It was one of these projects that take over your life and develop their own dynamics. After deciding to postpone writing my own dissertation and making some money to live on instead, I had done research work for one of my professors. It was about the witch trials in the seventeenth century in my home town, which I had completed together with two fellow students half a year earlier. He was still busy writing his book, while I was busy spending the money I had earned with that. However, what I had found when sifting through the old documents and books was intriguing enough to keep me going long after my original task was fulfilled.
I wanted to know who these women really were, what was behind all this mystery. First I was convinced that all this witchcraft stuff was just the fantasy of superstitious and malicious contemporaries, who had used and abused their position in society to rid themselves of unwanted strong and independent women, who simply did not conform to their simplistic view of "normal" rather than of good and evil. Quite a few of those women seemed to be just knowledgeable in healing and medicinal herbs and although publicly ostracized, were frequented by most of the townspeople and villagers when the rudimentary medicinal knowledge of accepted doctors or clerics was either insufficient or unaffordable.
That was the line of reasoning my professor had assumed, and first I viewed all available information through that filter. But then some of the reports in the documents sounded so strange and unusual that I felt compelled to direct my research into different avenues. First I didn't find any dedicated books about witchcraft in the libraries, but I wouldn't have known any titles or what to look for anyway.
Researching on the internet was a bit more prolific result-wise. Apparently, there were people who still believed that witchcraft was not an invention of ignoramuses; furthermore there were people proclaiming themselves to be witches. I was supposing that most of them were just freakish kids that were having fun in a rather morbid way, but then came across a rather startling discovery in one of their internet forums -- there was a woman giving rather specific advice who was living in my hometown, claiming to be part of a coven. A good coven that is, whatever that was supposed to mean, no dark magic. I signed up in that forum and tentatively started involving her in discussions, where she patiently answered a lot of my questions, until I finally approached her via personal message and asked her for a meeting in person. To my surprise, she agreed.
It had been a rainy afternoon, and we had spent a couple of hours in the car parking on a forest lane leading up to a place she wanted to show me. Because of the rain, we rather sat around in the car talking. Sarah was a woman in her forties, with a radiant smile and razor-sharp wit, tripping me up at every opportunity.
Although she did answer a lot of my questions readily, she always left crucial points unanswered. Yes, she did have more than a passing knowledge of local herbs and their potency. Yes, magic is real. Yes, she and her coven performed rituals together, some at sacred places such as the one she wanted to show me. But I remained sceptical, couldn't shed the lingering feeling that she was screwing with me.
"So, what do you do when you perform your rituals here?"
"I can't tell you that. All I can tell you is that we do."
I bit my lip. I knew from the historic records that in fact this had been one of the places where witches had been apprehended in the past.
"So it's a secret, or what?"
"Yes and no. I can't tell you what we do, but I can tell you why we are doing it here. Does that help?"
"Sure, I am all ears."
"Some places are special. There are energy lines crossing, some forming a nexus. The more lines are crossing, the more powerful the nexus is. In this forest stands the witch tree, where my coven and generations of witches before them have performed rituals that tapped into those energies, harnessing and using them to perform magical feats that would not be possible elsewhere."
"Ok, I read about that -- ley-lines and all that I suppose? An interesting theory, certainly."
"Not a theory. Reality."
She smiled and pointed out of the window.
"It has stopped raining. Let's go and you'll see for yourself."
She wasn't dressed like a witch, more like a biologist on a field trip, with an anorak and wellies. I stopped the tape and followed her outside. The road was muddy and led up to a large pyramid, which was a mausoleum a local baron or something had erected for his family a few centuries back -- really quite impressive, although just about ten yards high.
"So, does this pyramid have any significance too?"
She shook her head.
"Not for us. It is possible that he tried to use the energies of the nexus also, but I have never really enquired about that, and there is nothing in our book."
"Yes, we do have a book handed down from generation to generation in our coven."
"You mean your mother was a witch also?"
