21. Jabbering

2022, March 23th
Collapse – 27 years

After Sibyl’s outburst, Sakhr went to talk with her privately. They returned as Katherine was getting ready to head home.

“I’m really sorry,” Katherine said as she gathered her supplies.

“It’s okay.” Sibyl was calm, although still a little frosty as she sat at the table. “I’ll get used to it, but you should warn people before doing something like that again.”

“But I couldn’t! I had to trick you. It was the only way to get you to do it, or else you would have expected it to fail, and it would have.”

“Hmm,” Sibyl seemed doubtful.

Sakhr spoke. “If you ever think you can trick me into improving my power, you have my permission to go right ahead.”

“Same here,” Josephine said.

“Same,” Christof added.

“Okay.” Katherine brightened. “I do have some ideas I want to try on you guys, but I guess I should probably keep it to myself.”

“It is your call,” Sakhr said. “Josephine? Sibyl? If you’d drive Ms. Faulk back home?”

They did. Katherine was back to her old excitable self by the time they dropped her off. Josephine walked Katherine to the house while Sibyl waited in the car.

Her father answered the door. He looked as he always did when Josephine dropped off Katherine: tired, worn, and old, despite being in his thirties.

“Hi, daddy.” Katherine hugged him.

He returned the hug awkwardly as though this was unexpected behavior. It probably was. Ever since Josephine had approached Katherine that day at school, she hadn’t once reverted to that shrunken version of herself that slunk away from her tormenters. That was a different girl.

Her father disengaged. “Do you have any homework left?”

“A little.”

“Then why don’t you go do it and let me talk with our guest for a moment.”

“Okay,” Katherine agreed readily enough. No reason not to. Her father wouldn’t remember any conversation he shouldn’t.

She turned to Josephine. “You’ll pick me up tomorrow?”

“I will.”

“Cool. See you then.” She disappeared inside.

The father turned to Josephine. “I don’t think we’ve met,” he said.

“That’s right.”

“Name’s Allen.”

Normally Josephine would wipe his memory and walk off. She didn’t though. “Nice to meet you.”

“My daughter has been spending a lot of time with your kid. She never got around to telling me who they are. You’re not Allison’s mother, are you?”

“No. Not Allison. Jesse.” Jesse had been a safe name Katherine and the coven had agreed upon for a cover story.

“Never heard that name before. I’m not too surprised. I have to waterboard that girl to get her to tell me anything about school. How long has she and Jesse been friends?”

“Not long. They met last week.”

“Huh. Just that long? Well something’s really working out. I haven’t seen Katherine this way in years.”

“How is she normally?”

He seemed to consider whether to get into it or not. “It’s been rough. She’s been having some trouble at school with the other girls. I really only know what I hear from the teachers, but it’s been pretty bad. Really bad actually. It’s been affecting a lot at home. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear she’s spending time with someone. This week it’s like she’s actually back to normal. Wouldn’t tell me for the life of her what’s changed. So how’ve they been spending their time together?”

“Oh, you know. Whatever kids do these days. They spend most of their time in their room.”

Allen nodded. “I’m just glad she’s spending time with someone. I’d say they’re welcome to spend time here too, but I don’t want to rock this boat.”

“Is it just you and her?”

“Yeah, it is. She lost her mother a few years ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

He shrugged it off. “Her mother and I were separated. Kat though, she lived with her mom. The thing is, coming to live with me meant changing schools, and that’s when everything went sour. I was honestly considering transferring, or… something. Just get her back to her old school. Maybe that could help. I can’t tell you how relieved I’ve been this week.”

“Yeah.” Josephine forced a smile. By this time next week, this man would be contacting the police about his missing daughter. Kat would be happier with the coven, but that didn’t make Josephine feel any less nauseated about what they were about to do to her father.

“Anyway, thanks for dropping her off,” Allen said. “I hope I’ll be seeing more of you.”

“Yeah, I hope so too,” Josephine turned and headed down the walk way. Allen waved goodbye. Josephine cleared his memory before he closed the door.

She got in the car where Sibyl waited behind the wheel.

“Why’d you stay and talk?” Sibyl asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I shouldn’t have.”

Alexander and Anton came back near midnight, long after Sibyl and Josephine returned from dropping Katherine home. They burst into the hotel suite laughing and joking. Josephine would have awoken if she’d been asleep. As it was, she was on a couch in the common room watching quiet television to sooth her insomnia, something she’d inherited from her current body.

