The Darkening Horizon-Chapter Two

The Rossi family was no stranger to beautiful things; George Rossi was a renowned architect and Mary Angelino-Rossi was the daughter of a successful pharmacy owner. The family had more than a comfortable living back in New Jersey.

When they stepped foot into the Ponce de León Hotel, however, Francine could not recall a time she had been in such opulent extravagance. From the hand-carved mahogany pillars to the sparkling mosaic tiles on the floor to the hand-painted ceilings that made her feel as though the angels in heaven were looking down upon them, it spared no exquisite detail. The hues of gold and cream and deep wood made the whole rotunda seem warm and inviting. Across from her stood a large, marble staircase leading to intricately designed mahogany doors. She wondered if that was the famed dining room with the stained glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, himself.

“Look at this, Cici,” Francine said breathlessly as their parents went to check-in. “Have you ever laid your eyes on anything so magnificent?”

Beside her, Cecilia remained quiet, and when Francine looked at her, she noticed her sister was biting her lip.

“Do you feel that?” Cecilia asked.

Francine looked around, as though she could see what Cecilia was speaking about. Nothing seemed amiss.

She turned back to her sister. “I don’t get it. Feel what?”

Cecilia didn’t make eye contact but watched the large doors across from them. “There’s a strange energy here—something feels like it’s hiding in the shadows of this building.”

When they were young, the Rossi sisters had long since believed that they had special connections to the spirit world. While Francine had mostly outgrown their imaginative games of seances and tarot readings, Cecilia never let go of her grip on the unexplainable and strange. The way her eyes moved from the staircase to the large, gilded dome above their head suggested that she was connected to something that Francine couldn’t feel.

“This is a hotel built by an oil and railroad tycoon for his rich friends, Cici, of course, it has strange energy. Do you know the Rockefellers used to stay here? And that Thomas Edison, himself, installed the electrical wiring? I’m sure there are bound to be some wayward spirits with a guest list like that.”

Cecilia seemed unconvinced, and the last thing Francine wanted was for her to worry.

“Look, we’re going to have a great time here,” she said, putting her hands on her sister’s shoulders. “We’ll go down to the ocean, we’ll walk around the town, stop in the shops, and we’ll have a great time doing it. We’re here for three months and I think it’s going to do us a lot of good! Just give it a chance. Don’t dwell on some questionable energy when there’s so much good out there to experience, right?”

At that moment, their parents joined them.

“Let’s go, gals,” her father said, grabbing the suitcases at their feet, “the lift is this way.”

When they reached their rooms, their parents opened their door first and put their things away. Francine and Cecilia waited near the door next to the room, holding their suitcases, standing in silence. When their father returned to unlock their door, Francine leaned over to bump her shoulder into Cecilia’s. Her sister looked at her quizzically, and Francine gave her an excited smile.

When her father opened their door, Francine stepped in and looked around. The walls were decorated with a bright green floral wallpaper. There were two small beds separated by a small, wooden table and a fireplace in the wall by the door. A window overlooked the fountain outside, and a small closet had just enough room for their clothes. On the wall next to the beds was another door.

“We’ll share a bathroom,” their father said as the two women started unpacking their things and taking turns admiring the view. “Keep that in mind before you take hours long showers, Franny.”

“Pop, they’re not hours long. I just need some time to think for a little without everybody’s chatter.”

Her father looked at Cecilia. “As though she isn’t the chattiest little bird there is.”

“He has you there,” Cecilia said, looking at Francine.

Francine gave a dramatic sigh and flopped onto her bed, satisfied with the loud creak from the springs for effect.

“Now, don’t get too comfortable, gals. We’re going downstairs for dinner, so wash up in a few minutes.”

“Yes, Pop,” Cecilia said.

Francine responded with a “mmph.”

Her father shook his head, muttering about not knowing what to do with her and exited the room.

“So what do you think?” Fran asked, lifting her head up a little to look at Cecilia. “Still think there’s bad energy?”

“The room is nice,” Cecilia admitted. “And I love the view. I don’t know, Fran, I just can’t shake the feeling that something else is here.”

“Well, wait until we’ve had our first walk around town. You’re gonna love it, Cecilia, there’s so much history here. Heck, there’s history right in this building.”

“Yeah,” Cecilia said, “that’s what I’m worried about.”

“Well, stop worrying,” Francine said. “This city is absolutely beautiful. There’s nothing like it in Jersey, that’s for sure.”

“I know, I know,” Cecilia said, sitting down next to Francine. “I promise, I’ll try.”

“Good,” Francine said, placing her hand on her sister’s. “Now, let’s get freshened up so that we can go see those Tiffany windows!”

As she got up, Francine could tell that it would be an uphill battle to improve Cecilia’s mood, no matter what her sister said. She only hoped that they could do it, for Cecilia’s sake.

