Esme's Piano by Blaise Ramsay
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"Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet."

― Plato

I’m not sure when all of the madness started. The day I stepped off of the small plane bound for Washington to start a new duty station as a ranger seemed like any other day.

It was raining. The cool spring wind added a slight hint of humidity to the air despite the coolness. This was going to be just like any other transfer. I thought. Little did I know I was about to be proven wrong.

I was about to find myself in a world unlike any ever seen before. Some folks dream about it. Others claim to have seen it but rest assured the world written about in this memoir is real. They are real.

Before I begin, I feel the need to explain myself a bit. I’m not sure how I came to remember these words I’m about to share. For years the memories lay suppressed in the deepest recesses of the black hole of my mind.

It was only after I left that place they returned as though the place itself was the spell that bound them.

What I’m about to tell you may sound like a dream. It may sound made up. A rambling of an old fool who spent too long at the bottom of the bottles of whiskey and Scotch beside his bedside.

I assure you, what you are about to read is real. It all happened what seems like so long ago but it happened nonetheless.

***

As I said, the day I stepped off of the plane bound to Washington didn’t seem like anything special. It was raining and muggy; humid and sticky despite the coolness of the air.

I stood outside waiting for the sheriff’s deputy sent to take me from Seattle to the new duty station I was assigned in the small town of Darrington, It wasn’t too far away - about an hour’s ride.

He didn’t talk too much save for a few questions like asking why in God’s name I decided to travel across the country for a job change.

I replied to him saying. “Hell if I know. I just go where my orders tend to send me.”

We both got a good laugh out of it and started talking about our days in the military and how we both got to our current standing in life. Turns out we had more in common than I thought.

Dustin Martin, as he came to be known to me, dropped me off at the ranger’s post just outside the town limits.

“What’s your name, son?” the chief asked. His voice was raspy. Kind of a mix of R. Lee Erney and Clint Eastwood.

“Dakota Faraday, sir.”

“Good. We need some new blood out here. Too many lawbreakers thinkin’ they can get away with poachin’ and kids thinkin’ the park is their personal party space and trashcan.” Mike Thomas, the chief of the rangers I would be reporting to seemed bitter but disciplined. “You’ll need a truck. Luckily we heard you was comin’ and got yours looked at.”

When I laid my eyes on the truck assigned to me, it wasn’t special. I’d seen many like it. Driven many like it.

“This is yours. Take good care of her and she’ll serve you well. Report tomorrow for trainin’ and the tour of your station.”

“Yes sir.” I replied, happy to oblige him seeing as he seemed like he just wanted to go the bar and drink.

***

I decided to drive into town to get to know the locals.

The bar known to the town as the Dusty Shoe was, according to the folks at the gas station playing checkers, the best place to go to get to know people.

Upon stepping inside, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before.

An old bar curved around towards the bathrooms, behind it were shelves of bottles with a tap loaded with Bud Light.

The man behind the bar was fat with an ashen gray beard wearing an old plaid shirt and jeans cleaning out one of the glasses left behind by the drunks.

“Afternoon.” I said, tipping my hat and walking up to the bar and sitting. “I’d like a scotch, please.”

“Ah, you the new ranger?” he asked, his voice cheerful. An Uncle Buck of a character if I ever saw one.

“I am. Dakota Faraday at your service, Mister?”

“Lawrence Gibbons. You can call me Larry.” He replied, setting down a shot glass and filling it with scotch. “Where you from? I don’t recognize ‘at accent.”

“Virginia. Good old deep accent from the small towns.”

“Ah, southern boy. You’re a long way from home.”

“Gotta follow where the orders are, Larry. From the tattoo on your arm, I gather you understand.”

Larry looked at the faded naval tattoo on his arm. A smile curved its way across his face under his wiry beard. “Sure do. Good to meet a kindred spirit.” He said.

We talked a bit more about our tours in the military, laughing at the silliness of the men in power that put us in the most God-forsaken places in the world. Then sat back and took all of the glory for themselves.