They removed their coats and boots as they chattered drunkenly in mixed English and Russian. Even though others were trying to sleep, Josephine knew from experience that telling them to be quiet was pointless.

Alex looked around. “Oh good. The sleepover’s over.” He sprawled onto the couch beside her. Anton collapsed into the armchair opposite Alex and withdrew a bottle of Scotch from a paper bag. Shrink wrap crackled as he unscrewed it.

Swell. The night wasn’t over.

As he filled two glasses, he glanced at Josephine. “How was the interrogation? She run out of questions yet?”

Josephine ignored him. Whenever Anton was drunk, his accent came out. It would work perfectly for any In Soviet Russia joke. “Maybe next time we’ll find out if I can fax my Authority. Or maybe it can work over smoke signal.”

Alex stretched to grab his glass. “And she’s going to be living with us.” He sipped. “It’ll probably get better once she’s easier on the eyes. Think Sakhr’ll let her dump that chubby body early?” His eyes were on the television, but Josephine knew he was waiting for a reaction out of her. “Course even then, it’s not like she’d be worth sleeping with. Could you just imagine that would go? ‘What happens if we fuck with the condom on backwards? If we fuck upside down, would it feel different?‘” He held up his finger. “Hold on. Actually, fucking her might be fun.”

Anton chuckled.

“Of course,” continued Alex, “chances are we’ll just end up with another lesbian in the group. I’ve seen her thoughts. She’s the kind of person who’d start with some harmless college kissing just to get attention.”

Josephine couldn’t help herself. “You shouldn’t worry. She won’t stay with us long once she realize what enormous assholes you are.”

Alex barked laughter. “Like hell she would. We could demand she fellate every one of us for entry and she’d still do it. Even with all her bubbly excitement, you still have no idea how badly she wants this.”

“I’m not saying she won’t join. I’m saying she’d run off after she figures out that she’ll get just as much bullshit from you as she gets now.”

“Nah, she’ll stay.” Pause. “You stayed, didn’t you?” He craned to look at her. She avoided his eyes. Within her reach was a table lamp. She envisioned smashing it across his head, then making him forget. He might think he’d hurt himself while drunk.

Sakhr emerged from an adjoining room dressed in a hotel bathrobe. His eyes were bleary.

“We’ll keep it down,” Anton said. He gave Alex a look indicating that he’d best agree.

“Where were you two?” Sakhr’s tone was like a father’s who’d caught his son sneaking in after dark.

“Out,” Alex said. “A few bars. Just having fun.”

“You left to get away from Katherine.”

Alex shrugged. “Yeah?”

“She noticed. She’s worried you don’t like her.”

Anton refilled his glass. “We needed break from her uh…” he fluttered his fingers against his thumb to indicate talking, “from her jabbering.” His english continued to devolve alongside his sobriety.

“She’s coming over again tomorrow. You two are going to be here, and you’re going to welcome her. I don’t want you affecting her desire to come with us.”

Alex shrugged, palms face up. “Why? Why roll out the carpets? She’s already decided. We could have left this shit-hole town last week.”

“I will not have her rushed. I want her to leave with us only once she’s ready to leave everything behind. I want her to want to be with us.”

“For what? What’s her fucking power anyway? I’d hate to go to all this trouble just to find out she’s a dud.”

“If you had been here today, you’d know it wasn’t.” He locked eyes with Alex.

The events of today passed between their eye contact.

Alex sat up. “She did what?”

“What?” Anton asked. “What happened?”

“She evolved Sibyl’s power,” Sakhr said. “Sibyl is now able to see auras through walls.”

“How? Is that her power?”

“We don’t know. She did it by coaching Sibyl, but Christof saw her power stir when Sibyl’s power evolved. It reacted somehow to our powers.”

“What do you mean ‘coached’?”

“I mean she did it with all that jabbering. So let me make myself clear. When she comes back, you’re going to answer whatever questions she asks and you’re going to smile as you do so. If it is her gift to make us more powerful, then I will not have you jeopardize her desire to do so by alienating her. Do you understand?”

Alexander and Anton nodded.

Sakhr turned to leave. “Who knows. Maybe she’ll evolve your power too.”

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