Magic is real and so are most of the old legends and myths. And the gods are angry
|Chapter 1 - Abigail
On the day it all began, Abigail spent her morning sitting on the porch and drinking hot tea, contemplating the unsettling feeling that something was wrong. Change was in the air and she could smell it, as clear and crisp as the change of seasons. She couldn't describe it in words, if asked, but she felt it deep in her bones and it made her nervous. She'd lived through many things and change rarely phased her anymore, but something about this felt strange and dark. She wondered, briefly, if her sisters were feeling the same foreboding.
The morning air was heavy with fog that spread across the fields, giving an ethereal feel to the day. Abigail breathed deeply, lost in her own reflections, trying to pinpoint what was making her so uneasy. She probed at the feeling, turning it over and over in her head, staring across the misty grass until she couldn't see it anymore and all she saw and sensed lay in a different realm of reality. She poked and prodded in all the usual places, looking for rogue users of her own school of power or perhaps an imbalance of power. She stretched her senses to the edge of her domain and still found nothing amiss. She reached for her sisters and found them safe, but that was all she could sense anymore. It had been too long since they were together to feel beyond the vaguest sense of presence. She convinced herself then that if anything were deeply wrong, she would know and that she was being a paranoid old fool. Perhaps her latest profession was taking its toll on her psyche.
She slowly came back to herself and took a sip of her tea, frowning when she found it cold. She checked her watch and made a face, scolding herself for wasting so much time. Now she would have to rush, and she hated to rush. Rushing put her in a foul mood. Of course, she was already in a bit of a foul mood, so perhaps it wouldn't get much worse.
Abigail showered quickly, put on her nondescript hospital issued scrubs and plaited her long silver-blonde hair into a loose braid. She packed a quick lunch and a snack, then brewed another cup of hot tea in a travel mug, determined to drink it hot this time.
The morning fog had burned away into a pleasant mid-day brightness, warm but with the promise of cooler air on its way. She drove with the windows down, enjoying the crisp air that came in the late summer in the southern United States and trying to ignore that nagging feeling that something was amiss.
Her sense of foreboding only increased as she walked through the hospital, noting the full lobby and the strained looks on the nurses faces as she strolled back to her desk for the day. For the past 7 years, she had worked in a moderate sized, rural emergency department in southern Tennessee as a Physician Assistant. Abigail mostly enjoyed the job, but lately wondered if the strain was getting to her. As she passed a psychiatric patient, strapped to the bed and screaming as several nurses and police officers held him down and tried to administer medications, she shook her head and decided that yes, the job was what was making her uneasy, and it was time for a change of pace.
She stored her bag in the drawer by her station and swiped her badge to log into the computer, inwardly groaning when she saw 20 patients in the lobby waiting to be seen.
"You should run before they know you're here." said Jared, one of the paramedics she worked with frequently.
"Pretty sure it's too late for that. Who's my doc today?"
"Phenomenal." she said, flatly. "That explains a lot." Jared grinned and nodded, moving on to his next task as Abigail decided where to start. Dr. Cox was a friendly old man, but he had no sense of urgency. The department was full to the brim and he was, as usual, nowhere to be seen. A quick scan showed no one to be in imminent danger, and so she settled into her normal rhythm of seeing patients as quickly and efficiently as possible. Abigail worked her way through a half-dozen patients before Dr. Cox appeared at their shared desk for the first time that shift.
"Well, thank God you're here Abby! I don't know what happened. They just keep pouring in today." He patted her shoulder as he went to his desk. Abigail forced a smile and nodded. She hated the nickname of Abby, but tolerated it all the same.
"Well that's what I'm here for, to save the day." she said, spinning casually to face him in her chair. "Got anything fun?"
"Not unless you count the meth-head in four points."
"Of course I count the meth-head in four points. Is it just meth?"
Cox gave a noncommittal shrug. "Who knows. Probably some sort of synthetics on board that we can't detect plus baseline crazy."
Abigail nodded. "Did you B52 him?" She asked, referring to the cocktail of drugs that usually worked to sedate psychotic patients.
"Sort of, but used Geodon instead of Haldol."
The patient in question chose that moment to start screaming nonsensical words again, and Cox heaved a sigh, stood and started back towards his room.
