The Elect 16, part 4 of 4: Succubus

Monday morning, Latasha, Keisha and Janet walked to school in the dark.  There was a cold March wind and some icy spots where they still had to walk carefully.  The stars were hidden behind the clouds.  It was either going to snow or rain, Latasha could not tell.  Maybe it would sleet and make that impossibly cold slushy stuff that was the real harbinger of spring.

“I’m cold,” Janet’s words started the conversation even as her foot broke the ice.

“I’m tired,” Keisha had only one thing on her mind.ac lat and friends

“I’m cold and tired, but we have to do this.”  Latasha had convinced herself that another ride with Ms Johnson might seriously injure some of the students.

“Maybe we should wait and see what Ms Riley comes up with,” Janet suggested.

“We can’t wait.  Your friend, Jason won’t survive another ride.”

“He’s not my friend.  He just lives next door,” Janet protested.  She was not fooling anyone.  She had feelings for the boy.

“What do you mean, won’t survive?”  Keisha was beginning to wake up a little.  “You mean like die?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Latasha carefully examined what she was feeling.  “It’s possible.”

There was silence for a minute before Janet spoke again.

“So why are we going to face a killer?”  Janet asked the question, but by then they were at the schoolyard and coming up on the bus parking lot.

ac j school bus 1There was only one gate for the drivers because they did not want just anyone around the school busses, but then there was no one guarding the gate so it would hardly keep anyone out.  A few of the busses were already running to warm them up.  They did have to be sneaky, but finding their bus was not hard, and since it was not yet running, they assumed Ms Johnson was not there yet.  The girls went behind the bus and waited, being careful to stay hidden.

Now that they were not moving, the cold became more apparent.  Janet could not help hugging herself and stamping her feet.  Keisha, who was watching intently, kept telling her to be quiet, but it did no good.  Latasha paced a little between the bus and the fence.  She was still trying to figure out a way to stop Ms Johnson from driving.  Naturally, Ms Johnson walked up behind them.

“Are you waiting for me?”  Ms Johnson said with a grin.  Only Janet shrieked, and it was softly.

“Yes,” Latasha spoke up after she stopped staring.  “We wanted to ask you not to drive the bus today.”

“That was your great plan?”  Keisha balked.

“But why, Latasha, dear?  I find driving the bus so fulfilling”

Janet butted in.  “You mean filling.”ac j john 1

“That, too,” Ms Johnson said and she placed her hand up to Janet’s cheek.  Janet’s eyes went wide and she stumbled.  “And you Keisha, dear.”  Keisha did not move.  She was already squatting, holding to the edge of the bus.

Latasha stepped up and shoved Ms Johnson away from her friends.  “This is not funny,” Latasha said.  Ms Johnsons was ruffled, but only for a second.  “Keisha, get Janet out of here.”

“I can’t move,” Keisha said before Ms Johnson spoke again.

“You are a strong one, a very strong one.  I am going to enjoy you.”  Ms Johnson pulled herself together and surprised Latasha with a punch.  Latasha got hurt and shaken by the strength of that punch.  She stumbled to the fence.  The fence helped hold her upright, and it only took a second to recover, but when she turned, she saw Ms Johnson kneeling between her friends.  The woman’s hands were hovering over the girls and she was grinning, eyes closed, singing.  Janet and Keisha looked like they were being drained for good.

Latasha raced over and kicked out just as hard as she could.  Ms Johnson lifted off the ground and flew to the next bus where she crashed loudly into the side and with enough power to shake the whole bus.  Latasha felt sure she hurt the woman and felt glad about it, but her concern was for her friends.

Ms Johnson growled for Latasha’s attention and Latasha saw something come up into Ms Johnson’s face that could not be called human.  Latasha made her little fists for a fight, but Ms Johnson simply stretched her hands out and at once Latasha felt all the strength leave her.  She was on her knees before she could think of what to do.

ac boston archer“I will be fed,” Ms Johnson said in a voice that grated on Latasha’s ears.  “I will…” the woman stopped talking and Latasha saw why.  An arrow stuck out of the woman’s chest.  It had entered the woman’s back.  “Oh my,” Ms Johnson said in her normal, pleasant voice as she looked at the arrowhead and the blood that followed.  She seemed uncertain of what she was seeing.  “Oh my,” she said again as a second arrow arrived, and this one burst straight through the heart.  “But I…”  Ms Johnson fell to the ground and Latasha heard what sounded like Ms Riley’s voice.

