Winter in Missouri

I always wonder what people from other places think when they come to Missouri State University. They visit and have their orientation/registration over the summer, when the flower beds are all in bloom, our humidity is turned up to eleven, and the Ozarks is nothing but green oak trees and blue sky. They come here in the fall, when it’s even more hot and humid, but then the leaves start to turn and, let me tell you, this was one of the most beautiful autumns we’ve had in quite some time. And then they get through their first semester and winter hits.

When the students return this weekend, especially if they’re coming from the coasts, they may be in for a surprise. The temperature’s been hovering around zero the last few days, and the windchill was apparently around -20 Fahrenheit when I walked in from the parking garage today. If you’re an international student from the Caribbean, or from India, or just traveling here from Arizona or California… is this what you expected?

Business As Usual in Missouri is weather you can’t count on. Things can change in a matter of hours with fifty degree temperature swings, snow storms one day and tornadic thunderstorms the next, and an abundance of beautiful but deceptive sunshine. For those of us who grew up here, we’ve come to expect and even appreciate it.

I’ve only once heard someone from outside the Ozarks share their opinion on our manic depressive weather patterns. She was a student from South Africa, a place that Americans consider with awe and a bit of trepidation, mostly because it has the word “Africa” in it. We assume it’s all kinds of dangerous and challenging to live in, but she was perplexed at why anyone would live in America, let alone Missouri. “Back home we have to worry about crime and other things,” she said, “but here the very country tries to kill you! There are tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes and floods and droughts… every year! Why would anyone live here?!”

Why indeed. There are certainly places on the earth’s surface that are more peaceful and safe to live… but for the same reason we can’t imagine why someone would continue to live in Israel with all the strife there over the last… however many millennia, we can’t imagine living anywhere else. America is my home, and I really like Springfield. We get the occasional tornado, but compared to a lot of other places, it’s pretty OK.

At least, to me. I’m not sure our longer distance students agree.

Starting the Season

This is the first in a long series of vignettes. The goal of these stories is to help communicate what it truly means to be a witch–not akin to Sabrina (The Teenage Witch), Harry Potter, or the witches in Buffy (The Vampire Slayer), but a witch in real life. Each story is a short scene, a single experience, highlighting how a witch might approach a situation, how they might react, and what they are capable of.

The stories are fictionalized, in that names, characters, and conversations are (somewhat) mostly made up. The stories are all based on real life.

Thomas frowned at the wind ruffling his hair. It was another beautiful day, sun shining high in the sky with not a cloud to interrupt his gaze. Though it was late November, the temperature was still in the mid-70s and it had miraculously only rained at night for months. It seemed as if perpetual summer had come to Missouri, each day like the last and the next in a state of never-ending brightness.

It was unnatural, and it made Thomas angry.

Someone was intruding on his land and mucking with his weather, expanding summer long past when it should have died and preventing autumn from taking its rightful place.

Closing his eyes, Thomas stretched his senses out, particularly that one sense that is uncommon to most humans. He had never tried to describe the weave of magic to anyone, partially because the best he could do would be to call it an enormous, three dimensional, glowing blanket that covered and permeated everything. It was in and a part of every object and being, and by examining and using the weave he could learn about and change the world.

It was clear to him that someone was tampering with the weather, and after a few minutes of investigation he was able to trace the threads to someone west of him. Someone acting in concert with a coven of other witches (for this person clearly did not have the power by himself to enact such a climate change) to extend the summer. Thomas smiled grimly. Here was the catalyst, the conductor, and the director of the unnatural season length.

Thomas could see the residual strings that tied this person to magics manipulating the flow of air streams, pressure systems, and atmospheric modifications to allow sunlight more directly through. The power needed for such a spell was immense, but it had a weak point.

The caster.

With a wrench of his will, Thomas spat out an incoherent word, half growl and half power, and snapped the thread. The amassed might of the spell recoiled upon the caster to the west, but behind it went Thomas.

Thomas sensed the man fall as he was struck by his own released magics, and Thomas entered him in that moment of weakness. Amplifying and manipulating the magic now unleashed, Thomas scoured the man clean.

Where the wind had quietly ruffled his hair, birds gliding on gentle currents and singing their songs to the sun, now it rose with a fury. A month and more of suppressed natural inclination was free to return to normal, and Thomas raised his hands in recognition of its force. Borrowing from the power of the wind, he clenched his eyes and forced more into the caster.

When the man had fallen unconscious, Thomas returned to his body, a cruel smile raising the corners of his lips. The director of the coven would never use magic again—it had been burned from his body. He was cut off from the source, the weave, unable to interact with or even see it. To Thomas, it was a fate worse than death, and it was what that man deserved.

Laughter began to rise from his gut, up through his chest and past his slightly uneven teeth. That will do, he thought. What power I have!

Picking his bag up from where he had dropped it beside his feet, Thomas slung it over is shoulder and walked down the hill to his high school. None of the other students, rushing so they wouldn’t be late to their classes, had noticed his display simply because he hadn’t wanted them to.

It is a wonderful thing, he thought, to be a witch.