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Updated: Nov 22, 2021

Chapter Forty

Pink Haired Ghoul

I wake the next morning knowing I’m out of time.

The sensations from the first days of seventh year are back: the feeling of myself hollowing out, an airiness to my movements that feels unnatural. The fear that I’m about to float up into the atmosphere at any moment, or melt away into the ground.

I’d hoped maybe my soul had figured out where it belonged after all these months, but it seems going to Andromeda has sent it back into withdrawals for some place that isn’t my body, just like Soren theorized.

All I’m really certain about is that I will be truly irritated if I study for five exams I’m too vaporous to take.

“Oh Mika,” Sabbath says, looking dejected as she takes me in. Standing in front of the mirror, I tie my long hair into a braid and toss it over my shoulder. I slap my cheeks some to get the blood flowing.

I am a gaunt, pink-haired ghoul.

It would be easy, every time I look in the mirror and see my hair, to think of Soren. But I’ve decided that anything other than pink is a symbol of defeat, an admission that what he’s done has disrupted my identity so much that I have to change my appearance in order to recognize my own reflection.

Instead, I wear the color like a badge, so that every day I stride into the banquet hall, every day I sit in a crowd of brunettes and blondes, my hair is a beacon. A reminder to Soren Cain that I exist in spite of him. A reminder of his shame—because the only reason I have pink hair in the first place is that he’d hoped to mask the consequences of what he’d done.

But the pink is just about the only color I’ve got left. My lips are rapidly turning a faint shade of blue, my skin paler by the day. If it weren’t for makeup and magic, a professor would’ve sent me straight to the school healer by now.

“Living on your prayers,” I snort and Sabbath rolls her eyes.

“I’m praying especially for you to stop being so hard-headed.”

“I don’t think you’ll have to wait very long for that one to come true.”

She scoffs, irritated with me.

I get it. But the pathetic truth is that I’m too exhausted to be terrified. Logically, I know things are bad. I know I’m ghosting out and the invasion of the soul snatchers could happen at any minute. Plus, I still have to pass five exams next month with no guarantee of corporeal functions. Frankly, this is not the life I am really psyched up about living for this morning.

“It’s not quite as bad as last time,” I console Sabbath as she heaves her backpack over one shoulder. It’s true. I can at least feel my soul wanting to tether to my body after so long self-medicating with soulstabilis. “I, unlike Soren Cain, belong to this dimension. Eventually my soul will remember that.”

“I’m not sure that’s how it works,” Sab replies glumly.

“Is it bad that the thing I’m most stressed about is not being able to hold a pencil during exams?” I frown.

“You’re not going to make it to exams,” Sabbath says softly, wedging a shoe over her toe and squatting to tie the lace. “Why can’t you make more soulstabilis potion? You know how, right?”

“I know how,” I sigh, shoving books into my bag. I’m starving, and I’ll be very annoyed if my hands start ghosting out during breakfast again. “Problem is I don’t have Anima spiritus and a few other things.”


“Soren is not an option,” I declare. “I’m not asking, nor am I taking anything that belongs to him.”

“Because you’re afraid of what you’ll find if you break in again?”

“Because if I’m going out, I’m going out Good Witch style. Good witches don’t steal, Sabbath.”

“What about borrowing from Spellfall’s reserves?”

I shake my head. “Already thought of that and no luck. We can sneak off campus to go to L’Apothicaire des Oiseaux, but it’ll still take weeks to brew. Besides, would you even still be able to shed any tears for me?”

“I’d say it’s questionable, what with how obstinate you’re being,” Sabbath replies, standing. “But realistically, if your face keeps looking this awful, it shouldn’t be too hard. Can’t you take some of those—what were they, mushrooms?”

Flammulina velutipes? A step ahead of you there. I’ve started petrifying more, but even with a time accelerant spell, that’ll take just as long as soulstabilis. Besides, the shrooms will only help keep the shadow walkers away, not stop me from fading.”

“But it’d be something.”

“Isn’t it better to keep the enemy close?” I muse.

“I think the enemy’s a little too close when he can take over your body, Mika.”

“Fair,” I nod. “I haven’t really seen shadow walkers around recently, though.”

“I wonder where they are?”

