When Bill regained consciousness there was nothing but heavy darkness around him. This was disappointing. He was certainly dead from some complication and he’d hoped for… something. Pearly gates or a Buddhist temple, he’d been pretty open spiritually. Instead eternity was heavy blackness.
A sound reached him from nearby. Eternity was heavy blackness and the sound of someone being horribly I’ll nearby.
“You have to open your eyes again Mr. Esler.” Heather said from somewhere in the direction of vomitting. She did not sound pleased as the vomiting resumed, “Deep breaths, Julie, your stomach won’t settle if you keep going.”
Bill could hear a few gasping breaths as he tried to remember how to open his eyes. He finally managed it and yelped as bright light burned his eyes, “Why is the sun in my room?”
“You haven’t used those eyes in days, give them a moment to adjust.”
“It worked, it burns but it worked! And I remember!”
“After the stunt you pulled you’re lucky I didn’t put you in a roach. Get up Julie, we need to clear way before his systems kick in.”
Bill looked over at them despite the pain. Julie was slumped over the toilet in his bathroom with Heather hovering over her. The teen struggled to her feet and sat in the chair at his desk.
“What happened to her? Is that my fault? I just wanted to-” Bill stopped and took a deep breath. He’d forgotten about breathing.
“I bet the secretary played all coy and told you that little word didn’t she?” Heather actually sounded angry for once, “Well you got what wanted, Mr. Esler. I hope you’re satisfied.”
“What’d I do though? I just didn’t want to forget.”
“Yes and it’s awfully hard to forget about magic when you’re a witches familiar! There’s a reason we don’t want everyone knowing about this stuff!”
“I don’t care about the magic I just wanted to remember you two and one of the nicest times I’ve had in years!” Something in his stomach rumbled as what she’d said fully sunk in, “Familiar?” He rolled off the bed and practically dove into the bathroom before she could respond, as his insides started their revolt.
Fifteen agonizing minutes went past before he felt well enough to speak through the closed door, “Still there?” Part of him hoped not.
“Perhaps I misjudged your intentions, Mr. Esler, but we still have a problem to sort out. I’m going to take Julie home so she can rest. I suggest you do the same and we will contact you tomorrow.”
He heard the door open and both of them leave, shutting the door behind them. The angry old lady down the hall shouted about the noise as he got out of the bathroom and locked the door.
Laying in bed felt strange. Everything felt strange. He reached for the remote and took several seconds to remember how to push buttons. The news was on. He changed it to an old western and drifted off to sleep during the big shoot-out.
The first dreams he’d had since the start of this mess were nightmares off course. Heather’s angry, disappointed looking eyes loomed over a cockroach version of him scurrying amongst the scattered mail on the flood. Halfway through he was turning into a black cat when the phone rang and he jolted upright. His stomach churned and he burped before answering the phone.
“Mr. Esler, are you decent?” It sounded like Heather.
“I try to be?” His brain was still trying to turn over the odd question as there was an awkward pause on the other end of the line.
“Are you dressed? I’m coming to get you.”
“What’d I do now?” He looked down to see he wasn’t wearing a proper shirt but was otherwise dressed.
“What? No, I’m coming to pick you up. We need to address the elephant in the room and I don’t want Julie doing more traveling than needed.”
“There’s an elephant now?” It occurred to Bill that he was having a lot of trouble understanding this conversation now.
“Just…” Heather sighed audibly over the line and shouted something he couldn’t make out to someone else, “I’ll be there shortly to pick you up, meet me outside.”
“Oh, okay.” She had already hung up and Bill set the phone down again. He found a shirt, put it on inside out, and managed to fix that in only a couple minutes. Keys in hand he left his apartment, wobbling slightly as he locked the door, and made his way downstairs and outside. Everything still felt abnormally heavy, and the painful gravel near the edge of the road made him realize he hadn’t put shoes on. He debated going back up but Heather pulled up before he could make up his mind and gestured for him to get in. He struggled with the car door and finally climbed in, fumbling with the seat belt as well.
Heather had driven them halfway to her home by the time he buckled himself in, and waited for him to unbuckle before getting out. He followed her inside and stood staring at the chair.
“Oh sit down already.” Heather gave him a gentle push towards the chair and went to the stairs, “Julie, get down here. I’ve brought Mr. Esler.”
Julie looked exhausted as she made her way downstairs, leaning against the wall for support, “Hey Billy boy.” She sat down in a chair Heather pulled from the table for her.
“Hey.” Bill gave her a weak wave.
“Alright I’m just going to start explaining things because you two are slower than molasses right now.” Heather pulled up a chair for herself and sat across from them, “The ritual we did yesterday was to bind you to your body again, Mr. Esler. Fortunately when you added a word it didn’t change that part of it. Unfortunately it added a caveat.” She continued before Bill could ask his question, “You got rebound to your body again, but it also made you an unbound familiar.”
“I’ll explain that later. An unbound familiar is a dangerous thing for reasons I’ll get into later…” She held up her hand as Bill started another question, “So I had to bind you to someone. The only magic users available were me and Julie. I can’t take on a familiar so I had to bind you to Julie. That terribly sluggishness you’re feeling right now is you sharing Julie’s binding sickness. The fact that she’s sharing some of your discomfort from the rebinding isn’t helping.” Heather stopped for a moment and Julie raised her hand.
“So… he’s my familiar?” Julie asked, sniffling a little.
Heather sighed, and pressed her fingers against her forehead, “Yes.”
“Sweet.” Julie gave Bill a weary thumbs up. Bill raised his hand next.
“Yes, Mr. Esler?”
“Am I going to turn into a cat? Cause I thought familiars were supposed to be cats or something.”
Julie burst out laughing, nearly falling off her chair. Heather’s face twisted into a variety of expressions before she settled on tired.
“Short of it, Mr. Esler. You’re stuck magically linked to Julie until I figure out how to get you unbound. You are going to feel horrible for a few days until the binding settles basically. Don’t trust anyone from the company, they’re nothing but trouble.”
“Can he do magic now?” Julie had finally stopped laughing long enough to ask another question.
“We won’t know until the binding settles, so don’t try anything.” She gave them both a sharp look.
“Do I have to live here? Cause I’d like to sleep in my own bed…” Bill asked finally.
“No. I’ll take you home again in a moment. I just wanted you both here so I only have to explain this once. Once Julie is feeling better we’ll be in touch again. In the meantime I need to do some research. Any other questions?”
“Can we have pizza?” Julie asked, rubbing her eyes. Bill’s stomach growled as he remembered the empty fridge back home. Heather looked back and forth between them and sighed.
“Yeah… ok. Would you like to join us for pizza Mr. Esler? I can take you home afterwards.” She knew the answer from the look on his face and got up to grab the phone before he could respond.
“Breadsticks?” Julie called after her.
“Just this once.” Heather dialed and Julie gave Bill another thumbs up, her eyes half shut.
TO BE CONTINUED…