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twist the bones and bend the back

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"I honestly don't know if I even wanna stay and study at the college in Salem next year. I think, I’d rather visit Scotland for a while."

Binx looks over his shoulder at her, a little cynical. "Scotland?"

She shrugs against her pillows. "Or Wales. Ireland? I want to see the Old World. Where it started."

"And are ye about to travel the Old World all alone, then? Why do that to your family?"

"There’s nothing wrong with me and my family. That’s sorta the point of leaving the nest, isn’t it? And Scotland is really just only one plane ticket away. Or maybe, I’ll just fly by broomstick instead? That form of transportation would be totally free of charge. Cuts the travel costs in half. Besides… I wouldn’t have to be entirely alone. You could still be there with me."

He sighs. "Danika…"


"Just... do not be so rash." He bends down, his lips meeting her cheek as always, before he fully fades from sight. "You have time yet."






The very first time Dani had summoned him, she was fifteen, and obviously already convinced that she was more woman than child.


And through the haze and smoke and confusion, he almost forgot where he was just before that. It took a moment for the woods around them to stop spinning. Whiplashing between two realms — one real with flesh and blood and the other spiritual — it can really shake a ghost at first.

But then, the reality of what was really happening started to settle in.

He stood there, fully in awe, within a circle of lit white candles, feathers, and braided herbs. The full moon shone brightly over the trees, giving just enough light to make out the shape of everything else. Of her.

"What trickery is this?"

"... You can come closer, Binx. The Circle won’t bind you there all night."





Dani had claimed the spell she used to call on him was nothing that dark. So she continued to summon him back to Earth and his soul was allowed to linger for thirteen hours at a time under every Full Moon. No one else knew.

And it wasn't like Dani was in a huge rush to tell her brother or friends that she spent all of her free time studying witchery and divination of all things. 

"They’d try to forbid me. Max and Allison wouldn’t like it."

"They would have fair reasons to," he agreed quickly. “By principle, I should not condone this either."

"Dark energies only have power over you if you let them. Maybe it’s time to see it in a different way. Try to find the silver lining in magic. I am."

He glared at the ground. “And what good had ever come from Winifred’s magic, Dani?"

"… Me?" Her breath had hitched as she asked him. That single word so hesitant and hopeful that it was nearly heartbreaking. She was clearly waiting for validation all the same.

Binx understood what she meant, and his festering bitterness instantly melted once again. "Aye." He reached for her hand. "Thankfully there was you."

Dani’s smile grew softer and brighter before she leaned into his side, comforted.


Later, Binx challenges Dani’s thought-process, subtly, seeing how far he can actually push her limits and see how much stubborn nerve she has leftover. He spins tales and stories about true hauntings and Old Salem superstitions. He tells her of his secret time as a cat throughout the decades, parts of the story she hadn't heard of before.

Though Dani figures out his little game eventually, and then she's all the more irritated. She reels on him, cutting his path short. "You can’t scare me that easily." Her eyes burn with a horrid determination. "God! You really want to know why I’m getting all defiant and angry about this?"

He stares back at her, wondering.

"Whenever you look at me, you don’t see me. Do you? You see Emily. Well, I’m not Emily, Binx. I never was."

"I know that."

"Then please stop treating me like I’m a fragile, helpless child who can’t make her own fucking decisions now. I already have a Max. I don’t need another."

He’s momentarily stunned by her steeliness, but he relents and merely sighs again in return. "Aye, alright. I yield."


Nonetheless, Binx still blamed the Sanderson Sisters for this strange turn of events. They made witchcraft look so easy, despite their wickedness. And there Dani was, following in their footsteps. Their precious and passionate Dani, dabbling in the witches’ art.

But, as Binx came to notice — Dani was also, very talented at it. If he dared to say it out loud, she made it look easy.

He didn’t know what that meant for her now, in the end — if it was truly a good thing or not.


(Perhaps, it proved to be somewhat of both.)





So with every moonlit summoning afterward, Binx had realized something else. He was gradually becoming more tethered to this world again; and less and less transparent in phantom form.