Looping my bag over my shoulder, I head to the door. “This all started because I wanted answers about my mom,” I say dramatically. “What better way than ending up on the other side with her?”

“Don’t say that, Mika. Don’t you dare.”

Sabbath is smart enough not to mention Soren, though I know at some point if I don’t get moving on a solution, she’s bound to go around my back.

“Don’t worry, I have a plan,” I say. “And it won’t even involve more rule-breaking. I think.”

“Famous last words,” she mutters.

* * *

I nearly jolt out of my seat when the ball of paper hits me in the forehead. Turning away from Thorncaster’s lecture, I find Amandine leaning in my direction, a satisfied smile curling onto her face. With exaggerated movement, her lips mouth, “Des-o-lé.”

Huh. She doesn’t look very desolé to me.

As the room dims, Thorncaster casts the image of a large globe into the air, where it hovers with an ethereal glow. Craters sink into the surface, light falling across its eastern side. “Now, someone remind the class how we read the moon.”

Tu tilts her head, blinking dreamily as her hand soars into the air. “By its shadow, right to left.”

Distracted, I glower at Amandine as she waggles a finger at me and points over my shoulder. I don’t have to look behind me to know who she wants me to pass along her message to. Narrowing my eyes, I hold her note between my two hands, a slow, deliberate tear crawling quietly down its middle.

With an eye roll, she scribbles her message down a second time. I watch, reluctantly impressed as Amandine mimics folding motions in the air, the untouched slip of paper on her desk bending with her fingers’ movements. The corners tuck and crease until the page becomes a perfect, bleached little origami bird. With a furtive glance in Thorncaster’s direction, Amandine presses a big red kiss onto it and ushers it to Soren with a seductive exhale. It takes flight, humble paper wings beating a conspicuous path through the air.

Before I know it, I’ve chanced half a glance behind me, where Soren eyes the bird that’s just landed on his desk, trailed by the eyes of nearby students.

Tossing a final arrogant look of accomplishment in my direction, Amandine returns her attention to the front of the room, running fingertips through her silky dark hair.

What a wench.

Unable to help myself, I sneak a peek at the note I’ve torn where her stupid, perfect cursive stares up at me:

Tu veux venir à la fête avec moi ?

Do you want to go to the party with me? Ugh.

Fisting the scraps of paper between my fingers with a cathartic crunch, I picture crumpling Amandine’s face instead. Of course she meant for me to get this note. She, somehow, still thinks Soren is some sort of leverage to use against me. Joke’s on her.

There’s only one party Amandine would bother making such a public display for—the same party that sends the whole student body rustling with gleeful anticipation this time each year. The Potions Master’s birthday. Being “good witches” and whatnot, Sabbath and I do not attend. On principle.

But also, like, because we don’t get invited.

When class lets out, Amand-fiend makes a spectacle of taking Soren’s arm into hers and shoving past me. I bump roughly into Sabbath, proving that this was surely a calculated move on our nemesis’ part. Two bats, one spell. I make my own calculated move by shoving all thoughts of Amandine and her nefarious seductions as far out of my mind as possible.

We file into the hallway, Sab and I following the feverish rush of students released for lunch. “Time to initiate Plan A: Tomorrow Jones,” I announce.

I feel Sab’s scowl before I hear it. “Don’t you mean Plan, uh, D? Or F?”

Hushing her, I wheel my gaze around in search of the twins. Instead, I spot a shadow walker—the dark-haired one who’d known my name outside the library back at the start of the year.

My whole body tightens, breath captive in my lungs. He’s cowering behind a corner as he watches us from the sidelines, bodies flooding past. I nearly catch his eye before I quickly avert my gaze. He’s fixated on something ahead of us.

Head ducked low, I mutter a mantra that I can only hope, miraculously, becomes a spell. “He’s not here, he’s not here.”

“What? Who?” Sabbath asks, turning.

“Shadow walker, 6 o’clock,” I say, lifting my hand to turn her head forward. My eyes seek the thing that the ghostly fiend’s attention is preoccupied with: a second shadow creeper.

One ahead and one behind—like they’re hemming us in.

Trapping us.

I love me a good angsty teen party... even better with a splash of magic ;) Stay tuned for all that drama to come...

xx Jessa


Copyright © 2019 Jessa Lucas

All rights reserved. This work or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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