My origins are a mystery. I was found as an infant on a riverbank, if you can believe that, near Dublin, Texas. Most of my childhood was spent in an orphanage. I did not experience much human contact during the formative first three or four years of my life. Without that nurturing or a connection to a loving figure, I should have turned out as a sociopath, or someone who has no concern of the feelings of others. But I am something quite different than that -- and, luckily, I do possess the powers of empathy and care for those around me.
I have other powers and talents, though, that most people do not. As I grew and these aberrations began to bloom, I wondered just who my parents had been. I came to realize, after a time, that I am part of another plane of existence altogether -- one that runs parallel to the normal human world. The world that I see hides beneath the surface and is essentially an invisible one. There are creatures and mythical beings all around us that appear human to most. As I grew I began to notice these beings. I could spot my fellow creatures as they seemed to be equally aware of me. If I passed one, however, nothing much happened -- a curious stare, a look or a knowing smile.
There are probably other names for what I am, but witch is the best known. I have nothing to do with Wicca, religion, new age mysticism or superstition. My powers are definitely old fashioned magic. I don’t have any reason to use them or experiment, but occasionally I do things that are strange and impossible for a human. Like the time I dropped my keys through a dark drainage grate. I did get on my knees to peer down inside, but I called them and they came through the metal slats and into my hand -- or the time one of my foster fathers was chasing me. I pictured him falling and, wham, he did!
In my first year of college I took a room off campus and, surprisingly, one of my neighbors was a vamp. True to the stories about vampires he looked sullen and unapproachable. I greeted him once when we passed. He stopped, looked at me curiously and nodded. A menacingly handsome face whose eyes were a bottomless black pit. His gaze was an abyss, an uncross able breach that made my hair stand on end and set my teeth on edge. He frightened me.
As much as I did not want to admit it, I was lonely. I wanted to learn more about the world I was a part of. Obviously, I’d never had any guidance. The navigation of this otherworld would be like navigating a foreign country without a map -- or being lost in the Amazon jungle. There were surely dangers that I could not anticipate.
I met my dark neighbor every day. When I walked home from my afternoon classes, he was on his way to his evening ones. I said hello each time we passed. He seemed irritated by my friendliness but always nodded curtly. The name on his mailbox was Peter Hajidominou. A strange last name that I figured was probably Greek or East Indian.
* * * * *
There was a party at one of the frat houses. A girl in my molecular biology class, with whom I had developed a loose friendship, had invited me. I could imagine what sort of party it would be and at first I was uninterested. There would probably be lots of drinking and maybe drugs. I did neither. On the other hand. I was lonely and most evenings bored. Homework was a breeze for me, so all I had for company was my radio and TV.
On the night of the party I wore tight jeans, heels and a white crocheted shell. I let my hair fall from the usual Sookie Stackhouse ponytail. I looked good, but hopefully not too good. Yes, the music was loud when I walked in -- alcohol was being consumed like water. Laughter, rock and beer -- I wondered how long it would take for tongues and inhibitions to loosen and maybe even start fights.
I made my way through the kitchen. A garbage container was already overflowing with empty beer cans. I squeezed through the crowd and followed the music to the main room. It was large, with two huge old sofas, lots of chairs and stools pushed away from the center of the room where people were halfheartedly dancing. A TV was blaring in one corner of the room even though the music was so loud it was impossible to hear unless you were sitting right in front of it.
I had just sat down on one of the stools when I noticed Peter H. was sitting across the room. He sat alone and he looked miserable; a tight anal-retentive, annoyed look on his face. It made me chuckle. I thought about going to join him, but I wasn’t keen on being rejected the moment I arrived.
So I sat back and watched. My friend walked up to me, all smiles. “Hey, you made it! Do you want me to get you a beer?”
I smiled as enthusiastically as I could. “I’d rather have a Pepsi if there is any.”
"Oh, sure! Be right back.”
I waited for nearly fifteen minutes and realized she must have gotten sidetracked or waylaid. I decided to get up and join Mr. Sour-face. I was getting a lot of looks from guys, but so far no one had approached me. I walked across the room. “Hi,” I said. Peter looked up and a glimmer of relief passed over his face as his eyes met mine. He looked far from happy, but a little less pained.
“Hello,” he answered.
“Mind if I sit down?”
“I don’t mind,” he said, with about as much enthusiasm as a bastard on Father’s day.” His discomfort made me smile.
“I’m Tabitha,” I said, holding out my hand.