“Latasha, get your friends out of there.”

Latasha recovered rapidly, but she had to grab her friends by the hands and drag them several feet away.  When she turned, she was not entirely sure what she saw.

Something ghost-like rose up from Ms Johnson’s body, though it was not entirely ghost-like because she could see it.  It appeared to have some substance and the look on what she took to be the face was angry, and evil.  But at once, there were several tremendous flashes of light all around that made Latasha blink.  She could not see well, but there was nothing wrong with her ears.

“Get it.”  “Don’t let it get away.”  “Look out Dweezel.”  “Get that tether around it.”

The thing moaned and let out a wail.

“That’s it.  Now get the other tether.”  “It’s bucking.”  “Hold it.  Hold on.”

As Latasha’s eyes cleared from the flashes of light, she saw what looked like men, at least little ac ghost capturemen. They appeared to have the ghost trapped in some way, and the light came again.  This time it was a big one, but this time Latasha squinted, prepared.  The little men walked into the light and took the ghost with them.  The last thing she heard was singing.  It sounded like the theme from Ghostbusters.

When they were gone, Latasha caught a glimpse of Ms Riley at the far end of the bus.  The sun by then was preparing to top the horizon so there was some light.  Ms Riley was kissing someone.  He looked like an alien from some space ship kind of show.  For that matter, Ms Riley had the same pointed ears, and she looked as skinny as Latasha.

Latasha glanced at her friends and saw they were moving, though neither had yet opened her eyes.  When she looked back, someone was standing between her and Ms Riley.  It was a woman, a white woman, tall and stately, and as beautiful as any cover girl.  And she was frowning.

“Wisdom says you should use whatever help is offered.  Only a child wants to do it all herself.  Sometimes you need to get all the help you can.”  Latasha did not argue.  She messed up and almost died, and worse, she almost got her friends killed.  “Sweetheart, if you want to be strong, you must first be strong up here.”  The woman bent down and touched Latasha on the temple.  Then she smiled, and it was such a warm and gentle smile, Latasha could not help returning the same.  When the woman stood, she said one more thing.  “Boston, you will have to drive the bus.”  Then she vanished, but there was no light.  The woman simply vanished, like a ghost herself.

Latasha was not sure what she saw, except she saw the skinny version of Ms Riley curtsey and say, “Yes, Lady,” while her skinny alien man bowed his head slightly.  The man touched his lips once Boston LF1more to Ms Riley’s lips and then turned to look at Latasha.  Ms Riley looked only at the man.  The man also smiled before he vanished, but he disappeared into another light and Latasha blinked.

“What happened?”  Keisha sat up slowly.

“Yeah,” Janet agreed, but she was not ready to sit up yet.

Latasha said nothing but looked up at Ms Riley who came close and looked utterly human again.  Latasha was sure it must have been some trick of the light.  When Ms Riley helped her up, they looked at the body of Ms Johnson.  She looked like she had been dead a long time, but she was recognizable, and the expression on her face was terror.  She was petrified, and with her dead, leathery skin, that was almost a literal description.

Ms Riley got the keys as several people finally ran up.

“What is going on over here?”  Principal Wearing was the one out front.  “Where is Jean Johnson?”

“Here,” Ms Riley said as Latasha pointed.  “I’ll be driving the bus this morning and the girls will be going with me to make sure I don’t miss any stops.”

“What happened?”  Principal Wearing stared.  Ms Johnson’s body was still barely recognizable, but beginning to crumble.  The two arrows were no longer present, having vanished with the last flash of light before the sun rose.  Only the hole in the woman’s chest remained, and the stain from what was now dry and crusty blood.

“No telling.  The police have been called,” Ms Riley said as she helped Janet and Latasha helped ac latasha 9Keisha get up into the bus.  Ms Riley started the bus, but left the door open, not sure if the principal or another might come up with some more questions.  As it turned out, Principal Wearing turned the gathered drivers to their own busses and walked off to the gate to await the police, and Latasha felt it was safe to ask.

“What happened?”  She sounded a bit like the principal.

Ms Riley looked at Janet and Keisha.  They were still recovering, and Janet might have been asleep.  All the same, she spoke softly.

