A Call in the Night
Edward told Egann and Ray everything.
Of what had transpired between Zedda and Callie, when Zedda tried to drain her; of his disturbing meeting with Callie; of his entry into Zedda’s room, and the crystal eggs behind the painting; of what he saw in the egg he stole, and later dropped; and finally, of the egg’s present location under Mr. Balooda’s desk in his office.
Egann and Ray looked flabbergasted.
“Holy Gloeis, Ed!” Ray said, “How can this be? Zedda usually knows all and sees all, yet you managed to sneak into two of her rooms and steal that egg right under her nose!”
“It’s the girl.” Egann said, more to himself, than to them. He had the look of someone whose mind was racing, putting things together. “If Edward is right, and Zedda is really initiating this Callie girl into her evil ways; that means, right now, Zedda has all her attention focused on her. Which means she is distracted.”
“A window of opportunity!” Edward chimed.
“For what? What are you proposing?” Ray asked.
“If the egg is what I think it is, we need to retrieve it!” Egann said, looking more animated than Ray had seen him in years, “As well as the other ones in Zedda’s room.”
“Why? What do you think they are?” Ray asked.
“A glimmer of hope.” Egann said, “For the first time in a long time, a glimmer of hope.”
Meanwhile, in the basement, the battle raged on.
Mike’s body was down to the last three chalk circles of containment; while Mike’s pilgrim shadow was down to his last dregs of energy.
The beast’s shadow spirit kept going back to the body with relentless determination to free itself. Perhaps with each circle it eradicated, it got stronger. It certainly felt that way to Mike. The damned thing never seemed to tire.
Mike knew now that he could not keep it from finishing off all the magic circles until morning. He was exhausted, and night had only just fallen. Even disregarding his energy level; there were simply too many hours left to go, and too few circles IT had to get through.
Still, Mike had to try.
He gathered up his remaining strength and hurled himself at his enemy. The beast seemed to know the attack was coming, and was ready for him. It fought back hard, and the two tussled until the last of Mike’s strength was gone.
The beast then took hold of Mike, and chucked him upwards.
Up Mike flew. He passed through the basement ceiling, the first, second, third floor ceilings, and up into the air, a dizzying height above the hotel. When momentum at last dwindled away, he came to a dead stop; and just floated there.
His energy now all depleted, Mike was out of the game.
The beast had won, and would soon be free.
“No.” Callie said.
By now, all those Mr. Blessure had called up to the top floor stood single-file in the long room, like a line to a bank teller’s window, and waited to be summoned.
“No?” Zedda asked.
“I won’t do it.” Callie said.
“Awhile ago you begged me---“
“I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to be like you!”
“Can’t you sense their despair?” Zedda asked, “It’s yours for the taking! Why resist temptation, when it is so much easier to give in?”
Callie was sorely tempted; not by Zedda’s hard-sell, but by her own hunger. She could indeed sense the despair within those waiting in line to be drained, and it was driving her up the wall.
“In this world,” Zedda continued, “You are either predator or prey. Take what is yours, or get in line with the rest of the cattle!”
She’s right, the voice of her hunger spoke, in its sinuous and insistent manner, What will it avail you, or Mike, or Edward, to resist? You’ll just be another one of these kids: powerless and trapped. But, if you can grow in power, perhaps one day you’ll be powerful enough to take Zedda down and free everyone!
She only half bought it, but it was enough.
“Alright then,” Callie said, “Bring them to me.”
Mike looked down on the Sarrgoset Hotel.
From his vantage point, he could see most of Murgent; even though it was dark already. And while Murgent was a dead husk of a town, there was a healthy circle of lawn and garden surrounding the hotel.
In his metaphysical state, Mike saw everything alive below him as if it were lit from the inside by a spectral green light. The hotel itself glowed with the life-light of those living within its walls.
As this light came under his regard, Mike saw swatches of it separate and waft up towards him from the living things below. They came up to him and joined with him, lending him their energy.
Refreshed, Mike wished for more, and more came. He began to understand that he was the one drawing the energy. So he summoned even more, until he felt strong enough to return to the battle.
Thank you, life-light, he thought, and sent that thought down to the living things below.
Something moved in the darkness of Murgent’s streets; a familiar object that made Mike’s heart sing.
