Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Craft": A Paranormal Story


“Do you want a printed receipt or an email?”

She hesitated.  A moments fantasy fluttered through like a moth among old clothes.  Handsome beast, tallish, the wisp of a beard, beneath the uniform blue polo shirt was implied a body like the captain of a swim team, which maybe he was.  Email me darling, followed by your illicit entreaties of passion to meet me alone.

 “Printed,” she said.

The cash register spit out the receipt and he passed it to her.

“Carry these out for you?” said another young man, duller, less handsome, an easy conquest.  As if. 

“No,” she said, ”Thanks, I’ve got it.”

Approaching the glass double doors, pushing the cart with the reusable environmentally green cloth bags of groceries.  Her reflection in the glass, good breasts that didn’t sag under a jersey cloth pullover, though she had not yet dared to go braless for fear of which direction her nipples would actually run to when freed.  Mom jeans, sensible mary janes.  A good body, she thought.  Not a gym body, but good enough.  Isn’t it?  Can’t it be?  Women, my age.  Ridiculous.   In the glass reflection she saw the eyes of the cashier and the bag boy both watching her as the doors snicked apart to let her pass.  Don’t talk about me when I’m gone, boys.

The ridiculous thing, she thought, really, is that either of them would love to be seduced by the likes of me.  Some oedipal thing, they fantasize about having a full grown woman bring them to bed and make men – no - personal studs of them.  They want that too.   What stops us?  Decency?  Fear.  Of what?

The cart, once on the asphalt rattled, clinking the wine bottles as she tried to remember which row her dowdy Honda civic was parked in.

How time catches up, she thought.  When I was a kid the only sliding doors like that were on the Starship Enterprise.  Now they’re everywhere.  The future rushes.  Its sits on you like a weight, remembering a past, recent enough, but old enough that they make movies now mocking the time period when you were young.  Time passes, no, it stampedes.  It strikes us dumb with the crush of years.

I want to seduce someone.  I want to someone to seduce me.

 

At home, she unpacked the cloth bags and put the wine bottles on the counter along with the tortilla chips, organic hummus with roasted red pepper  and artisan cheese.  She turned on the kitchen radio where NPR was discussing a deathbed interview with Jack Ruby.

“ Had you realized you had done anything?”

“ Well, really it happened so fast, and anything else I cannot recall what happened from the time I came to the bottom of the ramp until the police officers had me on the ground.”

She found the corkscrew and undid the wine bottle, a bottle of Hungarian Tokay, very hard to find.  She had always wanted to try it since it was the wine Count Dracula had served to Jonathan Harker in the novel.

She listened to the interview and remembered her father.  He had been the managing editor of the small town newspaper.  He had been watching TV when Ruby had shot Oswald. But it was what she had been doing in that moment that she remembered.  She had been reading a comic book about a scientist who had gotten super speed from a lab accident.  She had gone to refrigerator to mix things together to give her super powers.  That hadn’t worked out.  As a girl her favorite TV show had been about the witch who did things by twitching her nose, married to a stupid man, always telling her to hide her powers as though he were ashamed of her instead of celebrating her.

She listened to the radio, remembering.  She looked at the groceries.  She twitched her nose.

Why not?

In the cabinet she found a candy dish that looked vaguely ceremonial in a pagan kind of way.  She opened up the Tokay and the other bottle, a cheap red and poured equal amounts whispering pretend Latin sounds.  She took the blue cardboard jar of salt and poured a ring around it.  She had seen it in an old zombie movie and it seemed like the right thing to do.  She picked an almond from a jar of nuts and dropped it in the dish of wine.

“Eye of newt.”

Drew a gooey piece of red pepper from the hummus.

“Tongue of bat.”   It did look like a tongue.

One more thing to drop in the wine.  What, what, what – perfume!

This is fun, she thought, skipping girlishly through the living room to the bedroom.  Whee!   I’m Sorceress Barbie.

She brought the perfume, unused since her bad date from an online matching service for mature singles.  She unscrewed the cap and poured a dab.

