I don’t know what I thought I’d be walking into, it sure wasn’t this though. Everyone seemed to be yelling at someone. Emergency crews were running in and out of the building and police officers were standing around politely asking everyone to leave. You read that correctly, they were politely asking. Chaos everywhere and they’re standing there trying to use manners. I know, right? I guess everyone wanted to feel needed.
I was standing out of the way just trying to get an idea of what was going on, and so far, I had no clue. There were so many different government agencies here, that between them, they had most of the alphabet on their jackets.
More people passed me as they ran screaming from the building. I shook my head as I watched them pass, and I swear I heard my snakes hissing in laughter. If snakes could laugh, this is what it would sound like. I didn’t bother trying to soothe them; they seemed more amused than distressed. No one would notice a few hair snakes in the middle of this circus anyway.
I was just finishing up the invoice for my last job and was thinking about how I needed to hire a few people to do this stuff for me, when I got a phone call about something major going on in downtown New York. Luke had some clients from his security company here on business, and they had called him with some crazy stories. He knew I’d be able to pop over and see what was going on for him, so of course, here I am.
He had tried using the usual channels to gather information first, but everyone had something different to say about what was happening. The stories were crazy. One said Bigfoot was tearing up the building to make a nest. Another reported that an alien craft had crashed through the windows on the penthouse and little green men were taking over the building. Someone else apparently called in a bomb threat. My favorite one, and the one that got me out here, was that someone had fed a gremlin after midnight and then had gotten it wet.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, aliens and gremlins aren’t real. Right? Well, I bet you never thought a woman could have her skin harden and her hair turn into snakes either, but here we are. You know if you could, you’d be out here, too.
My first thought was that this was just someone’s crazy idea of a prank, but the people coming out of the building looked legitimately terrified.
I tried to focus on the building. It was huge, but it appeared to be made out of metal, so I couldn’t do anything with that.
I tapped my finger on my lip as I continued to look around. The fire trucks and ambulances were moving to the next street over and lining up. The police cars pulled up right behind them, so the street that surrounded the building was clear.
I didn’t see as many of the terrified people running around blindly anymore, either. That was good, but it left less of a distraction for me to use to slip in unnoticed. Because there was no way I wasn’t going in. I had to see the shit show they had going on inside.
I walked around the building, staying to the edge of the crowd gathered, to get a better look. There was a side door that no one was paying any attention to, so I walked straight up to it like I belonged. It opened easily and I stepped inside and shut it behind me.
It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the darkness and I wondered who had cut the power: had it been law enforcement or whatever was inside?
I walked as silently as I could, listening for any signs that I wasn’t alone. So far, it was eerily quiet. The building must have some great soundproofing, because I couldn’t hear any outside noises.
I did, however, hear something crawling around in the walls. From the sound of it, several somethings.
The ground floor seemed to be what was once an elegant lobby. There was a piece of the ceiling ripped out and debris everywhere. Walls were smashed, like something huge had been thrown into them…not gremlins then. That was disappointing. Too bad everything was so torn up, I bet this used to be really nice.
Wait a second…what the hell? For a minute, I could have sworn everything looked perfect. Weird.
I found the elevators and was surprised to see they were working on backup power. I wasn’t looking forward to walking up hundreds of stairs, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take my chances with the elevator.
Turning towards the stairwell, I took my phone out of my pocket and sent Luke a quick text, telling him he owed me big time for this.
I made my way up slowly, floor by floor, and listened as I walked. It was still quiet, so I kept climbing. By the time I got to the fifth floor, I was ready to take my chances with the elevator. No one should have to climb this many stairs. I stepped out of the stairwell and took a quick look around. Everything seemed normal here, just regular hotel rooms.
I found the elevator and decided to go from the top down and pushed the button for the penthouse.
The farther up I went, the more agitated my snakes became. Just as I felt the elevator coming to a stop, my snakes coiled up around my head and started hissing wildly.