He nearly cracked a smile -- nearly. “Figures,” he said taking my hand in his cold one.
“What do you mean? Why does it ‘figure’?”
“You’re a witch. Tabitha is a witch's name.”
He rolled his eyes. “That and Agatha, maybe.”
He actually laughed at that. Miracle of miracles. I smiled in return. “So how do you know I’m a witch?”
“Don’t you know what I am?” he countered.
“I guess I do.”
“Well,” he said.
“Sorry, but I don’t know much about how it all works. I’m . . . inexperienced. Uninitiated, you might say.”
He looked at me more intensely. “Well, first off, your kind and mine don’t mix. We’re supposed to be natural enemies.”
“Because,” he said impatiently, “that’s just how it is.”
“Hmm,” I examined my high heels. “Okay. Fine. Let’s just pretend that is not how it is.” He looked at me with amusement. “And why,” I continued, "are you so grouchy anyway?”
“Because I felt obligated to come to this ridiculous gathering of dimwits -- and I don’t like it.”
“Right. I am with you there. But that isn’t what I meant. You always look miserable.” He shrugged, so I continued. “So, who invited you?”
“A fellow student that I team with in one of my classes. One that has an ardent crush on me.”
“Where is she?”
“Oh. You’re gay?” I asked, “and a vampire? Must be tough.”
“I’m not gay,” he said, looking out into the crowd of people wandering around.
I was determined now to get him to relax and open up a bit. “Doesn’t that bother you that he’s got a crush on you?”
“Why should it? He’s a good lab partner.”
I was impressed with his attitude. “No reason, I guess. Where is he? And by the way, why does a Vampire need schooling?"
“He’s upstairs messing around with someone who is more interested in romance than I am. Look,” he continued, “I’ve been around for a long time, and the only reason to exist, that I can find, is learning. At least study eases my boredom, my ennui.” He paused. “What do you want from me?”
I decided to be honest. “I need a friend. Maybe someone who can help me understand why I am what I am. I don’t know if there is a purpose for me or . . . some kind of destiny that I don’t know about.”
He looked at me in the eye again with real interest. Maybe I’d sparked something after all. That was certainly better than his usual look of distaste. “You’re for real, aren’t you?”
“One hundred percent.”
He studied his hands for a moment as if in deep thought. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s get out of here then. We’ll walk home and you can come down to my rooms where I can at least have a drink that suits me.”
"I hope you're not asking me to be a donor."
He chuckled softly, "no."
So began our unlikely friendship.
I only had a room but Peter rented the whole basement apartment. The place was certainly more pleasant than its renter. I won’t describe the place other than to say that Peter obviously had money.
“Sit,” he said. He went around the corner to a kitchenette. I heard him open the fridge and pour something into a glass. He returned with a coke and a glass of something red. My stomach turned at the thought of what might be in the glass. He sat the can of coke on a low table beside me and walked to a huge bookshelf. He pulled out a thick volume. “Here,” he said, handing it to me. “You can start with this.”
It was old, leather-bound and had Celtic like designs on the cover, but no title. “what is it?”
“A witch’s grimoire. It’s useless to me. Even if I repeated incantations word for word -- nothing would come of it. It takes a witch’s inherent talent to make such things work. But I do like to study these kinds of old books.”
When I opened it’s pages a slight shock ran up my arms and made me jump. “Holy crap!”
“It recognizes you,” he said with obvious irritation. Was he jealous?
“A witch’s hands -- magic upon magic. It probably has a spell on it.”
“But it’s all in Latin or . . .”
“Archaic Greek” he said.
“If I can’t read this! What good will it be to me?”
“Just take it,” he said. “I’m sure it will reveal itself eventually.
“Bizarre,” I mumbled. Then I met his eyes. “But thank you!” I put the book on the table and opened my coke. “I don’t know how old you are Peter, but haven’t you had enough education over the years?”
“Of course, but there are always new discoveries, information and scientific knowledge. Technology, too, is expanding exponentially. Besides,” he said, “I told you, learning eases feelings of uselessness. It keeps me interested in the world.”
“Makes sense,” I said. “For someone like me, though, I’ve got to live my life like any human. I'll probably work until I retire.”
“True,” he agreed, “except for one thing. Your life is unlikely to be a short one. Unless you are killed in a car accident or murdered, for example, you’ll be around a long time. Your kind, like mine, are not susceptible to illness.” He stared into space. “The potential accident part is usually avoided by a protection spell.”
