I wake to the sounds of Joey’s snores from across the dungeon pathway. I clench my teeth and I place a pillow, difficulty, over my ears. Sleeping with shackles locked around my wrists has proven to be one of my worst sleeping experiences ever, perhaps even the worst, and I once slept with a warlock from the Devon coven.
I adjust my position so that I can see the view of the bars. I know it will be no use, but I try a spell. I chant in the ancient wiccan language quietly, repeating the spell three times. I glance up at my shackles that are above my head, and I feel something pinch against my skin.
Hopeful, I try again.
“Eloidena san vada,” I whisper.
It is the spell my great ancestors used in Salem to escape their ties at their executions. But the spell isn’t strong enough and not nearly modern enough to break through Amara’s magic. The shackles give off a light blue glow for hardly one second, before returning to normal.
I don’t want to escape my ties; I just need to reverse the spell on them so that I can use my magic. A spell to break a spell? My mother would know that one. It would be category A, for experienced wiccans only, and finding it has been one of my greatest failures over the years. If I knew what would happen, if I knew this would happen, I would never have given up.
I sit up in the bed with a sigh. I don’t necessarily need access to my magic to do what I’m going to do, but it would be helpful to know it’s there. I am far from comfortable with my situation, but my mother taught me to always adapt with what I am restricted to do. With magic, what would our family do? Without magic, what would a human do? It is why I am not afraid of being mortal, if anything I would prefer that. As long as my bloodline is safe.
“Morning,” Joey grumbles as he stretches inside his cell. “What time is it? Oh, wait.”
I smile for a moment. “I was just about to make some coffee. Want some?”
“Thought you’d never ask. Black one sugar.”
“I’ll get right on that,” I say.
“You sleep okay?” he asks. “I know you’re only here for two days, but if you weren’t, I’d say you get used to the smell.”
“The smell doesn’t bother me,” I admit, hanging my head. “I’ve smelt worse.”
“Let me guess, the dark era?”
I nod. “I was here too, in Arizona. After she murdered my mother and most of my coven, she placed us on lockdown. When the wave of the first bombs dropped, one of them blew the wall of the room I was in. I stepped right out into the daylight, into the warzone. I mean, I was fourteen-years-old, but I wasn’t afraid, not until I saw the bodies.”
“They don’t prepare you to see murder in wiccan school,” Joey mutters. “They teach you how to defend yourself and how to attack at force, but seeing it? There’s no coping mechanism for it. And after five years I’m sure you and everyone else has convinced yourselves that you’d never want to see something like that again. But to win a war, to survive a war, people must die.”
“Not at the expense of children,” I say through my teeth. “They didn’t deserve to lose their parents, to have their entire world changed. Amara’s war was against the mortals and so every mortal was in danger. The next war will be different.”
“Next war?” Joey says, tilting his head.
“Wiccans against Slayers,” I say. “It’s what she’s planning, right? It’s what every Elder has been planning for centuries.”
“Well, obviously I hope that we win that fight,” he says. “But the odds of both species surviving are slim. The mortals may be the last species standing.”
“Exactly. The best outcome for everyone.”
“Really?” he questions, shocked by my admission. “You would rather they survive and our own kind die?”
“They didn’t ask for this. To be dragged into our conflicts and greed for power and dominance. As a species we are dangerous, or do you need me to remind you of how the entire world changed?”
“It’s not like we just invaded the planet on a whim, Theresa,” he laughs. “We’ve been here for a thousand years. The Slayers have been here for a thousand years. I’m not excusing what Amara did, but we have as much right to the world as mortals.”
“Then so do the Slayers.” I look at him, and he takes that badly. Mainly because he knows that I’m right. “Even after a thousand years, we still can’t share a planet. We’re the good ones and they’re the evil ones. We’re the protectors of the balance of life and they’re the destroyers of it.”
“But what if they’ve been taught that too?” I say. “What if, to them, we are the bad ones? And even if some of them had doubt, given what has happened they do not have doubt now. Because we are the bad ones. We are the ones that have taken people’s lives and choices away, and we are the ones declaring ourselves to be such a great power to justify it. When did the Slayers do that?”
“Theresa,” he says, his voice hard. “If you’re a Slayer sympathizer then that’s your own damn curse to bear. But don’t expect anyone else to agree with you, because it’s that kind of talk that will turn everyone against you. Including me.”
“I don’t care who disagrees,” I say. “If it came down to working with the Slayers to save the world, then wouldn’t you do it?”
