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The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, Chapter 4.2 by Laura Zabala



 Two cops escorted a woman with her hands bound behind her back. Flashes went off as cameras took pictures of the 6’2, skinny, dark-eyed criminal. The reporters standing at the scene asked questions.

 “Why did you do it?”

 “Why did you burn them?”

 “Are you a paranormal?”

The scene cut off. A woman and man dressed in suits behind a desk came into view on the television. “It turns out the criminal known as, Soul Eater, who had captured women and burning them in ritualistic killings, is, in fact, a woman herself. As of yet, there is no explanation for her motivations–” Tanaka shut off the television. It had been a few weeks since Zara went to the Rosario facility. The date of her release was still undetermined. Izzy was sitting at the armchair one of her legs folded up casually. They had watched the television in 2D just to catch the news.

 “So one of the first questions they ask is, ‘are you a paranormal?’ Do you think the cops in that district will keep her identity classified?”

Tanaka put a hand to his temple briefly before resting his hands on his legs formally, “Ryan was worried about this precinct. I don’t trust them to keep her information under wraps.”

 “It would be too much to hope for some secrecy. I’m sure soon enough everyone will know she’s paranormal. But, a woman doing all that? I mean women can lift other women sure, and this chick was big. However, why?”

 “Yes, statistically these crimes are mostly committed by men. Then again, statistically paranormal investigators are most likely men and look at Zara. Be upfront with me, Izzy, do you think she’s it?”

Izzy locked eyes with Tanaka, “I don’t doubt this woman killed some, but the big fish, the one who hurt Zara, is still out there.”

Tanaka stood, “I had a feeling. Are you going to come with me to the meeting?” He held out his hand and Izzy took it. She stood and immediately released his hand. The touch felt odd to her. Rarely did they ever come into physical contact. In a way, she felt almost like she was touching a part of Zara. Tanaka turned without a second glance and she followed him out of the house. They walked to the docking station to catch a car to the Food Tier. They were going to have dinner with Ryan.


 “Zara, would you like to continue your EMDR therapy this session?”


Zara’s psychologist, Ms. Biswani asked every session whether she was up to it. Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, or EMDR, was a way of forcing the brain to process traumatic memories. When Zara went through her trauma she dissociated and her memories did not go through her brain the way they normally would. That’s why the emotions, sensations, and visions of the memory were so strong and could come back with no warning. By using EMDR, Zara had to relive the emotions, feelings, and sensations of her trauma to force her brain to process the memory, which was done by stimulating both sides of her brain. Ms. Biswani would ask her to tap her feet in time while listening to a specific set of tones to carry out the process. EMDR was exceedingly exhausting on Zara’s body and mind. However, she never denied a session because she wanted to get out of the Rosario facility and prevent anyone else from suffering at the hands of that monster. Although there were times she simply crawled into the fetal position unable to do anything at all. A part of her argued she didn’t have to do a thing. She could go back to her life and completely restart it, pursue a different career. Zara would be more than justified to do so, but then could she trust anyone else to do what was necessary? Who would take her place?


Ms. Biswani prompted Zara to think about a certain set of vulnerable emotions and memories to process. Zara’s body shook in pain as she processed the scene she picked. She could feel the pain of her wounds and the overarching terror. Zara tried to maintain her breathing and the rhythm of her tapping movements. As the highly charged sensations and memories passed through her body and mind she began to feel them flow away. For now, she could power through the scene and process that particular set of feelings: guilt, helplessness, and physical pain; however, once Zara finished her session more memories and emotions would crop up. She would be apt to have more panic attacks. Zara would be sensitive. Not that she wasn’t already struck by terror at random. Zara also had night terrors that made her body sweat. When she woke sometimes she was out of breath and barely able to move. Her body lost the majority of its energy even now with the process. By the time she was done she would barely be able to walk back to her room.


 Ryan sat drinking a hot chocolate with whipped cream. He had a bagel with cream cheese toasted to pair with it and some scrambled eggs. So what it wasn’t breakfast-time? That’s what Jersey diners were for. It was 11 pm when Tanaka and Izzy ambled in. Izzy walked behind Tanaka and Tanaka didn’t offer for her to sit first like he would with Zara. He simply shoved in and Izzy ended up sitting opposite Ryan at the booth. Ryan recalled the one other time he met her, Tanaka waited for her to sit too, but that was when Zara was around. It didn’t sit right with Ryan, a lady should sit first, it was a tradition in his family. Granted, there were plenty of gender types that weren’t in common nomenclature when the tradition started. Maybe he should let tradition go, it just didn’t fit in the world anymore.

“Hello Izzy, Tanaka.”

“Ryan,” they said in unison. They awkwardly looked at one another before grabbing the menus the server left for them.

Diners were such a sensation with real cooks and servers like the old days before technology took over everything. The fact that the job even existed at all was because the cook wanted to cook with real people to work with. The servers wanted to be there and he paid them so they did not need tips. The price to eat out at a place with real humans serving was not as high as one would expect given the novelty. People also liked the novelty of giving tips.

“To think some of these people might make more than me in my government-funded job.” Ryan was a cop because that was the only job he wanted to do. Besides, it was a way of protecting his wife and child.

Tanaka watched the server approach, she wore an apron with a pocket. She pulled out a pad and pen, such materials were costly and part of the mystique of the diner. Zara would love this place.

“What’ll it be?” The server said, leaning back on one leg. Her lipstick dark, she was chewing gum.

“I’ll have a hot chocolate and pancakes,” Izzy folded her menu and put at the end of the table.

“Did you want toast or eggs with that?”

“No, thank you.”

“Bacon or sausage?”

“Sausage, sure.”

The server faced Tanaka and Izzy looked as well.

Tanaka put his menu down, “I’ll have the fish with rice and vegetables. And a hot tea to drink.” He cringed knowing the tea would come in a packet and most likely be microwaved, but he also knew he didn’t feel like having an iced drink.

“I’ll be right back with your drinks.” The server left, the smell of menthol lingered. Smoking was an unhealthy habit that was not outlawed though largely frowned upon.

Tanaka ignored the smell though Ryan noted that Izzy crinkled her nose.

“So onto business,” Ryan paused to take a sip of his drink, “the damage to the bodies changed with this most recent series of attacks.”

Tanaka leaned forward, “that would make sense if the most recent attacks weren’t carried out by the original.”

Ryan nodded and put a napkin to his mouth before setting it down on the table.

“The burns had a trail up from the navel but they were wispy looking,  not as strong a line. The face had burned but no intense charring. If the woman captured was responsible she didn’t have the same, ‘appetite.’”

Izzy put her hand on the table, “I know this isn’t much consolation, but the fact that it went public will mean people will be more apt to wear protective nano-skins, which would aid in slowing down the process and minimizing damage.”

Tanaka crossed his arms, “but, that won’t stop people from dying and we won’t be able to catch anyone in time– unless we have someone who can see the criminals and catch them.”

Izzy rubbed her arms, “These criminals aren’t hiding so yes. I have a list for Ryan. The problem is will the police force believe they are easier to track? Or will they think paranormals were covering the criminals from the beginning?”

Ryan held up his hand, “wait a minute. You’re telling me there are more imitators that are going to show up?”

“Yes,” Izzy’s eyes were troubled. Tanaka looked at her his eyes concerned, but he didn’t move to comfort her.

Izzy opened her flimsy and pulled up a file. “These are my visions and I am submitting them formally as a witness to you. The file includes descriptions of locations and criminals.”

Once the file was uploaded to Ryan’s flimsy, Tanaka put his hand on the table.

“Do not let the media paint all paranormals as corroborators or terrorists.”

Ryan sighed and looked down. The server arrived with Izzy and Tanaka’s food and set it down quickly.

“Need anything else?”

“No, we’re fine,” Tanaka said. Izzy immediately started eating her food.

“I can’t promise things will work in our favor with the public, but I will find someone to be your voice. A non-paranormal ally to defend your group, if I can’t.”

Screams from outside the diner could be heard. Ryan motioned for Tanaka and Izzy to remain seated. A bar next door had a group outside yelling.

“Paranormals kill our women and dare to breathe our air!” A single rage-filled man was yelling.

A man was crumpled on the ground and the woman with him was too. People threw their drinks at them.

“How dare you take our lives?”

Ryan pulled out his police flimsy and activated the alarm, “stand down. Police, freeze!”

The people who he saw attack the victims, and the speaker inciting violence all had their flimsies active. Ryan tethered their flimsies to his own to report the incident. Even if they ran away the cops would track them down. If he needed he could send an electric shock through their devices. So everyone carefully put their hands up and turned. The people on the ground stood carefully. They would be expected to make a statement about the incident.

“For your information,” Ryan said addressing the disgruntled drunks, “all of the victims were paranormal, not standards.” The onlookers made hushed sounds of surprise. Apparently, the news had left that detail out. Izzy explained everything that was happening outside to Tanaka because she had seen it already.

“It looks like we have another problem on our hands,” he said, exasperated. They would have to set extra security measures for the Paranormal Investigation Task-Force and home. Violence was not above people even in this century.


Journal Entry, Rosario Facility, Date Unknown


I can’t say what I am feeling– the drugs blacked out that part of me. Broken, my feeling-self is huddled somewhere beneath chemicals and apathy. After the most recent panic attack, which left me almost bedridden for a day – I decided being tranquilized was better than rejecting my medicine. The nurses and my counselor asked if I wanted to take visitors yet – my answer is still ‘no.’ I am the only patient who is rejecting visitors. I do not want them to know me as the broken vessel I have become. I know the business will survive without me. A small part of me hopes it will fail. I don’t want to see the “monster” again. By monster, I don’t mean literal and I haven’t reduced my attacker to some nightmare. I know he is very much human. What I mean is, I have known that place where free will dies and my body is no longer mine. Any person or practice that can impart the knowledge of that helplessness and savor it – in my opinion, is a monster. My agency hunted people who stole, did wrong, ran way, committed crimes of abuse, but this person who takes everything. This person who would damage a body so, and can kill without remorse such as I have known, within inches of death after hours of torture– well, I had thought comfortably I would not face such a monster among paranormals. We a people, very much discriminated against have that sense of powerlessness, but to meet one of my own who would torture me in such a way. Well, I can say, such an experience was beyond my understanding before now– as it would be to anyone who has not known the weakness of flesh so intimately. When you have no way to defend, protect or stand up, but someone else holds all the access to your most vulnerable self– violently taken, there is no return from that place to who you were before that moment. It is hard for me to hide in my skin now. I can’t bear to live in this body so violated. My consciousness hangs just outside of myself watching– wishing this body weren’t mine. I can’t face Tanaka and Izzy, let alone myself.


