Cycle of Spectra Illuminos: Prison of Comfort 1:1
Weeks have passed since Alonzo’s voyage to Spectra and there’s nothing more he’d rather do than go back in time to stop all this from happening- the pain, the strife, the death of his mother and father; it seems all for naught. For all the importance that Dionysus, Persephone, and Cairo placed on removing him from San Antonio, everything has come to a standstill. He hasn’t seen or heard from his aunt or uncle in five days and even Cairo has been away for an even longer stint. As a matter of fact, he has no clue where he is. When he had asked, a usual answer of “it’s better that you don’t know” was given.
Alonzo has been placed in a moderately furnished, fourth-floor apartment, located in some kind of quiet, family-centric neighborhood. There is only one window to gaze from, and that limited amount of viewing space only peers about a block and a half in either direction. Giant maple and oak trees line both sides of the street, rustling in the heavy breeze blown in from the summer season. Brick-faced buildings line the streets as well, residential structures indicating the amount of wealth built into this area. Well-dressed yuppie men and women stroll in the mornings and evenings, and what he has gathered, everyone owns some kind of beautiful dog to match the alluring atmosphere. Every now and again, he hears the sound of a train and feels the slight vibration of the railing it travels on. Most days are sunny and clear, but a few thunderstorms have blown in over the last two weeks, causing hail damage to vehicles and windows outside. It’s all reminiscent of trips he has taken to Chicago in the past.
Claustrophobic and anxious, Alonzo wishes for nothing more than to open the window to take in a deep breath of fresh air, but even that is too much to ask for. The window and all doors have been magically sealed; no one can enter and no one can exit. That was the first of several rules given to him by his lackluster leadership. The second rule was no cell phone; that was instantly taken away from at the start. Next was no internet; tracking him would be easier by someone hacking into email accounts and a Facebook profile. Last, no alerting anyone his presence, which has been a constant reminder of this comfortable prison he is not allowed to leave. Alonzo would wave to passersby just to spite the others’ wishes, but he’s sure no one can see or hear him from the window.
During the first couple of days, Dionysus and Persephone would appear every few hours to check on Alonzo, ripping apart the invisible space within the apartment, stepping through a portal from another location. Cairo would come with them every other trip for the first week, providing old tomes and texts of passages containing information on the Cycle of Spectra Illuminos. He even spent several days instructing him on the history of magic, the Supernal Realms, the Abyss, and the Invisible Realms. He has also learned to hone his unseen sense, feeling the flows of magic from the barriers to the doors and windows, as well as the vibrations felt from the Portal spells cast by Dionysus and Persephone. There are times when new magic awaken within the confines of the apartment. Alonzo brought this up the last time he saw Dionysus; the man admitted that he and Persephone regularly scry him to ascertain he is well.
But Alonzo wonders what the hell there is to really complain about. He has all the amenities he could ask for: a spare bedroom set up as a gym, a jet tub and steam shower in the master bathroom, a king-size bed, a closet with innumerable amounts of clothing in his size, cable television, an Xbox 360, aesthetically pleasing wall art and table sculptures, a refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets full of fresh food, and a Bose stereo system with everything needed to hook up his IPod. All that’s missing is some companionship. Hell, they wouldn’t even allow him to keep Oscar for fear that he would be made while taking the dog outside to do his business.
“Fuck this,” Alonzo whispers through clenched teeth, slamming his hands down onto the window sill.
At that moment, the vibration of active magic erupts somewhere in the apartment, aside from what’s already in place. Alonzo spins around, waiting for another portal to open up.
When the fabric of space rips apart, Persephone steps through the portal, followed by a familiar face that instantly brightens the young Illuminae’s disposition.
“Lonz!” Esther screams, running to him with open arms.
“What? Oh my God! I can’t believe this! What are you doing here?” Alonzo inquires, wrapping his strong arms around the girl in a bear hug.
