In 1968 Jennifer was caught up in a military experiment that propelled her 50 years into the future. In 2018 she met and fell in love with Finn Corrigan and became fast friends with his Aunt Cynthia, a 68-year-old woman remarkably dedicated to the young man. Jennifer was informed that the technology that brought her to the future would return to take her back to 1968 and she only had 180 days with Finn. She was told of this by Cynthia who claimed that she was Jennifer, only 50 years older. She had been sent back in time and had lived through the subsequent five decades.
The two women both loved Finn beyond reason and concocted a plan to thwart Jennifer’s return. They were successful, and the machinations of the experiment took Cynthia back to 1968 instead of Jennifer, who remained in 2018, married Finn and had a little boy that they adored. (see “180 Days in Montauk”) Jennifer and Cynthia met again when Jennifer traveled to Uluru in Australia, a place where the barrier between our world and the dream world was at its thinnest and all time was now. Jennifer passed through that barrier and did battle with an entity that wished to enter our reality and feed off all living things on Earth. (see “A Montauk Nightmare”)
Living in the 1970s, Cynthia had made friends with mystics, sensitives, and dabblers in esoterica. One of her new allies felt the link between Jennifer and Cynthia and sensed the danger Jennifer was in. Cynthia’s friends sent her into the dreamworld where she helped kill the threat to Jennifer. Eight months later, Jennifer gave birth to the daughter she was carrying when she entered the dreamworld.
This little girl, named for Cynthia, carried with her the power of Dream.
An Unseelie Court
Mab reclined on a throne of onyx that shimmered and roiled as grey and green liquid slowly flowed in waves below its surface. Her long dress of deep dark red matched her lips and overly long and sharp fingernails. A wooden platter on a table beside her held rock-candy and she occasionally popped one in her mouth, crunching with her sharpened teeth as she stared at the child before her.
Eventually, she spoke. “Well, aren’t you a tasty morsel. Tell me, my lost lovely, what is your name?”
The girl looked around the room and then at Mab. She spoke in a distracted tone, as if her concern wasn’t with the creature of myth. “I’m not lost. My name is Cynthia Corrigan, and I’m here for the other children.”
Arching an eyebrow, the woman gazed down at her. “Has no one told you to never reveal a True Name, child? They have the power to bind and compel.”
Mab’s long index finger tapped the top of the table as she contemplated this fascinating new wrinkle. Her nail seemed to slip into the black stone a millimeter or two and a red liquid dripped from the fingertip as she pulled it up.
Tap, tap, tap. Pause. Tap, tap, tap
The girl wasn’t cowed and fawning. It was a novelty that Mab found she enjoyed. Licking the tip of her nail and savoring the red substance, she appraised her guest and found herself smiling. There was power here in this tiny package, power that she could use. Reclining back into her throne, swirling green mists within the stone appeared to flow away from wherever she made contact.
“You are a delight. The other children. Hmmm ... Not too much left of the boys. Skin and...” She picked another piece of rock-candy and studied it for a moment, twisting it to and fro. “Not so many bones anymore. The girls? They have joined my Court. They are handmaids to Mab and there they shall remain. Care for a piece of candy, child?”
She extended the bowl down and towards Cynthia who stood six feet from the throne.
The child looked at the crystalline candy with the faint speckles of red. “Are you offering me guest-rite? That’s the phrase, right?”
Mab recoiled slightly, pulled back the bowl and leaned into her throne. “Where would you hear of such a disgusting thing?”
“My brother, first, I guess. He’s really smart. Then stories he and I read.”
“Reading. A filthy habit. Words cannot be caged like an animal. They are free to be twisted and molded and given different life. Your brother is a bore. You are lucky to be here with me. What position should we bestow upon you? Certainly, something grander than handmaiden.”
Still looking around, seemingly a bit confused, she stopped and concentrated on Mab. “I’m sorry, I can’t take a position with you. I’m just here for the lost children. I won’t be staying. Where ... I can tell, they’re here, but ... where are they?”