When Larry walked off to go take care of another patron, my eyes wondered around the bar taking in the faces of the people I would come to know in my time in Darrington.

There were the bikers with women on their laps, old war veterans with their green and tan hats on their heads talking about their distrust of the government, the old friends playing chess. Mostly normal small town bar patrons.

Then there was her. The woman in the corner sitting by herself. My eyes grew wide as a teenager who was just seeing a woman for the first time.

She wore a rather conservative suit, almost like a lawyer would wear. The pants long and black with a white silk shirt covered with a black jacket. Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail was dark with hints of purple woven throughout the otherwise raven strands.

She wore black, round lensed reading glasses with a gold chain attached to them so she could take them off and hang them around her neck if she so chose. A truly beautiful woman.

She looked up, our eyes meeting in a single moment I’m sure would be classified as meeting one’s soul mate. Each of us holding the other as if by some magical chain connected us in a spell neither one of us could break.

Eventually she broke the spell, gathering the book she was reading and hastily leaving the bar out into the rainy streets. I had to shake my head against the remains of the dizziness.

“Who was that?” I asked Larry, still dazed.

“Oh, that. That’s Marney Blackthorn. Best keep yer distance. Strange things go on when she’s around.” Larry Gibbons said, leaning in close.

“What kinds of weird things?”

“Black magic kinds of weird things. I warn you true, keep your distance. I hear she’s been known to cast curses on folks she don’t like.”

I gave a light chuckle. I wasn’t superstitious in the least so warnings about curses and black magic didn’t really phase me. I paid for the drinks and headed back out to the truck.

***

Following the visit to the bar, I headed to the apartment building I would be calling home. I finally managed to unlock the door on the third floor after being flirted with by the local blonde tenant who took a liking to me almost immediately.

“You must be new around here? Someone as good lookin’ as you usually wouldn’t stay outta ‘at blonde bitch’s bed.” Mrs. Jones, my closest neighbor came out to greet me. From what I could tell, she had a lot of cats. I could smell the litter when she opened the door.

“Yes ma’am. Just arrived.”

“Ranger, eh?” she said, her voice wavering and raspy from the many cigarettes I could smell she smoked, spitting out a rather large load.

“Yes ma’am.”

She reached out her hand, smiling. A true change from the bitterness just moments ago. “Good to meet ya. I promise I ain’t as bad as I sounded. Just gotta make sure you’re one of the good ones. From what I can tell. Ya are.” She turned to head back into her apartment. “Oh and stay outta ‘at blonde’s bed. Lord only knows what she has swimmin’ round in ‘er.”

I only sighed, walking into the apartment and closing the door, content on enjoying a beer before heading into bed for the night.

I didn’t turn in until the wee hours of the morning and the sleep wasn’t restful. My mind swam with images of Marney Blackthorn, her silver eyes as they pierced deep inside of me as though she was trying to read my soul. The words Larry spoke to me buzzing around in my head with warning and then music. Soft piano music.

I shot up in a cold sweat, the breath heaving out of my lungs like it was being sucked out of me by some unseen spirit. The room was empty save for the desk in the corner with my laptop and the books I liked to read to silence my mind.

“Just a dream.” I said to myself, my hands scrubbing the length of my face. My head falling heavy back on my pillow. “Just a dream.” My eyes closed, falling back into sleep.

***

The following morning was much the same as the one before. The rain fell softly creating a soothing melody on the roof and hood of the truck. I stood drinking my morning coffee, staring out at the cardinals and squirrels going about their daily business.

Memories of the dreams ran rampant in my mind. I leaned on my forearm against the doorframe, my teeth clenched as I tried to push the uneasy feeling in my gut away so I could get dressed in my uniform and head to the training.

Breakfast was very American consisting of bacon, toast with butter, eggs over medium and sausage. I finished it quickly, put on my uniform and began driving out to the training which would be held with the chief.

On my way I saw a car stopped on the side of the road with its caution lights flashing. I recognized Marney immediately. She stood on the outside of her car appearing distraught.