Esther is a pretty, mousy, energetic girl with sprite blown dark brown hair. Her skin is smooth and fair, wrapped in a loose, navy blue blouse and tight stone-washed jeans. Her amber eyes make her unique among the masses and she wears a single piece of jewelry- a thin gold necklace ending with a teardrop sapphire.
“Well, Dionysus and Persephone asked if I wanted to chill with you for a couple of days. I haven’t seen ya in almost eight months, so I figured ‘what the hell’.”
Persephone interrupts, stepping further into the center of the living room. She is wearing dark blue jeans and a green V-neck sweater. Her makeup is light and she wears silver hoops which complement the sparkle of her jade eyes. Her hair is a little wind-blown but still pristinely curled with bounce and great sheen. The dark rings under her eyes give away the probable long nights she has spent awake, but she still smiles with the warmest of appearances.
“Mirand, er, Persephone,” Alonzo begins, putting a hand on his aunt’s shoulder, “I don’t know how much longer I can hold up in here. I’m starting to go crazy!”
Persephone offers him a delicate smile. “Everything is nearly done to move you to a better location. I just came by to let you know and pick up the tomes that Cairo had left behind.”
“Where have you been? I haven’t seen you, Roman, or Cairo for days!”
“Dionysus will be by in a few days to take you out of here,” Persephone apologizes. “I’m so sorry we’ve been away for so long. A lot has happened since San Antonio. The house finally sold, almost everything but heirlooms was auctioned off at the estate sale. Accounts were liquidated and placed into other accounts and we have been working to create you a new Sleeper identity. “
Alonzo appears deeply scarred by this news. He knew things were going to change, he just didn’t realize his whole life would be sold out from under him.
Persephone hands him a box. Inside are all the items he received from the medical examiner’s office, as well as all of the things in his parents vault, including the 9mm automatic. He also finds his mother’s gold pendant with an ivory face carving of Mother Mary and the Baby Jesus; it was something she never took off.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” Alonzo asks with one raised eyebrow, holding out the weapon.
“I know, I know,” she exclaims, “but you need to protect yourself in case something was to happen. We think we have a lot of people off your trail, but in the meantime, it never hurts to be prepared. Until the other Scions awaken, you’re stuck with no magic to protect you.”
Alonzo shakes his head and sits down on the couch.
“Where does all this leave Cairo?”
“Cairo has been taking care of some personal business before coming to train you for an extended stay. With the club and the vineyards, he needs to make sure all is in order before leaving. He said something about having Charlie manage his personal interests, but he wasn’t sure she would jump on the opportunity.
Alonzo watches carefully as Persephone purses her lips.
“What’s wrong? What aren’t you telling me?”
Persephone shakes her head.
“I’m not too sure I can trust a vampire with our secrets. Even if he is one of the Illuminae, I just have never been able to trust their kind. I try to stay away from him and let Dionysus deal with all that.”
“You can say that again,” Esther mutters from her perch atop a kitchen bar stool.
Alonzo smiles; Persephone doesn’t react to the comment.
“So will I be able to bring Oscar along when we leave? Is he okay?”
“Oscar is just fine,” Persephone admits with a smile. “He’s finally taken a liking to me after all this time. He still sits by the front door and whines. He misses you.”
“You know,” Esther interrupts, “I don’t know why you want to leave this place so bad. Looks like you got it made with all these fabulous amenities. I mean, come on, do you really need a separate fridge for wine and for beer? ”
Alonzo stares at Esther, annoyed. Her cheeks redden.
“Just a suggestion.”
“What else’s been going on?” Alonzo asks, redirecting attention to his aunt.
Persephone pauses for a moment in consideration. After about ten seconds of silence, she looks up to Alonzo with a frown.
“We’ve done some more investigation into your parents’ murder,” she admits.
Alonzo takes in a deep, bracing breath.
“It’s definitely another Awakened,” she continues, “and definitely someone with more than enough ability to go unknown to our insights. We could go to some other masters proficient in Unveiling or even seek out archmages to help, but that would just leave more trails to follow. We’re trying to do this our own.”
“Great,” Alonzo sighs. “Still no answers.”
