Hello all! I hope everyone is well. It's nice to be publishing again after my long hiatus. Anyway, this a direct sequel to my first fic, Occult Nights, so I strongly recommend reading that beforehand, though it is not necessary to enjoy this fic. M rating is for language, drug use, violence, and other mature themes. I hope you enjoy the story and feedback is always welcome.
~The Wandering Piney
"Where am I!?" Thorn gasped as she found herself suddenly awake. She sat up and looked around. Her heart was pounding against her chest as she saw nothing but a vast, inky-black void that seemed to pulsate as if it were alive.
"This is just a dream…" she said as she closed her eyes. "You're still in bed at the hotel. Just wake up."
Thorn almost fell down as the void violently rocked as it rhythmically rose and fell while loud booms echoed throughout the emptiness. Thorn tensed up when she realized what she was hearing. Laughter. Deep and powerful. Inhuman and omnipresent, it was as if the void itself found her comments funny. A joke even.
"This can't be happening," Thorn grunted as she opened her eyes to face whatever was with her.
The laughter and the trembling died down, allowing Thorn to catch her balance.
"Oh, but it is Sally."
A chill went down her spine as she recognized the otherworldly voice she thought she would never hear again. Instead, it only took four days for it to find her. Thorn shook her head. Don't be afraid of this bastard. You beat it before. Thorn clenched her fists as she turned around to confront the entity known as the Fallen that had put her, Dusk, and Luna through living hell. Literally. She and Dusk burnt at the stake because they refused to submit to the entity's will.
Thorn shielded her face with her arm as she blinded by a fiery light. Squinting, she lowered her arm a bit to see the darkness part ways like a curtain. There she saw a massive, fiery sphere that shone a brilliant crimson and gold, its surface an ever-shifting conglomerate of shapes, forms, and images. She felt tiny and insignificant like she was as if she was standing before a blood-stained sun. The light grew, enveloping the darkness and becoming formless, the images she saw morphing into unfamiliar forms that followed some unknown logic that gave her a headache just by watching.
"How is this possible?" Thorn said with as much courage as she could muster.
"Awww, you really think that low of me?" the Fallen sighed in disappointment. "Nothing is impossible for me and I did say I'd see you again."
"But we destroyed the crystal. You died," Thorn said in an attempt to reassure herself that the Fallen was gone.
"Oh you naïve girl, death is irrelevant to me," the Fallen said. The light resided, returning to its fiery sphere, and moved closer to her, like it was leaning forward. "All you did to me… was break my phone."
"But…you need a vessel," Thorn stammered.
The void shook as the Fallen fell into a hysterical fit of laughter. "I'm way ahead of you Sally."
Thorn froze. That was my own voice. She was uncontrollably shaking. She wrapped her arms around herself. No, no, no, no.
"Oh yes, yes, yes," the Fallen mocked in Thorn's voice. "How about I let you see what I see in the real world."
Thorn looked back at the fiery sphere. The crimson and gold flames expanded and consumed her. She felt no pain and a moment later, she was looking at herself in the bathroom mirror of her hotel room.
She tried to look around but was still. Why can't I move? Huh? I can't speak. I...I can't feel my body. I can't feel anything! What's happening!?
Her reflection smirked as a brief shimmer of gold and crimson flashed over her eyes. Her reflection adjusted the black nightgown she was wearing before her head began to turn. Thorn watched in horror as the mirror disappeared from sight and she was looking at her hotel through the open bathroom door. After a moment, the mirror came back into view and she could see her reflection again.
"I gotta say, Sally, you're a good look for me," the Fallen said as it put its arms on the counter and leaned closer to the mirror, laughing.
Thorn felt a sense of dread that would've made her stomach turn if she had one as she realized that she wasn't looking at her reflection but rather the Fallen's.
You're… you're possessing me.
The Fallen smirked. "Took ya long enough."
No… this...can't be.
The Fallen rolled its eyes and laughed. "Oh Sally, you know it's true. You should be thankful I'm even letting you have a sense of being."
Fallen continued to laugh as it went through the various make-up containers on the counter and tossed them onto the ground when they disinterested it. Thorn wanted to throw up. She felt disgusted. Ashamed. Violated even.
"Hmm. What was that?" the Fallen mocked as it raised a hand to its ear. "You're a tiny, insignificant thought in the back of my head, you need to speak up more."
It's my head so get the fuck out!
The Fallen frowned and shook its head. "No, no I don't think I will." The Fallen picked up one of Thorn's darker lipsticks—one that was close to crimson— and smiled. But rather than applying it, it snapped its fingers and its lips changed to the color.