“It was about twelve years ago certain spirits, ancient things and people were allowed to come to earth.  You might say they escaped their cages.  This was one, but I am telling you because there are still many out there.  It is only in the last couple of years that we have begun to try and find them and return them to where they belong.”

“I don’t understand,” Latasha admitted.  “What was that ghost-thing?”

Ms Riley shrugged.  “A succubus, incubus, school bus.  Some kind of bus.  My husband would know exactly.”

“Your husband?  The one with the ears?”

Ms Riley grinned and nodded.  “The one with the ears.  I told him I could not abandon you mid-semester.  I said I had to finish the school year.”  She turned in her seat to face Latasha.  “We were hunting that thing for a year, ever since we discovered the bodies last March in Philadelphia.  These things only feast once per year.  We knew it was close, but we did not know who or what it was possessing until it showed itself.”

Latasha turned her head a little to try to get another angle on her teacher.  She thought if the light was right, she might be able to see the points in her ears again.  “Are you human?”

ac shool busMs Riley laughed.  “I was born not too far from Boston.”  She paused.  “You don’t need to know when.”

“Boston Minnesota?”  Keisha was finally coming around.

Ms Riley frowned.  “Maybe we need to add some geography lessons in our science curriculum.  Oh look, it is our turn.”  She began to drive and did not answer any more questions for a time.  When she did, it was, “There are some things you don’t need to know about yet,” and that was it.

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Be sure to return Monday as the story of the Elect continues…

The Elect 16, part 3 of 4: Making Plans

Latasha stood by the stop sign and waited for the school bus. It was March but still plenty cold with the wind, and the snow had not gone away.  It was not exactly a smart move for Latasha to stand out in the dark and cold to wait for a bus after there was an attempt on her life.  But this did not occur to her until it was too late.  All she wanted to do was talk to her friends about what happened.  Of course, she had called them first.

Latasha was one of the last ones picked up in the morning and normally one of the first dropped off.  Fortunately, the wait was not too long, though she had to stomp her feet and flap her arms a few times.ac j john 2

When the bus door opened, Latasha paused.  Something was not right.  Jean Johnson from the guidance office was driving.  “Come on, Latasha,” the guidance counselor said.  “I got co-opted until they can find a permanent replacement.”

Latasha got on, but said nothing.  She took her seat without acknowledging her friends.  She never took her eyes off the driver until she felt a big yawn come on.  Then she looked around and realized no one was talking.  The other students all looked tired.  Granted, the morning bus was usually full of tired students, but several were actually asleep.  This was ridiculous.  Keisha and Janet were staring straight ahead, saying nothing and by all appearances, thinking nothing as well.

“Snap out of it,” Latasha said and she shook Keisha.

“Oh, hi,” Keisha said with a faint smile before she faded again.

When they arrived at the school, Ms Johnson got up, whistling.  “Come on, now.  We don’t want to be late,” she said and exited the bus.  Latasha stood at that point, and when she stood, most of the other students stood.  Some did not look too steady on their feet, and a few were too out of it to even stand, but Latasha could not worry about that just then.  She grabbed her friends by the hands and rushed them despite the complaints to Ms Riley’s room.  Ms Riley was not there.  There was a substitute.  Ms Riley had taken a long weekend and would not be back until Monday.

The afternoon was almost worse.  As the students climbed on the bus for the trip home, they immediately fell into a stupor.  It was a very quiet ride.  Latasha made Janet and Keisha get off at her early stop.  Ms Johnson just smiled like a happy person as they got off.  Keisha and Janet would both need several hours of a nap before they could travel the few blocks to their own houses.  ac lat house 3Latasha retained enough presence of mind to phone both of their houses.  She lied and said they were working on a school project for Ms Riley and would be home after a while.  Then she took a nap herself.  She was not immune to whatever it was.

Friday morning was worse again.  Latasha could see where some of the students were seriously suffering.  Friday afternoon, she convinced her friends to walk with her and skip the bus.  She only lived a half-dozen blocks away, after all.  They griped, but Latasha noticed they arrived at her house, yapping away about something trivial and having a good time despite the cold.  Of course, they remembered nothing about being so tired on the bus that morning.  They talked about it like it was just a normal morning.