“No. I sort of turned against that idea when I watched two of them murder my parents in front of my eyes. I was hiding, watching from afar, and if that had happened today, I would have charged at them with everything I had. But do you know what stopped me then? It’s probably the only reason I’m alive. Shock. Shock is what stopped me. The shock that two creatures could murder in such a horrific way and feel good about it. To the point they were laughing, to the point they found it funny. By the time the shock wore off, they were gone. The look on their faces physically stunned me. To be that evil. To be that cruel. There is no good in Slayers, Theresa.”
“Have you ever heard of Ted Bundy, Joey?”
“Yes. Why is that-?”
“Gary Ridgway? Samuel Little? John Wayne Gacy? All evil, mortal men. Did the covens start a war with mortals, branding them evil, because of them? Even in our own species. Beatrice Jones. Declan Devon. Vada Frasier. They murdered wiccans, their own kind, just for the fun of it.”
“Your point being. . .”
“My point, is that evil exists in every species. It has forever. The Slayers that murdered your parents, they were monsters and they deserve everything they get. But you can’t ridicule all of them for it. As Harmons we understand that, because we are the protectors of life.”
“You can think what you want, and believe what you want. But I will never view them as anything other than killers. Which is what they are.”
“Possibly,” I whisper. “I know that wiccans and Slayers will never form a treaty. I know that they will keep killing each other until one remains. And I know that come tomorrow, Amara will have the power to ensure it. It will never end unless someone ends it.”
“Nothing can stop Amara. Whether you have a plan or not, she will be expecting something anyway. The only hope you have is to escape.”
I clench my teeth, knowing he’s right. But how? There must be a way, I just can’t find it. I’ve tried and tried every spell I know of and nothing has worked. What is left?
I drift away from the bars, sitting back down. Joey doesn’t speak and it gives me the silence I need to focus. I concentrate all of my energy on my binds, trying once again to break the spell that suppresses my only chance at freeing us all. It works like a piece of string, pulling, tugging and springing back and forth. The spell is a string and I need to unknot it. Without a working spell, the only thing I have is my mind, and my will, which shouldn’t be possible. Yet, I can feel the spell entering my mind, I can feel the energy tying itself to my blood.
“What are you doing?” Joey says.
“Shut up for a second.”
As I focus more on the energy, the connection to my ancestors lessens. I always feel the connection, shackles or not, it’s like a tiny itch in the back of my head. Now there is nothing, and that begins to scare me. The energy is like a pathway, lit with dazzling multi-coloured lights and fuzzy shapes of raindrops and circles. I smile as I follow the pathway, with no idea where it is leading me. It takes me further and further into a stunning universe filled with suns and planets, to blue and velvet skies that light up the darkness. At the end of the pathway, I find my will. The thing I want most in this moment. It waits for me and I reach out and grab it, forging the perfect belief of possibility. It is everything to me right now, it is greater than the ancestors, greater than my bloodline, it is something else entirely. The moment I take it, I make one wish, with my mind, body and soul.
I snap my eyes open as my shackles unlock, panting heavily. They fall to the floor, causing a light crash as they meet the ground. I pull my hands apart, admiring the feeling of freedom, and I gently caress my wrists.
“What just happened?” Joey demands. “How did you do that?”
I stare at the shackles on the ground as I rise to my feet. “I have no idea. I just did it.”
“With your mind?”
I nod. It doesn’t make sense to me either. I’ve never been able to do that before, to my knowledge no witch has, except just one.
“I don’t care how you did it, just do it again and get us out of here,” he says in a panic. “Come on.”
I walk towards the steel bars that are spelled to not allow magic to escape. But whatever I’m doing is a different kind of magic altogether. It is something I have never been taught, and something that I’m not sure if I can do again.
I close my eyes and I place one hand on the bars. My will has changed, and my mind is adapting to that. I wish to be free, for the cage to open. I feel a light shimmer in my fingertips, like they are being airbrushed with a feather. The magic flows into me like a vacuum, my entire body sucks it dry until there is nothing left.
I open my eyes and I pull across the lock that slips open without a key. Pushing on the door, I enter the pathway between my cell and Joey’s. The other prisoners are silent, and I’m not even sure if there’s anyone else down here.
Joey’s face is alert and ready, he is almost jumping at the bars. He bangs his hands against the door, whooping to himself.
I take the padlock in my hand, twisting it slowly. I focus, and sure enough it breaks apart. Joey pulls open his own door with so much enthusiasm that I’m scared he’ll draw attention to us.
“Now what?” I say as I follow him to the main door at the end of the pathway. “This place is going to be crawling with wiccans.”
Joey smiles. “I hope you remembered those classes.”