The room slowly darkened and the swirling under the surface of the throne coalesced into silently screaming faces. Mab’s visage grew pale and she grew in size. The shadow on the wall behind Mab grew distinct and Cynthia could see the nine legs that seemed to sprout from the shadow’s back. She looked at Mab and saw normal appendages, looked back at the shadow and saw the elongated legs.
Mab’s voice grated, like gargantuan shelves of ice being shoved across one another. “Oh, you will be staying. I am Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Court, Mistress of Dreams and when you come to my realm, bidden or unbidden, there you remain.”
“Sorry, got to go.”
Cynthia disappeared and Mab was too stunned to scream her rage.
“William! I’ve found the place the kids went to!”
Not looking up from his copy of “The Book of Five Rings”, William answered absently. “Really? Where?”
“You know near the lighthouse, in the park by the big trees, the ones with all the black spiders? In there. Sort of. Not really, but almost. It’s sort of there but not there.”
Eyebrows furrowed; he lowered the book. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know. It’s hard to explain. It’s almost like if you sort of squint and tilt your head you can sort of see it, I think. Like it’s there and not there. Or something.”
“Wait, how do you know this? Did you go to the park by yourself?”
Cynthia spoke slowly and seemed to be trying to find the right words. “No, well, yes, but not really. I ... sometimes I go places when I’m sleeping. I mean, I’m still in bed, but I go places.”
“You mean, in your dreams?”
“Yeah, but I really go there, sort of. It’s not like some made-up thing. Like, I could tell you where Dink and Buttercup were sleeping, or what Pete was watching on TV and stuff like that.”
William ran his hand through his hair and leaned back in his seat. After pausing, he responded. “Are you serious about all of this?”
Her brother looked from his sister to her dog, Buttercup, who appeared happy to be wearing a ridiculous floppy hat. “This isn’t just ... some game or something?”
“No! We’ve been talking about it forever. What did you think?”
“I ... well, I thought like I said, that it was a game or something. Like when you used to put those hats on Buttercup and pretended to have tea parties.”
“You’re so dumb. I hate boys. She’s really stealing kids and hides them in dreams. And I know where they are.”
William swung his legs off his bed and looked at his sister. “Wait, who are you talking about? Who is “she”? And you mean, like real kids?”
Cynthia threw her hands in the air. “Aaargghh! They need help, William! We have to do something, there aren’t that many left.” She stared at her brother for a moment before she stormed out of his room.
William began researching both the increased incidents of missing Montauk children and the appearance of the colony of black spiders in Camp Hero that began in 1977. He grew concerned but still remained doubtful.
His parents were friends with a psychiatrist who worked with children in France. He’d been spending time talking to William recently about things that were bothering him. The young man had led an interesting life that was filled with love, but sadly touched on occasion by tragedy.
The psychiatrist was some sort of expert on animals, and William wondered if he knew anything about spiders. Dr. Alistair Marchand was the person that recommended Aunt Cynthia get Dink, one of their Tibetan Fu Dogs, for his father.
William had known Alistair his entire life. The man visited once or twice a year to spend time with Pete, William’s almost-uncle. Hopping on Facebook, he sent Alistair a brief message asking about black spiders, how long they lived, could they kill or paralyze a child and then about the effects of abduction on a child.
“It’s like ... it’s like ... I don’t know, I can’t describe it. She sort of makes everything dark, you know? I could feel them. The kids are there, but I couldn’t see them and I should be able to. All I could see was her and her big chair and the empty room. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Cynthia was laying on her back, her head resting on Buttercup’s chest as she spoke to her dog.
“So, what should I do? William says he’s looking into it, whatever that means. He’s soooo sloooowwww. He never does anything. What’s she doing to those kids while he’s reading and researching and ... and whatever he’s doing?”
Cynthia paused, but Buttercup kept her council to herself.
Putting aside her worries, she went downstairs to the kitchen to make herself lunch. She loved the kitchen. She spent countless hours there helping her father cook. Cynthia liked just doing things and figuring it out as she went, but Finn forced her to slow down and concentrate on the process. She’d learned proper knife skills, how to convert measurements, safety precautions and how to balance flavors.
