Authors: Anastasia Hopcus
The rooms of the ICU were glass walled, and I immediately spotted Zach. He looked so much smaller than usual, lying there with various tubes and wires connected to his body. I wanted to collapse into sobs, but there was no way a hysterical girl would go unnoticed, even in scrubs.
I took a deep breath and strode into his room like I belonged there.
I squeezed Zach’s cold hand, and the lack of electricity I felt scared me more than all the medical equipment attached to him.
I closed my eyes and stood for a long moment, holding his hand, hoping that somehow our connection would transcend his unconsciousness.
I knew I didn’t have much longer before some nurse came in to check on Zach, and it was clear I wasn’t going to find any answers or do anything for him here. If I was going to help him, I would have to figure out how to on my own.
The problem was I didn’t know where to start. I needed some guidance. I thought of what Sarah had told me. If I really did have some sort of link to Hekate—the goddess who supposedly led people through the darkness to the truth—now would be the time to take advantage of it.
What if I called on Hekate? Got help from her? After all, my visions and prophetic dreams must serve some purpose. They had arrived unexpectedly up until now, but maybe there was a way I could summon them.
If it would help Zach, I was willing to try anything. I wasn’t sure how, but I was going to contact Hekate.
After ditching the scrubs and slipping out of the hospital, I ran back to the dorm, hauled myself through my window, and flipped on the computer. I did a Google search for “ritual Hekate guidance.” But all the links I found were useless Greek mythology. I wanted to scream I was so frustrated. Closing my eyes to calm down, I concentrated on my breath going in and out like at the end of a yoga class.
If I could just figure out some way to connect with Hekate or Rebekah …
. I reached under the mattress and pulled it out. I concentrated on the first page, squinting as if that might help, but there was no epiphany. I still had no clue as to how to break the code.
On the front cover was the symbol. I laid my hand over the carved leather Hekate’s Wheel and tried my yogic breathing again. I concentrated on the word
, trying to dam up the frustration building inside me, as I let the minutes tick slowly by. After almost half an hour I finally gave up.
“Useless piece of crap,” I muttered, flipping through the pages. I wanted to tear them all out. Rip them to shreds. Take my anger out on something.
I stopped flipping in stunned amazement.
I can read this
A single page was suddenly comprehensible. Just a second before it had been indecipherable code, and now I could read it clearly. The wording was a little old-fashioned, the script curling like calligraphy, but it was English.
Something I had done had finally worked. I wanted to jump
for joy, but I contained myself, quickly reading over what was clearly a ritual. It called for several things I could get pretty easily—a bell, a white candle and a black one, a bowl of salt water, and an egg.
There’s probably one in the dorm fridge
. There was a snag, though; the ritual had to be done in a sacred space that wasn’t within the confines of a building. I had a feeling the party spot in the woods wouldn’t count. When I saw the last item needed for the ritual, my breath caught in my throat. Graveyard dirt.
There’s a perfect place for me to do this
. The place where I had been when I had the prophetic vision of Mr. Carr’s office. The place where I was closest to another “daughter” of Hekate. Rebekah Sampson’s grave.
But first I needed to write down the incantations and a basic outline of what I was supposed to do. I reached across the desk to grab a notebook and pen. When I turned back to the book, I almost cried out. The words were gone. The curling script had become strange unknown letters again.
I flipped through the book several times in a row. This couldn’t be happening.
What if I couldn’t remember the words or they had to be precisely correct?
What if I accidentally called up an evil being, like in some horror movie? I’d just have to hope my memory was reliable. Hastily, I scribbled a few notes down.
I tiptoed quietly into the common room. There was a half carton of eggs in the fridge, already hardboiled. Perfect.
I moved over to the counter to look through the drawers. There had to be a pack of birthday candles somewhere …
But I found a box of Halloween-themed candles, complete with a jack-o’-lantern and a witch riding a broomstick. They were miniature and beyond silly looking, but there was a black bat and a white ghost—the two colors I needed. I took them out of the box and slipped them into my jeans pocket. Salt and a bowl for the water were in the cabinet, but I was stumped about where to get a bell. It wasn’t like there was a concierge desk inside the dorms. I went back to my room to search through my boxes, even though it seemed pretty pointless. Why would I have a bell?
