31. The Baseball Bat

2022, March 23th
Collapse – 27 years

Josephine swerved through traffic. Horns blared. Drivers yelled. Pedestrians dived for cover.

When she arrived, Sakhr’s sedan was already in front of Katherine’s house. The front door was open.

She drove onto the lawn and sprinted to the house. Josephine saw Katherine the moment she reached the front door.

Blood. So much blood. It was pooled beneath Katherine’s crumpled form. It had saturated into nearly every square inch of her clothes. And it was splattered all along the walls. Josephine had never seen so much before. Nor had she seen limbs twisted in that grotesque way.

She gasped for air. It was humid in the house, warm and sticky. Flies buzzed. The stench was already of rot.

Josephine turned, curled, and vomited. As she leaned against the door frame recovering, Katherine’s father emerged from the kitchen wiping his hands with a dishcloth. He looked at Katherine’s mangled body curiously, as though it were a novelty. His shirt was speckled with blood. He turned to Josephine and grinned.

“Too late, Jose.”

It was Alex.

She charged, lashing out. He caught her arms. After a struggle, he threw her down.

“She was just a child!” she yelled.

“She killed Anton.” Alex pointed behind her. “Do you even care about that?”

Anton’s body was propped against the entryway wall. His hands were folded in his lap. Despite blood oozing from a hole in his forehead, he looked peaceful. Alex had shown his body respect.

“You’re a monster…”

Alex ignored her. Josephine started climbing to her feet when she noticed a baseball bat laying near Katherine’s feet. Hair and gristle were caked on the end, but it was the handle that horrified her. It was smeared with blood up and down its length.

Nausea overtook her again. She wretched. More came out, and then more. Every way she looked was blood. She saw Alex, and there was no thought. She tore at him again. This time, he didn’t shake her off as easily. In the distance, wailing sirens approached.

Enough!”

Sakhr came down the stairs holding Katherine’s notebook and her backpack. “Josephine. I ordered you to stay at the hotel.”

“You did this!” she screeched. “You did this to her!” She stormed toward him.

“It is regretful that you disobeyed me and came here to see this. The girl posed a threat to all of us. If she had gained our powers, she could have destroyed us.”

“You murdered her! You murdered an innocent girl.”

“I regret that it came to this, Josephine. But it had to be done, for our sakes. For yours. A witch of her power cannot be allowed to exist.”

“You… you… look at what you did to her. Look.”

Sakhr did not. “I know. I told Alexander to be quick. I came back to find him… overreacting. We will—”

Overreacting?” Josephine screeched the word. “He defiled her. He tortured her.”

“I stopped him when I saw what he was doing, but what’s done is done.”

“You’re sick,” she screamed. “You’re both sick.”

“Hey!” called Alex. “She killed Anton before we laid a finger on her. Then she nearly killed me.” He pointed to his old body.

“I wish she’d killed you both!”

Sakhr snatched her chin and pulled her to face him. “You will calm down now. Do you hear those sirens? The police will be here soon. We can talk about this later.”

She yanked away from him. “No! Leave me alone. I never want to see you again.”

“Josephine.” Sakhr stepped toward her. “Now is not the time. You will come with us, or you will never get the benefit of another body again.”

“No.” She shook her head. “I’m done. I’m leaving all of you.”

“Josephine…”

She pulled. She pulled harder than she ever pulled before. Just like that, every memory, every moment, every idea Sakhr and Alexander ever had of her was torn away. She turned to run from the house when she glanced the notebooks in Sakhr’s hand. She snatched them. He had no right to those. Some little bit of Katherine should be allowed to live. Sakhr did not resist. He had already forgotten he was holding them at all.

Then Josephine ran.

At some point in the night, she found herself back at the hotel. Christof and Sibyl never awoke as their memories flittered away. She packed and left, and that was it. The only hint that a sixth member had ever been in the coven would be the hotel record of six people checking in, but even the concierge forgot that as she passed through the lobby. The record would be a minor clerical error, nothing more.

Josephine Molyneux had never existed.

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