My eyes widened and my mouth dropped open. “Are you kidding me!”
“Not in the least.”
He sipped his disgusting drink and smiled. He really was loosening up. In fact he was emanating warmth towards me. That is if someone so pale and cold could do such a thing. We talked well into the night and it was almost as if we’d been friends for a long time. He told me things that amazed and astonished me -- some of it terrifying. I was completely unaware of things which I could do -- powers that needed no spell at all.
When morning neared he interrupted our conversation. “When the sun comes up,” he said, “we essentially die. When the moon is close to rising we are reanimated.”
“You actually die? I thought you simply slept.”
“No, we don’t sleep. I am, after all, undead.” He sheepishly smiled at me and I wondered why. Maybe he was embarrassed?
“But I see you almost every evening and afternoon,” I protested.
“When the sun is at a certain angle towards the end of the day, we can move about. You, on the other hand are quite the opposite of what I am. You are doubly alive -- twofold in comparison to humans.”
As he saw me to the door, I turned and said, “I hope we can do this again.”
He was standing so close to me and I was so grateful to him that I reached up and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
He was taken aback. He froze. His surprise was palpable. I immediately regretted my action. “Oh, I’m sorry!” I said.
“Extraordinary,” he answered. “I would never have imagined that their could be such camaraderie between our kind. Goodnight,” he said, even though it was six o’clock in the morning.
* * * * *
His kind and mine, I pondered. I didn’t know the history of such enmity but, as far as I was concerned it was just him and me. Period.
I was anxious to get out of my clothes and shower. I laid the grimoire on my bed and entered the bathroom. Afterward, I toweled dry and loosely braided my hair all the time thinking about what I had learned.
It was Sunday morning which I was really grateful for after having been up all night with a vampire. I was tired but still a little too wound up to sleep. So I propped myself up on the bed and opened the book. The energy of the thing was still very strong but the surge of electricity only lasted a minute. I don’t know what I was looking for. I couldn’t read the thing. But the pages felt good in my fingers. It only took a few seconds though to notice something strange. If I held a page at certain angle, a wholly different text could be seen. I went back toward the beginning and tried to read it. It was in Middle English. A page title read “To cast a man asunder.” Below it was a spell.
On another page it said; ‘Bringest down thine hands upon the page. Open thine eyes.’ How strange, I thought. If there was a spell put on this book, it must have been done during the Jacobean period. Guess I’d better layeth my hands on the page. And when I did there was a strange bubbling sound beneath them!
When I brought my hand away, there it was! Parts were written with lots of old fashioned and unfamiliar terms but modern English. The first part was a list of contents, I imagined, but no page numbers. Spells; Knock back, love, invisibility, perimeter protection and things I’d never heard of. Then a hierarchy, a history, taboos and dangers and, finally, information on making talismans and non-sexual fetishes.
I tried a few spells and incantations that very morning -- levitation and light ball. I was elated to find they worked for me. Unbelievable! I kept igniting the hovering ball of light, each time pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. The spells tired me physically though. I put the grimoire away and fell back on the pillows. I fell asleep in seconds.
A few days later there was a knock. I opened the door to a woman who put me in mind of Elvira Gulch from The Wizard of Oz. I recognized her as a kindred creature, but she had an angry aura about her. She offered no greeting, just started talking. Wasn’t there some sort of Witch etiquette?
“You’ve been hob knobbing with a vampire! I don’t know what you’re playing at with such a creature, but it must stop. Immediately!”
I stood there in shocked silence. I didn’t even respond as she continued. “You know very well what you’re doing is wrong and dangerous.”
I put my hand up, palm outward to stop her. “I don’t know any such thing!”
She looked surprised for about two seconds but kept up her tirade. “I’m warning you, Missy. Don’t play dumb with me. If we find that you continue mingling with this viper, I will personally kill your blood-thirsty friend and render you powerless! What the council will do may be worse.”
Now my hackles were up. “Ooo,” I mocked. “I’m so scared!” I paused and we stared at each other. “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t care. You come to my home accusing, commanding, threatening -- as if I were your property! Get lost you ugly old bag!”
Unbelievably she reached for my shoulders as if she were going to shake me. I knocked her arms away and then pushed her back. When I pushed her there was a pop and she yiped as if she‘d been stung. Her eyes widened and she sputtered something I did not understand. But she didn’t move.
“Get!” I yelled. “I don’t take orders, especially from complete strangers!” Before I had a chance to physically do it, the door slammed shut and the lock clicked. “Wow,” I said to myself. I didn’t know I had it in me!”
