Revenge: The Conclusion

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X. Sweet Dreams

Back at Thurston, we huddle together on the Greek Quadrangle, watching our house from a safe distance. At this hour, the rest of the Quad is in sleep mode, but our house is lit up like a carnival ride, lights flashing in every room. Objects are being tossed around inside, their shadows flying across the windows. There’s even music blasting from downstairs, the walls throbbing in time with the bass.

“I didn’t know the Alphas were having a party!” says an eager male voice. One of the Sigma Iota brothers has walked up to us, a wide smile on his face, and gives us a thumbs up. “I’ll get a few of my brothers and we can—”

“We’re not having a party,” I say quickly, and his smile falls. “A few of our pledges are…rebelling.”

“Yeahhhh,” Sam chimes in, nodding. “They don’t want to do house chores.”

“Oh. Bummer.” Sighing in disappointment, he shuffles away. “Show those pledges who’s boss!” he calls back before disappearing inside the Sigma Iota house.

Julia looks back at our house. “I don’t want to go in there,” she says, biting her lip.

“We have to,” I say. “We have to put a stop to this.”

“I know she’s not the real Genie anymore,” Gwen says. “And I know we might not have any other choice, but I—I don’t want to destroy her soul. It sounds so…so final.”

“Don’t think of it like that. Genie never would have wanted to lead this kind of tormented existence, even in the afterlife. We’re not destroying her. We’re…freeing her.” I look to Sam for…I don’t know. Reassurance. A snappy remark to lighten our grim mood. But Sam just frowns at me, giving a sad shrug.

“Let’s get this over with,” she says.

As one, we inch closer to the house. Something crashes inside, and everyone shudders. The others stay behind me as I throw open the front door and march inside, trying to act confident despite my pounding heart.

“It looks like there was an earthquake!” Julia yells above the music. The entire living room is trashed. Furniture has been upended, artwork knocked down from the walls, vases smashed.  Books and stray sheets of paper are scattered on the floor, along with pieces of broken wood and glass.

“Watch your step!” I warn the others. “Turn that off,” I add to Gwen, and she obediently kills the music. Apparently ghosts like dubstep. The ensuing silence is short-lived, the house instead filling with Genie’s moans of agony.

Sam glances up at the ceiling. “Sounds like Hurricane Genie has moved upstairs.” There’s a loud scraping noise overhead, like someone is moving the furniture around, as well as more banging and the shriek of breaking glass.

“Genie!” I shout at the ceiling. “Genie, get down here!” The commotion upstairs stops. Then, Genie’s ghost whizzes downstairs, coming to a stop in front of me.

“Oh. You’re all still alive,” she says, looking disappointed. “I guess the giant wave didn’t do the trick.”

“Genie, stop this,” I demand, gesturing to the chaos around us. “This is madness. It isn’t you.”

“It is now.” As she says it, the small chandelier hanging in the living room starts swinging violently back and forth, lights flickering. The chain attaching it to the ceiling gives an ominous groan.

“This was your sorority house, too,” I remind her. “Your home away from home.”

Genie laughs wickedly. “It’ll be just a pile of bricks and dust when I’m done with it.”

“Why are you doing this?” Julia sobs, watching the swaying chandelier with wide eyes.

Genie glides over to her. “You all love this house. Well, I’m taking that away from you. Everything you love. Everything you care about. Just like everything I cared about was ripped away from me when I died.”

“We don’t care about the house,” I insist. A few of the others gape at me, but I ignore them, continuing, “It’s just a house. It’s just stuff. We care about each other. We care about you.

“Apparently not enough to help me when I needed it the most.” Genie’s tone is bitter, but the chandelier stops rocking.

I take a step closer to her. “You don’t have to destroy the house—you don’t have to hurt anyone.”

“No.” Genie recoils, floating away from me. “You just want me to stop so you can send me back to that place—”

“No one’s going to send you back to the Underworld,” I assure her. “You can stay here. With us. None of us would mind having a…friendly ghost around.” I glance at the others encouragingly. They look uncertain, but nod anyway.

“Well, if I see Casper, I’ll let him know,” Genie sneers. “But for now, you’re stuck with me. And I’m not a nice ghost. All I feel is rage. I hate everyone. Including all of you.

“You don’t mean that—” I start to say, but at that moment the chandelier comes loose, crashing to the ground. The sisters closest to it jump out of the way, shielding themselves as shards of glass come flying out. Julia cries out as her bare forearms are bombarded, small red lines breaking out where the glass bites her skin.

“Wimps,” Genie says, rolling her eyes.

Sam glares at the ghost. “This is over.” She leans into my ear and says, “Read the note Persephone gave you. Finish this.”

“Not yet,” I whisper back. “Let me try one more thing.”

“Note?” Genie repeats, overhearing us. “What note?”

“It’s nothing,” I say, shaking my head. “Genie, listen—”

“I’d love to,” she interrupts me, “but it’s time for a pop quiz!” She does a midair somersault over me and Sam, coming to land somewhere behind us. We spin around to face her. “Anybody know what happens to your body at the bottom of the ocean? Anybody? Anybody?” Before any of us can answer, Genie continues, “Well, first off, it’s cold down there. Like really fucking cold.”

As soon as she says it, the room is plunged into an arctic chill. Teeth chattering, I wrap my arms around myself in a feeble attempt to stay warm. A numbness starts in my hands and feet, spreading throughout my entire body.

“There’s also no air, so you wouldn’t be able to breathe. And the pressure is high. It would push in on you, crushing you. Then your lungs would start to collapse. Your body would shut down.”

