Osiris watched with mild fascination as clouds loitered in the sky. The window view helped in brightening her house. Her house. It was like an alien phrase now to Osiris, since Ruth had taken residence in that mould-chewed attic. Bloody nightmare. Both eyebrows slumped as she recognised her crabbiness.
“Nicotine withdrawal.” She said to the lilac dust that greedily took up table space. Osiris considered over a sip of tea, that Ruth’s patience, even with all that grit and stubbornness, was built on sand rather than stone. She’d never get along with the process of consulting lilac. The girl’s mind is important though...he said so-
Osiris cut her silent thought off.
“Have I gone wrong?” Osiris asked the lilac dust. This time a response came. Not with sound, instead the small rickety table shook as the dust formed words in an untraceable language. Despite it not even being twelve in the afternoon, the room darkened slightly, walls pressing in gently. Osiris looked at the response. Filtered past her strained and scrambled brain it read clearly.
“Quite so.” Osiris soothed the mild panic in her heart by scratching a thin wrist. All of a sudden she felt fifteen again, abashed at a grave mistake. Then tea was drank too quickly. It burned the roof of her mouth.
“I’ve pushed the boat out too far, she’s running blind with that book.” After more shaking, faster than last time, the table said:
Osiris gave a reassuring nod, all the while studying her reflection in the window. Shadows hit her hair when Osiris drew forgotten curtains shut. Sat among books and powder, two of her eyes were shut to the world. Let it happen. Osiris thought. The house got quieter and colder.
Hours swept by.
Ruth pushed some broken glass across the stone floor after she walked another lap of the fallen church, rifle slung across an aching back. Her boots weighed heavy, worn so long that inside the feet wrapped in socks were lifeless and grey. Giving the skeletons and charred flesh outside a run for their money. Dying leaves covered a good chunk of floor space.
Night was tuning itself into the sky’s wavelength, while the moon glistened an ugly yellow shade. Full and bare among the stars.
She was irritated that the butterfly diary had provided her no insight, whatever she needed to know, Ruth felt, was staring her in the face plain as day. With a final comforting kick at the glass, she moved back to the diary. Some of the roof was caved in so rain had started moving in on the pages, raising a protective arm Ruth salvaged it. Her hair became twisted in thin clumps. "Some things never change."
Only the part her and Osiris had read was in the book, albeit with some later pages having been ripped out. Faint markings of sketches bled past the tattered scraps. Not worth mentioning to me then? Ruth pondered. After all, Osiris had read the book before letting Ruth know about it. Who’s to say she didn’t rip those pages out? Why would she? But this was all a rush to judgement…maybe. Looking at the front cover of the book, she saw more clearly under the paint. The paint itself was a mismatch of layered thickness.
The notebook was black underneath it all, how Ruth hadn’t realised that was a big question mark in her brain. Maybe worth giving some thought. Ruth nervously ran a hand through her hair, unsure why she did so. Phrases from the pages jumped out to her on rereads.
"B – A – P – T – I – S – M… Things are breaking up past the ground." In that case the book must have been written recently. At the very most about a year ago. Ruth looked at the church floor, legs like stale jelly.
“Things breaking past the ground is both old news and fucking mental. Weird must be the new normal?"
No one answered, nothing answered.
But yellow flowers, what was it about yellow flowers? She traced a thumb along the damp words, trying not to smudge the ink. As a precaution Ruth wiped her hand dry on a jean leg.
"Spiky hair is trying to make me hold yellow flowers. I think I am going to listen and look at the grave one more time."
What was the significance of yellow flowers? Ruth had never seen the topic anywhere. When she and Osiris had first met, after a heated night of introductions, Osiris had been gracious enough to let her read some of the sorcery books. Not all of course. There were a hundred at minimum.
“Never enough time in the day for that.” Osiris had said. Ruth smirked when remembering her past self’s comeback. “Or night for that matter.”
That night had snuck its way to the grasp of morning light, Osiris patient enough to read with her before letting Ruth go it alone after falling asleep in an armchair. In those occult books sat information Ruth had been forced to translate with a letter guide. Ruth had, to her self-imposed horror, learnt the core pillars of some magickal ceremonies. Masons, Skull and Bones, and The Golden Dawn with their loosely termed battle of Blythe Road. In all their differing yet similar rituals there was no mention of what the child's diary described.
But a vision smacked Ruth’s imagination in that moment. Fire. The leaves.
She gathered them all up into a pile between the pew benches, knowing in her heart that what was forming in her mind’s eye would take a while.
“Comes with the territory, rituals take time.” Ruth said to the diary, like there was any chance someone beyond the book could see her.
Fucking hell I AM going mad.
Ruth hoped Osiris didn’t come looking for her, solitude and focus was crucial.
Osiris opened her eyes, unsurprised that guilt still sat with her.
Not that she'd ever tell anyone, but Osiris had known about the underspirits for years. Predicted in pulpy magazines and their digital cousins, her mentor had called it modern astrology. She remembered his words from only eighteen months ago, and the smell of burnt spiked hair that always shadowed him.
“When we had candles instead of lightbulbs and ink rather than keyboards, we could only read the cosmic writing on the wall by looking in old libraries. Now we just need to look around us. Soul-trapped rats bleed their spirits dry. All we have to do is point them to the open doors. Bring them the divine from earth’s core.”
“Yes Baron.” She’d said meekly. He’d had a way with words, a snake with gilded fangs. The Baron had then given her the book of children's writing.
“A girl will cross your path soon. Older than our pet in those pages. She’ll have no memory of herself. Too much interference with her...aura. That book you’re holding.” He had prodded at the black book. “Was hers until very recently. Her astral abilities are linked to it somehow. She’s very likely another string to our bow, if we join her with the rest…”
He’d started to leave, but Osiris remembered pulling him back. “What’s the new girl’s name?”
“It was Mara Gemme, but when she lands on your doorstep, drooling and babbling, you’re free to christen her however you wish…”
Then he had left, tailcoat midnight blue in the shadows, his hands leaving a paint set behind.
Osiris shuddered, both then in the moment, and at the memory of it.
“Should I tell her?”
Lilac dust stirred, and Osiris looked to the table for its response.
Ruth finished structuring her giant hexagon of leaves, after some heavy lifting of benches and getting her hands dirty. She looked at the book, double checked it was on the right page, and waited.
Silence faded away to loud noises in the sky, and Ruth let the incantations lodged in her memory from that night of study seep out into the chilled air. Her arms crossed in the style of Pharaohs.
Lightning struck the leaves. Flames grew to a roaring fire, the heat surrounded Ruth. Her forehead drifted to a light and buzzed feeling, and she imagined a graveyard of yellow flowers. For the first time since the world ended, there was life behind the church walls. The town's ground shook.
Ruth’s eyes saw a million miles into the book, and her determination strengthened. She knew what to do.