“Blood of birth strangled babe,” she said remembering her Shakespeare.

Something next, something.   A doll?

She went to the living room, to the flat screen with the red haired, blue skinned smurf perched on the top, grabbed it up and brought it back to the kitchen.

The kitchen felt distinctly different somehow.  The smell, not of perfume so much.  Something sulfurous.

She put the male (it was a male?) smurf doll next to the candy dish.  She touched it between the legs with a finger and an odd intuition.

Where - where – her shoulder bag.  She stopped, found the shoulder bag in the closet and rummaged through it, found it, the paper receipt.   He had touched it, the handsome young man.  She held it.

What am I doing?  Am I taking this seriously?  God help me.  Am I that desperate?

Of course its stupid, but it’s a game.  I live alone.  My games are my own, aren’t they?

She brought the receipt, the thermal inked receipt for the groceries the young man had briefly held in his fingers.  She had stopped walking, without realizing.  Had been holding her breath without knowing it.  The top of her head tingled.

She brought the square of paper to her lips, parted her lips and exhaled on it.

She felt immediately embarrassed for herself.  This is fun, she thought.  But its kind of pathetic too, isn’t it honey?  If you say so honey.  She looked at the candy dish, the smurf doll and thought, no.  It’s not pathetic.  Its me being a goddess.  It’s me messing around like a kid again.  If I were doing this with a guy, with a playful guy, with a sexy imaginative guy, with the right guy, we’d be jollying our way to bed right now.  A witch and her obedient incubus or whatever they’re called.  What fun.   A guy with imagination, he’d even know what to do next to carry the game further.  Men my age, they’re such bores most of them.  They talk sports.  They talk real estate.  They try to impress you.  But not one is in touch with their feelings.

Headlights in the drive way, an engine shutting off.  The door bell.

She went to the door and looked through the peep hole lens.  It was the young man from the grocery store.  He was waiting, looking down, sweating innocence, and yet strangely dazed.

She opened the door.  “Good evening,” she said.

“Hello ma’am,” he said slowly.  He lifted his hand and held up her blue VISA card.  “You left this.”

She took it from his hand.  “Thank you,” she said.  He continued to stand there in that bewildered, expectant way.  Was he waiting for a tip?  “Are you feeling all right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”  Such a polite young thing.  Darling boy.

“Would you like to come in?”

His mouth opened, closed, his eyes focused than un-focused.  “Yes, ma’am.” 

She stood aside, he entered.  She closed the door and fingered the card.  “How did you know how to find me?”

He stood a little stiffly as though at attention.  Somehow he was not all there.  “I don’t know,” he said vacantly.

A wave of guilt swept over her.  And then a feeling of something a little frightening.  A hard, gem like flame.  She stood quietly with the card in her fingers watching him for signs of pent up violence.  Should she ask him to leave?  But he was as docile as a lamb.  As if his male brain had shifted into neutral.  She raised her hand, searching and touched his shoulder.  He continued to stand without moving.  Without awareness.

She thought of the candy dish with its wine and felt a wave of guilt, and a wicked zing.  Suddenly she wanted to show it to him.  To see if he understood it.  To see what he would do.

But what would he do?  Laugh at her?  Go back and brag of his adventure the way boys did?  He was a strapping young bull.  Maybe strong enough to wrestle her down to the floor – and then?

And yet he continued to stand passively, strangely vacant and calm as a glass of water.  Not quite looking at her. 

“Tell me how you found me.  Did you call the card company?  How do they do it these days with our private information?”

He turned his head, looked down at the carpet.  “I don’t know,” he said.  “I just knew.  I had to come.”  He looked up at her with eyes that seemed strangely begging, like a dog who’s just peed on the rug.  “You told me to come to you.  So I had to come.”

This is what an entranced man looks like.  He’s entranced, she thought.  She put her fingers to her mouth.  A bewitched man.  “Close your eyes,” she said softly.  He closed his eyes.  “Open your eyes.”  He did so.  He looked at her, quietly.  Waiting.  “You came here because I told you?  How did I tell you?”