Matters are ripening fast, he thought; and willed himself downward, I just hope to hell I’m not too late.
“This won’t hurt a bit.” Callie told her first drainee.
“I know.” The boy, named Alan, replied.
He was, like everyone else there, a veteran of the procedure.
Callie stared into his eyes, and started hypnotic effect Zedda referred to as the “Trancing Eyes”; the first step of the Malignium.
Callie felt Alan fall into the trance, and commenced the mind link. Before her, Alan’s memories unspooled like a ribbon; the parts of it rich in pain and suffering glowed with power, and were thus easy to find.
Euphoria washed over her, and Callie gave herself up to the pleasure. When she came at last to the end of Alan’s despair, she could not resist the urge to drain him dry of everything.
“That’s enough.” she heard Zedda say, as she gripped Callie’s arm painfully; forcing her to break the link. “If you drain him completely, you’ll kill him.”
“I thought no one can die here.” Callie said.
“He wouldn’t stay dead, of course; but he’d come back a vegetable.”
“Give me another one, then.” Callie said, tossing Alan aside like a used up wad of gum, “I want MORE!”
Mr. Blessure removed the vacant-eyed Alan, and motioned Alixa, the next in line, to go to Callie. Alixa wasn’t quick enough for Callie, and was pulled forward, like a dog on a leash.
As Callie started in on Alixa, Mr. Blessure walked over to Zedda.
“You were right,” he said, “She IS a natural.”
“And she’s mine now.” Zedda said.
“You think they’re what?” Ray asked.
“Spells.” Egann answered, “I think, encased inside those eggs, or perhaps the eggs themselves, are the spells Zedda used to enslave us all. We need to get the one in Balooda’s office and the ones in Zedda’s room.”
“And do what?!”
“Break them, of course.” Egann said, “Break the eggs and we break the spells.”
“What if you’re wrong?” Ray asked.
“Then it’s back to square one.” Egann said, “We’ll suffer for the attempt, and horribly; but at least we’ll suffer for having tried something. If we don’t try, the lost opportunity will haunt us forever.”
“Even if you’re right about the eggs,” Edward said, “Breaking the spells may not be a good idea.”
“I’m sorry about Mike, Edward,” Egann said, “But if we don’t break those eggs, nothing will ever change. Zedda and the Morrtogs will continue to torment us for years and years, and I cannot allow that to go on, knowing there might be a way to stop it. You don’t know, Edward; you don’t know what it’s like…living without hope. We would rather die than go on like this. Do you understand me?”
“I understand.” Edward said.
“I suppose we’ll have to do this by ourselves.” Ray said.
“Yes. Just us three,” Egann said, “The less people know about it, the better.”
“Where do we start?” Edward asked.
Egann was about to answer, when something unexpected happened: the doorbell rang.
Callie was still draining Alixa, and was too deep into her memories to notice the doorbell.
Zedda and Mr. Blessure, however, were taken aback.
“That’s odd,” Mr. Blessure said, “Two arrivals in one day.”
“What’s odder is that I foresaw the one, but not the other.” Zedda said, “Either the Majisrunes failed me, or I missed something.”
“Do you wish me to check on it?”
“No, Mr. Balooda can take care of that. Whoever it is will get brought up here, and then we’ll see what’s what. I want you here in case our peeping tom tries to sneak another peek.”
“As you wish.” Mr. Blessure said.
The two looked over at Callie.
She was now finished with Alixa, and tossed her to the side.
“More!” she said.
“Now’s our chance!” Egann said, “I have to get the door, but Balooda will have to come to see who it is.”
“When he does, we zip into his office and get the egg!” Edward said.
“Yes, but you’ll have to be fast.” Egann said, “I don’t know if Balooda will want to escort our mystery guest up to Zedda himself, or not.”
The three hurried out of the laundry room.
Egann headed for the foyer; Edward and Ray lagged behind and hid in a dark alcove, to keep an eye out for Balooda.
Egann approached and entered the entrance hall.
He walked to the front door just as he had done hours ago, when Mike, Callie, and Edward had entered the hotel.
He opened the door.
A teen-age boy stood there. He had come in a green station wagon, and had parked it next to the white MACATTO INSURANCE car.
“Hello,” he said, “My name is Jon.”