Ava placed my father’s necklace over my head. The moment the cross hit my chest my mind was sucked into a strange place. I say mind because I know for a fact my body was still back at the barn. My skin could feel the cold of the night, the sweat of my physical body. I wasn’t physically moving, yet here I was, making my way through a dark corridor. I looked down at my body, in this reality, I was a glowing blue skeleton.
“Ella,” Ava’s voice was in my ear, “Can you hear me?”
“Yes,” I could only assume she was talking to my unconscious body. “Can you hear me?”
“Sort of,” she said. “You sound like- like a toy.”
“I sound like I’m talking to you from inside the necklace?”
“Yes, exactly!” Ava’s disembodied voice sounded so sweet and child-like, as if I was being followed around by a fairy. “Your father, he was someone special, powerful. He knew things, he could see things. Upon his death, he passed along his life force into this cross so that the truth could be found.”
I suddenly saw a ghostly vision of my father and Ava playing before my eyes like a movie.
A younger, teenage, Ava darted into the prison cell. “I found it, Alberto, I told you I would.” She put on a smile but her body was trembling. From under her dress, she revealed my father’s prayer cross tied to her thigh.
“You’re a clever girl, Ava,” he said in a weak whisper. “Quickly, place the talisman to my lips.”
Ava removed the rosary and placed the cross in his mouth.
I watched as he bit down, on his own tongue, his blood transforming into a stream of white light. “This necklace must make it into the hands of one of my children.”
“How will I find them? Where will I go when I leave here?”
“Bless me with a kiss and all will be revealed.”
Ava kissed my father on the lips as tears filled her eyes. “I’ll miss you so much. You were like a father I never had.” Her eyes glowed white for a moment as if siphoning his powers.
“I have faith in you, Ava. Do you remember all that I have taught you of Christianity?”
“You will take that knowledge and faith, combine it with your own skills.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You must seek out a powerful man to take as your ally. When you find such a man all of the pieces will fall in to place. But now you must flee. My body will soon die, signaling the guards to come for my remains.”
When the cross fell from his lifeless lips Ava quickly pocketed it and fled the room.
I blinked my eyes as the scene flickered away like a dying candle flame, to reveal a large metal door. Since I was outside of my body I knew I could simply walk through. But I was not emotionally prepared for what I would find.
“Oh, Dear God.” I entered a room filled with bodies, thousands of men and boys on what appeared to be ventilators. As I got closer I could see they weren’t ventilators and they weren’t bodies: they were souls like myself.
“What do you see?” Ava’s disembodied voice asked.
“Bodies made of energy,” I said out loud. I approached a man, his eyes closed, chest barely moving. “Their veins are metallic blue.”
I walked further, passing room after room until I feel a strange pulling sensation. I entered the room, to the sight of my father’s body, his veins glowing the same color of metallic blue.“My dad- my dad’s alive!” I ran straight to him, but as I reached out to him my hand passed through his shoulder.
My father’s voice echoed in my head. “Do you know where you are, my daughter?”
I shrugged. “A storage facility, for men born of magic?”
My father smiled his sweet, kind smile. “You are wise, dear Ella, you always have been.”
“Are you a sorcerer?”
“Your grandmother sealed away my powers to give me a chance at a normal life. I would not be sent away like a normal child or have to go on the run like Juan-Miguel. But my true purpose was to bring about a revolution. In my soul, I had always known that. It was why I struggled so hard to be a good husband and father.”
There was a sadness in his voice that broke my heart. “What will become of Mother, Tasha, and Annabelle?”
“You were the only one I ever truly loved. From the day you were born, I knew you were the only one I could trust.”
“But mother wept for you. After we buried your remains, she locked herself in her room for days.”
“Your mother, she healed my body only to defile it.”
I had never thought of it that way. I always assumed my parents’ relationship was one of mutual love. “Then why get married, if you were only her property?”
I passed my fingers through his chest. I could feel the soft rhythm of his heartbeat.
“It was always about you. The spell for creating the chosen one; the warrior princess worthy of being my vessel, required a wedding, a ceremonial joining of two hearts in eternal love.”
“We are becoming one. My dear Ella, we are now connected. Lead the hero and the guardian, to this place. When we are reunited, our powers will be enough to awaken all of these men. Together we will lead a revolution. You do trust me, child?”
“Then, for now, you must return.” My father reached up and touched my cheek.
I opened my eyes. I was back at the barn. “Phoenix, Arizona,” I said out loud.
“What?” asked Ava.
The words had escaped my lips involuntarily. “I think that’s the location of our army.”
The word ‘army’ appeared to grab Juan’s attention. “How do we get there? How will we know what to look for?”
I had no idea how to make it to Arizona. I had never been further west than Texas.