Zara stood on the cold tile floor. She wore no socks against the nurse’s wishes. She huddled against a wall where a shadow was cast just out of sight. A smile on her face, claiming her feet in this act of rebellion.

 “–But, she is so coherent and well spoken.”

 “That’s when she is on the medicine. Without it, she is a quivering ball. She keeps trying to go off of it.”

 “Her chart doesn’t give details. All we can glean is someone attacked her physically, possibly sexually. That’s why she is so unstable.”

 “How was she attacked? By who?”

Zara stopped listening. She happened to catch them talking about her case again. She walked out from the shadows. They felt comfortable continuing their conversation because of her vacant gaze as she walked. No one mentioned her bare feet. They probably felt she was a lost cause at that moment. ‘I should fake my way out of here.’ Zara realized, she was paying for help they couldn’t give. None of them had ever been broken like her as far as she could tell. Nor, could they avenge her. She was here to become “normal” again and as her time in the ward waned on, Zara realized she would never be, “normal” again. Funny being paranormal she thought she was weird. That difference was nothing compared to being one of “them” — the broken ones. Zara found herself relating more to Betty, the schizophrenic woman who wet and shit herself often. Betty had moments of clarity when she knew the staff and who she was. At those times she was coherent enough to know the staff complained about her. Zara felt her humanity. Though at times Betty couldn’t even figure out she was 35 now with kids. She was lost in some other world where the demons were. The staff had a way of favoring the more “normal” people. Zara had been teetering between Betty’s lost mind and star patients who just got in the ward by a “lapse in mental judgment.”

Yet, Zara felt safe in her small, no privacy world. Maybe she should stay where reality couldn’t eat her.


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The Alter Mysteries flash fiction post, The Table, is up free and, Doll, is available on Early Access.

Hello everyone,

The most recent post of The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, The Table, has been up free since Sunday. TRIGGER WARNING alert for the post, The Table, because someone goes through some pretty horrible events in the scene. We get up close and personal with The Agent, which may be too much for some though by no means the most gory stuff out there. Today the next post in the series, Doll, is up on my Patreon for early access. Doll, shows you some of the aftermath of the attack and how it impacts characters’ relationships. Each post of The Alter Mysteries flash fiction is about 1500 words in length so you can read it in flash fiction format from the first post here. Or, if you prefer to read consolidated chapters check out this link.

For those of you who are new to The Alter Mysteries, it is a speculative flash fiction set in the near future that follows the Paranormal Investigation Task-force while they hunt down paranormal criminals. The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow follows the paranormal investigator, Zara, while she pursues a serial killer that threatens the safety of paranormals in society.

I’ve been having fun playing with present tense in the series to get more inside the head of the killer and Zara at times. I’ve been wondering if I should just leave the entire series consistently in past tense. What do you think based on the scenes you’ve read?

Remember, if you want to tip me for my work you can become a patron on my Patreon. Thank you for following the series guys, please share and comment below!

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The Alter Mysteries Free Post and Early Access Warning for 3.3

Hello everyone,

Last week’s post, Priviledge Gained, is now up free. The newly free post follows Izzy and Zara’s date. I love seeing them together they’re so cute. Although that doesn’t mean its all rainbows and sunshine on their date—they are a poly couple in the real world. Today’s free post is a little break from crime before your thrust violently into the post released on early access today, The Table, which will be free on Sunday. If you would like early access ($3 tier and above patronage) and want to tip me for my hard work you can become a patron on my patreon (where you can also get access to all previous, The Alter Mysteries, posts free).

  Trigger warning for anyone with trauma experience the early access post, The Table, that is going up free next week is gritty. I dissociated like three times, had to force myself to live in it to write it. The scene from post 3.3 is important, which is why I suffered through writing it. I won’t say why, instead I hope when people read it they can see for themselves. The early access post, 3.3, is three times the normal post size in honor of July 4th. Though the content itself has nothing to do with Independence Day, or the United States specifically, but about the human condition and the realities of trauma.

Thank you for following my blog guys! What do you think of Izzy and Zara’s date?

—Laura Zabala

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The Alter Mysteries Goodies: Did anyone say free fiction?

Hello everyone,

So today I posted all of Chapter 2 from the flash fiction series The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow on my Patreon and here on my blog. The first post of chapter 3 is now up for free on my Patreon. Today I felt like posting chapter 3.2 a full week early on early access so my patrons of $3 or more can get a peek. Anyone interested in tipping me for my hard work can become a patron. If you would like to purchase any of my art or goodies you can check out my shop.

I’m super excited because I actually exceeded my word count goals for The Dark Prince this month. The word count is up to 41,925! A full 88 pages of 300. I’m certain I’ll get a good head start on my 20,000 minimum for next month. Writing The Dark Prince has been so much fun; especially because it is an intimate thing where no one is taking a peek. The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow will also be turned into a book eventually with the flash fiction series continuing afterward, but since I have been sharing as I write it has a different feeling.

If you’re interested in getting a sneak peek at The Dark Prince, there is an excerpt available to paying patrons of $5 or more on my Patreon. Thank you to all my supporters who remember to share, post links, and comments with any questions.

Love you guys! Let me know what you think of The Alter Mysteries so far?

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The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow Complete Chapter 2 by Laura Zabala


My eyes open, the black ceiling confusing. I can still see the Nyx. For a moment, I look at my body and see the gray skin that “Moira” sported. My eyes cringe as the light crosses my face. I blink and my skin appears normal. I turn; realize that my hand is empty. Izzy’s side of the bed is neat. I grab my flimsy from the end table and attach it to my arm. I put on my vintage smart watch and connect via the net. A text is waiting. I read it and quickly rush out of bed.

“Zara,” Tanaka rushes to me as I enter our office. His frenzied manner makes me survey the room. Was there any news since his text? The clock display is clear of news. My flimsy inactive on my arm. “The latest kill, it,” he puts his hand up to his chin. Tanaka brings his hand back down, looks me over, turns away.

“Come out with it Tanaka,” I cross my arms and lean against my desk. My “Karma is a stern mistress” mug just behind me filled with coffee Tanaka set out for me.

“The perp’ killed… a man.”

I stand straight up, “but, his MO. He killed women. Where are the details – do you have pictures?”

Tanaka pulls up his arm and holds it out. He transfers his data from his flimsy to mine. The image is of a man with black hair. His bangs feathered around his face. The hair short in the back. The eyes have epicanthic folds. The lips firm, plump and round. The nose long with a soft, bulbous end. The face is so beautiful. The face so strikingly similar to Tanaka. The major differences being a mole and the shape of his ears.

“First of all, Zara, we don’t know if the killer is a man. Second, how the hell does this guy look so much like me? He even left the mouth intact!”

I put my arm down. Walk sedately to my chair. Turn it around after I sit so Tanaka can not see my face. “I need to think.” For the first time, the other realms have not helped with the search or Izzy’s sight. For the first time, there is a paranormal perp’ who exhibits the characteristics of a serial killer, but now this. The only reason that the killer is known is because of the burns from his navel up. The body is an obvious message. Tanaka is right to be worried. He is the face of the business. Maybe, somehow, they, he, she, whatever. This killer knows. Knows that Tanaka is helping to find them.

I can hear Tanaka’s chair swivel as he sits. From experience I don’t need to see him to know, his head is in his hands. He rarely gets that look, but when a desperate situation arises he is there, cradling the one thing he worships; his seat of reason. A part of me is tempted to pray to the gods of my mother or call to the ancestors as is sometimes done by Brujas of the island. Tapping into my upbringing as a witch seems counter intuitive. I already tried to get information from the other realms. What can my ancestors do that those other beings could not? Besides I have tried tracking down the ghosts of those killed. There was nothing left. Usually, someone traumatically killed at least leaves a remnant of that moment in space. Wait. I swivel to face Tanaka who lifts his head.

“I know you’re not going to like this.” He is sighing already.

Ryan sits across from me in the dark corner of my favorite Cuban cafe. I lean back, the corner of my mouth upturned, my legs crossed. Ryan crosses himself after he sits down. “What are you up to now?”

“Only the best strategy to catch our most wanted perp. You may even get a promotion.”

“I have a wife and kids.”

My laughter, throaty and unrestricted causes Ryan to shift in his seat. He smiles, puts his hat down. Ryan lifts his latte up to his mouth. The whipped cream leaves foam on his upper lip. I motion to a napkin and he wipes it off. He clears his throat. “I thought you got nothing from the last body. You haven’t even been able to see the stuff you normally,” he scans the room, “see.” He had plain clothes on, to me he looks more suspicious with his apparent anxiety about being overheard.

“Oh, Ryan. You underestimate me. I am more than just paranormal. I have tracking skills. Hunting is a part of our job, is it not?”

Ryan folds his hands into a steeple, his eyes stern, “the last time I checked, you are not a cop.”

“I see.”

Ryan sat back, “there is only so much I can do to help you get contracted when you keep turning up with no leads. Why are you dangling a promotion? What’s going on?”

I lean forward, “now that you are done insulting me,” Ryan rubs the back of his head, “listen.” I breathe deeply. “The reason there are no leads is because the perp’ is not a serial killer, in fact, they do not follow the convention at all. Most killers leave traces in the aether. I had to ask myself why? Why are all the paranormals stumped when this seems so clearly paranormal? Why no traces on the body? In recorded history, no paranormal has drained a person dry of their energy to the point of there being no record of who they were or what happened left. As if, their very soul had been taken.”