"Better," the Fallen said, pouting its lips. "Now I think I'll try something different with your hair."
Just get out!
The Fallen smirked. "Make me."
Thorn hesitated. She had no idea how to remove the Fallen. She was riding in the backseat of her own body, completely at the whims of the Fallen.
"That's what I thought…" the Fallen said. The entity turned away from the mirror and walked into the hotel room. It was still dark and a little bit of streetlight shown through a gap in the curtains somewhat illuminating the room. Thorn's bed was empty, the sheets hanging off the mattress. The Fallen turned and approached the second bed where Luna was still sound asleep. If she still had a heart, it would've skipped a beat as the Fallen grabbed a pillow and stood beside Luna.
"What would you do if I, like, smothered Kim with this pillow?" it cheerfully asked as it placed the pillow on Luna's face. Luna didn't wake.
Get away from her!
"When she wakes and struggles, I can say 'Sorry Kim, I'm thinking about going solo.' I'd love to see her face when she hears that in your voice. Maybe I'll make the pillow clear," the Fallen said in excitement.
The Fallen raised its hand and sparks of blue energy emanated from its fingers.
"There's the magic," the Fallen said with glee. "I was waiting for you to use it."
Thorn could feel her magic. Powerful and determined. How she felt it and how it was manifesting, she didn't know and she didn't care; her only goal was to attack the Fallen and save Luna. The magic enveloped the Fallen's hand, casting the room with a bluish glow.
I'll stop you!
"Go ahead Sally, unleash your magic," the Fallen said. It sat down on the floor and aimed its hand at its head. "Strike me down and I promise you, I'll leave."
Her rage was boiling, her magic fueling it; it was like pouring lighter fluid into a fire. The energy grew brighter and flame-like. This was it. All she could see was her magic and all she felt was anger.
"Hurry up, this is the only chance you'll get," the Fallen goaded.
Thorn grunted. As you fucking wish.
The energy swirled around her hand in a hateful furry. It was only a matter of seconds before the beam of energy struck the Fallen. Wait. The Fallen's looking at my bed. That means it's next to...No! The jettison of magical energy stopped midway between the Fallen and its face.
"Awww, what's a matter Sally?" the Fallen teased.
You fucking bastard. You're next to Luna. I would've hurt Luna.
The Fallen laughed and turned its head. Luna was right there, less than a foot away, sound asleep. At that distance, Thorn's attack would do more than hurt Luna.
You tried to make me kill Luna!
The Fallen laughed. "No, I didn't. You could've told me to move or keep Kim safe, and I'd happily oblige. But you didn't think to do that. You were too busy being angry and spiteful. You almost killed your friend."
Shut up! The jolt of energy inched closer to the Fallen.
"Hahaha, I love seeing you angry," the Fallen laughed. "You show your true self as a witch. And just like every other mage, all you do is hurt, kill and destroy."
No. The magic fizzled out and Thorn no longer felt her magic.
"That's right killer," the Fallen chuckled. "You're just another murdering mage. And cruel one at that. You killed poor Cyrus after you took everything away from him: his friends, his support network, his way of life; you even got the woman he loved killed. He dwelled in anguish before you finally took his life away."
Thorn sighed. She wanted to deny the Fallen and call it a liar. But the entity was right. She did kill. Four days ago. She ended the life of another human being with magic. Sure, he had tried to attack her, Dusk and Luna, but it was the last Wiccan ideal she held onto during their ordeal with the cult. The only standard separating her from all the mages she met. It was her one rule. And she broke it.
"Look at that, you're not even denying it," the Fallen said. "That means you've accepted who you are."
No! I didn't mean to kill him! She paused. She realized what the Fallen was doing. You want me to get angry just so you can torment me. I won't let you do that anymore. Not if it means I'll hurt Luna.
"Is that so? No comments about how you're not a witch," the Fallen said.
Thorn said nothing.
"Ugh! You're boring," the Fallen groaned as it removed the pillow from Luna's face and tossed it aside. "No matter, Kim is more useful to me alive than dead." The Fallen patted the sleeping girl's head and turned away.
Thorn sighed as the Fallen left Luna asleep and returned to the bathroom, where it stood in front of the mirror.
"You know what Sally, I think I'll just stick around for a while," the Fallen said.
No, you're going get out and leave us alone Thorn demanded. Your followers are dead and you have no one left. Just rot in your damned prison.
The Fallen chuckled. "You only killed like seventy of my followers; I still have thousands left." The Fallen leaned closer to the mirror. "But it doesn't matter, you have an entire fandom out there that I'll convert into loyal worshipers."
