The Aether Candle

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Author’s note

I’m posting the whole novel at once to keep individual chapters from getting assigned to other categories. The first scene involving incest does not occur until a little later on, but this is ultimately a story about a guy who falls in love with his mother. You might need to be a little more patient with this one than other stories on this site, but I hope some of you will find the journey to be worthwhile.

There is no connection between this tale and the Homelands, which I do intend to revisit. This was a side project that I felt I needed before I could return to the Homelands with a fresh perspective. I had meant for this to be a stand-alone but realize now that there’s room for a sequel. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see that happen.

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Chapter One

Dan plopped down onto the sofa, sighed, and put his feet up. “I don’t get it,” he said for the manyth time that night. “If she needed an excuse to dump me, why not go with the whole `I’m headed off to college, while you’re sticking around here’ angle?”

Caleb stared across the coffee table at Dan’s shoes. He didn’t stop grinding herbs with that old-fashioned mortar and pestle, though. Nor say a word. His thick tangle of a beard hid any expression that might have made its way onto his face as well.

All the same, Dan got the message. “Sorry,” he said, feet returning to the carpet.

The guy wasn’t a stickler for that sort of thing. He didn’t make Dan use a coaster or take his shoes off as soon as he walked in the door. But Caleb did take his herbal stuff seriously. Or at least pretended to because that was somehow ironic. There was no telling with hipsters. Not that it really mattered—Dan knew better than to put his shoes up on the coffee table. His mom hadn’t raised him to be so rude.

It didn’t help that the coffee table had sat in his living room until a few months ago, though. After his dad had died, his mom had decided that the only way they could afford to stay in their house was to convert the attic above the garage into an apartment and rent it out for additional income. The refrigerator and microwave were new, but a lot of the furniture had come from the house. That made it easy for Dan to forget that he was a guest. He probably felt more at home in the apartment than its current occupant did.

Or maybe his broken heart had put him in a selfish mood. Convinced him that he had the right to do whatever he felt like doing, with no expectation of anyone calling him out.

“What does that even mean, she didn’t trust herself with me?” Dan asked before taking a swig from the bottle Caleb had given him. Surprisingly enough, it contained regular beer. Well, if “regular” left room for it being so hoppy that it felt like his palate was being attacked by grapefruit and pine resin. It looked like something you could buy in the grocery store, at any rate, whereas it wouldn’t have surprised Dan if the only thing on offer had been moonshine. Caleb liked to do things the old-fashioned way. He even made his own soap.

“The thing is, she was really into me.” Dan took another sip, followed by a grimace. As a stupid teenager, his opinion on such matters only counted for so much, but he didn’t see what was wrong with good ol’ Budweiser. “At least, it seemed like she was,” he continued. “I mean, the sex…,” he started to say, before realizing how vain and insecure that made him sound. He hated being such a stereotype, yet couldn’t help himself sometimes.

Did Caleb need to hear any of this? No. But Dan needed to say it, and he didn’t think it bothered Caleb anymore than it interested him. Nothing ever did. He just kept working that stone pestle, like he couldn’t even hear Dan. If someone tried to get him to shave that beard of his, that might get a rise out of him, but short of that?

“I know, at my age, everyone always think they’re in love, and that it will last forever,” Dan said. He sometimes thought that no one over the age of thirty realized that teenagers were self-aware enough to know when they were acting like teenagers. Granted, most kids his age probably didn’t, but still. “Give us the smallest bit of emotional intimacy and we think it’s a sign that we’ve found our soul mates. Give us physical intimacy, and we’ll assume the emotional sort comes with it, as sort of a package deal.”

“But you two were different?” Caleb asked, the corner of his mouth curling ever so slightly upward. At least, Dan thought so. It was hard to tell with all that brown shrubbery.

“I guess not,” Dan said.

“Maybe she meant what she said,” Caleb offered. He emptied the mortar into a bowl then scooped more herbs out of a mason jar. “Have you considered that possibility?”

“About not trusting herself with me?” The man nodded. Dan gave that some thought then decided that, no, it really didn’t make sense.

“I suspect there was more going on than typical teenage infatuation,” Caleb said. izmir escort bayan “But not because the two of you were special. Because you’re special.”

Was he…hitting on Dan?

“It’ll be the same with the next girl,” he continued. “And the one after that. Eventually, you’ll learn to control it, though. Let their emotions develop without manipulation.”

