Even in the dim light Tom saw the objects laid out on his wife’s grave. The magic circle, drawn with white spray paint, glowed under the rays of the full moon, and seemed to shimmer before his tortured eyes. A noise from somewhere behind made him spin around. Paul and Jill came out from their hiding place when they recognised him.
“I don’t know what I expected,” he nodded at the grave.
Jill understood how he felt; there was something unholy about the whole thing. But to see it now, laid out in front of him, must have been a terrible shock.
“I didn’t think you’d come,” she said.
“Neither did I,” he agreed. “But I was sitting at home, growing more and more tormented, so I thought…” he shrugged, as there were no words to describe his feelings.
“Maybe you’d be better off at home,” Paul said. “We’ll come and tell you what happens when it’s all over.”
“No, I’ll stay. I wasn’t much use to her in life, but I’ll not abandon her now,” he looked at Jill. “Do what you have to.”
She explained what she was about to do and warned him about making noise.
“The ears of the dead are sensitive,” she explained. “Any sudden movements or sound will act as a damper on the ritual.”
He nodded and stood back to allow her to pass. Once she relit the candles and incense, she stepped back inside the circle and sealed the gap with the spray paint. She needed blood to complete her task, so raising the knife she brought from home she plunged the tip into her wrist. Always one to bleed from even the slightest pinprick, the blood flowed out of the cut, and she allowed it to fall onto the earth. She heard Paul’s sharp intake of breath, but ignored it, and wrapped a handkerchief over the cut. Balancing the book on top of the tombstone, she shone the torch on the pages and started to read the chant. The Wraith, she knew, resides in a place devoid of light and hope. Unaware of its surrounding, it lies in restless sleep, and waits for the voice that will summon it from its limbo. It needs the darkness to become visible to the human eye, and the voice that calls on it must be kept low and chanting.
Jill continued to read, while Paul and Tom watched from the side-line. Calling on God for protection, Paul fingered the rosary beads he kept in his pocket, and the smooth wood of the crucifix made him feel they were not quite unarmed. If there was ever a time for prayer, he thought, this is it. He never looked at the man who stood beside him, but he knew Tom was crying, as he saw the flash of a white handkerchief being brought up to his face.
Beneath the earth something stirred. Marie opened her eyes. At first, she lay listening to the soft calls from above. She didn’t know where she was, or how she had got there. The only awareness she had was of unbearable sorrow. She didn’t try to look around her, which was just as well. Her human body no longer existed all that remained were her bones. She was spared this sight by the urging of the voice that called to her, the notes filled with the same longing that she felt.
“I’m coming,” she whispered, before surging towards the surface.
The air smelled sweet after the rawness of the place she had been, and she stood for a moment looking around her. She was in a graveyard and it was night!
Jill used the tombstone for support, afraid she would faint. She heard the whimpers of fear from the two men and looked over at them. Their faces were ashen, and despite the cold, she saw beads of sweat on their upper lips. What they were witnessing was beyond belief, and she prayed they would not turn and run. Forcing her eyes back to the triangle, she shivered, as she watched the movements of the spirit trapped within it. This was some sort of nightmare, it had to be, as the thing that stood before her could not be real. The woman, Marie, appeared as she had in the photo on Tom’s side table. She wore a dress of flowing burgundy velvet, her favourite, Tom would later tell Jill, and there was nothing creepy or frightening about her, except she appeared at times to fade in and out, and of course, she was dead.
“Marie,” Jill licked her dry lips and managed to stand up straight.
If she did not remain strong, she had no chance of gaining control.
“Marie, do you know where you are?”
The Wraith’s look was one of bewilderment, when she turned towards the sound of the voice, and she wrung her hands.
“I was in a place of shadow,” she seemed on the verge of tears. “I can’t remember anything. The past is dim. Who are you?”
“My name is Jill. I’m the one who called you. I need your help.”
“My help.” She became aware of the presence of the two men, but there was no look of recognition when she saw Tom.
He, on the other hand, had to be helped to stand by Paul. Jill heard his muffled sobbing, and he used a handkerchief to still the sound of his pain.
“My child is missing,” Jill turned back to the Wraith. “I need your help to find him. The same man who took Rachael has taken him. Do you remember?”
The Wraith’s eyes opened wide at the mention of her daughter’s name.
“Rachael,” the whisper floated through the night air. “Rachael, my baby.”
She brought her hands to her face, crying as the memory reawakened.
“I’m sorry to cause you such pain,” Jill cried with her. “But I need to find my son.”
The Wraith shook her head.
“Why couldn’t you let me be?” She tried to move within the triangle but was held in place by its power. “Send me back,” her pleas were pitiful. “I can’t bear the pain. Set me free.”
Tom tried to go to her, but Paul held him back.
“Marie,” he called. “Do you remember me?”
“Tom.” He saw the recognition in her eyes. “Tom, Help me.”
“Send her back,” he turned to Jill. “Reverse the spell. Do something. This is unbearable.”
“I’m sorry.” She tried to block out the sound of his tears and turned back to the Wraith. “My son, Toby, is seven-years-old and the man who took Rachael has him right now. If I don’t find him, he will kill him. I’m begging you as one mother to another, help me.”
“Please,” the Wraith struggled against her invisible barrier. “Set me free.”
“I will set you free, if you promise to help me,” Jill felt stronger, more determined.
