken one of the most basic social covenants, so there must be  something wrong with me. I must be some terrible, callous, incredibly selfish, and supremely hateful human being to even think such a thing, much less say it out loud.  There can be no other explanation, because that woman gave me life. I am a monster for cutting her out of mine.

Other people? They get it. This post isn’t for them.

Most of society has no real concept of what it’s like to have a truly bad parent. Annoying parent? Sure. Embarrassing parent? Of course. But truly piece of shit parents? No. They have no concept of it, beyond their own worst experience.  Ever been accused of something you didn’t do? Ever been grounded for longer than you thought was fair? Were you told no, you couldn’t go out on a school night?

I am sorry, but your childhood trauma is rated E for Everyone.

Now, to be fair, I realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent.  We are human, and as such, we make mistakes. Raising productive members of society is hard, and the standard is impossibly high. There are some good parents out there that screw up. Hell, they screw up big, and it doesn’t make them bad parents. But—and I can’t stress this strongly enough—there are some really bad parents out there. People so bad at being parents, they don’t even deserve the title.

The dirty details of why I cut my mother and her husband out of my life are no one’s business.  It should be enough to say that I have my reasons. Was my mother an alcoholic/drug addict that pimped me out for her next fix? No, to all of that.  Was she abusive? Not physically, sexually, mentally, or emotionally.  She was negligent, but name one teenager that wouldn’t delight in having a mother that didn’t care where they went, what they did, or who they were with. Right, you can’t.  Did we not get along growing up? Actually, my mother and I got along very well.  I left home the week after I turned 18 to get away from the toilet stain she married, not her. Again, the details aren’t important.

My mother is a pathological liar, and a thief.  She is completely selfish, and was never interested in being a mother or grandmother.  However, while she gave nothing, she demanded everything in return.

And that’s where the crux of the problem lies.  People seem to think that giving birth is all that’s required to claim the honor of being a parent. Yeah, that’s bull.  Exhibit A: all of the baby-mamas and baby-daddies running around out there that don’t pay child support or even go out of their way to see their kid.

Think about it. Some random idiot doesn’t like the way condoms feel, never calls, never writes, never shows even the slightest interest in their child, but they have the brass cajones to demand love and respect? How about no, jackass?

Exhibit B: the step parents that stepped the hell up when they didn’t have to. For them, I have nothing but respect.

Ted Bundy had a kid. John Wayne Gacy had kids. Fred and Mary West had a lot of kids.  These people were monsters, and have no right to demand anything from anyone.  Granted, these are extreme example, but where the line is drawn depends on who is drawing that line. Bad  Behavior is only acceptable as long as there are people around who are willing to accept it. Me? My willingness to accept unacceptable behavior came to a screeching halt a very long time ago.  I realized, maybe too late, that some people will take everything you have to give, then demand more. Once finished, once you’re completely empty and strip mined to the bare bones, they’ll toss you aside like used Kleenex and never give you a second thought.

And sometimes that person is your mother.

Do my kids love me? I think as much as any two people are capable of loving someone they’re forced to live with.  I know I annoy them. I embarrass them. They are overwhelmed by my ignorance at times. We argue.  If someone has figured out how to live with two teenagers without that being an issue, please, what’s your secret? Throw a bitch a bone.

The thing is, I don’t expect them to love me. They’re people, not my personal property.  They have thoughts, feelings,  inner lives, and interests as diverse as mine.  They are two human beings that did not exist before I came along, and wouldn’t exist without me, but here’s the thing about that…the decision to bring them into the world was mine.  I wanted to have kids.  They don’t “owe” me anything.

If they love me, it’s because I’ve earned it. Every day, since the day they were born, I’ve earned it. I am their biggest cheerleader, because I sincerely think they’re incredible at everything they try.  Sure, I can’t be trusted to be impartial where they’re concerned, but who cares? I don’t have to be impartial. I laugh at their jokes, because they’re funny.  I cook their dinner,  I do their laundry and—gods help me—I even pick up their room for them sometimes. My kids know I’d fight for them. They know I’d kill for them, because I 100% beyond the shadow of any doubt love them.  Not because it’s my job,  not because God commanded me to, but because I do. As people, not just because they’re my kids.

If they love me back, it’s because they genuinely love me. Now because they are obligated to by religion or society.  So, let’s take both equations out of it.  Disregard “honor thy father and mother.“  Consider, just for a moment, if that ancient adage wasn’t so deeply ingrained in societal consciousness…

Do you think your kids would still love you? Would you still love your parents ?

I asked myself that question.  The answer was no. It’s ugly, but the truth often is.

