Victims of Love
A Story of the Crow Witch
by Mike Phillips
part 1 of 2
Lights shone in the darkness, dancing amongst the trees, the unearthly glow flickering in and out like the fractured beat of a broken heart. Swept like pollen on the springtime winds, the lights traveled the forest, seeking a willing receptacle for their master’s affections, a flower in bloom. But something was wrong. Something hinted that it was not love but malice and sorrow that drove the lights on their errand.
Miss Weigenmeister sat in a chair on her patio, a book closed in her lap. She had been about to start reading, but was unnerved by the quiet. There was something strange going on in the forest. It was a pleasant enough night but the insects and frogs were quiet, no longer singing out to their lovers. The wolves did not moan. Bats were not chasing after their meals.
Standing, she looked across a field and into the mountains beyond. Something was happening out there.
A soft breeze blew. Flower petals, delicate and white, tumbled across the bricks of her patio. She was well versed in local flora, being interested in herbs most people shunned in favor of modern medicine, but these were unknown to her.
Rubbing a flower between her fingertips, Miss Weigenmeister felt the softness of the petals, smelled the aroma as the delicate tissues were bruised under her touch. She sensed the life within, the possibility of creation that would never be realized, the end of purpose and the death of what might have been. The flower had been plucked and its usefulness was over. It would never now join with pollen. It would bear no fruit or seed.
Just then, she heard a noise in the distance. At first she thought it must be a wild animal, but then she realized there was too much noise and crashing about. She walked to the edge of the patio, closing her eyes to get accustomed to the dark. When she looked across the field, she saw two young men approaching. They must have come down from the mountain, but the nearest road was miles away.
“Hallo there, boys. A bit lost, are we?” she said pleasantly as the young men approached.
Taking no notice of her, they continued on their way. They looked transfixed, almost as if hypnotized. More of the flowers were swirling around them, flashing lights at odd intervals, leading them on. Soon they were gone. This was strange indeed.
Miss Weigenmeister had a gift, as equally named a curse, for finding trouble, especially when the supernatural was involved. She heard the whispers of danger, felt the stirrings of magic. Something was brewing. Now she would have to find out what was going on and do her best to set things right.
With the flower fixed upon her mind, she reached out into the world, traveling through the nothingness to find the source of this threat. Surrounded by darkness, there was no feel of heat or cold, stillness or wind. She smelled and heard nothing. There was only her mind and the emptiness, the flower and that which she sought.
Light bloomed before her eyes. She saw an open meadow deep within the mountains, the gentle slope running into a forest of popple trees, their bark seeming to possess a light of its own. A trickle of water flowed through banks of rock and clay, growing as it went. The smell of sweet flowers was thick in the air. Wind blew gently through the grass, singing a song of woe and heartache.
Seated on a throne of living wood, a tangle of vines with flowers shaped as horns pointed in expectation of the rising sun, was a woman of strange and wondrous power, one of the enchanted peoples. She was clothed in a shimmering silk like moonlight and there were flowers in her hair. She was full of longing and pain, and all the growing things seemed to share in her sadness.
Figures moved around her. Only shadows, but Miss Weigenmeister could feel the presence of other people, many other people. They were human men and animals of every description. The grass rustled with the passing of their feet, the only melody to accompany them as they danced and danced.
The woman watched with lurid fascination but there was no joy, only more pain, more sorrow. They had come in answer to her call, but now she did not want them. Or if she desired them, it was only in their destruction that she would take pleasure.
Their eyes met. The woman saw Miss Weigenmeister. For a moment their minds touched and they knew each other in an entirety of thought. Then the contact was broken. Miss Weigenmeister gasped. She was standing on her patio, alone. She knew what she had to do.
* * *
After locking all the doors and windows on the first floor, Miss Weigenmeister made her way upstairs. Certain she was alone and unobserved, she went into the bathroom, firmly bolting the door shut behind her.
Ready to begin, Miss Weigenmeister took off her clothes and folded them neatly upon the basin, chanting the words that would set her transformation in motion. The way of the change was in part the speaking of an ancient spell and in part the imagining of what it was to become a bird, to live as a crow.
She thought of the profound hunger and the wasting of the body as the cold winter winds blew and the snow piled deep in the forest, covering what little food remained. She remembered the coming of spring, the joy of winter’s end, flying high in the air, free of the punishing northern winds, the welcomed heat upon her back.
And in this way the change began. Looking into the mirror, Miss Weigenmeister saw her eyes grow dark as night. The fine hairs on her arms broadened to shiny, black feathers. Her arms grew into wings and her feet to claws. Then all in a rush, the transformation was complete. She stood upon the tiled floor as a crow. With a flap of the wings, she was gone.
In the guise of a crow, off Miss Weigenmeister flew. Contrary to what their appearance might suggest, crows are children of the light and have little talent for nocturnal activity. All the same, Miss Weigenmeister knew that she must risk the hazards of the night and find the enchanted woman of the forest.
Following her vision and the swirling lights of the windblown flowers, she searched the forest. When her wings ached and she feared she could go no farther, she at last found the meadow. What she saw was a marvel.
Every plant, from the grasses and clovers of the meadow to the shrubs and trees of the surrounding forest, was aglow. Each blade and leaf glinted with an unearthly light, pale white, much like the light of the moon, as if the plants were repaying what the sun had gifted during the day.
Around the throne all were yet dancing, man and beast, stepping in a rhythm they alone knew. They were bears and wolves, squirrels and foxes. There were white-tailed deer with velvet on their spiked antlers, even a bull moose towering over the others. The two young men she had seen were there, as were a dozen others. Every last of one them was too young to know better.
Their feet, paws, and hooves were caked with mud, their legs scratched and bloodied. Flies buzzed like mad, drawn by the scent of sweat and hormones. Pushed beyond exhaustion, they had the blank expressions of those who had lost their minds.
Seated upon her throne was the woman of the vision. She had the purest skin, flawless, white as milk, with hair like spun gold and eyes like moonstones. Her features were ageless, but somehow Miss Weigenmeister could sense the profundity of time the woman had witnessed.
Copyright © 2013 by Mike Phillips