fleeing for bodily autonomy

We left the summit this morning.

On the one hand, devastated to leave Bass. On the other, SO relieved to be out of there.

See, the cat’s officially out of the bag on the Dog Saint front, right? People are for sure looking at the Hawthornes different, I can just feel it. And after that conversation with Sylvia, I don’t think they’re the only ones.

I straight up just asked Celeste why everyone was treating me so weird last night, and not even Celeste would give me a straight answer.

All she said was, “Listen, many witches are some level of psychic or sensitive, and you…” she trailed off. “I mean, we all experience it differently. But when I look at your stars I just see… I don’t know how to explain it. It’s blurry. I’ve never seen it before. But there’s something off about you.”

There’s just something off about me. Great.

“So I have bad vibes,” I said.

“I didn’t say bad,” Celeste replied. “But unnatural.” She sighed heavily. “Listen, I know that resurrection is like… the number one use of witchcraft in fun witchy stories. But there’s a reason in those spooky stories that people who come back from the dead come back wrong.”

She must have seen on my face that I thought she was telling me that I came back wrong, because she quickly corrected herself. “I’m not suggesting you came back wrong Shiloh, sorry, no, that’s not what I meant.” She laughed. “What I’m saying is that witches have tried to bring people back, and it always, always goes wrong. Animated flesh, crammed full of the incomplete energy left behind after the person’s death.”

And when I still didn’t quite understand, she said, “You’ve been clearing ghosts. You know what they’re like. Ghosts are like the cobwebs left over when the spider is dead. You couldn’t just cram the cobwebs back into the spider, give it a pulse and expect it to be a spider again. Do you understand?”

I nodded.

“That’s the level of resurrection we’ve been successful at. Reanimation, at best. And then there’s you. You’re perfect, true resurrection. It’s impossible. But there’s also… some shimmer of wherever you went left on you.” She hesitated. “If… if ever you wanted to try and understand what happened to you, I hope you’ll let me know. Because the witches here would be honored to try and figure it out.”

She said it super casually. Not a single bell rang in my dumb little head. I mean, I definitely was like, yeah, no, I’m good. Not even tempted. Not remotely.

But then later, I made a passing joke about resurrection to Bass. Celeste said lots of witches experienced my weird vibes and I was just like suddenly feeling super self conscious that maybe Bass felt them. I don’t even remember what I said, something super awkward and obviously self conscious that was super transparent and cringe.

He’s an absolute angel though. All he said was, “Hey, I’m not psychic at all, all I see is your cool ass eye.” The boy’s a keeper, folks. And then he said, “And don’t worry I voted for the witches to leave you the fuck alone, so.”

To which I said, “wait, what?”

And he said, “wait, what?”

And Neal growled, from across the greenhouse where I didn’t know he could even hear us, “wait, what?”

“Sooo… that wasn’t a thing you knew we were discussing, huh?” Bass said.

“What exactly were you voting on?” Neal demanded.

“Okay, it’s really not as bad as it sounds,” Bass said, but Neal’s had sort of a trying week with witches, and he was big time looking for an excuse to go off the handle. “I promise it’s really not as bad —” But then he saw Neal’s face and sorta backtracked. “I mean, it wasn’t great. But we all voted not to… do anything.”

“Do anything, like what?” I asked, and I’m not gonna lie folks, I was feeling some of that cold, cold, panic feeling.

Bass clearly felt awful. “… well, it was sort of suggested that — and I don’t think anyone REALLY thought we should do this, but like… I mean, there’s a lot of rumors about what happened to you, and it was suggested that maybe we should do some investigation. Since you’re here.”

I sat there blinking at him.

“I mean, they were gonna,” I cleared my throat, “they were gonna ask me first, though, right?”

Bass made a 😬 face and I was about ready to start packing my bags.

“No, don’t freak it, the vast majority of us voted no,” Bass said. “They only talked about it at all as a formality, we didn’t actually intend to —”

“Who voted to study her against her will?” Neal demanded.

“It wasn’t so much that we were gonna study her against her will as —”

“You were gonna gently suggest she allow you to study her, and if she said no, you were gonna do it anyway,” Neal said.