That odd begging look.  “I just had to.  Because you said so.  I had to.”

“If I told you to take off your shirt, would you do it?”

“Yes.”

“Take off your shirt then.” 

He obeyed.

“Your pants.”

He obeyed.  He held them neatly over his arm.

“Everything.”

He removed his shoes, his socks, finally his underwear revealing his thick penis and stood nude, holding his clothes in his arms.  She held her breath looking and looking, his youth.  His virile potency.  His perfect helplessness in her hand.  “Can you . . .” she said hesitantly, and pointed between his legs.  “Can you - ?”

He did.

The young man, whose name she didn’t know, Smurf perhaps, stood nude, bluntly tumescent, utterly under her control.  She looked at him long and long, imagining him on her bed.  Imagining him obediently riding her from above.  His sleek symmetry.  Youthful rigidity.  Delicious docility.  A love doll.  A human doll.  A sex toy with a heart beat.

She folded her arms and sighed.  “No,” she said.

He continued to wait obediently for whatever she would say, the swelled knob of his hard phallus raised high, bobbing slightly with his heart beat.

She wiped away a tear and turned away.  This is wrong, she thought.  This isn’t seduction.  It would be a kind of date rape, he may as well be drugged.  He doesn’t want me.  I could command him to, but it wouldn’t be the same.  Maybe there’s magic, but there’s no magic inside.  This is empty.

She waved her hand over her shoulder dismissively, without looking.  “Get dressed,” she said.  There were the sounds of clothes rustling.  With a pang of regret she turned to take a last look at his penis, maybe change her mind, but already he had his underwear on and was zipping his pants.  She watched him put on his shirt covering that flat belly which might have felt so good tensed up against hers.  After the final shoe was on he stood waiting again in that bewildered stance for the next thing.  She went up to him, stood close and caressed his placid cheek. 

“Don’t think about this,” she said commandingly.  “Just don’t think about it.  You brought me my card.  That’s all that happened.  Thank you.  Go.” She opened the door.  He glanced at her, moved forward and out the door with a broken air of cast-offness.  She watched him drive away.  She leaned against the door, listening to the fading engine.

She went to the kitchen and poured the wine conjuration into the sink, and ran water in the dish.  She swept the salt into a dustpan and threw it away.

I don’t want to think about what just happened, I’ll think about it in the morning.  Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket, see how that works out.

She sat in front of the TV, flipping through the channels.  Then the oldies channel, the only channel she really watched.  The show was “I Dream of Jeannie”.  Again, the dull male fantasy of the servile woman.  A genie – a fucking genie!  It was insane, this perky little woman, a supernatural being of devastating power, a virtual goddess in harem pants, reduced to simpering submissiveness to a man who could never appreciate her gifts.  A man just like the witches’ husband who only wanted her to be ordinary.  Yes, master.  Yes, master.  Why did she not crush him with a gesture?

The door bell rang.

She got up and opened it immediately.  It was the same young man, his eyes red with fierce tears.  “What the fuck just happened to me?” he said.

“What is your name?” she said.

 “Jack,” he said.  “Please don’t hurt me.”

“Of course not Jack,” she said.  “Are you upset?  Why are you here?  I don’t know if you should be here.”

“I’m really confused.”  He wiped his eyes on his forearm.  “Can we talk?”

She searched her thoughts, sniffed the air for danger.  And then “Sure.”  She opened the door wide and he entered.  She waved him to the large wide sofa in front of the TV.  “Sit.  Do you need a Kleenex?”  She pulled one from a box and handed it to him.

“I’m not trying to scare you,” he said, “but some really weird shit just happened to me. ”

She looked at him searching, but there was no danger in him.  Just a beautiful young man.  “What?”

“You were inside me,” he said. 

“Inside you?”

“It felt intense.  You were inside my head.”

“Lola,” she held out her hand.  “Name’s Lola.”

He shook her hand.  “Jack.”

“Yes, I know.”