That was something I had not expected and shattered the lingering idea that she was just some New Age quack who called herself witch to make it sound more mysterious and interesting. If she was delusional, it was apparently a delusion handed down a family tree.
The place was muddy and creepy, not just because of the strange mausoleum we had passed. It was quite dark already, as blue-blackish clouds loomed on the horizon. There were simply too many questions shooting through my head and I was careful not to ask anything silly or upsetting in order to keep her volunteering information as she did. She pointed to a plant in a gloomy little clearing we passed.
I had heard of that, quite a potent hallucinogen, also quite poisonous. I think it got its name from Italian ladies who had dropped the essence into their eyes to dilate their pupils -- and thereby obtaining more beautiful eyes. Well, plants like that could explain a lot. Being off their faces and in an admittedly uncanny place like that could certainly give you all sorts of hallucinations. That was another accepted explanation I had come across in my research. Kelly's broad grin indicated that she wanted me to think just that. She was still screwing with my mind. Impressive.
Not as impressive as the tree though. A majestic, huge oak, a hundred feet or more tall, with a mighty trunk and fierce looking boughs. Now at the end of June with ample foliage, an imposing, almost menacing ruler of the circular clearing in the midst of this enchanted forest. When we got closer it became obvious that despite its grandeur or because of it, it had been subjected to the idiocy of people carving their initials and whatever hollow messages into its flesh; a feeble attempt to partake in thousands of years of history. Well, perhaps not thousands, perhaps just hundreds. The word sacrilege came to mind.
"Yeah, it's a shame."
From the tone of her voice it became apparent that she was starting to focus on something, as if she started communicating with an unseen force. Her face relaxed completely, only her eyes showed signs of utmost attentiveness and concentration. I realised that I felt something. That I reacted to the place. That I could almost feel the energy she was talking about. It took me a while to shake that off, convincing myself that this was just a self-fulfilling prophecy, another one of her mind-games. I expected to feel something, therefore I did. Almost defiantly, I destroyed this moment.
"So, are you going to show me something? Some magic, some proof?"
No reaction. Still that far-away look focused somewhere where my eyes could not peek. I wondered what she was really thinking, when it happened. The rustling and bustling in the trees around ceased as if switched off by remote. An eerie silence, deep and profound paved the way for the incredible. The wind that had shaken all trees around and even this mighty fellow ahead of us stopped. Time stood still, just for a moment and then ... Not even dry leaves were sucked into the evening sky, swirling in a crazy pattern, before they formed letters before my eyes, the message, directed at me. It read:
The letters stood in swirling motion for a few seconds to disband and return to the ground, feigning a normalcy and customary reality that had just been shaken forever for me.
I was just standing there, my mouth agape, trembling and disbelieving what my eyes had just seen. It took me a while before my mind could form coherent thoughts and even longer before my voice obeyed and formulated the one question that was on my mind.
"How the fuck did you do that?"
She didn't cackle like the witches in Macbeth, but giggled nonetheless.
It started raining again. She placed the hood of her anorak over her auburn hair.
"We better make a move now. It's going to pour down in a second."
I was about to ask her how she did know that and realized at the same moment what a stupid question that would have been. To interpret the forebodings of pitch-black clouds you needed no magic. We hastened to get back to the car. I was too stunned to ask her any more questions on the way. It was, as if my precious concept of reality had been ripped asunder with one swift stroke. There was no easy and speedy recovery from that.
We drove back to my hometown. Slowly the ability to ask questions returned. However, now she seemed reluctant to answer.
"So, what else do you really do? All this potion and spell stuff is also true?"
"What you have seen was a spell."
"It was? But how? How can words affect the leaves? I don't understand ..."
"I can't explain that to you. After all, I am not here to teach you about magic. I was just here to show you that it exists."
I tried to find meaningful follow-ups.
"Did you get that spell from your book?"
"Would you show that book to me?"
She played with her hair and looked out of the car window, somewhat bored and absent-mindedly.
