previously: Untitled Raven Miller project
I had been staring at Annie, unable to move or even blink.
“Yo, Jesus,” Annie snapped her fingers in my face. “Earth to Bobby Reyes, you good?” Her tone was comically bro like we’d just awoken from a night of partying as opposed to fleeing for our lives with a toddler in tow.
I blinked my eyes, running my fingers through my hair long dark brown hair. My hands were large, with long fingers covered in blisters and scars. “Yeah,” my voice was deep, soft, with a distinct French accent. “I’m good.”
Annie pulled out her pack of cigarettes, twirling one between two fingers. “You smoke?”
I had a feeling Bobby did, in fact, smoke, but I needed to draw out the conversation. “Do you smoke in front of your kid?”
“In a hotel room with a no-smoking sign? Yes, I’m just that stupidly irresponsible.” Annie flicked her plastic BIC lighter, creating an abnormally high flame.
I wondered how she had managed such a trick when she turned the device, to the side, revealing a metal chip; the whole thing had been an optical illusion. “I would have chosen the word, ‘reckless,'” the word rolled on my tongue, “but that’s just me.” I helped myself to a cigarette from her pack.
“Well, you are French.” Annie pushed open a window, before lighting up and taking a drag.
“That I am,” I said in Bobby’s sexy, exotic voice. Yes, he seemed like a smoker. I joined her near the window, just close enough to let the smoke out but not come off as sexually aggressive. “So, how are we going to find your friend?”
“You mean my wife?” Her reply was curt, yet humorous, leaving me to question if she knew it was me behind the mask.
“My apologies, I meant no disrespect.”
“Yeah, well.” Annie sighed. “I may have the years but Raven has always been the brains, especially when it came to this paranormal shit. I figure she left you with me for a reason.”
I found it strange that my wife didn’t address my apology. But I also found it strange that I didn’t feel a separate consciousness. Where was Bobby’s inner voice?
Annie laughed. “I mean you’re still here. not that you have anywhere else to go. Anyway, we should probably get moving.”
“Yes, definitely.” I fully expected Annie to put out her cigarette and start packing, perhaps exit the room and reunite with our trailer in the parking lot. But that’s not what happened.
The strange older woman cupped my face and kissed me. She tasted like ashes and coffee. I flinched, fully prepared to shove her away. Before I could react, Annie stabbed me in the back of the neck with what I could only assume was a pen. It was blunt, hard and I was afraid to move my neck. I was too afraid to breathe. Why was she doing this?
Suddenly, I could hear crying. Was this bitch crying?
No, it was Lola’s crying; the toddler, our baby. My daughter. The fact caused a rush of adrenaline and I pushed Annie into the door. I felt her hands on my neck as we full-on struggled for control.
She slammed my face into the door with more strength than I expected. Although I was coughing up blood, I made sure to stomp it out my cigarette. Lola’s safety was my primary concern.
From the corner of my vision, I swore I saw Annie unlocked the door. That had been my next goal, so I focused on the task at hand. I pushed her into the door with all the force I could muster. That was how I made the unfortunate discovery; we’d been on the second floor of an open-air motel. Our bodies went over the railing, falling to the parking lot below.
I landed on my back with a sicking crunch. I gasped for air, forcing myself to keep breathing. I was dazed, but I needed to get up. I couldn’t let her leave with Lola. I moved my arm just to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed. Where did Annie land?
Annie had somehow landed in the bushes. I could hear her standing up, brushing off her clothes. “Get up!” She nudged my body as if trying to move me from my space in the bed.
I sat up, putting weight on my uninjured bicep. Whatever had been in my neck had been smashed, leaving a large wet stain down my back. At least I wasn’t paralyzed.
“Move!” Annie took out a small, digital camera, that doubled as a ring.
I forced myself to scoot a few feet to the left if only to see what the hell she was taking photos of.
My bodily fluids had left behind a stain made of ink and blood.
“There! that’s where we need to go!” Quickly putting the ring in her pocket, she turned to me, kicking my ribs. “Yo, Bobby, are you ok to stand?”
The place where I landed created a series of circular shapes that overlayed in a distinct pattern. My head was pounding, causing my vision to become momentarily blurry. The pattern had to come from the concrete. That was the only logical explanation for the shapes. But these weren’t just shapes, somehow I knew these were constellations.
Annie left and quickly returned with Lola under her arm. She grabbed my shoulder, pulling me to my feet with an unnatural strength. “Get in the trailer! You can curse me out on the way up north.”
I forced my way into the van. My body throbbed, but as long as my arms were not broken I needed to focus on not getting left behind.
Annie shut the door, got into the driver’s seat and peeled out of the parking lot.
Laying across the backseat I could feel broken ribs and painful bruising. It hurt to breathe. but my main concern was the baby. “Where’s Lola?”