My father always taught me to stop to help a lady in need so I pulled my truck up behind her car putting on my own flashing lights to make sure anyone coming up the road would see us.

“Mornin’ Ms. Blackthorn. Need some help?” I asked, cheerfully as I walked up to her car.

She didn’t say anything at first, only eyeing me cautiously. “No, thank you.” She said, her voice cold and guarded.

“Mind if I take a look anyway?”

Marney stepped aside gesturing her hand towards the hood of her car in a “you’re welcome to it” motion.

“Pop the hood please, ma’am.” I asked politely knowing how the folks in town tended to treat her.

She opened the door, making her way towards the hood. “You a mechanic?”

“Nah but my pops and I used to work on motorcycles. Every once in a while we would get vehicles of the non-two-wheeled sort but it wasn’t often.” I chuckled earning a smile. “Ah, looks like one of your plugs shook loose. Not a hard fix, thankfully.” I said fixing the plug before closing the hood. “Try it now.”

Marney got in the driver’s side, starting the car. The engine roared to life, sputtering only slightly.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Please, call me Dakota. Glad to oblige. Might want to get it looked at. That sputtering was a bit much.” I said, tipping my hat before walking back.

“Dakota.” I stopped turning to look at her brushing a strand of her beautiful hair away from her face. “Thank you for helping me.”

“Not a problem, ma’am. You have a good day.”

***

I arrived at the duty station a few minutes early despite stopping to help Ms. Marney Blackthorn with her car. The chief arrived shortly after me.

“Mornin’ Faraday, ready to start?” he asked lighting a cigarette.

“Sure am.”

The chief led me through the areas I was responsible for patrolling. The local girls stopping to flirt with me after he left wishing me a good shift.

Nothing peculiar really happened during the first day until around three pm. I began hearing the soft music of a piano ringing out. I looked around to see if anyone else heard anything but no one seemed to hear it.

“Hey.” A woman’s soft voice called me out of the trance.

“Hey. Anything I can help you with, ma’am?”

“Not really. I’m Barbie Reynolds. Your neighbor. I heard Mrs. Jones complaining about me to you but I wanted you to know the rumors aren’t true. I will admit I had entertained the idea of asking you to bed with me but I don’t just sleep around with anyone. Just wanted you to know that.” Barbie brushed a strand of her curly blonde hair away from her face.

“I don’t believe rumors, ma’am. I appreciate the offer but I’m gonna have to decline.”

“I figured you would. You didn’t seem the type to sleep around either. If you aren’t busy later, I wouldn’t mind having you for dinner.”

“Thank you, ma’am but no thank you. You have a nice day. It was nice meetin’ ya.” I said walking off. It didn’t take much to figure out what Ms. Barbie Reynolds was up to.

The sound of the piano rang through my ears for the rest of the day. I was thankful when Bo Calhoun, my replacement showed up so I could head home

****

The day after would be an off day for me so I chose to put on a pair of dark blue jeans, work boots and a forest green button down shirt and head out to meet some of the folks of Darrington.

I hadn’t just arrived at the supermarket when my eyes landed on Marney Blackthorn with a basket full of groceries. I hesitated to go to help her but then I couldn’t stop myself and made my way over to her.

“Hey, Ms.Blackthorn, need a hand?” I asked.

“Dakota, you scared me.” She said, nearly dropping her bag.

“Sorry bout that. Hey, it’s cold today, would you give me the honor of maybe, I dunno, buyin’ you a coffee?”

Marney smiled, closing the door to her Jeep Cherokee. “Ranger Faraday are you asking me for a coffee date?” she asked, chuckling.

“Yes ma’am, I believe I am. How’s about it?”

“Are you sure? You know what folks say about me around here?”

“I don’t believe in rumors ma’am and I’m not superstitious at all.” I said offering my arm in a gentlemanly fashion.

Marney smiled, taking it and walked with me to the local coffee shop.

***

We sat down, waiting for our coffee to be made. Marney looked around seeing all of the judgement filled faces and started getting antsy.

“This was a mistake. I should go.” She said trying to get up and going back out to the sidewalk.

