The just a little too orange vermilion static free carpet, obviously a refugee from the 1970s, fought for attention with the completely lifeless artwork hanging on the institutional taupe walls of the broad hallway. The nurse with me pointed to a door. I was just about to knock when a voice came out of the room.
“You don’t have to knock, Trevor, you’re family. And I don’t need help now, Miss Garcia, I’ll call for you later.”
The nurse, Miss Garcia, smiled at me and left. I entered the room.
The room was smaller than I expected after the broad, open hall. The left side of the room was monopolized by a double door into the bedroom and a slightly smaller door into the bath. A long, short bookshelf and two wooden chairs covered the right wall. A couch filled the space under a window at the far end of the room, a coffee table between me and the couch.
“Don’t get old if you can help it, Trevor,” Betty Halley said.
I just noticed the woman sitting on the couch, a walker in front of her. I hadn’t seen her at first because of the strong back lighting. I walked in closer and took a better look.
At first glance Betty seemed to be a short, lighter colored version of Rosaline. Yet the closer I got the more she showed her differences from her mother.
“Of course, it does beat any alternative I’ve seen,” she said. “And remember, for you there are far worse alternatives than death or old age. Now please take a seat.”
“Thank you for seeing me tonight, Mrs. Halley,” I said. I pulled the wooden chair closest to her from the wall and sat down a little to the side of her so I wasn’t staring straight into the sun.
“Please, call me Aunt Betty,” she said. “I’ve been trying to see you for about 20 years, ever since that other Halley dug his claws into you. Actually, I would have liked to have seen you even before then, but they wouldn’t let me. Fools.” She started to cough violently. I stood up, but she stopped coughing.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Betty, but I’m not sure I follow,” I said as I returned to my seat.
“I could have ended it long ago, but now it’s much too late, I’m too old and sick” she said.
“You mean with Milly and all?” I asked. “And, well, with what’s happening with me now? How?”
“I knew from the first I saw you that you shouldn’t have been allowed down there until you were in your late teens,” she said. “And then when he tagged you, I might have been able to help, but even if your parents would have let you spend time with a relative stranger, my mom, or I should say Rosaline like everyone else, blocked it. She thought she knew best. She saw it in just as simple terms as my sister does. A handful of voodoo curses and some charms won’t make it go away any more than trying to pray it out of you.”
I unconsciously reached back and touched the spot on my shoulder that Benjamin had grabbed all of those years ago with one hand while the other hand dug Rosaline’s charm out of my pocket. “She did help some, though,” I said.
“Of course she did. What you don’t realize is the biggest help she gave you was keeping you away from him until you were twelve. Her charms did keep him physically confined, but he still roamed the mausoleum at will and drew people down those stairs like a magnet. Everyone went down. Everyone. And he touch us all. Yes, he touched me. That’s one reason I agreed when my husband asked me to spend less time with my family – I didn’t want any child of mine to have to endure his touch. I made sure they knew their roots, their family, but not a one stepped foot into the mausoleum until they were 17. I just wished my fool daughter hadn’t insisted on bringing Sarah down there since she was born. But I was already growing sick and couldn’t help my own granddaughter.
“I couldn’t help you either, but Mom did a great thing keeping you from wandering into the Halley crypt for so long.”
I shivered. “So, why is it so good she kept me out until I was 12?” I asked.
“Two reasons. First, your power was awakening. You didn’t know its shape yet, but it was there and he has had to deal with it, not control it. Second, you were old enough to fight. You fought and continued to fight to this day. That’s the only reason we are able to have this conversation.”
She went into a coughing fit. I stood up and started to walk over again, but she used her hands to tell me to sit. It only lasted a minute before she was back to normal.
“As I said,” she continued, “your fighting spirit is the only reason you’re here, the only reason the end wasn’t a forgone conclusion.”
“And what would have happened if I were younger and didn’t fight?” I asked.
“You would have developed much the same as you are now,” she said. “There would have been few differences. You’d do the same types of things, have the same likes, feelings and desires. Possibly the same friends and lovers. The big difference would be that he would have been with you, constantly whispering in your ear, deeper than your ear, into your very being, your whole life.”
“He told me he has shaped me.”
“Yes, of course he has,” she said. “The shaping is subtle, nothing large, but he has made you more like him. Imagine if he had started when you were two or three how much more he could have shaped you. If that were the case, at some point he would have presented himself to you without a crisis. He would have made you an offer. You would have accepted and then your real life, what you today call your true life, would have ended.”
She started coughing again, this time even more violently. I got up and got a glass of water out of the bathroom. She was done coughing by the time I got back, but accepted the water gladly.
