The Inglebird family
“Thousands of years ago, when everyone still lived together, witches of all kinds ruled the land. Among them, some were more powerful, some were less so. Every witch had only one goal: to become the grand sorcerer or sorceress.”
The young boy, aged around ten then, was reading to his younger sister. They were sitting on their parents’ bed—rather, the boy was sitting and leaning against a pillow while the girl was leaning against him, slowly slumping till she was practically lying down. Her hair lay in a mess over his arm while his was tied in a low side ponytail. The book he held was packed with words, so she did not even glance at it. As he read, he picked and chose the parts of the book that had more...tale in them, not wanting to bore his sister.
“What’s that?” she asked, staring up with her wide, dark blue eyes at the ceiling.
“Hmm...a sorcerer or sorceress is basically a more powerful witch.”
“Oh. Go on.”
The girl shifted in her spot, now lying on her brother’s arm. Large as the bed was, there were other pillows and plenty of space, but she seemed only interested in where the boy was.
“...Feray, you’re heavy.”
“But Waylon is strong.”
She turned to grin playfully at him. He knew she was just making an excuse to stay put, but upon seeing that smile, he sighed and gave in.
“Witches’ families were almost always comprised of only three members: father, mother, child. Due to the fierceness of witches’ competition, most parents focused on raising one child that might someday become the greatest of them all. However, in one family, two witches were born: Nasr and Odessa Palmentere.
“Nasr and Odessa were brother and sister in blood, but enemies in reality. They competed against each other, and both were equally strong. As they learned their witchcraft, Odessa continued on the road of the righteous; Nasr, on the other hand, became an evil warlock...eventually, a battle broke out between the two as they fought to become grand sorcerer, the one person to rule over everything. Odessa won, and Nasr was killed.
“When Odessa became the grand sorceress, she separated common humans from witches to protect them from magic—evil magic like what Nasr used to use. Since then, humans have been living in Hominum—where we are now—and witches, including hereditary ones who don’t even know how to use magic, have been living in Refica.”
Waylon glanced at the clock and decided to close his book. He placed it on the desk next to the bed.
“Why was Nasr killed?” the girl asked.
“Because he did bad things.”
“Who killed him? Did Odessa kill him?”
Feray grew silent. She rolled to her side and then sat up. As she did, Waylon stretched his arms and got up as well. He got off the bed and walked over to the light switch. After turning the lights off, the boy returned to the bed.
“Time to sleep, Feray,” he said.
The older brother placed his hand on the girl’s forehead, prompting her to lie back down herself—her head properly on a pillow this time. He lay beside her and lifted his arm slightly when she rolled into him. Now, with one hand on the back of her head, he held her just close enough to himself that she would feel secure.
“Are we sleeping here today?” she asked, slightly confused.
“Mom and Dad come back tomorrow, remember?” he reminded her, taking care not to phrase it as Mom and Dad aren’t coming back until tomorrow.
“Oh.” The girl giggled. “I forgot.”
“Now you remember.”
“Do I have to kill you too if you do bad things?”
Waylon thought for a moment. It took about a second for him to figure out that she was referring to the story he had just told her: Nasr and Odessa were siblings, and Odessa had her brother killed.
“Would you kill me, Feray?”
In his arms, he felt her shaking her head viciously.
“No! But I’ll punish you very hard so you don’t do bad things again.”
The boy chuckled lightly. “You’ll punish me so that I’m scared to do bad things?”
“Mm…I’ll punish you so you’ll feel bad about it.”
“Okay, okay. But just so you know, I’m not planning to do anything bad.”
“Are you ready to sleep now?” he asked softly.
“Yep. Goodnight, Waylon.”
In a society where people constantly lived under the shadow of Refica, inhabitants of Hominum strived ferociously to catch up to inhabitants of Refica, if only in terms of technicality. Scientists, inventors, doctors, and researchers of all kinds were more diligent than they would have been if it was not an established fact that a realm of witchcraft existed somewhere alongside yet segregated from their own. The common history that Hominum and Refica shared was known by all, but rarely did anyone see the world parallel in existence from their own.
The Inglebirds, for instance, lived in Hominum and knew just as much about Refica as any family in Refica knew about Hominum. Yet, neither Waylon nor Feray had ever seen any part of Refica nor met any witches—at least, if any witch had sneaked into Hominum and passed the siblings by, they didn’t know.
The next morning when Waylon woke, Feray was still sound asleep. He was lying on his back and she was too, except her arms were spread in almost a straight horizontal line and one of them lay on his face. Waylon slowly lifted her arm, sat up, and put it back down.
What time is it? he wondered. Even as he was thinking so, he glanced at the clock on the wall. Eight o’clock. I’ll take a shower and make some food.
He pulled the elastic band out of his hair; he’d fallen asleep with it on the previous night. As the boy placed his hand on the handle, the door opened. His mother, a woman with short, curly red hair, peeped in. Seeing that her son was up, she smiled and waved him forward, stepping back to give him the space he needed to walk out of the room. He did as he was instructed and closed the door behind himself.
“Feray’s still sleeping?” the woman guessed.
Waylon nodded. “I just woke up myself. Welcome back, Mom.”
“We brought some food. You don’t need to make breakfast.” While speaking, Hilda Inglebird led the way to the dining room. “Was that the world history book I saw on the desk?”
“It’s a lot of words. Have you already read all of it?”
“Yeah, but I only told Feray the first chapter last night...where’s Dad?” asked the boy when they reached the dining room. He didn’t see his father the whole way there.
“He’s using the bathroom. That’s why you can eat first,” Hilda explained. “You’ve read the section about transfers between Refica and Hominum too, then?”
Again, her son nodded. “I don’t really get the part about the portals though. If Refica and Hominum are two separate worlds, why are they connected at all?”
She smiled. “That’s a good question, Waylon, but you’re still a bit too young for the answer. Also,” she said, handing him a paper bag as he poured himself a cup of water, “If you’ve finished reading it, the book must be burned.”
“Burned?” Waylon took the bag from his mother. Before opening it, he looked up at her, puzzled and shocked. “Why?”
“Your sister...might be a hereditary witch.”
The boy gasped, accidentally dropping the bag back onto the table.
“And...you knew all this time?”
She nodded. “You need to have the knowledge so that you can protect yourself, but you mustn’t let them know that you have that knowledge. So, Waylon…”
Them. Even though his mother did not specify, Waylon could only guess that “them” referred to the witches in Refica. That reminded him of the question he’d asked, the same question that Hilda wouldn’t answer.
“That means...that means she’ll be taken away from us if it gets found out…” the boy mumbled to himself.
Hilda took Waylon’s hands in her own. When she did, he looked into her dark blue eyes—the eyes that Feray inherited perfectly. They were the kind of eyes that could easily suck one’s soul in.
“That’s why she’s homeschooled,” the mother explained, “And burn the book so that if we do get found out, at least we can pretend we don’t know anything about it.”
“Mom...you’re telling me to lie.”
“Other moms never tell their kids to lie.”
“I know, Waylon.”
“I’ll keep Feray safe.”
Hilda kissed him on the forehead. “And yourself too. Don’t forget that.”