A bare bulb hung from the ceiling, just inside the opening. I pulled the string and a soft glow filled the space. Damn Granny. Great hiding spot. There was a landing about three or four feet square and a staircase leading down. This was so much better than Mother’s room. I couldn’t imagine there would have been anything behind the locked door that came close to a secret basement. I headed down.
I expected the stairs to squeak but they were eerily silent. I image if she had to go down when one of her clients waited in the front room, she needed to go down without being heard. There was another bulb at the bottom of the stairs. The floor was dirt. Made sense Granny wouldn’t have a poured concrete floor. The earth was a conduit for energy. I could picture her standing at the heavy wooden table that stood in the centre of the room, energy coursing though her as she mixed her herbal remedies. The room was cool, but not cold or damp. One entire wall was covered with a book case, each shelf packed with books. Bingo. Granny’s collection of books. I knew she had them as I was with her when she bought several of them, but I never saw them after the initial purchase. Some of the books were printed over a hundred years ago, some hand written. Mostly books on herbs and healing, with very detailed drawings. I walked along the case, running my hand over the spines. I recognized some of the books from our annual trips to England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany. I took one and placed it on the table and started turning the pages.
Some of the recipes were more like spells. That could explain the crystal ball and wands. I knew we were Naturalists, but I’d never heard Mother or Granny do spells. Crystals made sense as they were an aid in healing, and she was very much into natural medicines and Mother did use a crystal ball when she gave people readings. No reason for Granny not to have one, but twenty-seven? Maybe she collected them. They were quite nice. I turned my attention to the wall opposite the books.
The wall contained shelf after shelf of bottles filled with dried herbs, spices, and a some crystals and candles. A line ran across the room with bunches of fresh herbs hung to dry. They probably came from Granny’s garden. By the looks of them she must have picked them shortly before she passed over. Against the far wall I saw a small table with some black velvet fabric draped over something. When I removed the fabric I found a piece of crystal larger than any I’d ever seen. A two foot tall, six inch thick, clear crystal wand. It was flawless and exquisite. I put the velvet back over it and walked around the room. In the far corner I spotted another tiny door. This one was even with the floor, and when I tried to open it, I discovered it wasn’t locked.
That made me think. The door in the bedroom was hidden and locked, but this one was out in the open and unlocked. I lit one of the many candles in the room so I could get a better look at the door. I chose a long, white tapered candle. Crystals and candles were the first things Mother and Granny educated me on. White stands for truth and protection. I wanted to learn the truth and hoped I didn’t need protection. I knelt down in front of the door and listened. Silence. I released the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. I held the candle in front of the door and noticed symbols on the top and down both sides. I recognized one of them. Mother had a pendant with the same symbol on it. The only two people who could finish my very special education were gone. Surely one of the books could tell me what I needed to know.
I didn’t see or hear anything in the door so I pushed it to the back of my mind and went back to browsing . There was a small set of drawers sitting on top of the table. I opened them one at a time and found Mother’s missing pendant. That went into my jeans pocket. One of the drawers contained five tiny keys. They looked about the right size for the Fae doors. I took them out and went over the little door. The third key I tried fit. I hesitated for a moment, then turned the key. The lock clicked. Since I didn’t know what these creature were, I wasn’t taking any chances. I deposited the keys back in the drawer and turned my attention to the bookshelf.
So many books, and they all looked very old. Once a year, for as long as I can remember, Mother, Granny and me flew to someplace in the UK or Germany. Went to Scandinavia once. We only ever went into bookstores; never visited Big Ben, or Madame Tussauds, or any other standard tourist attraction in any of the cities. That would be just plain normal. None of that in my family.
