Over the Hedge
18 January 2007
When I left Chicago, I wasn’t sure how often I would bother coming back. I didn’t grow up in the city, though it was close enough that I’d been there occasionally for things like concerts or school outings. I’d only lived there a couple years, and while I had made some friends during that time, very few of them were strong enough relationships to last once I was away for an extended period. I had kept in touch with a couple people here and there, but most of those had faded somewhat as time went on. My roommates from the last apartment I stayed in there had mostly vanished while I was away. I had quickly begun to run out of reasons to be there on a personal visit; and as I walked through O’Hare for the first time in a long while, I knew only one person would be waiting for me, and she would know I was mostly here on business.
Though I doubt Nan would ever admit to something that sounded so cold.
She was waiting by the luggage return by the time I got there, and gave me a big hug as soon as I was close enough to grab. We talked about the flight and Pittsburgh’s airport while we waited for my bag to come—Nan had no idea there was a t-rex skeleton there and was reasonably surprised—but as soon as it did and we were in her car her demeanor shifted.
“What’s that boy done to you?” she asked, sternly, as the car started moving.
“What do you mean? Rick? He’s been great, mostly.”
“No, no, not the boyfriend—”
“Not really a boyfriend, we—”
“The Anchor.” I paused and looked at her for a moment, confused.
“What makes you think he’s done something to me?”
“It’s your aura, child! Did you think I wouldn’t notice? There’s something about it, something…limiting it.”
“Well, I hadn’t noticed.”
“I think you’ve been spending too much time with him. Like a goldfish.”
“A…goldfish.” She wagged her finger at me.
“Like a goldfish! You know! They only grow as big as their tank lets them! That boy’s aura is a powerful one, and it constricts yours, and then your energy gets used to it and stops trying to recover.”
“You think spending too much time around Matteson will have a permanent effect on me?”
“Nothing is permanent, darling. But you start finding it harder to do magic, you best get away from him for a good long while. You might not lose it forever, but you lose it long enough that you forget how to do it again? Might as well be forever.”
“I’ll…I guess I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You do that,” she said, patting my knee. “Now, tell me all about this not-a-boyfriend.”
15 November 2006
Matteson had been tearing through his dad’s books in the basement for a little over a week, and I finally determined to find out why. Part of me had assumed at the beginning that this was just some part of the mourning process for him, dealing with things his dad left behind, but it was starting to look unmistakably like research, and that probably meant he was trying to do something. It seemed like it was going to my place to make sure that something wasn’t something stupid.
When I got into the basement, I found the table covered in open books and pieces of paper with notes written on them in a massive pile. I couldn’t see any way to make sense of any of it, but there he was, poring over one book then reaching over to snatch up some note from under another book and making comparisons. This had to be one of those Matteson systems, that don’t make sense to anyone else.
“What’s all this?” I asked. He snapped upright to look at me, as if he hadn’t realized I was there. His eyes were a bit wide and unfocused, and I suddenly found myself wondering when he last slept.
“Reading…these books? Is your power?”
“No, no, it’s not…it’s what they say about my power. He never told me about this! He never told me he had these references! I had to find out about it from the priest!”
“Okay, okay,” I said, exaggerating the calm tone to try to offset his crazed one. I sat down. “And what do they say about your power?”
“Well, very little directly, I guess, but when you take them together…”
“Please do.” He took a deep breath and plopped backward into a chair.
“I want a cigarette. Maybe we should go upstairs.”
“There’s no smoking in the library.”
“Well, it’s…” he trailed off and then just sat there, staring off into space. Slowly, he started to look around the room, then he leaned forward and rested his arms on his knees. “Oh. Right. Well, uh…says me, now, I guess.” I started to wonder if that was really the right way to handle that, but before I could say anything to soften it he was up again and making his way to the stairs. I sighed and followed. “You remember the garbage truck? With the red spiral?” he asked as he stepped out of the stairway and into the kitchen. He grabbed his cigarettes off the counter and pulled one out.
“How could I forget?” He tapped his pockets for a second, then lit a burner on the stove and leaned over to light his cigarette from it.
“I told Benedict about it, when we met,” he explained, waving his hand around as he did so and walking into the living room. I turned off the stove and followed, grabbing my own cigarettes and lighter from the arm of the couch when we both sat down. He kept talking the whole time. “So he and Akshainie went to investigate, and they found out that that little ghost town had been taken over by the cult. They were doing some ritual, some kind of test, and they separated that town from the rest of the metaphysical realm.”
“That sounds…terrifying. But how is this relevant?”
“Because they did so by mimicking what I do. This wasn’t some special spell designed just for that town, this was some power they pulled from their knowledge of Anchors, apparently. Or at least theory that lines up with us.”
“I thought you said you just break magic.”
“I did say that! Because I thought that! But according to Dad’s notes and some of his books, that isn’t true. And he never told me. I don’t know why he never told me.” He sat in silence for a moment, and I reached over with one hand and rubbed his back a bit to remind him he wasn’t alone. He took a few more drags before continuing. “Anyway. So now Benedict and Akshainie are off looking for more sites like that.”