"Maybe both this time?" Abigail called after him, smirking a little that it wasn't her crazy patient this time. Cox just waved his hand at her before he disappeared around the corner. She turned back to her desk
There was definitely something "off" about today. She could sense it in the patients and in the staff. Most of her patients today were what she referred to as "sensitives". These were otherwise normal people who had the ability to sense the magical and paranormal, but not enough gift to do much with it. In her experience, many of her psychiatric patients were sensitives and their ability to sense the paranormal was often proportional to their level of crazy. During shifts in power or turbulent times in the magical world, the sensitives often became ill and ended up in Emergency Departments across the affected area. This was one of the reasons Abigail had chosen this particular profession; it served as a barometer, of sorts, for the health of the paranormal world and the physical one. Many individuals gifted with abilities in some form were drawn to the medical profession, and she postulated it was for this very reason, even if they weren't aware of it on a conscious level.
Abigail was turning all of this over in her head as she went about her day, her sense of unease waxing and waning with her patient load. She could sense some unrest in her nursing staff as well, mostly from the stress and the volume, but one particularly gifted telepath was also tense from something other than the work itself. Her name was Beatrice and she was one of the newer additions to their department. She was bright and sweet but painfully shy, with jet black hair and kind hazel eyes. Despite her timidity, she was a good nurse and Abigail thought it was due to her gift. They both typically worked mid-shifts and often ended up working together, so they were on friendly terms, if not precisely friends. Beatrice seemed drawn to her and Abigail often wondered if that was due to her own abilities. She kept herself warded; however, most could still sense that something was different about her, even if they couldn't determine exactly what that might be.
Beatrice sat down next to Abigail with a huff of frustration. She put her head in her hands for a moment before sitting up and logging into the computer. Abigail paused her dictation to look at her.
"You okay?" she asked Beatrice, who sighed and nodded her head.
"Yeah, these patients are just...a lot today." she replied. Abigail nodded.
"Maybe Mercury is in retrograde." said Travis, another registered nurse, who was lazy but competent. Abigail nodded again thoughtfully and resumed dictating her latest note.
"Every patient today comes with a side of crazy." Jared added and Travis laughed.
"Yeah, no kidding. They all seem normal at first and then" he whistled and made a downward gesture, "it's a left turn into crazy-town. There must be something in the water."
"How many psych holds do we have again? Jared asked.
"6 and there's one in the lobby." Beatrice said, pulling her hands through her hair. "I've never seen it this bad."
“That’s because you haven’t been here long.” Travis said, rising to go back to work.
Abigail could feel the anxiety rising in her young friend. While her colleagues joked to ease their own psychic strain, Beatrice was winding herself tighter. It seemed that she too could feel the wrongness in the paranormal world today, even if she wasn’t entirely aware of it.
"Oh well, at least it keeps things interesting." Jared said with a shrug, following Travis on to other business.
The day progressed and more patients poured into their little Emergency Room. Psychiatric patients became increasingly agitated as sick patients became progressively sicker. Ambulances dropped patients off and returned within the hour, bringing in even more. Throughout it all, the staff worked tirelessly, occasionally stepping out for a breath of fresh air and a tiny bit of space from the growing chaos.
It happened just after shift change. The majority of the nursing staff and doctors changed at 7am and 7pm, with a few mid-shifters helping to bridge that gap. It was shortly after 7pm and the night nurses were beginning to take control of the department, when the incoming EMS radio beeped and they heard the siren wailing behind the medic as he spoke. The ambient noise at the nursing desk quieted, everyone knowing this was an emergency traffic call, and all wanting to hear and prepare for whatever was coming. Abigail had just come out of another patient’s room when the call began, and she looked anxiously towards Dr. MacNeil, her attending that had just taken over from Dr. Cox.
"Medic 109 inbound one time with emergency traffic. A six, repeat six, year old male in cardiac arrest with unknown down time after apparent drowning in the nearby creek." The pressured male voice crackled across the radio, and the nursing desk, already unusually calm, fell silent after the age of the patient was spoken. The charge nurse, Bridgette, went and stood by the radio, scrabbling for scrap paper and a pen. The medic rattled off more crackling details as Bridgette took notes. "Any instructions prior to arrival?" he asked.
"Core temp?" MacNeil asked, and Bridgette repeated the question into the radio.
"Rectal temp of 96.0F"
MacNeil nodded and Bridgette confirmed no further questions or orders.
"Copy. ETA 10 minutes." The static crackled as the connection dropped.
"Warm fluids." MacNeil said. "He's cold and dead now, we have to warm him and see if he stays that way.”
One nurse began moving and suddenly they all were moving, each to a different task of setting up the critical care bay. One was getting the intubation tray ready, another getting pre-warmed fluid bags, another setting up the pediatric code cart that was barely ever used. Abigail always marveled at this part of it - the calm before the storm. The staff were quiet, each inwardly building their own walls and preparing for the coming blow that would likely haunt their nightmares for days, weeks, or years to come. No one made eye contact with one another as they worked, pulling machinery and medications and instruments into the largest room in the department, reserved only for the sickest and most critical patients. MacNeil stood watching the ambulance bay, absently chewing a thumbnail while thumbing through a pocket reference book. He was a good doctor, in Abigail’s opinion anyway, but he was also a bit jumpy and erratic at times.