“Let her go, you fucking bitch,” Tom screamed, and if it were not for Paul’s grip on his arms, would have attacked Jill.
“I’ll let her go when she hears me out,” Jill glanced at him, and then back at the Wraith. “Will you listen to what I have to say?”
“Am I dead?”
The question stunned them to silence. They looked from her to one another, unsure of what to say. Finally, Tom, after assuring Paul he was calm, stepped forward.
“Marie, love,” he walked closer to the triangle. “You died eight years ago; don’t you remember? A year after Rachael went missing. Her loss was too much for you to bear, and you took an overdose.”
“Oh, God,” her glance flew around the graveyard. “Is that why I’m here, am I being punished for committing suicide?”
“No, love, you’re not. Jill called you to ask for help. Her little boy is missing, and we think the same man who took Rachael has him. If we find Toby, then maybe we will find Rachael.”
“We could bring her home?” Her eyes filled with hope.
“Yes,” he was trying hard not to cry. “We can bring her home, and you can be at rest.”
He reached out and tried to touch her, but there was nothing there. She seemed to be part of the air, nothing solid, no substance. Puzzled, he looked at Jill.
“She is like a shadow; it is Marie’s spirit that you see.”
He nodded, sadly and stepped back. Paul patted his shoulder, urging him to be strong. It took great fortitude to walk away from the woman he had loved and lost. The woman he never expected to see again, not in this life.
“Will you help me?” Jill asked.
“What can I do? I can’t even step out of this thing.” She looked down at the triangle at her feet.
“I can free you from there, if you promise to help me. If not, I can send you back to where you came from.”
“There is nothing for me there,” she looked in horror at the stone that bore her name. “Just endless darkness and cold that chills the soul. I will do whatever I can to help, though I don’t know what use I will be.”
“Very well,” Jill picked up the book. “Once you are free from the triangle, you can move about wherever you please. You have the power to travel on the wind. It is up to you if you want to be visible, but I suggest you stay hidden. Tom thinks someone in the village has taken my son; your job is to find him. It is only by night you can move around. You will be powerless during the day.”
“If it is possible, I’ll find him and when I do…”
Jill interrupted her.
“You won’t do anything, if you do, we won’t find Rachael and Toby.”
“I understand,” she smiled. “Maybe, later, then?”
While this woman that stood before them looked like Marie, Tom knew she had changed. Perhaps her mind had flown before the suicide, or was tainted by the endless years of darkness, but she now had a vicious streak, and he knew she would need careful handling.
Jill’s stomach lurched as she began the chants to free the Wraith, and she hoped she would not regret what she was about to do. While the woman appeared to have no substance, the book declared the Wraith was capable of great deeds, and even hinted at its need for revenge. If this was the case, then God help the man who would shortly become its prey.
“You should be able to move now,” Jill stopped, and nodded at the triangle.
The Wraith lifted her leg and took a tentative step out of her prison. When she saw there was nothing to fear, she stepped out of the triangle.
“You will come with me,” Jill said. “I will show you where I live, and you must return there at the end of every night.”
“I must?” She raised an eyebrow.
Jill knew that she was testing her; the book had warned that this might happen.
“Yes, you must,” she stepped out of the circle and approached the Wraith until their noses were almost touching. Its scent was like the breath of death on her face. “If you do not, I will send you back now.”
“You have that much power?” It was said with a sneer. Now that all the confusion and terror were past, it had become more assured and aware of its power.
“I brought you here, didn’t I?” Jill held its gaze and refused to be beaten.
“Very well.” It saw she was serious, and some instinct warned it must obey. At least until it had done what it set out to do and that was to find her child.
“We need to gather up these things and wipe away the circle,” Jill turned to the men.
She blew out the candles and incense and threw everything into bags. Paul and Tom kicked dirt over the white lines on the ground and pulled up tufts of dried grass to disguise the place where it was drawn. At no time would Paul acknowledge the Wraith and kept well back from it. With the three of them helping, it only required one trip back to the car, and Jill was glad of this, as she felt exhausted. The Wraith had started to feed on her strength, and she knew the next few days would be draining. Paul was much quieter than usual, and once they were outside the graveyard, Jill turned to him.
“I know what I did was terrible, but I had no choice.”
“I know, I know,” his face was still devoid of colour. “But I’m just wondering about that thing in there.”
“Her name’s Marie,” Tom dumped his load into the car boot.
“I have my doubts,” Paul’s eyes stared into the darkness.
“About what?” Tom asked.
“I got to know your wife well during the months before her death,” Paul said. “And when she first appeared, I thought she seemed the same woman, but there’s something not right. You must have felt it.”
“What’s, not right?” Jill felt fear clutch at her heart.
“There’s something about her,” Paul replied. “I know you’ve seen it too.”
Tom tried to avoid his eyes, but he knew Paul was right. There was something, a cruel streak that had never been there before.
“Where is she anyway?” Paul looked back to the graveyard.
“She’s there,” Jill assured him. “She’ll follow me home.”
“Right,” he opened his car door. “I’ll go home and get some clothes and then I’ll be right back.”
“You’re coming to my house,” Jill asked. “Why?”
“I’m not leaving you alone with that thing,” He held up a hand to still Tom’s protests. “I know you think it’s Marie that was brought back, and maybe it was. But she’s changed, and not for the better.”