Chapter 27: Focus

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        The room was much like its fellows along the hall, a large stone box with a small closet at the back attached. Bookshelves covered the wall to her right while a large wooden table sat on her left. It was what was on the table that had Fiona staring. Lying on a small, cushioned bier was a child. Her golden hair slid over the side to hang down, her long-lashed eyes closed. And from the unnatural pallor of her, a shade that Fiona knew only too well, she knew that the girl was dead.

            Though it was hard to tell, since most of the light in the room was coming from the round crystal that was fixed to a stand beside the girl, near the edge of the table. It was the source of the glow that had been seeping out the door and was almost blinding this close. Fiona only barely got a glimpse at some of the other oddities that lay on the table when her attention was drawn away.

            “You! What are you-How are you still awake?”

            Fiona turned to see Mme. Fontaine rushing towards her, leaving the huge old book she’d been looking at open. It took a second for the words to penetrate through the shock and panic that had filled her. When they did, she choked. “You? You put everyone into comas?”

            Her French teacher stopped a few feet from her and shook her head. “This isn’t possible! I set the spell to cover the whole campus. Only this office was secure. You should be like the others! Your power should be flowing in, your magic. I need all the power I can get!”

            She took a step back. “Why are you doing this? Why did you curse everyone?”

            The look Mme. Fontaine turned on her wasn’t entirely sane. Her wide, frenetic eyes looked all the crazier for the harsh blue light. “This isn’t a curse,” she said. “I just need the power. I could barely keep Amabelle perfect with my own power, so to bring her back I needed more. Much more. I thought if I tapped only one or two students I could make it work, but it wasn’t enough. When even half a dozen wasn’t enough, I decided to tap everyone.”

            Fiona stared at her teacher, her mouth working. While she understood the pain of losing someone, she couldn’t believe that Mme. Fontaine was prepared to sacrifice everyone at the school just to bring her daughter back. “Please, what you’re doing isn’t right,” she said, praying that her teacher wasn’t so far gone that she couldn’t be reasoned with. “If you kill everyone here, there will be a lot more parents missing their children.”

            “No, no! They won’t die. That’s why I modified the spell to only take the magic of others. Once Amabelle is revived, I’ll allow everyone to wake up.”

            “What if it doesn’t work? Are you going to keep everyone asleep until it does?”

            Mme. Fontaine glared at her. “It will work. It must. And if it doesn’t, I will find another spell that will.”

            Fiona swallowed hard and shifted a bit closer to the table. “What if nothing works? You might not be killing people, but you’re stealing their lives, making them sleep through days and weeks they could have had to themselves. You’ll be keeping them from living!”

            “You think they would balk at the chance to save a child? You think anyone here would not give a few days of sleep to save another?”

            “And if it doesn’t work and the next spell you find doesn’t work and the next, it won’t be just a few days! Please, you have to realize that this is crazy. I understand the pain of losing your family, but this isn’t right! You need to stop this.”

            “What do you know of loss and suffering?” Mme. Fontaine hissed. “You’re just a child!”

            Fiona bit the inside of her cheek to keep the tears from falling before she said, “My mom died of cancer. It hasn’t even been two months since then, so I understand how much it hurts and how you want to do anything to bring them back. But you can’t just throw away your conscience! Do you really think that if you succeed, your daughter would be happy to know how many people suffered to bring her back?”

            “If you’ve experienced grief like I have, then why don’t you understand? What does it matter if others must sacrifice a little to bring her back? Right now she can’t feel anything so I would rather have her alive so she can feel than dead and gone!”

            There was no reasoning with her, that was clear to Fiona. She glanced briefly around, taking in the esoteric items scattered around, the only mundane one being a huge metal hole punch that was only a few inches beyond Fiona’s reach. Memories of the fairy tales her mother used to tell sparked an idea. But she needed to keep Mme. Fontaine talking. “People are going to notice that something’s wrong. Especially when parents try to call their children and can’t get any answer. People are going to find out soon.”

            “You think I’m unaware of that? Why do you think I was forced to draw on everyone? I will complete the spell tonight.”

            Fiona edged backwards until she level with what looked like a jar full of teeth. Sweat made her hands damp and her back slick, but she didn’t have any other choices. Not ones she could live with. She had to try to save everyone, had to protect the only home she had left. She took a deep breath and shot her hand out.

            Mme. Fontaine didn’t have time to question her as she grabbed the jar and hurled it straight at the French teacher. She leapt back, but Fiona had already lunged backwards, grabbing the hole punch and holding it two-handed, like it was a baseball bat. “What are you doing?” Mme. Fontaine screeched.

            Fiona stepped forward, her heart pounding at her ribs like it was trying to escape, but she kept her head high. “In the stories my mom used to tell me, the spells that weren’t broken with a kiss were broken when you destroyed the spell’s focus.”

            “No!” her teacher screamed, hands reaching out to try and stop her.

            But Fiona had already swung at the glowing blue crystal. The hole punch connected solidly and the whole sphere cracked even before it was flung across the room to shatter against the far wall.

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