“Anyone you need me to watch, Doc?” Abigail asked, moving close to his elbow. He let out a confused grunt before realizing who was speaking.
“Uh, there’s a lady in bed 12 who may have appendicitis if you want to keep an eye out for her cat scan.” He turned back towards his book, shaking his head ever so slightly.
“No problem.” Abigail said. She heard the wail of the sirens now. “I’ll just keep an eye on anything I can disposition for you then.” He grunted again and nodded. She turned to go back to her desk when she caught sight of Beatrice, standing to the side of the critical bay with her hands clutching in and out of fists. Abigail knew she had struggled after her last code blue, having to run outside to vomit and psychically scream loud enough to give her a headache. Someone must have given her an order because she looked up, nodded sharply and started out towards the supply room taking small, quick strides. Abigail took pity on the poor girl and decided to try to comfort her.
“Beatrice.” Abigail caught the door behind the small nurse. “Is this your first peds code?” Beatrice’s fists continued to clench and relax as she stared at the floor, but she nodded tightly. Abigail let the door click shut behind her.
“I know you had trouble with that last code a couple of weeks ago. But, listen, not every code is the same. You have to forget that one and move on. Remember your training. Focus on the procedures, not the person.
“You haven’t been an ER nurse long enough to build your own armor, but this is part of it. You have to retreat to that place inside yourself where nothing can touch you, and you stay there until it’s safe. You put the part of you that cares anywhere but here, okay? If you can do that, then you’re going to do just fine here.”
Beatrice drew in a shaky breath, but her fidgeting had calmed. “I don’t know if I can do that.”
“Sure you can. You’re starting to do it now.” Abigail motioned to her hands. “You just focus on the task at hand and ignore everything else. You just remember the protocols and do your job. You can do this, Beatrice. It’s hard, but you can do this.” She felt the girl calm as she took a few deep breaths.
As Abigail was turning to leave, Beatrice asked, “Is that why you always seem so calm? You just retreat into yourself the entire time you’re here?”
She nodded and shrugged. “Something like that.”
Leaving the supply room, she caught sight of the ambulance pulling into the bay, lights flashing and intermittently casting Dr. MacNeil in silhouette as he stood, waiting for the paramedics to wheel in his patient. She glanced towards the code bay and saw Bridgette standing with her hands crossed behind her back, awaiting Dr. MacNeil. The rest of the nurses and techs in the bay stood silent, shifting from foot to foot or fiddling with various wires or pieces of equipment. Then the stretcher was out and through the door and everyone was moving again. Abigail could barely make out the small figure under the paramedic receiving chest compressions. MacNeil followed the stretcher, peppering questions and barking orders. She saw Beatrice emerge from the supply room and froze at the sight of the stretcher wheeling into the trauma bay. Then she took a deep breath, clenched her hands in her fists, and strode into the ambulance bay. She waited at the desk for a few moments to see if MacNeil would call for backup, but he did not. Regardless of the outcome, the code would play out the way it always did - chaotic and gory until the very end. Her job was to handle everyone else.
She made her way back through the ER to her work station. Another night nurse, whose name she couldn’t recall, asked her what was going on and if they needed any help. She thought he might be one of their new travel nurses, but couldn’t be sure. Humans all blended together for her now-a-days, with a few exceptions.
“No, you stay out here with me and let’s get some of these people moving. The entire department can’t stop for one patient.” She glanced at his name tag and saw his name was Aaron. “Are all your patients caught up?”
He shook his head. “Not even close.”
“Well, do the most critical things now, then we will start working on the rest. Who knows how long they’re all going to be in there.” Aaron rolled his eyes and nodded, going back the way he came.
She was in another patient’s room giving them their results and getting them ready for discharge when a faint tingling sensation started just on the edge of her perception. It grew rapidly and she excused herself from the patient’s room, no longer able to concentrate. She sat back at her desk and massaged her temples, just beginning to examine the source of discomfort when it flared and she felt the wind sucked from her lungs. She coughed and stars danced at the edge of her vision. Reflexively, she reached for her power but for the briefest of moments, it wasn’t there. When it returned a half-second later, the invading source was gone and she jumped as a spark of electricity popped between her fingers.