Latasha was not sure why she never mentioned all this to Lisa.  At first, it was probably because she feared it might be her imagination.  She called it coincidence.  By the time Friday night came and she was waiting impatiently for Ms Riley to return, she still did not mention it, not even Ms Riley’s comment about Katie.  Latasha thought it was time for her to start taking some responsibility for her own situations.  She imagined that was the grown-up and mature thing to do.  She did not know that often the most grown-up and mature thing is to seek for as much input and help as one can get.

###

Latasha sat on her bed with Janet.  Keisha sat on the floor as they discussed the situation.  “We should wait and see what Ms Riley finds out,” Keisha said.

“Can we wait?”  Janet asked and Latasha shook her head.  Janet continued.  “I mean, now that you explained, I remember some, I think.  I still feel weak just thinking about it.”

“You feel weak because you haven’t had a cup cake in an hour,” Keisha countered.ac lat and friends

“You mean a brownie,” Latasha grinned.

“Cut it out,” Janet said and shifted her bulk on the bed, which set the whole bed to wiggling.  “Seriously.”

“Seriously we can’t wait,” Latasha interrupted and turned to Keisha.  “You didn’t see those kids.  Some of them looked really bad.  I’m afraid another ride and they might get sucked completely dry, and die.”

“Jason Tompkins and Kenny were not out on Jason’s driveway all weekend like usual,” Janet said.  “I heard Jason’s mom say he was home sick.”

“But it’s March Madness.”  Keisha was surprised.  “How could they not be out shootin’ hoops?”  Keisha thought about it.  “No loud music from Jonathan’s Honda toolin’ up and down the streets this weekend, either.”

“Home sick too?” Janet suggested.

“Not sick,” Latasha said.  “Drained.”  She looked at her friends.

ac lat house 5“I still say we should call the police,” Keisha said.  Latasha knew in the back of her mind she should call Lisa, but somehow she thought she was supposed to be strong, and learn to handle things herself, so she did not listen to that inner voice.

“And tell them what?”  Latasha argued in her mind as much as with Keisha.  “That the lady from the guidance office is sucking out everyone’s energy during cold and flu season?”

“She does have a point,” Janet supported Latasha.

Keisha made a face and whined.  “But I don’t want to have to get up that early.”

“Aha!”  Janet pounced.  “Truth will out!”

“It’s settled,” Latasha said.  “We walk to school tomorrow morning to get there by five before Ms Johnson picks up the bus and we find some way to prevent her from driving.”

“That might not be so easy,” Janet said as they heard Latasha’s mother call up the stairs.

“Latasha.  Girls.  Come down here a minute.”

They looked at each other and Latasha led the way.  James was standing next to Mama by the kitchen table.  He had a piece of paper in his hands.  Both of them were smiling and James blurted out, “It came.”

“What?”

“I got accepted.  I got my orders.  I’m going to be a marine.”ac lat james 1

Latasha ran up and hugged her brother while Janet said, “Congratulations,” and Keisha said, “Wow.”  Keisha looked a little shocked by the idea.

James extricated himself from his sister’s hug.  “That is if you don’t break my back before I get there.”

“Oh,” Latasha took a step back.

“I’m going to come home as brave as you and just as strong.”

Latasha shook her head.  “But much stronger than you are now.  I’m sure of it.”  She looked at her mama.

Mama just kept smiling.  “I will worry, but I am so proud of my son.”  She hugged him.  “I am proud of you both,” she reached out and included Latasha in her hug.  “Oh, come on.  You are like family.”  She included Janet and Keisha in the hug as well.

The Elect 16, part 2 of 4: Bus Bust

Latasha had to hold her friend Keisha to her feet and practically carry her to class.

“I feel so weak,” Keisha said.

“What Happened?”  Janet found them in the hallway between classes.

“Guidance office,” Latasha answered for her friend.ac j john 3

“Oh, you have the new counselor,” Janet said.  “Ms Johnson.  I saw her last week.”

“And?”  Latasha was curious.

Janet shrugged.  “Nothing.”  She stopped outside her history class door.  “I don’t remember,” she said and a most curious expression crossed her face.

Latasha heard, but she had to get Keisha to science class.  Somehow she imagined Keisha would not remember anything either.  It seemed to be going around.

Latasha helped Keisha into her seat and Ms Riley came right up with questions.  Ms Riley was a very slim young woman with short red hair and a regular smile.  Latasha liked her.  They all did.

