Salvadore hadn’t thought he’d be called to go to the school.
It wasn’t often he was told to go to one of his patient’s social hangouts. It didn’t bother him much. He hadn’t seen Morgana Corcoran is a month, as it was. He tapped his fingers over the top of his desk, gaze shifting to the answering machine. There wasn’t a light beeping at him this time around. He frowned.
“Sal,” Sal turned at the sound of his name, pausing to blink when he saw Brett standing in the doorway. His partner was carrying a sack lunch in one hand, a coffee in the other; he looked tired despite the grin on his face. Sal smile as the younger man approached, taking the offering with a nod as the other continued, “Corcoran’s recent behavior has her folk’s worried. Chief wants you to check in.”
“Why is it that I’m both a detective and an ‘impromptu social worker?’ Makes no damn sense, I tell you.” Sal grabbed his coat off the back of his chair, swinging it over his shoulder. Taking a swing of his coffee – jet black, no sugar or cream – he turned to see Brett rolling his eyes. Sal arched an eyebrow, voice low as he asked, “Have something to say, Davison?”
“Not a damn thing, Sal. Not a damn thing.”
It didn’t take them long to reach the school. It was empty, save for a few teachers and students sitting in the cafeteria. A few waved when they saw him. He opted to ignore them in favor of hunting down the principal while Brett wandered off, no doubt seeking extra food for the lunch ladies. Sal snorted in disdain.
He was directed to the third floor. Sal passed through the hallways, portfolio in hand. He eyed the various doors, passing one after another until he stopped before 311. His gaze dropped to the plaque underneath, the letters worn or missing. Letting himself into the room, Sal took a moment to eye his surroundings.
His attention was directed immediately to the front of the room, to the white board.
Forget Everything And Run
Face Everything And Rise
Sal stared at the odd letters printed against the white background, not quite sure what to make of the acronyms staring him in the face. He turned to see Morgana clearing off a stack of portable dry erase boards, purple-black hair forming a curtain around her face.
She was by herself. He wasn’t surprised.
He placed the portfolio he carried on the desk and tossed his coat over the back of the teacher’s chair. Sal watched her as she worked, noting the too-large hoodie engulfing her body and how the sleeves were bunched up around her elbows. Neither spoke for a time, one content to work in silence as the other observed. When Morgana stood up, eraser in hand, she paused to meet his gaze.
“Good afternoon, Sal. What brings you here?” She tossed the eraser into the bucket and grabbed a rag and bottle of cleaner. Was she simply being polite or did she not know why he was here? After a moment, she frowned. “I suppose my father called, then. Or my mother. She’s been watching me a bit closer these last few months.”
She was the same in mannerisms – quiet, a sense of knowing, but withdrawn. Sal began to make his rounds around the classroom as she went from window to window, a heavy silence falling between them. She was different, now. Not as light, not as bubbly, as she had been; it was almost as if the light had been drained from her body, leaving a sort of perpetual darkness hanging off of her.
Her eyes, usually bright and welcoming, were mere shadows of their former selves. Dark bags outlined them, giving her the appearance of many sleepless nights. Sal felt a ping of worry rise in his chest. He made his way over to her as she set her supplies on a desk, her eyes closed as she drew in a breath. When she swayed, he caught her by the arm.
“What’s happened since we last spoke?”
Her lips parted like an answer was perched there in wait for his question, purple-and-black hair framing her face as dull-azure eyes clouded over. Her skin was paler, too; it took him by surprise, as did the sharp outline of her cheekbones. She’d lost weight.
“Morgana,” Sal steadied her on her feet, gaze darting across her face. She held up a palm, lightly pushing him away. He stepped back as she turned towards the windows, one hand pressed against the worn wood of the desk at her side. “I don’t know who called the Chief. It could have been either your mother or your father. Frankly, I don’t care. What I do care about is the fact you’re not yourself. I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”
There was a silence of silence between them once more. For a moment, Sal thought she wasn’t going to say anything. When she did, her voice was soft. “Have you ever felt the raw energy of the world, Sal? Have you ever walked into a place abandoned by God and felt the cold that lingers there?”
Morgana walked up to the window, rag in hand. “Have you ever felt the soul of a person who has turned away from the natural order? Someone…who has…fallen?”
Sal watched as she began washing the windows. He had no answer for her question. He encountered many people who could be classified as unnatural or unholy. Their soul, however? That he has never felt. He suspected she knew as much for, after a moment, her voice carried through the room.
“Sometimes, in the dead of the night, your skin starts to prickle. It happens in the same way as when cold air causes your hair to stand up, but this feeling…it can happen it the warmest of places,” Morgana’s voice was a ghostly whisper, her body utterly relaxed as she stood in front of the windows. Sal wanted to see her eyes. He stepped away from the desk he rested by, footsteps silent against the stone floor. When she continued to talk, she didn’t turn to face him. “It’s hard to describe, really. It’s like the feeling that someone is watching you but you turn around to find no one is there. A soul is much the same, Sal. It has a voice, an impression, a feeling to it. When it’s dark and twisted, it’s a void that sucks in all light. It is like sensing a spirit. You know it for what it is, on an instinctual level, but the logical mind does not know it for it has been programmed to block it out.”
That, in a way, made sense. Sal made his way back to the desk, flipping through the files held within the massive, overly full folder. Most were in black-and-white, each a nightmare to gaze upon. At the back of the room, Morgana continued her after-school chores in silence. Sal continued to watch her, trying to piece together what had her parents so worried that they decided he needed to be the one to check in on her.
“How’s Eve? Has she called you?”
Sal turned away from the papers in hand, expression schooled. “Who?”
“Eve Turner,” Morgana looked over at him, gaze unyielding. “The girl from the forest.”
How the fuck do you know about that? Sal’s gaze zeroed in on those dull-blue irises, his attention captivated by the slowly shifting hues locked within. Had her eyes always been so pretty? It was almost…hyptnotic. Eve, though? How? Morgana’s hand glided over one of the desks, head dipped and tilted to the side. She was looking at him through the tangles of her vibrantly colored hair, unblinking in the intensity of her stare. How does she know about Eve? About the bloody fucking forest?
“You can’t solve a case by being willy-nilly, Sal,” Morgana brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, her gaze never leaving his. Sal regarded her silently, lips pressed into a thin line. Willy-nilly, she said. As he stepped forward, the cogs within his mind coming together, she said, “You won’t win against the enemy by proceeding blindly and without direction. If you try and confront the Reaper as you are now…”
Sal stilled, gaze focused on her mouth. When she spoke, it was almost as if the words were not spoken aloud. It was as if she was speaking directly to him, on some kind of private channel he hadn’t known about. For, when she spoke, the words seemed to echo loudly within his mind. They curled ominously around him as she turned away.
“If you face the Reaper as you are now, Salvadore Goth, you will die.”
“If You Chase After The Darkness…
“Or Chase After The Unseen…
“Should You Venture Forth…
“You Will Be Destroyed.”