In the morning the smell of eggs and pancakes filled the air. Tanaka is serving a plate to Izzy. They are chatting as if they hadn't fought the night before. Seeing them both first thing in the morning—it, it. My fist pounds my chest. I am home. They both turn to look at me.
"Hey, sleepy head. Your man made breakfast." I walk over and hug Izzy. She takes the opportunity to kiss my cheek. I look at Tanaka, "thank you for making breakfast.""My pleasure, mi reina."Blush. He hadn't called me, "my queen" before. In Spanish the connotation is endearing."Would you like it if I made you some food for work,"pause, "Ken?" His face turns tomato red. Normally I say his last name in public. Tanaka, a sansei (third generation Japanese-American), still speaks Japanese at home on occasion. He has not really taught me much of it. I should put an effort in too. I don't want my kids not knowing their culture from either side. Kids. What the hell? He brings out this domestic drivel in me. There is no time for babies. We hunt killers now. A hand is waved in front of my face, "Hello?" Izzy is waving her hand in front of my face."Sorry, I am—distracted." Plate in hand, we all sit at the table. Automatically, per my upbringing, I have yielded the seat at the head of the table to the man of the house. I cringe slightly as he sits in my seat. "What's wrong?" Izzy has been watching me the entire time, "I let Tanaka sit in my seat." Izzy nods, understanding. Normally when he visits overnight, which is rare, he and I just eat on the way to wherever we are going. All three of us eating breakfast together doesn't normally happen. Possibly, it had to do with all the unstated feelings and unclear boundaries."I can move if it is important, Zara." I shake my head."I fancy myself the head of the house and Izzy entertains me. Since I usually take the lead in our relationship. It's also an awkward remnant of gender roles in our culture."Tanaka nods, "as you know we do the same at my parent's house. In our own home, we can do what we want. What do you prefer?"I look at them both tentatively, "I would like to sit in between you if that is ok?" Both of them look at each other and nod. I sit in the head of the table and begin eating my eggs. Tanaka is now sitting opposite Izzy where I was. The silence is not strained as it was last night, but it is obvious we are all trying to navigate the modified relationship. Izzy and Tanaka are not interested in one another romantically. However, navigating what feels comfortable for all of us is still a process - even if they are not romantically linked.Izzy is sipping at her coffee when she mentions the previous day, "So you are a year older, engaged, and dad is leaving? A lot has happened." Izzy calls my dad, dad, out of habit. Although, she didn't spend as much time with him when we were growing up. We were generally out doing something with mom. He sometimes came, but most of the time was with his brother, Uncle Henry, a widower. We were split up when we were eight for ten years while her mother, Macey Sanchez, moved for a job in Florida. Eventually, things fell through and my family helped Izzy's mother come back to Jersey. Our relationship partly survived because we were each other's only confidants. Izzy and I are used to just airing out all the deep things together. Tanaka, aware of this, listens to our banter without interrupting."I stopped counting the years obviously." Forgetting my own birthday is a concerning matter, but, we'll just smooth over that for now. "The engagement, well we all know," I smile, "Ken's proclivity for getting his way with me." He grabs my hand for a moment, an uncharacteristic public display of affection. He seems to really like me calling him Ken. "Dad leaving though?" I stare down at the indigo tabletop.Tanaka speaks up, "Your father explained that some last night. He feels lonely without your mother and the house reminds him of her. He wants to be near his extended relatives and away from all the hustle of Jersey." I nod. The culture here is so fast paced, it makes sense so much of us flock south where the pace of life is slower. Even if, historically us northerners look down on our southern counterparts (not that they don't do the same). Puerto Rico, once a commonwealth now a state, still has a slower more relaxed culture. Cultural purists fought using their claims to Taino native roots to keep the island from being subject to certain technological changes. One being the tier system enacted in the states where shops, businesses, and governmental buildings are housed in one