"I would and I will," the Fallen said. The cosmic snapped its fingers and a chair appeared in the bathroom. The Fallen sat down and crossed its legs. "It's really simple: I put on the Thorn mask and then continue the tour posing as you. I'll get my current followers to bring me a certain item to boost my power a bit and then I'll have no problems indoctrinating the masses into becoming my faithful servants; hell in a few weeks I could probably have the entire nation working to free me!"
Thorn grunted. Nobody will believe that you're me!
The Fallen simply raised its hand and its fingernails turned crimson. "Everyone will."
You don't have my skills.
The Fallen rolled its eyes and changed the color of its nails on the other hand to crimson. "Please, I led an eight billion year-long war against the infinite forces of the Light; I think I can handle writing a few songs, singing, and looking sexy."
You…didn't even win that war. Thorn found it difficult to think. You can't be a Hex Girl.
The Fallen chuckled before it sat up and cleared its throat. "I'm a Hex Girl and I'm gonna put a spell on you!"
Thorn felt uneasy as the Fallen sang, hitting every note perfectly. The Fallen smirked.
Fuck you. Try writing an original piece. You won't get far without new material.
The Fallen smiled, eager to take on Thorn's challenge. It sat back down and a piece of paper appeared on the counter. It pulled a pen from literally thin air and began writing notes.
"Hmm, let's see. What do I want to sing about?" The Fallen said as it scratched its head. "My greatness? Mmm, a little too early for that. Let's think gothic, witchy, magic. Aha! I do love putting curses on people." The Fallen smiled. "Loving Curses? Nah, too weird for human standards. Curse of Love? Too similar to another song. Love's Curse? Hmm, that could work!"
Thorn watched in terror as the Fallen penned more notes and lyrics. The entity hummed a few tunes and slowly but surely a song began to form.
"I put a curse on you!
A curse of love
A curse on you!
A curse from above!
There's a curse on you
And you'll never know
How fast, how fast, how your life will go-oh!"
Fuck that's actually pretty catchy. She hated that the new song taking shape before her was decent and matched her own songwriting style. The song itself wasn't as great as "Hex Girl" or their earlier works but the lyrics were catchy and with the Hex Girls name attached to it, it'd sell.
"That's pretty good for something I wrote in two minutes!" the Fallen exclaimed, holding up the finished song to the mirror. "Needs a little editing here and there, but I'll deal with that later."
It's…okay Thorn begrudgingly replied. I'm… gonna steal it when I kick you out of me. You don't get any fucking credit.
The Fallen laughed. "That's a good one but we already established that you can't do that."
"Now, Sally," the Fallen asked. "When was the last time you changed your outfit? You've been using that same dress for years. I think it's time for an update."
If she could, Thorn would've smirked. That dress was iconic. When people saw it, they knew it was Thorn. It was her style. The idea of changing was ridiculous; Gus once had them change outfits for a show in California a few years back. Sure it was different from her usual getup, and she was rather fond of that black dress and the red knee-high socks she wore, but their fans hated it. There were massive outcries and demand for their original outfits. That was the last time they wore something different on stage.
Good luck with that. Fan's hated that when we tried it last time.
"I'm aware," the Fallen said. "That outfit was too different from your original; I'll need something much closer to your original dress."
The Fallen snapped its fingers and the simple black nightgown it was wearing was replaced with an outfit Thorn had never seen before. The Fallen was wearing a black bodysuit with a mesh top and sleeves. A pair of red knee-high boots and black, fingerless gloves finished off the outfit.
Thorn was shocked. The outfit itself was her style and she looked pretty good in it. It had the original's vibe and color scheme yet was still unique; while it would never top the original, it was a damn good second that her fans would enjoy.
The Fallen then picked up Thorn's jewelry box and opened it. The entity pulled out Thorn's ruby bat necklace and held it to its neck. "Nah, it's a bit too you," the Fallen said before tossing the necklace into the trash. The Fallen leaned back in the chair, an eager smile on its face, and it waited for Thorn's response.
Thorn wanted to scream and retrieve the necklace her mother gave her when she was young. She began cursing the Fallen but stopped after a couple of swears. Thorn didn't want to let the Fallen get the best of her. She needed to stay focused and find a crack in the Fallen's plan. Just because you have my body and skills doesn't mean you're me. You're nothing like me. You're so full of yourself that you'll slip up, and then everyone will know that something is wrong.
The Fallen rolled its eyes. "No one is going to realize anything."
The Fallen sighed. "You don't get it, do you?"
"That 'Thorn' isn't real."
You're insane. I am Thorn.