“Okay, so, what is it exactly that you now believe you do when you encounter magic?”
“According to these records, I reshape reality. Sort of. Not really, but that seems to be the best way some of these sources describe it? Basically, there’s this wild and chaotic nature to the metaphysical realm, and this ordered and structured nature to the natural world, and—”
“Anchors impose order on the metaphysical and Warlocks bring chaos into the physical.”
“That is a way more simple way to describe it.”
“Hec—she, my mentor, said it. I didn’t really know what she meant, but this all makes sense now.”
“Well, first, tell me more about this ritual at the town.”
“Okay, so, according to Benedict, they were trying to separate the town from the rest of the metaphysical realm, and have it operate according to their own design. A couple of the books downstairs theorize that this could be done if someone was able to create a stable form of my, well, somewhat uncontrolled aura. And Dad speculated that if the cult could create such a stable bubble, and was able to find a way to create one large enough, they could create an entirely new metaphysical realm over a significant area and use that to separate the people in that area from the existing gods and warp their minds.”
“Which would give them incredible power over the people in it.”
“Power, nothing. This would make an entire new kind of person. A group of humans completely independent from the unifying experience of humanity and the collected mythos of all of mankind. I mean, these are the templates we all pull from, these are the archetypes Jung pointed to, these are the dreams and nightmares we all share. Creating a stable bubble which contains a lot of living people in it would make them a blank slate, with none of those common influences seeping in.”
“Which is why you were able to keep her away from me in Chicago. You severed me from the realm of the gods that night. But wait, why are you affected by the common mythos of mankind?”
“Well, I didn’t set any rules for the thing I’m imposing on the world, I guess? Since I didn’t design this…bubble, I guess, around me, it doesn’t work in exactly the same way. But when I actively try to shut down a specific magic, I guess I do it by willing it not to exist in the part of the realm I control.”
“Can you do that? Could you, if you wanted to, make yourself completely independent of the global metaphysical realm?”
“Hecate seemed to think I could.”
“She said I have a lot of potential, could stand against gods if I wanted to. She seemed kind of impressed that I was able to shake off her own magic when she stopped time around me.”
“But what would she want with that?” He shrugged.
“Beats me. Maybe she’s pissed at Zeus. Either way, the fact that the cult not only wants that power, but seems to already have it to a degree, seems like the bigger problem.”
“I suppose so.” We both sat thinking for a moment, then he patted my knee and stood.
“Well, anyway. Now we know what we’re dealing with, maybe, we need to start figuring out what to do about it.” I agreed, and we returned to the basement to start studying together.
2 November 2006
As soon as Matteson left to handle his tasks for the day concerning his father’s funeral, I called Rick and Marz and told them to get over to the house. It was maybe ten minutes later when Rick pulled up in a moving truck we had rented, and Marz showed up shortly thereafter with a carload of people from the Columbia. Over the next half hour the rest of Matteson’s band and assorted friends arrived and jumped in on the work.
The night before, after Matteson and I made plans with Kyle to facilitate moving out of this place to his dad’s house, I had started making plans. The fact is, Matteson wasn’t going to be up to doing this work, at least not any time soon, and he really needed something good in his life right now. Getting everyone to show up and help was actually fairly easy, as soon as I made the right calls, and thankfully the UHaul place had a truck available for today. We split into two teams, one moving furniture and the other grabbing all of the assorted stuff Matteson or I owned and throwing it into boxes. His books were the biggest challenge, but Charles showed up with a collection of milk crates and he and Bob made relatively short work of that.
We beat the pizza delivery to the new house by about fifteen minutes, and took a break to eat while I called Matteson and asked about the things he had to finish for the day. He said he’d probably be a while yet, and I reminded him to eat before returning to work myself. The challenge here was really knowing how much stuff already in the house we could really move. The milk crates full of books went straight to the basement, where his dad’s books were already kept, and the bookcases were put down there as well. None of us was willing to take on the task of actually unpacking the books—whatever system Matteson used to organize his books, it wasn’t very well understood by any of us, so we figured it was best if we didn’t guess.
But it was a three-bedroom house, and Henry had only been occupying one ever since Matteson moved out. One was basically just storage, so we moved that stuff to the attic to be sorted out later and moved my stuff in there. The other had been Matteson’s when he lived there, and was mostly empty except for some things he’d left behind and never got around to picking up, so we unpacked Matteson there. I closed off Henry’s bedroom and we made a point not to touch anything there. I’m sure he’ll want to go through everything and rearrange, but that can wait until he’s ready.
We had another meal delivered at 6, and I got a call from Kyle at 6:20 that Matteson’s car had pulled up to the old house and, before Kyle could tell him to come here, pulled away again. Sure enough, Matteson arrived a few minutes after that, and when he came in we all greeted him and encouraged him to sit down and eat. The funeral is tomorrow, after all. Can’t have him worrying about stuff or losing his energy now. He was confused, at first, but very thankful once he saw what we had done.