My body tries to take its next breath, but it feels like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest. The harder I try to breathe, the harder it pushes down on me, squeezing the air from my lungs. Stars dance before my eyes, and I crumple to the floor, managing to catch myself before hitting my head again. Arms shaking, I lower myself gently, resting my head against the cold hardwood floor. I lie there freezing, suffocating, an invisible force crushing me from all sides. Genie speaks again, her voice sounding thin and very far away.

“Sweet dreams, sisters.”

Genie. Please, I want to call out, but the thought never makes it past my lips. The darkness is coming for me again. It places an icy hand on my shoulder, giving me one final tug, and I relax into it, letting it drag me away…

All at once, the darkness releases me, and a warmth rushes through my body, bringing the feeling back to my arms and legs. My eyes fly open, and I let out a gasp, breathing hard and fast to pump oxygen back into my burning lungs. Still a little lightheaded, I slowly push myself off of the floor and sit back on my heels. Around me, my sisters are also coming to, blinking in confusion as they sit up on the floor, gulping down air. I look around for Genie, catching sight of the tip of a ghostly fin before it disappears upstairs. Getting stiffly to my feet, I fight through another wave of dizziness, half-walking, half-crawling up the stairs after her.

The sound of muffled sobs reaches my ears, and I realize they’re coming from my bedroom. I crack open the door to find Genie hovering above her bed, shoulders trembling as she cries into her hands.

“Genie?” I say, pushing the door open wider. She doesn’t do anything except wail more loudly. I close the door softly behind me and walk over to sit beside her on the bed.

“I’m sorry,” Genie sniffles, dropping her hands from her face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I just—”

“It’s okay.” I go to put a hand on her shoulder, but of course my fingers just slip right through her. Pulling away, I fold my hands in my lap instead. “We know you didn’t.”

“Do you forgive me?”

I hope she misses my hesitation before I say, “Yes. Yes, of course we do.”

“Everything hurts.” She turns away from me, dark hair falling in front of her face. “Everything is cold, and pain, and anger. I want it to stop. I just want it to stop!”

“I know.” I finger the folded up piece of parchment, still tucked safely inside my pocket. “I can make it stop…if you want me to.”

Genie steals a glance at me, dark eyes sad but hopeful. “Can you really?” I nod, and her entire being seems to relax. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I caused everyone so much pain. I wasn’t always like this. At least I think I wasn’t.”

I purse my lips together and shake my head. “You weren’t. You were nice, and smart. Funny. Brave.” Tears spring to my eyes, but I don’t bother to wipe them away. My lower lip trembles as I say, “You’re my best friend, Genie.”

“I’m sorry,” she says for what feels like the millionth time. “And I know you did your best. I know you would have saved me if you could. Did I…kill anyone?” she asks quietly, avoiding my gaze again. Although she doesn’t elaborate, I know she’s talking about the night she died. In her final days, Genie had joined forces with the bad guys and helped lead an attack on the Gamma Lambda Phi’s fall dance. Just like tonight, she created a giant wave that took out the restaurant where the formal was being held.

“No,” I whisper. “No one was hurt or killed.”

Genie laughs bitterly. “Except for me. I am sorry, though. For causing so much destruction. I lost myself at some point. Forgot who I was.”

“I’m sorry, too. I should have known that you lost your way. That you needed help.”

“It’s not your fault, Becks,” she says with a reassuring smile. She stares off into space, looking intently at something that only she can see. “I think I’m ready to go now.”

I nod, taking the note out of my pocket. As I unfold it, my tears splatter the thin, gray parchment, making some of the black ink run. “Be gone, restless one,” I read, looking between Genie and the paper. “Let your anguish cease.” Even after the first few words, Genie’s transparent form starts to fade, oblivion chipping away at her. She continues to look straight ahead, a peaceful expression coming over her face.

“Severe your chains to this life,” I continue. The poem is so short, I’m already at the last line. “Find eternal peace.”

All that’s left of Genie is her head and shiny dark hair. She turns back to me and smiles. It’s the happiest I’ve seen her since before she died. “’Bye, Becks!” she says, eyes sparkling with mischief. Crumpling the note up in my hand, I squeeze my eyes shut, another painful sob racking my body. When I open them again, Genie is gone.

“Sweet dreams,” I say to the empty room.

The End.


I hope you enjoyed my short story, Revenge! I wrote it relatively quickly, but I’m planning to go back and polish it and publish it as an e-book short story or novella. Feel free to let me know your thoughts, either in the comments section, on any of my social media sites, or in some other fashion!

Happy Reading!


Revenge: Part Nine

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IX. Queen of Darkness

At first, neither Genie, Sam nor I could control our newfound abilities very well. Once, we were sitting in the middle of the Student Union, and Genie’s skin erupted in scales. Another time, one of us—or maybe it was all three of us—accidentally set off the emergency sprinkler system in one of the academic buildings. As water nymphs, our connection to the water allows us to control it, but we hadn’t yet learned how to harness its energy in the right way. And, unlike in some fairy tales, there was no glamour or concealment charm to hide the physical changes. In those first few weeks, the transformations controlled us—appearing and vanishing at will, like secrets that refused to stay buried.

The first time I transformed completely was when I was doing laps in the university pool, training for an upcoming swim meet. Luckily, it was pretty late, and I was alone in the pool when my pale skin started to itch and bubble, and my legs, ankles and feet began to fuse together, forming a long, slick tail. I remember holding my breath and biting down hard on my tongue against the pain of melting bone and shifting muscle. When it was over, I cringed at the sight of my ugly, scaly skin and elongated tail. It wasn’t even elegant and pretty, like a mermaid’s tail—it was more like an eel’s, with forked fins extending from the end of it. I scraped my nails over the rough scales on my arm, wanting to rip them up—pick them out, one by one, if that’s what it took to find the human skin underneath.