I followed her, stopping her by taking her hand. She turned around to face me, slightly shocked. “Marney, you shouldn’t let what folks think about you run your life. I think you’re a wonderful woman that folks around here just don’t understand and that’s why they make up such silly stories.”

“Maybe you should be more superstitious, Dakota.” She said, pulling away from me to head back across the street to her Jeep.

I couldn’t make heads or tails of the woman, sighing as I left the coffees to go back to my own truck.

***

Sleep would be filled with dreams that night, the same as the last few nights. I tossed and turned in my bed. Marney’s eyes haunting the visions accompanied by piano music.

A voice as soft as silk kept saying “Come find me in the woods” over and over until once again I shot up awake in bed.

The clock on the bedside read seven-thirty am. It was time for me to get up anyway so I took a shower, got dressed, had breakfast and coffee and drove out to Squire Park just before it was time for the gates to open.

As soon as I stepped through the gates, the sound of piano music played in my mind as it had every day I’d come here. I decided to find it as soon as the park closed to the public.

I had the closing shift that night so after everyone left, I listened to the music playing in my mind, following the direction it seemed to come from well into the night.

To my dismay I found nothing so I gave up the search and headed back to my truck to head home.

***

Each day began feeling the same. I would go on my shift during the day and try to find the one responsible for the haunting piano music at night, winding up empty handed.

My dreams would repeat themselves. Marney then the music then the silken voice of a woman calling my name to come find her in the woods.

I decided I would take one of my off days to go through the forest to try and find the source of the music.

My search took me into a rather strange part of the woods I hadn’t remembered going through before. It almost seemed as though it didn’t belong there. The moon shone full above signaling how long I had been searching.

I followed the path until I was faced with a large iron gate. In the middle were large ornate vines in the shapes of flowers and what appeared to be fairies. It creaked when I pushed it open, the music more clear as I made my way up to a rather old house.

It looked like a mansion built in the customary Victorian or French, I couldn’t be sure. The paint was white and faded. Vines crawled like snakes up the sides. I heard what sounded like whispering voices as I made my way closer.

To my surprise the door was unlocked, the wood creaking as I pushed it open. The floor was wood with a wooden spiral staircase leading up to the second floor.

The music was more clear than I’d ever heard it. “Hello?” I called out, following the sound up the stairs into a rather large room.

A blue light radiated throughout the room through two large glass paned windows. The music was reaching its height, coming down only when I stepped in the room.

“Excuse me, were you the one playing all this time? My apologies if I intruded.” I said, stepping just inside the door.

The player closed the lid over the ivory keys, rising from the bench. I could tell from the outline of her body she was a woman.

She stepped into the light shocking me to my very core. Two thick horns protruded from behind two pointed ears. Her face was flat, almost like that of a faun I’d read about in old folklore books only her hooves were larger and not cloven. She had a longer tail with a tuft of hair at the end. Her body lithe and thin.

“Welcome mortal.” I recognized the sound of her voice as the one who called to me in my dreams.

“Uh. I’m, I’m sorry for intruding.”

The woman chuckled, stepping forward, her movements elven and beautiful. “There is no need to be afraid. I will not harm you. You were able to hear my music so our meeting is no coincidence.”

“I beg your pardon, ma’am but…what are you?”

“You could not hope to pronounce what I am in your tongue however, if you must call me something, call me Fae kind.”

“Fae? As in a magical creature?”

“Indeed.”

I stuttered like a fool who played table top games. “I’m Dakota…Dakota Faraday.”

Another chuckle. “I know who you are, Dakota Faraday. I have watched you for a long time now.”

“Watched me?”

“Yes. Tested you and found you are indeed a keeper of a pure soul and kind heart. Now, sleep. We will meet again soon.”

I found my eyes getting heavy, my body draining of its strength. It wasn’t long until I was asleep.

***

I woke the next morning in my own bed with no knowledge of how I got there, thinking the whole encounter had been yet another dream.

