A cool night breeze blows through the open window of your room where you sit, sending shivers down your spine. Everything outside your window is quiet and lit up in the light of a full moon. The only sound that reaches your ears is those of bats swooping over the street and chirping crickets trying to woo their lovers.
You lean a little farther out the silver framed window and close your eyes, breathing in the fresh air. Calm, you tell yourself, calm.
You feel your heart rate ease and thoughts stop spinning in a cyclone. You open your eyes at the eerie sight of your front lawn and street at night. Most people would tense at the scene, but you’ve gotten used to it with late night widow gazing becoming common.
A creak in the boards almost causes you to tumble from your perch on the windowsill. A chubby black and white cat nimbly jumps up beside you and looks at you with yellow eyes groggy with sleep.
Oliver, your cat, yawns. “Why in my nine lives are you awake?” He wonders.
You shrug and pull your knees close to your chest. “I don’t know.”
“You had that nightmare again, didn’t you?” He asks, gently licking his paw and waits for you to answer.
“Maybe.” You mumble, picking at a loose thread in your sweater. It starts to unravel, and you feel oddly satisfied. Who knew ruining a nice thing was fun?
“You really should talk to someone about them, Skylar. You can’t spend half the night staring out a window because you’re too scared to go back to sleep.”
“I have talked to someone,” You argue. “You.”
Oliver rolls his eyes. “Other than me. Really, Skylar, you can’t possibly think that telling your problems to a cat is a good idea.”
“Of course, I do. You’re my best friend.”
“Again, having a cat as a best friend is a horrible idea.” He rolls his eyes again and turns his back to you. You know him well enough to know that he really means he appreciates your words and that you're his best friend too.
“Anyways,” Oliver continues, “You really should tell someone else. Preferably not another cat.” He winks, “These dreams can’t be normal. Even for a witch.”
You sigh. You really do need to tell someone other than him. But what if everyone thinks you are crazy? Or that you don’t deserve to be a witch and be banished into a far-off magicless city, like, may a hex forbid, New jersey.
You shudder at the thought. Such a place was a witch's worst nightmare.
But with a glance at Oliver’s judgemental yet adorable eyes, you know he’s right. Stupid know-it-all cats.
“Yeah, I get it. But who? Dad won’t care, Mom doesn’t know enough to care, and Landry will just yell at me and stay on her phone. The only person who might understand is Uncle Elliot, but he’s all the way in England.” ‘
“Hm,” Oliver thought. While he was thinking, a moth flew into the windowsill and landed in front of him. Oliver's eyes widened and he leaned back, his bum and the nub where his tail should be wiggling in anticipation. With a swift push from his back legs, Oliver pounced on the moth, but it flew away just before he could get his claws around it.
He would’ve tumbled out of the window if you hadn’t used a levitating charm. For a cat, Oliver was incredibly clumsy. He was always falling off shelves and trying to balance on small ledges. You were surprised that he had lived this long, but you guessed it was because he was a mostly indoor cat.
You grabbed him from the air and set him on your lap. He squirmed in protest but settled down once you started scratching behind his ear. His purr is louder than a lawnmower and only gets louder when he flips over for some tummy rubs.
You hope a good cuddle would make Oliver forget about it. You don’t need another person worrying about you. You're a witch. You can take care of yourself.
“What if we go see Elliot tonight?” Oliver says after a moment, realising he had been tricked. He jumps out of your lap (not before lightly biting you) and moves to the other side of the window.
Oliver starts pacing. “What if we fly over to his house in England and then you can talk about your dreams!”
“How the heck are we going to do that? He’s on the other side of the second largest ocean!”
“We use Landry’s broom,” he said, like it is the most obvious thing ever.
“Okay.” You say, “But stealing-”
“Not stealing, borrowing.”
“Fine. Borrowing Landry’s broom is a suicide. I want to see Elliot, but if Landry finds out . . . my life would literally be endangered. Like I’m serious. I could actually die.”
Oliver swats at you and says, “Oh, don’t be such a wimp. We’ll be back before she wakes up.”
You raise an eyebrow, not totally believing that would be true.