In the distance, a door slammed, followed by determined footsteps. Heart thudding, I slipped underneath the surface of the water to hide myself, my hair billowing outward in a dark cloud around me.

Pushing out with my arms, I swam toward the bottom of the pool. Instinct took over, and I dragged my tail back and forth through the water, using it to propel myself faster and deeper, as far as I could go. I waited at the bottom for a long time, breathing through my gills, starting to feel powerful as I flexed my tail. With renewed appreciation, I studied the way the scales shimmered all over my body, like a skin-tight coat of silver armor.

The noises turned out to be a false alarm. When I cautiously peeked my head above the water later, the area around the pool was empty, and the footsteps had disappeared. But I was grateful for them because, in my moment of panic, I discovered just what my new body could do. I felt more free and powerful underwater than I ever had on land.


Wake up.

Her voice calls to me through the darkness, carried on a wave of consciousness rolling up from the deep, pulling me along with it. I emerge slowly, as though from a long sleep, mind steeped in fog and confusion. Everything is wet and soggy, smelling of damp earth and chilled air. I hear someone muttering hoarsely, her words garbled, and realize it’s me.

“Wake. Up!

A cold hand slaps my face. I jolt upright and almost immediately bow forward, coughing up water onto the saturated ground. After several minutes of alternately gagging and gulping down air, I recover enough to look up, bringing a hand to my raw cheek. The dark figure crouched next to me straightens up, and a pair of black, iridescent eyes meet mine.

“You’re fine,” she tells me. “Now, get up. There is work to be done. Get up!” she repeats when I stay frozen to the ground, my stomach still churning uneasily. I wipe the sleeve of my shirt across my mouth, soaking up the excess water, then carefully stand up.

“You foolish girls,” she says, eyes sparking like black opals as they sweep the park. I notice her eyes don’t have any pupils, and for some reason the realization makes me feel sick again. “You foolish, foolish girls. You let my prisoner out—let her get away!”

“We f-freed her,” Gwen says, shivering as she gets to her feet.

The woman fixes her strange eyes on Gwen. “You have no idea what you’ve done.”

Queen of Darkness, by

“Who are you?” Sam says, appearing beside me. Her short, dark blonde hair is matted to her head, her face drained of color. I can feel her trembling, as much as from fear as from being cold and wet. This woman—if you could even call her that—standing before us wears the nighttime like a cloak, her tall, slender body wrapped in darkness and gloom. Except for the long, dark braid snaking down her back and the flutter of her gauzy black dress, she’s more shadow than person—like a photographic negative of the woman she once was.

“Persephone,” I whisper before she can reply to Sam’s question. I don’t know a lot about Greek mythology, but I do remember reading a poem for a literature class once about Hades and his wife—a young woman he kidnapped and brought to the Underworld to be his queen. Although I can’t be sure that this woman is the Queen of the Underworld, there’s something regal about the way she holds herself as she moves around our group, pausing to study each of our faces.

Persephone gives a slight nod, confirming my suspicion. “You should have left it alone,” she says, gliding up to me. “We had her under control.”

“We were just trying to save our friend,” I tell her softly.

The Queen of the Underworld shakes her head. “You are the ones who need saving. That thing you let out—that is not your friend. That is not the woman you remember. Her last act on this world was one of malice. It tarnished what was left of her soul, and that is what survived beyond death. Only darkness—only evil. Nothing worth being reborn into this world for a second chance. I had just found a way to destroy it, when you let it escape.”

“You were going to destroy her,” Julia whimpers, cowering behind Gwen.

“How?” I ask, taking a few cautious steps toward Persephone. The others give a collective gasp—whether in reaction to the question or the fact that I’m walking up to her, I’m not sure.

“What are you doing?” Sam hisses behind me.

“Maybe we can make things right,” I say, keeping my eyes on the queen. “We let her out—we messed up. Now, we have a chance to fix our mistake.”

“By destroying her soul?” Gwen exclaims.

“It would still be freeing her, in a sense,” I insist. “Genie isn’t Genie anymore. We can put an end to her torment—to her suffering.”

Sam comes up to me again to whisper in my ear. “We don’t know if we can trust her,” she says, looking at Persephone. “She could be lying.”

“I don’t think she’s lying. Genie did just try to kill us.”

“Even so,” Sam says doubtfully. “There might be another way. Maybe we don’t have to destroy anything.”

“Well, we can try to reason with it—her, I guess. But if that doesn’t work…I’d rather have a backup plan.”

“Fine,” Persephone says loudly, and—although her face is rather expressionless—I know from her icy tone that she could hear everything Sam and I just said to each other. “You can take care of it. I will warn you, though, that there is nothing you can say or do that will bring your friend back. She is gone, forever. There is only one recourse.” Reaching into the sleeve of her dress, she pulls out a folded up piece of old, grayish parchment and hands it to me. I accept it and unfold it carefully, afraid it’s going to disintegrate under my fingertips. “Say those words,” Persephone says, indicating the parchment, “and the soul will be unmade.”

“I can’t read this,” I tell her, staring at the symbols scrawled across the parchment. They look somewhat familiar—like the ones in Genie’s book. As soon as I say it, the black symbols start to give off a faint glow, twisting and rearranging themselves on the parchment. My sisters gather around me, and we read the translation in silence. “This is it? This is all we have to do?” I ask her, looking up, but the queen has vanished.

“God, I wish everybody would stop doing that,” I sigh, folding up the parchment again and tucking it into my pocket.

