Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Zoe Bleak #1

The standard show set for a Zoe Bleak performance was usually something with fire, the disappearing audience member and then a levitation act. Intermixed was simple stuff like card tricks, humor and flirtatious come-ons from Zoe. The only thing Zoe didn’t purposely mess up with the levitation act which always received a standing ovation. The other tricks were constantly screwed up by dropping cards, fires not lighting and other things that could easily be fixed. The crux of all of her shows was the levitation and her skimpy clothes.

Tonight was a night like any other. Zoe made it seem like she was a novice magician until the levitation trick all while making sure the men could count the freckles on her cleavage. Zoe wasn’t a novice but a third generation magician. Her grandfather was a superhero and her father was a highly respected doctor. After her father was murdered, her grandfather raised her until he disappeared when Zoe was 18. She always felt guilty about not using her magic for good like her male role models but she had resigned herself to knowing that she was nothing like them.

After the show, Zoe waited until everyone had left and the lights to the club were turned off before she left. Zoe threw on her trench coat and began walking west for about five blocks until she reached Cottage Grove Avenue then headed north. The streets and sidewalks were deserted which she expected since it was almost two-thirty in the morning. Vanessa would most likely be in bed. She lost herself in the thought of Vanessa and didn’t see the two pairs of arms reached out from an alleyway and grabbing her, one hand covering her mouth so she couldn’t scream—not that anyone would hear her to help her anyway.

She was dragged into one of the abandoned, burned-out houses she had been walking by and thrown on the floor. “She’s even dressed like a whore,” one of them cackled “so we don’t even need to tear her clothes off.”

Zoe smirked as she eyed her two abductors. “What are you doing?”

“We’re just going to have a little fun,” the other said and got down close to Zoe. He grabbed her face with his hand and held her close to him. He pushed her down on the floor. Zoe didn’t struggle as the man began unbuckling his pants. She looked straight into his eyes and it took a couple seconds for him to notice. He tried to avert his eyes from hers but couldn’t. “What?”

Broken nose,” Zoe said and a soft crack came from the man’s face. He yelled in pain and rolled off of Zoe.

“What the hell?” the other said and began reaching for a gun that was shoved in his pants.

Zoe met the man’s eyes and spoke, “Stop,” and the man froze where he was. Zoe stood up and looked at her would-be rapists. “This could’ve been much worse,” she said. “Neither of you better attempt this ever again. I can make you disappear and trust me, you wouldn’t like it.”

“You crazy bitch,” the man with the broken nose sobbed, blood pouring out.

“You should get your friend to the hospital so a doctor can get that nose reset,” Zoe said, walking out of the building.

The Vagabond Bookstore was located halfway between 65th and Marquette Road along Cottage Grove. It was a decent looking two-story brick building with iron bars across the big front window and entryway. On the right side of the bookstore was a fenced in vacant lot and to the left, connected to the brick building, was a pink stone building that served as a church. It wasn’t a conventional church but a church that did its sermons through song. The sign on the building said that they were a family band and occasionally Zoe and Vanessa heard their rehearsals and sermons through the walls but they admitted that they were lucky to have them as neighbors.

Zoe unlocked the iron gates to the front door, entered the bookstore, making sure to lock up the gates and door again, and went up the back stairs to the second floor where she and Vanessa lived. The stairs led into a living room which only had a couch, recliner a couple of coffee tables, side tables and an old Emerson TV from the 1980s on another table. Zoe walked down the hallway to the bedroom and walked in. Vanessa was sitting in bed, reading, with the lamp on her nightstand turned on.

“You didn’t have to wait up,” Zoe said and began taking off her stage clothes.

“I didn’t. I was just reading,” Vanessa said, slid a bookmark into her book and placed it on the nightstand. “How was the show?”

“The usual,” Zoe tossed her outfit onto the back of a chair and turned around to take off her bra. The bra wound up with the rest of the outfit and Zoe grabbed a white tank top and turned back to Vanessa. “I walked home which is why I’m later than usual.”

“Do you have a show tomorrow night?” Vanessa asked as Zoe got into bed with her.

“No. Why?”

“I was thinking we could go have dinner somewhere,” Vanessa smiled. “It’s been awhile since we’ve had a nice evening together.”

“I think we can do that,” Zoe leaned over and kissed Vanessa. “How about in the morning we go out and get coffee?”

“We’d have to open the store later.”

“It will be fine. The huge line of people we always have standing outside our business will understand,” Zoe rolled her eyes.

Vanessa giggled. “Okay,” they kissed again, more passionately this time and longer. Zoe held the back of Vanessa’s head and exhaled longingly. “Love you,” Vanessa rolled over and turned off the lamp.

“Love you, too,” Zoe wrapped her arm around Vanessa and hugged her.

Zoe never fell asleep before Vanessa. Zoe would lie awake typically for almost two hours. It was something she had dealt with since she was a kid and she never asked about it or attempted to use her magic to help her. She was unsure if it was because of her powers or if it was just her mind not shutting down but she had grown used to it and she finally fell asleep after only forty-five minutes.

