“Listen, guys, I think someone’s gotten the wrong idea about this whole ‘witch’ thing.”
I’m zip tied to a metal chair in an abandoned building surrounded by four very large, very demanding, and very ugly men. The fading sunlight slants through the high-set broken windows, painting distorted shadows on the dusty, debris covered cement floor.
“I know everybody thinks its all point-your-wand and say ‘Vera Verto’ or ‘Wingardiam Leviosa’ and all that good stuff. I mean, all props to my girl JK and all. At least there aren’t as many fundamentalists going on with the ‘Thou Shalt Not suffer a Witch to Live’ and ‘Burn them at the Stake’ stuff, which is good thing. Actually, the whole burning at the stake thing was in Europe, but interestingly the Salem Witch Trials….”
I know I’m blithering like an idiot, but I need to keep these dimwits distracted. Behind my back, my black nail-polished fingers are flitting and flicking. I have to keep the sparks to a minimum as I work. It’s harder than you might think to sever plastic zip ties and hold them in place so that they appear to be intact. I’m glad I took the time this morning to give my nails a fresh coat of Wicked Vexed Polish, my own special blend: ash for boosting spell power, ground bamboo for breaking hexes, pepper and garlic for protection, a few drops of frankincense, some neroli oil, and a base of Immortelle.
Obviously, I had no idea I would be shot with a tranquilizer dart in my own bookshop. I mean, how often does that happen? A tranquilizer dart. That’s just bizarre. Good thing witches have a high tolerance for these things. I was semi-conscious when they dragged me out. I could hear them arguing over the plan. It afforded me some extra time to think and let me come to sharp and alert with no tranquilizer hangover.
It’s not like I advertise that I’m a witch. Sure, my shop has some “rare” books and some special sections for the discerning reader, but I’m not selling crystals and doing tarot card readings in a bad Transylvanian accent. I’m discrete. Clearly not discrete enough. I may have to rethink that.
“But you are Belladonna Sanguinaria,” insisted the thickly muscled man with a tattoo of an incomplete figure-eight on his neck, unfinished ends turning inward in their own curves.
Troll. Witches can see through projections of human form. But add a tattooed symbol to your projection that means troll, seriously? Trolls are beyond stupid. This one smells worse than most, and they are a stinky lot—rotting meat and feces. That combined with the acrid swirls of ammonia, body odor, pot, acetone, and bleach were too much to bear. I cast a quick Smell Block to allow me to focus.
“Oh, that’s just my silly pen name.” Flick, twirl, snip, hold. Keep working the plastic restraints.
All four of them look at me like I started speaking Farsi. Goddess, give me patience.
“You know, a name you use when you write a book. I wrote a little one—self-published, of course. Then I decided to use it as my professional name at the bookstore to stand out, to seem interesting and exotic. It’s not quite so Plain Jane, you know? My name actually is Betty Jane. I mean, how much more boring could a name be? I’ll tell you how—add a last name as dull as Jones, that’s how. Betty Jane Jones. Blah.” I smile what I hope looks all innocence and girl next door, Marianne on Gilligan’s Island, without the Daisey Dukes and gingham belly-free shirt. I’m wearing a long purple dress imbued with sparkling silver streaks of agrimony and subtle fecks of hawthorn and pine needles—all the rage this season for a witch who might get captured by a quartet of idiots who think they can force her to spellcast for them. “Spellkill” is how they put it, and they have no idea how far off they are on that expression in this situation. Like I can just point a wand and Aveda Kedavra someone--- without anyone noticing or feeling the black lash of the Universe returning that seriously negative energy three-fold. Someone was absent on “The Law of Three Day” in monster school. If I could do that, I’d have four large corpses to Inflagre Delecto.
Ties are done. Next.
The chair is bolted to the floor. That’s going to be a problem. I can’t spellcast to unscrew the bolts because they might notice. I’ll have to dissolve the steel under the concrete floor. Focus. Create the image. Melt, melt.
“We know you’re a witch, whatever name you want to call yourself. Are you saying you aren’t?” The largest man charges forward, emotional enough to unveil his fiery orange eyes and the murky whisps of sulfur and brimstone. A drake. Interesting. Not many of those still around. Actual dragons, as people know of them from books and movies, became extinct with the dinosaurs. Guess whose fault the whole extinction thing was? Yep. All anger, violence, testosterone, and little bitty brains. And little bitty other things. You’d think dragon dick would be massive enough to be noticeable in the paintings. Nope. Probably why they’re so pissed off all the time.
I squeak and flinch in my chair, turning my head away from him. Playing the frightened helpless chick is really not my strength. As I hide under the long black hair that has fallen across my pale-skinned face, I manage a sob but chastise myself silently for my B Movie acting.
“You are a witch!” He grabs my face, wrenching it close to his. He doesn’t realize he’s losing control of his projection. His talons puncture my skin. The reek of possum and armadillo hangs heavily on his breath, breaking through my Smell Block. Goddess, the Roadkill Lunch Special.
“A Wiccan, a Wiccan, not a witch. Not the same thing.” I shake my head slightly in his grasp, spreading my eyes as wide as possible to sell my fear. Good thing I wore the brown contacts today. My natural bright purple eyes would have been obvious, even to these cretins.
“What’s the difference?” He rattles my head, talons drawing blood. The warm coppery scent causes his flared reptilian nostrils to poke through. His black tongue snakes out. His human illusion is failing fast. He has so little control.