“I am too weak tonight to be much help,” she said. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a few deep breaths. “Besides your spark, he wants your power, yet it is that power which keeps him at bay. At least for now.”
“Power?” I asked. “What is this power?”
“I can’t really define it, not even Miles could, I can only tell you some of the ways it manifests itself,” she said. “It seems something isn’t letting me tell you much of what you need to know, but perhaps this.”
“I’ve been experiencing it a bit in the last few weeks,” I said. “Are you saying it is different for everyone?”
“Of course it is,” Betty said. “You see people as colors and temperatures? A big part of that feel is their power. A person’s power is part of their personality and more. But even though each person has an individual manifestation of power, the type of power is inherited. Great powers are, what we’d call in genetics, dominant. Yet even there, the powers mix to some degree. All four of the families in the Hawkins clan has a different power, each a Great Power, and a little of each is in all of us.”
“Four?” I asked. “I count three.”
She smiled as if I were a child. “There is the power of Miles Hawkins, the patriarch. He called it the power of the planets as it was stable and precise, following a Newtonian view of the universe. It is a power that can funnel and channel powers, even multiply them. It is a bright power and works best when used for good, bogging down when it is used for evil. It is a power of the air, but also of people, of connections.”
“So we all inherit Miles’ power,” I said.
“The Hawthorn power is similar,” she continued. “Miles called it the power of the stars. A Hawthorn never gets lost. They are great navigators, builders and engineers. An ancestor of the Hawthorns erected Stonehenge. They focus power. Obviously this is a strong power in you, but there is Hawthorns blood and power in the Hawkins Branch as well.”
“Ok, so you already talked about your branch,” I said.
“I did no such thing. I talked about Miles Hawkins,” she said. “The power of the Hawkins Branch was brought in by Phebe. It is a deep, earthy power. It is a power of people and binding. It is the power to inspire others and to use the power of others for good. It is the power of a healer. This power is the power of a pure light, purer even than the light of the Hawthorns’ stars. You have some of Phebe’s blood and power in your veins.”
I had heard there was a little of the Hawkins branch in my line, Benjamin had told me, but I hadn’t thought of the implications.
“And number four is the Halley branch,” she said. “They brought in the power of water and ice. Their power is about the control and mastery of things and people. It is a manipulative power and an unstable power. It is a power that can use other people and other power for good or evil. It really only reached its potential when balanced by Miles’ more stable power. This power often feeds on itself. It is a narcissistic power. It can be for good or evil. Without Miles’ influence it is usually chaotic. You have much Halley in you, and I have almost as much. My children and grandchildren have more, which is why I worry about them so much.”
She started coughing again. I waked over and started trying to comfort her.
“Miss Garcia!” I called out.
I turned back to Aunt Betty and went into her. I entered her mind. I could find the cough and was able to stop it, but I couldn’t find the source. I felt no disease, it seemed more like a sickness of the spirit. It seemed it was caused from outside.
“Thank you,” she said to me as she started to breathe normal again. “You do have a little of the blood of Phebe in you. Remember, besides having the power of healing, it also has the power of resistance. You need to bring that side up in you.”
“I will,” I said.
The nurse, Miss Garcia entered the room and raced over to Betty.
“Mrs. Halley, are you alright? They said you had a major coughing fit again.”
“Yes, Miss Garcia, I’m OK now, I’m fine,” Aunt Betty said.
“Good, good. I’ll just need to check you to be sure,” the nurse said. She turned to me. “I’m sorry sir, but I’m going to have to ask you leave. Your Aunt has been a little under the weather today. Perhaps in a few days you can come back when she is stronger.”
“Sure, yeah, I’ll go,” I said. I stood up and put my hand on Betty’s shoulder. “Goodbye for now, Aunt Betty. Thank you for everything. I’ll be sure to come back soon.”
“Goodbye, Trevor,” she said. “Remember, though, events echo in time. Bounds exist before you make them. Crisis is felt before it happens. Take care.”
As I was walking down the hall with the carpet that was just a slightly too orange shade of vermilion I realized that Stan had used that same phrase the day before, that events echo through time. I knew that was the reason I felt a tight bound with Milly before I had relit the ember of her life force.
I reached out to Milly without thinking. She felt embarrassed when I touched her so I pulled back immediately. I don’t know what she was doing, but she is a 17 year old girl and I’m a 30 year old man. I can’t just drop into her mind unannounced. But I needed to find a way to keep track of her to make sure she was OK.
I felt confused, twisted.
I got in my car and started to drive home. I had to wonder what echoes I was feeling.
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