Where the hell have I been?

I’ll bet you thought this webpage had been abandoned, didn’t you? That’s extremely fair. I only ignored it for a year and a half, let the paid subscription lapse, and stopped writing altogether for roughly 15 months.  I can see were you might have gotten that impression.

Where have I been? The short answer is I finally got treatment for my anxiety disorder. The long answer; I started taking Paxil, then lost all interest in writing. I got a second low-paying job to supplement the income of my first low-paying job, then I sort of got lost in the endless grind of existence for a few months.

Until, Writer Kate stepped up, then I broke free.

So, hi. I’m Kati. I have social anxiety disorder, which causes occasional depression, and I choose not to treat it. That doesn’t make sense, you say. No, it doesn’t, but hello, anxiety disorder. I don’t want chemicals messing with my already messed up brain. Plus, the meds I’ve tried didn’t help much. Paxil is really just apathy in pill form, and Doxepin made me…a little violent and extremely hateful. Luckily, I didn’t take it long.

Which leaves treating myself with diet, exercise, and a can-do attitude. Unfortunately, I only have one of those things. My diet consists of whatever I can grab, not have to cook, and eat on the run. My exercise regimen is bust my ass at work and home, be constantly on the move, because if I stop at any point, I will fall asleep.

The thing is, I’m a lot luckier than most. I can function outside the home, even though it sucks and I have an awesome support system. I know a few people with the same disorder, or other equally scary mental illnesses, that can’t say the same.

So, what does that mean for my writing? While I was taking Paxil, I still had story ideas, absent any desire to actually write them down.  When I decided, essentially, that writing was more important than my mental health, the need to write came back. I’ve been working on Book 4 in the Watcher series for about 4 months now and I’m getting close to finishing the rough outline. Oh, it’s not a 600 page book, or anything. It’s just coming to me as easily as a Barbie doll giving birth to a 15 pound baby. And, writing another book absent an audience to actually read it is an exercise in pointlessness that pushed me onto the Paxil in the first place.

Who’s fault is that? Oh, it is 100% my fault. I wrote those books, published them, then never, ever looked at them again. The very idea of talking about my books with other people triggers a mini panic attack.  I don’t have a publisher or literary agent to back me up, so building an audience was supposed to be my job. I dropped the ball off a cliff.

So, here’s my dilemma. How do you build a social media presence when your mental predisposition is to keep EVERYONE at bay? It kind of feels like being on the bomb squad. If you’re successful, nothing happens. If you screw up, everything blows up in your face.

I am a wife, and I love being a wife. I’ve got 23 years experience at it. I used to do it professionally, until the economy tanked. I can talk to other people about being married, and I know I could give them good advice.

I am a mom. I absolutely love being a mom. I could talk to other people about what it’s like to raise kids in this world.

I am a writer. I could talk about writing all day,  and I like helping people with the stuff that they are writing. I offer a second pair of eyes and give honest feedback, which is essential for any artist.

I also have social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder. It affects every aspect of my life. It drains me mentally, it affects my physical health, my ability to think clearly at times, and severely limits my social interactions. And so, this thing that I’ve kept hidden for the most part from everyone I know is the part of me that everyone needs to see.

There are a lot of people like me.  They’ve been made to feel ashamed. They’ve been told that there’s nothing really wrong with them. They get accused  of making it all up, or of acting out for attention.  So,  they’re the ones that need my help. Even if it’s just me changing the way I do things, to show them they’re not alone, and that it is possible to do the things that freak you out. Maybe, in the long run, doing those things will help you.

Because I’m broken, not useless.

 

 

We have liftoff!

Okay, Lady and Gentleman. Watcher in the Darkness: Book 3 is up and running. It took a little longer than I expected because they sent the proof copy to my old address (my bad), but my new book baby looks beautiful. You can buy the paperback and ebook version on Amazon. Or, if you prefer, there is a Nook ebook version available on Barnes and Noble.

Don’t forget, if you followed the story as it was being written here on the website, there is an epilogue-ish final chapter that sets up the next book that is exclusive to the ebook and printed copies. Just…thought I’d throw that out there.

Wow. Over a month, already?

It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I updated the website. It feels like much, much longer.

Hi, everybody. I missed you. I just thought I’d poke my head in for a minute to give anyone that might be interested a status report.

So, what have I been up to? I’ve done three editing passes through the finished novel. Pathetic, I know, but such is life when you have a full time job, a full time family, and precious little time to work on anything else. I’m still not quite satisfied with the end product, but that’s nothing new. I don’t know if I speak for any other writer out there, but after I finish a book or story, I can barely stand to look at it again. Not necessarily because I hate it. It’s just that I’ll never stop trying to “fix” it, then I’d never get anything new written.