She made three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, all on cinnamon-apple toast and she sprinkled more cinnamon on each. Two of the sandwiches had Ghiradelli chocolate chips, and one didn’t. After carefully cutting the sandwiches diagonally, Cynthia put two glasses of milk on the table.
Opening her copy of Tom Colicchio’s “Think Like A Chef,” she waited for her brother.
He came running down the stairs, his feet a swirl of teenage energy. “Did you put more cinnamon on them? It makes them too spicy.”
She didn’t look up from the book. “I like spicy. Hey, why do seagulls fly over the sea?”
William rolled his eyes. “I don’t know, why?”
“If they flew over a bay, they’d be bagels!”
“Ugghh. That was horrible.”
“No, it wasn’t. I’m telling Mom.”
“Is she gonna get you a book on how to tell better jokes?”
He smiled. “Sorry. It wasn’t that bad. Listen, I’ve been thinking. There’s definitely a correlation between the spiders and the missing kids.”
“What’s ‘correlation’ mean?”
“A ... a connection.”
“So, why not say connection? And I know that, I told you that. A week ago.”
“Okay, you did. I’m not arguing with you here. The first mention of the spiders in Camp Hero was very close to the time of the uptick in the disappearances of children. I’ve found three photos of the spiders from the park. Each of them had nine legs. Nine. That’s crazy. I couldn’t find any examples online of spiders with nine legs, but there they were, anyway. You know what I did find? Two myths. One saying that when Athena turned Arachne into a spider, she gave her nine legs instead of eight to not insult actual spiders who had never wronged her. The other myth was that Morpheus would visit Arachne and let her dream of being human again.”
He sat there like this was big news and Cynthia just stared at him. “That’s it? After a week, that’s it? Who the heck is Arachne and the other guy? Wait, I don’t care. Does this help us at all?”
“Well, it shows that there might be some correlation, some connection...”
“I TOLD YOU THAT!”
“Yeah, but I’ve got Alistair looking into it, and he knows lots of things, about animals and kids and stuff. And I’ve read up on Mab. She was mentioned by Shakespeare, but he didn’t make her out to be evil or anything. And she was supposed to be small. There’s lots of other myths, though. Some aren’t so nice. Lots about what they call fey folk abducting kids and sometimes leaving look-alike replacements for them. Others about humans getting trapped with fey folk for decades or centuries. Oh, and they hate iron. I don’t know why. I think it’s an allergy or something. It’s like, really, really bad.”
Cynthia grabbed half of the extra sandwich and lowered her hand below the table. Buttercup gently took the offering and gulped it down. “Okay, what do we do in the meantime?”
“Well, we wait to hear what Alistair has to say and I’ll keep researching. I’m going to get Dad to take me down to the park and I’m going to look around.”
“Okay, but we have to do something soon.”
Cynthia finished her sandwich and milk and slipped Buttercup the other half of the extra.
Aunt Daisy came over and she brought Cynthia a book on the American Girls Dolls. She always brought something for Cynthia and the little girl knew that it was an attempt to show her that she was as loved as William was, even though she spent more time with William.
Jennifer and Cynthia watched Marissa whenever Aunt Daisy came by to work with William on his martial arts. Daisy, her husband Tommy, and William had tried time and again to interest Cynthia in Jiu Jitsu, but she had absolutely no interest.
Cynthia watched Aunt Daisy and William go into the backyard and her father pick up Dink on the deck and put him on the ground so he wouldn’t have to deal with the stairs. She watched the old dog shuffle over to her aunt and brother, the hair on his muzzle having turned white and his limp pronounced. They played with him, petted him and hugged him before they stretched and began wrestling, or whatever they were doing.
There had never been a time when Dink wasn’t a part of her life. She went to the refrigerator and pulled out the bacon. After grabbing a plate, she placed four paper towels on it, then six strips of bacon and then another two paper towels on the top. The plate went into the microwave for eight minutes and she went back to her book.
When it was done, she took the bacon outside and sat on the grass next to Dink. Buttercup sat on the other side and Cynthia tore the bacon into thirds. With her arm around Dink, she slowly fed him piece after piece. She didn’t understand why she wanted to cry and felt comforted when Buttercup pushed her huge head under her other arm.
