Chapter 48:

sceNe 48 - ʀeaᴄǫuaiNᴛeᴅ ᴡiᴛʜ ᴇǫᴜiᴘᴍeNᴛ

ᴋraCᴋeᴅ ᴍooN / Kracked Moon

I was doing my best to convince Cryztal that I was keeping myself together, but really, I was still feeling like my seams were coming undone. My body was still inconsistent with scars or not, and the fact that Cryztal’s mother left the upstairs to essentially go abandoned was stressing me out. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle, in-fact moving into the apartment with Sandra came with similar challenges, but there is a difference between a stingy landlord and a runaway witch: the witch could have put a protection spell on the bathroom before leaving!

Once I had cleaned the bathroom enough to be able to use the toilet in relative comfort, I was ready for the other rooms to be just as bad, but I had already seen that the upstairs bedroom wasn’t a mess either. So what? She left that enchanted, but decided to forgo the bathroom? Obnoxious.

I had already done a decent job searching her bedroom, and there really wasn’t much to look at. Aside from things she kept as mementos, like Cryztal’s baby book, the bedroom was pretty barren. The most useful thing she left behind was all the witch’s robes and related outfits in her closet. She only ever wore them at home and when she was doing the ritual, or had a client coming over, so they felt special. Maybe they made her magic stronger?

The real challenge would be the study. What Cryztal and I called her study was previously two bedrooms that had their shared wall torn down. There were still two doors, but it was clear she used the closer door more often. The hallway itself didn’t have anything else aside from a linen closet, but of all the things in the house, it was the least abnormal. It really was just bedsheets and towels. Not even a secret accessway or anything fun.

Inside the study was everything Cryztal’s mother needed to do her witchcraft. Immediately by the door were her books and desk for study and research, though the desk was also positioned so she would hear if someone tried coming up the stairs. A corner housed her equipment for brewing potions: plenty of glass bottles, flasks, burners, and tubes to concoct some of the most concentrated mixtures. There were also potions she had previously brewed, though not many were left. And of course, her personal storage of dried ingredients, and some preserved and wet, reminded me of the few times she had let me come inside.

At the time, once she believed I could stomach a second round for the ritual, Cryztal’s mother tried to reassure me that everything that was happening had a reason to it. She kept it simple: like a door, you go in one way, and you come out another! But now I know better. Somehow my body was…reassembled? Made new? Something. And she just acted like it was a door to make it seem less frightening, since she also must have obscured my memories of being eaten.

The other half of the study was less exciting, but probably more important. The majority of the floor space was dedicated to an array of lines that would best be described as a pentacle, but maybe more complicated? At least once I know I woke up on it, so it is likely where people normally came back after Cryztal ate them, but why didn’t I? Was it because her mother wasn’t there to direct it? If we really needed a third person involved this was going to get hairy. How do you even find an available witch for hire?

Surprisingly the further side of the study also had a small table and chair set. Maybe it was used for more than that? Summoning or teleportation? Cryztal’s mother really didn’t let us know much about what she did as a witch, as if she wanted to protect us. I think maybe she gave me a charm or something once and said it would protect me. My parents threw it out shortly after finding it.

Besides looking through the books and notes I could find, there weren’t a lot of options for leads. The door wasn’t locked, so maybe things wouldn’t be in obvious places. I needed to think outside the box, and I knew one person I could turn to.

“So what you’re looking for like the deed to the house or something?” Sandra asked, over the phone.

I sighed. “Sure. If that helps. I just need to think where someone would hide something in an office.”

While Sandra had taught me some tricks for being sneaky, they mostly weren’t needed once we shared an apartment together. We kept everything worth hiding from my parents in our bedrooms, and anything I had that was double worth hiding in Sandra’s room. So I turned to her for some crafty tips.

“Did you check any drawers for false bottoms? Either that or stuff taped to the bottom of drawers. They’re basic, but sneaky enough.” Sandra suggested.

I looked under all the drawers I could pull out, even some for the dry ingredients, but there was nothing. And false bottoms were annoying to check for, but at least the desk didn’t have any. I didn’t really feel like moving the dry ingredients around, so I gave up on that search.

“You said there were bookshelves, right? Does it look like they could hinge or slide on a rail?” Sandra sounded excited by the possibility. “Sometimes there are also false walls that don’t really belong.”

Reviewing the area around the bookcases, there was something about how the bookcases lined up by the hole made to connect what was formerly two rooms. One bookcase in particular was about the same size as the hole. What I thought might have been exposed construction material between the two rooms actually looked like an intentional groove.

“I might have something!” I said, a little giddy.

As I looked closer to see what was absolutely a metal track, both above and below, I tried to pull on the bookcase, but it wouldn’t budge. I tried looking for a trick book that would activate the rail, but still no luck. And after determining that maybe I was just too weak for it, I gave up.

“Do you need me to come help? Or maybe that Jason guy can come over?” Sandra said, laughing a bit.

“No!” I shouted reflexively. “I mean, Jason can’t be involved. I’ll figure something out.”

After that, I called it quits for the day. I grabbed a few books off the shelf that looked relevant to healing or fixing bodies, and brought them with me to read. Maybe the books would give me something? I just needed whatever kind of lead I could get.

I just needed to know how to fix myself.