Telese walked the length of the plaza in the center of the small town at a slow pace. The sun peaked through the clouds for the first time in days and the rays brushed her cheeks with their warmth. She peered down to the end of the grassy square, watching the waves of the nearby Matanzas Bay lap against the old bridge.

She took a moment and adjusted her eyes, using the Old Energy to reveal what others couldn’t see. She shifted between the physical world and one cloaked from the humans’ world.

The area was nearly clear. However, scattered around were dark, shadowy creatures of various shapes with glowing red eyes. Dark World shades; creatures that appeared to humans in their most desperate hour, offering to help them in exchange for servitude to the Dark World. While there wasn’t a particularly large number of them, she felt a growing unease at their presence here.

She shifted herself back squarely into the humans’ world and sighed, taking a walk toward the seawall by the bay.

“What an absolutely lovely day for a stroll,” a Southern voice said behind her, making her stop in her steps and her stomach turn.

She turned to see a tall man in a white, linen shirt and brown pants. his black hair was pushed back and his blue eyes shone with delight as he looked over her.

“Going my way, doll?” he asked.

“Mortimer, I’m using every ounce of resolve not to feed you to whatever may be in the bay, so you need to not call me ‘doll’ and just keep slithering on,” she said, turning her back to him and quickly walking toward the seawall.

“Now where’s the fun in that, Tilly,” he asked, taking long strides to walk at her side. “I’ve got nowhere to be right now, and I do love your company.”

“Mortimer, what part of ‘I hate you, you slimy, no-good snake’ do you have trouble with? I don’t want your company. I think you’re a useless waste of air. Go chase yourself!”

“Well, there’s the absolute bearcat that I’m used to,” he said pleasantly, never breaking stride. “So, what does Daddy have you doing here in this quaint little place?”

“I don’t know,” Telese said heatedly. “What does Oren have you doing?”

“Lots of people here are looking for a change of fortunes,” Mortimer explained. “Tourists are great, but the locals are having a hard go of it. And, you know, small towns are the heart of America and all that.”

“You’re banking on something,” Telese said, her eyes narrowing as she stopped at a bench, realizing chasing him off to be a futility.

“I’m banking on lots of things,” he said, taking a seat next to her. Telese scooted as close to the edge as she could.

“So, what, you’re aiming for small-town residents and then?”

“Oh, the things I could tell you about our plans. There’s a lot coming down the road, Tilly. You’re seeing small peanuts compared to the big picture. But I could let you in on the secret if you—”

“The answer is still ‘no,’” Telese said, gritting her teeth. “I’m not agreeing to any pact.”

“Why not? Because you’re happy under your father’s control?”

“If there’s anybody I hate more than you in that cesspool you live in, Mortimer, it’s Oren. I would rather drink acid for the rest of my life than serve him.”

“Ah, yes, that old ‘Oren tortured my sister before my father killed her’ grief. You really hate Oren more than the man that ordered him to do it?”

Telese was silent. To say that she hated anybody more than Alexandros was a lie. The truth, however, was nothing she was prepared to state out loud.

“What are you hoping to accomplish?” Telese asked. “You know I’d be off my rocker to join your vile cause. What are you really doing right now?”

“I thought we were just having a pleasant conversation.”

“Well, here’s a pleasant conversation for you; I know you’re up to something big, I know it at least borders on illegal, and I’m going to do everything in my power to stop it.”

Mortimer smiled, and the nerve of his happiness made Telese want to pull out her blade and at least cut him a little. Doing so would cause trouble between the Sirens and the Dark World, however, so she took to giving him her most disgusted glare.

“Tilly, nothing would make me happier than for you to try just that. You won’t succeed, of course, because you’re contending with the repulsive nature of humans, but it does make me happy to see you exhaust all efforts in trying to stop my bosses. Because the sooner you exhaust those efforts, the sooner we’ll be able to convince you that the Dark World is where you belong.”

He stood up and stretched, closing his eyes for a moment. “Well, it’s good to talk to you again. I love these moments, but, unfortunately, duty calls.”

He gave her a small bow and turned to walk away.

After he was gone, Telese let out a loud sigh. Dealing with any Dark World worker was straining, but at least all the others had the decency to show at a little contempt toward the Sirens to match what the Sirens showed them. Mortimer’s jovial and almost genuine mood filled her with a rage that threatened to spill out all around her when he was near.

She returned her eyes to the bay and thought about what he had said.

You’re seeing small peanuts compared to the big picture.

The comment gave her unpleasant chills. The Dark World was working on something big, and she had no idea where to even start in order to find out. Morgan did offer to help, but where could they look?

No matter how she tried to avoid it, there was only one conclusion—one unpleasant truth that made her insides twist as she thought about it. She was going to have to wait until they made the first move. She was going to have to let them approach somebody close by and hope she could find out something before the human bound themselves to the Dark World.

She just hoped she could do it in time to save them, too.