When will Imprisoned be released? I’m shooting for around the beginning of March. Luckily, I already bought my cover art, so at least I don’t have to worry about that.

What are my plans for the future? I have two more short stories rattling around my brain that I want to add to Haunted, Etc. I’ve also got a lot of cool ideas for the next Watcher book, so I need to get started on its outline.

In a nutshell, work, work, work, work, work. It never finishes. And until I simultaneously win the lottery and science comes up with the cure for sleep, my progress will be slow.

Ah. It appears that Createspace has finally finished uploading my interior file. Back to the grindstone. I hope all of you are having a blessed day.

So, now what?

I know what your wondering.

That’s it? That’s how the story ends?

Short answer; yes and no. There is an epilogue, but it will be exclusive to the ebook and print copies. It sets up the next book, of which there will definitely be a next book, but as far as this story is concerned, that’s all folks.

I want to thank everyone that’s made it this far. I want to thank everyone that took the time out of their busy lives to read my story. Words can’t express how much I appreciate the simple act of you being here. For me, even one like, post click, or share validates the countless hours I spent obsessing over this book. If I did it for money, I’d never write anything at all.

Ha-ha, just kidding! Or, am I?

Now, I begin the last few sweeps to prepare this bad boy for publication. I will definitely keep you all up to date on what’s happening on that front.  My head is buzzing with ideas for the next book, but I haven’t even started the outline for it yet.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, whatever your preference, I hope your day rocks! Don’t forget to click on the like and share buttons below.

Or, if you’re here by accident, go back to the beginning and give this story a shot.

WitD3: Chapter 46 (The Final Chapter)

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 46

 

Thick clumps of blood shot into my lungs. I crawled forward, blind and choking, as I listened to Karen run down the stairs.

An invisible force lifted me then set me back on my feet. I flinched away from the cool, slender fingers that touched my cheeks, but the pain vanished. My vision cleared, and I saw the look of determination on Gwen’s face.

“I grow so tired of his games,” she said as she pulled the veil out of her hair. She let it drop to the floor, her dress brightening from black to fiery red. “After him.”

I didn’t need to be told to go after Karen. We ran toward the spiral staircase as I said, “Are you telling me this was part of Khalid’s plan?”

Close on my heels, Gwen fluttered like a flock of birds. “Perhaps not this exactly, but trust me. With Khalid, there is always a Plan B.”

The dirt on the floor was so thick that Karen may as well have been walking in the snow. Her footprints turned away from the broken window, toward the maze of metal racks. Gwen and I followed her into the shadows, my senses opening as the desperate need to catch up to her faded. There was no way in hell this wasn’t a trap.

As expected, Gwen and I reached a dead end, where the tracks stopped. I didn’t see so much as a scuff in the dirt in any direction. The cardboard boxes crammed onto the shelves left no place to hide. Yet, I stood in a cloud of musky jasmine. Had Khalid turned Karen invisible, or…

A disturbing thought occurred to me. “If he’s inside Karen, can he use her powers?” I said in a low voice.

Before Gwen could reply, my body locked. My jaw clamped shut, my joints and muscles seized, and I wondered to myself why I was such an idiot.

I heard laughter above, then a whoosh. Fire, bright and blinding in the darkness, swept across the boxes. Scorching heat raked down my throat as my skin bubbled. The vampire in me thrashed and screamed, but I couldn’t even blink as I roasted alive.

Without a word, Gwen exploded into a column of thick mist, gushing outward like a tidal wave. Karen’s influence faded as the wave sucked back in, solidifying into Gwen once again. I flexed my healed fingers, and the blackened cardboard wasn’t even smoking.

Gwen scowled upward, her hands fisted at her sides. I followed the path of her gaze, to find Karen standing on a steel rafter above us. “Your magic is stronger than mine, but my magic will always be stronger than hers,” Gwen said. “Enough of your theatrics, Khalid. Release the girl.”

Khalid glared at us through Karen’s eyes, then turned to sprint along the beam. She leapt onto one of the empty racks like a parkour master, then jumped again to the ground. In the blink of an eye, Karen vanished into the maze.

I shrugged off the last tugs of Karen’s domination as I started after her. “You have to get him out of her,” I said.

“If I could do that, I would’ve already.”

“You know, I’m beginning to think having a fairy godmother is a fucking scam.”