“But where did she go?” Sam wonders, glancing up and down the park. “There’s no portal.”

“Guys…look,” Gwen says, pointing toward the river. My heart skips a beat as I follow her hand, bracing myself to see the water overflowing the bank again. But the river runs calmly, the water level back to normal.

“I don’t see anything,” I tell Gwen, squinting.

She motions to me. “Look from over here.” The others and I join her. From this new angle, it looks like a small section of the river veers off, the dark waves moving swiftly across the surface…until they disappear into thin air.

“Oh, shit,” Sam says. “Did we do that?”

“What exactly did we do?” Julia wonders, sounding nervous.

“Whatever it is, it doesn’t look good.”

“Whatever it is, we can’t worry about it right now,” I say, gulping. “We have to try to get through to Genie, and if we can’t…” I dip my hand inside my pocket, running a finger over the thin piece of parchment.

Sam turns to me. “Well, she’s clearly not here anymore. We wouldn’t be standing around, plotting her demise if she were. We have to find her first.”

“I think I know where she is,” I tell them. “I know where I would go if I were a vengeful spirit, hell-bent on destroying everyone and everything I once loved.”

Revenge: Part Eight

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VIII. Unfinished Business

“Genie!” I shout into the night, but only silence answers me, the park feeling emptier than ever.

“It didn’t work,” Julia sobs, holding herself. “She didn’t come.”

“Then what was that…thing that came out?” Gwen says, eyes darting around the park.

“I don’t think that was Genie,” Sam says, voice hoarse.

I look at her. “Who else would it be?”

Sam raises her eyebrows. “Or what else.”

“God, I’m right here!” We all jump at the sound of Genie’s frustrated voice. She hovers where the portal stood only seconds ago, the ferryman’s hand reaching right through her. This time, Genie has appeared in Nereid form, most of her body covered in silver scales, her glossy, eel-like tail undulating in the air. “Which you probably would have noticed if you all weren’t so busy yapping. Yap, yap, yap.” She puts her thumb and fingers together, opening and closing her hand in time with the words. “Blah, blah, blah. You never shut up!”

Genie’s words hit me like bits of stone, but I ignore their sting. Death hasn’t been a smooth transition for her—she’s entitled to some hostility. “Genie, you’re…you’re okay now. You’re free,” I say, walking slowly toward her. “You can move on in peace.”

Her eyes glow like hot coals, lips curving into a smile that makes me go numb. Genie laughs in a way I’ve never heard her laugh before, like a demon cackling into the night. “Yes. I am free. Thank you, sisters”—she spits the word, as though it burns like acid on her ghostly tongue—“for freeing me.”

“Now what?” Sam says, voice quivering slightly. She comes to stand beside me.

Genie tilts her head to the side, hair falling over her shoulder in a dark wave. Her wicked smile disappears, leaving a determined frown. “Now, you die.”

Sam and I both take a step back.

“What do you mean?” I ask Genie, heart pounding. “We just rescued you. You’re free to go now.”

“Not quite yet,” Genie says, taking to the air. She swims a circle around us as she continues, “I have some…unfinished business to attend to. Like punishing those who betrayed me.” Behind her, the dark waters of the Ohio River begin to churn, the current growing restless.

“But we didn’t betray you!” says Gwen.

“Oh, that’s right. Silly me.” Genie shakes her head. “Of course you didn’t. You were right there when I drowned and did everything you could to save me. Wait…no you didn’t! None of you were there. None of you!”

“Genie, we didn’t know—” someone else tries to protest, but the ghost’s shrieking voice cuts her off.

“Where. Were. You? You abandoned me in my greatest hour of need. I needed my friends. I needed my sisters!” As Genie rants, dipping and weaving in the air, the water continues to rise, spilling out onto the river bank. At the same time, the tears welling in my eyes break free, pouring down my cold cheeks.

“We know,” I tell her. “And we’re sorry. We’re so, so sorry. But we didn’t know you were in trouble. If we had, nothing would have stopped us from coming after you. You must know that.”

“Now, you will pay,” Genie hisses as though I haven’t said anything. Like a sea monster rearing its head,Image result for tsunami wave a deadly wave emerges from the river, climbing toward the sky, higher and higher. “You will die as I did. You will suffer as I did.”

“Genie, please. Don’t.” The wall of water seems to hesitate for a moment, frozen in time. Then, it surges forward.

The wave feels like a building falling on top of me as it knocks me to the ground. Water fills my ears, my nostrils, my mouth. Everything is burning—my body from the impact of the fall, my lungs as they fight for air.

Change, I tell myself, trying to imagine myself in Nereid form. Come on. You can do it.

But before the transformation can take hold, another wave rocks the park, lifting me up into its slippery embrace. It tosses me back and forth like I’m nothing more than a piece of dead seaweed, and I crack my head against the ground. A darkness rushes in to dispel the water and the pain, and I let it pull me under.

Revenge: Part Seven

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VII. With This Blood

“We should get help.” Julia’s small voice punctures the heavy silence that has settled over the room. Around us, the candles burn steadily, wax oozing down their sides like thick, hot tears, flames dancing in the dark. In the wavering light, the faces of my sisters look pale and frightened. “This is way out of our league.”

“Let’s give John Edward a call,” Sam says, rolling her eyes. “Maybe he can help.”

Julia’s brow furrows. “How could a politician help us?”

Sam shakes her head. “Edward, not Edwards. You know, the guy who talks to dead people? Never mind. Stupid joke.”

“She means our neighbors,” Gwen says, and Julia nods. “The Gamma Lambda Phis.”

Sam catches my gaze. “We don’t need help,” she insists. “Especially not from those airheads.”

