I stared in disbelief at the bodies in the trunk of the Mustang for what must have been twenty or thirty seconds. After taking several deep breaths and calming my nerves, I removed the bodies from the trunk with some difficulty (I may be 5’8″ tall but I’m not exactly Wonder Woman) and I dragged them into the a shaded area not far away. While I didn’t want them in the trunk of my car, I also have respect for the dead. I would eventually contact the police to have them properly identified.
Now I was annoyed. I don’t like to be screwed with and someone was definitely playing silly buggers. Messing with Bluie was already a hanging offense, now they had desecrated two innocents and were stalking me. But silly buggers is a game two can play.
Followed closely by Sheba I began a systematic search of the ruins, going from building to building as quietly as I could. Twice I heard soft footfalls nearby but I was never able to spot anyone following me. It was getting frustrating, to say the least.
By the time I returned to Bluie, night had fallen with a sickening thud and a blue moon had risen over the New Mexico desert. I sat on the car’s hood and munched a celery stick stuffed with peanut butter, favorite of both mine and Sheba’s. I let my senses and my magik wander now that night had fallen. At this time I was still new at the art and rarely practiced, but I knew I had the ability. I stroked Sheba’s back and let my senses do the searching for me. I could feel the wildlife; a few rats, more snakes than I wanted to acknowledge, insects, scorpions and even a wolf that paused and let me feel her power. I would learn later that the wolf is one of my totem animals, but that is another story.
And then I felt them; humans. Seven of them, and not too far away. Three were about a quarter mile distant while four were coming towards me, and from the feel of things they did not have good intentions.
I knew it was too late to cut and run. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen soon.
“Sheba, stay!” I ordered, petting her behind the ears.
Sheba whined softly and looked at me with her soulful brown eyes.
“Honey, you can’t go where I am going. Stay here, I will be right back,” I said.
Sheba whined again but gave a soft woof of agreement. I kissed her nose then slid off the hood and gave the nearby building a good look. There were plenty of cracks and handholds, even for a hiker like me. Grimacing at the damage this would do to my manicure, I climbed the wall and chinned myself onto the ramshackle roof. I wriggled forward as quietly as I could and peered over the edge. Sure enough, four figures carrying what looked like axe handles were coming my way. The moon was bright enough for them to see; they carried no light sources or any other equipment I could see, just the big pieces of hickory.
“I don’t think they are coming to try and scare me this time,” I muttered to myself.
As I watched, the figures split up and stepped into the shadows, trying to hide as they approached my parked Mustang. But in the dark, I play silly buggers better than anyone. I closed my eyes and whispered a short prayer to Gaia followed by an incantation I learned while flying at Embry Riddle. When I opened them again, everything was lit by a faint blue glow and the four figures stood out in the shadows outlined in red. I smiled to myself and watched the nearest of the figures step into the building below me. I turned and waited till he was past me and then I dropped, my full 140 pounds hitting him in the back and knocking us both to the floor. I knew the noise would bring his friends running, so I didn’t waste any time. I simply smashed his head into the concrete until he stopped struggling. As far as I’m concerned, “do no harm” applies strictly to magilk.
Once he was out I regained my feet and slipped back into the shadows. I had just pressed my back into the wall when the first of the others entered, followed closely by the other two. The first knelt by the one I’d knocked unconscious and felt for a pulse while the other two looked for me.
“He’s still alive,” I heard the first one mutter.
“The kid won’t be when I find her,” one of the others said.
I took that as my cue to make my presence known. One of the men was within range of my legs so I stepped out of the shadows and into a back spin kick. The heel of my boot caught him in the throat and crushed his windpipe. I didn’t really care if he was dead or just injured; these guys were out for my blood and my instincts told me they had killed the two hikers I’d found… maybe more.
The second man spun and swung at me with his axe handle. I blocked it with my forearm and bit back a whimper of my own. It was a miracle the heavy wood hadn’t broken my arm but I was going to have a hell of a bruise. When he pulled back like Willy Mays going for a home run, I kicked him squarely in the gentleman vegetables and back fisted him in the face, knocking him down into a world of hurt he wouldn’t soon forget.
I straightened, trying not to favor my right arm and looked for the third. He was easy to spot, he was standing behind me with his belt knife out. He stabbed at my kidneys and I rolled forward to avoid him, colliding again with the first man, who groaned. I elbowed him in the head for good measure and tried to regain my feet, but the first man was on me, his knife at my throat.
“Now, little girl, you’re going to die,” he said in a quiet voice.
“Really?” I grunted. “I didn’t plan on being killed by someone with so much garlic on his breath. Look, if you’re going to kill me, could you take some Mentos first?”