Dan sat upright. “Hey. Who said I—”

“I did,” Caleb said. “And you did, though I’m sure you didn’t realize it.” He pointed down at his herbs. “You know what this is?”

It sounded like a rhetorical question, but one that Dan should answer. “Incense?”

“And what do you suppose it does?”

Dan shrugged. “Smell nice when you burn it?”

“Well, yes, that too. More importantly, though, it cloaks your aura.” The man’s words weren’t laden with mysticism or reverence, the way they probably should have been.

“Meaning what?”

“Just what it sounds like,” Caleb said. “Auras are real. Magic is real.”

Dan rolled his eyes, then polished off his beer. He got up to get another one without asking if that was alright. Caleb offered no objection. “Are you messing with me?” he asked as he sat back down. “I can never tell how serious you’re being,” he added, which held true even when the guy wasn’t claiming to be a fucking wizard.

“That’s all I ever am,” Caleb said.

“Pffft.”

“Daniel, I’m telling you that you’re a Talent.”

So he even had a special name for it? Didn’t that just figure.

“You can do things others can’t. Such as intensify emotions.”

“Come on,” Dan said. “And is that even a real word?”

It sure looked like Caleb meant what he’d said, though. The reluctance on his face, laced with misgiving, would have made no sense if he’d been pulling Dan’s leg. “I shouldn’t say anything, but I’ve always been the sort to reach for a match when I see an unlit candle,” Caleb remarked. Then he stood, walked over to the bookshelf against the far wall, reached into a shoe box, and came back with—what else?—a candle. “Place this by your bed tonight. Whisper a name into it, then light it. That should put your skepticism to rest.”

“Funny how sleep does that. Put things to rest, I mean.”

Caleb was unimpressed by his wordplay. He thrust the candle towards Dan.

Reluctantly, he accepted it. It was plain white and utterly unremarkable, save for its size. The damn thing was as thick as his wrist and as long as his forearm. It looked more like a club than a candle. “Any name?” he asked, with a sigh.

“Well, other than Jenny’s.”

“Why not hers?” Dan asked.

Caleb frowned. “Because you’d be asking for trouble.”

Well, didn’t that just settle it.

“Someone you know,” Caleb continued. Of course the caveats and limitations were stacking up. “Who’s spoken to you, and said your name aloud.”

“Why? Will it not work otherwise?”

“There’s power in names.”

Dan scoffed. Though, in fairness, he’d set that up a little too perfectly.

“You can’t tell your mother I gave you that,” Caleb said. “Or anyone, for that matter.”

“Why would I?” Dan asked. “So they could make fun of me?”

Caleb shrugged. “Should circumstances arise that make it seem okay to do so, don’t.” He said this with such finality that Daniel dared not argue.

“My mom sometimes comes into my room to tidy up or fetch my laundry.”

She was weird enough about him spending time with Caleb already. If she thought the guy was trying to get her son into some weird occult shit, she might finally evict him. Or at least tell Dan not to go up to the apartment above the garage anymore.

Which would actually be kinda devastating.

Dan wasn’t fat and ugly, a nerd or a goth, but he still had trouble making friends. People warmed up to him easily enough, but, then they’d either blow up for no reason or pull away abruptly. Something about him seemed to make people lower their guard, which was good, but also made them flip their shit over nothing at all. It wasn’t like that with Caleb, though. His one and only setting seemed to be a out of ten on the scale of emotional intensity.

Because he knew how to guard himself against Dan’s emotional manipulation? The sort he didn’t realize he engaged in? No. That was crazy. He was not buying this magic bullshit.

“So hide the candle when it’s not in use.”

“Fair enough,” Dan mumbled.

“I want you to swear a vow,” Caleb said.

“Sure,” Dan said. “Should I spit in my palm first? Or get a knife?”

“I don’t practice blood magic,” Caleb said, as if it was a serious accusation—one that warranted a prompt and emphatic denial.

Dan took a gulp of beer. “What kind do you practice?”

Caleb’s lips tightened beneath a bristly brown veil. “When you’re ready to hear what I have to say, I’ll tell you more. For now, I want your word that you’ll not speak of this.”