"It is not for your eyes."
"What does that mean?"
All of a sudden she seemed almost angry.
"You understand me perfectly well. I have shown you that magic exists. I won't show you anything else."
"But we could meet up again, and you answer me more questions?"
"Maybe. I don't know."
We were coming closer to her place, and it seemed obvious that she considered the interview to be over. I needed to get as much information as possible now, for the way she had answered my last question, it might well have been my last chance.
"So, is it different when you go there with other witches from your coven?"
"We usually just go there on specific dates to perform specific rituals. The energies change through the seasons and the movement of the stars and moon."
"Can I come to any of those rituals and observe?"
"Certainly not. These rituals are sacred. They cannot be disturbed. It is our sacred duty to do what we do. No more, no less. We are not a novelty act for some curious student, this is much larger than you could ever imagine ..."
"I understand ... I think."
"No, you don't. But that is not important. We have done this for generations. No one else is allowed to tap into the energy that ... well ..."
She fell silent.
"The energy that?"
"There is the second coven."
"There is another coven that meets once per year on a specific date. We have been instructed to leave them alone and never go there on that day either."
"Instructed by whom?"
"Our ancestors. I don't know anything about the second coven. Only that they exist. And ... that they might practice a different kind of magic ... dark, dangerous stuff ..."
"Did you ever meet any of them?"
"No. We have been warned ... oh, you have to turn right onto that road there. I am living in the second house on the right."
I stopped the car.
"I said too much already. I hope you enjoyed our little field trip. I'll see you online. Bye."
The door clapped and she was gone, leaving me in a mess of confusion and the dawn of a knowledge that I would not have deemed possible. And curiosity. Infinite curiosity.
The Second Coven
She avoided me. What was worse, she avoided answering my questions when she did deign to answer my frantic personal messages and emails. I stalked her on the forum for about two months, but she only answered very broad questions and seemed to have put me on ignore for a while.
Frankly, I was becoming obsessed. I read countless books on the subject and visited a few stores that were supposedly carrying ingredients for potions and other magical paraphernalia. However, all my attempts to talk to the owners and get them for an interview were met with sometimes friendly, sometimes openly hostile responses. I bought a few books there and tried a few spells out of those, but they simply didn't work.
Then I started stalking her in real life, spent countless hours in an abandoned house opposite hers. A spooky place, smelling of earth, mould and decay, later of urine when I visited it for longer stretches of time. From the attic window, one had a reasonably good view over her property; all the other windows had been nailed shut. I had hoped that I would see some of the other witches of her coven, but she rarely had any visitors. The few that did visit her, left after a very short period of time and I didn't bother to follow them, just took photographs and later videos.
I was about to give up. By now, it was the end of September, and my studies had suffered a great deal already, in addition, I was running out of money again. The time I used for pursuing my obsessions I should have used to find some work. I owed my landlord two month's rent already, and the only option was to ask my dad for money again, which I dreaded even more than facing my landlord.
It was getting dark, a light drizzle smeared over the rooftops and made them glisten in the sheen of the street-lamps. Sarah had not had any visitors and I was about to pack up my things and go home, more than ever aware of my failure and insight that I would have to return to reality as I knew it before. I peeked through the zoom of my camera into her living-room, where she had lit candles and, unusually for her, not drawn the curtains. She had left the room a few minutes earlier and I sincerely hoped that I could catch a break just once and film her doing some magic or anything at all I could use. When she returned, she was naked.
Hitting the record button was a reflex. I was excited, although it felt really, really wrong. She was a beautiful woman, indubitably so, but that wasn't why I pursued her. Nevertheless, I zoomed in as best as I could, relishing in her breathtaking beauty. I realised that I had not looked at her as a woman at all so far; that was not an age thing, or anything, it just never occurred to me. Now, however, I noticed that I felt drawn to her even on that level; that the mystery surrounding her had yet another quality, something feverish and deep, which I responded to with my entire being.
