Karolina Dalca, Dark Eyes by M. R. Noble



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Earth magic was a parboiled study of mine, but I was able to use my magic to spell the police sergeant into writing me up instead of firing me. They didn’t know what caused the fire, only that it originated from my hands. I blundered through their memories with my magic. Hopefully, they weren’t going home to their wives forgetting an anniversary or birthday. For the moment, I was safe and so was my internship. Which meant my measly income for university residence was secure.

I rolled my shoulders against the car seat, trying to release the tension from the day. I cranked the dial up on the radio and let the song “Ibiza” massage my sore spirit. Afternoon mist floated above the pine hills like steam and disappeared behind the curve of the road.

Movement caught my gaze. The trees jolted back and forth on a hill. Something big was out there. My tires kicked up rocks. I swerved, just missing a speed sign.

Pay attention, Karolina. Grandpa Dalca’s words chimed into my head. I remembered his thick accent: Does the dog wag the tail, or does the tail wag the dog?

Taming my vampiric nature took years. My family picked up animal remains from the butcher and, if I rationed well, I kept my blood lust at bay. When I toted a padlocked deepfreeze to my dorm, I told my roommate I only ate game meat because it was ethically harvested. The backlash was she committed to the cause—not only did she want to use my freezer—posters started showing up in hallways. It was better than ripping her hipster neck out at night. Nothing was a substitute for blood from the source, and the night is catnip to Vampires. My shameful preference for bunnies was the only way I weathered through most nights. It was the cost of abstaining from human blood.

I arrived at the main road. Just a little longer and I’d be at home with my mother.

The question was what would coax her into finishing our previous conversation?

I turned into the parking lot of Mama’s favorite sweet shop and checked my makeup. My eyes looked like two melted blackbirds in a nest of hair. I hit the showers after my shift, but I only had time for a quick body rinse. There was no denying the day I had.

I got out anyway. I walked into the store and a tingling draped my shoulders. The familiar feel of magic. The doorframe had orphic markings carved into the top—an ancient custom of the Charmed people. Our house was full of them too; it was how we identified our own.

The store clerk was behind the counter.

I waved, and then took a moment to review the trinkets for sale. Some carved plaques hung from twine between packaged incense and a taxidermy albino falcon. The falcon’s eye shone like liquid still flowed within its body. The first plaque read Charmed with earth, know your worth, for no one can go forth.

The Earth Charm was the most common inherited magic, but one could invoke it too. Those Wicca parties advertised at your local occult shop were no joke. The Water Charm was used by spiritual humans, like priests and shaman. The Air Charm was hard-won if one wasn’t born with it, and Fire even more so.

I flipped to the next plaque. This one read Beware of shadow that consumes, your soul it dooms, unless the light you love exhumes. I shivered at the memory of Mama’s terrifying fables. Just like the elements, there are also the Light and Dark Charm. Sparking the Dark Charm takes an intense act of malice, and I would have to want its power. The more extreme version is Shadow Forging. I didn’t want to think of the acts I’d have to commit to Forge. The change would shred my soul and rip apart my body…

The Light Charm is much more pleasant. Whenever I read a story in the newspaper about a miracle, Mama said it was the magic of a person with the Light Charm.

I paid for a box of candies and wished the shopkeeper a good day.

I turned the corner just outside the door and faced Roman Lupei. Our families emigrated from Romania to Canada at the same time—naturally they converted into extended family—and our parents dreamed one day our relationship would be more.

Now, he tried to make their dreams a reality. When we were a couple of lanky teens, I would’ve laughed. But after high school graduation, he’d learned his father’s trade and became a carpenter. The family business was his now—and so was the body of an Olympian.

“Hey, super chick,” he said.

“You wanna be the bad guy?” I asked, my voice flat.

He fiddled with his keychain, a creepy piece of bone set into a bronze disk. I hated it. He pocketed his keys, putting the old trinket out of sight.

“Some guy was asking around for you today,” he said. “Saw him at the coffee shop when I was there.” His dark hair reflected the now setting sun, giving it an auburn hue. A golden glow faded from his eyes, and I knew the tip of the sun had just set behind me.