Ryan scoffs and shifts his chair back, “I will hear nothing of this. You are proposing a paranormal did what only god himself can. What? Are you saying he is an angel of death?” People turn to look in our direction.

“Ryan, we may have to find a more suitable place to talk.” I motion towards the rapt crowd. He grabs the edge of his seat, “sorry, she is a conspiracy theorist. Ridiculous, I know.” The crowd sits, though some watch us.

“I take it you won’t support my following this possibility?”

“If it were true, your people will be in a lot of trouble.” An icy fear creeps up my spine. Isolation, a singularity of existence, even in a crowd they do not understand us, me. My face is stone as I confront the truth once more. Even Ryan would be powerless to control the backlash if this was found out.

“What a ridiculous notion, of course, you’re right. You all should continue the investigation—by the book.” Ryan nods but winks at me. Okay, so I have one official backing me if it all goes awry. Tanaka will not be too happy to hear we are carrying out our plans on our own. We adjourn our little meeting. I take the remnants of my espresso and nurse it as I walk out the cafe.

My flimsy vibrates. I have a call from Izzy.

“Hey, what’s,” her voice interrupts me at a high pitch, “Zara, it’s Tanaka.”

My arm drops. I am too late. The car drops me off at the ground level. My feet touch the earth and I make my way to a transport that will send me to our living district. Our home, a tiny gem in the suburbs, greets me with its crimson door. Although it looks like those of the 20th century it swooshes open to allow me entrance. There she stands, her apron stained. She had been cooking when she received the message.

“Zara,” I walk up to her and grab her. Pulling her into my arms I place a comforting hand through her hair.

“It will be okay.” She thrusts her arms against me. Her eyes glaring as I release her.

“How could you make those plans without me?”

“There was nothing else to do. Tanaka is not equipped to deal with this. His abilities are not suited.”

“What is wrong with you?” Izzy puts a fist against my chest. Her eyes scrunched up. Confused I grab her bunched up hand.

“Do you know something you’re not sharing?” Why else would she react this strongly?

“You sent him away. Now you are on your own. This case, it is too much for you. Let it go.” I step back from her, releasing her hand.

“In this area, I am the only one capable of dealing with this criminal. Do you think the police can really take down someone that leaves bodies psychically dry?” Izzy’s eyes search me like a rake over hot coals. I won’t tell her what we planned. Not the truth. Anything, but that.

“Make me a part of this case, Zara. No other seer will do and you know it.” I sigh. Reverting to my marble gaze. I step forward.

“I respect your agency, but you must respect mine. Stay away from this. There is a reason things are being conducted this way.” Izzy shows me the message Tanaka sent her.

      “We have agreed. It is best that I go visit some family.”

“All of this reaction for a simple text? It could be anything.” I cross my arms. Izzy put a hand on her hip.

“I called him to find out why. Are you insane? Don’t you date him? How can you let him go back unsupervised? How can you put yourself in danger by being alone?”

“Please, Izzy. Not everything is as it seems,” I slowly move my eyes around the room then wink at her. Izzy smoothes out her apron.

“Fine, don’t tell me. Don’t get angry with me if I do the same.” Izzy stalks back to the kitchen. The smell of arroz con gandules fills the air. My stomach rumbles. One minor victory was won. Izzy turns from the stove to look at me. I am sitting on the couch. Izzy points a large spoon at me, “get ready, we have guests coming.”

My suit and tie off, I look through my closet. I have a few jumpsuits, but I don’t want to piss Izzy off more. So I try to appeal to her fashion sense. I pull out a black corset and dress. After putting on my fishnet stockings I look in the mirror. My biker boots make the outfit. I look more like a punk version of Morticia Addams, but it will have to do. I don’t often wear dresses and frilly things. I like them but on other people. Okay, maybe I do like wearing them. I poke my butt out in front of the mirror the lace bouncing off from the motion. No one need know I was cutesy for a moment. My long black hair reaches the hem of my dress. A jacket not hiding the length for once, I realize, I look wild; like some dark witch who can eat someone for dinner. I smile.


Izzy is in the middle of removing her apron. She turns holding it in her hands. Her form-fitting sleeveless sweater hugs her curves. It has been a year. A year since—“Zara?”

I shake my head, “what?”

“Hm, you seem,” she walks towards me smiling, “distracted.” I look into her eyes and swallow.

“It should be illegal for you to be that sexy. Do I have to warn some man about bringing you home on time?”

Izzy giggles and sighs. Her arms folded she cocks her head. Her eyes blinking as she opens her mouth to speak – the doorbell rings. Damn it. I was almost tempted to have, that talk. The face of the visitor appears on the door.

“Enter,” we say in unison. My cousins Jael and Peter walk in. Uncle Henry in tow with a bag and dad.

“Dad, tio, guys?” I look back at Izzy, “hi.” Although it is standard for Puerto Rican families to visit each other with a last-minute warning. I had gone through putting my family through the delicate training process of not arriving unexpectedly for the sake of my sanity. Apparently, they are still stubborn on this front. The elders ignore me approaching Izzy. My cousins walk up to me and hug me. “Happy birthday!”

“Oh,” when I turn I see Izzy with my father and uncle putting a box in the fridge. I turn back to the door to see that Tanaka managed to pass through.

“I thought we discussed this.”

“You forgot it was your birthday. I made an executive decision.” He saunters over to me and places a kiss on my cheek before backing away. He acknowledges the elders in the room first, before greeting my cousins. My father approaches Tanaka and places a hand on his shoulder, “come on let’s play some dominoes, Ken.” Tanaka glances at me before agreeing. My uncle and father abscond with him into the side room. “Bring us some maltas,” uncle Henry calls from our small living room. I sigh, Izzy stops me before she grabs some drinks from the fridge. “Don’t you dare lift a finger, birthday girl.” She grabs the drinks and brings them over. You would think some things changed over the centuries. Apparently, machismo isn’t one of them.

Jael puts on some music over the wi-fi. My favorite, the classic Suavemente by Elvis Crespo starts blasting through the house. Izzy finds herself in my arms. We dance in tune to the salsa. Her smile, it does something to me, like suddenly summer has come after a long winter. There is no one else. I feel the warmth of her hands. The electric feel of her pulsing through me. The smell of the rice she made for me makes me want to cry. There is someone missing today. I feel her bitterly as we dance joyfully. The beautiful morena my father fell for, my mother. Something about Izzy’s warmth brings up the memory. Even though her voluptuous frame and curls are entirely different. I step away once the song is over and go to our office. “I need some air,” I call out randomly to no one. Of course, someone follows me in, because that exit was too suspect. I sigh and turn to greet the interloper. “You have been sighing a lot lately.” Izzy shuts the door behind her.

“I am sorry.”

Izzy’s eyes widen, “are you ok?” I turn away from her.

“Yes, I just. I thought of her.”

“Mom, huh?” Izzy had called her that too. She calls her own mother, “mommy.” Not that she does that too publicly. It is a little odd at her age. Izzy approaches from behind. I feel her wrap her arms around me. I let out a breathe as if I had been holding in the world. I lean back into her.

“Izzy,” I grab her hands and turn to her, “there is something I have been meaning to tell you.” Her face is soft. Her lips slightly open as she glances at me in question. I could bite those lips. I look at the door fearing interruption and lean closer to her. She doesn’t back away.

“Please don’t hate me. I don’t want things to change for the worse, but I can’t hide it anymore.” She grabs my cheek. My heart trembles. “I love you, I am in love with you.”

“It took you long enough,” She pulls me toward her lips. I have to get up on my toes a little because she is taller than me in her heels. My arm wraps around her waist. A moan escapes from her lips as we kiss. The music stops outside the room. We release each other. I am certain my skin is flushed. I try to calm my inner fire with sobering thoughts. The door opens. Uncle Henry is standing there. He glances at Izzy then back at me as if, somehow, he knows. “You gonna’ eat or what?” It’s our house, but dutifully we walk out. We set up the table with my cousins. The family sits together. My uncle and father at opposite ends of the table. Izzy and I sit at each side of my father, Tanaka to the right of my uncle and next to me. My cousins taking up the rest of Izzy’s side. Izzy knows my relationship with Tanaka is mostly open and we don’t have anything against kissing other people. I watch her to see her reaction when Tanaka leans towards me and whispers in my ear. I feel his breath on my skin like a kiss, but look at Izzy and feel every inch of my skin now I know I can have her. It seems this birthday is more than just a memorial day.

My father clears his throat when my uncle folds his hands in prayer, “a little prayer is good.”

I nod, “I agree, shall we start then.” We all link hands. It is my house. If we have to pray, we will do it my way.

“Thank the gods for the food we will eat. Thank you to the animals who have sacrificed their lives and those who provided the meal we eat today. May our food be blessed by the divine and may we eat in good health. So mote it be.”

Everyone else, except uncle Henry, says, “amen.” We all dig in, a poignant silence filling the air during our meal. Mother would have said “god” to make tio comfortable. He has always disliked me. He can choke on the word “gods” a little. He coughs and I stop thinking ill thoughts. That must have been a coincidence. Father breaks the silence first. He is serving himself from a plate of pasteles that they brought. Izzy would not make that by herself, it is far too much work. During Christmas, the extended family lines up just to make it, including Peter, while dad and uncle Henry roast the pernil on a spit.

Music is still playing but at a less loud, and slower pace. The list is modern pop from Jael’s selection. Father clears his throat and places his fork down.

“There is something I need to tell you.” He looks at everyone. We all put our forks down and face him.

