The Plan

aka The Clockwork Witch

I heard the man across the restaurant, excitedly telling his server about his “vision quest”.

I reached into his mind and watched the finale before he spoke it: stripped nearly naked, hooks pulling his skin on both sides of his torso, darkness, firelight, drums, and a heavy dose of ayahuasca.

He said his vision brought him here, to our little out-of-the-way hamlet, by the shallow lake, by the thick woods, between the mountains.

And I saw his vision: the surging water, the sudden collapse, the sky lit by fiery aurorae.

He had seen something he should not have seen.

I twisted his vision, brought it from the past to the present, parked it in place, amplified it with my own magick.

His head went back, eyes wide, mouth slack open and keening like a dying animal.

I turned back to my companion, the witch. She had a name, but I called her “the witch”.

“Someone call 911,” she said.

The police and paramedics gently took him away, for observation, for his own safety.

Most everyone there was part of the plan. Most everyone there knew what had really happened and breathed a sigh of relief.

Others just shook their heads, feeling sorry for a man who had some sort of nervous breakdown at a crowded restaurant.

I took the witch's hand and said we needed to talk to her father.

This man's vision was not part of our plan and what it showed was troubling, too troubling to talk about in mixed company.

She was unconcerned. She didn't see what I saw.

As we exited into the street, into the cool night, into the moist air, we talked about what we'd accomplished in three generations.

We'd made this town prosperous. We made it comfortable.

We were in brochures and discussed on message boards and social media.

“a haunted little town”

“a beautiful, if quirky, gem”

“strange tidings, lovely people”

This place was alive and we bled off the excess slowly, for our own benefit, for the benefit of everyone who called this place home.

What he had seen was like a tidal wave, like the water, once sucked out to sea, suddenly pouring back in, overwhelming everything.

I was old enough to know what this meant but I said nothing of my fears to the witch.

Fear? Was it fear?

Or was it a sense of the inevitable. Of knowing this day would come.

Was it relief?

Could the emotions of a thing like me be described in such simple terms?

The witch smiled, and intertwined our arms.

It was a cold night and I could see her breath.

The parking lot of her father's office, the only office building in town, was empty.

A witch like him didn't need to drive.

There was no warning.

The parking lot exploded in front of us as a house made of metal and wire seemed to dig its way up through molten asphalt and churning earth.

I recognized it at once; “the clockwork witch,” I said out loud.

The witch at my side did not understand.

To her “the clockwork witch” was an urban legend.

A tale to terrify young witches into behaving.

“The clockwork witch” had been the creator of this place, had filled it with potential, with purpose.

She'd created a nexus (a nadir, really), a place where all magic must flow and would feed and feed until she had the power to rule everything, everyone.

But she was betrayed and locked away by her students, by her lessers.

How had they found the words to bind her?

How had they discovered the symbols needed?

How had they devised such clever wards without help?

I knew what happened, because I was there.

Yes, of course I knew.

She was trapped outside of time, outside of space.

A pocket reality where she could play god or goddess, do whatever she wished, create, destroy, anything.

But away from here, away from us.

We steeped in the magick, siphoned a little off the top, before releasing it back into the world.

What flows here, we use simply, for our own benefit, for the benefit of the town.

We share. We cooperate. We thrive.

For generations.

Now, here she was, the clockwork witch reborn.

She could not be as strong as she once was, the power was no longer here and breaking free could not have been easy.

But some magick requires only the correct way of thinking and reality will bend all on its own.

And the witch beside me disappeared, vanished.

I believed her father had probably done the same.

Not by choice.

No, the clockwork witch had them.

She looked so human as she stood before me, an old woman in one view, a towering fiend from another angle. I saw both simultaneously.

She knew me, remembered me.

It had been hundreds of years for me, for her, who knows? An hour, a weekend, a millennium?

I was standing before her.

I did not move nor was I moved, I was simply in front of her now whereas previously I had not been.

I bowed before her. As was my position.

The position she had appointed.

“Watcher,” she said.

“Master,” said I.

“Am I?” she said.

I said nothing.

“Watcher, tell me what has happened.”

She did not mean with words but with my mind I exposed all the centuries of memories, of meetings, decisions, of births, deaths, agreements made and broken, waters risen and fallen, the shift from the forest to the edge, from hiding to inviting, to deceit and capitalism.

I showed her almost everything.

I felt her disappointment.

I was supposed to shepherd them, not become their servant.

She raised a phial of liquid to her lips and drank.

I knew these phials and felt this was the remains of the father of the witch who had been my companion.

“Mary” had been her name. I felt shame in using it now.

At one angle the clockwork witch great taller, broader, in another, she grew younger.

She lifted another phial and spoke to it: “what is it you want?” she asked.

And Mary's voice said, “I've only ever wanted  a small coven of my own.”

We both felt the truth in this. Mary had been part of the great work because it was her birthright, but her heart was never in it, not like her father.

The clockwork witch felt no anger or hatred from her.

“Then have it,” she said, tossing the phial back into the pocket dimension in which she had been trapped.

I wished Mary well.

“Watcher,” she said to me.

I felt the sting of her eyes, the depth of her gaze.

She reached into me, deeply, deeper than I'd even allow myself to venture.

“You betrayed me,” she said.

There was no emotion to her words. I could feel her words and there was no emotion.

It was only a statement of fact.

I did not remember betraying her, but I felt the truth in it.

It was me. I taught them to capture her.

Then I made myself forget.

I felt my body slip away, forget itself completely, become liquid, become smoke, slithering into the ground, but I was caught, and stoppered.

And she drank me.

I felt myself break apart, each bit struggling to remember a single fact, a single bit of information.

That was all I was, information.

That was my purpose.

And I felt each fragment lose its grip until even my own name was a mystery.

I was nothing but her blood, her life.

I was gone.

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