A blood-curdling scream woke Adan. Images flashed before his eyes. The runes were warning him in the darkness.
H Z J O (These are runes in the original text.)
He sat up in bed, sweat streaming down his face. His limbs ached, and for a moment he remained frozen with terror. He looked around his room… Nothing moving… Moonlight splashing over the foot of his bed. Odin sat beside him looking ahead—back arched, ears back, his cat eyes wide open.
The scream had been real.
“Not again. Please,” Adan whispered, as he fell back into the sweat-dampened sheets.
He had dozed off. Lost track of time. Hail or heavy rain was pelting the roof. The sun was up now. He could see blue sky through the window sheer. Odin sat on the floor next to the bed, his fur now a deep burgundy.
Invaders, Adan thought. “Grams!” he yelled, with full force until his throat closed on itself.
He grabbed clothes and his bag of runes. Half dressing and half texting a message to his friend Mara, he sped down the hall to the stairs. His grandmother came out of her room tying her hair back.
“Go, go, go!” she yelled, waving Adan ahead of her down the stairs.
There was a thunderous roar coming from the kitchen. At first Adan had to cover his ears. He had heard a sound like this before. A wind tunnel.
Looking back Adan screamed to Grams. “Another vortex!”
“Of ah course it is, my boy,” replied Grams loudly with a thick Italian accent.
Odin stood hissing at the kitchen door, his fur rippling with color changes, from burgundy to gold to gray to black to silver.
Adan approached the door cautiously. He winced from the volume of the roar. Then on a three count he kicked the door open to see a madly spinning vortex on top of the heavy wooden kitchen table. A blast of icy air hit his face. He felt like his eyes were being cut.
Grams entered the kitchen chanting an Italian charm for banishment, her arms stretched out in front of her. She moved her hands like a sculptor modeling clay. She had years of practice manipulating energy and was certain this small vortex would not put up much of a fight. She moved in front of Adan, who was clutching his bag of runes. She never took her eyes off the spinning mass. Kitchen items had blown off the table; some lodged in the wall—a knife and can opener.
“Where is Mara?” Grams yelled.
“She should be here by now!”
Mara ran up the street from her house to Adan’s, reading the text Adan had left on her phone. In the three years she had known him she had never read such a forceful message. Something new was invading the house. His message was firm: Need you here now! If it's inconvenient, get your butt here anyway.
She and Adan had seen their share of the bizarre and macabre since they had become dim travelers. Even the homeschool education they received from Adan's grandmother was sometimes enough to chill the blood. But some entity from another dimension was now invading the house and terrorizing Adan and Grams.
Mara entered the driveway to the Shamanson house, a large Victorian more than a hundred years old. The sun tore through the twisted canopy of limbs that arched over the driveway, creating a mosaic of jagged light patches on the damp gravel leading all the way to the front door. As Mara ran up the driveway she passed the overgrown fountain in the center of the roundabout. It was littered with red, orange, and brown leaves. She saw ripples in the water and felt the thundering vibrations from the house.
Mara looked up at the house, her jaw hanging open. Above the roof were thousands of pulsating reddish dots of light pouring into the house then shooting back skyward. It was impossible to determine their origin, since they appeared only twenty or thirty feet above the roof before jetting headlong into the ridge line. Adan wasn’t joking, she thought.
“It’s a vortex!” she whispered, before sprinting to the front door. She grabbed the door handle then drew back her hand in shock. The handle was ice cold. The entire door felt colder than it should, even in November. It appeared to be frozen shut, and Mara struggled to push the door open. Finally, feeling it was easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission, she kicked in the door, splintering the jamb. She took a second to look at the door, impressed with her own ability. “Tai Kwon Do, oh yeah,” she whispered, giving herself two thumbs up.
The inside of the house was swarming with the small glowing dots of light, moving swiftly in every direction. Mara noticed something odd about their movement though she couldn’t determine what it was. Using Adan’s wisdom about solving complex problems, she decided to try to follow the path of just one orb. It acted the same as those she had seen outside. The dots of light were moving about quickly but then retreating along the same path. They were literally coming and going. She could hear Adan and Grams in the kitchen.
“Adan, I’m here!” she yelled.
Streaming through the door was nearly blinding cobalt light, and Mara heard a distinct spinning noise, like twirling a rope over her own head.
By the time she entered the kitchen, there was a deafening roar. Adan and Grams stood several feet away from the massive, wooden kitchen table on which was spinning a small but violent vortex. The wind emitted from the vortex forced all three spectators to lean forward. Odin, whose fur was now like a kaleidoscope, hid behind Adan. Pots and pans were rattling on the overhead rack; curtains were nearly torn from their rods, and the dots of light kept pouring from the ceiling to the vortex as if fueling it.
Yelling above the roar of the vortex, Adan tried to reproach Mara. “What took you so long? We needed you minutes ago!”
“Why didn’t you tell me you had a vortex in the house, oh wise one?” Mara shot back with a cock of her head.
Grams, finally able to raise her hands, began to scream a chant in Italian. Her hair was blowing wildly around her face. Adan and Mara went silent. They knew the power Grams possessed over these entities. As she repeated her repulsion chant, she reached inside her apron and retrieved a quartz crystal, which it was her habit to have at all times. She looked at Adan.
“You must ah cast your runes!” she yelled with her thick accent. “The vortex is ah getting more powerful!”
Adan grabbed the leather rune pouch attached to his belt. He could feel the heat generating from the runes. Mara struggled to cross over to Adan. The wind was getting almost intolerable as dishes flew off shelves and pictures smashed onto the floor. Adan needed two runes to enhance Gram’s repulsion charm, but he had to force his eyes to stay open. He and Mara leaned toward each other and formed a shield from the wind using their shoulders—their faces against each other. Mara looked at Adan as he located the two runes from the twenty-four in his bag. He gave one to Mara.
“We will have to turn and face the vortex for this to work!” Adan shouted. “I gave you the rune called Isa. I have Hagalaz. When we turn to face the entity, keep yours low. Mine will be high. We will yell “Away” then smack the runes together in front of us. This should help.”
“It’d better!” Mara yelled back. “Or all that rune study is gonna make you look bad.”
Grams continued to shriek her chant, but her voice was faltering. Adan and Mara turned to face the vortex though it was nearly impossible to keep their eyes open. Adan held his rune high and Mara, hers low. Then as both screamed “Away”, they high-fived their hands that held the runes and a thunder clap shook the room. The pulsating lights flashed bright white as they shot back up the ceiling and out through the roof. The crystal in Gram’s hand became so hot she had to release it. This puzzled her. That should never have happened, she thought.
The vortex began to diminish in size, occasionally throwing out pulses of light. But the deafening scream that came before the vortex vanished sent shivers through everyone.
All went silent. Sweat glistened on their faces. Odin’s fur returned to its normal grey and brown. No one moved.
"That sounded like—” Mara started.
Adan looked at Mara then Grams. “It was human.”