After the bacon was gone, she kissed Dink’s neck and went back inside to her book.
“Honey, come in here and watch your cousin for a minute.”
Jennifer went to the bathroom, leaving her niece with her daughter. Cynthia made funny faces at Marissa, trying to make her laugh. She started playing peekaboo when she spotted movement on the floor.
“Oh, hell no!”
Cynthia clasped her hand to her mouth after the exclamation she had heard her mother use so often. She looked around quickly to ensure that no adult had heard her use the bad word. They were still alone. Stepping close, she lifted her foot and slammed it down on the nine-legged spider that was making its way towards the baby.
Jennifer came from the bathroom and wiped her still damp hands on her jeans. Cynthia stood near Marissa, scanning the ground in a near panic. Looking up at her mother, there was palpable relief in her expression.
“Mom! Stay here, please. Don’t let ... there was a huge spider. Just ... keep an eye on Marissa.”
She ran to the kitchen door at the rear of the home, opened it and bellowed.
The dog followed her to the study where Cynthia checked her cousin all over and then the ground, walls and ceiling. Kneeling, she hugged Buttercup and whispered in her ear. “Watch Marissa. Kill any spiders.”
Standing, she looked at her bemused mother who had a rolled up newspaper in her hand. “Mom, I’m really tired. I’m going to take a nap, okay?”
“A nap? You? Uhmm, okay, I guess. I’ll wake you in an hour. Any longer and you won’t be able to sleep tonight.”
Cynthia yelled over her shoulder as she ran to the stairs. “Great! Thanks.”
Breaths were deep and slow. Under the covers, she thought of the lost children, thought of her cousin and thought of Mab. Cynthia’s heart-rate slowed and she slipped into the pre-dream period just prior to REM. She could sense the children now and saw the pocket where Mab had hidden them. They were against the wall of her court, but in-between spaces.
Lying still, Cynthia studied it and pieced together how Mab had constructed this space. It was a marvel and beyond the child’s ken. She couldn’t duplicate it, but Cynthia thought she would do something smaller and simpler to lead the children out.
Letting her mind drift, she lost conscious contact with her body. A moment later, she was there. Strange smells, odd music and shrill conversations, all centering on Mab’s greatness, greeted her as she kept her back to the wall. Inching slowly towards the pocket in the rift, she kept an eye on the assemblage. Every 40 feet or so there were droopy yellowish naked people holding aloft a flame of some sort that emitted smoke and smelled horribly.
As she neared her destination, she realized that there was no torch, brazier or candles. The waxen people were silently screaming, faces transfigured in torment as their hands were on fire.
Shivering, Cynthia opened a child sized hole through which she could see the pier in her backyard. She created another one that led to the pocket in which Mab had hidden the children. Stepping into the pocket, she saw a dozen listless girls and three boys. They were all dressed in old-timey clothes and looked at her with mild curiosity.
There was no energy, almost no life left in them. They seemed beaten down, somehow. That frightened Cynthia, as she knew they had to act quickly.
In an odd contradiction, she whispered loudly. “My name is Cynthia, and I’m here to bring you home. You have to come over here.”
None moved more than their necks as they turned their heads to stare at her.
Frustrated, she looked back at the court then ran forward, grabbed two by the hand and pulled them forward. She shoved them through the first hole and ran for two more. Others started to slowly shuffle forward. Half of them had made it through when she heard the voice.
“Welcome back, lovely. I’ve missed you.” Mab’s voice was as sweet as cyanide and as cold as a glacier.
A boy’s hand in hers, Cynthia turned to the Court and saw that the guests had all parted. Mab’s throne was directly in front of her, 50 yards away. She’d have to come back for the rest of the children. Cynthia was about to pull the boy through the hole with her when he screamed, yanked at her arm and looked up at the ceiling.
Following his gaze, Cynthia saw a six-foot wide spider with nine legs that extended another ten feet clinging to the ceiling. It’s eight eyes glared at her with an intelligent malevolence from its ape-like head. She was about to try to pull the boy through again when the spider opened its primate mouth and black saliva dripped passed sharpened rows of teeth, fell 20 feet and landed on her shoulder.