Persephone shakes her head.
“The resonance was like nothing I have ever seen or felt. Whoever it was had been traipsing through your parent’s mansion at one time. Veiling magic was used, probably a strong invisibility spell. This person didn’t want to be seen.”
“I was just gonna say something about that,” Alonzo exclaims.
“What?” Esther asks, leaning against the kitchen island.
“When I got back to the house after Dionysus called me about mom and dad’s accident, something weird happened. It felt like someone was watching me, even following me around. Oscar freaked out a couple of times too.”
“We’ll look a little deeper into this while the mansion is still empty,” Persephone promises. “While we do, you stay put. If someone really is lurking around, they will keep an eye open for all of us. If they are powerful enough, they could essentially follow our portals to this place.”
Alonzo nods, his mind stuck on the death of his parents.
“Sure thing,” Esther agrees.
“Listen,” Persephone directs, “I need to take these books and head over to the sanctum. Snow White offered to keep you company for a few days and to show you some more uses for magic.”
Alonzo raises an eyebrow, smiling.
“You’ve gotta be kidding?”
“Yep. Couldn’t live that down,” she says, referring her high school nickname. “Besides, the other two girls in my cabal took on fairytale princess names too. Rapunzel I can see with all that hair. I think Gretel took her name because she was bored. You should hear the snickers when the Consilium meets. “
Persephone giggles softly, gathering a group of tomes from atop the coffee table.
“I’ll be back tomorrow night to see how things are going,” she reassures, kissing Alonzo on the forehead.
She reaches up to one of her silver hoops, gently rubbing its smooth surface. She begins speaking the phonetics of High Speech, and for a moment, the air around her ripples and she quickly walks forward.
“See you soon,” she says, disappearing into nothingness.
As Persephone disappears, Snow White walks to the beer refrigerator and takes out a bottle of Shock Top, opening the cap with the following slight hiss. Good ol’ Esther, she never found it difficult to make herself at home. She tosses Alonzo a bottle and takes a swig, smiling.
“It’s really good to see you, Lonz.”
“It’s good to see you too.”
“About the funeral,” Snow White begins, “I’m sorry we had to leave so soon. We knew Dionysus and Persephone had their eyes on you, and we figured you would awaken but we just weren’t sure when. Besides, me and Phil had some issues to resolve back at our sanctum. You just never know what some crazy-ass spirits will try to do while you’re away.”
“You knew this was going to happen all this time?”
Snow White shakes her head.
“No always. When Patton and I awoke, we figured you’d follow since your parents were mages too, or at least a Sleep Walker.”
“What? Patton?” Alonzo asks, confused.
“Phillip,” Snow White explains. “We awoke on the same day but at different Watchtowers. I’m a Moros, Phillip’s an Obrimos- yeah surprise huh? Always the guy fighting the good fight. Took the shadow name Patton after that general; you knew what he was like with American history.”
Alonzo shakes his head.
Snow White gives an unsure smile.
“Patton, the general; the guy with the tanks?”
Alonzo shakes his head again.
“It’s a good thing you are going into law and not American history,” Snow White jests. “How the hell did you make it through school?”
Alonso snickers, opening his Shock Top. He takes a drink.
“Let just say I wasn’t surprised by my brother’s shadow name,” she admits. “I was getting’ tired of listening to his lectures on historical figures and who he should be named after. It was annoying and was pissing me off.”
The two of them share a short bout of laughter before Snow White continues.
“Anyway, we always knew that we could possibly awaken someday; mom and dad were mages, and were pretty open about it with us. I can’t believe they weren’t hung for tossin’ the Mysteries around like every-day knowledge. They all had this hippy idea of living a quiet life in the burbs. I think once we moved to San Antonio from Columbia, my parents and your parents were just waiting out the days until we all awakened- just one big happy family. I think they were secretly hoping that you and me would get together to keep the lines strong, but with this whole Spectra thing, it was just wishful thinking. I think the homosexuality thing may have been a hurdle too.”
She winks at Alonzo.