“I know you,” he said, with fervent intensity.  “I feel like I really, really know you like I’ve never known anybody ever because I felt you in my head.  Like we were joined.  I don’t want to scare you.  Am I too weird?  Does that make sense?  Do you want me to go away?”

He’s really kind of sweet, she thought.  “Jack.  Would you like to stay here on the sofa and watch TV with me awhile?  Maybe talk?”

“Okay.”

“Would you like something to drink?  Maybe wine?”

“Okay.  I just want to be here with you for a while.  Is that all right?”

“Sure,” she said.  She went to the kitchen and noticed the candy dish in the sink filled with water.  I don’t know this world anymore, she thought.  This is some other world.  Maybe this is heaven.  She poured him some Tokay in a little jelly jar and brought it to him.  He sat nervously, sipping, eyes down almost fearfully and yet his exhilaration at being here with her thrilled her to the core.  An intense intimacy radiated from him.  She sat next to him, allowed herself to move closer to him as if comforting a dangerous animal.  He seemed so troubled by her.  So deeply stirred.  She lifted her hand, touched his cheek with her fingers.  He leaned his face into her hand; she felt his warm lips brush her palm as if seeking her there.  The little fruit jar in his hand was shaking, making ripples in the wine.  He sighed into her hand as she caressed him with the other, gently taming him.

“Dear boy,” she said.  “Dear, dear boy.”  She put her arms around him and drew him closer, cautiously and gently, not because she was afraid of him, but because she was afraid for him.  That he might fall apart in her hands and lose himself.  She pressed his head to her breast, felt his hands travel up her arms and snug her closer.  His warm breath pulsing against the skin over her heartbeat.

I know what to do, she thought.  I know another magic, the most ancient and primal magic.  The magic of woman with a man.   Let’s try that.

“I’ll be back after I change,” she said, rising.  He remained on the sofa, tranquil and happy.  She crossed the room and opened the door to her bedroom, looking back over her shoulder.  “We’ll get to know each other tonight.”
C Sanchez-Garcia

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Exorcism, by J.P. Bowie

 I've only ever written one story that involved a serious haunting with ghosts and malignant spirits. Aptly titled A Ghost Story: The excerpt's a bit long, and draws heavily on just about every Hammer horror film I ever saw.