A knock on my door drew me out of the daze. I put my jeans on and went to the door, opening it to find none other than Marney Blackthorn standing on the porch with two cups of coffee.

“Good morning. May I come in? I brought some coffee.”

I shook my head against the dizziness, nodding. “Yeah, yeah. Come on in.”

Marney came in, setting the coffee on the table. “Are you alright, Cody? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”

“I’m fine. Just a strange dream. How did you know my nickname?”

“It was a lucky guess. With your name being Dakota, I kind of just figured. Have you had breakfast yet?”

“No, not yet. I just woke up.” I said, still dazed but slowly getting a grip on reality. “Marney, why did you come here? I thought you didn’t like comin’ out among folks?”

“I wanted to see you. To thank you for being so kind and to apologize for how I acted at the coffee shop. I’m not used to people being kind and actually noticing me.” She smiled, handing me the coffee.

I sat down across from her. Something about her felt familiar.

The way she carried herself, the way she spoke so properly. It was as though we met before even though I’d only spoken to her twice.

“So, any plans for today?” she asked.

“Not really. I usually go hiking when the weather is nice or read when it’s not.”

The rain fell outside in sheets. There was definitely no hiking for me.

“What do you like to read?”

“Mostly fantasy and folklore. Sometimes paranormal detective novels.”

“You like fantasy and folklore? Have you heard of the Fae?” Marney asked. The tone of her voice rose a pitch.

I thought back to the dream about the woman with horns. “Um, yes. I’ve just become aware of them.” I said, a bit nervous.

“They’re said to be keepers of the forest and lovers of music. The light Fae protect the balance against the Dark Fae who seek to cause trouble. Dark Fae are said to possessive and jealous spirits, often coveting pure hearts and souls and manipulating the dark sides of man.”

I sat baffled at how much Marney knew about the legendary creatures. I listened in awe.

My phone vibrating alerted me to the chief’s call. “Yes sir. I’ll be right out.” I got up to go put some clothes on.

“What happened?” From the sound of her voice she seemed both worried and frustrated.

“There’s been an attack in the park. Walter Connelly was found dead wrapped in some strange, black vines. We aren’t sure what happened.”

Marney got up and followed me to my truck. “Cody, let me come with you, please.”

I sighed, hesitating. “Alright but you stay close, got it?”

She nodded, jumping up into the cab.

****

When we arrived, the scene was mortifying. Walter was sprawled out on the ground, his body pierced through by vines the likes I’d never seen before. His eyes and mouth erupted with the things, slithering and snaking around like eels or serpents.

“This is horrible. Whoever did this is a sick bastard.” Chief said, taking a puff off of his cigar. “Until we find out just what the hell is goin’ on we have to keep the park closed. All of the campers were evacuated this mornin’. Sorry for callin’ ya in on yer day off, Faraday.”

“It’s alright, Chief. This is what I’m here for. Do we know his last known location before he was murdered?” I asked, kneeling down next to the corpse.

“Campin’ with ‘is friends from what ‘is ma said. When he didn’t call, she got worried. Bird watcher over there found the body.” Chief nodded towards an elderly man talking to another ranger, shaking and nervous.

I didn’t notice Marney next to the corpse until I turned to look at her. She was kneeling down next to the corpse mumbling something. I couldn’t read her lips or tell what she was doing with her hands but I did see her touch one of the vines, incinerating it.

“Blackthorn! No civilians touchin’ the crime scene!” Chief yelled at her. Marney backed off, making her way towards me as if I would shield her from the Chief’s wrath.

“Marney, go wait for me by the truck, okay? There’s not much more we can do here.”

“Cody, I don’t want you on this case. I don’t want you anywhere near this.” Marney spoke a language I didn’t understand. Everyone froze around us. “This is beyond what mortals can handle.”

“Mortals? Wait, Marney are you…?”

“Yes, I’m not human, Cody. You already knew. I know you did. I wasn’t going to tell you. I had to be sure when we saw the body but you can’t get near this.” Marney looked up at me with tears in her eyes. Her hand petting my face. “Cody, I’ve fallen for you. Please, stay away from this. For your safety, please.” She begged, her face against my chest.