* * * * * *
That whirlwind of anger left me breathless. I felt dirty, like I’d been thrown down in the mud by an unknown assailant.
I knew Peter was in his last evening class. He’d be home soon. We had planned on going to a movie. I walked to the door and wiped the condensation from the little windowpane. I didn’t see her walking away. No cars moved either. I was afraid though, a little panicked, wondering if she really would try to harm Peter. Dread and anger compelled me to go out and sit on the porch in front of his downstairs apartment.
The sun had already set. As I sat there waiting for Peter, I realized that if anyone were to attack him, it would be during the day. The time when he was most vulnerable. My anxiety eased but I was still mad. Peter had taught me quite a bit about how things were for real vampires. Some of what he told me was horrible, but not as horrible as some of the old time vampire fiction.
Soon he came walking up the sidewalk. He stopped a good distance from me and just stared. He looked frightening in the glow of the porch light. If I hadn’t known him as I had come to over the past while, I do believe the hair on my neck would have stood up.
“What?” I said.
“You’re really that excited about the movie?”
I giggled. “Yeah. Guess I am.”
“Alright,” he smiled. “Let me put my books inside and we can go.”
On the way to the movie I told him about the woman and that I was concerned for his safety. “I appreciate your thinking of me,” he said, “but you are in danger too. You know their spells don’t affect me, but they can inflict harm with a stake and the like.”
I nodded. “Just the same. I think I should spend the next couple of days in your apartment.”
“Or I could stay at your place during the day. I believe your room has the only access to the attic. I could rest up there. That way you won’t miss school.”
“Either way is fine,” I said. “I am not sure I should go to school and leave you alone. Anyhow it is Friday night, so we can work it out later.”
“You should start reading that grimoire with more urgency.” He paused, thinking. “What happened, when you pushed her, I mean, that is very interesting . . . promising.”
“Because if you shocked her with your touch, your natural power must be very strong. Perhaps even stronger than hers.”
I nodded. “She did look very surprised. The sizzling noise was almost like the sound and feeling I get when I put my hands on the pages of the book.”
“There is a hierarchy of witches,” he said, “which has less to do with rank than with power.” He paused for a moment and closed his eyes. “But I don’t know much about that.”
We both enjoyed the movie and we were still talking about it as we walked up the porch steps. Then Peter stopped in his tracks. He stood motionless.
“Listen,” he said, finally.
Witches don’t have the supernatural hearing that vampires do. “I don’t hear anything,” I whispered.
“Someone is in my rooms.” With that he bolted for the door, unlocked and flung it open. He was so fast that his movements were a blur.
I heard a thud, then a scream, then a back window break. I ran in after Peter but I couldn’t see anything except the vague shapes of furniture. There was an unpleasant odor in the apartment -- like singed hair. “She has gone out the window,” he said. He pointed at his bedroom and a closet -- shoes and clothes were strewn about. “She was trying to find my resting place.”
I felt my ire rise. “Is she stupid? She ought to know you wouldn’t be there during these hours.”
“I don’t know.”
We sat down and didn’t say a word. Then he got up and brought me a bottle of vodka. I laughed. “I don’t think that’s gonna help anything.”
“Yes, it will. Take a few swigs. It’ll relax you. You can sleep here and in the morning I’ll wake you up. Then it will be my turn.”
“To drink some vodka?”
“To disappear while you are up for the day.”
* * * * *
Peter woke me up at six o’clock “c’mon,” he said. “Time to go up to your room.” I yawned and threw off the blanket he had covered me with. He went to the fridge, downed a bag of blood and then we left.
My room was untouched. I was glad I had taken the time to straighten it up the day before. Peter had been inside before but we usually had our chats at his place. Although we saw each other at one time or another every day, we didn’t actually spend time together each day. I couldn’t imagine that he had much to do, except study and listen to classical music. I suppose he went out to meet his dietary needs, but I didn’t ask. He may have bought units of blood from the blood bank or . . . ugh, I don’t know.
“You were right about access to the attic,” I said. “The opening is in the closet ceiling. I feel bad about you having to climb up there. It must be dirty and gross.” I shivered at the thought.
He smiled. “Dead men hardly care about such things.”
“But you’re not dead when you crawl up.”
“ It’s alright. I’ve had centuries of experience.”
“Ever had a witch after you before?”
“No, but I’ve seen their handiwork.”
I raised my eyebrows questioningly, but he did not elaborate.