Robert ‘Robbie' Clavell, a young Victorian poet, is murdered by George Russell, a jealous competitor who also invokes an ancient curse that forces Robbie's spirit to remain earthbound.
When Jamie Barrett receives a phone call from his mother telling him of strange knocking noises and furniture moving about, he travels home to  give support to his mother and his twelve year old niece, Laura.
A psychic, Kevin Singleton, explains to Jamie and his mother that their recent family tragedies had opened a portal allowing base spirits to enter and feed off of Laura's youthful and vibrant energy.
 Kevin tries to exorcise Russell's spirit, but  an even darker force is summoned - one that could not only destroy the house and everyone in it, but ensure Robbie's spirit will never find his way home.
 ***
Kevin didn’t like what he was about to do but felt strongly it was the right thing. Slipping from the bed he shared with Jamie, he quickly pulled on his jeans, a T-shirt and a pair of trainers. Quietly, he left the bedroom, satisfied by the sound of Jamie’s steady breathing that his departure was undetected. He found Jamie’s house keys on the kitchen table, pocketed them, then picked up his car keys and exited the flat, closing the door softly behind him.
The rain-slicked streets were dark and deserted as he drove the relatively short distance to Walm Lane. It gave him time to reflect on what he was doing and the knowledge that Jamie would no doubt be pissed at him for going it alone, but as eager as the young man was to help him, Kevin’s intuition told him it was best Jamie not be there when he confronted George Russell’s spirit—and whatever was aiding and abetting him—if there was indeed a second malignant spirit there. He could only hope that somehow the combination of Robbie’s strength and his own psychic abilities might just be enough to oust Russell from the house. He wished there had been something in all that research to help him, to give him direction, but whatever—his own experiences, and hopefully Robbie’s help, were going to have to be enough.
Parking his car outside the house, he pulled a flashlight from the dash then glanced up at the darkened bedroom windows. A shiver ran up and down his spine, and before he opened the front door, he sent out a gentle mind probe searching for Robbie’s presence, but nothing came to him. Straightening his shoulders, he turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open, stepping quickly inside.
He could almost feel the silence, it was so ominous, so insidious, and it seemed to fill every corner of the house with a sinister stealth. Taking a deep breath, he walked towards the stairs, each step creaking under his feet as if to add to the atmosphere of creepiness that pervaded the house. Beads of sweat prickled at his eyelids, his hand felt clammy on the banister and a trickle of sweat ran down his spine. A faint stench of decay, sickeningly sweet, permeated the air.
“Jesus,” he muttered.
He had never experienced anything this menacing before. For the first time since he had begun using his psychic powers, he was afraid that what ability he possessed would not be enough, that maybe he had been foolish to attempt this alone. Perhaps waiting for Lisa to return from London was a better idea. But it was too late now.
His flashlight picked out the darkened landing ahead and the still-closed doors to each bedroom. He almost jumped out of his skin when all three doors suddenly swung open, each one banging loudly against the bedroom walls in quick succession.
“Fuck!”
All right, just a show of strength, made to shake me up a little…well, maybe more than a little.
He trained the flashlight on the open doorway to Laura’s room. Shadows moved and twisted in the beam as if caught in some spectral struggle. He saw a blur of white amid the darkness—Robbie’s shirt? He inched his way towards the door, which was suddenly slammed in his face. He jumped back as it was just as quickly flung open again.
Now he could clearly see what was happening inside the room, and his mind was momentarily frozen with horror at the sight. George Russell’s spectre was locked in combat with Robbie, their hands around each other’s throats. But what was even more terrible was the huge dark shape that hovered over them, a shifting miasmic mass that emanated pure evil. Black tentacles floated Black tentacles floated over Robbie’s head, then dipped down, encircling his body, adding their weight to what must be the already crushing power of Russell’s stranglehold.
Behind him, Kevin heard a door slam and the sound of feet thundering up the stairs.
No!
“Jamie, what the bloody hell? How did you get here?”
“Took a taxi. We’ll have a row about this later.” Jamie gave him a glance that was both a smile and a glare, then his eyes widened in shock as he took in the scene in Laura’s bedroom.
“Bloody hell,” he breathed.
“Now you know why I didn’t want you in on this,” Kevin said between gritted teeth.
“Safety in numbers,” Jamie muttered, gripping Kevin’s arm. “What do we do?”
“Wait. This could go on for hours.”
“What?”
“This isn’t an earthly struggle, nor even a human one. This is a struggle between good and evil in its rawest form.”
“But what’s that bloody awful ugly thing in the middle?”
“I think that’s whatever Russell summoned up through black magic.”
“They don’t seem to know we’re here.”
“Robbie knows. He opened the bedroom doors. He’s blocking our presence from Russell, and that thing. He needs my help…”
Our help.”
“Jamie, you have to stay out of this. It could get very nasty, and I don’t want to put you in any danger—”
“Too late!”
Kevin felt a weakening in Robbie’s strength and his mind was hit by a powerful surge from the black shape that now swooped down towards them. Both Both he and Jamie were knocked backwards, Jamie landing near the edge of the stairs and slipping down the first few steps. Kevin reached for him but felt himself being lifted off the ground and dragged into the bedroom, suspended over the still struggling forms of Robbie and George Russell.
Distantly he could hear Jamie call his name, voice sharp with fear, but his mind was invaded with a jumble of raucous sounds, a disturbing loud whining noise he couldn’t shut out of his brain, then a fearful pain that shot through his entire nervous system, rendering him incapable of movement. He was only vaguely aware of falling before his body hit the floor with a bone-jarring crunch.
“Jesus, Kevin…”
Hands cupped his face, then tugged at his shoulders trying to get him into a sitting position. He groaned at the effort it took for him to comply, then he was on his knees, staring up at the black shape that pulsated and twisted over him. A breathy gust of corruption emanated from it, passing over them like something foul and noisome.
“Jamie, get out of here,” he rasped.
“I’m not leaving you, not with this smelly…thing!” Jamie looked up at the roiling mass. “Fuck off!” he yelled. “You have no business in my home—get the fuck out!”
The shape grew larger, denser, and a low rumbling sound poured out of it. It was forming words, ancient words that grated on their ears. Despite the pain that still coursed through Kevin’s body, he struggled to his feet. He understood this language! How, he didn’t know, but the words that reached him were clear and intelligible. The black shape seemed to ease itself between Robbie and Russell, ending their brawling, at least for the moment.
“Berantha acroto labhair… I am summoned against my will,” the entity ground out, “but I must fulfill what is necessary…”
Ciod e ud?” Kevin challenged it. “What is necessary?”
“The destruction of Robert Clavell. His spirit must not prevail. He must be sent into everlasting oblivion.”
“But why?” Kevin demanded. “What Russell demands of you contravenes the laws of nature. He is a murderer. His motives are jealousy and hatred, and—”
 Kevin was suddenly knocked off his feet, the form of George Russell’s spirit on top of him. Jamie cried out in alarm and tried to pull Russell away from Kevin’s struggling body, but the fabric that was Russell’s coat dissolved into clammy nothingness at his touch.

