“Did anything else happen?” Lydia asked.
“No, it just glowed for a few seconds. Then stopped,” Harper said. “When I took it back to my dorm room, I tried a few other things on it. Water seemed to have the same effect, but milk did nothing.”
“Hmm.” Lydia seemed to consider it for a moment. “Do you have it with you?”
Harper frowned apologetically. “No. Sorry. Gemma was worried about having it out of her sight, so Marcy came by and picked it up this morning.”
“That’s fine.” Lydia brushed it off. “Even if I had the scroll to look at it, it probably wouldn’t matter. What happened with Pine and the Red Bull is normal.”
“Scrolls glow when exposed to energy drinks?” Harper asked with a raised eyebrow.
“No, the writing reacts to different things, especially if the thing is related to the curse,” Lydia said, and Harper just stared at her blankly. “Take Medusa’s curse. You remember her, right? The chick with all the snakes in her hair?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of Medusa.”
“With hers, the paper would get incredibly warm, like scalding hot, when it came in contact with snake venom. I have no idea why or how anybody would put snake venom on it, but according to my research, that’s what happened,” Lydia said.
“So what does that mean?” Harper asked.
“I don’t actually know for sure.” Lydia shook her head sadly. “In Medusa’s case, I believe that venom had been used in the ink or mixed with the papyrus or something. But I highly doubt that Red Bull was used in the creation of the sirens’ curse.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t think so.”
“But maybe something in it was,” Lydia said. “What’s in Red Bull anyway? Water, sugar, caffeine?”
Harper nodded. “Pine said he thought the ink might be made of blood.”
“Yeah, that would be in line with what I know about the sirens,” Lydia agreed. “That could be the connection. Carbon dioxide is a waste product contained in blood, and it’s also abundant in carbonated beverages, too. That would explain why Red Bull affects it, but milk doesn’t.”
“Yeah…” Harper said hesitantly. “But … so it doesn’t mean anything?”
“Like is it some clue about how to destroy the scroll, thereby breaking the curse?” Lydia let out a long breath. “I honestly can’t say one way or the other.”
“Well, what about Medusa?” Harper asked. “Did venom help her destroy her scroll?”
“She didn’t destroy her scroll,” Lydia said. “I think she tried to for a while, which is probably how the venom experimentation came into play. But then she and Perseus fell in love—he liked the snake hair or something—so she stopped fighting it.”
“Are you sure we’re talking about the same thing?” Harper asked. “I’ve been reading a lot of mythology lately, and I’m pretty sure that nobody loved Medusa. In fact, I thought Perseus killed her.”
“Originally, mythology was spread by word of mouth. In the days before the printing press, that’s how information got around,” Lydia said. “And some of the mouths spreading the word had their own horse in the race, and things got twisted up.”
“How so?” Harper asked.
“Athena hated Medusa, and Athena was a much more powerful goddess, so what Athena said became the truth,” Lydia explained. “Medusa was just a beautiful young girl, and she had an affair with Poseidon. And that pissed Athena off ’cause she had a thing for him, so she turned Medusa into the gorgon. Then, later, Athena sent Perseus to kill Medusa, but he fell in love with her instead, so then Athena finished the job herself.”
“How do you know all this stuff?” Harper asked. “That’s not written down in any of the books I’ve read. Some of it sounds similar, but Medusa’s always described as a monstrosity, and Perseus as a brave hero for slaying her.”
“That’s because Athena was a huge asshole,” Lydia said. “Think about it. She twisted their love story and made it into the exact opposite, so the rest of history would condemn Medusa. It’s pretty sick.
“And as for how I know it, it’s because that’s what my family does,” Lydia went on. “For centuries, we’ve been collecting all the information, all the truths from the supernatural elements of the world. We’re the record keepers for the things in the world that the rest of humanity doesn’t—or can’t—properly record.”
With that, Lydia swiveled her chair and took the lid off the box. As she began to rifle through its contents, Harper noticed the scar on Lydia’s shoulder, red, beveled flesh protruding from around the strap of her tank top. Lydia had told her it was a werewolf bite, and Harper wondered about the price of being the paranormal world’s memory keeper.
“That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about,” Lydia said. She pulled out a green file, worn around the edges with a cracked spine. “Marcy asked me about Audra.”
“Yes, she told me that you were related to her. She was your great-grandmother, right?”
Lydia nodded. “She was my grandmother’s mother. And my grandma never married, and my mom never married, so it made tracing the lineage a bit easier from Panning to Panning.”
“She wouldn’t happen to still be alive, would she?” Harper asked hopefully.
“No, unfortunately, she’s not,” Lydia said. “She wouldn’t be that old, though. I think…” She tilted her head as she did the math. “Audra would be in her eighties, but she passed away about fifteen years ago, and she’d already been in a sorry shape before. Very early onset dementia.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Harper said.
“It’s a side effect of the profession, I think.” Lydia sighed. “I didn’t know her that well, which is why it’s taken me a bit longer to break her code.” She pulled papers out of the file, then she looked up at Harper. “Did Marcy explain to you about the code?”
“She said that Audra kept her journals coded,” Harper said, and Lydia looked back down at the pages.
From where Harper sat, she didn’t have the best angle to see them, but they appeared to be old pages from notebooks, yellowed a bit, but mostly okay. The words were written in very small cursive that she couldn’t read at all.