“Their president and their house mother are Olympians,” Julia says defensively. “We don’t have anybody. And Farrah’s helped us before.” Julia is referring to the funeral. When Genie died, her body was stuck in Nereid form and had to be cremated. It was perhaps a cruel thing to do to her family, but they couldn’t see their daughter or sister with scales and fins—they wouldn’t understand. Farrah, the Gammas’ house mother, worked her goddess mojo and made sure everything went smoothly.

“We can’t,” I say, even though I’d like nothing more than to get their input, despite the way they’ve treated us recently. “They have a lot on their plate right now. We’re on our own.”

We fall silent again as this sinks in. “So, what do we do?” Gwen asks me.

As I scan the room, I realize everybody’s looking at me, waiting for further instruction. Gulping, I say, “Well, she told us there’s a gateway at Point Park. Let’s head over and have a look around.”


Point Park is located in downtown Shadesburg, at the confluence of three rivers. During the day, it’s usually bustling with dog walkers, joggers, and visitors simply admiring the boats out on the water or the fountain crowning the tip of the park. In the summer, it boasts a number of events, including the regatta, the arts festival, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.

But tonight, there aren’t any events going on, the fountain is turned off, and the park is dark and empty. Here, we’ve turned our backs to the lights and noise of downtown. Instead of techno music pouring from the open doors of a night club, we can hear the trees whispering to each other in the wind and the distant rustle of water. A gray fog creeps inland, reaching for us with ghostly fingers. My sorority sisters and I stand in a huddle, looking around the park like lost children searching for their mother.

“I wish we had an adult with us,” Gwen says.

“We are adults,” Sam says.

Gwen glares at her. “A real adult.”

I wish we had a “real” adult with us, too—someone to hold my hand and tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do. But it’s just us, and my friends have turned to me for guidance. Genie’s spirit is imprisoned in the Underworld. There’s no time to waste.

“I don’t see any gateways,” Julia says, peering up and down the park.

“Yeah. Where’s the ‘Underworld: Straight Ahead’ sign?” Sam wonders.

“There’s nothing here. Genie was wrong.” Shivering, Julia crosses her arms over her chest. “Let’s just go home. It’s freezing out here.”

Maybe you should have worn a jacket.”

Julia’s blue eyes plead with Sam to give her a break. “I didn’t think it would be this cold!”

“It’s the middle of October! In Shadesburg. It’s gonna get cold.”

“The fountain,” I say, cutting off whatever weak comeback Julia was about to throw at Sam. “The fountain is here.” I start walking toward it, the others following cautiously behind me.

“The fountain isn’t a gate,” Gwen points out.

“The term is figurative. Probably.”

When we reach it, Gwen looks the fountain up and down, her forehead pinched. “I never realized how creepy this thing is.” A few of the others nod in agreement.


“It’s just because it’s nighttime,” I say, although a chill escapes down my spine as I gaze up at the fountain. I walk a slow circle around the base, running a hand along the cold, grayish white stone. A sculpture of a bearded man rowing a small boat rises up through the center of it. His creator had a keen eye for detail, from the folds in the old man’s cloak to the tiny creases across his forehead and around his eyes. The fingers of one hand are wrapped around the handle of a long paddle; the other hand is outstretched, beckoning us inside his boat. As I pass around the back of the structure, I lose sight of his solemn face, but I can still feel his eyes on me, watching me. I pause to read the inscription carved into the base: The Ferryman. D.H. 1953.

“What’s D.H.?” Julia wonders, looking at the inscription over my shoulder.

“The sculptor’s initials, I guess,” I say as I finish my perusal of the fountain.

“Whoever D.H. was,” Sam says, “he or she must have consulted some pretty authentic primary sources to make this.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if it does open a gateway or whatever to the Underworld, he must have had some sort of contact with the Olympians in order to make it. I mean, it’s super convenient that there’s an access point to another dimension just sitting in the middle of Point Park.”

“That’s an interesting theory—and you’re probably right—but we have enough mysteries to solve right now.” Sighing, I give the statue another once-over. “This must be what Genie was talking about—there’s nothing else here—but I have no idea what we’re supposed to do next.”

“We’re supposed to pay the blood toll,” Sam reminds me.

“I know that.

“His hand.” Sam places her hand in the sculpture’s outstretched palm. “I think you’re supposed to sprinkle the blood over his hand. It makes perfect sense,” she continues when I just stare at her, eyebrows raised. “He’s supposed to be Charon, the ferryman who carried the souls of the dead across the river Styx into the Underworld. What?” Sam says, noticing all of our perplexed gazes. “I’ve been brushing up on my Greek mythology. For obvious reasons.”

“Well, it’s worth a try,” I say, taking out the knife, wrapped in a hand towel from the kitchen, that I brought for the ritual. I remove the towel and toss it to Gwen, who folds it up and jams it inside her coat pocket. Then, I position my wrist directly above the stone hand, holding the knife against the pale skin of my wrist. “Stand back,” I tell the others.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Sam asks me quietly.

I nod. Biting my lower lip, I swiftly draw the blade across my wrist, wincing as the skin breaks. “With this blood, we open the gates,” I recite. My stomach does somersaults as I watch the blood bubble out of the cut. Holding the wound closer to the sculpture’s palm, I tip my hand, letting it drain freely. My sisters join me for the rest of the chant: “With this blood, we pay Charon’s price. Let those who are lost, be found. Let those who have fallen, rise.” Soon, the small fissures in the stone run red, my blood pooling in the center of his hand. We repeat the words two more times, just like Genie instructed.