He was regaining the rest of his humanly senses back. Smell, taste, touch.


When Dani hugged him, pulled on his arm or sleeve — he felt the gooseflesh prickling across her skin, the casual rising of her chest, felt the physical force of her movements in general, quite intently.


"It’s not fair, you know,” Dani continues after a heartbeat. "… I mean, you just can’t promise a girl you’ll always stay with her, and expect she won’t take it lightly…"

He means to reply with another peck on her cheek, apologetically. The kind gesture is both familiar and dreamlike. But Dani shifts in time to catch is mouth with hers directly. She's sort of rough kissing him back at first, her fingers sternly holding his jaw in place.

He gentles it, encouraging her to loosen up, all driven by the same quiet trust.

"Binx," she insists, "Since that night, nothing about my childhood was that traditional. Nothing about my life now will ever be average or traditional anymore. This thing with you and me, is never gonna be normal either, so stop waiting for normal to happen."




He was there the week when Dani had turned sixteen.


"… I’ve done a lot more personal research on the subject since I last saw you," she told him that night.


"Old Salem. Europe. The Witch Trials," she clarified. He paused, remained silent and waited for her to finish, "A lot of witches suffered too, Binx. Hanging. Burning. Drowning. Being hunted and then stoned to death. It's not actually surprising that some of them acted out."  

Binx also felt that. A sudden prick of anger and betrayal. As though Dani had just stabbed a dagger into his ribs. “Are you implying that the witches were harmless victims? And my baby sister, no older than seven, was at fault when the Sisters drank her soul dry?”

Dani shook her head, clutching his hand. “That's not what I meant to say. Really. It's just that… I… you have to realize by now that not all witches do wicked things….”

They were very close now, face to face, and his gaze soon fell to her lips. Instinctively, involuntary, tempted. “O, but you see, Dani…,” It wasn’t fair, how his heart and body started to react to her presence at that exact moment. “That’s where you are wrong.”


It had been a foolish comment on his part. A pathetic plight, a rash impulse.


But he let her lean in again and kiss him anyway.       




During the next Moon Night, he tried dancing around the issue sensibly and safely. He wouldn't want to repeat the same mistake thrice in a row.

But then, acting like the new unofficial towns’ historian that she thought she was, Dani had to bring out the cold hard facts of his prior life so long ago as ammunition:

"If you feel guilty about it, don’t be. I mean, is it really that big of a deal? If we were in your original time period, you’d certainly be old enough to take a wife if you really wanted to and I’d be expected to be courted or probably pregnant too by now."

"Still, that was only traditionally done after being granted permission by your elders. I don’t have your family’s permission to court you."

"But wouldn’t you want it?"






He’s now her big, dirty little secret. Her latest, ironic philosophical experiment.


The thesis: how a girl (a witch in training) can actually become intimate with the soul of a dead man — mainly supported by the use of magic.


Though, Dear God, does it even matter at this point? Magic hardly follows human logic as it is. And neither do matters of the heart.



He is too attached for his own good — has been since that fated Halloween of 1993 — and he is deeply aware of it.





One August night, he stays with her until she is asleep. He promises he will not leave any sooner. But he's then the leading witness to her nightmares.

Dani squirms, moans, and wakes up with a jolt, inhaling a sharp pained breath; after, her hands immediately go to her throat like she wants to loosen up a knotted rope tightening around her neck.  

She doesn't say what it was. He doesn’t have to ask. He can already guess exactly what she was dreaming about.

He simply soothes her hair out of her face and softly talks her down from the brief hysteria.




She tells him about her week at home, her scheduled readings, her basic regular day at school.


"High school is predictably boring and monotonous. It's still nothing like in the movies."


But she has friends, she says, to reassure him for extra measure. It's not as if the personal knowledge of curses and talking cats has ruined her whole entire lifestyle; and she certainly hasn't turned into some paranoid, anti-social hermit who never leaves her house.