No one could describe Caleb as sensitive, at least not if they had any idea what the world meant, but escort izmir that expression suggested that Dan’s skepticism bothered him. If he wasn’t offended, he was at least disappointed. And unwilling to risk further mockery. This was no knee-jerk reaction, either. It had only taken him a moment to realize that Dan hadn’t actually thought that he practiced blood magic—or known that there was such a thing—but this was different. “Okay, I swear,” Dan said, in what he hoped was a placating tone.

Caleb’s flat look told him that would not do.

After swallowing another mouthful of the obnoxious beer, Dan said, “May unspeakable harm come to me if I prove untrue—no word of this candle, the wondrous gifts it might bring, or magic in general, shall I speak to anyone save Caleb Blackthorne.” Because anyone else would think him nucking futs. “Satisfied?” he asked.

He half-expected to feel something as the words left his lips. A heavy cloak settling over him, perhaps. Some indication that he’d accepted a great burden. Nothing like that happened, though. Because this was all “poppycock”, as his mom would say. Dan almost laughed at himself for taking it seriously for even a fraction of a second.

#

A tall, blonde woman sat cross-legged on a stool at the front of the classroom. She stared intently at Dan, spun a knuckle against her ear, and said, “I must be losing my hearing, because it sounded like you just invited me to press my lips to your posterior.” The class snickered at what passed for a joke coming from their teacher. “Care to try that again?”

Dan was about to protest, insisting that he hadn’t said anything at all, when the memory of something that hadn’t even happened formed inside his brain. He had told someone to kiss his ass. It just hadn’t been Ms. Conklin, but one of his classmates.

Not that any of three-dimensional silhouettes surrounding him were capable of trading insults. They were colorless and insubstantial, and while some almost had facial features—the suggestion of a nose, for example—none had mouths. The classroom itself was about as well-formed. The parts that were there looked about right, but around the middle, everything turned to gray mist. Several desks managed to stand upright despite only having two legs.

“Well?” asked the woman he knew was supposed to be his former math teacher. She definitely had shape and form, unlike his classmates. Nothing like he remembered, but she did. Not altogether unpleasant, either. To put it mildly.

The real Ms. Conklin was in her early fifties and was a good twenty pounds or so overweight. There was something piggish about her upturned nose and she wore her hair too short. Some women could pull that off, but she wasn’t one of them. Yes, he’d had a crush on her all the same—because of her huge breasts and the way her thighs looked when she crossed her legs—but she still wasn’t attractive by conventional standards. Dan had never even admitted to his friends that he’d had a thing for her. No guy would be ashamed of being attracted to the woman sitting on the stool, however. Here, in his dream, Ms. Conklin looked to be in her mid-thirties at the latest, and wasn’t carrying any extra weight—at least not in any unwanted areas. Her baby blue skirt was loose and long, so it was hard to tell for sure, but her legs looked even shapelier than Dan remembered them being, and while the two bowling balls stretching the fabric of her fuzzy pink sweater might not have been any bigger than in real life, they looked round and firm. Didn’t sag down past her ribcage.

Dan tried not get distracted by that, but couldn’t help himself. He drank in every detail, from her incredible figure to what was now a strikingly beautiful face. Her firm skin was more alabaster than ash, and her slender nose had an elegant shape to it. Her long hair had become impossibly lustrous. There were at least three or four different shades of blonde on display as well. It was dark enough to pass for a medium brown in some places, yet burnished like gold elsewhere. Her blue eyes seemed bigger and brighter, more like sapphires than a colorless sky. Her full lips were a bolder shade of pink than he’d ever seen her wear. Dan couldn’t believe how much makeup she was wearing. Ms. Conklin rarely wore anything more than a little nude lip gloss. Now, though, her eyelashes were impossibly full and long; thick black lines framed her eyelids; and she wore heavy eyeshadow, fading from a dark navy to the baby blue of her skirt as it reached up towards her perfect, dark brows.

Come to think of it, her clothes were the only aspect of her appearance that really fit. Ms. Conklin loved pastels, long skirts, modest pumps, and fuzzy sweaters. That was the style of glasses she favored as well, with thick black frames. If not for that, and perhaps her attitude, Dan might not have known who the blonde bombshell was supposed to be.

Except he would have, because dream logic. But whatever. The point was, she looked really different, and the changes were definitely izmir escort for the better.

“I’m speaking to you, Daniel Westbrook,” she said, forcing him out of his reverie. Her appearance might have been altered by his subconscious, but apparently little else had. That tone was all too familiar. “Would you do us the favor of coming back to the real world?”