She tried to pull the boy, but her arms wouldn’t move. She tried to let him go, but her hands wouldn’t move. She tried to run, but her legs wouldn’t move. Cynthia desperately tried to return to her bed, but her spirit wouldn’t move. She stood stock still and listened to the silence. No music, no conversations. A clicking grew louder and she somehow knew that it was the heel of Mab’s shoes as she drew closer.
She felt Mab’s hand caress her cheek, but she couldn’t turn her head towards her captor or away from her. Fingernails almost pierced her skin as Mab came into view. She leaned down and looked into Cynthia’s eyes.
Mab’s enemies were legion. They plotted from afar, they plotted within her court. They were everywhere and she knew of them all. Some wanted her domain; others wanted her power. New threats arose while ancient enmities stood fast. They were all momentary diversions, insignificant eddies in a sea of tedium.
One foe loomed above them all. Boredom was her constant companion, eating at her, nibbling on her will, convincing her to take chances and unsound risks. On her left was millennia of the quotidian, on her right was endless ennui.
And then came the magical girl.
Mab brushed her thumb over Cynthia’s cheek, her bright red nail so close to the child’s eye. Brows arched, she smiled without artiface. “Oh, we’re going to have so much fun.”
Tired, sore and sweaty, William entered the house after his aunt put him through the wringer and went to take a shower. After the shower, he went to his room and spent some time looking into stories and myths about Mab, the Sidhe, the fey folk and the Unseelie. Time slipped by and his rumbling stomach rebelled against his five-hour abstinence from food. He was a teenager, that’s not how these things worked.
William loved his father, but he didn’t want some fancy meal with imported ingredients. He wanted a burger, maybe two. Some American cheese, bacon and ketchup on top and some fries on the side sounded like heaven. Needing an ally to push back against Finn’s culinary extravagances, he went to recruit Cynthia.
She was laying on her bed, sound asleep.
“Wake up, lazy bones. It’s almost dinner time.” She didn’t stir. “Cynthia, get up.” She didn’t stir. “Hey.” He shook her arm. She didn’t stir. “Cynthia!” Checking, he saw that she was breathing.
Jennifer rushed up the stairs as fast as she could. The remnants of her stroke still affected her balance, but she struggled to hurry when she heard her son’s tone. Following his voice to Cynthia’s room, she saw him holding her hand and patting her cheek.
“Cynthia, get up. Cynthia, please, please, just get up.”
Checking for breath and then her daughter’s pulse, Jennifer’s voice was tight and controlled as she spoke to her son. “William, call Dr. Khalil. Right now. Tell her we need her here, immediately.”
Finn returned from the fish market he was part owner of to find a number of cars in the driveway. As he stepped up the porch towards the front door, Jim, the man who headed up their security, burst through the door carrying Cynthia. Jennifer and Dr. Stacy Khalil were right behind him. His wife fell into his arms.
“Finn, they can’t ... They can’t wake her. Stacy’s taking her to the clinic. Finn, what if...”
He pulled her tight. “It’ll be okay. Whatever it is, it’ll be okay.”
William convinced his parents that he should stay home. He was afraid that they would think he was selfish or didn’t care, but he didn’t have a choice. Once they were all gone, he sent an email to Alistair, an almost-uncle who had dealings with the more-than-natural. If anyone could help them, it was Alistair.
Cynthia is sick or something. She won’t wake up. This is crazy, but I think she’s in the dream places she goes to and can’t get out. We think that some fairy or demon or something named Mab is taking kids and has been for a long time. Somehow, she’s connected to the spiders I was asking about. This is the location for where the nest is. Do spiders have nests? I don’t know. Whatever. They are in the trees to the south east just after you enter. 41.0650° N, 71.8755° W
I know that I sound crazy. Mom said that Cynthia took a nap after killing a spider that was crawling near Marissa. That can’t be a coincidence, right?
I’m going to try to get her back. Please, please help. If you can, get Cynthia first. I’ll figure out something for me if I have to.
Please come quick! She’s my sister.