I startled and pulled away from the door as my Gorgon form rushed to the surface. Whoa, my snakes must sense something that really freaked them out. I figured they knew what they were doing though, so I didn’t fight them.
I stepped out cautiously and was suddenly feeling like that girl in every horror movie ever. You know who I mean, the one that always died first? Good thing I was harder to kill than most people.
I took a few steps and looked around, then rubbed my eyes, and looked around again. Yep, still there, and not there. It was kind of flickering in and out, like a double-exposed photograph, I could see two images over each other. There were vines covering almost every surface, and the walls that used to separate the rooms were gone. But at the same time, everything looked perfect.
In the center of the room surrounded by candles, a woman stood with her arms raised up and the air around her was thick with magic. She had long red hair that hung in wild curls past her waist, and she was wearing a long black dress. Kind of cliché, but whatever. It just had to be a witch. I hated witches.
She had her back towards me and I could feel her gathering power by the heaviness in the air, then she turned towards me and flung her arms out. I flinched, expecting to get hit with some kind of spell, but nothing happened.
“A Gorgon? I knew it! You have got to be kidding me! Get out, this is none of your business,” she whined.
“I’m not a Gorgon. I’m the Gorgon, bitch.” I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t a statue already, then wondered if it was too late to find out what kind of protection spell she used on herself. That shouldn’t even be possible; she was just a witch. It reminded me of someone from my very distant past.
I rushed up to her to get a look at her eyes; just as I suspected, her eyes were a milky blue. Only one person knew how to use that protection against me, this wasn’t possible.
She drew back and screeched out, “Attack!”
At her command, tiny demons scrambled out from the mess of vines and started to circle me. They kept flashing in and out, like a bad horror movie. Distracted, I looked down at them. “Aww, aren’t they cute? You must be a baby witch if all you can summon are baby demons.” They were still circling me, but every time one started to come closer, my snakes would hiss and it would flicker and jump back.
“No, no, no, NO! You’re supposed to run out screaming like everyone else,” she said, with another whine and then stomped her foot.
“Sorry to disappoint you.” I crossed my arms over my chest and just stared at her, ignoring her little pets, concentrating on her eyes.
Sighing, she waved her hands and the tiny demons were gone.
“Illusions? Really? Not even real demons?” I was officially disappointed. “So everything everyone was screaming about outside was just illusions?”
“Yes, it works great on everyone else. You’re not going to turn me in, are you?” she asked, suddenly seeming much younger than she had minutes before.
“I just want to get this straight: no gremlins, nothing in the walls, no bigfoot?” I really wanted it to be gremlins, ok? I wasn’t ready to let it go.
“No, just illusions.”
At my exasperated look, she continued, “I was just playing around, it’s so boring following all the stupid rules all the time. Honestly, I got a little carried away. I was just messing with some guys in the lobby bar, then it kind of snowballed out from there. Who knew mass hysteria would spread so fast? The illusion spell took on a life of its own. It sure was fun though,” she said, as she flung herself into the nearest couch like she had the vapors.
“Dramatic much?” I said, laughing.
She glared at me.
“How about this?” I gestured to the vines.
Without saying anything, she waved her hand again and the hotel was back to normal.
“I guess no damage was done. Maybe next time, don’t pick a crowded hotel to play games in?”
My snakes hissed. I was still in Gorgon form and being this close to a witch was making my skin crawl and upsetting my babies. I hated the way the magic felt like it pressing down on me. I kicked at the chair and said, “Get up and make sure all your little illusions are gone.”
She jumped up and walked around the room, muttering to herself and waving her arms around. The power came back on and I followed her onto the elevator.
As we walked outside, we were swarmed with emergency personnel peppering us with questions. The little witch ignored them like a petulant child; I never did get her name. I turned to ask her, but she disappeared into the crowd. Great, now I was going to have to track her down. I needed to find out how she knew a spell that should have died with the past.
“Just a gas leak, guys, I think everything is ok now,” I said as I tried to get the hell out of there.
“Stupid witches,” I mumbled as I tried to make my way home through the crowds.