The man didn’t appreciate my humor and he pushed harder on the knife. In spite of my struggles I felt the tip press against my throat and the warm gush of blood. Then I heard a familiar sound. A sound that strikes fear in every UPS man on earth. Sheba’s growl. The man on top of me half turned and that was all the space Sheba needed. A mass of fur and teeth collided with him and sent him flying into the darkness. I heard the man yell and gurgle a few times, and then there was nothing. A moment later Sheba appeared out of the darkness licking her lips. She came over and sat beside me, a sheepish look on her face.
“You missed some,” I said, wiping blood off her jaws with my kerchief. “For once, I am not going to make you sit in the corner for disobeying.”
Sheba chuffed happily and made to lick my face. I dodged and hugged her instead.
“No, I am so not going to let you kiss me with dead guy breath,” I said with more bravado than I felt. ‘Come on, there are still three more out there.”
We left the building and went back to the Mustang. I popped the trunk and pulled open the semi-secret compartment built into the back seat. Nestled inside some cut foam rested my longbow and a dozen arrows. I strung the bow and slung the quiver over my shoulder, careful not to cut myself on the traditional obsidian arrowheads. These guys were playing for keeps, now so was I.
Sheba watched approvingly from a few feet away as I zip-tied the still breathing men together and then the two of us headed out of town towards the remaining three. As we got closer I could see a large fire and make out the sounds of chanting; after only a few phrases I knew what I was up against.
“Satanists,” I said to Sheba. ‘I hate these guys.”
I had a few run ins with Satanic cults before. Stupid people seem to think anyone with a pentagram must be a Satanist. You know what an upside down pentagram is? An upside down fucking pentagram. It didn’t even exist as a symbol until the 1800’s. Satanists really get right up my nose.
I crept closer and peered around the rocks I was using for cover. To my surprise there appeared to be only one of the worshippers still alive. Unfortunately, the other two were being slow roasted over the fire on crosses.
I didn’t have much time to think. The people on the crosses, a man and a woman, were going to die if I didn’t do something. I stood and stepped into the clearing, knocking an arrow as I did so.
“Cut them down!” I ordered.
The man in the robe turned and smiled, not unkindly.
“Ah, child. You are just in time. Baphamet said you would be joining us. Don’t feel too bad about John, he was stupid to confront you like that,” the priest said.
“Are you stupid or deaf?” I snarled. “Cut them down!”
The priest’s face darkened and he replied “I am neither, child of Gaia, and you will not take that tone with your betters!”
I told you I hate these guys.
I shrugged and let fly the arrow. It struck him in the leg and knocked him screaming to the ground. I pointed and yelled “Sheba! Guard!” before turning and running towards the first cross. I leapt over the fire and rammed into the cross. The man groaned and I smiled at him.
“Hang on I’m going to get you out of this,” I said.
I used all of my weight to knock the cross to the ground, away from the heat of the fire. I drew my knife and cut his hands free and together we saved the woman, who it turned out was his wife. They had been out for a drive, gotten lost and ended up here.
I watched them embrace and then walked back over to the priest who sat glaring at Sheba. Her growl was like an alarm. Every time he moved even an inch, it went from a low threatening hum to a loud ‘you are going to die’ grumble. I love my dog.
“Hello again,” I said politely, kneeling next to the priest. ‘We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Skye, and this is Sheba. And this is going to hurt…”
I yanked my arrow out of the priests’ leg and cleaned it on the sand before returning it to the quiver. I let the idiot howl in pain for a minute before casting a healing charm and closing the wound. No, not because I have compassion for people this evil, but because it never pays to leave behind too much evidence. The dead guy was going to be hard enough to explain.
With the help of the man, who turned out to be named Jim, I zip-tied the priest to one of his own crosses and stuffed a piece of rag in his mouth, just in case. The fire would keep animals away until morning and the police would be back long before.
I then escorted Jim and his wife Eleanor back to their car, which was a mint-condition Chevrolet Nomad. I spent about twenty minutes fixing their wiring and then sent them on their way with the promise I would report everything to the police.
I drove Bluie back into town without incident and, as promised, reported what had happened. The sheriff was kind enough to drive back out Hagan, but the whole time I sensed there was some joke I wasn’t getting.
We found no sign of the men I’d left tied up, and only old ashes and two rotten crosses where the priest should have been.
You think that was weird?
That’s when the sheriff told me I was reporting an incident that had already happened… in 1967.
I did some research when I got back home. No one ever knew who had saved Jim and Eleanor MacReedy in the winter of ’67. Only that she was a blonde woman. The priest, who called himself Lord Trenzor, escaped but all of his men were rounded up by the state police and all did time in the local jail for assault and attempted murder.
The weirdest thing? Jim MacReedy was an artist. He did a painting entitled “Valkyrie.” It is a woman holding a bow standing before a fire. And she is the spitting image of me. The date on the painting is May 1967, years before I was born.
As always, I am a purveyor of fiction by trade. Perhaps these are just the ravings of an overactive imagination… or maybe the world is far weirder than most want to believe. I leave that decision up to you.