The Fallen chuckled. " Oh Sally, 'Thorn' is a persona, a mask you wear on stage. You pretend to be her, but you're not her."
Shut up! That's not true! You're just trying to torment me.
The Fallen rolled its eyes. "'Thorn' is a confident, classy, and empowered woman who inspires others while you're a selfish, reckless girl who can't follow her own morality and is terrified of herself; you two couldn't further apart."
"Pft! You can't even defend yourself cause you know I'm right," Fallen said with a smirk. The entity leaned back in the chair and put its feet on the counter. "As I've established, I can play the role of Thorn, I just need to keep it up for a couple of years at most."
Even if the bullshit you spat out was true, Luna and Dusk will see right through you, and they'll beat you for the second time.
"Hmm, I'll concede that Kim and Jane will require more effort to dupe, but you really think I can't impersonate Sally McKnight as well?" the Fallen said as it adjusted its collar. "I'm possessing you, Sally, I have access to all your memories and thoughts." The Fallen looked at the mirror and smirked. "If anything, I'm more you than you."
You can't possibly know everything about me.
The Fallen sighed and looked at the mirror. "You're still upset about your kitten Nightshade running away when you were six. You came up with the name 'Thorn' when you were eleven because roses were the last flowers you were able to grow in mommy's garden. It took you two years to realize your date with Jane's older brother James at the end of middle school was a pity date cause she had teased you about liking him in front of him. Um, what else? Oh in ninth grade you pretty much told your former friend Xander she can't play in the band due to her stage fright, never once helping her overcome it. You still hate amusement parks cause that carnie Knuckles Wazinski dumped you for a carnival ride. And let's not forget about how your first long-term relationship ended when what's his name, oh right Alastair, moved to Europe at the end of twelfth grade; you were so distraught when he sent you that final letter that you almost didn't sign your studio contract. You lied about making a CD when you first met Mystery Inc cause you wanted to seem professional. And then..."
Thorn remained in dreadful silence as the Fallen continued to name and describe in frightening detail Thorn's most intimate and significant moments in her life. With each moment mentioned, it was like tearing an old wound open and she was drowning in an ocean of past emotions. She desperately tried to find some semblance of hope, a metaphorical life preserver, for her predicament. But it seemed hopeless; the Fallen really did know everything about her. But in what seemed like her darkest hour, she saw one last light in the inky darkness and made her final play.
You might have my memories but can't match my behaviors and personality. You can't be me.
"Oh but I've saved the best for last, " the Fallen said with a smirk and its eyes briefly glowed crimson and gold.
Thorn wanted to both cry in a corner and punch the Fallen yet she could do neither. All she could do was prepare herself for whatever the Fallen was going to throw at her and hope for a miracle.
The Fallen snapped its fingers. There was a brief moment of darkness followed by a bright light. Thorn blinked, gasping at the realization she had a physical form again. She patted herself, confirming that she wasn't hallucinating or under an illusion. She was back but where was she?
She could hear a TV blaring-a New England Patriots game by the sound of it- and glancing at the source of the noise confirmed it. She was in a simple yet strangely familiar living room. A couple of sofas with leafy designs on them. An armchair in the corner of the room with a red blanket haphazardly thrown on the seat, a blanket that resembled the one she liked to wrap herself in as a child and then sit on her father's lap, always when he tried to watch the game, and tell him about all the herbs her mother was growing in the garden or the candles she'd help her mother make.
But Thorn gasped at what she saw on the chair: a small, handcrafted doll wearing a black dress. Its eyes were black buttons and a pair of little fangs jutted out from its sewn smile.
Thorn walked over to the vampire doll and picked it up with a trembling hand. "This...this isn't possible," she stammered, still holding the doll.
"I gotta admit Sally, you buried this deep; the fact that I was only able to find it after possessing you is remarkable."
Thorn looked up and saw herself dressed in that new outfit sitting in the armchair, but the quick flash of crimson and gold in her eyes revealed her true identity.
"Where am I?" Thorn asked, her voice still shaken from her surroundings.
The Fallen frowned. "Don't play dumb with me. You know exactly where you are."
Thorn glanced around and saw more familiar sites: the large pentacle made of twigs woven together that hung on the wall; the various white candles placed on the various countertops that left the smell of sage lingering in the room; the toy broom leaning against the front door that she'd pretend to fly on in the front yard when it was warm.
Thorn shook her head, still visibly shaking. "No, this is impossible."
The Fallen rolled its eyes and motioned toward the kitchen.
"To love the Earth is our one desire."