He had been preparing since Cynthia first spoke to him about her concerns. In a larger sense, he had been preparing all his life. His great-grandfather had been a decorated police officer who retired as Suffolk County Police Chief. The uncle William was named for had been an NYPD detective. The man in charge of his father’s security and his Aunt Daisy both told him tales of George, the mentor to both of them who had kept his Great-Aunt Cynthia safe. No one ever said it aloud, but Aunt Daisy was the Corrigan family’s protector.
William came from a proud line of people that put themselves in front of danger for those that they loved. He idolized his Aunt Daisy and was determined to follow in her footsteps. If his sister was in danger, William was going to confront that threat. It was time to arm himself.
Going to his room, he dug out the necklace and bracelet his mother had given him. Running down to the basement, he went into Finn’s workshop, scraped up some detritus and put it in a bag. He grabbed the small fan they kept in the Jennifer’s office and then ran back upstairs. Reaching under his bed, he pulled out his prized possession.
His Uncle Tommy’s father had a chain of Jiu Jitsu schools. Tommy studied under him and that’s where he met Aunt Daisy. Mr. Oliviera was a very nice man and knew a lot of stuff. Years before, when Krampus tried to take Cynthia, he touched her crib and was thrown back against the wall, his skin smoking. William took a slat from the crib and Mr. Oliviera showed him how to carve and whittle it down into the shape of a sword.
The man took delight in teaching William Iajutsu and the proper use of the bokken. He had no other students in the art form he had spent years learning and the boy soaked it up like a sponge.
It had taken some searching, but four days earlier William had found a mail-order company that sold oddly named brass-knuckles that were made of iron. He changed into his gi, slipped a set of iron-knuckles on each hand, put the bag and fan in the pockets of his coat and strapped the bokken to his waist.
Laying down on Cynthia’s bed, he clutched the necklace. Time ticked by and he started to feel silly. Contemplating getting up, he gave himself another five minutes. Counting the seconds off, he got to two minutes and forty seconds when he felt oddly loose and disconnected from the bed. Within another minute, he was asleep.
The court was filled with the servants of Mab, all dressed in finery. Her retinue stood closest to her, knights, dukes, princes of the realm and various gentry. Some were human, many were far from it. A small troupe of players performed atonal compositions, and everyone smiled at all times.
Cynthia stood closest to the throne, glowing red runes in a circle on the floor surrounding her.
William slipped through the crowd, beneath their notice and contempt. His parents were billionaires and he had gone to many galas attended by politicians and social elites. None of them prepared him for this. No one here seemed to be having fun. There was a tight nervousness to their smiles and a formality to their movements. As he neared the outer-circle of nobility, Mab waved her arm, silenced the crowd and turned to him wide-eyed with a smile on her face.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome! I see that you are fascinated with my protégé.” She waved her hand towards Cynthia. “You must be the Boy of Books. I have absolutely no idea how you found your way here, but I have to say, I’m simply delighted that you have joined us. She feels so strongly, doesn’t she? It just rolls off of her. Can you see it, Boy? I can. It’s delicious. She loves you and is frightened for you. Don’t fret, you tasty, tasty Boy, that love will die a little every day until you are a tiny wisp of a fragment of a memory.”
Reaching over, Mab took some of her rock-candy and crunched loudly. Eyeing William up and down, she slowly licked her lips. The crowd parted and a tall, thin man stepped forward. A sword hung at his side and he wore gleaming light armor.
“And so well dressed. I just a love a bold fashion sense. Tell me, Boy, did your necklace and bracelet help you get here?” She gestured to the smooth glowing stones he wore as jewelry.
The stones had been his treasures as a young child. To his eye, each was beautiful and exceedingly rare. He had hunted them down on the beach behind his house and saved them in a shoebox in his room. When his mother traveled to Uluru in Australia and entered the Dreamtime, she had them with her. Fashioned into jewelry upon her return, they were a gift to her beloved son.
