Janet waited for the fear that always seized her in the darkness. She was surprised when it never came. Her sense of calmness prevailed. She next noticed that sound was somehow more distinct in the darkness. Janet listened in a detached way to Marko’s ragged breathing. To her right, Andrea swore as she grappled with the shadow panther. Having already been pounced upon, Janet knew that her sister would be fine. Janet desperately wanted to help Marko. How can I stop something which has burrowed into his lungs?
Janet knew the best thing she could do for him was to find a way to make the amulet work. So much was happening all at once, her senses were on overload. She had to tear her attention away from the menacing sounds closing in around her. Janet could hear monstrous things coming for them in the darkness.
It was hard to suppress the urge to retreat. Janet closed her eyes, in order to stop herself from focusing on the indistinct figures inching towards her. She forced herself block it all out by covering her ears and focusing on steadying and slowing her breathing.
Freed by the eventual stillness of her mind, she became aware of a presence at the edge of her consciousness. Turning her attention to it, Janet was surprised to sense that it was the amulet. She looked down and saw through her shirt that it had begun to glow. That sight sparked the recollection of her last session with Jagathy.
Janet allowed memory to be her guide, moving the chain up around her head and allowing the amulet to drape over the middle of her forehead. She breathed deeply and nudged her third eye open. Janet held a single image at the forefront of her mind, focusing all of her intention on that image. The amulet began to pulse in time with her heartbeat, gradually growing brighter until the entire room was bathed in a blinding violet light.
The cacophony of stunned and outraged outcries was deafening. Then as quickly as it came, it ceased and the room fell silent. Janet’s ears were still ringing when she opened her eyes and saw that the three of them were alone again. Andrea sat up holding the left side of her neck. Marko lay prone on the floor semi-conscious and slowly turning blue. They could hear him struggling to take shallow, raspy breaths.
Janet and Andrea rushed to his side. Andrea was about to perform CPR when Janet stopped her. She knelt beside him, took off the glowing amulet and lay it on his chest. She closed her hands over it and pushed the light inside of him. Andrea saw her sister’s lips moving but couldn’t make out what she was saying. The mysterious smoke came snaking out of Marko’s nostrils and dissipated. Janet sat back on her heels, watching him anxiously. When the last of it was dispelled, Marko gasped and began coughing. The sisters heaved a sigh of relief as his color gradually returned to normal.
“I don’t even want to know how you did it. I’m just glad he’s okay,” Andrea murmured.
“Good,because I’m not sure I could even find the words to explain how I did it. Let’s get out of here while we have the chance. I don’t think I could do that again tonight.”
The sisters stood and helped Marko struggle to his feet. He waved away their offers of further assistance. The trio slowly made their way outside. After their ordeal, it was strange to see the world outside the front door had remained unchanged. The group remained silent as they made their way down the sidewalk, in unspoken agreement to do so. Each of them were lost in their own bewildered thoughts.
Andrea ventured to speak, once they had put some distance between them and the oppressive shadow of the house, “As much as I hate to admit being wrong, I have to say that shadow panther really does latch onto you. I thought you were just being a drama queen Janet. Who would have thought a shadow could do something like that? I could feel it sucking something out of me. Funny thing though, I don’t feel tired. I actually feel sort of…peaceful.”
“That’s because it drained off your anger.”
“What do you mean? Are you saying I’ll never get angry again?”
“No, it’s not permanent. The shadow panther just sort of siphons off your strongest negative emotion at the time of attack.”
“So how long will it take for my anger to return?”
“It’s hard to say. Could be a few hours or even a few days.”
Janet exclaimed, “So that explains why I wasn’t afraid when that thing lunged at Andrea and all those…those spirits were closing in on us! I don’t care if my fear never returns. It’s nice to be able to think without being distracted by my fears.”
They made it back to the car and climbed into the seats they had previously occupied. A few moments passed with them gazing through the windows at the first light of the coming day. They felt safer as the darkness lifted. The streets were empty, with the exception of the occasional passing vehicle. Andrea eventually stirred and looked in the rearview mirror at Marko sitting in the backseat.
“Where to boss?”
“I think our next move should be a team decision. We could keep going or we could hole up somewhere and get some sleep.”
The trio turned, looked from one to the other and said,”rest” in unison. They couldn’t help laughing at the earnestness with which they all said it. The laughter felt good, helping to release the last of their tension.
Marko smiled, “That’s settled, now all we have to do is figure out where to go.”
They fell silent once more, getting their bearings and trying to come up with a good place to hide for a few hours. Inspiration eluded them. Andrea shrugged and started the car. Getting fuel was first on the agenda anyway. She suggested that they scope out places on the way to the nearest gas station.
Twenty minutes later, Andrea pulled into a station and they filed in, seeking to relieve their bladders and load up on snacks. Marko filled the gas tank and rejoined the sisters inside the car. Andrea started the engine and pulled them into a parking space on the lot. They tore ravenously into their food, bouncing ideas off of one another in between mouthfuls. Janet’s eyes suddenly lit up.
“I know, why don’t we find a Catholic school? It’s Friday, so no one will be there for a couple of days.”
“Why crash at a Catholic school?”
“Remember what Jagathy said about consecrated ground?”