Parallel to Detling’s Main Street there’s a river with a pathway on the side opposite the street, bordered by trees. I was walking down the pathway at dusk lat night and passed someone standing on the river side, smirking at me. He was middle-aged, dressed in dark clothes, was half a foot taller than me and had a full beard and mane of blond hair. I looked at him just long enough to realize I didn’t know who he was and passed him. Then he called to me: “Evidently you don’t know me.”
I had heard that before.
I stopped and looked back at the man, who had the same smirk. I noticed now that his outfit included a Victorian-style frock coat. Was he just someone quoting the blog or was it Brand himself? The smirk changed to a leer and I saw a faint reddish glow in the man’s eyes, and I realized I needed to take action.
So I ran to the closest bookstore to seek the help of a petite sorceress.
Both Miriam and Ella were at the store when I arrived and told them what had happened.
“Well,” said Miriam, “It’s easy for me to tell if there’s someone or something around that isn’t…um, mundane is the term we use, no offense.”
Miriam closed her eyes and opened them suddenly. “Oh my!” she said. She was looking at the store’s entrance. The man I’d seen earlier was outside. He tried to open the door but couldn’t. I saw his eyes glow again and he placed his right hand on the door, his palm facing us.
“He isn’t a living human, I can tell that,” said Miriam. “But what he is…I don’t know…I’m sensing something…strange again.”
“Strange?” I said. “There’s something strange about the guy who’s come back from the dead twice to get me?” I think I may have come off as a little snarky. Miriam’s reaction was interesting: she closed her eyes and thrust her chin forward, curving her lips in a slight frown. I think it was the Miriam equivalent of whacking someone upside the head. “Sorry,” I said.
Miriam opened her eyes, looking at the figure in the doorway. “It’s all right,” Miriam murmured coolly, “We all deal with stress differently.” She peered forward for a few moments. “Well, he can’t get in here soon,” she said, “That’s the good news. But I think he’s powerful enough to overcome my protections. And I’m not sure I can defeat him alone.”
Miriam walked slowly toward her office at the back, her head lowered. Then he looked at her phone. “He’s blocking us,” she said. Ella and I checked our phones too and they weren’t working either. Miriam sighed slowly. Then she said “Oh! That might…gosh, that would…” She giggled a little, as if her daughter Annabelle had said something amusing. Then she went to the desk in her office, took a pair of objects out of a drawer and came back out, closing the door behind her. One of the objects was a ring with a purple stone in an oval setting and the other was a piece of chalk. She started writing on the office doorway. “Keep an eye on him, would you?” she asked.
The space around the intruder’s hand had what looked like little bolts of lightning around it. “This is going to require coordination with people we can’t talk to,” Miriam said as she wrote, “so no guarantees. But if it works…gosh.”
“What if it doesn’t?” said Ella. Miriam exhaled slowly. “There’s a last resort,” Miriam said. “You should be OK.” “What about you?” said Ella.
Miriam didn’t say anything louder than some muttered words to herself until she finished writing. “All right,” she said softly. She held her chin in her hand. “I don’t know how much time we’ll have. It might only be a few seconds. If I open the door I’m going to be…distracted.” She walked to the right side of the door, the side opposite the hinges, and faced forward. “Arthur, would you open the door when I tell you?”
I agreed to do so and faced front again. There was now something that looked like a whirlpool of blue light at the front of the store. “Any moment now,” Miriam said. And then the door flew open with a bang and there were four of us in the store.
“My compliments,” my pursuer said, sauntering toward us. “Overcoming your protections was a satisfying challenge. But you’ll need more power than that to defeat me.”
“My power is behind this door,” said Miriam. She looked at her watch, I’m not sure why, and then she looked at me. “Now.”
I opened the door. Instead of the empty office I had seen a few minutes ago, I saw a figure standing directly opposite me. The area framed by the doorway was a sepia-tinged blur so I couldn’t make out details, but I thought I was looking at a woman with wavy hair and an oval face like Miriam, though slightly taller.
The figure in front of me thrust her left arm forward, not directly at me but toward the side of the door where Miriam was standing. Once her arm was past the doorway I could see it clearly. It was bare and on one of the fingers there was a ring with a stone the same color as the one in Miriam’s ring, in a teardrop-shaped silver setting.
Miriam gasped, extended her right arm, and grasped the woman’s hand. Miriam’s right hand was the one with the ring on it and she pointed the two purple stones at the intruder.
The man raised a fist that ignited with green frame. “And who is that?” he asked with an amused smile.
“This is my daughter Annabelle,” said Miriam. She seemed about to cry. “And we’re the last thing on Earth you’re going to see.”
The man snarled and drew his fist back. A bolt of purple light shot from the two women’s rings, with a sound that was high-pitched yet also resonant. And the store was empty.
Miriam turned to face the figure in the doorway, still holding her hand. There appeared to be other people in the background, but except for one person that was unusually tall and appeared to have long blond hair, I couldn’t see any helpful details.
The area in the doorway became more blurry. Miriam released the hand of the woman beyond, who quickly withdrew her arm. And then we were looking at Miriam’s empty office again.
“Miriam,” I said. “That was Annabelle?”
“It will be.”
We looked at the doorway for a long time, not saying a word.