Release Date: Oct. 1, 2019
Annabel’s husband, who has been missing for years, is finally discovered among the bowels of White Chapel England during the horror of Jack the Ripper. His discovery brings Annabel and her family to the turn of nineteenth-century England hoping to rescue Michele from the Black Witch’s cage. What they discover is that the Black Witch has been forced into an insidious pact with the devil and the devil, with malicious intent, is luring them all into a web of death. Can they escape his grasp?
There is no one who would not fall prey to my magic. There has been only surrender to my spells, for no living soul was ever a match for me. They all succumb, be it ravenous desire or revenge, which is usually what people ask for, with the exception of wealth. My transformations are only temporary, but I have made a man an ass for a day. I have made women believe that the men beside them are Prince Charming. I have made men weak and women strong.
I thrive at night. Spells lack effectiveness in the day, so I usually sleep then. I am naked and dark, like sable. I am soft like pongee. I am sensational in one moment and vicious in the next. Don’t ever trust me. I will turn on you, and though I have a face that evokes pity, do not fall prey to compassion. That could prove fatal. I am cryptic and ambiguous. Did you think only God could be so elusive?
Evil is as vast as good. The fact is they are both endless, but Annabel thinks evil is diminutive. Yet as powerful as I am, I know in the depths of my soul that I am no match for Annabel Horton. My magic comes from the earth, hers from the spirit. I must be so very careful.
I paced around my room, stopping at my balcony and looking at the pavement below where the auguries I let out in my breath settled on the stones and rose like mist.
It was dark beyond my sight and like an omen of doom, the darkness teased me. The street lamps flickered, producing shadows that took on the eeriness of night. Footsteps were picked up like music. They’re like heartbeats. You cannot hear them by day, but by night, they are perplexing, recondite, and often solitary. You wonder. Who walks there? Whose lonely, mysterious journey lingers beneath your window before moving on?
I lived on the outskirts of Whitechapel, an impoverished neighborhood in London, where the silent night took on the onus of despair. I thrived on depression and weariness, the ever-present doom reflected my state of mind.
It was the fall of 1888. Desperation hung heavy over the city, but I loved the drama of it, the great verisimilitude of evil, even if it was only circumstance that caused it. The underbelly of festering calamity energized me.
A monster had begun to prowl our streets, like a beast craving blood. They called him Jack the Ripper. I called him a depraved amateur. He had the power of cunning, but even the Devil would reject him. He was base and from the dark matter but without purpose.
I could take him down with cay oil and a dog’s testicles. I should visit Scotland Yard with my brew, I thought. God knows those fools need it.
While my powers are vast, I cannot take the body of others, as the infamous Annabel Horton can.
God granted her the ability to cross time, and she flits around eternity like a blithering saint, believing she has carte blanche to rid the world of evil.
But the Devil gave me omniscience. I do not know if I shall ever die, but I know I have lived so long I am nearly prehistoric. The cross can kill me, but one must have great skill in order to use it effectively against me, and it must be gold. Urbain’s wooden cross would never do.
I fell back into the soft folds of my couch and heard the door slam. Walter, no doubt. I never knew where he went or what mischief he got into.
His footsteps hurried in the night, clutching his prize, his offering to me—some poor unfortunate soul’s ribs—no doubt stolen from the London Hospital Morgue. If I had not known better, I would have sworn he was Jack the Ripper, but Walter would not sully his hands with blood, and certainly not with death. Evil should belong to witches alone, not to mere mortals like this infidel, Jack the Ripper. But I can always use human ribs.
As handsome as he was, Walter often disgusted me. In his eagerness to impress me, he offended me with his relentless curiosity. We are not alike. His is a base cruelty. His mind is ill, the contents grossly offensive. Yet there is sex appeal in that. Unfortunately, Walter’s sex appeal was tempered at a young age and he is barely four inches long in the throes of passion. But he is a master of satisfaction.
I suddenly got a chill and shuddered. I threw back my head and sang. That was the only way for me to alleviate the tension he caused in me.
I am an opera singer, born with a gift so divine that only your great God could have bestowed it on me. Music, for me, is religion.
To be free of the malignancies of evil is a strange feeling, but it fills me with euphoria. When I sing is the only time I am filled.
God is a euphoric drug, don’t you think? Sometimes I lose all reason and seek out a church, throw myself before an icon of some pitiful bearded saint, and sing. God smiles as I lose myself in the song. God favors me then. Satan favors me when I am sane and not lost to the rapture of the divine. Yes, I, too, believe in things I cannot see. If the Devil is mine, there are moments in which God is mine as well.
I sang out an aria, “My Long Hair is Braided” from The Amber Witch, and the night was shattered by it, my voice resplendent. Do you know it? Probably not. My repertoire is large, but sometimes I like the old songs, from way back. It is always an impulse to sing and I always follow my impulses.
The wind was mysteriously silent, but it carried my voice out into the laconic, solitary night like an angel’s harp. It soothed my soul. Yet I felt the Earth’s indifference and my own.
Indifference is the definition of God. Why not? He does not speak and shows himself only in us, but we are blind to his face and his words. No amount of faith can relieve the pain of his temerity. But he is the same in heaven as he is here, all-knowing omniscience. Know that and it will not frighten you to enter his realm. Know, too, that heaven is here in much the same way that it is there, and death is not the chariot that brings you to it.
Ah, the night was as empty as the soul of Jack the Ripper. And yet, as the aria escaped from the very depths of my being, I, too, was consumed with what some call the spirit. The Devil cannot enter me when I sing. Perhaps that is why I became a singer, to be severed from him for just those moments. I become like you when I sing—hurting, lost, and eternally innocent.
God pities me, I think. Perhaps he, in his infinite wisdom, gifted me with a great voice to teach me that humanity is utterly complex or to compensate for my wretched fate. Who knows?
Well, I have honored him. I have only killed evil souls. In that way I am very much like the magnificent Annabel. It is no fun to kill the righteous, but oh, how I wish to take the ax to them when they are overly righteous. Who has use for them? But I keep my distance. Annabel might even be proud of me.
In my consumption of evil, I have learned this: humanity’s complexity can be blamed on all that is dark. You see, evil can only be understood as a psychosis. When it is not understood as such, then it must be understood as a kiss from the Devil, whose mind is as normal as anyone’s but whose soul is bereft. We are all kissed by evil, some more passionately than others. And if you believe in God, you must believe in the Devil, Lucifer. As God enters you, Lucifer stands at the portal of your soul and knocks upon the door. You are not the captain of your fate. You are a pawn in a universe of warring Gods, and you tip this way or that. Explaining that to Walter seemed to give him peace—an explanation for his insanity and twisted desires.
There is one way we are alike, Walter and me. In his disturbing and compelling art, he finds expression and the Devil steps away. When my great voice takes flight, it is the same for me.
About the Author
Olivia Hardy Ray is the pen name for Vera Jane Cook. The Author has published Three fantasy novels as Olivia Hardy Ray and five women’s fiction titles as Vera Jane Cook. The Author is writing a sequel to Pharaoh’s Star called Fox Hollow Road. The author’s women fiction title, Kismet, is due out this winter.