“I am going to the Puerto Rico house this weekend – to stay.” Izzy and I look at each other. I turn to look at my uncle to see if he already knew. He is calm. His eyes knowing as he shares an intimate stare with my father. Anger blackens my heart. He told him first. Before anyone can say anything father continues. “I can leave like this because I have spoken with Ken. He has something to say.” Father looks at Tanaka who kneels next to me. Frozen in my seat, my mouth hanging uncharacteristically open as he pulls out a ring, “Zara, you have been faithfully by my side through the years. I want to take care of you. Make a family with you. Will you marry me?” I stand up and back away in shock. Father and Izzy have neutral faces. Tanaka stands and approaches me calmly. Looking me in the eyes as if we are sharing a secret. I look from him to Izzy. Torn. What is he doing? What do I say? Father clears his throat, “I believe Ken asked you a question?” My heart drops. My uncle has a smile on his face. My cousins are staring as if their favorite drama is playing right before them. I look back at Tanaka angry but also surprised. Moved. My heart trembles again, but at that steady pace, it does when you’re with someone you have been intimate with for years. We can do this. But, do I want to. I can only marry one person. Do I want that person to be him? How dare he ask this way?

“Yes,” falls out of my lips without thinking. The ring finds its way onto my left hand. What have I done? Izzy’s face is blank. I could have said I need time to think. My relatives all get up shouting congratulations. My cousins grab Tanaka calling him, “cuz’” and “primo” interchangeably. Izzy gets up and congratulates us. She begins clearing the table to make way for the inevitable cake. Idiot. I want to facepalm but smile and kiss Tanaka instead. Happy, but shamed, I listen to my cousins chatter about our wedding and how it will be organized.


My family leaves quickly after we eat the cake. Most likely the reason they picked a work day is because my uncle and I can only tolerate each other for so long. Tanaka remains awkwardly behind. Helping to clean with a guilty face. Not that his face shows that much emotion usually, much like me, but I know his tells. The way he averts his eyes. Bows slightly at the top of his back as if he has just been chastised. Izzy had announced she was going to take a shower. The water is running when Tanaka finally breaks his silence. I want to hear him explain and my arms are crossed. My foot tapping. He looks down for a moment, then confidently faces me. His eyes locking with mine. “Zara, I meant every word.” I put my hands on my hips, “You did not discuss it with me beforehand.”

“You told me your father would want me to ask him first.” I had told him that.

“I didn’t think you would ever actually ask. I thought you didn’t want to get married.”

Tanaka swallowed, “I didn’t when we were younger. I also got the talk.” I stomp my foot.

“Are you telling me you gave into your parents? That is the only reason you asked.” Tanaka bunches his hands into fists. Walks right up to me and puts his arm around me. He grabs my chin with his other hand, parting my lips with his thumb. He looks into my eyes asking with his own, can I? I part my lips and he takes mine. He leaves my lips abruptly. I am panting from the aftershock of his passion. “You are the only woman I want to marry. I want you to be mine. I want to be yours. Sure, you want a woman on the side, fine. Frankly, I don’t need anyone else.” My heart is thumping so hard, I am afraid he hears it.

“I love you,” the words sound like a blanket on a cold night. Like a sacred prayer uttered on certain holidays. He rarely says it, but I know it to be true in my heart.

“I love you too, but, this could not have been more poorly timed,” I call him closer to me as if Izzy can hear and tell him what happened earlier with her. He pulled back, “I guess it is good I staked my claim. She can share you, but I get first dibs. She had enough time.” I gasp.

“You are too much. I am not an object, sir.” I point at him.

“Seriously though, what do we do, Zara? Should we sit down with her?”

“I think I should talk with her separately, first. Are you staying the night?” Tanaka nods, “if things get hot and heavy, just stick a sock on the door – unless I am invited in that is.” I walk up to him and slap his arm lightly, “you know I don’t do threesomes.”

“A man can dream. Besides, I know that. I just like messing with you.” Tanaka walks towards the living room as Izzy steps out the bathroom. Tanaka and his timing. Gods, that man.

My eyes capture Izzy’s. I nod toward my room. Her mouth trembles, she takes a deep breath and heads toward her own room instead and motions me over. Her room is the farthest from the living room. She shuts the door and locks it. She stands in front of it.

“You told Tanaka, didn’t you? What exactly were you thinking today? Were you getting cold feet and testing the waters?” I hold up a hand in response to indicate I want to collect myself first. My back meets the wall and my arms crossed it is time to explain.

“Look, I didn’t know he would ask me either. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you.”

“Oh, so you want me to be your side squeeze after all these years?” I wince.

“I know it took me a while to say anything, but you didn’t either. Also, you have been and always will be my best friend. Tanaka and I have been dating for years. Can you really delineate between you who has put more in?”

“I don’t get you, are you friend zoning me? You keep acting like I am Venus. Then you turn around and decide to marry a man?”

“I didn’t even know you swung this way until today.” Izzy stands right in front of me. Her eyes looking me up and down.

“You are about to know it, very well.” She walks up to me. Gently kisses my cheek. She runs her hand from my face down to my breasts.

“Izzy, this isn’t a good time for this.” She rubs my nipple through my shirt. Leans into me spreading my legs with her knee. Her breasts push against me. I gasp. Izzy. She withdraws as requested slowly. Not before lightly caressing down to my skirt. I quiver.

“Remember that feeling tonight.” She opens the door and walks out. I crumble to the floor.

“Zara, are you coming?” Her voice rings from down the short hall. I get up and fix my skirt. My biker boots thump on the floor. Izzy is sitting on an armchair across from Tanaka on the loveseat. I take the other armchair. Tanaka looks at me, then I look at Izzy. Izzy looks at us both.

“Congratulations on the engagement, who gets Zara on the weekends?” The bitterness in Izzy’s voice sets me off guard. Tanaka leans forward folding his hands.

“Tell us how we can make this better. What is it that is upsetting you?” Izzy stands and stomps looking down at him. She sways her hip and leans to one side. Her hand taking its perch, fashioning her glorious one-handed grab. Her ass perfectly jutting out and breasts moving slightly forward. I put a hand over my forehead, covering my eyes.

“She has obviously been in love with me for a long time. You knew this. I thought we agreed to give her time to accept it. Then you turn around behind my back and get her a ring.” My hand drops.

“Wait, what the hell are you talking about?” I look at Tanaka. He puts both hands up.

“Look, Izzy knew and approached me about it. Since I am your boyfriend, er, fiance now.” He smiled obnoxiously, then continued, “we decided not to pressure you.”

I stand and look at Izzy directly. “Hah, who is treating who like a child?”

Izzy glares at Tanaka before shifting her glance back to me. “Yes, you have been through a lot. We considered your feelings carefully. It was hard enough after your mother died; your uncle freaking out when he found out about her faith. Adding you being bisexual to mix just wouldn’t be well timed.”

“As if the jerk can’t tell.”

Tanaka stands up and bridges the gap to join the two of us. “Zara, one thing at a time was what we thought. I erroneously thought Izzy had given up.” Izzy scoffs, “okay, I selfishly wanted more of you to myself.”

“I see.” I return to my seat and cross my legs. Both of them follow my cue and do the same. This talk is not nearly close to finished.

“Okay, so clearly Tanaka wants to marry me and I want to marry someone.”

“Hey,” he looks me up and down then smirks. Yeah, ok bud.

“Izzy, in your ideal world what do you want? From me, or maybe even from him?”

Why couldn’t I just be in love with one person? Life would be so much more simple. A fuzzy feeling comes over me. For a moment I feel as though someone is listening. The feeling then passes shortly after.

“I want you, every day, here. To see you in the morning and at night. To be the one to cook for you. When you need someone to hold you—I want to do it.” Izzy puts a hand to her chest, “at first your boyfriends were fine with me,” Tanaka was not my first boyfriend, but certainly the last for more than a few years now. Izzy continues, “—they were outside our domestic realm. Simple distractions to pleasure you. This though,” she looks at Tanaka like a piece of trash, “threatens to take you from my daily life. That I will not have.” Her eyes sparked with anger, Tanaka’s drawn into her smoldering gaze. He sits back. his arms on the back of the sofa. His face saying “fuck you” all over it. I have never seen such animosity between them. They have been friends for years. I let out a measured breath.

“Fine, then what if Tanaka sold his apartment in the first tier and moved down here with us?” They both turn and look at me in unison. It is comical the way both of them cock their heads like mirror images. We have been doing this all along without realizing we were.

“Tanaka comes to stay the night anyway on occasion. We don’t have a fourth bedroom, but maybe we can convert the office for nights he just wants to be by himself.” He sits up casually putting his hands over his legs.

“I get to be, first-wife,” Tanaka remarks stone-faced. Izzy and I start laughing at the obvious reference to the period dramas we have all watched together.

“Fine, I have dealt with Zara enough that I will be second-wife” Izzy puts a hand to her mouth as if to exclude me from the conversation, she whispers, “and have some affair on the side. Just know, the children of my union with her will take over the family fortune one day. Also, I am the favorite.”

Tanaka slaps his leg, “It’s settled then, I am moving in.” I didn’t expect them to agree so easily. Did they have a private conversation about all of this? If I keep thinking they are working behind my back together I will go crazy. This confusion simply does not suit me.

“Good, now that that is settled. You two make up.” Time to go into the office and do the thing I was planning on. I wink at Tanaka. He nods while Izzy grabs him to hug him and her head is turned. She can not follow me in. Not with what I am about to do.

                                                                Puerto Rico

In the morning the smell of eggs and pancakes fill 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 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 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 around 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 between 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 relationship 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. My 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 face palms.]

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. 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.


Tanaka arranged for a car to “pick him up” and drop him off with his family in Connecticut. He is to remain in Jersey in our house. He already closed his account with the apartment complex and had his furniture moved to storage by drone. His clearance as an investigator allows him to travel in secret without the need to be scanned en route.  That clearance and the official paperwork he insisted on us getting was a huge part of today’s plans. He tends to be right. I just never admit that to his face. Izzy had mysteriously stated she was taking the day off and holed herself up in the office. Neither of us allowed in, we figured she was working from home. For the first time, I am headed into the office to work by myself. Tanaka and I arranged for our flimsy armbands to be connected by audio and video. A quick press of a button and we can have privacy, but another press and we could see what the other was doing. This is the most protection I can afford without looking suspicious.