Zoe was seventeen and sitting around a large fire near an old, abandoned church in the woods several miles west of the Chicago metropolitan area. During her sophomore year of high school, Zoe had gotten close to a group of teens who considered themselves part of a cult. Their nights consisted of driving out to the abandoned church and sitting around a campfire, getting high. Tonight was originally planned to be no different.

Zoe sat close to Joshua, her boyfriend, with her head on his shoulder and hand resting high up on his leg. “When are Angie and Donna getting here?” Zoe asked.

“They’re getting something for us tonight. It’s a surprise,” Joshua smirked. He guzzled some beer out of a bottle and leaned over to kiss Zoe. When they pulled apart, she giggled and wiped her mouth. “They do seem to be running late. I’m going to walk out to the main road and see if they’re here.”

Joshua got up and walked away from the fire leaving Zoe and two others alone. “What’s the surprise?” she asked.

The other two shrugged. “We don’t know. Joshua planned all this out.”

“They were coming,” Joshua said from the path and emerged with Angie and Donna who also had a noticeably very pregnant woman with them. They were holding her wrists tight as she was struggling to pull herself away. “Zoe, Nathan, Sammy, this lovely lady is Candice. Candice is a single mother who is thirty weeks pregnant.”

Zoe saw the nervous looks on Nathan and Sammy’s faces. “Why did you bring her here? Why is she struggling and crying?”

“After months of searching and planning, we are going to have our first sacrifice,” Joshua said. “We’ve all been waiting for it. We talk about it every week and now it’s finally time to do the deed.”

“But she’s pregnant,” Zoe walked over Joshua and Angie and Donna, still holding onto Candice. “I’m not going to murder a pregnant woman. I’m not going to murder anyone. All that we do is just talk and I’m sure no one else here feels comfortable killing an innocent person.”

Joshua hung his head. His greasy hair hung down over his eyes. “Actually, Zoe, I think everyone here is perfectly fine with killing an innocent person.”

Zoe turned and saw Nathan and Sammy approaching them with knives in their hands. They didn’t look the same anymore and when Zoe turned back to Joshua, he, Angie and Donna looked different as well.

“Bring her into the church,” Joshua said. Candice was starting to really struggle as Donna and Angie dragged her toward the dilapidated building. Joshua stopped and kicked Candice in the knee with the flat of his shoe. The knee cracked and buckled and Candice let out a piercing scream. “Maybe that will make her easier to drag. It’ll keep her from escaping at least.”

Zoe sheepishly followed Joshua and the others into the abandoned church. They threw Candice down on the dusty and feces-crusted wood floor and held her down. Joshua began saying some sort of prayer as Zoe just watched and started to cry.

“Why didn’t you help her?” a voice asked her.

“I didn’t know how. I didn’t want them to come after me and do the same thing to me,” Zoe sniffled and paused for a second. “I also wanted to belong, Grandpa,” Zoe turned to the voice and saw a white-haired bearded man standing next to her.

Back in the ‘40s and early ‘50s, Silas Bleak used his powers as Magic Man, a superhero who perked up spirits and served as inspiration to Chicago from 1942 until his retirement in 1954 when Silas’ wife got pregnant. Silas continued to use his powers to help people but never to the scale he did as Magic Man. After her mother ran off and her father was murdered, Silas took care of Zoe from age nine until he ran off too when she was 17. Just a few days after this incident.

“It’s been a long time, Zoe,” Silas said. “I’m sorry that I have to make you relive this but it will be over soon.”

“It’s a dream?” she asked quietly. “So you are dead.”

“Now, yes. When I left you I wasn’t but I was called into duty.”

“Duty? What duty? Why did you leave me? Do you know how hard it is for a 17-year-old girl like me to be abandoned by her mother, father and grandfather?”

“I’ve watched you so yes, I do,” Silas said. “I had to leave because of this,” he nodded to Joshua and the others. Joshua sat directly on Candice’s pregnant stomach as he carved an upside cross into her throat and chest. Candice began gasping for air as blood pooled on the floor around her. Her life noticeably drained from her and her body was soon limp.

“Done. Burn the church down,” Joshua said standing up.

As Joshua and the others left the church, a tall, ghostly woman with long brown hair appeared. She kneeled down next to Candice, placing her hands on her stomach.

“What’s she doing?” Zoe asked.

“Saving the baby,” Silas smiled.

“The baby lived?”

“Oh, yes. She is a very happy and rambunctious 14-year-old girl named Winnette. Winnie for short.”

“Winnette? Grandma’s name. Have…Have you been taking care of her?”

“Yes, with the help of Rhona,” Silas pointed to the ghostly lady. “But she needs to be around people now. That’s where you come in.”


“Winnie will be a freshman in high school and she needs to have more tangible parents and be around people her own age and in her plane of existence.”

“And you think Vanessa and me are those parents?”

“If you don’t think you can handle it, fine. We just thought it would be a good way to make up for this,” Silas said.

“What am I supposed to tell Vanessa?” Zoe asked but got no response. “Grandpa?” she asked but she was awake and back in her bedroom with Vanessa. She rolled over, hugging Vanessa and softly kissed her freckled shoulder.