An unseen force yanked me into the air. The tips of my shoes scraped along the ground as the nothingness dragged me forward. Almost too late, I saw the pile of broken concrete and rebar. Pushed face-first toward the jagged spikes, I somehow managed to catch myself. I could sense Khalid’s irritation as the force holding me doubled in strength. The muscles in my arms screamed as my elbows began to shake.

Gwen passed her hand in front of the steel bars, and they curled inward like burning hair. I dropped to the ground then heard, “Why do you protect him?” There was nothing more offensive to me than hearing Khalid speak with Karen’s voice.

 “Thwarting you is the only motivation I will ever need,” Gwen said.

“Everything I have done—everything I have ever done—has been for you.”

Gwen laughed. “Selflessness is as foreign to your nature as is compassion, Khalid.”

The metal shelves made a deafening racket as they scraped toward us. Gwen pushed her arms out, then the racks toppled like dominoes. When the echoes of their crash faded, Khalid said, “So you shield a vampire just to spite me?” Clearly, this was the pettiest thing he’d ever heard. “You will never be free as long as he lives. My love, let me end this.”

“I have never been free, Khalid. Never once in my entire life. Since the day of my birth, I have existed only to serve others. My one true freedom has been to choose my master, and even this mule-blooded, half-breed vampire spawn is better than you.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that. “Thanks?”

Karen stepped out of the shadows. Khalid’s cruelty made her eyes hard and alien. When I took a step in her direction, Karen held up her hand. My body dropped to my knees, then bowed my head.

“I will not allow you to kill my master, Khalid,” Gwen said. “Before you argue, remember that you are the one that put me in this position.”

Khalid groaned, as though tired of having the same conversation. “A means to an end, dearest, nothing more. When he is dead, all will be as it was. Besides, do you believe your family will allow you to remain in thrall to a vampire?”

“You underestimate how much Xi hates you.”

I couldn’t move, but I could speak. “It’s too late anyway, demon.” The word felt awkward on my tongue. “You gave me her name, and now it’s mine. You can kill me, Khalid, but I’ve already made sure her name will pass on to my grandmother when I’m gone. I know Hlin will be able to think of a thousand uses for a fairy slave.”

I hoped Gwen sensed my bluff as she lifted her chin then drew her shoulders back.

Khalid glared, then Karen’s face went pale. Tears filled her eyes as she screamed, “Toby, just get out of here!”

Her terror and pain cut me to the core, as it always did. “Karen?”

“Please,” she said, sobbing. “He’ll kill you if you stay.”

Gwen laid her hand between my shoulders. “He won’t. Not again. I promise.”

My claws dug into my palms. “I won’t leave here without you.”

Karen cried out as her arm was wrenched behind her back. I heard the snap of straining tendons as she dropped to her knees. Karen’s free hand reached out to snatch up a shard of broken glass. Her head yanked back, then she pressed the makeshift weapon to her throat.

Khalid’s intense hatred returned to Karen’s face and voice. “Finish the ritual.”

Gwen held out her hand before I could respond. “Tobias, you don’t have to.”

The glass gouged into Karen’s soft skin. I watched as a rivulet of blood ran along the sharp edge to her hand. “I beg to differ,” Khalid said. “I have waited too long and have sacrificed too much for it all to have been in vain. I have given up everything to have your freedom, and I will have it. Now, half-breed, do this or I swear to every god in the multiverse that I will personally kill this incarnation, and every incarnation that is to follow. In their infancy, until the end of time. Slowly. Painfully, and I will make sure that this soul knows every time she dies that you are the reason why.”

I held up my hands in surrender. “Okay. Okay, you win. We’ll do this, but after it’s done, you have to swear to me that you will leave Karen alone forever.”

“Agreed.” Karen got to her feet, her arm still twisted between her shoulder blades. The glass remained at her throat as Khalid said, “Now march your worthless hide into that circle, and don’t you dare say a fucking word until it’s over.”

I kept my hands up. “Fine. I’ll do whatever you want. Just…don’t hurt her. Please.”

Khalid turned Karen’s body then marched it forward. Gwen and I fell into step behind them. The racks and debris moved aside, clearing a path for us.

I looked at Gwen out of the corner of my eye. Her head was bowed in sorrow. “I’m sorry,” I said. I don’t think I’ve ever meant an apology more than this one. “I’m so, so sorry. For everything.”

Gwen nodded, her dress darkening in despair. “I understand, Tobias. I forgive you.”

“He’ll never let you go. Not ever.”

“It appears not,” Gwen said with a sigh.

“If I could save you both, I would,” I said as we reached the spiral staircase.

We climbed, then Gwen looked at me at last. “Is that truly your wish?”