When I enter the office, officer Ryan is standing there staring up at the clock. I don’t know how he got in without clearance from the scanners. Something is off. He is in his officer uniform his hands in his pockets. At the sound of my entry, he turns to look at me. Officer Ryan doesn’t smile. Boldly, I walk forward. Capture his eyes with my own. “Hello Ryan, I see you let yourself in.” My irritation is open, mocking. “How may I help you?” Ryan, the man I have been working with on cases for a good seven years holds up his flimsy. The police badge logo shining off it like a 3-D hologram. “I have the suspect in custody.” For a moment there are no words. “What the hell are you talking about Ryan?” He shuts off his flimsy which is against protocol.

“The most recent murder leads me to believe you are involved.”

“Involved? The perp’ killed a guy that looks like Tanaka.” I hold up my engagement ring, “my fiancé!”

“I know that once I explain you won’t throw a psychic tantrum because you will end rights for your people if any violence is recorded against a police officer.” I shut down, weighing my freedom against the lives of the many.

My anger becomes so intense, a tear drops from my eye. My head throbs. “Ryan, don’t you trust me?”

He nods, but says nothing, “you will have to trust me.” Confused I turn around and lift my hands in the air. He takes them down and cuffs me. A formality. I could have gotten away at any point. Killed him instantly if I wanted. He is going to be in so much trouble! Ryan removes my flimsy and shuts it off with the police codes. I am disconnected from the grid. The traceable one. When I get a chance I will reach out. Try to connect with someone I know telepathically.

“It is not a good idea to use any of your abilities. They can be picked up by our sniffers.” I blanch.

“Sniffers?” He begins walking me back to the police car which was parked at the back of my building. “Sniffers meaning the hunter paranormals that catch criminals who run away.” Criminal? We get into the car. He restrains me in the seat next to him. A divider between us up to the neck ensures I can’t surprise attack him. When the doors close he presses a code. Locks the doors and my cuffs fall off.

“Now we can talk.”

“What the hell Ryan?” I glare at him, “for a moment I thought you might be the killer!”

Ryan started laughing, “I had to get you to safety.” The car starts moving on a predetermined route. There are no recording devices or scanners inside the police vehicle. There is even a protective barrier commissioned by the government for every vehicle. It is said no paranormal can penetrate the barrier. For the first time, I am able to check for myself to see if it is true. I can not sense anything outside the car. Meaning no one can sense me. My flimsy is still not on my arm. A chill runs down my spine.

“Congratulations on getting engaged.” Ryan is watching the tiers of various cities pass beneath us. We are still on the third level where most businesses and shops are run. We are moving along the police tube where non-authorized vehicles do not travel. It is a barrier that can only be penetrated by vehicles with police frequencies. Meaning if Tanaka somehow managed to triangulate our location by tapping the code he could not follow us directly. He wasn’t a hacker by smarts. He was a rare Paranormal that could cling onto frequencies and track them to the end of the earth if necessary. If the police force had him, he could be deemed a “sniffer.” The word brings disgust as if we are compared to dogs.

“Thank you, you were going to explain why I should trust you.” I smile leaning to emphasize the barrier between us. Without a thought, Ryan brings it down. He knows what I can do. Either he is an idiot, or he knows I am powerless.

“Here is your flimsy. I think you need to see this to understand.” He hands me my flimsy. Locked on my arm it turns on and a picture comes up. A woman with small breasts, plump lips, a long nose with a bulbous end. Pale skin, coal eyes and long black hair graces the screen. She looks like she could be related to me. Today is one of those days for being creeped out apparently. I shake and catch my breath. My vulnerability so apparent to me. Trapped. If something happened to Ryan, the car would still fly to where it is going. Thoughts of home with Tanaka and Izzy flood my mind.

“The perp’ knows what I look like? Why did you take me? You didn’t even read me my rights.” Ryan puts a hand to his temple, “Zara, this is not an actual arrest in my eyes. It was all I could do. This was the first time too that a note was left.” He swipes and the text shows up on screen. The killer had used a pen and paper. Something so traceable it was brazen.

At The Crossroads

Face the reaper

Know the truth

Watch as they die

Your assignment is almost done

Your last breath my gift to you


I jump back in my seat. This is crazy. My breaths are shallow. “I didn’t think you wrote that letter. You see that boss?” I turn in shock. A surly old man is on the screen of Ryan’s flimsy.

“That isn’t definitive proof Ryan.”

“Hey, why would I threaten myself and my fiancé?”

“To look innocent.” I try to steel myself. Force my breaths to be deeper, slower. Am I the killer? It would be possible to do it while I sleep, but then how could I not know?

“I am not the killer. Keep me in custody if you need to. You’ll see. I can’t kill people if I am in custody. Another body will probably turn up.”

The man on the line laughs, “that only proves you might have someone corroborating with you, para.” I cringe. Para is a pejorative term for paranormals. It is a way of saying we are extra, beyond what is necessary for the human race. Of course, Ryan’s boss is prejudiced.

“So all of those cases I helped solve mean nothing?”

“There are many reasons to help the enemy, including getting away with your own crimes.” I put my hand to my head. “I won’t speak to you further without a lawyer present. That includes you, Ryan.” I am tempted to spit at him but look out the window instead. My mind racing in all kinds of directions.

“Zara, you are safer here with me than anywhere else. This person is clearly out for you. I wouldn’t be here with you if I thought you did it. Look my flimsy is off.” I turn and see that it is set in a charging port. It can charge via wi-fi, but ports are still used so people can take technology off their skin.

“Remember, ‘I have a wife and kids.’” I look at his hands. A ring is on his ring finger.

“What does that even mean?” I refuse to use words that can be used in soundbites like, “yes,” or “no.” My eyes resume scanning the surrounding area. Based on the scenery we are headed south. My flimsy is on passively recording everything once more. Hopefully, Tanaka is listening.

“Somewhere on the mainland.” Ryan isn’t an idiot. He sets the windows to blur out the landscape. “Somewhere south of the mainland, southeast judging by the trees.” Ryan takes the flimsy from my arm and shuts it off. “How did you even get clearance to do this?”

“Under the law, any high powered paranormal who becomes a suspect loses their rights. The police can do what they want. I fought to get you transferred to where we are going. Once you are cleared of any involvement I will personally bring you back express on my dime.”

My stomach lurches. I am going to a holding facility. Tanaka and Izzy are left alone unprotected without me. “You are taking me away from the people I love.” I can’t say I can’t protect them. It could be used against me later as if I were making a threat. My eyes are pleading. I have Ryan in my hold. He doesn’t know it. No scanners in the vehicle mean there is no instrumentation to pick up what I am doing. “Your flimsy looks like it is off.” His hand raises and shuts it off. So now it really is just in the charging port. Before I can make the next suggestion. The car shakes. I release him. We both are looking around. He sets the windows back to viewing mode. There is a car running parallel the police line, I look inside hoping to see Tanaka. The face is wearing a ski mask. Seriously?! A ski mask? Come on, what century is this and the person is wearing a ski mask?

“Exactly as I suspected.” Ryan shifts the car out of autopilot.

“Woah Ryan, what are you doing?” He looks at the other car and salutes the masked stalker.

“A killer doesn’t write you a love note to get in your pants, sweetheart. I suggest you tighten that harness.”

I do as he says. Ryan swings the car down through the transport field out into the traffic. Tiers of cars on autopilot are streaming around and below us like networks of data. The sky is so congested. We have to weave through patterns of traffic narrowly missing a few cars. The car is jerked in different directions. The system begins issuing a warning, “resume autopilot, resume autopilot” It warns over and over. Ryan issues a command in code. His flimsy turns on and transfers an official override. “Badge number 45122300, ID Ryan O’Leary, is being chased by an unidentified vehicle.”

“Issue a BOLO on the details of the vehicle, now!” The computer launches a scan and assessment of the car in pursuit. Zara sighs in relief when she realizes it was not Tanaka on some crazy pursuit. He would definitely go to jail otherwise. Then she realizes it is worse. If it isn’t Tanaka then they could very well be being chased by the killer.

“Don’t these cars have some self-defense system?!”

Ryan laughs, “Just like paranormals are suspect so are the cops. We are not trusted with shiny things. You can thank the early 21st-century rap sheet for that. So many murders, we lost some privileges. Especially during the…” He trails off looking at me. I nod. We both know the stats on the number of paranormals killed after The Rising. People were so scared of what the paranormals could do. Forgetting that they had lived alongside them for centuries peacefully. If you engage someone with hostility enough times eventually they fight back. It was the civil war no one had expected. The paranormals lost. Outnumbered, betrayed. Then there were the concentration camps.

A jarring motion kicks me back into attention. Ryan takes a nose dive towards the ocean. My hands are clinging so tightly to the handle on my right and the armrest on my left that my knuckles go pasty white. The sensation of falling is so intense I feel as though at any moment everything will go black. “Ryan! Are you trying to kill us?” I lose all composure and caution with words.

“Just trust me Zar’” Within a few feet of the ocean he pulls up and the car behind nearly crashes into our rear. He initiates a traction beam that holds the vehicle. The person inside jumps into the water miles out from the coast. Suspended in the sky I am breathing hoarsely. Glad to be alive. We watch the perp’ swim back. “Aren’t you going to go get that guy?” Ryan sighs, “I don’t get paid enough. You sure don’t either. I have a feeling it will take more than two people to take that person down.” As if in answer police cars surround the swimmer and set down nano restraints to ensnare the perp’. Every single car explodes with the occupants inside. Not one shred of metal left. Ryan inputs command codes into the computer and we head back to the police tube. “The amount of paperwork I have to do is ridiculous.”

“You just saw a squad of cars vaporized with the cops in them and all you can think about is paperwork?”

Ryan leans back in his seat and puts his hands behind his head, “I mean the paperwork I have to do to prove your innocence. You owe me one.”

I scoff, “You kidding me?”

“You get to go home today, Zara. It is hard to prove your involvement or justify taking you to the Hole when you did nothing to assist that brute and even insisted on an arrest.” I sigh.

“Besides, didn’t you see? He has explosives.” Ryan winks. So he knows that guy killed them using his abilities but is going to cover it up. Time to investigate further into standard Ryan’s background.