When he didn’t reply, she continued. “Powerful trinkets and baubles, child of Man. I like you. Impressive, wily and resourceful. Big things are in your future, Boy. Big, big things. You won’t be serving in the kitchens or in pieces on the platters, no, not you. And what is that at your waist? A toy sword? We shall fetch you a true sword, forged from the cold remains of a dead sun and sharpened with the nightmares of the lost. My Champion will show you how to wield it. He is away putting down someone who thought themselves my rival, but returns to us shortly.”
William seemed resolute and his face betrayed his cold anger. “It’s not a toy. It’s a bokken, and I already know how to use it.”
Mab appeared to recognize the controlled anger and smiled. “You are just cute as the dickens and I’m sure your bones will be as sweet as you are. Shall we assume that you are here to rescue your sister, the mischievous damsel in distress?” She winked at William. “My representative is ready, Sir. You have the right to the choice of weapons. What shall you choose, Good Sir Knight? Longsword? Rapier? Epee? Glaive? This bokken thing?”
William looked from the man in the fancy armor, with fine features and slightly pointed ears to the beautiful but fearsome woman sitting on the black throne. The man was intimidating and made William wonder how much scarier her champion would have been. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a large felt pouch and then reached into the other side and pulled out a bulky twelve-inch by twelve-inch plastic machine.
“I choose battery-operated fans and iron filings.”
The knight appeared confused and a look of horror overtook Mab’s face. She began to scream as William turned on the fan, pointed it at the man in the armor and poured out some of the iron.
Her voice changed again from the amused and mellifluous to primal and terrifying. “RUN!”
The fan blew some of the filings at the knight, but William had plenty more. The bulk struck the tall man and he fell screaming. Steaming pock-marks appeared on his face and he lay on the ground, clutching his head and rolling back and forth. Mab’s throne was here and then was suddenly there. In the blink of an eye, it had moved hundreds of feet away.
Others caught in the periphery by some of the filings also screamed, but ran towards the exits. Three other impossibly tall men approached from different directions. They dressed like the knight and had swords drawn. William spun in a semi-circle, crouching low and blowing more iron up and towards his opponents. Two went down, followed by many bystanders. The third hid behind his long cloak, which he then threw to the ground.
As the final knight approached, William shook the last of his filings to the top of the bag and then tossed it in an arc towards Cynthia’s prison. The runes grew bright, crackled and then faded and died.
William had never heard an intimidating high-pitched voice until the knight spoke. “No more tricks, boy. You have eliminated three of my rivals and I will move up in my Lady’s esteem.” He bowed. “My thanks. I’ll make your death quick.”
Holding his long sword to his side loosely, his wrist relaxed, the knight’s speed belied his languid appearance. Closing their distance in one side step, he lunged forward one-handed, aiming for the boy’s chest. William’s bokken flew from his waist upward and in an arc, blue lightning shimmered around its edges as the knights sword was pushed to the side. At the apex of the bokken’s turn, William stepped forward and changed the trajectory. It crashed down on the knight’s forehead, flaring again, and the man lay on the ground, unmoving.
William turned to his sister to see her moving slowly, lethargically towards him. She appeared drugged and was stumbling and shuffling. As he began to rush to her side, he caught a glimpse of something falling. Diving to the side, an inhumanly large spider stood between William and Cynthia. With its legs, it had to be 14 feet in diameter. A garbled mix of chittering and moaning came from its ape-like mouth and William felt as if he could almost make out words.
When the spider spit at the boy, he rolled to his left. One of the giant legs was crashing towards him as he rose and William struck with his bokken. Blue light flared as the wood slammed into the leg and there was a sickening cracking sound as the broken appendage twitched and fluttered. Using the momentum to carry him forward, he took three large steps and lunged, swiping at one of the creatures many eyes. There was a popping sound and a thick reddish-gray liquid ran from the ruined orb.
William rolled again to his left and back, sprang up and took two steps backwards. The creature pivoted and spit again. Diving to his right, the boy avoided the black phlegm. Peripheral vision picking up movement, William saw a goblet hurtling towards his head. Jumping to the side, he avoided the projectile but was struck by more spittle.
Wiping it from his face with his sleeve, his arm felt incredibly heavy. He managed to raise the bokken as a leg came his way and the spider lost another appendage. Trying to step forward, his legs refused to obey and he fell to the ground. He couldn’t move as he felt hands grab and lift him.