“I miss Max and Maria like crazy. Maria was a Moros too and really helped me out when I first awakened. She even introduced me to my mentor, Stefon. I know Max was a tough guy, but that man could always make me laugh.”
Snow White stops, thinking.
“What’s on your mind?” Alonzo asks.
“Just thinking of the past. How much we’ve all gone through.”
“Why didn’t you reach out to me when after you awakened?”
Snow White takes in a deep breath.
“That was a bitch,” she recalls, “it really was. But there was some much going on and Patton and I needed to be trained. That didn’t leave a lot of time for anyone else.”
Alonzo nods, considering her words. He then looks up to her.
“What about Clayton and Tom?”
“They’re both Sleepers,” Snow White explains, “just casualties in the natural law of magic.”
“Even so, it was good to see them at the funeral.”
“Clayton’s situation is awfully peculiar,” Snow White begins, changing the subject. “This girl he’s with is a real surprise. I think his parents must really have a problem with gay people. That whole Mormonism belief system doesn’t really keep open arms in that aspect. I think he’s just trying to please them. The girl is pretty and nice enough, but I’m just afraid Clay may be biting off more than he can chew. I honestly always thought he had a thing for you.”
“I had such a crush on Clayton.”
Snow White smiles.
“How did you know?” Alonzo asks, shocked.
“Everyone knew. Patton knew.”
“Phillip knew I was gay?”
Snow White nods.
“Of course he did! He’s the one that caught you with Tom, remember?”
“Oh,” Alonzo utters, backing down with reddened cheeks.
“You know, I’m not really certain why I called Tom for the funeral.”
“He told me you had called,” Alonzo tells her. “How in the hell did you find him?”
“Through my Dreaming ability. It’s usually on key about things; I haven’t really seen the outcome of his place in all this. As soon as I woke up, I scried him a little bit to see where he was. My sympathetic connection with him was still pretty clear and I was able to see some familiar places in Seattle. It just took a little more searching and I found his number.”
“Do you think there is anything we could do for him?” Alonzo asks.
Snow White frowns, understanding the reference. She takes a pull off of her beer.
“You mean about his HIV?”
“It’s possible,” Snow White admits, “but I have no ability in the use of Life threads. It would take a person versed in that and Ruling to fix him up. I think Persephone is a Disciple of Life, you may want to ask her opinion.”
“What did you mean that your sympathetic connection to Tom was pretty clear? I thought you two weren’t that close in school?”
“Well, do you remember that boy girl party we had in the eighth grade?”
“Yeah, sure,” Alonzo answers with an accusing gaze.
“Remember the truth or dare game we were playing?”
Alonzo laughs out loud.
“Let just say when Claire dared us to go into that closet together, we didn’t just sit there and talk about you.”
“You guys had sex???”
“Oh God, no, Lonz,” Snow White blurts. “But we did make out a little. At that time, Tom was trying to get into the pants of everything.”
“After the funeral, I said some things to him I shouldn’t have,” Alonzo confesses. “He’s really trying to change for the better. I just hope we can help him.”
Snow White leads Alonzo into the living room and they both take a seat on the leather sofa.
“That may not be possible,” she says.
“What do you mean?”
“A lot of mages cut ties to their Sleeper lives after an Awakening,” Snow White educates.
“Well I’m not gonna cut the ties of my life,” Alonzo insists. “I’ll be friends with whomever I want.”
Snow White smirks.
“And there are some mages who try to live a dual life. But the life of a Willworker can be dangerous for them, and for you.”
Alonzo takes a swig from his bottle.
“I can see what you mean,” he says.
The two sit in an uncomfortable silence for several moments when Alonzo leads the discussion elsewhere.
“What do you think about Cairo?”
“I’ve never really talked to the guy. He speaks in a weird “old-country” kinda way, but the man is hot. I’ve never met any vampires before. Not really what I expected.”
“He’s not really my type,” Alonzo expresses, “but you’re right. It’s not really his looks, but the way he looks at me and talks to me, like I’m the only person in the room. He even kissed me while I was in the hospital.”