When we arrive at The Paranormal Investigation Task Force building I am tempted to kiss the solar glass sidewalk. Tanaka is inside waiting when we arrive. He grabs me and kisses me fiercely. An uncharacteristic display of affection. Then holds me in his arms. His eyes locking with Ryan’s, “you should have spoken with me.”

“We cleared your girl of involvement.”

“Zara deserves better than the treatment she just received. Jenna?” A woman in a business suit steps forward, “This is our lawyer. Do you have anything else to discuss?”

Ryan smiles and scratches his head, “He really loves you, Zara. Be safe. Sorry for all the fuss guys.” With that, he leaves the building.



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The release of The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow Chapter 2.4, is now up free. The newest posts of the flash fiction series The Alter Mysteries can be found on my patreon. Posts go free Sunday. My patreon allows paying patrons early access to my posts, exclusive access to content like a preview of my book in progress, The Dark Prince, and concept drawings for future books on my list. If you would like to tip me for my work head over to my patron sign-up page. There is also a shop on my site that sells accessories and clothing, like iPhone cases, mugs and shirts. For more information on the coupon and sale available for Pride Month and Father’s Day check out this post.

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I have some goodies for you guys. First, the next flash fiction post of The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow is available on early access for $3 patrons and above on my patreon. Don’t worry, the post will be free on Sunday, but if you can’t wait, feel free to tip me for my hard work and become a $3 patron. For those of you who do contribute, thank you for patronage! I can pump out more content, because of your support. Speaking of work, guess what? My shop has its first coupon available! The coupon is my gift to you in honor of Father’s day and Pride month. The coupon code is “gift10” (without the quotations marks) and can be applied to full priced merchandise only. That means you can get ten percent off my art, iPhone cases, and clothes. Aside from the coupon, there is also a sale on many items including my totes and pillows. The sale and the coupon both expire on Father’s day. Hurry and get your shop on before the sale is gone!

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The Skinny on Chapter 2.2 and 2.3

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Sorry, it took me so long to post my usual reminder but chapter 2.2 of The Alter Mysteries has been up free since this past Sunday. I will be posting the next scene on early access sooner, today instead of tomorrow. Chapter 2.3 will be free to all on Sunday. I also have my first podcast available for free if you want to take a listen. My next project after I work on getting my word count up for The Dark Prince is to record the scenes I have already put out so you can listen to my flash fiction in a podcast. If you like the work that I do and my series, please consider supporting me on my Patreon, or buying goods from my shop. For the cost of the cup of coffee per month, you can make a difference. I work hard on all of this. Paying me for my work is a great way to say thank you. Spreading the word about my stories and shop can help to bring more support as well.

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Chapter 2.3 Promo
Chapter 2.3 excerpt from The Alter Mysteries by Laura Zabala
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The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, Chapter 1 by Laura Zabala

My Lady

 Izzy is still on her way home. The cuckoo clock we bought in Germany announces that it’s 5 pm. My smart watch doesn’t show texts yet. Sigh. My eyes wander back to the criminal profile. It is not often we hunt a serial killer – at least not a paranormal one. No one has an ID on him yet. In our community, we still fear the internment camps of decades past – so, for the most part, paranormals stick to the letter of the law. We might have crooks and tricksters, but, we are truly wary of the standards who outnumber us 100 to 1. So far three women have died. All of them have mouths wide open; charring around their lips. Whatever the perp’ does when they kill there are no memories, or feelings to trace. The corpse is simply a husk. There are no souls hanging behind in the aether looking to communicate his whereabouts either. I put the Flimsy down on the coffee table. Time to stand up and stretch. The sucking sound of our door opening sounds off from the entry.

“Hey, Zara.” Izzy is carrying a grocery tote.

“Hey.” Izzy saunters in wearing her retro dress. The fabric swishes around her muscular legs. I scan her voluptuous form up to the auburn curls. My hands grab her bag and automatically unpack it for her. “How was your day at work?”

The smell of coffee wafts through the air, “I need a drink after grading all those papers.” Her shoulders look tense. I fold my arms beneath my breasts. She probably would find it weird if I offered a massage. Izzy and I have been best friends since elementary school. We were always a pair. It was natural for us to go to trade school together. Later on, she pursued a scholarly education and now works as a professor at a university on the banks of the Raritan River. Although I didn’t go for a university career I was there doing my own paperwork while she studied. It was only natural we bought a house together. Although, everyone thought us weird. “You’re not lesbians why would you live together? Don’t you want to marry one of your boyfriends at some point?” We usually say something like,”I am not worried about it.” Although, in truth, I feel no one will ever replace the prime position Izzy occupies in my world.

“Zara, are you listening?” Izzy holds a coffee cup under my nose.  “Oh, sorry.” I grab the cup from her hand.

“Sweety, you really need to leave your work at work sometimes.” Izzy does not pick up on emotions or thoughts the way I do, though her abilities are impressive in a different way.

“Izzy, this time–I can’t. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that.” Izzy motions me toward the table. I sit and prop my chin on my folded arms, letting myself relax. “Izzy, you know how you love walking at night and by yourself in general?”

Izzy immediately crosses her arms, “What of it?”

 I hear the rise in her voice and sit up, “There is a paranormal serial killer on the loose and we have no leads.”Izzy’s mouth drops in disbelief. “I don’t think I have ever gotten such a good view of your tongue before.” I lean forward my raven straight hair falling over my petite breasts. Izzy shuts her mouth and shakes her head. Her eyes are wide.

 “Zara, if what you are saying is true…”

 I put my hand up to stop the negative down spiral, “Izzy, you know your visions would tell you if this endangered paranormals as a whole. I know you see ahead, but please be careful from here on out.” Izzy shook her head, “I am not a Goddess – there is no guarantee that I would see anything. Some events are beyond sight. I didn’t even have a clue about this happening.” Zara nodded, “That is what concerns me. Neither of us has picked up on the killer. No one has. Why?” We finish our coffee in silence. The conversation palpable with every slurp of the brew. Thankfully, caffeine is still legal. We will need it for the continued investigation.

 We enter the small home office we share. Izzy sits on the cushion by the window and I sit opposite her on my cushion. She holds out her hands and I grab them. At first, a tingling sensation passes through my head and body. Then as our minds merge a blank canvas comes into view. Izzy is a passive participant as I reach within her mind. Images of events begin to course in an unending stream. There are fires she will report. Accidents to avert. Where are the kidnappings? While sifting through the violence and emotional imagery Izzy begins to shake. My search slows to a brief pause. You ok? Izzy takes a breath, I am now. My search resumes. The image of a woman with blonde hair and olive skin comes into view. At first, all we see is her face. As the image pans out we see her walking with a Flimsy wrapped around her arm. Her boots clacking on the glass sidewalk. I try to zoom out to see the site.

The cement gray background of a nondescript building is barely in view. A gloved hand goes around her mouth. The victim is dragged out of view. The image ends abruptly. All I could gather was that the kidnapping actually happened during daylight hours by one of the many cement buildings in the area. We gently break the link. I slap the ground to vent my frustration. Izzy cocks her head and lifts her brows in question. “I can’t get a read on the perpetrator, or the woman. All I could do was see and hear with that limited view.” Izzy’s face goes blank. We always get what we need when it comes to information. Izzy attempts to follow the thread of that future anywhere. Her eyes come into focus, “I am sorry, there’s nothing.” I put my hands on my temples. “Then, I am just going to have to get a hold of a remote viewer. Maybe we could at least find out who this woman is now that we know what she looks like.” Izzy nods, in unison, we stand. Outside the window, the mask of night looms. We had been searching longer than I thought. We both head to the kitchen to grab some food. Tomorrow, I will have to double my efforts.


Flavor of Fear


  In a world full of action and reaction, change is the most predictable thing. Without friction, without opposing forces–life is stagnant. The Agent was more than happy to take part in the game of life. Her naked body stretched over a metal table. Her skin gleamed in the light, beads of sweat running across her trembling body. Vulnerable like a fawn caught in a hunter’s trap, waiting to die, her eyes were wide. The Agent chose scarlet restraints to match the thread of life.

“The fine velvet I have placed you in–must feel like a soft kiss. Do not mistake it for a breakable bond. You are mine now.”

The Agent traced with a finger from the crown of her head down the center of her face; then, all the way down to her navel. Her breathing was shallow. That day’s catch had pendulous breasts, a large waist, and an overall thick figure. Her body evoked the thought of procreation, like an ancient goddess figurine. The Agent traced circles around her navel. Her sea of energy churned. The Agent could feel the lines of her energetic body – branches responding to every touch. Her energy vibrated throughout her entire body. The Agent’s touch was like waves across her form. A fine instrument she was, for pleasure.

“My name is Yelena.” Her eyes creased in her anger.

“So you’ve read my mind? Funny thing, isn’t it? How a telepath can become so–violated?” The Agent waved a hand over her nude spread-eagled state. The assault was, refined, like art.

“What do you want with me?” Yelena said in an even voice. Her fear could be tasted in delectable waves.

The Agent licked lips, “I am sure by now you’ve figured out I also have abilities. Why attack my own when ‘we’ are so outnumbered?” Neglecting to answer the question so accurately predicted, The Agent continued, “What to do with this vulnerable female body?”

Yelena’s eyes flared; delicate about being called weak. The Agent could feel Yelena pushing against the psychic barriers around the room. Helplessly trying to find a weak spot to call for help. The Agent smiled, there was no escape.

 “Aren’t you proud of your work?”

 The woman was smart. However, she was wrong in assuming The Agent was crazed or committing these crimes out of pride for some deluded plan. That was a human aim. “I see now why you have been named. I am sure you will prove to be the best I’ve had in some time. That is a compliment I rarely give the women on my table.”

 Yelena had spent all her life reading minds and watching faces on those skilled enough to hide their thoughts. Her face shifted from anger to abject horror. She knew what her death would be.

 “Oh, come now. I am not the monster you make me out to be. You have not been disrespectful so I will be gentle.” A low rumble came from The Agent’s stomach. “Now, to perform my duties.”