* * * * * *
At three o’clock in the afternoon, I realized I was completely out of something I needed. I swore. It was not something I could put off, if you get my meaning. I locked the door behind me and dashed down the road to a nearby convenience store. I hated to shop there because everything was so expensive -- but I had a dead man in the attic that I had to protect. In the afternoon light it was unlikely that anyone would bother with Peter. I just couldn’t fathom that anyone would be so concerned about my life or the company I kept. What seemed a real threat at night was almost laughable in daylight.
Nevertheless, I hurried home, relaxing as I saw that my front door was closed as I’d left it. Still, before I put the key in the lock, I checked the doorknob. It wasn’t locked! Fear. But then adrenaline kicked in and I was filled with something akin to righteous anger, indignation for sure. How dare someone enter my personal space. I burst through the door, feeling a surge of power.
That woman! She was halfway in my closet and a bald headed man stood behind her. They were both looking up at the closet ceiling. “Get away from there,” I bellowed.
They both looked at me with baleful eyes. The man shot his arm out toward me. Something struck me hard enough to knock me against the door. Then he made some sort of sign with his hands (like a gang sign) and whispered a spell. I was instantly paralyzed but no less angry. It was time to draw on whatever innate power I had. I strained to move but couldn’t. I continued trying nevertheless and felt the spell gradually begin to weaken and crack as if I was breaking through a shell. As soon as I could move my arms and my lips, I whispered the words that I’d memorized “to cast a man asunder” -- though I wasn’t sure what the result would be since I had no one to try it on.
No sooner had it escaped my mouth than the man was flung across the room and then was dashed three distinct times on the hardwood floor, as if by an invisible giant. When the spell stopped, he was lying unconscious. Now for Elvira. I quickly uttered an invisibility incantation which I’d been working on. It did what it was supposed to, but not fully. I could see my feet. I ran toward the her, still angry but bolstered by what I had just done to her companion. I grabbed her by the upper arms and immediately felt that familiar burning sensation as I flung her out of the closet entrance.
“Ouch!” she screeched. “Don’t touch me you bitch!”
I laughed and went for her again. This time she saw my feet approaching and backpedaled. I was determined do some damage and not be a victim. Her lips moved and I darted out of the way as a powerful thud hit the wall. I also knew a shield or protection spell, but the words would not come to me. Rather than standing there wracking my brain, I went at her. She was still on the floor but face up and about to rise. Before I even touched her I felt my hands burning. I put both my hands on her shoulders and pinned her against the floor. She screamed as my palms burned through her clothes like hot irons.
But she was powerful too and I felt a vicious slap across my face, though she hadn’t moved at all. The bald man was back on his feet. He looked at me with hatred. Then a cat-like hiss and snarl from across the room caused him to look away from me. His eyes widened in horror and, suddenly, Peter was on him. The man’s arms flayed and clawed at Peter as his throat was torn. Peter spit out a large chunk of flesh and a horrible gurgling came from the wound in the mans neck.
I don’t know how I thought so quickly but I ran to the kitchen and pulled a drawer so hard that it flew out of the cabinet. Things fell and scattered. I saw what I was looking for . I tore a long ribbon of duct tape and slapped it across Elvira’s mouth. I didn’t have any rope but I found some yarn and bound her arms and legs. I wrapped it around and around before I cinched and tied it off. I cast a knock-back spell which hit her hard enough to slam her unconscious.
Peter and I stood looking at each other. Then a smile spread across his face. He was so handsome when he smiled. Probably part of the vampiric mesmerism his kind undoubtedly possessed. But this smile was meant for me and not for prey or quarry.
“Well . . . ,” he said. “My partner in crime, we are now officially on the run. Gather what you need. We won’t be returning to this place . . . ever.”
I stood as he walked toward me. I opened my mouth to say something, but in a flash his mouth was over mine. I felt a tingling all through me. Our kiss was long and lingering. I knew then that I wasn’t alone anymore. For better or worse, in that instant, we had become one. We would never be parted.
He pulled away and smiled. I smiled in return. With our combined power and emotion still thrumming around us, I had a vague inkling that we had discovered why there was a taboo against our union. Our power was now intertwined and that power would be greater than any threat we would encounter. But, for now, there was no reason to stay and ask for trouble.
We left together that evening with the excitement and hope of teenagers in love -- an elopement to escape the powers that be. Peter, the perpetual loner and the lonely orphaned girl were finally home, on our way to who knew where.