“Okay,” Bass said. “This is getting away from me, I super voted against doing this —”

“Who voted for it?”

Bass gave up and gave in. “The Masons were for it. And a couple of the Titubas.”

“Celeste?”

“Wholesale against,” Bass said. “Thought she was gonna fight Virginia Mason at one point.”

Neal deflated slightly, but I hadn’t told him about how Celeste said literally just hours earlier that she’d help me understand what happened to me.

“We have to get out of here,” Neal said. “This is insane.”

When Beverly’s number appeared on caller ID this morning, we were all relieved.

“Tell me you have a case,” Neal said.

“Not a new one,” she said. “I was hoping you’d have an update for me, not the other way around.”

“What are you talking about?” Julian said.

“The Pernidia case,” Beverly said, as if we should know what that meant.

“What about it?” Neal asked.

“It’s going to trial? Like, right now? Are you not there?”

We didn’t even have time to wait until the summit recessed. We left a note and were on the road within the hour. Which, in retrospect, sort of looks like we were making a run for it. Maybe we were. But like, when am I not making a run for it to save my bodily autonomy?

The Hawthornes explained the Pernidia case to me once we were on the highway.

“Xander Pernidia is a sorcerer,” Julian explained as we drove. “He’s one of the last cases we worked with Nolan.”

Okay, so it was going to be one of those cases where everyone is super edgy and uncomfortable the whole time. Excellent.

“You remember where sorcerers get their magic?” Neal said, catching my eye in the rear view to grin.

Remember when I convinced them to teach me all about the job? That was dumb. I could have just kept riding princess in the back seat, and instead I’m getting pop quizzed on magic at random intervals. Like, do any of you remember how sorcery works?

Well it took me a second, but I remembered in the end.

Sorcery is the one that uses the energy we would generally describe as ghosts, to enact your will on the world around you. Harnessing the power of hauntings. It’s sick as hell.

“Yeah,” Neal said, “Sorcery’s cool, until you remember that a lot of the energy that’s strong enough to linger in a place is bad energy.”

When I asked for more explanation, Julian explained, “joy and happiness leaves its mark on places, and sorcerers can manipulate that energy, too. But…”

He trailed off, and I didn’t need him to explain further.

It’s not that I think happiness and joy are less potent than trauma hahahaha. It’s just that in my experience, happiness is culmination of many, mundane things, punctuated by greater happy moments — first kisses, fun parties, accomplished goals — and trauma is like, oh I don’t know, say, a bullet going through your eye and out the back of your head and your instant death. Like imagine being haunted by the long, happy life of your house’s previous occupant. You’re unlikely to open your cupboards and find 10 wolf spiders hanging out in there.

“Well, Pernidia wasn’t satisfied with the amount of power he was able to get on just an average day. He didn’t like that he had to call in energy, or that sometimes, there just wasn’t strong enough haunts around for him to be able to conjure much. So he started —” Julian broke off again, and Neal finished for him.

“He started creating hauntings.”

Neither of them explained further, but they didn’t need to. I know what it takes to create a haunting well enough now.

“How are they keeping him in jail?” I asked.

“If you keep an area cleansed, there’s nothing to for him to use,” Julian said. “A local psychic has been on his case for the last year, making sure there was nothing for him to work with.”

“So why are we going?” I asked, because if I’m honest, I sorta wanted to stay hanging out with the witches. They’re so cool my dudes, they’re so cool.

“He might get off,” Neal replied, and his lack of elaboration made me ✨nervous✨

“And if he gets off?” I asked.

Julian was a little sheepish. “We don’t know yet.”

“We might have to kill him,” Neal said and Julian gave him a look. Neal only shrugged, leaning his elbow against the car window, and picking at his lip, which is a thing he only does when he’s worried. “I promised not to lie to her,” he said.

“I thought we were against capitol punishment,” I said.

“We are,” Julian assured me, but I haven’t forgotten the goat man, and from Julian’s awkward “Or at least, we try very hard to be. But for Pernidia I might make an exception.”

Neal gripped the steering wheel very hard.

Anyways, we’re on our way to see the trial, and, with any luck, the sentencing.

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