 Yelena struggled, attempting to free herself of her restraints. “If I am so brilliant, why not let me live?”

 The Agent leaned over her body placing one hand on her forehead and the other on her navel. “Unfortunately, that is precisely why I must take you.” Yelena gasped and tried to bite at The Agent’s arm, but it was out of her reach. “No one has ever escaped. If you struggle it will hurt.”

 At first, the screams rang through the room. Fear and pain drenched the space like liquid gold. The Agent licked lips, the energy a delicacy in its purity. The strength of her will flowing like a river into The Agent’s body. When she weakened, her gaping mouth let out barely a whisper—her eyes wide. Yelena had erroneously thought she would be raped physically. She realized as she felt her soul ripped before its time—there were worse forms of torture. She tried hard to concentrate feelings into her body. To lodge some sort of record within her. She did not know if it would work. However, if she used her strength to feed The Agent’s whim. Certain pockets of her feelings and thoughts might be missed. The Agent smiled knowing her thoughts. Yelena began to let go of her fear. Her eyes staring at the white ceiling she felt as though she were floating. May the divine bring this creature to justice. She had been agnostic all her life but hoped that somehow this prayer would be heard. Blackness grew at the edges of her sight. She could no longer feel her body. As the last of her sight left her. She felt herself enter a large gaping hole. Her consciousness lost in a void.




 Cars honking. The memory of last night’s conversation with Izzy swirls in my mind. Izzy isn’t the toughest looking woman. Predators like to prey on those they perceive as weak. Izzy ran away from me once when I needed her. She cowered when faced by the rejection others.


 “On Hallows’ Eve the ghosts alight, dark spirits and monsters take flight into the nightmares of all who fear the night. Listen well, for wicked they be.”


 The children were shaking, though they could not understand all of what they heard. Except for Zara, and her friend Izzy – the most well read students of Martin Luther King elementary. To be more accurate, Zara wasn’t shaking despite understanding, Izzy shook and understood. Mr. Negron could see Zara was not buying it, “Zara, why are you so serious? Do you not believe in monsters?”

The children all stared at Zara and she responded seriously—”Oh no, tío,” she called him uncle in Spanish. “I believe in them; talk to them. They are not all evil.” Mr. Negron’s jaw dropped, the children started laughing and calling her a liar.

Izzy tried to stand up for Zara, “Stop, she isn’t lying–honest!” The children glared at Izzy. They laughed, their vicious faces singing in unison as they called her a fag. She ran from their hatred – stung by the pain of it. Mr. Negron silenced the children with a stern glare and a simple, “be quiet.” The children went silent. They knew what would happen if they disobeyed an elder. Zara smiled coolly, her coal eyes steel against their taunting gaze. Her face like marble. Hair black as night. At the age of eight, she scared her uncle, Mr. Negron. That night, when David and Elsie came over to pick Zara up, he was quick to tell them.

“Are you aware that your daughter thinks she can talk to monsters?” His hands placed on the table. Both parents sat down composed at the kitchen table.

“Mother, I would like to go home.”

Izzy followed in after her, timid, “Can I go with you?”

Elsie knew not to ask why. Most likely the other children made them both feel unwelcome. Although, she was quite certain they weren’t the only ones. She smiled warmly at her brother-in-law, “I am going to take the girls home. It is, probably, best we take some time to talk to the children separately about this event.”

She knew he’d be satisfied with her statement. Although, she was anything but. Zara was just a child saying something any child could during a game of pretend or when trying to impress others.

“Of course,” Henry called for his children, Zara’s cousins came in reluctantly.

“Jael, Peter, say goodbye to tío and titi.” The children did as instructed and said goodbye to their uncle and aunt. Henry looked at them and they knew to say goodbye to Zara as well. They were younger than Zara by a year or so, but, she still enjoyed their company. She hugged them and did not blame them for going along with the others.


“Yes, mother?” Zara looked at her mother’s caramel skin. Elsie Bran was descended from Taino natives and an Afro-Puerto Rican woman. Sporting coal eyes and straight black hair like Zara’s, she caught her husband’s eyes easily when they first met. David, her husband, was also a Puerto Rican, but, was light-skinned with red hair.

“We need to talk about something,” Elsie walked up to the bed and sat down.

“About how I should only talk to my uncle about what he thinks is right?”

Elsie’s eyes registered shock for a moment and she stared directly into her eight-year-old daughter’s eyes. They held a depth to them that could not be explained.

“Mother, are you listening?” Zara touched her arm, bringing her out of a trance.

“Tell mommy, how do you speak to ghosts and monsters?”

Zara cocked her head. Her eyes roamed Elsie’s face as if she were verifying something. “Promise you won’t be scared,” she told her mother firmly.

Elsie nodded, “you forget. I am no normal mother.”

A creaking sound resounded from the top of the stairs and swift footsteps approached. Zara calmly stared at the door, “Come in, father.” David swung the door carefully shut as he stepped in, “I want to know.” Elsie had told David she would be asking. Apparently, it was too much for her husband to resist. Zara beckoned him to her bedside and outstretched both hands. Each parent grabbed a hand and then turned to glance at each other for a moment. No normal child was like this, but, then they had long known Zara was different.

Suddenly, they were drifting in darkness. A crossroads of caverns came into view. Creatures of various kinds walked through the dim passages. Some walked into glowing liquid doorways. Their forms lost once they entered. Some souls were drifting, their bodies more etheric than material flesh. Others walked past them, not seeing the dead, though it seemed some did. Zara’s voice resounded in their minds, “This is the crossroads where I speak to the ghosts and the people of other worlds.” They saw orbs of energy going down a tunnel with light. Predatory creatures with horns and large teeth that made them gulp in fear. Then abruptly, they were back in Zara’s room staring at their daughter. It took them a few moments to register what had occurred. Zara waited patiently and looked at her mother, knowing she would be the first to speak, “You are a powerful witch—why didn’t you tell me?” Zara released their hands and checked to see if her father was okay. “You never asked and I did not know it was different. Izzy told me that this isn’t normal. Although, she thinks it is cool.” Zara smiled warmly, which was something Elsie did not often see. Zara wasn’t necessarily unhappy just serious most of the time—except for when she was around Izzy, her best friend.

David gazed at his daughter blankly, “I know you can pick up our thoughts sometimes, but, I wasn’t prepared for this.” Elsie looked at his eyes and could see the fear he was trying to hide. Then she looked at her daughter’s cold gaze. Her lips just had a slight droop at the corner. An ice-encrusted void of isolation and rejection came through Zara’s guard.

Elsie addressed her husband lovingly, “David, why don’t you prepare us all some hot chocolate to ground us after our journey. I know I’d greatly appreciate it and our daughter just used a good deal of strength to show us that place.”

David, her agnostic husband, left the room after a terse, “alright.” She had amazed him many times with her magic, but, hers was nothing like Zara’s. Elsie and Zara were registered paranormals with the state. David was from a conservative background, though more open-minded. Elsie had always known Zara was a gift from the gods. How David saw Zara seemed to align with Elsie’s views, but, this experience may have brought him past his comfort zone. Elsie was about to address Zara, but, her daughter began first, “I am sorry. If I knew he would be scared—” Zara cried for the first time since she was a baby. The tears ran silently down her cheeks. She did not have downturned lips. Instead, her eyes illustrated her pain. Again the void crept through her daughter’s aura, an expansive darkness. Isolation was all Elsie could perceive. She held her daughter closely and imagined herself wrapping her in the light of the sun. Projecting the image of a summer day in a forest.

“It is not as bad as you think, but, if it is—I will always be here for you.” Zara could see the place her mother was imagining and she felt warm. The feeling of her mother’s touch making her slow her breath.

Zara commented once she was calm, “It was not hard to show you. You know that, right?”

Elsie nodded her head. Standard was the word given to people who did not have extrasensory abilities. Her mother a paranormal and a witch, had begun to teach her general witchcraft terminology, morality, and spells that year. It was unavoidable that Zara was taught witchcraft because she had been a natural witch all her life. Had her mother not taught her, she would have found her way to it and practiced alone. Witchcraft brought a new arsenal of tools to a Paranormal and a spiritual connection to other realms. Historically, it was not an approved practice. Witches delved beyond earth into alternate spaces that still were not understood, or even believed in. A knock resounded on the door, mother and daughter turned simultaneously. David walked in smiling and carrying a tray with hot chocolate and madeleines. He set the tray on Zara’s nightstand and offered her hot chocolate first, then gave a mug to his wife, before taking his own cup.

He took a sip and stated, “Be careful, it is a little hot.” Afterward, he offered them cookies. Elsie smiled, he seemed himself again.

The cars ahead shift gears into drive. A green digital display shows the clock. No lost time, phew. Inhale, Zara. Focus. Today is a big day; if the remote viewer identifies the next victim. Maybe, we can save her life. The car lurches, joining the skyway on my preprogrammed route.


Tempting Fate


 Swoosh. I step into the waiting room of our building. Our sign, “Paranormal Investigation Taskforce” showing our little gray P.I.T. symbol hanging at the entrance outside and on the wall above the waiting room’s lone clock. Our symbol is a poorly drawn copycat of a badge I said would suffice. The clock reads 8:15 am. We do not open until 9 am. My partner is moving boxes. “Tanaka?” I call my business partner by his last name. He pokes his head out the door. “Meet me in my office.” We are equals in business, but in our relationship—our dynamic is a little different. He is waiting when I open the door.

“Take off your pants.” He crosses his arms, “are you sure? We have a lot of work to get done.” “Tell me no, if you don’t want to, but otherwise—” I look him up and down, “you’re mine.” Tanaka removes his pants. As soon as they reach his feet, I grab his shirt in my fist and push him on the table.

His shirt is wrinkled after we finish. Hair disheveled from the pulling. He adjusts his collar. “That was a great start to the day.” He caresses my cheek, “couldn’t wait until later?” I cup his rear before moving to sit at my large antique wooden desk. “This case is stressing me out.” He pulls up his chair from his sleek industrial desk.