After the ritual is complete, we become silent, watching the sculpture expectantly. Feeling lightheaded, I retract my wrist, rubbing it with my other hand. The cut is already starting to heal over, the skin reforming as though it was never broken at all—one of the perks of being a halfling. Beside me, Sam’s shoulders fall, and she sighs in defeat. “I guess I was wrong. Nothing’s happening. Let’s just g—”

Suddenly, the stone of the hand begins to glow—at first a dull orange, in seconds turning bright red, as though it’s been dipped inside a raging fire. Sam and I throw out our arms, herding Gwen, Julia and the others back. A blinding light issues from the fountain, and I squeeze my eyes shut against it, shielding my face with my hands. The air around us shudders, bracing itself for whatever comes next—which turns out to be a sharp hiss, followed by a muffled explosion that almost knocks us to the ground. Only when everything goes still again do I dare open my eyes.

In front of us, a shimmering portal has appeared, blocking the ferryman and his boat, the edges of it curling outward like bits of silver flame. I only have a moment to digest what I’m seeing when something pale and amorphous comes shooting out of it, breezing over us before I can discern what it is. A beat later, the portal folds in on itself, crumpling until it’s nothing more than a small, silver dot, before disappearing completely.

Revenge: Part Six

Click here to read previous chapters.

VI. Gateway to Hell

Sam picks up the rogue planchette and hurls it against the wall. It breaks upon impact, clattering to the floor in two jagged pieces. She grabs the Ouija board and tries to break it in half along the seam.

“Hey! Stop it!” Gwen cries, reaching for it. “That belongs to the house!”

“We’re done with this,” Sam says, managing to start a rip through the center of the old board. “This is dangerous. We’re messing with things we shouldn’t be.”

“Don’t fight,” a sobbing voice interjects, making us all freeze. “Please stop fighting.”

Sam drops the board, and we all look up.

“Genie,” Sam whispers. “It’s true. It is you.”

Genie hovers outside of our circle, above the space between the beds. She’s wearing jeans and an Alpha Rho t-shirt, dark hair falling around her face like silk. Her eyes seem to sparkle in the candlelight. Although she’s still transparent, this isn’t the horrific, bloody apparition from last night. This is the Genie I remember.

“It’s me,” Genie says. She glances over her shoulder, eyes fearful. “But I can’t stay long,” she adds, turning back to us. “She knows I’ve been trying to get in touch with you. She’ll try and stop me.”

“Who is she?” I ask quietly, the hairs on my arms pricking.

Genie gives me a sad smile. “Becky, I’m so sorry about earlier today—if I scared you. I was just trying to get help. The residue of my death still clings to me—a nightmare I will never escape.”

I shiver as I recall the sound of running water, the sensation of drowning. “It’s okay,” I tell her. “I know you didn’t mean to.”

“How can we help you, Genie?” Gwen asks, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. “Tell us what you need us to do.”

“Free me,” Genie says, sitting down and crossing her legs without quite touching the floor. “I’m trapped in another dimension. The Underworld.

“You see, when I died, I hadn’t completely finished my transition—hadn’t awakened all of my Olympian abilities. If I had, something as simple as drowning wouldn’t have actually killed me.” She gives a strange, airy laugh. “I also wouldn’t have had a soul.”

“But you do,” I realize, hope springing up inside of me. “That means you can come back. As someone else…but still. You can come back!”

Around me, the faces of my sorority sisters light up, but our excitement is quickly extinguished when Genie shakes her head. “I only had part of a soul left. Not enough to be reborn. I am doomed to wander the Underworld forever—unless you can free me. But you have to be quick, and you have to be careful. She doesn’t want to me to leave. They’ve never seen one like me before—a fragment of a soul. She wants to study me.”

“Who is she?” Sam says in frustration.

“Tell us what to do,” I say almost at the same time.

“You have to find a gateway,” Genie says. Her next words falter on her lips. Stiffening, she looks back again. “Oh, God, she’s coming back. I can feel her. She’s close.”

“Then tell us quickly!” says Gwen.

“How are we supposed to find a gateway?” Julia wonders.

Genie turns backs to us. “There’s one at Point Park. But it requires a toll. Blood,” she says before any of us can ask. “Halfling blood. You don’t need a lot—a small cut should spill enough. And say these words: ‘With this blood, we open the gates. With this blood, we pay Charon’s price. Let those who are lost, be found. Let those who have fallen, rise.’ Say it three times.

“I have to go.” Genie’s voice is panicked. “Remember the words.”

“We will,” I assure her as I run through them again in my mind. Getting up, I grab a notebook and pen from my desk, scribbling down the chant and Genie’s instructions.

“And don’t forget me,” she says.

“Wait, Genie,” I say as I finish writing down the ritual, “where is it in Point Park, exactly?”

When there’s no reply, I look over, but Genie’s spirit is gone.

Revenge: Part Five

Click here to read previous chapters.


I tried ambrosia for the first time at a club called Infinity. Genie, Sam and I were the only girls there that night, surrounded on the dance floor by good-looking, mostly shirtless men, who were more interested in each other than in any of us. Not that I minded. We were there to celebrate Sam’s birthday and just wanted to dance and have a good time. At one point, we decided we needed a break and sat at the bar to catch our breath and cool down with grown-up refreshments. Genie pulled an amber-colored bottle with an eyedropper cap out of her purse, waving it playfully in front of us.

“You guys should try some of this,” she said, unscrewing the cap.

Sam narrowed her eyes at it. “What is it?”

Genie smirked. “The nectar of the gods. Literally.”

“Not this supernatural stuff again,” I groaned.

“What supernatural stuff?” asked Sam.