“Yes,” I said with a nod. “I’d give anything.”

Gwen rolled her eyes. “Finally.”

We stepped into the ritual area just in time to see Justine climbing through the hole in the roof. She looked back at us, cold and aloof, the chalice flashing in her hand.

Khalid stepped forward, rage breaking Karen’s voice as he screamed, “No!”

In that same instant, Gwen make a sweeping motion with her arms. The last thing I heard before time ground to a halt was Gwen’s voice. “Don’t waste this.”

Then…what I heard, what I saw…it’s very hard to describe. It was like I stood in the center of a photograph. I couldn’t move, but I could take in every detail. Every frozen flicker of the candleflames. Every ripple in Gwen’s dress. Every spark of light on the hovering dust, and the constant hum of Khalid’s fury.

The logical part of my brain reminded me that we were on a mission, damn it. “Karen?” I said. Well, sort of. I said it in my mind, but the voice in my head was so loud that it was like I’d spoken the words. “Karen, can you hear me?”

“Toby?” Karen’s voice came from the back of her head. Was this honest-to god-telepathy?

Again, I didn’t have time to marvel. “Thank the dear, sweet baby Jesus. Are you okay?” What the fuck, really? Of course, she wasn’t okay. “Where’s Khalid?

I sensed rather than heard Karen struggle. It was kind of like the rattle of chains without the clinking sound. “He’s still here. He still has me locked up inside myself, but it’s like… he’s stone? Toby, this hurts so much. He’s burning me from the inside out.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I’d been there. “I know it hurts. That’s why we have to get him out of you.”

“I can’t. He’s too strong.”

I ‘spoke’ louder to be heard above her rippling panic. “You’re strong. Yes, you can.”

“He’s in too deep. I won’t be able to get rid of him without turning myself inside out.”

“I know how you feel, Karen. Exorcism sucks, but we have to do everything we can.”

“He’ll just slip back in. When I’m weak, or when I’m asleep. Fuck, I’m so stupid!”

“Enough!” This was a dangerous spiral, one that would strip her of her power. “Use the exorcism incantation to put him into that statue.”

Karen was incredulous. “That won’t work.”

“You’ve done it before.”

“Against a pathetic, weak little piece of nothing. Khalid is… Besides, I can’t remember the incantation.”

“Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.” I got the feeling I’d surprised her. “Yeah, I remember. I remember everything you’ve ever said to me. You saved me, Karen. You’ve done nothing but save me since the day we met. Now, I need you to save yourself.” I heard a weird, jingling-grinding noise as the world began to speed back up. “I’m with you. Let’s do this.”

Time snapped back like elastic, then Gwen collapsed in a heap. Khalid turned Karen’s head to look back, then her eyes widened. He released the arm twisted behind her back as he lowered the blade of glass.

I lunged forward, tackling Karen around the waist. I push-carried her across the room, wincing when I slammed her against the black statue. I held her hands behind her back, my forearm pressed across her shoulders. Her lips peeled back as I forced her cheek against the hard obsidian.

 With Khalid preoccupied, Karen managed to fire off an incantation. “Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell! My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.”

Even as she spoke, Karen struggled in my grasp. “Keep going, Karen,” I said above Khalid’s furious growls. “Come on, together! Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.”

Khalid clenched Karen’s jaw, but she managed to force out about half the words. “I will stop her heart, half-breed,” he said with a snarl.

I didn’t know why he hadn’t already, so I had to act fast. My lips brushed Karen’s ear as I said, “Gwen never loved you.”

Khalid’s rage caught in his throat, then Karen blurted, “Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.” She cried out in pain when Khalid jerked within her.

I guess I’d struck a nerve, so I decided to dig my claws in. “Her family gave her to a grunt soldier like she didn’t even matter. Yeah, she’s sweet enough to try to make the best of a bad situation, but she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life under your thumb. Think about it. What has she done since she met you, except run away?”

The words began to come easier. “Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.”

As she chanted, I said, “Gwen knew that you would bring her nothing but misery. She would rather be a slave than your wife. Hell, she prefers me to you.”

Karen became heavier in my arms, as though her legs were giving out. Even so, her voice grew stronger. “Wicked invader. Unwelcome presence. Hark and heed my spell. My will, indomitable. By your name, I call you. Khalid, you are expelled.”

“Let Gwen go,” I said. “If you really love her, you’ll give her the only thing she obviously wants.”

Karen dragged in the breath to speak another incantation, but Khalid cut her off. “Enough.” His voice was sharp as Karen’s eyes turned toward Gwen.