“It’s that new guidance counselor,” Latasha said as Keisha put her head down on her desk for a nap.  “Everyone who sees her comes away totally without any energy.”

Boston 1“Drained,” Ms Riley said, and she looked up to stare for a minute at the back of the room.  “Latasha, come by Monday after school.  I hope to have some answers by then.  Now, you had better get to your own class if you don’t want to be late.  I’ll take care of Keisha.”

Latasha nodded.  She could not think of any better hands in the whole school in which to leave her friend.  She opened the door, but paused when Ms Riley spoke again.

“By the way, Katie Lockhart says hi, and it looks like she may have a boy.”  Latasha’s jaw fell, but Ms Riley shooed her off and started the class.  After school, Ms Riley was not to be found.

Keisha was better after school when the three friends boarded the bus, but she talked about going home and continuing her long nap.  Janet was on another subject altogether, having to do with certain basketball freaks that lived in the neighborhood.  Latasha stared out the bus window and still wondered about that guidance counselor when the bus went right past her stop.

“Hey!”  She shouted and ambled up to the front at the next stop.  “You missed my stop,” she complained to the driver.

Mister Santos apologized.  “I was worried about my wife at the welfare office,” he said.  “You sit down and relax and I will drop you on the way back to the school.  Okay?”

What could Latasha say?  She would be a little late getting home.ac j school bus 1

Janet helped Keisha stagger off at their stop, and Latasha sat alone and watched as everyone eventually got off until she was the last one on the bus.  They came to a red light and she looked out the window.  She saw a reflection in the window.  It was Mister Santos, and he was sneaking up behind her.  Latasha turned with her fists flying.

The gun in Mister Santos’ hand sent a bullet into the bus ceiling before Latasha could twist his wrist to make him let go of the weapon.  The gun slid under the seats while she shoved him back into a seat.  That only made him mad.  He was a big man and not inclined to take any guff.  He regularly intimidated the kids who rode his bus.

Latasha was not buying the message he portrayed in the scowl on his face.  Before he could extract himself from the bus bench, she kicked out with her long legs and struck his shins.  They both heard something go crack as the man fell back into the seat.

“I keel you!”  The man yelled at her and struggled to get up again.  Latasha pulled out her phone and hit the man this time with her fist in the jaw.  He smashed back into the seat for the third time and this time rather hard.  He did not go unconscious, but he was delirious for a bit.

“You already tried that,” Latasha said to the man as she dialed 9-1-1.  A police car was arriving even as the call went out.  The bus was blocking the intersection.  By the time a police officer climbed aboard, Latasha had located the gun.  She knew better than to get her fingerprints on it.

The officer saw it, nodded and made her sit while he pulled the bus to the side of the street.  His ac j millsapspartner was still directing traffic when officer Millsaps arrived.

“Don’t touch it!”  Millsaps yelled.  The fool officer was trying to reach under the seat to grab the gun.  Millsaps managed to pick it up with a pencil and held it while his partner fetched a clean, plastic bag.

“She attacked me,” Mister Santos said, but the officer took one look at the big bus driver and the girl who seemed all skin and bones and put the handcuffs on the bus driver.  Millsaps drove Latasha home and they found detectives Lisa and Ashish there when they arrived.

“I don’t understand.”  Latasha’s mother was deeply concerned.  “Who would want to hurt my baby?”

“More to the point.  Who would have access to get a school bus driver to hurt your baby?”  Ashish asked.

“Are you prepared to testify against this bus driver?”  Lisa paced.

“Again?”  Latasha was already going to have to testify against Carlos and his thugs.  She was going to have to be a witness in Darren’s case.  At least she could honestly say she did not see him rob that store.

“If you are interested in police work, you better get used to it,” Lisa saidac lisa 7.

“That and spending hours at a desk doing paperwork,” Ashish added.

“Um,” Latasha looked up.  “Maybe the marines?”

“No way.”  Her mother shook her head.

“Paperwork,” Lisa smiled and stopped pacing long enough to face her.  “Why do you think I pace?  I log a couple of miles a day.  It helps keep off the natural spread from sitting at a desk for so many hours.”  She patted her hips, like she was trying to make them smaller.  Latasha’s mother laughed.  Latasha was not sure it was funny.