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Two Magicians

By Jean McKinney All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Fantasy

Untitled Chapter

Tonight I watch him through the eyes of an owl.

Beautiful he is, so beautiful, the sorcerer Daniel MacKenzie, cantering down the mountain road in his true shape the black horse, with his mane flying under the stars.

The owl sits in an ancient oak tree not far from the turning of the road.  I can feel owl thoughts, dry as feathers; images of bats snatched crying on the wing, the taste of blood in the throat.  Her eyes show me a world of burning black and white, so that Daniel the black horse is a hot dark shadow dappled by moonlight like silver fire.

“Ride me,” he said, once, and I, when I had arms to wrap around his neck and legs to stretch across his velvet back, slipped easy aboard, and his ribs beneath my knees curved like the hull of some great ship.

That was another season, warm springtime, wild roses on the mountain and dragonflies lazy over the busy waters of Swan Creek. The season of the witch, when Daniel MacKenzie and I loved, and sang, and played with glamour.  He became the horse, and I became a sparrow hawk. He chased me as a man, and I dropped to all fours and loped away a fox.  He called diamonds to dance between his fingers.  I made a rainbow from the mist above the waters, and laid it on his brow.

II.

On Midsummer’s Night I tried to knife him as he slept, to take his power with his final breath, like the old tales say.  He could have killed me when he woke, but he gripped my wrist like a bird-bone and forced the knife from my fingers.

“You’re a wonder of a witch, Larkin dear,” he said to me,  “but the power’s mine to keep.”

So we knelt in the ruin of the coverlets like two priests locked in prayer, till he shook his head to send the black hair flying, and sketched a sign in the air.

“Anything,” I said. “I’ll give it. Only make me what you are.”

“Anything?” Daniel mocked. “Will you give me trust, and truth?” And he made a second sign between us.

“Always.” I struggled, but his long fingers held me fast.

“Like tonight?” He laughed, and signed a third time.

Lightning, burning black, sliced through me, drawing his power over me like a shroud and freezing me where I lay. Daniel picked up the knife, and kissed my lips.

“A wonder of a witch,” he said. “But never a match for me.  Rest well, sweeting.”

He gathered me gently up, and carried me down the mountain. And as the moon rose a bitter white sickle over the trees, he dropped me into the waters of Swan Creek, with a binding upon me never to rise again.

III.

My body is bones now, caged in the soft sand of the creek bed.  But my mind still flies with the crows and the owls, runs with the foxes and mountain cats. I watch Daniel MacKenzie through many eyes, longing, hating. 

 If I had flesh again, legs to dance and arms to hold him once more, I’d love him for a year and a day. But this time I’d be strong enough. And on that last day I’d slit his gorgeous throat and drink his power as he died.

Tonight, as I watch the horse that is Daniel go trotting down the mountain road, the owl shifts, restless, upon her perch. She has other business and so I withdraw from her mind. 

I cast my thoughts wide as a fisher’s net into the night, seeking other eyes to follow Daniel. The town sleeps. I sense the cry of a child; catch the fuzzy thoughts of a man staggering drunk on his way home down the creek road. Cast wider still, and wider . . .

IV.

Ah!  Despair and raw grief flood the chill silence above me. Swan Creek waters shift and ripple. Ghostlike, a figure leans over the bridge rail, mouth open in a soundless wail of pain.  If this bleached skull of mine could move, I’d grin.

This is no owl, no rabbit in the bushes, but a woman, young and lovely and full of a sadness only death can quench. The black madness in her brain tells her the water’s calling, speaking with her dead lover’s voice.

And so I become the water, tickling her thoughts with a siren song of comfort: jump, jump, come to me, here there is no sorrow and no remembering. Only peace, sweet peace. 

She swings a leg over the railing. One more step, just one. Let the water claim her. Then I’ll sink like smoke into that smooth white skin of hers. When the morning comes, I’ll walk out on her pretty legs with my new flesh warm around me, and wait at the turning of the road for Daniel to pass by.


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