Snow White smiles slyly.
“From what I gathered, you two have a lot in common.”
“What do you think about all this Spectra Illuminos stuff?”
“A lot of all that I’m not too sure about,” she tells him. “Your mom and dad were really quiet about it all; they even kept it from my mom and dad.”
“Really? Our parents were all best friends.”
“I know, right. What little I do know is that you aren’t like other Awakened; something about the lone watchtower in a centralized realm. Dionysus and Persephone gave me a little information on the gist of it, but not enough to get overly involved. They’re worried Seers or Banishers may get wind of what’s going on and try to hunt you down. That’s why they are doing all this. Everyone back home thinks you died that night after your parents’ funeral. For six months Patton and I scried for you.”
Alonzo sits up straight in surprise, admiring his friend.
“You guys really did that?”
“And you weren’t anywhere to be found. Persephone came to me after you popped up. They needed someone they could trust. I was told not to tell Patton though. He took up with the Guardians a while back. They may not see your situation as the best to keeping the Mysteries hidden. I’ve lied to him for weeks. He doesn’t even know I’m here, or that you are even alive. It’s killing me; I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about this. I’m glad they finally let me see you.”
“Don’t you think we should tell him?” Alonzo asks.
“I’m with your aunt and uncle on this one. Patton really changed after he awakened. He dropped a lot of things from his life, even his family. When the bitch joined the Guardians, he went far right wing. Just another thing that pisses everyone off.”
“That doesn’t sound anything like Phillip,” Alonzo defends. “We were just so close it’s hard to believe.”
“He’s always been that way, Lonz. He was just too good to you for you to notice. But God, you wouldn’t believe the hoopla he caused because of his decision to go Guardian. I can remember mom and dad’s reaction. Mom wouldn’t talk to him for a month and dad cried; I’ve never seen daddy cry before. The selfish bitch said he was tired of doing what others expected him to do, that he had his own ideas, blah, blah, blah. That’s the way he’s always been; just pisses everyone off. Never liked being Columbian, never liked being a twin. I’m surprised he even likes himself the selfish prick.”
“Then what about you? Which order do you think is better than these Guardians?”
“Mom and Dad were Silver Ladder, and you know how I am about ‘following in the footsteps’. This was another reason why Persephone and Dionysus came to me. The Silver Ladder is the faction that would be most open to the idea of Spectra. If this new watchtower increases the chances for awakening, you gotta believe that the Ladder will be the first to back the Illuminae.”
Another bout of silence passes between them, longer this time. When she can no longer take it, Snow White stands up and pulls Alonzo into the open space of the living room, smiling to quell his uneasy feeling.
“So,” she begins, “Dionysus asked me if I would show you some aspects of magic, like mage sight and protective spells, just to get a taste of that they are like. I hear you can’t work magic yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have spells cast on you.”
“I just wish I could do something. I hate this sitting around.”
“You’d be surprised what a little Mage Sight and shielding can do,” Snow White insists. “Did Dionysus or Persephone show you any of this?”
Alonzo shakes his head.
“Mage Sight is probably the hardest thing I had to get past in the beginning. All the perception you gain can be way overwhelming. You can see auras, resonance, energy, invisible light, life, death- just about anything with killer scrutiny.”
“Can’t you do anything big?” Alonzo presses. “Like cast spells to fly or read people’s minds?”
“I can create portals like Persephone can.”
Alonzo’s eyes light up.
“Why don’t we get outta here for a little while?”
Snow White shakes her head like she hears him wrong.
“What? No, Lonz! You heard what Persephone said. And if some freak is out there hunting you down, you’ll be safer here. And what do we do if they come back and we’re not, like, here.”
“Come on, Esther, please? I don’t think I can take another hour of this. I’ve been stuck in this apartment for weeks with no one to really talk to. I haven’t been able to think of anything but my parents and this whole Spectra Illuminos bullshit.”