of the airborne island tiers in the sky. The tourism industry in response jacked up prices claiming La Isla del Encanto is one of the few places on earth that has a true view of the sky, not an artificial one through the ground dome."Father asked me to visit today to grab some things. Since it is a Saturday, He plans on renting the house out." Tanaka laughs."What is it?"Izzy smirked, ignoring my question, "you just realized it, Tanaka?""What?" I look at them."We celebrated your birthday on Friday the 13th—of October." Tanaka guffaws and Izzy joins in on the laughter."It was too perfect, she even prayed to the gods and brought up animal sacrifice!"I raise my hands, "Wait now, that was in relation to them giving up their lives to become food."Izzy covers her mouth while trying to stifle more laughter, "Tio Henry, he, he must of have really been uncomfortable yesterday."I shake my head, "guys, he, he is always uncomfortable with me." He used to care about me before I was registered as a paranormal. Before I started sharing my stories, being myself. We hung out so much, he was like a second dad.Me being myself, that was how people left my life. Even amongst paranormals, I am not considered normal. Izzy and Tanaka are more powerful than most, which is more threatening than cool - like me. Tanaka is a paranormal with exceptional skill that is easily hidden or glossed over—the way he likes it. Seeing my emotionless face on display, Tanaka, familiar with this particular nuance of it changes the subject."Speaking of oddly timed things. Our plans, Izzy has a right to know in my opinion." Izzy has this glazed look like any moment she might burst into tears. Keeping her out of the loop has obviously affected her.I take a breath, "The rest of the conversation will be through a private telepathic link. I will link the three of us." Tanaka and Izzy by themselves, can not telepathically speak to one another, but through my ability, we can exchange thoughts privately.Zara: We suspect, it is possible the perp' is using an ability to track investigators in the area. Somehow he knows what Ken looks like.Izzy: Are we calling him Ken now?Zara: No, just me.[Tanaka smiles.]Tanaka: I am going to "disappear," but stay at home. If the killer is targeting me it may affect the messages he leaves, if we can't get to him in time to stop the next murder.Izzy: I think Zara would agree you are safer here.[Zara leans back.]Zara: This is why I keep you out of this. What if he hunts Tanaka to our house and finds you instead?[Izzy glares.]Izzy: Safety in numbers. The more of us to fight him, besides, you would come home at some point if Tanaka can't handle him.Zara: You are the only one who can't fight. I have been telling you to take up kickboxing, martial arts, wrestling, something, anything! Living with me puts you in danger.Izzy: You are so full of it. You just like telling me what to do sometimes. Did I not take that self-defense class?"[Zara facepalms.]Zara: That doesn't count. You wouldn't survive in a street fight, let alone survive an encounter with a powerful paranormal.Tanaka: Izzy can see the future. You're like an overprotective mother.[Zara slams hand on table.]Zara: Better to be overprotective. Izzy, I just have this feeling—the less involved you are the better.Izzy: Leave the future advice to the seer honey. You can't have all the power here on earth, hun. Wrong world.I scoff, "Ok, well clearly that conversation went almost nowhere." The psychic link is broken.Tanaka takes a sip of his juice, "I agree with her. Final decision.""You get too many executive decision passes. Unacceptable."Izzy laughs. We all get up and bring the dishes to the sink. Izzy insists on doing the dishes. Apparently, birthday girl treatment carries over into the next day. I follow Tanaka to the room. He shuts the door and takes me into his arms. My head fits under his chin perfectly. "Zara, just because Elsie left us, doesn't mean Izzy will too." A tear rolls down my cheek. "Did you get to make offerings to her and pay your respects?" My mother did the same with her parents, leaving them their favorite things and praying to them."I burned some lavender and left out a can of soda." Tanaka strokes my hair. We all have an unspoken agreement not to mention that my mother died on my birthday."Did you see her spirit?" I swallow, "No, our other ancestors sometimes show up, but mom—never came back. I thought at least we could have that. Tanaka tensed for a moment. I pull away to look at his face, "what?""Her soul is untraceable?" He says pointedly. Mom was not the