Jane Stared ahead, suspicious of what she perceived to be sitting across the table. She’d experienced countless acid flashbacks over the years, a result of her excessive “experimentation” back in the ’60s. Back then, the acid was more potent; Jane had last fried about twenty years ago, and the trip had been more like that of a handful of weak magic mushrooms than a tab of LSD. They just didn’t make anything the way they used to back in the day. Except doobage. The kind weed that went around these days was more potent than ever, but it was also ridiculously overpriced.
She blinked hard, hoping the apparition would disappear if she gave it a few more seconds. She’d had a peaceful evening, and she intended to keep it that way. She sat in a quiet diner, sipping at a delightful mocha latte and picking away at a fresh slice of coffee cake. Beyond her and the miniscule staff, the place was empty. After the week she’d just survived, she welcomed the solitude. Sitting across from her in the booth was what appeared to be woman in her mid to late thirties with long brown hair and bright green eyes, her body just transparent enough to create the question as to whether she was actually there. Jane knew better than to take anything at face value, though, since appearances meant little when it came to supernatural forces—if that was indeed what this was.
It’s always something, she thought, shaking her head.
“Please, I need your help,” said the ghostly figure.
Jane looked around, ensuring no one was around to see her talking to what surely would appear to be thin air to all but her. “Do I know you?”
“No, but we have an enemy in common. I’m sure you remember Holly Grimshaw.”
Just the mention of the woman’s name caused Jane’s body to go tense. Yeah, she remembered that bitch, all right. If this was a flashback, it was proving to be one bummer of a bad trip. She cleared her throat. “What about her?”
“I’ve discovered a binding spell that will bar her from the astral plane, but I need someone she won’t be expecting to get close enough and catch her by surprise.”
The chance to put Holly in her place was tempting, but Jane knew better than to drop everything and go in blindly. That’s how people fell into traps, and she’d had more than her share of unnecessary run-ins as of late. There was also a more pressing question: “And how exactly did you find me?”
“Holly has feelers extending in several directions, lines thrown out in anticipation of various people’s return to her region. They only extend so far, but the connection, however distant, remains. For someone like myself, who can transcend physical location within the astral, those feelers appear more like tethers.”
While little about the astral plane made sense to Jane, she did know Holly’s presence spanned as east as Death Valley and as north as Sacramento. Just setting foot beyond those boundaries would open Jane up to a mind screw that made an LSD trip look like a leisurely stroll through a tea garden. For that reason, she’d sworn off all of Southern California, too concerned with being pulled back into that terrifying void should she press her luck. If what the apparition said was indeed true, she’d been smart to leave well enough alone.
“So, will you help me, Jane?”
It even knew her name; that was unsettling. She’d need more than a stranger’s word to throw herself back into the lion’s den, so instead of responding, she asked, “How do you know so much about me? Did you pull all of that from the astral as well?”
It shook its head. “My talents extend beyond astral travel.”
As far as Jane knew, her own supernatural abilities were nearly nonexistent. She was a far cry from the vampires of folklore and horror fiction. Beyond her lack of ageing and her superquick healing, she had nothing to bring to the table. She considered her words then finally replied, “Well, even with the astral travel alone, you’ve got a hell of a lot more talent than me.
I’m not sure what you think you know, but I barely got away from Holly with my life the first time she and I crossed paths.”
“I know Holly hates you with a passion, and I know she doesn’t have any idea I’ve found you.”
Jane sat back, crossing her arms. “I’m still not really clear on why you’re doing this. Why come looking for me? What’s in it for you?”
The apparition’s face went tight. It looked down for a second or two before looking back up into Jane’s eyes. “She killed someone very dear to me. She’s a petty, spiteful person, and she’s far too dangerous to be allowed to continue wreaking havoc wherever she damn well pleases. She needs to be stopped.”
Jane couldn’t argue there. Her own experience with the woman had been nightmarish. No human being should possess the kind of power that woman exhibited, the least of whom being as pathetic of an excuse of one as Holly.
Jane leaned in, offering a show of interest. “Okay, so let’s say I agree to help you. What are you going to do to keep her off my back before I have a chance to even get there?”
“You wouldn’t be traveling to me; I’d be traveling to you. We could do the ritual from the safety of your current distance, use your tether as our line to her and take her by surprise. If she attempts to pull you in, I can ensure her hold remains weak.