“We, we W-W-Wiccans are all about loving Mother Earth and all its creatures and people and plants and water and trees, you know Save the Rainforest, Save the Whales, Don’t Litter, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” I’m just making shit up. I don’t know any fucking Wiccans. They’re the patchoulied hippies of peace, love and harmony in the witch world. Embarrassing “Tie Dyed Sheep” of the Family of the Craft. “We’re vegetarians. We protest hunting, and leather, and animal testing. And we do a lot of recycling and composting and make upcycled artwork to promote awareness about pollution and climate---”
Fortunately, he cuts off my piling up of rubbish. I was running out of things to say. Letting go of my face, he stalks off to the other side of the group, full volume of steam and drake bellowing. I scrunch my eyelids together, feigning fear and reassuring anyone who’s paying attention that I didn’t just see the out of control drake. With a very tiny hard-on for an enemy way out of his realm.
Focus on the last bolt. Melt, melt, melt.
“Well, you stupid Wickers can do some magic, right?” The smallest of the four steps toward me. I don’t have to open my eyes to know this one’s a skunk ape. I use a small burst of energy to move him gently back a few steps so that it seems like his idea. Ok, a few more steps. Goddess, don’t let me puke on this dress. I spent a lot of time weaving all the protection into it.
“No, no, not really.” I keep my eyes closed. If his projection is failing, I do not want to see that. Disgusting creatures, even in a universe full of things as vile and repugnant as Donald Trump’s hair.
“Nothing? Or not really? What can you do?”
“W-w-we-we….” I think desperately. Wiccans have to be able to do something. Like what? Herbology! Thanks, Professor Sprout. JK comes through for me again. Respect, Sister. “We’re good with plants, growing things. Gardens—flowers and plants and herbs and even vegetables—”
Disgusted, he stomps away, but his stench lingers. More power to the Smell Block. All the zip ties are cut, the chair is now loose from the floor, and I have charmed a few of the conveniently abandoned objects in the vicinity to help out when it’s time.
I wait for the fourth man to speak, take his turn. When I open my eyes, I see a Golem. Whoever created him from clay and wrote Emeth on his forehead has dropped his human projection. An interesting choice to add to this particular assassination plot. All I have to do is erase the E and the Golem will die—meth, Hebrew for death. Appropriate, given the number of tweakers who OD or blow up their own meth labs.
There’s a pause as the troll, the drake, and the skunk ape confer. What to do with the witch you kidnapped to put “a death spell” on an above average enemy—and Goddess help me, that’s what they actually called it—and you accidentally get a weak, worthless Wiccan. The drake roars. The troll grunts. The skunk ape shrieks. I conjure a Noise Dampening Barrier.
The Golem stands like the Claymation figure he is.
A troll, a drake, a skunk ape, and a Golem walk into a bar looking for a witch to kill a…. There’s gotta be a punchline in there somewhere. I’ll think about it later.
Right now, I have some escaping to do.
The Golem sticks silently to the cement floor, dark, lidless eyes unfocused. Without purpose, it is barely more animate than the clay from which it was wrought. But when I move, the Golem will act to subdue me, so I must be faster. I will scratch the E from his forehead and send the avalanche of his crumbling body onto the others. I set a charm on the industrial overhead fans to kick up some dust their way as well. The old “sand in the eyes” routine is lame, but it can be effective.
I drop the Noise Dampening Barrier and the Smell Block—I’ll take the extra three percent of energy back. The drake, his back to me, thunders at the troll. Gusts of sooty charcoal smoke and surges of sulfuric orange flames fill the distance between them. The troll grunts a guttural, jumbled hybrid of orcish and goblin, waving a hefty club. Limited as troll eyesight is and as overwrought as this one currently is, he will not notice anything until chunks of Golem land on his dense skull. The skunk ape does not appear to be included in the conversation, and his agitated shrieks are ignored by the others.
Goddesses All, Sisters in the Craft, anybody who just fucking hates bullies who shoot people with tranquilizer darts in their place of business, and of course JK—wish me luck and So Mote It Be.
Collecting my energy, power, and will to my Manipuri, the “lustrous jewel” of my third chakra, I focus my intent until I feel the reverberant might coalesce.
The metal chair lifts me into the air and propels me straight for the Golem’s face. My Wicked Vexed nails have the E obliterated before it can twitch. I rise above the now-inanimate clay as the chair smashes into it with ten times its normal weight and force. The six fans whirl instantly to maximum power.
The opening salvo of Whack-a-Golem temporarily flattens the three targets while I soar overhead to confront the drake, whom I knew would be first to his feet.
“Witch!” he bellows and then inhales deeply for what he believes will be my barbecue.
Why they waste time with words amidst the fray is incomprehensible—and so pitifully “human cinema.” I summon the glacial rancor the Universe bears for bullies, and the drake is emmeshed inside his personal iceberg. The Universe lends itself to balance, with a deep appreciation for irony. I visualize the perfect location for a drake iceberg and nudge it to an arctic location.
The troll trips on his own atrocious feet, dropping his massive club on his already lumpy head. I restore his human projection—down to the detail of the troll symbol tattoo—and ensnare him permanently in his human form, removing advantages of strength from his troll self. He will spend eternity as a half-witted, rancid human while retaining the memory of his original form and power.
I silence the skunk ape’s appalling screeching and contain his noxious odor in an impenetrable bubble. He gesticulates frantically, eyes wild, mouth frothing red, trying to free himself. I push the bubble to the ceiling and wrap it in invisibility as I anchor it there in perpetuity. He can watch anything—or nothing—that goes on below, and rail futilely against it forever.
Standing on the time-soiled floor of the squalid building as daylight surrenders to the gloaming, I examine my crafting, reweighing it for balance in the Universe, and find it poetically appropriate.
“So Mote It Be.”
Eager to return to my home above my bookshop for a prolonged, exceptionally hot bath with some calming lavender, ylang-ylang, clary sage, and sandalwood, I leave the remnants of today’s adventure behind.
Tomorrow night, I’ll find a vampire named Khalid and warn him that someone wants to change his status from Undead to Really Dead.