A memory hit me like the pop of an old flashbulb.
During a Mardi Gras–themed school dance back in L.A., Ariel had stolen one of the idiotic court jester hats all the chaperones were wearing. I was pretty sure she’d packed it for me when I moved. I pulled the shoe box labeled
from my closet shelf. There it was, that stupid purple-and-green hat with the little gold bells on it. I ripped one of the bells off and put it in my jeans pocket with the candles, then grabbed my key ring with the mini-compass from the top of my dresser.
I had everything I needed, but I still didn’t want to go to a cemetery all by myself in the middle of the night. I thought of the way Zach had looked in the hospital. It didn’t matter how freaked out I was; I had to do something to help him, and I had to do it now.
I pushed up the window and slipped over the sill, starting out into the dark night.
I made it to Rebekah’s grave without any problem—that is, if you didn’t count jumping with fear at every gust of wind or creak of a tree branch—but I had no idea where to begin. I read over my little page of recollected instructions.
Might as well just jump in
I picked up a twig from the ground and, feeling extremely foolish, used it to draw a large circle around the grave and tree, leaving only a small space for me to walk back through before closing the circle. I picked up my bag of supplies and, consulting my mini-compass, set down the bell at the easternmost part of the circle and the bowl of salt water at the westernmost. Kneeling, I drove the small black bat candle into the earth at the southern spot. At the northern point of my site, I mounded up the graveyard dirt into a small hill. Directly in the center of the circle I placed the white ghost candle. Now I just had to recite an incantation I didn’t really know.
I focused my mind on Zach’s face and tried to push away all of my self-consciousness. The direction chants were the first ones and also the easiest to remember. I started at the east. “This sacred circle is cast by air.” I rang the bell three times then
set it back down. I shivered as the slight breeze began to blow a bit harder.
Moving to the south, I pulled out a box of matches. “This sacred circle is cast by fire.” I lit one of the matches and held it to the wick of the bat candle until it caught.
Picking up the bowl of salt water, I dipped my fingers in it, then dripped water around the perimeter. “This sacred circle is cast by water.”
I placed the bowl next to the ghost candle in the middle of the circle and moved on, only to be caught off guard by a loud crack of thunder in the distance and the distinct smell of forthcoming rain.
Okay, that’s a strange coincidence
. Pulling in a calming breath, I took a handful of the graveyard dirt from the pile and sprinkled it over the line I had drawn earlier.
“This sacred circle is cast by earth. What is within this circle is between the worlds.” The silence that met my ears seemed somehow too quiet, too still. I sat down on the ground, right behind the ghost candle, feeling more than a little nervous. The next part was the part that was the least clear in my memory.
“I have cast this sacred circle for the Goddess Hekate.” As I lit the white candle, I realized I didn’t even need the incantation from the book. A power was bubbling up inside of me. The words flowed from my mouth, not coming from my mind but from someplace much deeper. Buried within me.
“Come, Hekate, with your hound by your side, prowling the earth. Your howling fills my ears until I can hear nothing else.” The wind whipped around me, lifting my heavy curtain of hair as if it were made of feathers.
“Come, Hekate, keeper of visions and prophecies and dreams. Lend me your sight and perception.” A jagged streak of lightning shot across the sky, blindingly bright, but I wasn’t frightened. Something had taken over, something strong and primal.
“Come, Hekate, with your long-dead whispers filling this space between the worlds!” My voice was loud and urgent; it sounded foreign to me. “Queen of spirits, ruler of the dark moon, bring me the answers I seek!”
I plunged my hands into the bowl of salt water. Another crack of thunder and lightning came, fracturing the heavens. Splitting open the clouds and releasing their cascade. As rain poured all around, my space under the tree was untouched—not a thing inside the circle was even damp. If anything, the candles seemed to burn brighter and brighter with every elapsed moment. With every word that passed my lips.