“Here!” My daughter popped her head up from where she sat on the floor, without a car seat or even a safety belt.
“Oh, thank god.” I reclined back, trying to relax as best I could. The door was shut, we were on the road, I needed to focus on keeping my family safe. I reached my arms to pick up Lola. “Here, baby you’re ok. Everything’s going to be ok.”
Lola rested her chubby cheek against my bare chest. “Love you, Mama.”
“What did you call me?” I immediately touched my face, just to see if I was still Bobby. I sure as heck still had his voice.
“She called you Mama!” Annie shouted from the front seat.
For a moment that answer seemed to make sense, but why? “Why would she call me that?”
“Do you want the long version?”
“Sure, I’ve got nothing but time.”
“Raven and I have been tracking mystical being for years. it’s not uncommon for us to be able to locate missing people even before the police. But you were different.”
“Raven was having visions, nightmares. I mean I know she has a sensitive heart but she claimed she could see your ex murder you and dump your body.”
I knew Annie was correct. I had been complaining about weird dreams. “She saw everything?”
“I don’t know if she saw everything, but she enough to find you. Raven ‘s theory was that you’re something other than human. A supernatural creature who would make a great ally maybe even a bodyguard.”
“And you?” I remember telling Annie of those visions. But she never once told me what she thought. “what did you think of me?”
“In truth, I think you might be Raven’s biological brother.”
Before I could reply, Annie took a sharp turn, off the main road. The area became dark as if we were entering a forest or swamp. “Her brother?” I sat up to get a better view of wherever we were going.
“I mean, did you know your biological parents?” Annie asked in a calm tone, like an academic researcher or high school principal.
I held Lola close, her little face seemed as concerned as my own. “No, I grew up in foster care.” The idea of a long-lost sister; it sounded crazy. But not any crazier than my actual childhood. There was a reason why I fell into the drug-induced embrace of my psycho-ex girlfriend. “What exactly do you think I am? If I’m Raven’s brother.”
“If I’m right, that would make you the son of a demon queen and a holy man.” Annie pulled over, putting the vehicle into park. “Which isn’t a bad thing. At least not according to Raven.”
Not according to Raven? “So, what now?”
Annie got out, throwing open the door. “Now, we’re going to find your sister.”
The morning sky was bright as I exited the trailer with Lola in my arms. Annie sat on the dirt, looking up at the sky, comparing it to the map from the parking lot. “Are you trying to locate constellations in the daylight?”
“I have my ways.” Annie motioned for me to take a seat. “Like I said, I’m the technical one. I’ve lived a thousand lives, learned from masters all over the world.” She placed her hands on mine. “What’s your earliest memory?”
“I grew up in Canadian foster care, on the wild deadly streets of Montreal, Quebec,” I said with a laugh.
Annie took a breath, directing the flow of air across my fingers. “What else?”
Suddenly there was a memory. It was a moment out of time and space, that had no place existing. “I-”
“What do you see?”
I closed my eyes, shaking my head. what I saw was beyond comprehension. “Je ne sais pas.” I don’t know. “I don’t know what I’m seeing.”
“Just describe it the best you can.”
“I’m being carried. my body is small, too small.”
“Are you an infant?”
“Yes, but everything is so clear.”
“Who’s carrying you?”
I can see his face. “A man; thin frail, with dark blonde hair. His hands are covered in blood, but he has me wrapped in a towel.” The man forces labored breathes from his nostrils, alternating between terrified sobbing, and genuine prayer. “I think he’s been running.”
“Was he fleeing the scene of a crime?”
Annie’s question prompted me to get a better look at the man’s face. I could see him frantically looking around until his face found a source of light. Once he looks up at the moonlight, the brightness shimmering off the tears on his cheeks, I could see the full extent of his condition. His cheeks were bruised, with gash marks carved from his eyes, down to the shiny metal cord that sewed his lips shut. His mouth was caked with dried blood, leading me to believe, the sutures had been in just long enough for the bleeding to stop.
“You’ll always be a part of me,” the man’s voice seemed to be communicating telepathically. his voice was deep, strong, emotional. “my boy, my son.” His eyes sparkled a light green, the color of summer leaves. Those were my eyes. There was no doubt in my mind, this man was my father. He stood up and ran again, making it to a paved road, before falling to his knees.
“I hear a shriek; like a bird, or,” the sound was more like nails on a chalkboard, but louder and coming from a distinct direction.
“Jedidiah,” the female voice crackled on the wind. “Thou shall not steal.”
My father started to run. “Please, God please, help me.” Rocking my tiny body against his chest, he ran along the main road.
“I can feel his breath, his heart.”
My father ran until the air started to feel refreshingly cool.
“Where are you now?” Annie asked.
“W-We’re on a bridge.” I could no longer see my father’s face. But he was stopped, his heart racing.
