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.

On Adventure and Job Security

He had spent years in search of boredom, but had never achieved it. Just when he thought he had it in his grasp his life would suddenly become full of near-terminal interest. The thought that someone could voluntarily give up the prospect of being bored for fifty years made him feel quite weak. With fifty years ahead of him, he thought, he could elevate tedium to the status of an art form. There would be no end to the things he wouldn’t do.

– On Rincewind from Sourcery

“Matt, would you walk me to my next class?” Erin asked me breathlessly, her eyes wide with fear behind her slightly oval-shaped glasses. We had sat next to each other most of my freshman year of high school in geometry, but hadn’t begun speaking to each other until relatively recently. To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed her until last week.

Despite having been in close proximity to this girl for over a semester and a half, she always avoided notice by wearing big flannel shirts, keeping her hair over her face, and never saying a word. But when she walked into the dance the previous Friday night, it was like beholding an angel. I swear she shone with a pure white light, and her laughter swept me from my feet. She was enchanting, and when she told me that we had a class together, I was flabbergasted.

Today she was hiding again, though. Boots instead of high heels and flannel rather than lace, the only distinguishing mark about her the fear that was plain on her face. Of course, I agreed to walk her, and gently cajoled the story from her as we crossed the campus.

A band of pagans (not true satan worshippers, nor actually powerful witches) had forced her to a shrine they had built with the intent of harming her. Whether it would have come to rape or murder is hard to say, but Erin was terrified (she had escaped by kicking one in the groin and bull rushing past the one with the knife), and being the gallant witch I was, I vowed to protect her. For the next several days, I ditched out of classes early so I could walk her from place to place, and cast guardian wards wherever and whenever I could to keep her from harm.

I served as Erin’s bodyguard for only a week before she disappeared. Finally tracking her to Texas, I learned that she had fled the state out of fear, but was thankful for my help. Helluva reward.

***

Over the last couple of days, I have had a somewhat sobering and comforting realization. Despite my frustration at being unable to write due to the muddled nature of my mind on pain medication and the constant throbbing of my jaw, I have found myself uniquely blessed. It has occurred to me how truly wonderful it is to have a real job.

Not that writing isn’t a real job, for those who make an income from it, but in this moment, I’m kind of glad it isn’t my real job. I have a secure position at a major university which provides me with sick leave, vacation time, retirement benefits, and a steady paycheck based on the work, services, and knowledge I provide.

Writing is, to my mind, kind of like adventuring. You put yourself out there, go out on a limb, and pour yourself into something. You do it out of love and excitement and perhaps a certain amount of naivete. Sometimes this pans out and you make a paycheck here and there, but it’s not steady or secure.

Being unable to write for the last few days, I’ve felt a bit like a failure. I haven’t been producing, and subsequently my self-worth has faltered. But now it occurs to me that, at least at this stage in my life, that’s OK. My job isn’t writing; writing is a hobby I enjoy, but it’s not what pays for our house or our food. I have no obligation to a muse or a mission, I’m just (supposedly) doing this for fun.

***

I met a lot of people when I started college who wanted to go on a big adventure. They wanted to get out and see the world, to “start their life,” and to see what it all had to offer. I thought they were fools.

Adventure always found me whether I wanted it to or not, and it was never truly pleasant. Rather, I sought boredom, because boredom meant nobody was trying to kill me or mine.

I didn’t find boredom until I became Christian, and even then, not until after my first year or so of college. Once I placed myself under Jesus’s banner, I found that I no longer had to fight everything on my own. God takes care of me.

This was kind of a depressing realization at first. Part of me still thirsts for adventure, for the thrill of cheating death, for striding where so few go and daring everything for the next great leap. There was no point in keeping myself in good physical shape anymore, in pushing myself in certain academic pursuits, or in preparing for the great battles. There were no more great battles, and there was no more adventure of the sort I knew.

But there is certainly joy, and the last few days has highlighted that most dramatically. April has been truly wonderful, taking care of everything for me with love and gentleness. She has done the dishes and cleaned, cooked for me, catered to my every need, and somehow not resented my listless and constant napping.

All-in-all, I’m fine to be rid of the adventures of my youth. I could fill a book someday with them, and I probably will, but I’m not anxious to repeat them. I’d rather have this comfortable bed and our kittens, my beautiful wife and our home, and a secure job where I am valued and sheltered in the warm bosom of the university’s bureaucracy. I know from experience that there’s simply no end to the things I wouldn’t do.