only soul that had gone without a trace.My mouth hangs open. I scream, my voice trembling over the waves of my telekinetic outburst. The windows in my room break and the walls creak despite the quality of the material. My body trembles as I pace my room fuming. Tanaka opens the door."You okay, Izzy?""Yeah, I knew it was coming. Was ducking in the tub. You?"I come back to myself and stare at his skin. Shards of glass dot his shirt and pants, which are made of durable fiber strong enough to be used as a hammock material though soft. His skin has tiny flecks shining in the light"Oh, no." I walk up to him and look him over. I don't see blood."Why aren't you bleeding?""Izzy told me this would happen last night. I have a protective skin on."When I went into the office, that must have been when they spoke. The door locked, burned palo santo in my hand, a cleansing herb equivalent to sage used by the brujas of the island. (Not that most Puerto Ricans practice witchcraft. Being Christian is still a majority religion.) The citrus smell of the wood filled the space. My energy and the energy of the room felt much cleaner. I put a pillow in the center of the room. Unlike my mother, I created my own traditions meshing esoteric beliefs from around the world. Protective stones were set down to ward off negative energy around the pillow at four corners. I took salt and made a circle inside the wide stone arrangement. I folded my legs and put my hands on my lap. Closed my eyes. Invoked my guardians and gods to protect me. Gentle vibrations released using my telekinesis. I felt the aether like an instrument and tuned myself into the plane where spirits roam. The energy around me shifted until my mind's eye saw the souls traveling through the spiritual earth plane. Walls around me were seen as opaque layers of energy. Spirits walked through the walls of other homes with ease. Mine was protected. I saw a familiar soul that stalked our street. He had refused help crossing over for years. It was time to ask him a different set of questions."Is there a being on the spirit plane eating souls?" No point beating around the bush. Our ghost neighbor, a deceased man wearing a tracksuit rubs the back of his head. He glances sideways at the house he once lived in. Where his now elderly husband lives."Zara, we have not told you the truth because—" his eyes dodge back and forth as if he is seeing beings encroach on his space. "We can't" He vanishes."Vick?" I try sensing other vibrations and planes for him. Thankfully, his aura is familiar. Across the planes, I pick up his auric signature. My mind jumps to a place I have not visited in years, The Crossroads. The cavern is filled with creatures hustling from one tunnel to another. I see Vick in the distance being dragged by robed figures."Vick!" I run up behind them. They turn, their eyes red, skin marble white. Hair flame red and yellow. Their forked tongues show as they speak in unison. "What are you doing here, Moirae?" I stare into their slit red eyes, "let his soul pass peacefully. He betrayed no one!" What am I talking about? Here, I feel like I know, more. Something that I have forgotten feels so close to me. Flustered they release his arms, "as you will." Within moments they leave. Vick fell to the ground, his spirit a material essence bound by physical laws in this place. "Vick, you can't haunt your husband anymore. It isn't safe for souls back home." I am not sure it ever was based on what I just saw."Ok, Zara, but, tell me, tell me you will watch over him.""I will," my hand is outstretched to him. Vick grabs my hand, his soul passes through me when we make contact. Gone. The crowd gasps. People around make a wide path around me and kept their heads down. What am I? No, this can't be real. Vick's signature is no longer traceable. In my heart I feel it though—he went to the right place. Death is beyond the realm of paranormals, a law unto itself."Ken, I think our serial killer is supernatural, not just paranormal." Izzy is standing at the door. Her face is serious. She knew. She has known all along, but what? How much? Ken looks at Izzy, "This is the thing you told me to believe? No matter what?" Izzy nods and enters the room. I am reminded she is the best seer I have ever known.
YOU ARE READING
The Alter Mysteries: Death ShadowParanormal
Zara, a private investigator and founder of The Paranormal Investigation Task-force, solves paranormal crimes on contract for the police. In over her head, she is pursuing a serial killer that threatens the delicate acceptance paranormals have recei...