“No, don’t be giving me those puppy eyes, Alonzo!” Snow White begs. “God, why do you always pull this when you don’t get your own way? Fine, I’ll do it.”
Snow White gains a balanced stance within the living room. She looks back to Alonzo one last time before beginning the spell.
“You’re gonna love this!”
Alonzo smiles as Snow White reaches for her the sapphire within her necklace. She rolls it through her fingers, whispering the High Speech syllables to the rote. Her hand mudras mimic tearing some kind of object in two, and when she finishes, a space opens into the area of the living room.
Stepping through the portal, Alonzo’s senses are heavily assaulted by a clean, crisp breeze, a taste of sea salt on the air. The sound of crashing waves eases the stress built from the last several days in the prison-like apartment, and the clear night sky dazzles with a twinkling of innumerable stars and bright reflections of planets. Even though a number of years have passed since he has treaded the sandy beaches of Cartagena, nothing about Playa Blanca Beach has changed.
Alonzo and Snow White have arrived at a quiet and reserved area, but in the distance, grass huts illuminated with strung golden lights and flickering torches indulge the fancy for socializing and dancing. Salsa music piques his interest and dozens and dozens of people mingle from afar, unaware they are under his longing scrutiny. This reminds him of the nights his family would entertain what the beaches had to offer. His mother’s father was from Columbia, and visits to the country were common in his younger years. He can almost smell the scent of his grandfather’s cigar smoke floating on the air, the recall so clear of the memory.
Snow White steps to his side with a smile, gripping his shoulder encouragingly.
He smiles gleefully.
“I can’t think of anything better!”
“It just felt like the right place to go. Not many people know of our connection to this place. Tracing us to this location will be a bit more difficult than say San Antonio. By the time we were born, our parents had already Awaken. Keeping things on the down-low was common practice for them.”
“I really needed something like this,” Alonzo realizes. “This just brings back so many memories.”
Snow White points to a large rock jutting from the ocean waters reflecting the moon light.
“Remember that? The time we swam out there and got stuck when the tide came in? Everyone thought we were gonna drown. Guess we didn’t.”
Alonzo shakes his head with a smile.
“I remember everything!” he yells, jumping up in dance.
Alonzo picks up Snow White and spins her around. After several moments of running, dancing, and singing, the two sit down in the sand. Alonzo, out of breath, nods to the party in the distance.
“What’s going on?”
“I’m not sure what’s going on tonight,” Snow White says, squinting to see. “I haven’t been here in years, not since before we moved to the States. I just picked this spot because it would be hidden from Sleepers. Looks like a wedding reception. See that chick in the wedding dress? She’s gotta be from the Mid-West or something. No one from here would even think of wearing that huge thing in this humidity. Wanna crash?”
Alonzo laughs at the quip.
“I’m serious!” she laughs, punching his softly in this shoulder.
“Uh, sure,” he answers. “Why not?”
Alonzo and Snow White walk into the throng of party-goers. The assumption was correct; this is a wedding reception and the bride and groom look none too happy for being in the heat of this spectacular night. Both are moist with perspiration and even the wedding cake seems to be leaning from the humidity. Snow White leads him to an empty table, springing for a glass of champagne offered by a serving man in the proper attire for a formal occasion on the beach. The man smiles, relinquishing the fluted glass to the high-spirited young woman.
The serving man offers Alonzo a glass as well.
“Si,” Alonzo agrees, taking a glass.
The man leaves your table and continues on to others within the crowd.
“This reminds me of my parent’s ten-year anniversary,” Snow White reminisces. “Remember that? Phillip puking was the highlight of that night. We told him not to sneak so much of that wine.”
“I think it was more than just wine,” Alonzo laughs.
“That tequila didn’t improve the situation!”
A half an hour passes by when the groom and bride are bid to exit to make a wardrobe change, smiles of gratitude plastered on the faces of the couple. A spark of mischief lights in Snow White’s eyes.
“Let’s dance, Lonz! Whaddya say?”
Alonzo smiles, leading Snow White by the hand to a dance area on the beach.