“This killer could bring the old days back.” My breath catches in my throat. I place my hands on my temples. Breathe.

“None of us want the concentration camps again.” With an exhale, I straighten up and adjust my tie. “If I weren’t so scared, I would waste my time on the small time paranormal.”

Tanaka sits back and folds his arms, “you admitting fear worries me more.” His gaze leads to the awards on the wall. We both know we caught more Paranormal and Standard criminals than most of the police force combined.

“Our business reputation is at stake too. I don’t want someone else to get this guy. We get most cases now. We even have a hope of being federally contracted.” Tanaka nods in acknowledgment. He stands and paces, then hovers right behind me.

His hands rest on my shoulders, “You aren’t telling me everything. This is becoming personal. Why? Are you afraid of being attacked?”

I scoff, “I do not fear this idiot. It’s Izzy.” Tanaka removes his hands and sits back down. His chair is still angled away from his desk.

Tanaka chuckles, “don’t think I won’t poke the bear during lunch.”

I cringe, “I am not a bear. The situation is not a bear. There is nothing to discuss. You know my stance.”

Tanaka turns to his desk, “I am not just your boyfriend you know. I am your friend. As a friend,” he dramatically puts his hand to his chest, “I feel the torture you are putting yourself through. Don’t you want to know what she’ll say?”

I glare at him, “We already bought a house together. I will have to see her every day if she rejects me.” Tanaka understands I am bisexual. I understand that he hates the idea of marriage. We have an open relationship. My role is to curb his parents wish for him to settle down until he can man up enough to just say no. His role is to give me some lovin’ and distract me from her. I also like him, a lot. Annoying man.

He handles the paperwork, while I make calls to our regular contractors for the small time cases. Arranging stake outs for those more organized criminals. Those in my “Definite Idiot” pile, or DI list—I handle by myself. After lunch, around 1 pm, I make the preparations to get the next on my DI list. Izzy helped me locate her. She works at a pizzeria. The smell of garlic wafts into the air. I walk in, order a pizza and sit down in a corner. As I eat I watch her doing her work, while pretending to check the clock or look at decorations. Space cadet is my game now. My aura masked by the visage of dreamy eyes. I feel her energy spike. She raises a psychic mask. Putting on a fake appearance of still working at the counter. I can sense her energy walking to the cash register. Wow, what an amateur. I shut down my auric signature and walk to the bathroom. I turn and snap a picture of her reaching into the drawer and a video of her pocketing money. She turns just in time to see me walking away from the bathroom. I smile at her, before tilting my head and looking at a painting dazed. An audible sigh comes from her mouth as if she thinks I didn’t catch her. I send the information to Tanaka so he can notify the police of my finds.

I eat the last of my pizza when they walk in. Wipe my hands while they approach her, “Police, we have some questions”—The DI runs out of the kitchen. The police run after her. I slowly stand. Wipe my mouth. Dispose of my trash. There she is. I approach her car as she gets in. Her car revving up sends an anticipatory chill down my spine. There is one problem for her, it won’t turn on. I smile as I tap on the glass. She points a gun at me and I laugh. I punch the window, breaking the glass of her vintage car. Shame, she should have had sonic glass installed. Now I might ruin the interior. I send her gun away from her hand telekinetically and hold her body frozen in my mind. I lift her hands up with my mind. The officer that approaches her reads her rights. Then, without any effort extracts her from the car and cuffs her. I release my hold once she is in their custody. Officer Ryan stands next to me watching the perpetrator walk away in cuffs, “I’ll send you a bill.”

He sucks in his breath, “you had some balls with this one.”

 I turn to him with a wry grin, “that would be ovaries. I have some business to attend to.” He nodded and we waved good-bye. The rush of the hunt made me feel good, but this woman was so basic. I need a little extra adrenaline. My body lifts as I pull over the bar. The sweat running down my skin. My black shirt and pants ripe with my funk and pain. The power of that pain. The guilty pleasure of my being above the cut. Sure, maybe I am a bit full of myself, but it is better than being weak. I move towards the weights and start my regimen. Tanaka walks in and sits down on the bench next to me to do the same. “I met with our next client. You know we are not done for the day.” I put the weights down and look at his muscles bulge as he lifts. “Listen, did you want a repeat of this morning? Working out will take less time.” He put the weights down, “You are not literally asking that question, because if you were—I’d say yes, let’s repeat this morning. Except, I take you this time.” I sigh, “When will you learn.” Then I wink at him. We both nod and get up. Time to get back to work. The remote viewer will meet us at 3 pm.

3 pm


Izzy is outside. Tanaka stands up, “well that was a productive day. I am heading out.” I wave to him. I can hear them greet each other. Her boots clack from behind the door. I open it, “Hello.” It is not normal for her to come here.

“Since you mentioned a scary murderer I figured I would come to protect you.” I folded my arms and shifted my weight.

“This is just petty.”

“I want you to see how you sound. I may dress like I am from the 1950s, early 2000s, or some other sad period for women, but the truth remains.” She leans forward, “I can handle myself.”

I nod, “I get that, Izzy. Serial killers don’t care about equality though when it comes to their victims.” She grabs my hand. Heat rises to my face as she pulls me forward. Curse the pale skin my father gave me. Thankfully, her back is turned. We get into the car I scheduled. Our hands no longer linked, I can focus.

“What did the remote viewer say?”

I look out the window to my left, “I am not at liberty to say.” Izzy scoffs. I look down at my lap and see her hands crushing her dress in my periphery. I sigh and look up, “I am contracting a different seer for this case. This is not something I want you involved in.”

Izzy leans forward and faces me, “seriously?! Since when did you become my guardian?” The view below of the ocean catches my attention. The car moving through the skyway fast enough to make me get a headache.

 “Izzy, I don’t mean to sound like an ass, but—”

 She lifts her hand to stop me, “That is what everyone says before being a—” she revised her response, “a butthead.” I nearly laugh, her conservative background still polices her speech.

“I look out for you, just like you for me.” I take a breath, “The woman we saw. She’s dead.”

“How do you know?” Her solemn voice draws my eyes, which capture the moment her hands release her dress.

“The remote viewer had a hard time finding her, but when she found her husk. Her horrified eyes were definitely indicative of death. Let’s just say, the gaping charred hole where her mouth was is a greater testament to that.” Izzy covers her mouth. With a measured pace, she removes the hand and places it on her lap.

“Was the perp’ there?”


Heavy air like a vault settles over us. If we had seen things sooner. Maybe, we could have saved her. How many will die?


 The Agent sat with crossed legs. Soon. For now, no report of their passing had graced the media. However, with the next kill, there would be no choice. A smile graces The Agent’s lips. A fuzzy feeling and zinging sound announced contact. They are calling. The next target’s identity is ready.

They: You will go to Market Street and intercept this person.

[An image of the prey overtakes what is before my eyes.]

The Agent: Why a—

They: Silence. Be prompt. Do not show up late or early. Be there at precisely, this time.

[A clock with a display showing a date, time, month, and year appears.]

The Agent: Understood.

They: Good, the last soul was an excellent addition to our collection.

The Agent: The resilient ones usually are.

The memory of Yelena, her destroyed mouth—a charred crater, brings pleasure.

They’s laughter rang through the connection. A chill passed through The Agent. What a wonderful sensation; fear. The connection fizzled as They withdrew. Time was on their side. The age of man would come to an end. The slate wiped clean.


 Izzy watches as Zara leaves the bathroom. Her robe and wet hair show her nightly ritual is complete. Izzy knocks on the door to Zara’s room. “Zara?”

“What is it?” Zara calls.

“Can I sleep with you tonight?”

Zara unlocks the door and gestures to the bed, “nightmares?”

Izzy nods, “thank you.”

 Izzy averts her gaze as Zara gets dressed. Zara quickly braids her hair. Izzy waits for Zara climbs into bed. Then turns to shut off the light. They hold hands like when they were children. Zara listens as Izzy’s breathing slows. The sound of a snore announces Izzy’s sleeping state. Zara props up Izzy’s head gently. She does not let hands linger. She pushes the thoughts of Izzy’s sheer nighty from her mind. This is my best friend. Friend. Not lover. The thought of Izzy’s boobs shifting as she turned to shut off the light plague my mind. I release her hand and turn away. It feels like I am hiding. I hold on to the thought of a warm day in the forest. Mom, used the image to soothe me so many times. Overtaken by sleep, an ebony mist surrounds me.

 My consciousness returns to a familiar dreamscape; in the blackness, my dimension split across its planes. My skin the pale gray of a sunless night. My yellow eyes watch as the humans call to the gods, or whatever spirits might help them in their latest troubles. My raven hair falls across my bosom as I lean forward. My mirror displays the otherworld–their earth.

On the fringes of my plane, the souls of the recently dead pass through. Some souls are guarded, cross as prisoners, or cross alone to make their way. The living call to the gods, goddesses, or lone deity they attuned to. I send ushers to guide the sleeping souls, those still living, back to the realm of dreams. It is rare we allow a sleeper across the night plane to death. It is our job among others to ensure the safety of souls. I do not file them, judge them, or any such thing. I simply allow them their chance to live. My job is far different from such trivial things.


I am an orchestrator of fate.


I hear the prayers to the fates as my name. We souls of the Nyx dive down. Upon the borders, we hear her begging us.

“Please give me a chance—let me have this baby. I have waited so long.”

We can all see past the veil into the car of a woman who was just told she could never bear children. I stand at the front of the group and look back at the others. We all know what her future holds. We also know an essential change has to come. The humans are too unruly. Even Yahweh, the newest god to ascend to prominence, is unable to handle the lot of them. Even working together, even answering prayers not assigned to us—things are getting worse.

“An agent must be born, the slate wiped clean. To fulfill the will of the Moirae.”

Ananke stepped from behind the masses, she looked at me – “You will have a new name and new life.”

“So shall it be,” chorus the masses.


( Chapter originally posted in five separate posts on Post edited 5.22.17 for grammar, punctuation, and to include the location where Izzy works, as well as a description of the company logo for The Paranormal Taskforce where Zara works.)