“Come, Hekate! Awaken insight through possession of my vessel!” My hands surged with power, and electricity sizzled across my skin. A force wrapped my body in weight, and I felt my back hit the earth.
The person I now knew to be Rebekah Sampson was standing before me at the foot of her own grave. Her form was pale and wispy, as if made of smoke.
“What is wrong with Zach?” I stood now, too, wanting to exert this newfound feeling of power. To make her answer me. She just stared mutely.
“Who did this to him? Who killed Mr. Carr?” I demanded.
Rebekah reached out and laid a hand on my brow. Images rushed into my mind. I saw a close-up of two hands clasped on either side of Mr. Carr’s head. They were glowing red like someone was shining a light through them. On the middle finger of the right hand was a rectangular gold ring with a striped green stone in the center. As steam rose from the hands, the stone began to crack. The image flashed, and I saw Zach in an office, dropping a file folder in surprise.
Then I was looking at an image of myself standing in the graveyard, but I wasn’t seeing myself as I was now. This was a vision of me from another time. There was fire in my eyes as I held out my left hand and drew a silver dagger across its palm. Blood welled up, and I turned my hand, letting the blood fall to the earth like raindrops.
I watched myself in the vision as I opened my arms wide and threw back my head, yelling into the black night,
“Phasmata repite ex sepulchris vestris, capite virum!”
The ground began to shake, then abruptly stopped. Suddenly, the other me in my vision was gone, and I was standing before Rebekah.
“What does all that mean?” I asked.
Rebekah looked at me silently for a moment, then smiled.
“You will know when the time is right.” She laid a finger to my lips, halting the sputtering words of dissatisfaction. “Hold out your hand.”
I did as she instructed. There was no blood on my palm like there had been in my vision, no cut. Rebekah placed a large,
uneven shard of glass in my hands, but it wasn’t sharp. I peered down into it and saw the reflection of my sister. Not myself as I resembled her, but actually her. Athena. She was happy. I looked down at my chest. There was a large space gone, not bleeding or damaged, just a piece missing from a finished puzzle. A jagged, roughly triangular piece. After taking one more look at Athena, beautiful and at peace, I placed the shard into the space. It matched perfectly, instantly becoming one with my body.
“You are done now.” Rebekah ran a hand down the side of my face, and I opened my eyes. I was lying in the same spot, but the candle in front of me was burned out and the rain had stopped. It felt like I had been there for hours.
Shakily, I sat up, feeling more or less like myself again. I was a little drained, though. Thankfully, all that was left was ending the ritual.
“This egg symbolizes new beginnings. It is both two halves and a whole.” I peeled off the shell and dipped the bare egg into the bowl in front of me.
“I purify this with salt water as I purify my body.” I ate half of the egg. “Tonight will bring about the start of my true self.”
I laid the other half of the egg on top of Rebekah’s gravestone. “I leave this as an offering to Hekate, to thank her for the power and the wisdom she has brought me.”
Not that I can make much sense of that disjointed vision
, I added silently.
“It is time for me to return to do the work that must be done. With these words, let this circle be open, yet unbroken.”
I thanked each element as I gathered up their symbolic
objects. Then I smudged the line in the dirt with my foot before stepping out of the circle. I shivered as a gust of cool air blew past me. The circle had been like a protective bubble, but here I was again, back in the real world. I looked over at the hospital, the lights shining bright out of the second-floor windows, the intensive care unit.
With a sigh, I started my walk back to the dorms. Hopefully what I had done tonight would help. Maybe as I slept, my brain would untangle all the images and come up with some kind of amazing breakthrough. And I did have one new clue already. The cracked ring.
I woke up the next morning foggy and disoriented, partly because I had set my alarm extra early, but also because of a dream I couldn’t quite remember. The half-formed ideas of what last night’s vision had meant followed me as I showered and dressed. I couldn’t get it out of my head even as I entered the hospital and headed toward the ICU wing.