She has pictures to prove it — a whole wall of photographs to back this notion up, actually. They’ve been there all this time, though he’s never paid special attention to them until today.

He skims over the faces and scenes captured through the lens. The collage shows Dani throughout the few past years or so.

She's smiling in a picture taken with her parents, one with Max, another with both Max and Allison. In the third and fourth, she's huddled in with a group of laughing girls by a pool. She's hooking arms with a few peers from her school and there’s a row of lockers behind them, prettily decorated for Christmas. In another, she’s wearing a yellow and black soccer uniform along with three other girls from the same team.


Binx had wanted those things for himself, once. He wanted friends, his family, education, love... just an easier, average human life. Perhaps, the Sandersons weren't the only unfinished business he had hanging over him after all.



In the more-recent series of photographs, Dani was apparently at some type of town carnival, surrounded by a newer collection of boys and girls, all roughly her (their) age, and it seems that they’re all paired up with someone else in the photo — one of the boys is kissing Dani on the cheek from behind in a relaxed fashion and she obviously didn't mind it.

"Was he your first love?" He finds himself asking her, pointing it out.

Dani flashes him a knowing look and bites her lip. "Hm. More like… first lust."






He gets it. She'd grown up, indeed. She'd never be able to light the Black Flamed Candle and make it work.





They rarely bring up the whole Spirit Realm thing, or what he does or what he is thinking when he’s not here with her.

Dani doesn’t really ask much about Emily these days either, or how paradise is treating them now that they’ve crossed over. She doesn't bother prying, spoiling anything, or using Biblical references or other related semantics.


And he in return, rarely goes out of his way to discuss Max in particular.

It has something to do with his lingering guilt, perhaps. Binx would still like to say that he owns a heart of goodness or a decent moral code. For, sometimes, this business with Dani feels like treachery somehow, an infidelity against Max’s trust.

It’s not exactly breaking The Commandments by legit definition, no — however, coveting a friend’s younger sister behind closed doors sounds dangerously close.


Dawn is now on the horizon, and so time's up. He must be off. Dani wraps her arms around him in farewell and buries her head under his chin.

As he's spirited away, Binx holds her tighter to him anyhow, for that last final last second in spite of his current affliction.




Dani slowly steps around him, in a circular pattern. Her fingertips drift across his back, his collar, the bits of exposed skin beneath the cotton laces before she’s lifting his shirt over his head entirely.

It starts off as a pleasant tingle, feather-light. But it builds into something more solid and tangible as she traces muscles and lines. He’s able to feel friction now, the ache, the heat. Her lips are soon pressing carefully (suggestively) against the curve of his throat. There’s no stopping it. He’s anchored.

The sensation warms him to the core.


Soon, she coaxes him backwards until he’s made contact with the edge of her bed. It’s a far better frame and design than anything he’d ever had in his home early on — not even as a cat. He sits upon her mattress twice as wide, and certainly softer than he remembers a bed to be. He looks up at her in silent wonder. Earnestly. As though reading his thoughts, she suddenly reaches up to rake his hair back a bit, smoothing down the few stray-aways. His eyes shut, pacified, submitting to her exploration.

She smiles in gratification, teasingly, barely whispering something that sounds like, "Good kitty."




The room is dark.



Dani’s breathing is ragged and heavy in his ear, creating rhythm and arching into him. Her thighs are slowly tightening around his hips, and worshiping God almost becomes a foreign concept to him.

It’s just her. All the faces he’s once known and loved get swallowed up in the background, and all that’s left in his reach is Dani.


( “Hang him on a hook and let me play with him…” )     


That one piece of memory suddenly surfaces out of nowhere, replaying in the far corner of his mind and suddenly Sarah's image is replaced by Dani's — and in that case, he realizes that maybe it isn't all bad. The memory feels lighter — it really just all depends on the witch saying it.


And with Dani, this surely gives ‘twist the bones and bend the back,’ a whole new meaning.




She ends up going to Fort William that following summer.

He stands there too beside her, overseeing the beauty of the Highland hills and watches the windows of the towns light up at dusk.