“Come on, Skylar.” Oliver pleads with big eyes. “It’ll be an adventure!”
You don’t know. Sneaking across the ocean on a stolen - sorry, borrowed - broom just to tell someone about a nightmare seemed like a horrible idea, even if that someone was Uncle Elliot.
But the nightmare is getting worse and worse. Every time you fall asleep, it’s waiting for you. When you’re awake you can see it lurking in the shadows or living in fuzzy memories in the back of your mind. You barely sleep and spend half the night staring out your window until it’s time for school.
You moan and lean your head back. “Okay, we’ll go to England.” You can barely hear yourself over the sound of Oliver’s cheers and start to regret your choice. You just hope to see Uncle Elliot before Landry finds out or you crash into the ocean.
* * *
You open the door slowly, cringing when it creaks. Oliver pokes his head into Landry’s room, checking to see if she's awake and gives you the go ahead. Moving as quietly as you can, Oliver and you move toward her closest where her new 650 Double Hex broom lives. She got it for her sixteenth birthday a couple of months ago and has been very possessive of it since she laid eyes on it. You weren't allowed to breathe near it, let alone take it for a late night cruise.
You glance over at Landry sleeping in her bed covered in fluffy green pillows and comforters. Her ink black hair is a tangled mess and she’s snoring louder than a chainsaw. You doubt she would wake up anytime soon.
You reach the closet and try to quietly slide the door.
You stop dead and frantically glance over your shoulder at Landry. Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up. You beg. Landry rolls over to her side with a big thump and lets out a huge snore.
You sigh a breath of relief. You’re lucky that your house could be bombed, or a rock concert could start in Landry’s room, and she would sleep right through. But you shouldn’t risk spending any more time here. Every minute spent was a minute closer to sunrise or being caught.
Oliver is already in the closet searching for the broom when you finish sliding the door open. Clothes were falling out of drawers and forgotten activities and homework assignments thrown in random piles. A small corner was dedicated to all Landry’s witch related items and learning against a wall was her broom.
Cautiously, you inch your way over. Not sure if Landry has protection charms surrounding it, you wave your hand and cast a detection spell. The area around the broom glows red, meaning time to use some tricks you learned in disarming lessons.
You close your eyes and concentrate on the rush flowing through your fingers. You wrap your hold around the energy and direct it toward the broom. Now the hard part. Instead of pushing the energy toward the object, you pull it and dissolve it back into Elevling, the world magic comes from.
Phew. It worked. You’re drained though. No more magic tonight.
Oliver sniffs the broom and his little bobbed tail twitches with excitement. “Yay! You did it! Now let’s get on this broom and go to England!”
“Shh, not so loud.” You whisper. “We need to get to the roof before we can take off.”
You grab the now de-charmed broom. It’s heavier than you expected, and it almost slips from your hands. The dark wooded handle is smooth and shiny and the twigs at the end are sleek and still stuck together. Perfectly in shape for flying.
You and Oliver sneak out of Landry’s room and head up to the roof. The cool wind sinks through your sweater, and you shiver. It’s going to be a chilly ride tonight.
Planting your feet, you mount the broom and look out at the endless sky you’ll have to navigate. You also pick up Oliver and set him in a little bag you had brought full of sketch books of the nightmares to show Uncle Elliot. He wiggles and squirms in your arms and protests, “What the heck?! What are you doing? Why can’t I sit with you?”
“I don’t trust you not to fall off while flying,” You explain. “Do you really want to spend the trip falling off and me catching you every two minutes?”
“No,” Oliver mumbles. With a tiny frown he settled down into the bag and shut his eyes. Probably plotting revenge for when you get back.
You aim the broom slightly up like you’ve watched Landry do. Technically flying a broom under the age of sixteen was illegal, but nobody was around to report you. With a deep breath and a powerful push from the roof tiles, you’re airborne.
* * *
It took several tries to figure out the controls and how to make the broom go faster. Oliver was ever so helpful with making snide remarks and grumbling from your bag. But once you got the hang of things, you were swooping and soaring through the clouds and almost crashing into birds.