Thorn's heart nearly skipped a beat and she dropped the vampire doll. She hadn't heard that in almost two decades. Not the song, obviously, but the voice that sang her that lyric long ago from a hymn she couldn't remember. That voice. That beautiful, soothing voice. Thorn's legs were wobbling and she felt winded like she just ran a marathon.
"Is it…" she began, wiping a tear from her eye. She couldn't finish the sentence.
"Go see for yourself," the Fallen said.
Thorn slowly approached the kitchen and the singing grew louder. The apprehension was killing her; she could barely walk and she had to stop when she reached the kitchen. A small wall blocked her view, but Thorn knew who was in the kitchen. She closed her eyes and gulped. This was it. The moment of truth. She opened her eyes and rounded the corner.
With teary eyes, Thorn saw her. She was wearing a green sweater with black leggings. She wore her pentacle necklace, the one that Thorn would beg her to wear. Her ravenette hair was tied in a French braid and she still had a slight tan from working in her garden out back all summer. She was taking several cookies from a tray and placing them in a decorative cookie tin next to a bundle of flowers and a homemade candle.
"Mom…" Thorn stuttered, her face was flushed and a single tear rolled down her cheek.
The woman stopped and turned around. She was smiling, as usual, and Thorn could see the crescent moon earrings that contrasted with her emerald eyes.
"There's my little Wiccan," she said with outstretched arms.
Thorn smiled. The flood of emotions she felt was overwhelming. It was almost twenty years since she last saw her. She cried and laughed, and didn't say anything. She simply ran toward her mother, ready to embrace her.
But Thorn's heart sank as she passed through her mother like she wasn't even there. She gazed into her empty arms with a look of sheer terror on her face. No. Thorn turned around. Her mother remained in her pose, never once turning around. Instead, Thorn watched as a small girl, no more than five or six years old, wearing a pair of black pajamas and an oversized witch hat that covered most of her face run into her mother's arms. The girl giggled in her mother's embrace and a tiny, black kitten followed her into the kitchen.
"She never saw me," Thorn whimpered to herself.
"It sure sucks being a passive observer, doesn't it," the Fallen snickered, as it leaned against the counter, eating a cookie.
Thorn gritted her teeth as she glared at the entity impersonating her; it merely smirked in response.
"Why are you doing this to me?" Thorn grunted.
The Fallen finished its cookie and walked toward her. "Do yourself a favor and just enjoy this happy moment."
Thorn hesitated. She knew there was more to this, and she hated to admit it, but the Fallen had a point. Her mother was here, and even if she couldn't hug her, she could still enjoy the memory.
Thorn turned back around. Her mother lifted the giant hat off the girl, revealing her grinning face. She had the same green eyes and black hair. Thorn's eyes widened as she realized who the girl was.
"Why aren't you in bed Sally?" her mother asked in a playful tone.
"I'm not tired yet," Sally said with a bright smile on her face.
"You're not?" her mother replied. "Even after all that gardening we did today?"
Thorn's younger self nodded with enthusiasm. "Daddy said I could stay up."
Thorn's mother raised an eyebrow. "He did?"
Thorn turned and saw her father enter the kitchen. She was momentarily caught off guard by the lack of gray in her father's brown hair as she couldn't remember the last time it wasn't gray.
"And why would you do that?" her mother asked with a small smile as she released Sally from her hug.
"I tried putting her to bed," her father admitted. "But I barely made it to our room when I heard her running down the hallway. At that point, I figured I'd let her stay up a little longer so she could tire herself out."
Thorn's parents both smiled at her younger self, who was now sitting on the floor playing with the kitten. Thorn smiled and wiped her eyes. It had been so long since the three of them were together and she recalled many pleasant memories: helping her mother plant seeds in the herb garden during the spring and picking them in the summer and fall; her mother singing Wiccan hymns to her at night before she went to bed; her father pretending to be a vampire and chasing her in the living room. She remembered the long walks the three of them would go on in autumn where Thorn would collect the most colorful leaves and bring them home to make leaf collages with her parents. There was so much happiness back then, that it was hard to believe that it all happened in such a brief moment of time.
"Such a cute family," the Fallen mocked from behind. "I hope you're taking it all in."
The Fallen's comments shook Thorn from her reminiscing. She tried to ignore the Cosmic Entity and focus on her family, but the Fallen stepped into view.
"I could've given you this if you had submitted to me," the Fallen said.
Thorn scowled at the Fallen. "You could never replace what I had with my parents."
"Perhaps not, but I can bring your mother back."
Grunting, Thorn grabbed the Fallen by the shoulders and pushed it against the fridge. She pressed her arm against its throat, pinning it there. But the Fallen just smirked.