Abigail shoved up from her seat, sending the rolling chair spinning into the wall behind her. Something was very, very wrong. She started towards the code room, towards Beatrice, because she was the only other powered person in the department tonight and she knew she had to have felt that too. She’d taken a few steps towards the door, when Beatrice came bursting out of it, eyes wide and chest heaving. Her eyes met Abigail’s and she stumbled towards her. Abigail placed a hand on each of her shoulders and kept their eyes locked.
“What just happened?” Abigail panted, still recovering her breath. “What happened in that room just now?” She was aware of the Unit Secretary watching them with dismay and started to guide the nurse back towards the supply room.
“They killed him.” Beatrice breathed, barely more than a sigh. Her eyes were wide and no longer focused on Abigail, but something in the distance.
“They killed him.” Beatrice whispered, beginning to tremble under Abigail’s grasp.
“Who killed who? Come with me, let’s get some air.” As she tightened her grip on Beatrice’s arms, the girl’s gaze suddenly snapped up to meet hers, anger and pain and rage blazing behind them. She ripped Abigail’s hands from her shoulders.
“They killed him!” She bellowed, loud enough for the entire department to hear. Abigail raised soothing hands and made a soft shushing noise and Beatrice took a breath. The girl had never shown that much emotion in the months she had known her and had certainly never raised her voice. “His parents killed him.” She groaned and covered her face in her hands. This time she allowed Abigail to pull her away.
“Are you sure?” Abigail asked, after the door to the supply room clicked shut behind her. She could hear other nurses coming out now and knew they had called time of death.
Beatrice nodded as she slumped against the wall, tears rolling down her cheeks. “They abused him for years, but tonight they went too far and they killed him.” Her voice was ragged and raw. She must have seen into the boy’s mind just before he died. A few weeks ago, she had been distressed after leaving another patient’s cardiac arrest, likely for the same reason. Could this girl be strong enough to have created an enormous psychic power surge during this moment of distress? Could that have been strong enough to block her powers?
Abigail hesitated, unsure of how to phrase her next question. She needed to confront Beatrice about her gift and what happened tonight, but the girl in front of her was a ragged, emotional train wreck. She radiated anguish and anger, and she looked so small and lost that Abigail took a rare moment of pity upon her. Abigail breathed, trying to calm the tremble in her own hands. She reached out with her own senses and wrapped Beatrice in comfort, probing gently until she was sure that the girl had not felt the same disruption in power as she had.
“Tell MacNeil, so he can tell the police.” Beatrice said, wiping tears and snot from her face. “We have to make sure he gets justice.” Abigail had been so lost in her metaphysical examination that she was momentarily confused. Beatrice looked up at her, eyes red and puffy. “You have to tell him.”
“I wasn’t there.”
Abigail held up a hand, her thoughts still racing back to the mystic power-surge. “Beatrice, this is a serious accusation. If you feel that strongly about it, then you need to bring it to his attention.” She didn’t have time to get involved in something this complicated in the mundane world when her own world might be imploding. The girl started to speak again, but interrupted. “No, this is part of this job. Take your moment to cry, wash your face in ice cold water then go and take it up with MacNeil.” Abigail turned to leave the supply room. “And you may want to hurry and catch him before he talks to the parents.”
She let the door click shut behind her and strode back to her desk. Beatrice had seemed extremely rattled and certainly changed by the boy's death, but other than a rage she had never sensed from the girl before nothing seemed out of place. MacNeil sat at his own desk, scrolling through charts without really seeing anything. She sat at her desk for a moment, pretending to scroll through charts while she released her senses completely into the supernatural world, reaching for something, anything to explain what had just happened to her. She poked and prodded but nothing appeared out of the ordinary. There was a sense of unease, but unchanged from her examination this morning. Had this been an attack on her? Why? After all these years in hiding, why would they come for her now?
She excused herself to walk outside. She couldn’t focus on patient care, not now. She needed some sort of explanation first. While immensely powerful, Abigail wasn’t psychic. She could psychically test the waters of anything within her own school of magic, but not much beyond. Maybe one of her sisters had felt something too. Was it worth risking contact? She couldn’t be sure of that yet. She needed to put out feelers with some other powered beings - maybe trained psychics, shamans, or even go so far as to ask the Sentinels. Sighing, she pulled out her cellphone and pulled up a number she hadn’t used in a long, long time.
“Lucas? We need to talk. Call me as soon as you get this.” She paused, twisting her lips with distaste at the weakness of asking for help. “Something happened tonight. Something big. And I think I need your help.” She hung up, checked the time, and sighed. She had an hour left on her shift and there was not much she could do until Luke got back to her. Sliding the phone back into her pocket, she trudged back inside and got back to work, wondering why in the hell she thought keeping a mundane job was such a great idea in the first place.