It took half an hour to reach the ocean and even at maximum speed another hour and a half to arrive in London, England. When you touch down in an alley beside a petite book story, you're frozen stiff from the wind chill and the shocking beauty you saw while flying. The full moon lighting up the sparkling sea was something out of a fairy tale and the salty mist splashing on your face was enough to forget about the uncomfortable conversation ahead of you.
Oliver’s head pokes out of your bag and announces, “Holy Fish this is a disgusting alley! Why on earth would your uncle build his bookstore next to this dump?”
“I don’t know,” you say, hoping off the broom. “Probably because it’s cheap.”
His pink nose wrinkles in disgust. “Still. Gross.”
You roll your eyes. Oliver could be such a snob sometimes.
“It doesn’t matter. Come on, we have to go wake up Uncle Elliot.” You sling the broom over your shoulder and glance both ways before walking over to the bookstore. You didn’t need a random pedestrian questioning you about why a young teenager was in an alley in their pjs, carrying a broom, and had a cat in their bag.
The stone steps leading up to the bookstore are cracked and covered with colourful drawings saying “Read, read, read!!!” and doodles of classic books such as The Great Gatsby and Call of the Wild. The double doors were old and curved. They seemed like the type of doors that Alice would walk through to get to wonderland, with their squiggly handles and gold patterned prints. A humongous colourful sign hung overhead reading: Elliot’s Bookstore of Peculiar Things.
You smile. Uncle Elliot loves to stand. Hopefully, he’ll be okay with your sudden visit at 7:00 am London time. You rub the sleep out of your eyes and ring the cat shaped doorbell. You can hear a twinkling sound from inside and someone running down the stairs and tripping, judging from a thud near the end.
A messy haired middle aged Asian man flings the doors open with such gusto that you’re worried that it might fly off its hinges. “Skylar!” He exclaims with a heavy English accent. “What a pleasant surprise! Come here and give your old uncle a hug.”
You rush over and wrap your arms around Uncle Elliot in a tight embrace. He smells like a well-loved book, like coming home after a trip. He smells like comfort. Or the essence of comfort. Something you haven’t felt in a long time.
When you pull back, you say, “Sorry for interrupting you, Uncle Elliot. I just had to come see you.”
“It’s no problem, my little sky bird. I was planning on visiting you and the family soon, you know. I guess you just couldn’t wait.” He laughed.
You grin. Uncle Elliot understood everything you did. He never questioned or made you feel bad for your dreams and ideas. He would listen and help you if you needed and be there for your worst moments.
“Well, I do have an alternative motive,” You admit. “I have to talk to you about something.”
“Oh, is that so?” Uncle Elliot gives you a teasing grin, “Here, come inside. I assume you have Oliver with you?”
“Yep!” You take Oliver out of his sulky-boy cave and hand him to your uncle. He meows with dislike, but it changes to a content purr when he sees Elliot.
“You two came just at the right time. Breakfast is almost finished,” Uncle Elliot scratches Oliver’s pudgy tummy as he rolls over. “Why don’t we talk about it with some eggs and bacon? Food makes everything better.”
“Mmmmmm . . . food . . .” Oliver mutters in a sleep haze. “I want food . . .”
Elliot chuckles. “Yes, yes, I have a fresh tin of tuna with your name on it.” He motions for you to follow him back inside the store.
You carefully make your way through the small bookstore, avoiding tripping over stacks of books and bumping into the oddly placed shelves full of normal things, like old books, and more abnormal items, like miniature cats hissing at Oliver. Uncle Elliot leads you up the wonky stairs to a studio apartment that’s as cluttered as the store below.
“Sorry about the mess,” Uncle Eliot apologizes. “I never have company up here.” He mutters something under his breath and snaps his fingers. All the stray items shoot into the air and zoom back to their proper spots. You duck as several books soar past your head back downstairs. In a moment, the apartment is spotless, and Uncle Elliot is already setting down Oliver and frying some eggs at the stove.
“Do you want ketchup with your eggs?” Uncle Elliot asks as you sit down at the tiny round table.