Gwen laid where she had fallen. Her dress had faded to the same pale white as her skin. Wisps of her true form curled into the air.

A grim look swept over Karen’s face. “Tell her—” Khalid said, then Karen’s eyes squeezed shut. She twitched in my arms as oily black smoke began to billow out of her mouth and nose. The foul essence flowed into the statue, tiny cracks forming in the polished surface.

I eased Karen to the ground, patting her back as she coughed up the last of Khalid’s presence. Gwen began to stir, but I couldn’t go to her. My body was too weak with relief to leave Karen’s side.

Gwen’s green eyes cracked open, but took a moment to focus on us. “Is it done?” she said, her voice a whisper.

I hugged Karen close, then she wrapped her arms around my chest. Her face pressed into my neck, and I could smell tears. “Yes,” I said, without a trace of satisfaction. For some reason, this didn’t feel like victory.

Gwen breathed a heavy sigh as yet more mist drifted from her body. It was like she was evaporating. Was she dying? “I am glad that your friend is safe.”

“Thank you.” My voice thickened. “Thank you, so much. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

The corner of Gwen’s mouth turned up. “No. Not at all.” After a moment, she said, “Where is Khalid?”

I opened my mouth to tell her, but hesitated. “He imprisoned himself in the statue he made for you.”

Gwen’s eyes began to shine. Her body took on a soft glow that pulsed like a heartbeat. “Good. He would like that. I guess…I am yours now?”

I shook my head as I pulled Karen closer. “There’s nothing you can give me that I don’t already have. I don’t want you, Gwen. You’re free.”

Gwen’s tears sparkled like diamonds as they rolled into her hair. “To go where? And do what?”

“Anything. Anything you want.”

Gwen stared at me for a long moment. At last, she said, “Very well.”

I watched as Gwen dissolved. Her shimmering mist floated past us, soaking into the angel side of the statue. The cracks fused with a pale gleam then I heard a rumble. The stone shifted as the angel’s cold, hard lips pressed against those of the demon.

<<<Chapter 45, pt. 3

So, now what?>>>

WitD3: Chapter 45, pt. 2

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 45, part 2

 

Every muscle in my body tensed as I turned to face him.

“I do not need Karen beyond that for which I have already used her. She is an accessory, a bauble, and just as easily discarded.”

I came to stand in front of him. “I promise, before this is over, you’re a dead man.” To Karen, I said, “Come on, Karen, open your ears. Hear what this sick fuck is actually saying.”

Karen continued to trace chalk runes around the circle as though I hadn’t spoken.

“Yes, Karen, by all means, hear that if this half-breed fails to uphold his end of the bargain, I will rape you to death, then rape your blood-soaked corpse right in front of him, just for fun. Also, the black flu golems you’ve made are still plentiful. Just think, by the time this disease is contained, you may very well be responsible for killing thousands.” Karen looked up from what she was doing with a warm smile, then Khalid chuckled. “Ah, who knows what she heard?”

I shut my eyes tight as I struggled to contain my temper. Through clenched teeth, I said, “Tenanye, I need you. Now.”

“Yes?” Gwen said, curt and impatient, as though she’d been standing next to me the entire time. The deep black dress she wore made her skin look like white marble. Her eyes behind the lacy black veil were full of contempt. She crossed her arms over her chest, and I realized just how much weight she’d lost.

“Stop this,” I said. “Make Karen hear what’s really being said.”

Gwen gave me a disdainful look. “What part of ‘his magic is stronger than mine’ was unclear for you?”

“My dearest Gwen,” Khalid said when he realized she had joined us. “I’m so glad that you are here. I have something for you.” He pulled the tarp from the statue of the demon and angel. “This was not seized along with the rest of my assets, because it has always belonged to you.”

“Indeed,” Gwen said, unmoved. “I accept your generous offer, djinn. I shall enjoy smashing it to sand for little more than my amusement.”

Khalid nodded. “Don’t forget spite, my dear,” he said as he turned his back on us.

I shook my head. “I don’t buy that. There has to be something…” It was then that I finally noticed the skylight. Several panels of sheet metal had been removed from the roof above the circle. Through the gaping hole, I watched clouds roll across the sky. There would be no protection from the coming rain. Or the sun.

I looked at Karen again as she referred to the book in her hands and tweaked the runes. She didn’t notice the ones she’d already drawn shifting behind her. Then again, if Khalid controlled what she heard, logically he could also control what she saw. Her reality was in his hands.

“I wondered when you were going to notice that,” Gwen said.

“What am I about to become?” I said with dull horror.

“A Pure vampire. Except, after your transformation, the circle will contain you.”