Genie told Sam about her mysterious, sexy new friend, the book with our letters on it, and her new abilities. I jumped in here and there to confirm that I had seen the book and Genie’s brief transformation. Even though I corroborated parts of Genie’s story, Sam still looked skeptical.

“A few drops of this”—Genie held up the bottle again—“and you’ll be able to change like I can. It will make you stronger, too. More resilient—more beautiful. You’ll live forever.”

“Sounds too good to be true,” Sam said. “Probably because it is.

“We’ll only be able to change if we’re like you,” I pointed out to Genie. “If we’re part Olympian. What happens if we aren’t?”

Genie shrugged. “Nothing. It’s harmless. I swear!”

“Okay,” Sam said, taking the bottle from her. “I’m in.”

“What are you doing?” I asked, watching as Sam removed the loose cap and carefully squeezed two drops into her drink.

“Proving that this is a bunch of bullshit.” Sam sloshed the gin and ice cubes around in the glass before taking a deep gulp. Swallowing, she tilted her head to one side, running her tongue along her lower lip. “It’s sweet. Looks like your friend gave you a bottle of sugar water.”

“It’s not sugar water,” Genie insisted. Her face had grown serious, mouth twitching in annoyance. “It’s called ambrosia.”

“I’ll try it, too,” I said, feeling braver since Sam had gone first. Holding out my glass to her, I let Sam ease two drops of the “ambrosia” into my drink. I mixed it up and sipped it. I couldn’t taste much of a difference—then again, my cocktail was already full of sugar. I paused for a moment, letting the drink work its way through my system. Besides the buzz from the alcohol, I didn’t feel any different, so I took another drink, then another—and another.

Genie sat back in her chair, looking pleased. “It’ll work. You’ll see.”

She was right. As it turned out, Sam and I also had Olympian blood.


Sam pauses in the doorway to my bedroom, frowning at the sight of the candles Gwen and I have set up all over the room. “I thought we were trying to help Genie’s ghost, not seduce it,” she says.

“It’s a séance,” Gwen reminds her. “We need candles.”

“Gwen is our resident séance expert,” I tell Sam as I hold a lighter to the last candle, waiting for the slender, white wick to ignite.

The other members of our executive board appear behind Sam, and she steps to the side to let them through. “What are your qualifications?” she asks Gwen dryly.

“Countless middle school slumber parties,” Gwen says, making a face.

“You guys are acting like you’re in middle school.”

“You know, if you aren’t going to take this seriously, just leave,” I snap. “If Genie’s ghost is out there somewhere, you’ll probably scare her away.”

Sam’s mouth falls open, and she stares at me for a few seconds without saying anything. She works her jaw, then, finding her voice, says, “Fine. I will.” Turning, she goes back out into the hall, slamming the door shut behind her.

“Sam—wait. I’m sorry!” I shout. “I’ll be right back,” I tell the others on my way out of the room.

Sam hasn’t made it very far, one foot paused at the top of the stairs. Her back is to me, head bowed.

“I’m sorry,” I repeat, going over to her. “I didn’t mean that. Come back inside. You might not believe any of this, but we still want you there. We need you.”

Taking her hand off the bannister, Sam turns to face me. I’m surprised to find that her cheeks are moist, and more tears are streaming from her eyes. The only other time I’ve seen Sam cry was at Genie’s funeral.

“I guess I just thought that…I mean, you were being kind of mean, sarcastic…I thought you didn’t care,” I admit.

“I know I was being a jerk,” Sam says, sniffling. “And I’m sorry. But it’s because I do care. A lot. I really miss Genie. I’m sad, and I’m scared.”

I run up to Sam, gathering her into a tight hug. “I miss her, too. And I’m scared. But we’ll never know if we don’t try.”

Sam pulls out of the hug, nodding reluctantly. “I want it to be true. I want us to be able to see her—to talk to her one last time. But I’m afraid that we won’t. And I’m afraid that, if we do—and if she really does need us—we won’t be able to do anything about it. We won’t be able to help her.”

“We have to try,” I repeat, my voice hoarse. Pursing her lips, Sam nods again, and we go back into the room.

I dim the lights, and then Sam and I join the others sitting in a circle on the floor, the Ouija board set up in the center. The candle flames flicker in the partial darkness, casting eerie, wavering shadows along the walls.

“Everyone place a hand on the planchette,” Gwen instructs us.

“The what?” Julia asks. She’s sitting next to me, looking around the room in panic.

“The little wooden thingy,” Gwen says, pointing to the small, heart-shaped piece of wood resting on the board. Each of us places a finger or two on it, except for Julia, who keeps her hands folded firmly in her lap.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this,” she says. “Maybe—”

“If anyone isn’t comfortable with this,” I interrupted her quietly, “you can leave. We’re not forcing you to do this, and we’ll understand.”

No one makes a move to go. Eventually, Julia unclasps her hands and lightly touches the planchette with the tip of a finger.

“To any spirits that might be with us tonight,” Gwen says, voice trembling slightly, “we come in peace—”

“They’re ghosts, not aliens,” Sam whispers loudly.

“Shut up and let me do this.” Clearing her throat, Gwen continues, more confidently this time: “We seek communion with the spirit world tonight—not to intrude or tamper, but simply to communicate with one we have lost. Genie, if you are with us tonight, give us a sign.”

The minutes tick by in silence, and I watch Sam’s face fall. Our hands fidget on the planchette, growing restless.

“Genie,” Gwen tries again, “if you are with us tonight—if you can hear me—give us a sign.”

Underneath my fingers, I feel the flat piece of wood twitch, and I give a start.

“Did you feel that?” Julia leans forward and gapes at the board, her wavy, auburn hair spilling in front of her face.