“Robbie!” Jamie yelled. “Do something!”
But even as Jamie watched, Robbie’s once-vibrant appearance seemed to fade and be absorbed by the dark entity that began to fill the room.
It was Kevin himself who stopped Russell in his tracks. Muttering something under his breath, he swung a fist at Russell’s head and Jamie yelped as he heard the sound of the punch and saw it connect with Russell’s temple. The spirit howled and fell over onto its side, then bounded upright, its pale face fixed with a baleful expression as it glared at Kevin, anger tinged with something that looked close to fear.
Jamie had no time to ask how Kevin had managed to physically connect with Russell’s ghost, for now Kevin was facing the spirits down, challenging them in the language the dark entity had used.
“I have read your minds!” he shouted, taking a step towards Russell and the shifting black mass. “I know how the curse works—and now I will reverse it!”
From his mouth poured a torrent of strange, barbaric words. The swirling miasma seemed to rear back as if in shock, its twisting movements becoming less menacing, its darkness losing its density, appearing almost translucent.
“What’s happening?” Jamie whispered, gripping Kevin by the arm.
“That’s it, Jamie,” Kevin said, his jaw clenched hard. “Give me your strength. Let’s send these bastards to Hell, where they belong!”
George Russell’s spirit screeched with rage, the sound as grating as stone on glass, but as Kevin’s voice got stronger, louder, and the incantation continued to weaken the malignant entity, Russell began to cower under Kevin’s tirade, while Robbie’s spectral form became brighter, gaining power from Kevin’s verbal attack. Robbie moved to stand by Kevin, and to Jamie’s amazement he took Kevin’s hand. Jamie could feel the surge of power course through Kevin’s body. His own hand tingled where he gripped Kevin’s arm, and before he could stop himself he yelled, “Yes, you bastards! Get out of here!”
The air around grew deathly cold and the walls seemed to bow in and out, the floor beneath them undulating, causing them to stagger. Kevin held tight to Jamie, pulling him into his arms as the entire room and everything in it shook and shuddered. Jamie held on to Kevin with all his might for fear he’d be torn from his grasp. Then another amazement as Robbie wrapped his arms around them both, protecting them from everything that was being thrown at them.
A horrendous scream tore at Jamie’s senses, searing its way into his brain, and he cried out, watching with horror as George Russell’s spirit was pulled into the midst of the swirling mass he had himself summoned to help destroy Robbie. Now it lifted him off the ground and held him aloft before sucking him into what Jamie could swear was its mouth. A huge, dark, slathering mouth—something he never wanted to see the likes of again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Magic in the Blood

By Lisabet Sarai

He may well be the love of my life, but I haven’t seen him in years. Now I sit beside a hospital bed where he lies pale, still and swathed in bandages. His chest rises and falls with his breath, but his eyes are closed. He doesn’t see me.