"Oh I love it when you get violent, it brings out the witch in you," the Fallen said, it's malicious grin growing wider. "Though I'm a little sad that you're not using magic."
"Shut up," Thorn grunted. She pressed her arm harder against the Fallen's throat.
"Why? Did I trigger you?" the Fallen quipped.
Thorn grimaced. "You're not going to use my mother as a bargaining chip against me and ruin my memory of her!"
It had taken many painful years to accomplish it, but Thorn did eventually come to terms with her mother's passing. It was difficult as a child, but she found solace in the Wiccan practices and teachings of her mother. By holding on to these beliefs, she was able to make peace with the loss of her mother.
"Now who said I was using her as a bargaining chip," the Fallen said.
Her grip on the Fallen loosened. "What do you mean?"
The Fallen chuckled. "You don't recognize this moment, do you?"
Thorn turned to her parents. Her mother had resumed filling the cookie tin with cookies while her father and her younger self were playing with Nightshade. There was nothing that stood out from the scene. Try as she might, Thorn couldn't recall this exact moment.
"I guess someone needs a reminder," the Fallen said.
Thorn heard the click of the cookie tin closing. Her mother placed a small card on the lid before tying it shut with a ribbon.
"Alright, I have to make a quick delivery," her mother said as she grabbed all the items and went to the closet by the front door to get her coat. "I won't be long."
"I wanna come," Sally cheered as she ran the closet to get her own coat.
"Sally sweetie, it's past your bedtime," her mother replied. "You need to go to bed."
Sally pouted. "But I'm not tired."
"Sally, you have school tomorrow and I don't want any trouble waking you up in the morning," her mother said.
Sally groaned. She stormed off to the kitchen table and promptly crawled under it. Nightshade quickly joined her there.
"How about a compromise," her father said. "We'll let you stay up later, but then you go to bed when mommy gets back."
"Good idea," her mother said with a smile. "Why don't you tell daddy all about the new herbal recipe we're trying."
Sally crawled out from under the table giggling. She immediately ran into the living room and Thorn heard her jump onto the armchair where she'd be waiting for her father to join her.
"Alright, I'm off to drop this off at Mrs. Anderson's, she just got home from the hospital," her mother said as she picked up the cookie tin.
"June, it's late; can't this wait till the morning?" her father asked, revealing his true opinion.
Her mother frowned. "You know I can't do that Patrick. She's done so much for us and she doesn't have anyone else who can help her."
Mrs. Anderson!? Mrs. Anderson was an elderly Wiccan Thorn's mother was close friends with. She'd helped Thorn's family numerous times and was even the person who gave her Nightshade. Thorn felt a shiver go down her spine and her eyes widened in fear. If she just came home and my mom is going to visit her ..."
"No," Thorn weakly mumbled as she stepped away from the Fallen.
"Good. You're remembering," the Fallen said. "Then you know what happens when mommy steps out that door."
Thorn heard the door open and she glanced at the door. Her mother was about to leave for the final time.
Thorn watched as her younger self ran past her and hugged her mother goodbye. It was a brief hug, like the ones she'd given her mother nearly every time she went out.
"I love you sweetie." Her mother released Sally and exited the house.
As the door slowly closed, a tiny, instinctive thought popped into Thorn's mind: save her. Heart racing, Thorn bolted for the door, the shrinking view of her mother made her quicken her pace. But as she reached the door, it closed and her mother was gone forever. She grabbed the doorknob, ready to swing it open and glimpse her mother one last time. Stop. She's already gone. She sighed and let go of the doorknob. She knew it was futile to chase down a memory, as that's all her mother was, a cherished memory.
"Part of me wanted you to try to save her," Fallen said in disappointment. "If only to mock you for your inevitable failure."
Thorn clenched her fists and faced the Fallen. "You're not going to tear open old wounds by making me relive the night my mother died. I know she's gone, I accepted it long ago, so you can't use her against me."
The Fallen gave a dismissive shrug. "Eh, it's not that important; I just thought it'd be fun to go see the wreck, maybe get you to hunt down the drunkard who killed her." The Fallen smirked. "You wanna know the real reason I brought you here?"
"I don't care, just go back to your prison," Thorn said with a grimace.
The Fallen snapped its fingers and they were at the edge of a cemetery. It was fall, the trees were red and orange, and a cool breeze blew through the cemetery. They were standing next to a white oak sapling. There was a small plaque on the ground that simply read "In Loving Memory of June McKnight" with a small pentacle underneath the writing.
Thorn smiled as she saw the sapling. Her mother's ashes were used in the planting of the sapling, which was grown from the acorns of the historic oak in town. It was her mother's way of returning to nature.
