Five Years Later, Arizona
Today is the fifth anniversary. I buy the same flowers, walk the same streets, cross the same bridge, and arrive at the same place. I lay the flowers at her gravestone and I wipe away the dirt from her name. Even though she isn’t buried here, I feel connected to her here, as though she is standing right beside me, listening to me. After all I’ve seen magic do, that is nothing close to impossible.
“Hi, mum,” I say, as I get comfortable at the base of the stone. I pick at the grass as I speak, ignoring the other visitors at the gravesite that drift aimlessly past me. “It’s that time of the year again. I turned nineteen yesterday, as you know. The world is still messed up and under Amara’s control, as you know. She executed a dozen world leaders last month on live television as a warning. I’m still not sure who the warning is for. It’s just a mess.” I sigh, turning my head to wipe a tear. “I miss you so much. Every day it get’s harder, not better. Every day it gets harder to. . . breathe and I don’t know how much more I take it. The only thing that keeps me going is picturing her death. Envisioning the smile being wiped off of her face as she realises she is taking her last breath in this world. It’s just a vision though, right? She’s too powerful. No one can match her. She’s killing good people, mum, and I don’t know how to stop it, I don’t know how! I’m supposed to be a Harmon; it’s supposed to be in my blood to prevent this but I’ll never be you. I’ll never have your courage. She monitors any magic we use anyway, the moment it tips over her scale we’re ash. We can’t challenge her, mum, and knowing that scares me more than anything else. I’m sorry but there’s nothing else I have to say. I love you.”
With bruised pride, I leave her grave. There isn’t much to say because nothing ever changes. There is no joy here, there is no promise, no hope, no future. The past five years have been hell, for everyone, covens and mortals alike. Amara grows more powerful every day, her legion of followers refuse to abandon her cause and turn against her; whether that’s out of fear or loyalty is still uncertain. It’s illegal to talk about it. So of course, no one ever has.
The world is different now. Since magic was exposed, fear has spread all over. The mortals reacted in the only way they know how, with violence. Amara targeted them first. Armies of brave men were wiped out with a single spell, the same spell used in every country of the world. During the first year, the year we call ‘the dark era,’ over a thousand bombs were dropped within a radius of any magical activity. To protect their world, the mortals almost destroyed it themselves. We lost coven members, we lost many great witches, but the numbers of our lost didn’t even compare to theirs.
There is something in our blood that protects our kind from radiation poisoning. We are hard to kill short of being next to a powerful blast. Amara used the radiation as a weapon against the remaining resisting mortals, she allowed it all to be blown across each country, infecting and killing thousands more. Eventually, she sucked the radiation from the air like a vacuum, allowing those that survived in the end to. . . well survive.
The air strikes were the worst. When the mortals discovered the home state of the leader, our home as we knew it was under attack. They brought the fight to Amara’s door, and our quiet, beautiful city turned into a catastrophic warzone. I tried to help as many innocents as I could, but I was young and hadn’t had much experience with perfecting magic. Amara had sealed the city anyway with a magical shimmer, so only witches and warlocks could enter or leave. When the covens learned that the Elder was under direct attack, they flocked in from all over America, and used every spell known to protect her.
My thoughts were far from protecting her. My thoughts were on the citizens of Phoenix. The mortals that did nothing wrong, that were merely being sentenced to death for just being there. The children that were terrified. The parents that were desperate. I even fought off a young witch that was trying to burn a runner alive. I used a spell to paralyse her power for a few moments, giving the runner time to flee. To this day, she still doesn’t know it was me. Amara would execute me if she knew.
I tried my best to help as many as I could. But in the end, I wasn’t enough. People still died, for no reason. And it was like this everywhere. Out of every threat the mortals anticipated could get them, magic was never one of them, and that’s why they lost. We are a dangerous species, corrupted and blind. Amara believes we are descended from gods, but no god would allow this.
The mortals that survived that first year are free to do whatever they please, as long as they know in the back of their minds that they are not free to do whatever they please. They can still work if they wish, they can still sail, fly and drive. The world is the same in that respect, only now, there isn’t any human governments, the covens rule them, and Amara rules over all.
Now she has conquered the mortal world, her obsession has moved to the species our kind have warred with for centuries; the Slayers. During the dark era, the Slayers were nowhere to be seen. They didn’t form an army as my mother predicted, they didn’t help stop Amara or save any of the mortals. They are cowards. Amara assumes they are in hiding, but they’ve always been in hiding, only this time it feels more permanent. No one can save us now. We are prisoners, used by Amara and summoned merely when she becomes paranoid that we could be conspiring against her.
There are twelve Harmons left, myself included. And because we are now older, Amara ordered that we separate. The rest, scattered all over the world, and now there is only me and one other Harmon remaining in Phoenix. My cousin, Victoria. Amara allows me to see her once a month, and this month I chose the anniversary date.
