“We are sisters in more ways than you know.” The words ran through Liz’s mind as she walked along the city streets of midnight, hurried from one pool of light to another fearing the darkened stretches in-between.
What could Jen possibly mean? She was always so ridiculous with her oracular pronouncements. It was something in the way that she looked Liz straight in the eyes and leaned in, arching her eyebrows. It was as if she had access to all the secrets of the cosmos. It was a little trying, but Liz had always found Jen’s mannerisms tolerable because she had known her, at least distantly, since childhood.
They were from the same small town in the coal country of West Virginia but had not been close. Liz remembered sitting near Jen in third grade and how weird she had thought it was that Jen drew pentagrams, goblins and monsters all over her notebook.
Years later, they had met again in this distant city. Liz had just finished art school and was in a post-college malaise of under-employment, unsure of what direction her life was taking. She had bumped into Jen at a mutual friend’s party, and there had been an immediate connection because of their shared roots, Liz supposed.
Liz pulled her black, wool cape tighter around her shoulders to keep the brisk fall air out. It had been a gift from Jen last Christmas. Jen had bought it for her after Liz had complemented her on the one she was wearing. It was an exact match, right down to its silver buttons. It was a thoughtful gift, really. Totally unexpected. It had become Liz’s favorite. They liked to joke about their appearance when they found themselves both wearing the capes at the same time.
Somehow, Jen had managed to get a college degree and a law degree in just five years–and was now working for one of the major firms in the city. It was a revelation because as children Liz had always assumed, like the other girls in her school, that Jen was not particularly smart or gifted in anything. Jen had been a loner, sometimes subject to taunting by the other children. Liz remembered her own indifference to Jen, more afraid of being taunted herself than willing to speak up against the class’s injustice to the sullen, quiet girl. Children are so mean, sometimes, Liz thought. That goes for me too.
And now, Liz was going to apply to law school. She had spent many an evening with Jen discussing if it was the right fit. If she got in, it would be expensive, but Jen had already offered to let her rent a room at her row house, just blocks from the university.
So Jen tried to not let it bother her too much when Liz intimated that she had supernatural powers and insights. Jen would fix weird concoctions that she would serve her, while reciting a list of their magical properties. OK, so Jen has swallowed this new age crap hook, line and sinker, thought Liz. It’s just herbal tea for God’s sake, and Liz is a good friend. And indeed, the concoctions while strange and unrecognizable were always delicious.
Tonight, it had been a concoction that would summon the “wraiths of the underworld.” It was always unsettling when Jen said things like that. And her smile seemed vaguely menacing, as if she knew more than she would say.
Liz tensed now as she turned the corner onto Shadowland Avenue. This part of her walk always made her uneasy and led her to curse herself for not taking a cab at this time of night. Yet she had walked it a thousand times without incident. It was just that the street seemed somehow darker, more cramped and without the occasional traffic found on the other streets. Then there was the story of the art student who had been murdered on this street many years ago while walking home. It creeped her out, though she didn’t even know if it was true.
The wraiths of the underworld. Now, it was that phrase she found herself mulling over. She quickened her steps as she thought she saw a figure of a man in the shadows at the mouth of an alley. Had she imagined it? As she walked on, her peripheral vision told her he was real and now walking along behind her.
Just two blocks to go, she reminded herself as she chided her paranoia. On the other side of the street, another man appeared out of nowhere and was walking along on the other side of the street at the same pace. It was unusual to see so many people out this late, but we were after all near the college–and college students were likely to be out anytime of night, she told herself.
At last she was in her block, still reciting in her mind the phrase, the wraiths of the underworld. Was it her imagination that the men had been drawing slowly closer? Her shoes rang out as they struck the sidewalk.
Just as she reached her porch, a third man stepped out of the darkness. She realized the danger around her was very real. She could feel that the other two men were now standing very close behind her. Without saying a word, the man in front of her drew out a knife.
What happened next became sort of a blur. Later she would remember how the wind suddenly kicked up with a mighty gust. Streams of fog that somehow looked like galloping horses with cloaked figures riding them seemed to fly in from all directions. Her cape filled with the wind and seemed to lift her off the ground.
Then, she found herself standing in the bay window of her apartment looking down at her street. The fog swirled for a moment below her like a tiny swirling galaxy, going faster and faster. When the fog cleared suddenly, the men were all gone.
Liz continued to look out the window for a long-time at the spot were she might have died at the hands of the men. It was a good thing to be alive, but how had it happened?
“We are sisters in more ways than you know.” Liz’s heart beat fast as she realized the meaning of the words. How had it happened that she had become a witch? She didn’t know. She needed to calm down and think. A cup of herbal tea from the mixture Jen gave me just the other day, she thought, will soothe my nerves and help me make sense of my new-found powers.
Note: The closed captioning on my television occasionally freezes on a random line. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to use these lines as writing prompts. The rule for my writing game is that I must write a short-short story in a single sitting.