“It’s moving,” Gwen says in astonishment. We scramble to hold onto it as the planchette slides across the board, coming to a stop on the letter H. I hold my breath as I watch it move from letter to letter.

“H,” Gwen spells out loud. “E. L. L. O. Hello. Hi!” she answers, a grin spreading on her face. “Is this Genie?” Our hands are guided to the upper left-hand corner of the board.


“Okay, who’s moving it?” Sam asks.

“None of us are,” Gwen insists. “Genie, how are you? Are you okay?”

“Slow down,” I advise her, but the planchette is on the move again. This time, we say each letter in unison as the word is spelled out:


“You’re…you’re cold,” Gwen says, her excitement faltering. “Where are you? H…” Our eyes follow the pointer as it passes over a familiar set of letters. “E…L…L…” This time, it stops moving on the second L.


Sam retracts her fingers, clutching her hands to her chest. “This isn’t funny anymore. Whoever’s moving it—stop.”

“I’m not moving it,” Julia says, also taking her hand off the planchette. “I swear.”

“It’s not me, either,” I say, my voice barely above a whisper.

“Wait. Everybody take their hands off,” Gwen says. The rest of us let go. “Are you still with us, Genie?” We collectively gasp as the pointer zips to the top of the board.


“I don’t want to play this anymore,” Sam says, sounding close to tears. I consider reaching out and closing the Ouija board, but fear and curiosity keep me frozen in place. Eyes wide, lips parted, we watch the planchette continue to navigate the board on its own, spelling out a final plea:


Revenge: Parts Three and Four

Read Parts One and Two here.

III. No Such Things

I’ll never forget the eager spark in Genie’s eyes when she first showed me the book.

“I met this guy at a bar the other day. He gave me this,” she told me as she dropped the book on my desk. I twisted in my chair to look at it.

“An old book?” I said, running my fingers over the worn, leather cover. “Usually they just buy you a drink.”

“It’s not like that,” she insisted. “Although he is gorgeous—probably the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. Tall, built. Dark hair. Blue eyes. Anyway”—she shakes herself, regaining focus—“he’s…different.”

“You can just say ‘gay,’ Genie.”

She rolled her eyes. “He’s not gay. He’s not human.”

I pulled my hand away from the book, feeling suddenly cold. “What are you talking about?”

“He’s from another world! And he said that I was, too. Well, not literally, but that I was a descendant. Some humans are. A long time ago, their species mixed with ours.”

“Whoa,” I remember saying, holding out my hand to stop her. Genie paused to catch her breath. “Slow down. This sounds crazy. I think this guy—whoever he is—is playing games with you.”

But Genie just shook her head. “He’s from a world called Olympus. They’re gods, Becky,” Genie said, taking my hands in hers. “They live forever, and they have special powers. I have special powers! You might have them, too!”

I bit my lower lip, hard, tasting blood. “I don’t think so.”

“It’s all in here,” she insisted, dropping my hands. She pointed to the book. “Look at the inscription.”

Looking again, I noticed the small, gold Greek capital letters set into the cover: ΑΡ. Alpha Rho.

“I don’t care what he says or what’s in this book,” I told her. “I know I don’t have any special powers. And neither do you.”

Genie’s small, pink mouth curved into a mischievous smile. “That’s where you’re wrong.” Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. A moment later, the skin on her neck and arms erupted with silver scales. I felt my lunch come back up, leaving a sour taste in the back of my throat.

“What…how did you…” I peered closely at her neck, at the flaps of scaly skin that flared out every few seconds. “You have gills. And scales.”

“Told you so,” Genie said, sticking out her tongue. “I have a fin, too, when I transform all the way. It’s so cool!”


Now, I sit in the living room on my makeshift bed, the same book cradled in my lap as I turn page after yellowed page. Looking for something that might tell me how or why I might have seen—or thought I saw—Genie’s ghost. The thin pages are covered in tiny, unfamiliar symbols—not Greek nor any other language ever spoken or written on Earth. An alien language. Someone has gone through and written translations of some of the passages in the margins, or on extra pieces of paper stuck in between the pages. Still, there’s nothing that explains what I saw in my bedroom last night.

“There are no such things as ghosts.” Sam’s assertion was correct, in a way. According to Genie’s book, when humans die, their souls get recycled and reborn into another body, although they have no memory of their past lives. When an Olympian or a halfling, like Genie—like me—dies, she disappears for good. There’s nothing left behind—no soul to get recycled. I close the tome, a familiar hollowness expanding in my chest. Genie is as gone as it’s possible to be.

A chill sweeps over me, raising the hairs on my arms. My ears prick at the gentle, steady rush of water sounding from the kitchen. I’m alone downstairs, and no one has left or come back to the sorority house since I’ve been sitting here. Setting the book down, I get up and creep toward the kitchen, my heart giving a thump of warning in my chest with every step I take. Reaching the doorway, I brace myself against the wall, shutting my eyes against a sudden wave of dizziness. The hiss of water from the faucet has become a roar pounding against my ears, crashing over me from all sides. I taste iron on my tongue and feel a dampness on my skin, my nasal cavity burning like I’ve just inhaled water. I get the sensation of falling—of drowning in a tumultuous sea, unable to fight against the violent current pulling me downwards…

Just as quickly as they started, the onslaught of sensations dissipate. I open my eyes, looking immediately to the sink.

The faucet is turned off.

Disoriented and confused, I turn around to head back to the couch, needing to rest for a bit and collect myself. I’ve barely taken one step when my eyes go to the opposite wall, unable at first to process the wet, scarlet red letters scrawled across the pale blue wallpaper: