Recap #65 – Zodiac Chillers #4: Twisted Taurus by Ellen Steiber


Title: Twisted Taurus

Series: Zodiac Chillers

Author: Ellen Steiber

Published: Oct. 1995

Tagline: She gets what she wants – always!

Description: Micaela wants Darci – and her brother . . .

Darci is the new girl. Dying to get a new life. Fast. Enter Micaela, the ultimate Taurus. So loyal, so devoted – her friendship grows into a poisonous obsession. Darci’s dates are ruined. Her brother is seduced. For Micaela was out to possess him from the very start . . . .

Nostalgia Time!

Okay, nope, I was not aware of this series when it was first published. I was clearly aware of the Jahnna N. Malcolm Zodiac series, because I owned the Leo entry, but I’ve never read any from the Zodiac Chillers series. This series only lasted eight books, and one of them is titled “The Thirteenth Sign,” so that means there are only seven books related to the commonly-known zodiac signs. Also, they’re all out of order, and weren’t published anywhere near their corresponding sign. This one, Taurus (April 21 – May 21), was published in October, for fuck sake. That should be either Libra or Scorpio.

I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does.

Anyway, this one seems to be the easiest to get hold of – it’s the one I’ve heard podcasters talk about, and it’s the only one I’ve seen in any of my local used bookstores. A few of them are available online for more than I’m currently willing to pay (meaning over $20 – not too outlandish, but still more than I’m willing to pay for books that I’m not attached to that retailed for $3.99 originally), and a few are available for more reasonable prices. Still others are out of stock and unavailable every time I check.

So. Let’s see what we’re getting ourselves into, shall we?


We meet Micaela James in a prologue – it’s the first week of school, and the mystical voices that talk to her and are never wrong have told her that a brother and sister will enter her life and change everything, ending her isolation. Yeah, this mystical voice is a thing. Just go with it.

Fortuitously, a brother and sister have just transferred into Northridge High. Kurt and Darci Callahan. Normally Micaela doesn’t care who transfers in or out, but this is too much of a coincidence. She sees Kurt in the parking lot – tall, blond, hot – with a short, dark-haired girl, and wonders if that’s the sister or a girlfriend already, because they don’t look anything alike. In order to find out, Micaela hops in her Acura and follows Kurt’s white van (I’m assuming it’s a serial-killer panel van) to a diner.

She sits at the booth behind Kurt and the girl, and eavesdrops on some extremely unnatural expository conversation that reveals that this is in fact Kurt’s little sister, Darci. Satisfied that the stars, the tarot, and the mystical voice were all correct, she thinks about how inevitable it is that Kurt will fall in love with her and Darci will be her best friend.

Hey, Micaela? I think we’ve just identified why you don’t already have friends, yeah?

It’s now five weeks into the school year, and Darci Callahan is in art class, trying to shape her lump of clay into a sleeping cat. It’s not going well. She thinks her sculpture looks more like a plump sausage with ears than a cat. I would contend that that’s exactly what cats look like.

Darci laments the fact that she doesn’t have any friends yet, although there’s a senior named Stacey in her art class who seems friendly, at least. Stacey tells Darci to check out Micaela’s sculpture because it’s so good it’s scary. Darci doesn’t know who Micaela is, so Stacey points her out and tells her to casually walk by her to wash her hands so she can surreptitiously glance at it. I don’t know why we’re being so secretive about it, but all right.

Darci walks across the classroom, taking in other students’ not-so-secret sculptures (a girl named Andy is making a heart shaped box, whoops, found the Nirvana fan!) until she’s in a position to see Micaela’s sculpture. Darci gasps out loud, because it’s her head and face, right down to the bump on her nose.

Well, that’s not creepy and obsessive. Way to go, Micaela.

Darci isn’t creeped out, however. She asks how Micaela did this, and she responds that Darci has an interesting face with lots of character. This blows Darci’s mind, because she thinks she’s terribly ordinary-looking. And lest we think that Micaela spends hours staring at Darci and memorizing her face, Darci spots a photo of herself torn out of the school newspaper. The paper had interviewed all the new transfer students that year, because this town is apparently small enough that new students are a Big Deal. Anyway, Darci hates the photo because she’d missed the cue to smile, so she’s just staring morosely at the camera. Her brother Kurt had teased her that she looked tragically bored. I aspire to appear tragically bored, but somehow always look like I want to murder someone instead.

Micaela explains that she’s so good with clay because she’s a Taurus – an earth sign. Hey, I’m a Leo – a fire sign. Does that explain why I enjoy setting things on fire? Micaela goes on to correctly guess that Darci is a Pisces, then tells her that small hands and feet are very Piscean. Um, really? Boyfriend is a Pisces, and his shoe size is around 13-15 (US), depending on the brand. That’s large enough to have trouble finding a good selection in most stores, Micaela.

Darci seems more interested in Micaela’s zodiac talk than the average person would be, then mentions the terrible color her bedroom is painted and how she’d love someone to help her figure out how to fix it. Micaela invites herself over volunteers to help, and they make plans to meet up after school. Then the New Age-y art teacher yells at them for not concentrating on their clay. But Darci doesn’t mind, because hey, she just made her first friend at Northridge! An obsessive weirdo who listens to Mystical Psychic Voices and makes sculptures of people she’s never spoken to, but a friend, nonetheless!

Micaela drives Darci home in her Acura, and we find out that Northridge is in(?) the Catskills and close to the Hudson River, and that Darci moved here from New Jersey. So I’m assuming we’re somewhere in New York State, although geography isn’t my strong suit. Darci laments the fact that making friends hasn’t been easy, since it’s one of those places where everyone has had the same cliques since seventh grade, and Micaela brushes it off by saying that Darci might not want to make friends here. Everyone is the same in Northridge – limited. They’re like clones. Darci comments that now that Micaela mentions it, she was the only one in her homeroom first day of school who wasn’t wearing Doc Martens.

I’ve had many Doc Marten-type boots over the years, without ever once owning the actual brand. For some reason, they didn’t seem to be sold in my area at any of the stores I was shopping at when I was in middle/high school.

Micaela begins waxing poetic about the mountains and the forest, then loses her momentum when Darci directs her to her street and tells her it’s “the last house on the left.” Oh. I’m led to believe terrible things have happened in that house. Darci is embarrassed about where she lives, because she’s certain that whatever Micaela’s house looks like, it’s probably swankier than a converted summer cottage. I’m not sure what leads Darci to this conclusion, but okay.

We find out that Darci’s mom is away on business (she’s in publishing, and has a car phone she does business on, so I doubt Darci is actually as impoverished as she feels next to Micaela), and Kurt is probably out with Kristin the Beautiful, the new love of his life. Micaela identifies this as Kris Harper, then asks about Darci’s dad, who split when she was three. We learn that Micaela has a four-year-old brother named Devon, who is a Gemini and mostly taken care of by the nanny, and Darci comments that Micaela and Devon are unusual names. I mean, not really. Micaela is spelled unusually, but it’s not an unusual name in and of itself. And this was, what, 1995? We had Devon Sawa and Devon Gummersall (My So-Called Life) at this point, and I went to school with a girl named Devon in ’95, so . . . not all that unusual, Darci.

Darci asks if Micaela’s parents are also artists, but no, they’re biochemists. They clearly spend more time with their experiments than with their kids. But Micaela is fine with that; she thinks that parents become unnecessary after a certain point. Instead of picking up on any bitterness or neglect, Darci thinks again how sophisticated and independent Micaela is.

The phone in the kitchen starts ringing, so Micaela asks to use the bathroom while Darci answers. I guess the only bathroom in the house is upstairs with the bedrooms, which seems like a really annoying set up, having to run up the stairs every time you need to pee. Anyway, instead of going to the bathroom, Micaela finds Mom’s room and picks up the extension to listen in on Darci’s phone call.

It’s Kurt, calling to say he won’t be home to fix dinner, because he’s with Kristin and they’re going to go shopping someplace called the Bazaar. Micaela hangs up and sneaks into Kurt’s bedroom, and is disappointed that it looks like any other teen boy’s room. I beg Micaela to go check out Charley Brewster from Fright Nights bedroom and get back to me on what she thinks a typical teen boy’s room looks like. She sneers at a picture of Kristin on the bulletin board, because Kris wasn’t part of her plan, then she steals a leather choker with an obsidian bead on it that Kurt was wearing the first time she saw him.

She pretends to use the bathroom, then meets up with Darci in her room, where she agrees that the sludge blue walls are ugly as fuck. Darci’s favorite color is green, and she would love to bring the woodsy scene she sees out her window into the room somehow. Boyfriend and I have a set of flannel sheets that are cream-colored and printed with little bears and moose and pine trees (he bought them before we were together, and they’re basically just back-up sheets now because they don’t match anything else we own), and they look like they belong in a hunting lodge. It cracks me up to imagine Darci not only using these very un-teenage girl sheets, but extending the theme onto the walls. Just, stencils of pine trees with bears and moose peeking out between them. Actually, that sounds pretty damn cool. Huh.

Anyway. Micaela points out that if they paint her walls green, the room will look small and dark, so she suggests off-white with green trim. Darci says she’ll have to get rid of her plaid bedspread then, and I wonder what color it is. Most plaids should have colors in them that would complement white and green. Whatever. Micaela says they should go look at bedspreads at the Bazaar, because they’re having a big sale. Up til that comment, I’d been picturing the Bazaar as a flea market, but I guess not. Darci says how weird that is, because Kurt had just mentioned that’s where he and Kristin were going to be!

Yes, Darci. Weird. And not at all orchestrated by your new friend. Nope.

The Bazaar turns out to be “a huge warehouse filled with imports from every part of the globe.” So I’m still picturing one of my local flea markets, but run by one person instead of individual vendors.

Anyway, Micaela points out a basic-bitch ivory colored bedspread and suggests green throw pillows. Mm, yes, certainly she should have her own HGTV show. She also points out some ivory lace curtains and invites Darci over on Saturday to check out some similar ones they have in a guest room. Darci can only afford the bedspread right now, since she still has to buy paint. Yeah, paint is actually shockingly expensive.

Then they run into Kurt and Kris. Darci introduces Micaela to both of them, even though Kris icily points out that she already knows Micaela from school. Duh, especially if this is the sort of town where everyone has known each other since pre-K. Then Micaela correctly guesses that Kurt is a Leo (hello, fellow astrological sign!) and Kris is a Scorpio. Kris gets even icier and drags Kurt off for a dinner reservation (what seventeen-year-olds make dinner reservations?) even as he’s impressed by Micaela.

Darci wonders if Kris is always so rude, and Micaela explains that a scorpion can’t help stinging. As they’re waiting to check out, Micaela spots a ring in a case. The ring has a top that flips open with a hollowed-out spot inside, and Darci comments that it’s like a locket. Micaela and the salesgirl exchange a look like “oh, you sweet summer child” and Micaela tries to lead Darci to the explanation by mentioning the Borgias, and then finally explains that these rings are called poison rings. We’re not actually told that Micaela buys the ring, but of course she fucking does.

Suddenly we’re popped over to Kurt’s perspective on his date with Kristin. She manipulates him into agreeing to take her to a concert, and he’s fine with the manipulation because it’s “just her style.” He also thinks of her as the “most beautiful creature” he’s ever seen. Barf. Anyway, Kris is bent out of shape wondering if Darci is always going to be tagging along after them, and spouts off some bullshit about how she depends on him too much and needs to stand on her own two feet. Kurt is the typical dumbass horny dude willing to excuse this shit in order to get laid, and just thinks to himself that Kris doesn’t understand because she doesn’t have siblings. LOL NOPE. Every woman my dad has dated and/or married said some variation of these things about either me or my sister (or me and my sister), and then proceeded to convince him to cut me/us out of his life. There’s this weird type of woman who is jealous of the other female relatives in their man’s life, and wants to isolate him from them, and Kris is clearly one of these women. Dump her now, Kurt, before she tells Darci she’s dead to you and then moves you halfway across the country.


Back to Micaela later that night. She’s driven east into the Catskills, onto private property that she merrily trespasses on whenever she damn well feels like it. She carries seven(!) empty gallon jugs to fill at a spring that someone has hooked a spigot to. This water is to feed her special, secret garden. She thinks it’s the reason her plants grow so strong. I guess she’s never heard of Miracle-Gro.

Then she carries the full jugs back to her car, three in a backpack and four in her hands, and while it’s not impossible to carry two gallon-jugs in each hand, it is difficult, especially over a longish distance.

She thinks about how jealous she is of “that airhead” Kristin, because she has something Micaela wants, but the Voice has never been wrong. Kris wasn’t in the plan, but she’s not really an obstacle either, and if Kurt doesn’t leave her, then there are things in Micaela’s garden that can take care of her.

I get the feeling she’s not talking about carrots, guys.

Even later that night, Micaela walks barefoot and naked under a cloak to the back of her property, where there’s an old stone wall. She somehow removes stones from the wall to get inside to the secret, special garden, where she drops her cloak to call on the forces of darkness butt-ass naked. I have clearly been lied to by witches claiming they don’t gallivant about naked, and I must join a coven immediately.

Once the forces of darkness have moved through her (. . . yeah, I don’t know, either), Micaela sets about harvesting blooms from her plants. Her new one is a plant that doesn’t have a popular name yet, so she just calls it Hearts of Darkness. She doesn’t know the effects of its poison yet, either. Because, you see, every plant in her hidden garden is poison.

This retelling of The Secret Garden is really weird. I keep waiting for Baby!Dean Stockwell in a wheelchair to show up. Then again, Micaela would probably just poison him.

Friday, lunchtime: Darci can’t figure out where to sit, which makes me wonder where the fuck she’s been sitting for the last five weeks she’s been at this school. Has she had this internal lunchtime struggle every day for five fucking weeks? Because that sounds exhausting.

Just as she’s getting ready to try her luck at a “nerd table,” a boy named Ian from her history class rocks up behind her and suggests they leave school for lunch, even though they’ll be risking detention. Darci agrees, and apparently Ian’s version of “leaving school for lunch” translates to “sitting on a hill on the other side of the parking lot to eat a sack lunch he brought from home.” Cool cool cool.

Ian shares his lunch since Darci was going to buy a hot lunch and therefore has nothing to eat in the parking lot. She finds out he just moved here last year because his dad went to prison for embezzling. He invites her to go skating Saturday, and she says yes, then realizes she can’t because she’s going to Micaela’s house. Ian tells her that Micaela has a “weird rep” for doing things like hanging out in the cemetery on Halloween. Oooh, so weird. The rumor was that she was trying to raise the dead. Uh-huh. Darci is incredulous that anyone would believe that, and Ian continues that even if it’s not true, there must be a reason everyone steers clear of her.

Darci asks if Ian will still talk to her if she stays friends with Micaela, and he says of course; she’s got nothing to do with them. Then they agree to go skating another time. Aw.

After lunch, Micaela asks Darci where she was, and when she finds out she was with Ian, Micaela says his dad was popped for murder or something. Darci corrects her, saying it was embezzlement and he’s very upfront about it, and Micaela says he’s an Aries and too pushy and self-centered to be any good for Darci. How the fuck does Micaela know everyone’s sign?

The next day, Micaela experiments with the powder she’s distilled from the Hearts of Darkness plant. It’s dark red, but odorless and tasteless. She needs it to be colorless, too, because apparently the idea of dropping her poison in a glass of Hawaiian Punch hasn’t occurred to her.

She’s not sure of the strength or effects, either. She’d tried some on a mouse, who went into convulsions after ten minutes and died. She determines that she needs a human guinea pig, and fortuitously sees Darci’s mom driving her up the driveway at that moment. She puts all her stuff away, except a bit of the poison she sweeps into her poison ring, then puts on a CD of “medieval music.” I googled medieval music, expecting it to be terrible, but it’s actually not. I can’t imagine teenage girls in the 1990s listening to it unless they were at a Ren Fair, though.

Micaela decides to offer Darci sparkling water with cranberry juice to hide the color of the Hearts of Darkness, because I guess putting it in cola hasn’t occurred to her, then thinks about what a perfect friend Darci will make – she’s young and unsophisticated, unsure of herself, impressionable, and lonely. Ah, yes, the perfect traits to have in a bff. Micaela isn’t thrilled about Ian being in the picture, but don’t worry, guys, she knows exactly how to get rid of him!

Micaela mixes the poison into a glass, and then we swap perspectives (this book is constantly swapping among perspectives if you hadn’t figured that out yet) to Darci, still outside in Mom’s car. They’re both bowled over at this mansion, and Mom says to call her if she needs a ride home, even though for some reason I’d assumed Darci was staying the night.

Darci continues to be bowled over as Micaela shows her around the house, ending up with them in Micaela’s room having a conversation about van Gogh and how at the end no one knew if he was sick or insane or what. Then Micaela shows Darci her astrological birth chart, offers to make one for Darci, and goes down to get the poisoned juice/sparkling water combo. Which is just, what, fizzy watered-down juice? At least mix it with Sprite or something, damn.

Micaela takes Darci’s birth info and starts making her a basic star chart, which I’m not going to go into because it has no bearing on the story and is only here so that this book qualifies as a “Zodiac” Chiller. Darci starts feeling sick as she’s sipping her poisoned drink, and eventually goes to the bathroom to throw up, but only dry heaves. Then she spasms and passes out in Micaela’s room. Micaela tells her not to die – it isn’t time!

I . . . I don’t think that’s something she can control, Mic. (I have tired of typing “Micaela” over and over. It’s a really weird finger workout on the keyboard, and I keep typing it “Michaela” anyway.)

Cut to some time later, with Darci in M’s bed and M watching over her, glad she had given Darci such a small amount of poison. Mic feels almost protective of this younger girl she just poisoned the fuck out of, then cuts off a lock of Darci’s hair and puts it in a pouch. Ooookaaaay.

Darci wakes up, and Mic gaslights her into thinking she simply fell asleep from the flu and dreamed the whole convulsing thing. Run, Darci!

Monday at school, Ian runs into Darci, who practically set the chem lab on fire by adding the wrong powder to her beaker. They agree to go see a movie together, then Micaela rocks up and tells him that Darci is sweet but she can’t keep her mouth shut – she’s been going around telling everyone Ian’s dad is in prison for embezzlement. Mic supposedly tried to shut Darci up, telling her that rumor-mongering isn’t cool, but Darci is too desperate to be popular.

For some reason, Ian believes all this.

Ian is pissed and walks off, thinking how he’d like to “yank Darci out of Spanish class and shake her until her teeth rattle.” Uh. Don’t shake the baby Darci, dude. Why does every guy in these books have to be casually abusive?

Even though he told Darci about his dad after about three minutes of speaking to her, apparently it’s a big secret he hasn’t told anyone in the year he’s been at Northridge. Even if Darci had told anyone but Micaela, Ian didn’t tell her not to tell anyone else, and she probably also figured other people knew since, again, he told her the very first time they spoke.

Darci’s been dreaming about going out with Ian all day, and catches up to him at his locker after school to finish setting up their date. He gives her the cold shoulder, tells her he doesn’t want to go to the movies with her, and basically does the whole “you know what you did” thing when she is justifiably confused. Man, I dated a guy who did that for about three weeks. Then I wised up and dumped his ass. No, I obviously don’t know what I did, or I wouldn’t be asking! (And for the record, what I “did” was get mad and tell him to stop doing something I’d repeatedly told him I didn’t want done to me, then he literally turned his back on me and pouted like a toddler until I asked what was wrong, to which he would only reply, “I think you know.”)

Ian talks to his buddy John after soccer practice, who suggests a) starting a rumor about Darci, or b) having John ask her out and dump her. Okay, I kind of hate John. Ian doesn’t want to hurt Darci (despite joking about murdering her, which . . . sure, dude) any more than he already has, and John points out that he’s got it bad for her. He also casts some aspersion on Mic when he finds out she’s the one who told Ian that Darci’s talking about his dad, but they don’t bother to explore this road any farther.

At home late that night, Darci calls M and tells her about Ian. M says she’s been doing her chart and matters of the heart are rocky for Darci right now. Also, fire signs and water signs don’t mix, and Aries is the first sign and the most immature, while Pisces is the last sign, and therefore mature and dealing with Ian is like dealing with a child. Or something. I got stuck on the fire/water mix. I’m a fire sign and Boyfriend is water, uh-oh! Of course, fire and water can also make some hot steam, soooo . . . yeah, Imma go with that.

Then they talk about painting Darci’s room, and decide to do it the next day after school. I’ve lost track of what day it is, but this seems like a weekend activity to me. Oh, well.

They paint the next day after school, as they planned to. It’s amazing the number of pages that can be spent on two teenage girls painting a bedroom. Seriously. There’s more zodiac talk, and Darci complains about Kurt being obsessed with Kristin and how dumb their names sound together (my brother and sister-in-law have names that rhyme, and my uncle’s second wife had the feminine version of his name, so “Kurt and Kris” doesn’t sound terribly jarring to my ears), and how he snapped at her when she pointed that out to him. Well, yeah. Is there a way to say “Hey, bro, you and your girlfriend’s names sound dumb together” that doesn’t produce an annoyed response?

Kurt comes home with a couple friends, Eric and Marc, and they pop the last bag of microwave popcorn that was supposed to be Darci’s. She points this out; Kurt points out that she’s wearing his shirt to paint in; Micaela offers to order Chinese food for everyone if Darci and Kurt call a truce. His friends strong-arm him into it, and they order from a place called the Purple Panda.

While they wait for the food, Marc suggests playing a game, which somehow leads to them pulling Twister out of the attic. Yep, Twister. Marc offers to spin the dial while the other four play, and Darci notices that he and Eric don’t really interact with Micaela, like they’re keeping a respectful distance from her.

Mic does not keep a respectful distance from Kurt, using the game as an excuse to rub herself all over him. The words “slither” “straddle” and “sinuous” are used. You know. The 3 S’s of seduction.

The food comes before Kurt does, thank god. Darci marches Mic up to her room and demands to know what the fuck that was all about; Mic plays innocent and then asks wouldn’t Darci rather Kurt went out with her than with Kristin? Darci admits she’d rather Kurt dated anyone else, and then Mic tells her she has a feeling Kris won’t be a problem for much longer.

Yeah, uh, that’s not sinister at all.

Cut to Micaela in class, looking through her notes on the Hearts of Darkness. The effects were what she expected; now she wonders what the dosage needs to be to elicit hallucinations and death. Also, she still needs to do something about the color, because she hasn’t figured out that it would be undetectable in Cherry Coke. She knows a chemical reaction that will get rid of the color, and thinks she can steal the compound from the chem lab here at school. Sure, because that’s easier than mixing it into some Code Red Mountain Dew. (Was Code Red around in 1995? . . . Google says no. Oh well, I’m leaving it in anyway.)

Ian goes back to the chem lab to retrieve a notebook just in time to spy on Mic easily picking the lock on the chemistry storage cabinet and stealing a jar of something. He’s baffled that she’s stealing chemicals instead of something valuable, like a CD player, and thinks she must be into some weird stuff. Yes. Because chemicals are certainly not ever used to make things of value. No chemicals are used to make drugs of any kind at all. Chemical compounds aren’t used in bombs, ever. Chemicals are absolutely worthless and harmless, and that’s why they’re kept under lock and key.

Ian, you fucking moron.

Anyway, he notices how easily she picks the lock, and thinks that if she’s a thief, it’s a sure bet she’s a liar as well. I mean, she probably lies about stealing, sure. Otherwise, that’s not necessarily going to track.

Ian tracks Darci down and apologizes, explaining the whole deal. He says he thinks Mic did this purposely to break them up, which Darci thinks is crazy. Ian points out that Micaela is smart and talented and beautiful, but Darci is the only one who talks to her, and it must be because she’s so witchy and strange. Eh. I mean, in the context of this book, yes. In real life? There was a girl when I was in fifth grade (that’s ten years old, folks) whom everyone avoided because rumor was that she was a slut. At TEN YEARS OLD. Lesson is, kids suck and will come up with all sorts of bullshit reasons to ostracize their peers.

They agree to wait and see what’s up with Micaela, then they kiss. It is, apparently, mind-blowing.

Back to Mic, taking a box filled with twelve rusty coffin nails out of her dresser. She’d gone to the cemetery and dug up a coffin and taken the nails out herself during a full moon. Oh. It’s not exactly raising the dead, but still outside the realm of typical teenage activities. It scared her to do it, but some spells require wacky ingredients, you know?

Then the Voice tells her that Ian and Darci are together again, and he’ll turn Darci against her. Man, this Voice needs to mind its own damn business.

Micaela vows by sun, moon, stars, and the powers of darkness to stop Ian. Mmkay.

Mic has to wait three days until Saturday, when the influences of Saturn are at their strongest. Sure. She starts prepping for the spell an hour before sunset, with incense and black candles and whatnot. Basically, she uses the lock of Darci’s hair to make a wax voodoo doll, then binds Darci’s will to her own, asking that being near Ian be as painful as walking through fire for Darci. As the sun sets, she hears the Voice tell her she’s done well and everything she asked for shall be done.


Meanwhile, Darci and Ian are hanging out by the river and decide to walk four miles home. It’s mentioned that Darci’s curfew for the night is 7 PM, which seems fine if you’re six. They kiss, which is great at first, until Darci suddenly pulls away. He puts his hands on her shoulders, and she yanks away and yells at him not to touch her. She is just as confused by this as he is, and tells him it feels like there’s a wall of fire between them and she’ll be burned if she touches him. He thinks she’s speaking metaphorically because of the way he’d treated her before, but nope. Darci tells him to stay away from her, then cries and runs away.

On Monday, Micaela waits for Kurt by his van after school. She claims that her car won’t start, she’s got a mechanic coming to tow it, but she just needs a ride. I bet she does. Then she starts kissing him, which he’s into until he remembers his girlfriend and pulls away. Mic is none too happy about this, but have no fear, as Kristin rocks up behind them, having seen everything. Kurt tries to explain that Micaela just asked him for a ride because her car broke down, and Mic is all, LOL What are you talking about, my car is fine. Then to prove it, she gets in and drives away, leaving Kurt alone with Kristin, who also stomps off away from him.

Ian rocks up briefly to offer moral support, as he saw the whole thing, then he speculates that Micaela is somehow sabotaging both their love lives.

Tuesday after school, Mic comes by Darci’s house, despite them not really talking since the Twister game. I’ve lost track of days, so I have no fucking idea how long ago that was. It’s probably not important. Mic has Darci’s full star chart, along with a floor-length green velvet dress she gives to Darci, claiming it’s the new her. I have no idea where you would wear a thing like that, but okay. I’m going to assume they live in a world of non-stop Renaissance fairs.

Anyway, Mic starts going on about Darci’s chart, telling her that romance isn’t in the stars right now, and if any guy shows interest in her, it’s a sign to run. I know Micaela is trying to bang Kurt, but I also think she wants to bang Darci, too. Oh, also, she keeps referring to Darci as “the fish.” As in, “The fish is far too accommodating for her own good.” It’s weird and hilarious.

Micaela offers to teach Darci to call on the darkness and light, read the stars, and draw upon the energy of the earth, and Darci is wet as hell for this idea. She kneels before Mic and takes a vow of . . . loyalty and subservience or something, all while Micaela laughs to herself about how pathetically easy it is to fool Darci.

Mic offers to let Darci borrow some magic books to read, then pops out to talk to Kurt under the guise of asking him to do something mechanical with her car. She “apologizes” to him, then says she’s attracted to him and liked kissing him. He admits he liked kissing her, but he’s committed to Kristin. Micaela isn’t bothered, telling him they were written in the stars before they were even born, and everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. Then she walks out, leaving him confused as fuck.

Late that night, Mom comes in to tell Darci goodnight and catches her reading the magic book Mic left with her. Mom reveals that she, too, was into that stuff when she was Darci’s age, and even thought she was a witch. Then she tells Darci that she doesn’t need witchcraft; she’s already more powerful than she knows. All righty.

Then we switch to Mic with this line: “That night, Micaela entered her secret garden.” Dirty? Also, still waiting for Dean Stockwell to show up. Or possibly Maggie Smith, if you wanna go with the 1993 version. My god, this book is ridiculous and kind of wonderful.

Anyway, Mic is tired of waiting for Kurt to come to her on his own, so she decides it’s time to call on the powers of darkness to do her bidding. This involves being naked in the garden and burying the choker she stole from Kurt under her Hearts of Darkness. There’s also plenty of chanting and invoking involved.

Then she channels her inner Galadriel and pours water into a silver dish to see a vision of the future to remove all obstacles from her path. She sees Kristin walking in the woods, then suddenly disappearing like she was sucked down into the darkness. Mic doesn’t fully understand it, but the Voice tells her that Kurt will be hers if she sacrifices Kris to the darkness, so she’s in!

Two nights later, Micaela knows how to give Kris to the darkness, but has no idea how to lure her into her trap. Well, doesn’t actually sound like you know shit then, Mic. The Voice tells Mic to call Kristin, and Mic is like, uh, in my head? Nope, that only works with people she’s connected to, like Darci. We haven’t actually seen that, but okay. Then Mic is like, call her on the phone? So she shrugs and gives it a shot.

When she opens her mouth to talk to Kris, Kurt’s voice comes out. Oh, okay. That’s new. She, as Kurt, convinces Kris to meet her/him in the woods tomorrow night.

Cut to the next night, and M down in a pit she’s digging, seven feet deep. Kris should be here in forty minutes. Mic pulls herself out with a rope tied to a tree, then covers the opening of the pit with brush and sticks and whatnot. I’m sure it looks very natural. She has a picnic set up on the far side of the pit, complete with flowers and wine. She also sets three lanterns up along the path leading to the pit. Great! Why not a big red arrow pointing straight to the pit, as well? Let’s go full-on Looney Tunes with this shit!

Twenty minutes later, hiding in the woods, Mic hears Kristin’s car stop and the door open and shut. Oooh, it’s on now! Kristin comes along the path, spots the picnic set up, and promptly falls screaming into the pit.

Well, that was every bit as easy as the cartoons have led me to believe. BRB, I’ve got a surefire way of disposing of my enemies now!

Micaela thanks the powers of the night or whatever, then walks over to the pit and tells Kris if she gives her her car keys, she’ll think about letting her go. After a while, Kris hands up the keys. Mic starts filling in the pit, because of course she wasn’t going to let you go, Kristin. The pit is about half filled in when Mic spots a light moving at the top of the ridge. She’s never seen anyone else out here, but it spooks her, so she decides to leave Kris like she is, buried up to her shoulders. She figures Kris will get to die of starvation and exposure instead of suffocation, but it’s all the same to her.

Micaela peaces out, taking all the picnic shit with her, and stealing Kristin’s car to drive forty miles away and dump it into a ravine. As you do.

The next morning Kristin’s mom calls to see if Kurt knows where Kris is. Apparently she’d told her she was meeting Kurt last night. Oops. Apparently the police will be at school to take Kurt’s statement. I’m not at all sure that’s how that works, but okay. Kurt is more concerned for Kristin than for himself, so good for him.

At school, Kurt is immediately escorted off by the cops, and Ian pops up to ask Darci what’s going on. Ian says that they ought to be questioning Micaela, and insists that she’s playing some sort of sick game with them all. Darci is less skeptical this time around, and Ian kisses her hand before running into the school.

Ian accosts Mic at her locker, accusing her of doing something dastardly to Kris, and tells her he saw her stealing from the chem lab. She laughs it off, but after she walks away, she vows to get rid of him. Because, duh. It’s never a good idea to let the villain know you’re onto them, for fuck sake, Ian.

At lunch, Mic sits across from Ian to taunt him while he asks her more “questions she won’t answer,” and manages to drop some poison in his soda. Oh, we’ve finally figured out that cola exists? Cool. She whispers that she’s a murderer as Ian turns green and his eyes roll up in his head.

Meanwhile, Darci runs into Kurt outside the principal’s office, where the cops were questioning her about him. They still don’t have any news about Kris, then paramedics shove them out of the way on their way into the cafeteria. Darci is remarkably blase about this, until she realizes they’re there for Ian, at which point she begs Kurt to drive her to the hospital after him.

After two hours of sitting in the waiting room and lamenting the detention they’re probably going to get for randomly leaving school, Darci and Kurt finally get to talk to the doctor. She tells them that it looks like Ian was poisoned, and it looks like a toxic dose of a drug rather than the cafeteria food, as Darci suggests. I don’t know why the doc is telling them all this instead of getting hold of Ian’s mom, but sure.

Darci convinces the doc to let her see Ian for two minutes, and he tells her that everything has a yellow glow around it, and he thinks Mic poisoned him, so will Darci please go to Mic’s house and look for poisons, because no one else believes him. She reluctantly agrees, then is ushered out of the room by a nurse.

Darci and Kurt go to Mic’s house while she’s still in school, and talk their way past the nanny by making up a bullshit story about needing to get a book back from Mic. Darci claims to be Stacey and introduces Kurt as her boyfriend, Jimmy. Even Kurt thinks it’s weird that Darci is pretending he’s her boyfriend.

Darci has no fucking clue what she’s looking for, so glances at a plant book while Kurt reads off the names of the plants she has sitting by the window. She decides to write down the names of the plants and grabs one of Mic’s notebooks, and an article falls out of it. The article is about van Gogh, debating whether or not he was suffering from digitalis poisoning. It mentions the foxglove plant, and also mentions that a symptom of digitalis poisoning is seeing yellow auras around things – just like Ian was!

Oh, okay. I had assumed it was the fucking Hearts of Darkness again. Silly me.

Kurt actually reads Mic’s notes in the notebook, and these are about the Hearts of Darkness, and about her experimental poisoning of Darci. Oh, whoops, you weren’t supposed to see that!

Pissed, Darci calls the hospital and tells the doc about the foxglove, and the Hearts of Darkness for good measure, because she’s not actually sure which one Ian was poisoned with. If it’s digitalis poisoning, they have an antidote they can give him, so he’ll probably be fine. Unfortunately, as she hangs up, Kurt sees Mic drive up in her Acura. Seriously, this Acura is name-dropped so often, I wonder if the author had a sponsorship deal.

For some reason they don’t have time to get out of the house, even though I’m sure a place this size probably has a back staircase and a back door. They decide to hide in another room, but Darci has to put all the notebooks and shit back, so she doesn’t make it out in time. She, instead, has to hide under the bed.

She overhears Mic summon the whatever forces of the whoopty-whoop, saying that she’s taken care of Ian and Kris and asking for guidance for whatever comes next. Then she mutters about cutting a finger from the dead girl, getting dirt from the grave, and giving them as an offering to the dark. Darci is disgusted at herself for ever wanting to be like Micaela.

Darci decides she can’t tell Kurt that Kris is dead, so she just tells him Mic had something to do with her disappearance and they need to follow her. So, they follow her into the Catskills, and somehow she doesn’t notice. Seems unlikely, but okay. This book is ridiculous in the best way, and it only gets more ridiculous from here, guys.

They creep through the woods until they spot Micaela, barefoot and wearing that damn cloak (and you just know she’s naked underneath), and chanting to the spirits of the darkness. Before the siblings can do anything about it, they spot a human figure caked in dirt shambling toward them.

Kurt calls out Kristin’s name, but Darci is remembering the stories of Micaela raising the dead, and wonders in horror what Mic has done. She refers to Kris as “the dead girl” in her head as she watches her in horror and begins to scream.

That’s right, folks. Darci legit thinks Kristin is a motherfucking zombie.

This is the point where I lose it and begin laughing my ass off, and don’t really stop for the next *checks book* seven pages. Seven pages?! Wow, they really wrap this shit up quick, huh?

Anyway, Micaela is either as dumb as the others, or just going with it, because she turns and welcomes the siblings, and goes on this whole rant about it being time for Darci to join her and prove herself by finishing what they need to do with Kris, because it’s evil for the dead to try to return to the living. Even Kurt thinks he doesn’t want to go to Kristin because the thought of touching her dead flesh makes his skin crawl.

What the fuck. What the fuck is wrong with these people. I just really need Kris to pimp-slap the lot of them while incredulously screeching at them that she’s not a fucking zombie, you idiots!

Kurt tries to hold Darci back, but she gives him a “play along” look and he lets her go. She takes Micaela’s ritual knife from her as Mic tells her to send Kristin back to the land of the dead by stabbing her in the heart and then cutting off her finger, but Darci instead puts the knife to Mic’s throat. Haha, played you, bitch!

Kurt tackles Micaela and ties her up with his belt, then yells at Darci to please drop the damn knife, but Darci is looking past him in terror at the “ghostly” figure of Kristin lurching toward them.

I’m still cackling, by the way.

Micaela insists that Kristin is back from the dead and she’s the only one who knows how to send her back, so why don’t they just let her go so she can deal with this, please? She also reveals that she buried Kris alive, which really should be the tip-off here, honestly. She mentions the Voice, and Darci is like, excuse you what?

So. Darci is now convinced that Kris is a ghost (I’m not sure how or why we switched from zombie to ghost, but this is too fucking funny for me to care), but Kurt is starting to fire up a brain cell or two and tells Mic that her plan obviously didn’t work because Kris isn’t dead. Mic keeps screaming that she is dead, then starts crying and explaining that this was the only way for her and Kurt and Darci to all be together forever – no one can love him like she can, and Kris was getting in the way of that, so she sacrificed her to the darkness!

Oh, well, why didn’t you just say so? This is perfectly rational when you put it like that.

Kurt, now believing that his girlfriend isn’t a zombie after all, goes to Kris, looking at her lovingly, and she collapses into his arms. He kisses her and tells her everything is going to be okay.

And, the end.

I’m still laughing at the zombie nonsense, by the way.

Nostalgia Glasses Off

This book is something else, y’all.

Okay, I really enjoyed this. It was surprisingly well-written, had a pretty solid story, and was just WTF enough to be entertaining as hell. Ironically, the weakest parts were the bits about zodiacs and astrology. It felt like that stuff was just crammed in there to make this fit the criteria of a series about zodiac stuff. It would have been a bit stronger if it was just a weird witch girl obsessed with these siblings. Even so, it doesn’t detract from the story in any major way.

I’m led to believe this isn’t even the most bonkers story in this series, but I’m stuck with what I can find for reasonable prices, so it may be a while before I happen across the truly mind-bendingly wild books in this series.

If you can find this one, it’s worth a read. If only for the last ten pages or so, where the heroes suddenly find zombie girls a plausible addition to their lives.


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