Ah. Of course. “So, when the sun rises, I’ll be dead. I guess I shouldn’t count on your help here, huh?”

“Judging by your tone, I think you know the answer to that. You know my True Name, Toby. I will never be safe for as long as you are alive.”

I nodded. I wasn’t even offended. “Well, I suppose there’s nothing to say, then, except Mata Diablo.” The dagger appeared in my hand as I turned toward Khalid. Gwen said nothing as I walked in his direction, but Karen happened to glance up.

Her eyes widened in alarm. “Toby!”

Every muscle in my body seized and I froze in place. Khalid looked over his shoulder, curious, saw the dagger, then scowled. I would’ve cursed if my mouth still worked, but all I could do was growl.

Karen held out her hand. “Come here. Come to me. It’s almost time to begin.”

My body turned, then my feet marched into the circle. I felt the wards slam closed behind me like the clang of a prison door. My legs bent then I dropped to my knees in front of Karen. My head bowed and my body relaxed, but I still couldn’t move. It was like my spirit was trapped in a heavy meat shell. I couldn’t even glare at Karen as she took Mata Diablo from me. She placed the weapon on the floor between us then took my hands in hers.

In that moment, I was achingly aware of just how unbalanced our relationship would always be. I was a vampire, half or otherwise, and that wasn’t going to change. Karen was human. At the end of the day, she would always be my primary food source.

Worse, she was an untrained necromancer. Her power over me would become absolute when this ritual was finished. Without intending to, without even realizing it, she had condemned me to death. Neither of us would ever be safe around the other. When this ritual was finished, so were we.

That hurt so much more than the knowledge I was about to die.

Karen’s fingers tightened until the blood blanched from her knuckles. She took a breath through her nose then said, “The time has come, the powers that be, almighty universe, work now through me.”

The candle flames tripled in size then began to jump and flicker. The ugly music of the city faded to silence as the hair on my body stood on end. Even the dust held still, suspended in the air by thick magic.

“Behold, wondrous nature. Death-bringer and life-giving mother.” The echo enhanced the resonance in Karen’s voice. “Pray, heed your modest servant, and bestow upon me a small portion of your power. I kneel, humble and unworthy, as I impose upon your vast generosity.”

I soaked up the warmth of her fingers and took a deep breath of her scent. If I survived, I hoped the memory of both could carry me through the centuries.

Karen released my hands to place a large mason jar in front of me. Thick red sludge swirled around the bottom. I could smell metallic blood despite the jar’s tight lid. Inside, a crude clay sculpture rattled against the glass. I recognized it at once as the same vessel Karen had used to trap Alex Shepherd. A green caterpillar crawled along the misshapen torso, on a blind quest for food.

As Karen’s focus shifted to the ritual, her domination over me began to subside. Control of my body returned, and I looked up at the skylight again. I had until about noon the next day before I was barbequed alive. I wished I could warn Karen, but there was no telling what Khalid would let her hear. I had to find some way to snap her out of his control, but…

Then it hit me. I knew what to say. Shit, I’d been told what to say, the key phrase to wake her up. I just hadn’t realized it at the time. I had no reason to believe it would work, but a shot in the dark still has a chance to hit.

To Gwen, I said, “When this is over, you have to forgive him.”

Khalid blinked in surprise as Gwen’s entire being darkened. “You can’t be serious,” she said.

“I am, and I’m not Pure yet. When this is over, you will give him a chance to make this right.” The way Karen looked at me, she seemed to be able to hear my words as they are spoken. Mentally, I crossed my fingers.

Gwen made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat. “Forgetting for the moment that such a thing a beyond the realm of possibility, your influence over me ends when you are a Pure vampire. I am under no obligation to promise you anything.”

“Then listen to reason. He loves you. I mean, he really, really loves you.”

Khalid’s eyes narrowed, as though trying to figure out my game, but he said nothing.

“People throw that word around and most have no idea what it means. But I do.” I looked at Karen. “I do.”

Karen’s brow furrowed. I could tell that my words were registering, and that she knew I wasn’t talking about her.

“I loved Justine,” I said. “More than I thought it was possible to love someone. The worst part about laying in that cold grave was knowing that she put me there. Compared to that, the stake in my heart was nothing. That’s the wound that won’t heal. I’d almost convinced myself that I hated her, but you were right. Love and hate aren’t so different. You really can feel both at the same time.”

Karen bowed her head with a wounded smile.