“Take me to the river. Watch me in the water. We sparkle we shine.”
I felt a jolt followed by a rush of cold.
“You won’t do it, Jed,” said a ghostly female voice. a pair of ghostly pale arms embrace my father’s shirtless, bruised torso. “let’s go home, Baby,” she moaned, her long black hair falling over her face, “we can forget any of this ever happened.”
My body felt even colder, as the piece of cloth that covered my infant body blew off, flying into the distance. The rag had enough weight to make a ‘splash’-like sound. This led me to the conclusion we were on a low bridge of some kind.
“Jedidiah,” the voice rolled the word, with a very human accent. “Just give me back the child. And I will grant you your freedom.” She moved closer, allowing me a good look at her face. The woman was actually quite beautiful. “You can go back to missionary work, move to Africa, and help hundreds of children; all the good, innocent souls.”
My father frantically shook his head.
“Do you truly love this creature, this vile abomination of my womb? it’s can’t even speak. But, then again, neither can you.” The nail of her middle finger grew, forming a silver blade, decorated with an intricate lace-like design.
I watched as she proceeded to carefully cut his mouth open, one stitch at a time. Some of the wires came out with a clean snap while others took off chunks of flesh from his mouth and lips.
Only when she was finished did he dare to take a breath.
“So, what say you, my love?”
“Please, Julia. if you can find it in your heart to spare this innocent soul, I will stay with you of my own free will.”
My mother laughed. “Really, now?” She flirtatiously walked her slender fingers down his ribcage.
“Let the child go, I will give you another; a proper heir.”
“My darling son could also give me a proper heir.”
Her words sent shivers down my spine. She was completely serious.
My body was a source of power, a disposable battery, like all males.
My father swallowed a lump in his throat. He needed to choose his next words carefully. “You chose me for a reason.”
My mother smiled a wide toothy smile. “That I did.”
“Any child born of incest would have less than a fraction of my power. Male or female, their souls would be corrupted beyond salvation.” His arms trembled, barely holding my tiny body.
“As usual, Jed you speak the truth. There is no darkness without light.” She started to tenderly massage his shoulders. “You nourish me, feel me, with those bright eyes and sweet smile. And your big thick—-,” she whispered the last word directly in his ear.
Much to my surprise, my father’s body reacted the way one would assume a man would; despite how creepy she was, they apparently had a consensual BDSM relationship.
“I will agree to your terms, keep you as my breeding-stock. But only if you tell me you love me.”
I jerked forward, both in my infant flashback and real life.
Annie caught me in her arms. “I got you, you’re ok.”
I felt a rush of pain, followed by intense sadness. “I-I think my father threw me off a bridge.” I looked at my chest; there were bruises all along my collarbone, along with a massive scar that had not been there a day ago. I wanted to cry, scream, but no air would enter my lungs. “I-I need to find him.”
“Your father?” Annie asked, concerned. “Raven’s father is dead.”
“He lives in you?” Annie asked. “Or Raven?”
That would have been the logical answer.
I am Raven! I know my father is dead. I know my mother’s coven ate him and forced me to drink his blood. I had years to mourn him!
So, why does it hurt so bad?
Why was my heart still breaking?
because I had the memories of both bobby and raven. I knew everything that happened next.
Jed miller got a job, running a church, preaching the gospel to bring people hope. He raised a daughter, Raven, as as a single father while his ‘wife’ traveled the country. He told people she was an artist, a model, and an actress; she was gone so often because she was looking for opportunities to make her dreams come true. In truth, she was looking for better quality breeding stock.
that was why he wasn’t allowed to run.
if he broke his promise to my mother, she would have found me, hurt me.
I clenched my stomach, unable to hold back the wave of nausea.
My father lived a life of suffering, pain, and self-mutilation. He was mentally and physically sick as he was primed for slaughter. “Did Jed Miller castrate himself?” I regretted not cupping my hands over Lola’s ears, but the thought came so quickly my mouth seemed to vomit out the words.
Annie awkwardly shrugged. “All I know is what Raven told me. And you already have her memories, so…”
“Then give me your version of events.”
“From what I know, Jed Miller started cutting himself when Raven was like six or so.”
Six?! “That explains why my brain is not letting me fill in the blanks.”
“She was really little when she caught him. At the time he played it off as an accident or something but after his death, the truth came out. By traumatizing his body, he could continue to serve Julia when she came home for a ‘booty call’, keeping up his end of the bargain.” Annie pursed her lips. “He wanted only one child because he could mold and protect one child.”
I nodded in agreement. It all made sense; if he fathered another boy, Julia would have sexually abused the innocent child, but if he fathered a girl Julia might have succeeded in creating the perfect heir. “We need to find Raven.”
“Any idea where to start?”