“Marney, I’m a ranger. If someone is murdered in the woods, it’s my job to try and find the one responsible. I can’t stay away from this.”

Marney’s lips met mine, soft and loving. She seemd truly worried that I could get hurt or worse. “Then be careful.” She led my ear down to her mouth. “Meet me. In the woods. Tonight.” Her voice was the same as the woman in my dreams. She kissed me one more time disappearing; her spell dissipating.

“Faraday, stop standin’ there like an idiot. There’s nothin’ more ta see.” Chief said.

“Chief, did you see Marney here? Just now?”

“Who?”

“Marney Blackthorn?”

“You losin’ yer mind, Faraday? There’s no Blackthorn round here. She’s probably at her place.”

Marney had erased her presence from the minds of everyone on the scene except me. The more things progressed the weirder they became.

****

The night following the discovery, I made my way through the woods following the sound of Marney’s voice in my mind until I came to a large tree.

The woman with hooves sat on one of the large branches. The whole place seemed otherworldly, as though it was only visiting.

“Marney?” I called out to her. She looked at me, smiling.

“In the human world, that is my name but not here. Here you would not know how to say my true name. Call me Esme. Welcome Dakota Faraday.”

“Okay, Esme. What is goin’ on? Obviously, I’m not dreamin’ so this has to be real. Why did you choose me to reveal your secret to?”

Esme dropped down onto the ground. The leaves crunching under her hooves. “Your heart and soul are pure. You are gentle and kind with care for those other than yourself. It is something rare and beautiful. No one else was able to hear the music I played except you and here you are.”

“What happened to Walt Connelly? I saw you touch the vines, heard them as though they were screaming as they were incinerated.” I asked, slightly shaken.

Esme walked up to me, leaning her cheek against my chest. “In time I will tell you. I have a request of you first if I may, Dakota.”

“Uh, okay.”

“I have become fond of you. You have gone out of your way to take care of me as Marney and now you are here for me as Esme.”

I swallowed hard as her gorgeous silver eyes met my own. Her hands going to unbutton my shirt.

“Will you make love to me, Dakota?” Her lips met mine in a soft kiss, her hands pushing the shirt down to the elbows, baring my chest.

I wasn’t sure what happened next or how it happened.

One moment we were kissing. The next we were on the forest floor, our bodies pressed close to each other. I made love to Esme, the feeling unlike any I’d ever experienced. It was as if her magic flowed through me. I could feel it in my heart, my muscles, my very blood seemed filled with her magic.

I remember being exhausted afterwards. Lying beside her trying to catch my breath.

“Rest now, Dakota. It is very taxing on a mortal to make love to an immortal.”

The last thing I remembered was Esme kissing me before I passed out from exhaustion.

****

“Cody. Cody, can you hear me?” Marney’s voice sounded muffled as I tried to come out of the daze of fatigue.

“Marney? Where am I?”

“My house. Do you remember anything?”

I sat up, my body sore and tired. “Barely.” My hand went to my head, rubbing it against the headache. “We…oh God.” I got up out of the bed only to nearly fall over again, using the wall as support.

“Yes. You need to take it easy. Your body is still recovering.”

“Christ, Marney, what are you?” I said, pushing her away from me.

“I’m a light Fae. The vines you saw in the body of Walter Connelly belonged to a dark Fae. She’s the reason I’m here. She’s gone out of control, causing chaos. Cody, the killing won’t stop with Walter. She’ll keep killing and feeding until she’s stopped. That’s not all.” She said, her voice sullen. “Cody, she’ll hunt you. She’ll try to take you after she realizes I’ve touched you. You need to leave.”

“Wait, you knew? You knew she would hunt me and you still pursued me?”

“I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have. We usually don’t pursue mortals but you were so kind to me, you were so gentle and willing to go out of your way to see me, I just couldn’t help but fall in love with you. That’s why I’m telling you to leave. I can bind her here until I can stop her.”