"I already told you, you can't use my mother against me," Thorn said without looking at the supernatural entity.
"I'm aware," the Fallen said. Curious, Thorn glanced at the entity and watched as it picked up a small bowl, disturbing an arrangement of flowers in the process.
Thorn's eyes widened as she recognized the bowl.
"You used this bowl for various Wiccan rituals, no?" the Fallen asked.
"Yeah and?" Thorn replied.
"And you'd perform them here. At first, it was with your dad once a week but then it became almost daily once you got older, correct?"
The Fallen smirked. "This is how you deal with grief and trauma Sally, even when you were young."
Thorn took a step back from the Fallen, taken back by what it was saying. Is this true? She'd never given this idea thought, but it was starting to make sense.
"This whole stroll down memory lane was to demonstrate that I know how you work Sally," the Fallen said, tossing the bowl back into the flower arrangement. "In the wake of trauma, you flee into familiarity and you let it consume you. When your mother died, you dove into your faith, praying, performing rituals, and all that other fun stuff every day until you moved on." The Fallen paused and approached Thorn. "And you were going to do the same after escaping my temple, though this time it was with music and your friendship with Kim and Jane, had I not possessed you."
Thorn shook her head and tried to speak, but all she managed to say was an incoherent stutter.
"You said it yourself to Kim and Jane during the trip back to Bolfied," the Fallen said. "No magic. No cults or gods; I don't even want to get answers to my magic or anything else. Just music and you two."
"I... I still don't see the point of all this other than to torment me," Thorn said, her voice slightly raised.
The Fallen chuckled. The world around grew dark and everything was quickly consumed by the inky darkness. Thorn was back in the void, unable to even see the world through the Fallen's eyes.
"In order to perfectly imitate you, I have to respond the way you do to trauma," the Fallen said. "So that's what I'll do. I'll dive into the music, the tour. I'll write song after song, and I'll make sure Jan-er Dusk and Luna are by my side the entire time. No magic. No powers. Just music and them. And they'll respect your, no my, wishes as they want that too. And then we'll move on from that horrific experience at the temple, as stronger people." The Fallen paused and Thorn could envision the entity's taunting smirk. "I can conduct my operations in secret as you often stay up later than them when working, so I'll do everything I need to free myself then. It'll be perfect. No one will ever know that I'm not you."
And with that, Thorn fell to her knees. She could no longer hold back the tears and she covered her face with her hands and wept. Not only could the Fallen perfectly imitate her in every way, but nobody would ever know that she was replaced with evil incarnate. Not her fans. Not Gus. Not her father back in Oakhaven. Not even Dusk and Luna. She kept crying. Everything that she was had become just a tool for manipulating others. And when Fallen was done, she was certain that it would discard her identity and body like a piece of garbage.
"I know it's tough," the Fallen said. "I'd rather not pretend to be a mortal, but I gotta do what I need to do to free myself." The Fallen sighed. "I actually wanted you to watch me go about turning your life into a tool of mass indoctrination but I've already broken you, so I'll just remove you now."
Thorn looked up into the void, tears streaming down her face. She felt momentarily cold before she felt nothing. Scared, she looked down and saw her legs were becoming transparent. Her eyes widened in panic as they slowly faded away. As the transparency crept up her form, she turned toward the Fallen and wept.
"What are you doing to me!?" Thorn cried.
"I'm erasing you, Sally," the Fallen explained as a bright crimson light shone and the sun-like projection of the entity returned. "Your soul will fade away into nothingness and there will be no afterlife for you. You will simply be gone and nobody will know or care."
"Please no," Thorn begged as her waist faded away.
"Hey, this could've been a lot more painful, so you're welcome," the Fallen said.
Crying and without any other options, Thorn clasped her fading hands together and prayed to the blue-gray entity that saved her from the rubble of the collapsing temple. Please, if you're out there, help me. The Fallen is back and he's— the thought just ended. Try as she might, she just couldn't finish the prayer.
"No! Don't you try pulling that bullshit again," the Fallen growled. At least she got the Fallen pissed enough to stop it from speaking with her voice. "You're going to fade away like a good little mortal and I'll—" the Fallen paused and the void shook. "Oh for fuck's sake, get the hell outta here you deus ex shit!"
Thorn looked up and saw that the crimson and gold flames had grown in a hateful fury that threatened to consume all.
It became silent and Thorn looked around but aside from the flaming mass, there was nothing but darkness.
"Hmm. I'm intrigued," the Fallen said to the unknown presence.