Something terrible has happened to him; I don’t know what. I hold his chill hand, willing comfort across this fragile physical link. A terrible grief overwhelms me. Sobs catch in my throat. I mustn’t cry. He needs me to be strong.

****

I wake from the dream disoriented, but the sadness lingers. This is long ago, long before email. I call him when I can grab a moment, long distance, a rare indulgence back then. He can barely speak. His father committed suicide last night, he tells me. Under my sympathetic pain there’s a flicker of wonder.

****

She’s a free spirit, my wild, artistic friend from California with whom I drove a thousand miles across the frozen west one icy winter, in order to spend New Years with our respective lovers. We’ve been out of touch for quite a while, though, since I returned to the East Coast. I know she has married a physicist, a deceptively normal guy whose order balances her chaos. She makes her living as a freelance journalist. She plays French horn in a rock band. She has a pet pig and a female store manikin she dresses in retro clothes and poses on her front lawn.

In the dream, over coffee, she tells me she’s pregnant. I can hardly believe that she would tie herself down with that sort of responsibility. Of course I keep quiet, but inwardly I marvel at how unlikely a mother she’d make.

****

Two days later, I receive her email. She and Dan are expecting a baby in six months’ time. She’s delighted but full of doubt. I am, too.

****

I’ve always had vivid dreams, the sort that haunt you after you wake. My dreams are like movies, with startling, brilliant images, exotic and mysterious locations and compelling characters, often but not always amalgams of people I know. Desire stalks me in many of my dreams; more than a few of my stories have been born from my night time visions.

I’ve had lucid dreams, where I know I’m dreaming, dreams I can control. In some of them, I have powers. I can fly. I have telekinetic abilities. If I concentrate my will on an object, it will fly across the room to my hand.

Yesterday while I was working out, I tried this on one of my weights, which had rolled away from my mat, out of reach. I wasn’t successful in drawing it back to me. However, the problem may have been insufficient mental focus or inadequate confidence rather than lack of ability.

When I was in grade school, I had a magic ring, adorned with a lovely faceted garnet, my birthstone. The ring granted wishes. With enough belief, I could cause a blizzard that would result in school being canceled. No homework! I lost that ring somehow when I entered junior high. By that time, though, my powers had shifted in new directions.

At the student summer carnival, I dressed as a gypsy and told fortunes. I’d studied the basics of palmistry, so I could identify the various lines. The process was anything but analytical, though. When I gazed at someone’s upheld palm, my predictions started to flow. I have no idea where the notions came from, but my clients seemed impressed.

And did the events I foretold come to pass? Of course I don’t know. As with the recalcitrant hand weight, I could be deceiving myself about the power I felt. Then again, maybe not.

My father told fortunes. He could read palms, tea leaves, crumpled paper. Once, at a party, I’m told that he read someone’s future in the bumps on a pineapple. We all laughed at this story, but his tight-lipped smile whenever someone brought it up made me wonder. He had a first cousin who made her living as a psychic.

Could it be that I have magic in my blood?

Could that be true of us all?

I do believe in magic, in the ability of mind to shape the material world. Too many of my desires have come to fruition for me to doubt that truth. The things we label as paranormal, in my view, are simple demonstrations of the fact that reality is a malleable construction of our collective consciousness. Our perceptions shape the world. We change our world by changing the way we see it.

All that sounds easy, but of course it’s not. Mystics and yogis have perfected techniques for controlling the mind and hence the world, but most of us only pierce the veil of illusion occasionally, as in my prescient dreams. I think it’s a mode of consciousness, not something to be achieved via intention or effort. My dreams reveal truths only about people with whom I have strong emotional connections. Love, not reason, is the origin of magic.