Anger welled up inside of me. I knew I couldn’t just leave. I had nowhere to go back to. My dad and mom were both dead and my sister moved overseas.

“I can’t leave, Marney. I have nowhere to go. This is my home now.”

Marney wrapped her arms around me, caressing the muscles of my stomach. “Then I’ll hide you.” She said, taking my wrist, wrapping a silver chain resembling the vines responsible for killing Walter around my wrist. “Don’t take this off. It will shield you from her but you must be careful. She can take human form as well and will recognize the chain so do everything possible to keep it hidden from her. I love you, Dakota. I won’t let her have you.”

Still angry, I grabbed my shirt and boots and headed to my truck.

****

I didn’t see Marney after that and no one in town seemed to remember her. It was raining as it did almost every day since I’d been in Darrington.

What few sunny days there were I’d spend hiking. Especially on my days off.

Not today. Today I decided to go to one of my favorite places to get coffee and breakfast, hoping to get my mind off of Marney (Esme to me).

“Want your usual today, Dakota?” Winona Windsor (no relation to Windsor and Newton), the waitress asked. She was an attractive young woman with her curly red hair and plump breasts. Someone I usually wouldn’t mind taking to bed with me.

“Sounds good. Thanks Winona.” I replied, my heart still heavy from not having seen Esme and the fight I’d had with Marney.

“Winona, do you know anyone named Marney Blackthorn?” I had to make sure I wasn’t borderline insane.

“Can’t say I do. That’s a strange name though, I gotta say. Friend of yours?”

“Once she was. She was more than a friend.”

I waited, playing with the coffee mug in my hand patiently trying to cope with the ache in my heart. I looked at the chain Esme put around my wrist. Its soft silver design serving as a reminder of the last cruel words I’d said.

I’d gone back to Marney’s house to find it empty. When I asked the townsfolk where she’d gone, no one seemed to even remember her.

When the food was brought, I was surprised to see it wasn’t Winona setting the plate down but a woman I’d never seen before.

In a town as small as Darrington, it was rare for a stranger to go unnoticed for too long. Especially one as strange as this woman.

I looked around to see that no one was moving. They’d been frozen much like that day Marney went to the crime scene where Walter Connelly was found dead.

“At last, we finally meet. I have searched for you. Hello there, Dakota Faraday.” The woman said, her voice seductive and deep. She was inhumanly attractive as well with her emerald green eyes and dark cherry wood hair down to her bottom.

“Do I know you?” I replied, cautious.

“Not yet but you will soon. I’m Marceline, Esme’s sister. I believe you may know her? She tried so hard to hide you from me.” Marceline took my hand in hers, turning it over so my palm faced up, her finger running up each of mine. “You’re so handsome, I can see why she’s fond of you.”

An innate sense of danger filled my body the longer I spent in Marceline’s presence. Her eyes almost hungry as she stared at me.

A strange feeling of cold snaked its way up my hand through my body, paralyzing me and consuming my consciousness.

“What are you…doing to me?”

“Relax handsome, let my darkness consume your mind. Soon you will belong to me. You have been Fae touched by my sister, I can see it. She was a fool to think she could conceal you from me for too long. Soon, you will be all mine. You will be mine or I will consume your heart and soul.” Marceline laughed, forcing me to leave the diner with her.

***

“Humans are such fragile creatures, would you not agree, Dakota?” Marceline said, her cheek resting against my bare chest, her nails softly running down the muscles of my stomach up my arm to the shackles around my wrists.

I couldn’t respond, the words frozen inside of my throat, helpless against the magic holding me prisoner. My wrists bound to the same tree where Esme and I made love by chains made of the same black vines.

“Yet for all of your fragility we cannot seem but to be fascinated with you. I can truly see what Esme loves in you. You’re handsome with such a pure heart and soul.” Marceline took my mouth with hers. The kiss dark and possessive. “Usually seducing mortals is so easy. We merely have to use our magic to influence their greed or lust to control them but you, Dakota Faraday. Your purity protects you from such influence. Truly rare and precious.”