As I approach our meeting place which is a sacred bench in the middle of the infamous Harmon gardens, I remember when my mother brought me here for the first time. I remember being amazed by the crystal blue streams that run underneath the dark-brown walk bridges, and the way the mere touch of the sun would change the colours of every flower. I remember standing underneath the ancestor tree, lost in the bright colours of brown, red and orange, and glancing up to see a thousand birds peering down at me. The magic in our blood blooms in this garden, it is protected by something so strong that it withstood the dark era and Amara’s presence. It truly is a magical place.
Victoria waits for me patiently, her hands entwining sadly at the top of her blue jeans. She senses me before she sees me, but when she does finally look, her dancing, brown eyes that were once enchanted with life and amazement, become riddled with something sinister.
“What is it?” I demand, standing above her with paranoia.
“Sit down,” Victoria says.
I take a seat on the bench doubtfully, glancing all around. Nothing is there. Nothing but the beautiful flowers and the ever-green landscapes of pebbles and grass with the sound of running water from the stream behind us.
“Tell me,” I say. “How bad is it?”
“It’s bad,” she sighs. “Killing our parents wasn’t enough for her, even after all this time we’re still a threat.”
“I don’t understand,” I say. “There’s only the two of us left here. She sent the rest around the world to solve that problem.”
“I know. She knows the two of us alone can’t form a coven. She’s paranoid that one day we will. As Harmons, as the strongest coven, we have always protected the Elder. We have always been at their side, fighting the Slayers with them. But after what our ancestors did to the Elder Helena, it changed something.”
“Helena was evil and Amara is evil, she’s right to be paranoid,” I hiss.
“She took out half of our coven without even flinching,” Victoria hisses back, looking me straight in the eye. “There are twelve Harmons left in existence now. She kept us close to her because despite her paranoia she needs that protection. So-”
“She found a way not to need that protection anymore,” I say. “Classic Amara.”
Victoria nods. “She’s calling it a cleansing ritual. The twelve of us will be called into the Summit one-by-one to undergo a transference spell. She’s telling the covens that it’s to release us from our coven’s sins. To wipe the slate clean, so that every coven is equal.”
“Bullshit,” I curse. “What’s the real reason?”
“To not need the protection anymore,” she says, raising an eyebrow. “Basically, she sucks the magic out of us and puts it in herself. With Harmon magic, she’ll have access to this garden. She’ll have access to the ultimate bloodline. And eventually, she’ll become immortal, like the gods themselves.”
“She will never be a Harmon. She cannot have our magic.”
“If this works, Theresa, then she will have power over everything. This world and the next. Most parts of the universe if she wanted. The mortals will die out, the Slayers will eventually be extinct. And right now, they’re our only hope.”
Victoria nods. She tucks a strand of brown hair behind her ear and frowns at the air. “We were taught to fear them, to hate them, to never trust them. But what if we were wrong? What if they want the same as us? Amara gone and the world restored.”
“Only Harmons have ever felt that way.” I smile. “My mother used to speak about them as though they were the most misjudged species in the universe. But, if they were good, then where were they when Amara took over the world five years ago? Where are they now?”
“Waiting,” she says. “They’ll resurface when the time is right, and when that time comes, we must work together. All of us.”
“How can we do that with no powers?” I remind her. “If Amara succeeds with this ritual then we’re no more useful than the mortals against her. She isn’t going to leave us with anything, she won’t take the risk.”
“We won’t let her take them.”
I sigh and glance around the garden. The sun hits my face and it brings a chilling nostalgia to my bones. If only we could stay in here, forever protected and forever connected to our ancestors. But we can’t. We can’t ignore what is happening out there, and we can’t ignore our calling. This new information changes everything. Once hopeless, now I am hopeful, hopeful that we can try to stop it from happening. She can’t have this. She can’t have us. She just can’t.
“As long as one Harmon remains alive then this garden will never die,” Victoria whispers. “It is our promise to you, and you to it, that we are bound through many ties.”
“It will always be the place you can call home, if home doesn’t feel the same anymore,” I say, repeating our coven’s legacy. “Where magic is your family, and your family is by your side.”
“Where no matter what you run from, you can always hide,” Victoria finishes. “Inside our velvet sky.”
I take her hand as we both look at the velvet sky above us. We both search for our mothers among the abyss, hoping somehow, we can find them, but every month is the same. We hear nothing and we see nothing.
“Don’t give up, Theresa,” Victoria says. “Whatever happens, we die fighting that bitch.”
“Agreed,” I say. “I know what I must do.”
And that’s all that is left to say. Amara might be unstoppable, and she might be powerful, but she is not getting her hands on my bloodline’s magic.
This garden will not exist for her.