I remember being scared when I was little. Too many back alleys and questionable neighbourhoods. Kinda got used to it over the years. As I got older I became fascinated with the old bookstores they visited and began looking for them here. I found a few, but they weren’t the same as the ones in Europe. Just not old enough, but interesting nonetheless. As I scanned the shelves one book caught my eye. It was a bit smaller than the others on the shelf and there wasn’t a title on the spine. I reached out and pulled it off the shelf. No title on the front either. I opened it up and saw handwriting. It was a journal, and the writing looked like Mother’s. Jackpot. If Mother kept a journal, maybe Granny did too. Maybe this was how I would complete my special education. I started to read the entries, but began to feel guilty. They always made such a big deal out my twenty-first birthday. Maybe I should wait. It was only six weeks away. But could I hold out that long?
I found Granny’s journal on a different shelf. Reading wouldn’t hurt, would it? It’s not like I was going to do anything, just read. Besides, I might need to prepare things in advance. I thought that sounded logical. After all, they made such a big deal out of my twenty-first birthday there must be preparations to make, right? I figured Granny’s book would have more information in it since she would have started it decades before Mother. The first section was on crystals. Made sense. That’s what they started me off with, but there was way more stuff in the journal than they had taught me. The start of the journal read like a story. It must be her initiation ceremony or whatever. The first entry was dated April 30, 1942. Granny’s twenty-first birthday.
The moon was full. A beautiful, large, blue moon. The second one this month. I stood in the garden waiting for my mother to start the ceremony. Two minutes before ten she had told me. That’s when it would start. A soft breeze stirred the white silk scarf I had around my neck. White for purity. I heard the back door open and mother came out carrying a large six-sided crystal. A flawless white quartz that she kept covered and locked away in her special room. When she handed me the crystal wand I held it high, pointing it towards the moon. I could feel the energy flowing into my hands, down my arms, through my body. The crystal shimmered and pulsed, then abruptly stopped. A cloud covered the moon. Strange that there were no clouds in the sky earlier. The ceremony was over. It was exciting, but I felt let down. I had expected more. I thought it would last for hours, not seconds. Mother told me to lower the crystal and touch it to my brow. She said it would complete the purification process for both myself and the crystal wand.
Only a few seconds? The way my mother and Granny went on about it I expected something more. No wonder Granny felt let down. I’ve been waiting almost twenty-one years just to stand in the garden for a few seconds holding that huge crystal? I didn’t even want to think about how heavy it was. And what the heck was a blue moon? I’ve heard people say ‘once in a blue moon’ but I didn’t think there really was one. I pulled out my i-phone and Googled it. A blue moon is a second full moon in one month. Nothing about why it’s called blue. I really doubt it changes colour. According to the website, the next blue moon is July 31. My birthday. Ok, that’s freaky. I figured there must be more to the ceremony than just holding a crystal wand so I went back to the journal.
We went inside Mother’s special room. It was the first time I was allowed in. I was excited and scared. When she opened the door, I gasped. It was beautiful. Lighted candles sat everywhere. There was a table in the centre of the room with a black velvet cloth draped over it. She took the crystal wand from me and placed it on the cloth. A stick of incense sat at the edge of the table, filling the room with a strange, earthy smell.
I slammed the journal closed. Oh. My. God. We’re actually witches! Why aren’t we part of a coven? And how do those the tiny doors come into it? I’ve read things on Wicca and don’t recall ever seeing anything about a tiny door in the wall. Can’t be. I’d know if my mother was a witch, wouldn’t I? Must be something else. But what? Maybe Mr. Barker at the bookstore would know something. I checked the time. Ten thirty. He opened at nine on Saturday’s. There was no one else to talk to, and he seems to know a lot about that sort of thing and always knew exactly where to find what I was looking for. I went back upstairs, and closed the entrance. I could see the where the edge of the door was. That explains the dim bulbs. Decided I’d better put them back, but first I had to head down to the bookstore. It had a very creative name – Antique Books. Must have taken him days to come up with that one. The little bell tinkled when I opened the front door.
“Mr. Barker? It’s Marcy. I need your help.”
“Back here, Dear.”