Breathless, with my eyes glued to the camera's display, I was ripped out of the waves of arousal and unfulfilled desires of so many different hues, when she finally drew the curtains.
Back at home I watched and rewound the tape for an hour, marvelling at her small perky breasts and almost boyish physique. To be honest, I marvelled with my cock in my hand, until I found some relief for so many different levels of frustration. It was weird, I felt like a pervert, but at the same time it all seemed perfectly natural.
I logged back into the forum. She was online and chatted with a few other girls about nothing in particular. I was electrified though, when I realized that there was a personal message waiting for me.
"Hi Andrew, I am sorry for the way I have treated you recently. As a matter of fact, I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to show you what I did. Anyway, I think we should meet up again and talk. I suppose you remember where I live? Meet me there, tomorrow at eight o'clock. Sarah"
I hastened to confirm the date and switched off the computer. As exhilarated as I was, that night for the first time in ages I managed to sleep all right.
When I stood in front of her door ringing the door-bell, I felt utterly foolish. I had brought her flowers, red roses for crying out loud. Not exactly what you do for a supposedly normal interview. But what was normal anyway?
She seemed genuinely amused.
"Oh, flowers ... that wasn't necessary, but thank you very much ..."
She led me into her living-room, which of course was very familiar to me, although I had not seen all the little details, which gave it the actual flair. The furniture looked heavy and old; more like an old lady's living room. Sarah disappeared to get a vase for the flowers.
"Roses even ... how thoughtful."
I blushed, for several reasons. True, the flowers were inappropriate. And so were my visions, of her moving naked through the room, as I had seen last night. She wore a brownish dress and a woollen jumper, an amulet with a complex geometric shape dangling from her neck. I tried to figure out what exactly it was, but on the other hand, I didn't want to stare at her directly. Her hair had grown a bit since the last encounter we had had in person; and my insecurity seemed to amuse her immensely.
She served some tea and watched me attentively.
"So, I suppose you have many questions. Again, I don't know how much I can really answer you. Some things are better left unsaid. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I think so. And I am sorry for getting on your nerves that much ... you know ... it was so difficult for me ... I don't know how to say this ..."
"No need, I understand what you must be going through. It wasn't easy for me or any other witch to awake to the higher reality either, believe me."
"Are all the women and chaps on the forum real witches?"
"No, just a few. Most of them are posers. Don't worry about them."
"You are going to love this ... I even bought a few books and tried spells myself ..."
"I was pretty sure you would. Let me guess, it didn't work?"
"Well, there is more to it. Simply recounting rhymes and burning offerings and suchlike doesn't make a spell work. If they were authentic in the first place that is, which I doubt. You don't really get actual spell-books off the shelf, you know."
"I suspected as much."
"Most of the magic we do is based solely on nature, connecting to the forces unseen, nevertheless as real as what we all know as our common reality. Knowing they exist and that you can tap into them, doesn't really help you that much. You have to be attuned to them, feel them; be part of them. That can only be accomplished after a long period of studying with a qualified teacher. In my case, my mum and my grandmother."
"Hm, what about your dad?"
She shook her head, a tickled expression on her face.
"Nah, he wasn't involved with magic. Nor with my mum for a long time for that matter."
I tried to get as much out of her as I possibly could, before she closed up again.
"So, is it really just a women's thing, or can men do magic as well?"
"Sure they can. It seems to be more difficult for them to connect though. Nature is essentially female ..."
First time I heard that. No, rubbish, of course: Mother Nature.
"Well, shouldn't it be even easier for them to connect then?"
She laughed out loud.
"He he, never thought of it that way. Sadly, men don't seem to have any problems to fuck nature ... more to love it ..."
"I don't think all men are the same, do you? Which makes me wonder ... why do you think I feel drawn to all this ... you know how I got into the whole thing, I told you the story on the net already ... but now, this has nothing to do with that at all ... and still ... I feel ... sucked into it ... don't know how to explain ..."