As if that was where they were. Dan might almost have been confused by that if he hadn’t heard her use that exact phrase on both him and several of his classmates. His mind must have saved a copy for situations like as this, using the sound clip to establish verisimilitude.

“Sorry, Ms. Conklin,” Dan said. “It won’t happen again.”

She laid a finger over her lips. The real Ms. Conklin had a habit of doing the same, but it had never turned him on before. Never drawn his eyes so unwaveringly to her lips. They were so reminiscent of cotton candy. If he kissed them, would they taste as sweet?

Silence reigned for a time—long enough that Dan lost track of what he was supposed to be in trouble for. Finally, Ms. Conklin slipped down off the stool. “I think the only way you’re going to learn your lesson is if I make you kiss my ass.”

Dan was still in the process of convincing himself that he’d heard her right when she turned sideways, planted one hand over the other atop the stool, and popped her booty out like a dancer in a music video. Her skirt didn’t cling to her as tightly as Dan might have liked, but there was still no mistaking the size and shape of it. Were she to post a picture of herself on Instragram, especially in something more revealing, there’d be a dozen likes within the hour. And a few people suggesting that she’d gotten butt implants.

“Excuse me?” Dan said.

Ms. Conklin looked at him sideways, holding her pose. “You heard me,” she said. His not-quite-there classmates murmured in surprise. Their teacher reached back and gave her ass a little slap. That got more of a reaction out of Dan than made any sense, given how tame it had been, and how much clothing she had on. “Now do as I said or face detention.”

Dan’s heart raced. Even with her being all sexed-up, the room mostly missing, and shadows-made-flesh sitting at the desks beside him, it still felt like he was really at school. Like that threat of detention wasn’t hollow. Yes, some part of him welcomed the excuse to get closer to her. To put his hands on her, or press his lips to her…well, skirt. To start with, anyway. At the same time, Dan was paralyzed with fear. Of what, exactly, he wasn’t sure. But he was. Greater embarrassment than he already felt, perhaps? That it was all a trick, and he’d get expelled for sexual harassment if he did? Either way, he couldn’t move.

“I’m waiting,” Ms. Conklin said.

Something inside him broke. Sure, it could be a trap. But Dan wasn’t just going to sit there, feeling awkward and hoping that she’d inexplicably forget that he existed. He stood from his desk and moved towards his teacher. Or the sexpot playing her part in his mind.

With each step, he grew more confident. The murmurs became background noise. Dan grabbed his teacher’s hips, paused for objections, then, hearing none, bent to his task.

Just as he was about to press his lips to the fabric of her skirt, though, he stopped. Though his heart was beating as loud as a drum, Dan slipped his thumbs inside the waistband and pulled the garment down over the swell of her ass. That drew a few surprised gasps from the audience, followed by stunned silence. Dan couldn’t blame them. While the lacy pink boy shorts covered a good deal more than a thong would have, the bottoms of her butt cheeks were still in plain view. Dan could hardly believe their perfect size and shape. How closely they resembled tear drops. Even with her bent over, stretching those lovely muscles, there were faint lines of separation between them and her thighs. If she stood up straight, Dan suspected, there’d be some epic lines of cleavage there as well.

“What are you doing?” Ms. Conklin asked.

“Only what you told me to,” he replied. “Cindy,” he added, feeling brave.

“Ah,” she said. Her tone was neither sharp nor chiding, despite his use of her first name. Merely curious. Perhaps even amused. “I suppose I didn’t tell you to kiss my skirt, did I?”

“No, you didn’t.”

A few of his classmates laughed, and not at him. Dan felt a smile spread across his lips.

Bugs Bunny would have been proud of the performance he put on. He squeezed his eyes shut, puckered his lips up dramatically, then pressed them against her left cheek. He held that pose for a few moments then made a loud smacking sound before pulling away.

After doing so, he gave the other orb a good slap.

That was probably the stupidest thing he could have done. Or it certainly would have been if this wasn’t all a dream. He just couldn’t help himself, though. An ass like that simply cried out for it. Dan just had to know how much it would jiggle.

Not much, as it happened. Her backside was evidently quite solid.

By rights, Ms. Conklin should have been outraged. But she let out a little whimper that made Dan’s cock throb then looked over her shoulder at him and grinned.

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