Mab now had a matching set of remarkable children.
Stepping out of Catch a Rising Star on 78th, Cynthia breathed deeply of the night air and waited for her friend. Watching a young George Carlin perform live was one of the perks of being sent back in time so that Jennifer and Finn could have a life together. Having her 74-year-old lungs taking in the air in a smoke-filled comedy club wasn’t.
She had forgotten how ubiquitous cigarette smoke was in the 1970s.
Marie St. Croix joined her a few minutes later and they hailed a cab that took them to Patsy’s in the theater district. The food was always outstanding, and it had the added bonus of being frequented by Sinatra and other celebrities who didn’t want to venture down to Little Italy.
Enjoying their late dinner, Cynthia looked over at her friend. “Okay, Marie. So, what’s going on? You insist that we get together, which is fine, but it had to be today. You use the pretense of Carlin to get me into the city, but I know there’s something else going on. Spill.”
Her friend had poured some salt on the tablecloth and was using her finger to draw glyphs in the grains. “You know that I pray for you and I listen to the loa. Erzulie whispers in my ear and I listen. Two children are trapped in Dreamtime. They are of you ... and are not. I don’t fully understand this. One bears your name, the other is her brother. They are so close to you that I cry when Erzulie allows me to hear their pleas, but again ... it’s not you. Maybe a twin?”
All thoughts of hunger banished, Cynthia pushed her plate to the side. “Why are they stuck? How?”
Marie paused and looked at her friend. Fear marked her own face, determination showed on Cynthia’s.
“Son of a ... C’mon, we need to go.”
Cynthia dropped a hundred on the table and the two of them left. Another cab left them in front of Marie’s bookstore in Greenwich Village and they went up to the apartment above it. She made some calls and had an employee drive what she needed into the city. He arrived with a sigil laden wooden box, a small porcelain box and a pair of boots.
Marie looked at her friend, the concern obvious. “Cynthia, are you sure you wish to attempt this? You ... My friend, you are not...”
Smiling, Cynthia took her friend’s hand. “You can say it, Marie. I’m old. I know who and what I am. I love you for caring, but I’m beyond vanity. I was beautiful once, but I own a mirror. Don’t worry, I’m stronger than I seem. I’ve been thrust into the fire and had my weaknesses hammered out again and again and again. The things I’ve been through made me ... Different is a good word, I guess, but also stronger.”
“Yes, but Mab?”
Patting her friend’s hand, Cynthia continued. “It doesn’t matter. She has them and they are the grandchildren of my heart. All I’ve been doing is marking time until my death. Everything that I’ve loved is either gone or out of reach. I survive on hope for others, dreams of what could have been and a certitude that I helped ensure what should be, even if it wasn’t for myself. Those children are proof that my sacrifices meant something. I don’t care if it’s Mab or Satan himself. I’m going to go get them and if Mab’s as cunning as we think, she should get the hell out of my way.”
Marie was frowning. “My friend ... your hands are shaking. This ... it may be too much.”
Holding her hands up, Cynthia looked at them. Her smile grew tight and her eyes narrowed. “Yes, they are, aren’t they? It’s not fear, Marie. It’s not age. It’s adrenaline. I’m needed again. You have no idea how that feels. One more adventure, my friend. I’m going to kick that bitch’s ass and get my grandchildren. It’s going to be epic.”
Marie’s expression shifted from concerned to a mix of amazed and afraid. “Who are you?”
“Someone ready to live again. This is likely my last rodeo, Marie. I’m going to kick down doors, beat some asses, get my grandkids and save the day. Then I’ll come back and live out my days as a quaint old lady that people call eccentric instead of nuts because she has money. One last ride, my friend. One last ride.”
Cynthia had traversed the space between time too frequently and had visited the terrifying realm between Then and Now where her sanity grew ever more fragile, but her power and sense of self became stronger. Every voyage there both cost her and gifted her. She had also been to the world of dreams before and did battle there.
If William and Cynthia were being held in Dream, she would lay waste to the pillars of that world to get them back.
Marie had friends and rituals that could grant her entry.