One word came to mind, “Water.” I stood up looking around for a body of water; a lake, a river, anything that would take me to him. But we were in the middle of a field.
“Why water?” Annie asked, a little too calmly.
“I think my father left a trail of breadcrumbs, in the form of something…” I just know he wants me to find Raven.”
Lola poked my leg. “There.” She was pointing towards a dark mass of trees that seemed to lead to a different area of the field.
I was certain the dense, sizable trees had not been there a few seconds ago. “What’s over there, sweetheart?”
It was only then, Annie released my hand patting my shoulder. “Only one way to find out, right?”
It was clear she was pushing me forward. “Alone?”
“You can take Lola with you,” she offered.
The idea seemed crazy but it also made sense. I lifted Lola, carrying her in my arms. “Lead the way little one.”
Lola pointed into the darkness with a sense of wonder. If I hadn’t been carrying her, I would not have been surprised if she ran ahead.
I took one step, then another. I felt mud, followed by knee-deep water. But it was too dark to actually see. For all I knew, I could be walking in blood. The sky was oddly dark and I could see the glow of the moon, reflecting on the surface.
Except there was no moon.
When I actually looked up, I could see the darkness was only inside the water. The actual sky was perfectly blue.
Was I meant to be scared? Astonished? Entranced? Knowing nothing of magic, I looked to Lola for a reaction. She was reaching for the water.
Yeah, ok. This wasn’t scary. I could do this.
I reached into the water, stroking the reflection. It was me, just darker as if I was standing in a poorly lit room. So I reached deeper. Whatever I was standing in, was thicker than water.
The image started to shift. I could still see my dark hair, my tan skin. But instead of my face, I saw her. I saw my sister.
“Mama!” Lola said a happy squeal.
I felt both our minds seeing from two sets of eyes. “Where are you?” My head was hurting, so I blinked. It was a long, deep blink.
When I opened my eyes, I was back in my sister’s body. My body. “No!” I immediately regretted saying that out loud. My voice was Raven’s voice, not Bobby’s voice. And I could hear my kidnappers getting out of their truck to look for me. Do I run? Where even was I? I looked at my hands. I held my father’s rosary. “Dad, please help me.”
Knowing I had nothing to lose. I held my breath and disappeared under the water. I didn’t even think to close my eyes. The crucifix glowed, like a lantern, allowing me to see in all directions. Looking up, I could see a man’s face.
“I was always meant to find you.”
“J’ai toujours voulu te trouver.”
Our voices echoed across time and space. Bobby and I were one and the same. I reached my hand up towards him when suddenly the water swelled into a massive wave.
I put my arms around Lola, protecting her face as we were forcibly washed backward.
I landed at Annie’s feet, soaking wet. Looking at my dirt-covered arms, I could see I was back in Bobby’s tall, muscular frame.
Lola was sobbing. “I want Mama!”
Annie picked her up, holding the trembling toddler in her arms. “You saw Mama Raven?”
Lola nodded. “S-aw Mama!”
I stood up on my own, brushing off my jeans. My hair was soaking wet and my hands were caked with mud. I had a sharp pain in my hand, like a splinter or a pebble.
I opened my palm I held a single bead. Was this part of my father’s rosary? Did I make contact with Raven? “I think I know where we need to go.”
“Really?” Annie seemed more concerned with getting Lola dried off.
“The place where two halves make a whole.” I rolled the bead in my hand. There was a distinctive crack along the surface. “Niagra Falls.”
“Niagra falls?” Annie repeated.
“Does that fit with the map?”
“You’re worried about Raven.”
“I mean, from my end I saw you get forced backward by a tidal wave that does not seem to exist.”
“What?” I ran back to the tree line. She was right; there was no water, no lake, no Raven.
“Raven, can you hear me?”
“No one can hear you.” The voice was male and it was coming from the bead.
I could hear shrieks and screams. I fell to my knees as the bead exploded in my hand.
My eyes were forced shut. I could feel pressure, hands. My sister was screaming. The men were pinning her down.
No, it was just one of the men; the blond soldier with the crew-cut. He leaned in close, whispering into my ear: Raven’s ear. “I know your brother can hear me,” his southern accent was soft and creepy. “My partner and I, we have our orders.” His hands slipped down to his hips: he was taking his belt off.
“I-I understand.” There was no point in screaming. But as the soldier pinned my arms above my head, preparing to bind me, I got a good look at his face; his eyes, his hair, his mouth. He had scars on his lips in the exact place my father did, all those years ago.
The man flared his nostrils as he took an intense breath. “What the fuck are you staring at?”
“Adam.” My assailant looked just like my father. “Your name is Adam, right?
I felt my lower lip tremble. The very idea caused me to burst into tears. “Don’t do this.” My father was a good man. His memory was scared. “Please.”