Marceline guided my face to look at her, her body pressed close to mine. “I will possess you. I will control you or I will consume you. Mind, heart, body and soul.”

My mind was hazy, the free will slowly draining from me as Marceline explored my body.

“Marceline!” Esme’s voice pierced through the darkness of my mind. “Release him immediately!”

Marceline turned her head from me to look at her sister. Smirking she kissed me again, her thumb running the length of my throat. “You desire this mortal, sister? Even if his life is but a wing beat of your own?”

“You still understand nothing of the value of life, sister. Release him from your spell, now!”

“No.”

The events that transpired next were a blur. The two sisters battled using what looked like magic. Each attacking, counter-attacking and defending until finally Esme made her way to me.

She raised a shield around us as she forced the black shackles to release my wrists. “Dakota. Dakota please. Stay awake.” Her voice sounded muffled from the darkness trying to take hold. “No, no. Dear Gaia, please no. Dakota, please. Fight her. Dakota, I can’t lose you. Please fight her.”

Esme placed her hand on my chest, whispering something before I felt the darkness purged from my mind. My head ached as I tried to gasp for fresh air.

Marceline hammered at Esme’s shield, her voice as she screamed “No” over and over again muffled by the shield.

Esme pulled me close to her. The tears she cried landed on my cheek, warm against the chilled night. “I’m sorry, my love. I never intended for you to get involved. I tried to send you away. Forgive me.”

Marceline slammed two blades of pure darkness down on Esme’s shield. It sparked and cracked until eventually it shattered like glass under the pressure.

I felt Esme lay me on the ground, my eyes watching though hazed lenses as the two sisters once again began fighting.

“I should have devoured that mortal. His pure soul would have given me the strength to defeat you once and for all!” Marceline yelled, her words spat out of her mouth in jealous hatred.

“No sister, even then things would have ended the same. You have gone out of control with your power long enough. Tonight this ends. Tonight you go back to the shadows from whence you came!” Esme’s voice was loud and commanding. Her eyes glowed a magnificent white as light magic expanded out from her body.

Marceline shrieked a high pitched, defeating shriek, pushed back into the shadows. The remnants of her spell driven out of my body like poison from a wound.

My strength was sapped from me. I tried to hold onto consciousness. Esme dropped to her knees beside me, pulling me back into her lap.

“Is she…gone?” I croaked, my voice still not recovered from Marceline’s spell.

“For now. I’m sorry, Dakota. I should not have drawn you into this. I love you with all of my heart but I know what must be done to protect you.” Esme leaned down, kissing me so deeply it was like she was saying goodbye.

“Don’t. Please don’t.” I begged, the last of my strength gone sending me into unconsciousness.

***

I woke up in my apartment, my memory foggy of the night before.

The alarm on my phone rang, vibrating on the wooden table next to my bedside.

I turned it off, grabbing my uniform from the hanger, going into the bathroom to start the shower.

The drive to Squire Park seemed less relaxing than it usually was. Something seemed like it was missing.

It was sunny outside on that particular day. The hikers and campers all waved their happy hellos while their young adult daughters flirted with me, asking if I was seeing anyone.

When I told them I wasn’t they would ask for my number which I politely declined.

It was like any other day but still I felt a hole in my heart. Then came the music. The soft tune of the piano playing in the distance. I tried looking for it trying to find the source. I looked around to see if anyone else could hear it, surprised no one seemed to.

Making my way over the wooden bridge, I followed the familiar sound. No matter how far I went into the woods, I never found the piano or the one playing it.

My heart was heavy and saddened for reasons unknown to me at the time.

***

Things never went back to normal in Darrington. I got out of that place as soon as I could, traveling back to Virginia. For ten years I lived in pain until finally the memories were set free.

I never found Esme, never saw any other like her but still I would feel the touch of her magic, I would remember the feeling of her body, hear her voice but the only way I can relive them is to write letters like the one I wrote to you.

The words I put down here are real. The world I spoke of is real.

Don’t forget them. Don’t forget her.

Never forget her.