Thorn gasped as she felt a surge of energy wash over what was left of her and after a moment, her body (or perhaps soul) was restored. Knowing she wasn't fading away anymore, she turned to the Fallen.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Silence! The adults are talking." The Fallen disappeared into the darkness and Thorn was alone.
Without knowing what was happening, Thorn could only stand there, shaking. She wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes but knew there was no way to find out.
The Fallen emerged a few minutes later.
"Congratulations Sally, you get your body back," the Fallen said in a surprisingly neutral tone. "But before I leave, I want to give you something."
Thorn screamed as a searing pain overcame her shoulder. She fell onto her side clutching her shoulder. It was like the Fallen was burning something onto her skin. She continued to scream until the Fallen was done.
"So my loyal servant can find you later," the Fallen said.
Thorn glanced at her shoulder. There, scratched into her skin, was an oval overlaid upon the circle and a forked saltire. In the center of the oval, was a sun-like shape. She recognized it as the eye symbol she saw in the Fallen's temple.
"Till we meet again Sally," the Fallen said and in a flash of light, it was gone. The inky blackness of the void then slowly turned blue-gray.
At that moment, the pain subsided and Thorn felt at peace. Safe even. It was the same sensation she felt when the Broken, another deity that betrayed the Fallen long ago, had rescued her and her friends from the temple.
"Thank you," Thorn said into the void.
"This is how the Fallen found you," a new, powerful, and calming voice said. A shard of black crystal, no bigger than a grain of rice, appeared before her.
"The shard landed on you when you blew up the crystal connecting the Fallen to this world," the voice explained. "With it, it found and possessed you."
Thorn stared at the shard. She was in awe that such a tiny thing nearly ended her own existence. Blue flames quickly consumed the crystal shard and a few moments later, it was gone.
"There are no other crystals within your vicinity, so you and your friends are safe," the voice said. "I will construct a barrier around your mind that will prevent the Fallen from possessing you again."
Thorn sighed with relief as the Fallen would not be able to hurt her again.
"Thank you, but why are you doing this? I'm just one person," Thorn said.
"Let's just say, we have...mutual interests," the voice replied.
"I don't get it," Thorn said, shaking her head. "What interests do we have in common?"
There was a long silence before the voice spoke again.
"If you want to survive the unpleasant fate that's coming for you, find what is hidden at the Regal Hotel," the voice said.
The void seemed to move and Thorn felt that the entity was departing.
"Wait!" Thorn cried out. "What's coming? Where's the Regal Hotel? What do you want me to find there?"
The entity said nothing.
"Are you the Broken?" Thorn asked.
"Return to your body," the voice said.
Thorn gasped as she found herself on the bathroom floor panting and covered in sweat. There were no dark voids or supernatural entities, just the mess of cosmetics the Fallen had made on the floor. Thorn grabbed the chair the Fallen had willed into existence and pulled herself up. She saw her reflection. She was wearing the outfit the Fallen created.
With teary eyes, she undressed with haste. She gathered the unholy clothes and tossed them out of the bathroom before slamming the door behind her. She hobbled over to the counter. She saw herself in the mirror, the now reddening symbol the Fallen burnt onto her shoulder stood out against her pale skin. She continued to sob, her crying became too much that she could barely stand. She tried to walk away but she stumbled over. Thorn managed to catch herself on the counter, but she felt the paper with "Love's Curse!" written on it underneath her hand. She shouted as she crumpled the paper and threw it against the wall.
Thorn didn't know how long it took, but she eventually made it over to the bathtub. She turned the shower knob on and moments later, cold water was raining down.
As the shower warmed, Thorn stumbled back toward the counter. She opened the mirror, revealing a small medicine cabinet. With a shaking hand, she pulled out a small unlabeled bag containing a few dozen brown seeds, leftovers from a failed ritual, from behind her herbal jars. She removed five seeds from the bag. Thorn sobbed, her tears landing on the bag, as she picked up the seeds. I'm sorry. She knew what she was about to do was wrong, but she needed an escape from what the Fallen did to her.
Thorn started chewing the Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds. She lifted the toilet seat up, just in case she vomited. She then reached into the trash can and removed her necklace before climbing into the bathtub. She sat down, pulled her legs to her chest, and continued to cry, her tears lost in the hot water dripping down her face. She gripped her necklace with all her might, not wanting to let go. Hopefully, the coming trip would relieve her of the pain.
EndNote: I won't be doing this often, but there are two references I wanted to point out. Thorn's mother's name being June and Thorn having an ex-boyfriend named Alastair are references to the fanfiction "It's a Hex Life" by Grumpydrawer, which if you haven't, you should read as it's a good Hex Girls centric fanfic.