“What?” Ava asked. She placed her hand on the area, right below my breasts.
I looked down at my chest to see a glowing blue line. It was like a string of light attached to my body. “What is that?”
“A map!” Ava’s voice trailed off as she bit her bottom lip. “I feel it! Alberto gave you a map! I’ll prepare the supplies for our trip.”
I looked around. She had a few cans of food, enough to last us a week if we rationed. But the night was freezing cold. We needed a means of travel. And Juan, with his newly healed body, still had no clothing.
“Blessed Goddess, Mother Earth,” Ava’s eyes were closed as she knelt down. “I invoke the law of equivalent exchange.” She lifted a handful of dirt, and right before my eyes the dirt transformed into a bolt of cloth. Ava pulled foot after foot of the light brown fabric until she had enough to form a large blanket. “I thank you.”
I wondered how that was equivalent exchange when Ava was simply asking the earth to give her material. But then I remembered the scene with my father. She somehow was drawing power from both Wiccan energy and Christianity.
She motioned for Juan to kneel before her. Ava picked up a handful of dirt and sprinkled it over his forehead. “My lord, my love. I bless you with garments worthy of your power.” The dirt sparkled like glitter, transforming into what appeared to be armor made of black leather.
I chuckled softly. “You look like my driver.”
“And he shall be.” Ava reached for my scissors and began to cut off chunks of her long hair until she had amassed a handful. She tossed the hair into the air and as it fell it started to morph into a creature; four dark legs, a massive torso and finally a head. She had made a horse. “Juan, be a dear and finished off the creature while Ella and I get dressed.”
I picked up my clothing and started to get dressed. My wraps destroyed, I wore only my dress and shawl, which left me uncomfortably cold. Suddenly I felt a rush of heat.
The black horse neighed as a pair of glowing red stripes formed on its sides. Juan wrapped himself in the blanket and mounted the horse. As he did the animal grew massive wings of fire. “Your chariot, ladies,” Juan said with a grand hand gesture.
I fell backward in shock. “Ok, I guess I can ride behind Ava and carry the supplies.”
“No, you have to ride in front,” Ava said as she secured the basket of supplies to the animal using pieces of my town wraps. “You have the map.”
I gritted my teeth. “I have to drive the fire-horse?”
Ava climbed on the back of the animal stroking its shimmery body. “It’s our fire-horse.”
Juan scooted back slightly, as Ava put her arms around his waist. “Take a seat on my lap.” He reached a hand out for me. “Don’t be afraid.”
“Who said I was afraid?” I took his hand and nearly screamed as he pulled me on to his lap in one fluid motion.
“Lean forward, dear,” Juan said, placing one hand on my head. The horse flapped its wings and burst through the ceiling of the barn.
I clenched my eyes closed as we shot straight up. When I opened them, we appeared to be in the clouds or traveling through a thick fog. “How do I steer?”
“Look at the map!” Ava shouted over the roar of the wind.
“I can see the map, but I want to know where to place my hands!” The horse’s mane was made of fire; there was no logical way to grab hold of it.
I felt Juan grip my hands. “Trust in my power.”
“I trust you.” I could feel the warm energy emanating from my arms. I kept my focus on the glowing blue line, guiding me to Arizona, to my father. I wondered how fast we were going since all I could see was a blue line cutting through a sheet of clouds. I forced myself to stay focused on the line. That was all that mattered. After some amount of time, I could feel the horse descending.
“Stay calm, you are very tired,” Juan said, putting his arms around me.
I laid my head on his chest. The lower we drifted the more exhausted I felt. “Where are we?”
“We just crossed the border into Laredo, Texas,” Ava replied. “We need to find a place to sleep during the day so we can start again under the cover of night.”
As soon as the horse landed, it disappeared into a cloud of black dust. Juan was carrying me. “Are you ok to stand?”
“Of course,” I said. But as he put me down my legs felt like jelly. “How long were we up there?” I received no answer. I watched as Ava used her powers to grow a shelter out of tree roots. It looked like a small wooden cave.
“Put her down over here,” Ava said to Juan.
Juan laid me down under the shadow of the shelter. He dug a small hole in the dirt and used his magic to create a small glowing stone. “Keep the fire small, just enough to stay warm. I’m going to scout around the area for food and supplies.”
I nodded. “Thank you, Juan.”
Ava put our supplies in a corner and then put a blanket over both our bodies. She took my hand, placing it over her stomach, which had gotten noticeably larger. “I’m using my powers to grow the baby. If anything happens, if you have to make a choice between saving me or my baby I want you to save my child.”
“Ok, whatever…” I didn’t want to think about such an outcome. “Sorry, I’m just really tired.”
I awoke a few hours later to the light of the moon. Juan was sitting by the fire wearing a dress-shirt and dark colored pants. “Where’d you get the clothes?”