He opens the fridge and pulls out the ketchup. Muttering a few more spells, he too sits down and two plates with bacon and eggs and a third with tuna set themselves down in front of you, Oliver, and himself.
“Now that we got some food in our stomachs,” Uncle Elliot says as you shovel delicious scrambled eggs and crispy bacon into your mouth, “What is this big topic you had to discuss with me so bad that you stole your sister's broom and flew illegally across the ocean?” He raised a thin eyebrow.
You stop eating. You're suddenly not hungry anymore. How to put those nightmares to words? If only a hex or charm could project your memories. That would be so much easier.
But that kind of magic wasn’t possible. Instead, you have the next best thing: drawings. You reach into your bag and feel around for the rough fat book with your best sketches. Your fingers close around the right one and you pass it across the table to Elliot.
“I’ve been having nightmares lately,” You explain as he thumbs through the hundreds of drawings, each done in a different median of the same scene. You tell him about how every night you dream that you're standing before a large oak arch with ancient runes carved along the top. Purply-blue mist seeps around you, coming from the arch. You step toward a glowing orb on the other side, one hand stretched out. But before you can touch the orb, you feel an invisible force drag you back. You scream for help, but you know no one can hear you. Then when you think it couldn’t get any worse, a monster made of shadow and smoke appears. It stalks closer to you and you scream as loud as you can, but it doesn’t stop. Suddenly it leaps at you and you wake up in cold sweat, too scared to go back to sleep.
“And I thought I’d talk to you about it ‘cause you, like, know everything about everything,” You conclude.
Elliot laughs softly. “I’m far from knowing ‘everything about everything’ as you put it, but I am glad you chose to talk to me.”
“So, is there something wrong with me?” You ask, squeezing your eyes shut, not sure if you want to know the answer.
“Oh no, no, no, not even close, Skylar.” He switches to the chair beside you and takes your hand, making Oliver jump into your lap with the movement. “Actually, you are different, but in a good way.”
“See, these nightmares you’ve been having are something that only powerful witches have. Morgan le Fay, Circe, Grimhildr, me---all the famous witches from our history, though I’m not the most famous of the bunch.” Uncle Elliot winked.
“Wait, is this a joke?” You can’t believe what he was saying. Being told you were a powerful witch because you had a nightmare was crazy talk. You trust your uncle, but this time you were worried he had lost his mind. “This can’t be true. I’m not powerful in magic---I only get B’s and sometimes as in my witch classes. Okay, maybe some spell casting comes a little easier for me, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
“Maybe you're not Morgan le Fay level powerful yet, but someday you will. You see, the orb in your dream symbolizes your true magic potential. The arch, if you remember your history lessons, is the Chrissa Min Arch, the only bridge that connects our world and the world magic lives in. And the monster is what you need to battle to reach the arch and obtain your power.”
You’re speechless. What Uncle Elliot was saying . . . sort of made sense. The great witches that you look up to must have overcome something magic wise to achieve greatness. The whole magic-nightmare-unlocks-your-powers wasn’t so hard to believe when he explained it like that.
“So,” You tried, “When I defeat the smoke monster thing, I become a super witch and have immense powers?” You shook your head in amazement and whistled. “I believe you, but it’s still crazy. It’s way better than having something be seriously wrong with me, though.”
“Yes, it is.”
“I told you that it would be good to talk to someone.” Oliver pipes up from your lap. “A few hours ago, you were staring out a window and worrying about people banishing you. Now look at you, destined to be a great witch. Speaking of a few hours ago, we should head back. It’ll be sunrise in New York soon.”
Elliot checked an old clock on the wall and nodded. “Oliver’s right, Skylar. I would love to continue talking, but if you don’t want your parents to find out you made a late-night trip to England by yourself, then you should head off.” He pulls you into a hug. “FaceTime me when you want to know more about your ‘destiny’.”
“Okay.” You promise and pick up Oliver and place him in his bag again. “See you soon!” You call as you race down the stairs and out the door, into a crowd of morning commuters heading to work. You duck into the alley and quickly mount the broom and launch into the sun-streaked sky, heading home to your little window.