I’ve explored this view a bit in some of my stories. Right now I’m working on a story about a trio of witches. Two of them are aware of their power; they’re in the process of initiating the third. I don’t usually publish excerpts from works in progress, but this is so relevant I’ll make an exception.

****

Come, sit. Across from me, thats right. Were going to play a game.

A game? What kind of game?” Memories of high school spin-the-bottle flashed through Emmelines mind. I wouldnt mind kissing Beryl, she mused. Or Marguerite either. Shed never been attracted to women beforeat least not consciouslybut now the notion seemed almost natural.


Cards,Marguerite answered. She lowered herself to join them on the floor, tucking her legs underneath her, then placed an over-sized deck in the center of the triangle formed by their bodies. An intricate design decorated the back of the cards, full of stars and planets, fanciful animals and twining vines. The illustration, plus the size of the cards, led Emmeline to expect a tarot deck, but when Marguerite turned over the top card, it was an ordinary three of hearts.

Take a good look at this card, Emmy. Fix it in your mind. Close your eyes and visualize it.

Card tricks? Spin the bottle sounded like more fun. Brushing the thought away, Emmeline did as Marguerite instructed.

Can you picture it?

Yes. Of course.

Now open your eyes. Ive hidden the card somewhere in the deck. I want you to find it.

Dont be silly!

I think you can do it, Emmeline.Beryl fixed her with that penetrating green-gray stare of hers.Concentrate. Send your mind out seeking that three of hearts. Listen until you hear it call.

Please! I dont have any kind of psychic abilities or anything.The two women stared at her, focusing on her face. Their scrutiny sent hot blood climbing into her cheeks.Aside from a couple of strange dreams that seemed to predict the future... Honestly, I cant.

I believe you can,said Marguerite, her voice rich and sweet as whipped cream.You can if you try.

Do it for me, Emmeline.Beryl leaned forward. Her blouse gaped at the neckline, revealing the symmetric curves of her bare breasts. Emmelines own nipples snapped into aching knots.

But...

Emmy.

She heard authority in Beryls voice, power that had been cloaked until now. It simply wasnt possible to refuse.

Okay, okay...Emmeline shut her eyes once again and summoned the image of the card.

Some force tugged at her hand. At first she tried to ignore it, but as the pull grew stronger, she gave in. With the three of hearts blazing behind her closed lids, she reached for the deck, gripping it with her thumb and forefinger about a third of the way down. She cut the cards, laying the part of the deck shed removed on the floor. When she opened her eyes, a ten of clubs lay at the top of the deck.

You see? I told you...

Marguerites voice was almost inaudibleLook at the bottom card of the stack you removed, Emmeline.

She flipped the pile over to reveal the three of hearts.

Fear, excitement and lust washed through her in alternating waves. She pushed the exultation away.Its just random luck,she said, wanting but not daring to believe. That force, that attractionshed imagined it. She was suggestibleRichard had always said soand these two women had formidable wills.

Try again,Beryl urged.

The two of spades, the Jack of diamonds, the ace of heartsshe found them all, one after the other. The pull of the card she sought grew stronger each time.

What does it mean?she asked at last. She sounded small and scared to her own ears.

Lets try something else first.Marguerite drew a card from the deck, gazed at it for a moment, then placed it face down in front of her.Tell me which card I just picked.

The answer came to her almost before the tawny beauty had asked her question, with no effort at all.Four of diamonds.

Now me.Beryl selected not one but three cards, setting them out in a row.You know what to do, Emmeline.

The messages werent so clear this time. She felt as though several different people were shouting in her head. Images of cards flashed by, too fast and indistinct for her to decipher.I dont know,she whimpered.I cant...

Beryl seized her by the wrist across the gap. Power jolted through her. The pictures snapped into focus.Nine of spades, six of clubs, Queen of hearts. Oh my God...

Marguerite gathered Emmeline into her arms as the girl burst into ragged tears.



****
Of course I identify with Emmeline. It would be scary to discover irrefutable evidence of one’s own magic powers.

But thrilling, too.