“I made them, along with the pot.” He reached into the fire to pull out a small pot. “Are you hungry?”
“Yes, thank you.” I sat up, moving the blanket completely over Ava’s body. “What did you make?”
“A porridge of wheat and corn, it’s not much but it will keep our strength up.” he poured some of the porridge into a wooden cup.
“Ava said she’s trying to grow the baby with magic.”
Juan glanced over at Ava’s sleeping body. “That worries me. I fear Ava will not survive the birth of a baby born of magic.”
“Why is that? Ava seems perfectly strong.”
“So was my first wife.”
That didn’t add up. “When your wife died, what were you doing?”
“What role did you play?”
“I stayed by her side.”
“You’re a sorcerer, if you had lent your powers to her she might have survived.”
“I don’t understand what you are suggesting.”
“All three of us have power, if we channel our power into the baby it can be born safely.” I hoped that my voice didn’t reveal my true fears. I had enough to worry about without having to consider the possibility of cutting the baby out of Ava dead body.
Juan was still looking at me with a disbelieving gaze. “Wake Ava, If she agrees with your theory I will oblige.”
“Ok, I will.” I nudged Ava’s shoulder.
She opened her eyes. “What?”
“I have an idea, I want to induce labor using magic. All of us will combine out powers and bring your son safely into the world. Do you trust me?”
Ava looked at Juan who looked away. “Papi?”
“If this is what you choose I will remain by your side.”
“Ok,” Ava said as she sat up. “Let’s get this baby out of me.” She unceremoniously took off her canvas dress revealing her swollen breasts. They had grown substantially since the previous night. “I can feel my baby. He wants to meet his daddy.”
Juan came over, he removed his shirt, rolling it into a pillow that he placed under Ava’s head. “Are you comfortable, my love?”
“Very much so.”
He kissed her stomach, down her hips to her legs.
Ava ran her fingers through Juan’s hair.
It was the sexiest thing I had ever seen. Now I had to do my part.
I cuddled close to Ava, sharing the warmth of her body. I noticed there was milk dripping from her nipples.
Ava’s breath was slow. She didn’t look like a woman in labor she looked like she was about to fall asleep. “Will you kiss me?”
I gave no reply as we kissed. Ava touched her milk then touched the liquid to my lower lip, like a gloss. It felt strangely warm and tingly, like the pins and needles sensation. Ava bit my now numb lip until I could taste blood. Now I could taste both of us.
Ava moved her lips to my ear. “I can feel my baby.”
I looked down, and the baby was slipping out of Ava, into Juan’s arms. “I have a blade, hand him to me.” I reached for the knife in my handbag and made quick work of the baby’s umbilical cord. Then something strange happened. The baby reached for my chest, nursing through the fabric covering my breasts. “No sweetie, that’s not going to work,” I said playfully as I pulled him off. Silly babies, their minds running on instinct.
Then I felt moisture. There was a stream of milk oozing down my chest. I looked at Ava for an answer but she was busy ‘celebrating’ with Juan.
Ava appeared to be siphoning his power via oral sex. But the act did not look pleasant; Juan looked like he was trying to pull away from her, but Ava gripped his thighs, forcing him closer.
I kept my focus on the baby. I assumed Ava ‘blessed’ me with her milk so her baby would always have a source of food. This little one belonged to all three of us. I rocked the baby in my arms until I heard Juan’s voice.
“May I hold my son?”
“Can you breastfeed?” I asked jokingly. I turned the baby to face Juan, the little one smiled. “He knows you.”
To see Juan holding his infant son against his bare chest was a sight so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.
“What shall we call you, little one?” he asked as Ava sat up.
I cut a piece of the blanket to wrap the baby. “Perhaps I should bathe him first.”
“No need.” As Ava touched the baby his skin became clean like a doll’s. “His name is Angel, our little angel.”
“We should get going soon,” I suggested since we all were very much awake. “We’ll need to travel the rest of the way by foot.”
“We have to travel half the length of Texas and the entirety of New Mexico,” Juan pointed out.
“My concern is for the baby.”
“Ava will prepare a carrying rig while I conjure up a new horse.” Juan left and went outside.
I stayed with Ava cooing over the baby. I knew from my medical training that newborn babies didn’t smile. But Angel did. That was all he seemed to do. Well, that and feed.
“It seems little Angel loves beautiful women as much as his daddy.” Ava stood up with her same level of uncanny physical strength.
Outside, Juan conjured up a horse with fire wings. And once again I had to sit in the front.
We flew until we landed in Reserve, New Mexico. The small desert town was one of the few free settlements left in North America; a place where men and women lived together as equals, outside the confines of society.
Even with that knowledge, I was not sure how my new ‘family’ would be received.