I wasn’t done. “With love and hate, you find yourself thinking about the other person all the time. That feeling wraps itself around your heart and squeezes. It always hurts. Everything reminds you of the other person. Every sight, every smell, every sound, somehow leads back to them. The memories poke you in that sore place over and over.” I put my hand on the side of her face, and Karen grabbed my wrist. “Over the last couple of years, being around you, I’ve been able to shove Justine to the back of my mind. But she’s always there. She’s always close.”

Karen’s bottom lip quivered as she nodded in sad understanding. I felt like shit for hurting her.

“They say time heals all wounds, but not love. Time and distance don’t change love. That scar is always ready to break open again. It still hurts. It still bleeds.”

Karen jerked as though I’d slapped her. She stared at me, the blood draining from her face, as the magic around us began to dissolve.

Khalid sensed the change and took a step forward. “Karen, my love? Is everything alright?’

Karen blinked several times. She looked around, as though having no idea how she’d come to be there.

It was almost too much to hope for. “Karen?” I said.

Karen looked at me again, then cleared her throat. “I’m fine,” she said as she picked up the jar of sludge. “Let’s do this before it’s too late.”

I couldn’t contain my disappointment. I bowed my head as I whispered, “Fuck.”

Karen’s voice hardened. “Transformation. Sacred magic that has existed since the beginning of time. Holy transformation, that which births entire worlds from dust.” She removed the lid from the jar, then dropped in a sparkling pebble. “Transformation, that which forms diamonds from coal.”

Inside the jar, the caterpillar twitched. Its body darkened then bulged out, hardening to an instant cocoon.

“Sacred transformation, that which molds the beautiful butterfly from the creeping caterpillar.”

The cocoon split, then shimmering purple wings unfurled from the crack.

The reverberation in Karen’s voice grew stronger. “Transformation, push back death and decay. Transform and transcend, pure and beautiful, the price of metamorphosis paid forward.”

The butterfly twitched, then curled in on itself. Its wings shriveled and turned black.

“Transform, a debt to be repaid with the blood of thousands.”

The butterfly continued to shrink, then delicate tendrils of red rose from the sludge. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. Our hair slid over our shoulders, drifting toward the jar as cracks formed in the glass.

Karen spoke louder and with greater authority. “Transformation. Light and energy. As water becomes ice. As gas become stars.”

The butterfly exploded in white flames as the jar shattered. The fire compressed into a pinprick of light. It pulled in every shard of glass and drop of red muck. I felt Shepherd’s scream echo deep in my soul as his figurine dissolved into the tiny cosmic void. The spark hovered between us, singeing the skin on my face.

Karen picked up the Tepes chalice. She scooped the cup under the newborn star, then placed it on the ground again. The brilliant ember remained cradled within, its gleam blinding against the polished gold interior of the cup.

“Fire, crucible of creation and destruction. Purest fire, unmake then remake, ageless and purified. Beacon through the ages. Chosen creator. Bestow your sacred power upon this, the essence of life.”

Karen held her wrist over the chalice as she picked up Mata Diablo with her other hand. She pressed the blade against her dark veins, then hesitated.

“I can’t,” she said after a second. “I’m sorry, my hands are shaking too hard. I’m afraid I’ll go too deep.” She looked at Khalid. “My lord, will you please help me?”

“Of course, my treasure,” he said with infinite patience. He stepped into the circle, placing his hand on her shoulder as he crouched beside her. He reached forward to take Mata Diablo from her hand.

The look on Karen’s face shifted to cold fury as she buried Mata Diablo to the hilt in Khalid’s throat. She yanked the blade free, then Khalid’s blood spurted over her like a red fountain.

“What did you make me do?” she screamed, broken and hysterical. I watched in disbelief as she tackled him to the ground. He flailed at her, but didn’t have the strength to keep her from stabbing him over and over.

I finally overcame my shock then scrambled to my feet. Khalid’s blood pooled over the runes, releasing me from his trap. I lifted Karen off Khalid’s soon-to-be corpse, and she wailed in demented grief. She was heavy in my arms as I pulled her back.

Choking for breath, Khalid stretched a trembling hand toward Gwen. Without any obvious emotion, Gwen watched him drown in his own blood. Khalid’s eyes rolled back in his head as he gave a final sputter, then went limp. It might’ve been my imagination, but the human vessel’s skin seemed to brighten when the dark essence left it.

Gwen shook her head. “Fools.”

Before I could respond, Karen said, “My, my, what big strong arms you have, half-breed.”

It was Karen’s voice, but I’d know that fucking accent anywhere. Her sharp elbow crunched against my still-tender nose, then she ran.

<<<Chapter 45, pt. 1

Chapter 46 (The End!!!)>>>

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