I never could get used to how strong his voice was when he looked so frail. If I had to guess at his age, just by looking at him, I’d say around three hundred, give or take. OK, maybe not quite that old, but he was ancient. He moved slow; his feet barely lifting off the floor. Wondered how he managed stairs? He was bent, just a little, and his hands shook all the time. He did keep his moustache trimmed quite nicely though. He kinda looks like an older version of Johnny Depp. Must have had the women swooning at his feet in his younger days. I followed Mr. Barker’s voice to the back and found him unlocking the private room. I smelled freshly brewed tea.
“I wondered when you’d be dropping in. Thought you might have a parcel of questions. Come in a sit down. My grandson will look after the store.”
Grandson? I looked around and didn’t see anyone.
“He’s in the back sorting out last night’s shipment. Had some books flown in from London. You’ll want to read them.”
He reached over and patted my hand. “I’m terribly sorry to hear about your grandmother. I’m here to help you any way I can. You’re not twenty-one yet, are you? She was so excited about your birthday. End of next month I believe?”
I nodded. “I didn’t realize you knew Granny. She always flew to England or some place in Europe for her books.”
His eyes twinkled. “How do you think she knew where to go? I have contacts all over the world. Have to keep current. My customers need to know where they can find exactly what they require.”
“So, you know about them?” I wasn’t certain just how to broach the subject.
“Yes, I know. Now tell me, how much do you know?”
I shrugged. “Not much really. They’ve taught me some about crystals and gemstones. I really enjoy working with the crystals.” I hesitated. “Are we witches?” I whispered.
Mr. Barker laughed. He had one of those deep, throaty laughs that fills the entire room. “I supposed you could say that. Not traditional witches though. A very special sort. They follow Wicca to some degree, but aren’t mainstream, if you know what I mean.”
“No, not really. I always thought they were naturalists or something. In tune with nature, no store-bought medicine. Unless there was a serious illness, but that was extremely rare come to think about it. Tell me, what’s with the tiny doors?”
He looked startled. He put his teacup down with a clatter. “Tiny doors?”
I could tell he was surprised to hear about the doors, but before we could continue, a head popped in in the door.
“Hey Gramps. This the one you wanted?”
Mr. Barker held out his hand, which shook more than usual and the young man walked in and gave it to him. This had to be the grandson. Striking resemblance. He had a little of that Errol Flynn look, but not quite as much as his grandfather. The little bell at the front door twinkled and the grandson winked at me then headed out to help the customer.
“Your grandmother ordered this a few weeks ago. I guess it’s yours now. Fully paid so don’t worry about that.”
I took the book from him and looked at the cover. There was no printing on it. I flipped the next few pages, careful not to tear the fragile, yellow paper. Four pages in I found the title page. The English Physician Enlarged with Three Hundred and Sixty-Nine Medicines Made of English Herbs. It was extremely old looking. I checked for a date – 1775. Definitely old.
“Yes, this is something Granny would have wanted.”
“Tell me more about this door.”
“Not much to tell. I found two. One behind the dresser in Granny’s bedroom and another in her special room. Do you know what they’re for?”
He wrinkled his brow. “Not certain. Have a few thoughts. Surprised your grandmother invited any of them in.”
“Them? Them who?”
“Need to check a few things. Don’t worry, but please, keep the doors shut. Lock them if you can.”
“Ok, you’re freaking me out.”
Mr. Barker laughed, but it was more nervous. Not his usual laugh. “Nothing bad happened to your grandmother, so there’s nothing for you to worry about. I’d just feel better if you kept the doors locked or barricaded until I know exactly what they are.”
I thanked him for the book and went back home, wondering what had upset him. Was whatever was on the other side of the door dangerous? Granny wouldn’t have had any animals in the house that weren’t safe. But it wasn’t an animal foot I saw. Maybe it was just the light. The door in the bedroom was locked and blocked. The room in the basement with the other door was locked, so if it got out, it was confined to that one room. Nothing to worry about, right?