I all but ran to the occult shop, excited to finally be doing something about my situation. The musky, incense-laden air inside felt charged with power. Sunlight streamed weakly through a filter of two large, tinted storefront windows which lent the interior of the shop a gloomy and vaguely foreboding air.
I stepped inside and hesitated for a moment, at a loss for where to search. My eyes roamed around the tall shelves, which bore thick volumes labeled with arcane gold leaf titles on their ornate leather spines. Some shelves held mason jars containing roots and herbs. On others were racks displaying rows of stoppered tubes containing mysterious looking powdered substances of different hues and textures. After a few moments, I noticed the dark-haired clerk behind the counter sketching on a tablet.
I was glad to see her. The sheer volume of objects crowded on the towering shelves was a little overwhelming. I made my way towards the counter, expecting the clerk to offer some assistance. After a few silent moments, it was obvious that she wasn’t even going to acknowledge my presence.
Up close, the young woman appeared to be college aged. She wasn’t bad looking, if you ignored the lank, greasy black hair, crude skin carvings, and the silver piercings in her eye brows, septum, cheeks and lower lip. She was languidly sketching an elaborate symbol radiating from the center of the paper to the outer edges of the page. I stood there for several moments transfixed by concentric lines which appeared to rotate, when you looked at them.
My eyes were slowly pulled to the vortex in the center if the drawing. I’m not sure if the tugging sensation I felt was real or imagined. It became increasingly difficult to lift my eyes from the picture. The woman’s bored voice brought me back to reality with a jolt. I came to myself leaned over the picture. She had spoken without looking up, at such a low volume that I had no idea what she said.
“Can I help you?”
“Oh yeah, sorry. I’m looking for a Ouija board.”
“Very funny, what do you need?”
“No really, I’m looking for a Ouija board.”
“Does this look like a novelty shop to you? This is a shop for serious…”
The woman looked up at me and the disdainful expression slid from her face as her voice trailed off. I waited for her to say something else, but she just kept staring at me.
“Are you going to finish telling me off or just continue staring at me like I have two heads,” I snapped.
“Huh? Oh sorry, it’s just that I’ve never seen an aura as damaged as yours before. Someone…or something has really been giving you the business. The last thing you need is a Ouija board.”
“What do you mean damaged? I feel fine.”
“Is that right? You mean you haven’t been fatigued? Not been plagued by headaches or night terrors? How about ghosts?”
“How did you know…as a matter of fact, I did see a ghost but that’s because of the poisoned fruit curse.”
“The… what curse?”
“The poisoned fruit curse. You know it’s a vengeance curse where every person I wronged will haunt me because I took something that doesn’t belong to me.”
She rolled her eyes and stood there blinking her eyes at me in an exaggerated way, to show her annoyance. Seeing my confusion made it dawn on her that I was serious. A grin slowly spread across the woman’s somber features. I was still deciding how I felt about that when her amusement bubbled over into chuckles that grew into laughter. I was confused. What the hell was so funny? I had just told her that I was cursed and she literally laughed in my face.
Through gritted teeth I said, “look…hey what’s your name? You’ve got me so irritated that I completely forgot my manners.”
The woman laughed harder and gestured for me to give her a minute. She shook her head, as she struggled to regain her composure. Seeing my stricken expression, choked off the last of her amusement.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have laughed but you were so earnest in describing that bogus curse. I couldn’t help myself. To answer your question, my name is Raven.”
“I’m Patricia. If it’s a bogus curse, then explain why I saw an actual ghost.”
“That’s easy, you have a spirit attachment.”
“I’m guessing some sort of trauma lead to cracks in your aura which allowed a spirit to attach itself to you.”
“But the curse..”
“Sounds like someone was yanking your chain, trying to scare you into giving back whatever you took. You’ve got such a wide-eyed innocence about you, they probably couldn’t resist having a little fun at your expense. When you first came in here looking lost, I had you pegged as white bread.”
“White bred? Why because I’m white?”
“No, white bread…you know, bland like Wonderbread…naive, sheltered…dull as ditchwater.”
“No offense, I’m just telling you what people see when they look at you. If it makes you feel any better, all the holes in your aura and the fact that you actually stole something makes you kind of interesting.”
“Why doesn’t that make me feel better?”
“I’m just saying there’s more to you than meets the eye. So what’s this about wanting a Ouija board?”
“I’m not sure I want to tell you anything else,” I pouted.
“Oh come on, don’t get your panties in a bunch. So the truth stings a little. That’s how you know it’s good for you. Nothing healthy ever feels good.”
I had to laugh at that one. Deep down, I knew that I was really mad at myself and more than a little embarrassed over having yet another stranger point out my gullibility. For the most part, it frightened me. How could I save myself if I couldn’t even see through obvious lies? I took a deep breath and told her about being caught between two witches. She asked me to describe Plum and I launched into a drawn out tale about our friendship. The woman interrupted me.
“You misunderstand. I want you to describe what kind of witch she is.”
I stared blankly at Raven. There’s more than one kind of witch? I was casting about in my mind for some frame of reference when she prompted me.
“I’ve lost you. Let’s start with the obvious. Does she work alone or does she have a coven?”
“Coven.” I said a little too loudly, relieved to finally know the answer to something. However, my pleasure was short-lived as a look of concern clouded Raven’s face.
“Well, a witch backed by a coven is a hell if a lot stronger than a solitary witch. Unless we’re talking a hereditary witch using ancient magic.”
“What does all this have to do with me using a Ouija board?”
“Using one of those in your condition is out of the question. That would be like rowing a leaky boat out to sea. Your auric shield is severely damaged and you already have one spirit attached. Unless you want to become completely possessed, I suggest you come up with a different game plan.”
“You lost me at auric shield.”
“Your aura protects your life energy like a shield. Right now, you have what appears to be a low-level entity feeding off of your life energy.”
“All the more reason why I need that Ouija board. I can’t work magic. If I could communicate with the spirit, then she might agree to help me. She can see things that I can’t see. That knowledge might just save my neck.”
Raven smacked a hand on the counter, glaring at me. The heavy silver and onyx rings on four of her fingers banged against the glass counter. The loud report startled me into silence. She stood up and leaned towards me over the counter until we were practically nose to nose. Her eyes peered unflinchingly into mine.
“I have tried to be tactful. Unfortunately, my words don’t seem to be penetrating your mental fog. Let me say it plainly: You have no business summoning a stray dog, let alone a spirit. The Ouija board is not some sort of paranormal magic eight ball! It wouldn’t do you any good, even if it was. You can’t communicate with the spirit now and it is attached to you! Let’s not forget the fact that you fall for the most ridiculous tales. How is it that you think you’d be able to match wits with an all-knowing, malevolent spirit skilled in the art of deception? Even a low-level spirit would eat you alive!”
“Well, I have to do something. I have two witches breathing down my neck and a spirit leeching off my life energy!”
“There is a safer way to contact your spirit attachment. It’s called astral projection.”