After everyone else left, we watched a movie and talked about anything but tomorrow. He even tried to explain his system for organizing books. I think it’s more confusing now than it was before.
3 November 2006
Today was Henry Matteson’s funeral. Turnout was small, but I didn’t manage to meet everyone; most of the ones I did were people who knew him from his job as an economics professor at the Penn State branch downtown. Matteson introduced me to a priest named Benedict, who I was told was a very old associate of Henry’s but didn’t look more than a few years older than us, and a similarly-aged woman named Akshainie who was with him. They, in turn, introduced me to a heavily-scarred man who looked to be in his thirties, named Tadzio. He talked about Henry as if they’d known each other since Henry was a boy, and I made a note to ask Matteson later exactly what kind of company his father had kept outside of work.
Henry didn’t have much family left, basically just Matteson, and it made me realize for the first time that this meant Matteson probably didn’t have any family left. I had never seen nor heard of anyone on his mom’s side, and neither Matteson nor his dad had any siblings. I had already agreed to move in with him now that he was inheriting his dad’s place, but it was only at the funeral when I realized how important it probably was for his friends to be there for him now.
And they were. His band, Rick, Charles, Bob, and an assortment of people I had never met and a few I had only met in passing came at least to pay respects at the viewing. Matteson told me later that even Kastor came by, but had trouble wrapping his head around the nature of the event.
The service was nice, and many people had good things to say about Henry. He had a plot already purchased in Oakwood Cemetery, and while the temperature was brisk the very slight amount of rain ended before we arrived. After that was a potluck at the house, and a group of us friends worked together to clean up and store food after people started filtering out. I sent Matteson upstairs to get a shower and change while we cleaned up, and by the time he returned I was the only person left. He sat down on the couch next to me, avoiding his dad’s recliner, and began to tell me about growing up in this house. I let him rest his head against me and wrapped my arm around him as he talked.
There, as the sun began to go down outside, he finally broke down and cried.
2 August 2006
“Sounds like you had a hell of a night,” Matteson said from the kitchen, where he was putting his plate from breakfast into the sink. I was sitting on the love seat and lighting a cigarette after explaining my time spent with the Fates. I heard water running, and after it shut off he came back drying his hands. “Does this mean you’re a few weeks older than you were yesterday?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a groan as I turned and laid down. He walked over, lifted my legs, sat down under them, and put my feet back on the arm of the seat. “That’s hardly the point, though.” He tossed the towel onto the coffee table and lit his own cigarette.
“You sure? It seems important.”
“Sure. Look, I’m coming to you about this partly because few other people would believe me, and partly because I’m concerned about what Hec—the goddess wants from you.”
“Oh, she already tried recruiting me.” He leaned his head back and I propped myself up.
“Yeah, it was,” he waved his cigarette around, as if trying to remember, “I dunno, a little after the Alethea situation. She stopped time around me, sent some dog, I met her on a tropical island. It was all very interesting.”
“And you never told me?!”
“Sorry, I thought I had. Besides, you didn’t mention Kastor having a message for me.”
“That seemed a bit less important.” He shrugged.
“Probably was. But yeah, I told her to take a hike, I’m sure it’ll be fine.” I laid my head back down.
“She isn’t going to just give up, you know. She believes she owns you in some way.”
“Pft. Europeans.” I choked out a quick laugh. “But now we both know, and we can keep an eye out for it, right? You got my back.”
“As long as you got mine.” He gave me a fist bump, and then we sat in silence for a couple minutes.
“Who wants a drink!” he called, lifting my legs again and hopping up to his feet.
“It’s nine in the morning.”
“And I’m off today!” I sighed and considered the 'night' I’d had.
“Make me one of those things with the rum you whipped up last week.”
Before I left, Clotho handed me a small bit of unworked wool from her pile. It was translucent, giving the shapes behind it only a faint hint of color that changed as I moved it around in the light. It felt strong but light, and as I touched it I could feel it buzzing with potential. They explained that it was the raw substance of their threads, not yet assigned to a single life, and expressed their hope that it would help me find my way to access the knowledge I had while with them. I thanked them for all they had done, and made my way outside to where the hound sat waiting for me.
He stood without a sound as I stepped into the light, and with just a glance to ensure I was with him, turned and walked back down the path. I recognized that we were still in a realm of great power, and I could do things much more easily here, so I clutched the time wool and focused on the hound, whispering my desire in Spanish. As I walked and watched, a line of identical hounds came into vision, stretching all the way back to the one sitting at the edge of the cave and all the way forward to the horizon. I smiled, let go of the wool, and continued on my way as the past and future hounds vanished again into their proper places in time.
We took a different path away from the cliff than the one we took to arrive, and after a much shorter walk I found myself in my bedroom again. On the bed was a small scroll, and the hound turned and left as I reached down to grab it. It was a reminder, from Hecate, that she had given me what I sought, and soon it would be time for me to give her what she seeks. I felt a shudder run down my spine as I considered the goddess I saw in the Crossroads while peering through time, the woman whose ends were unknown to me and slowly seeming less and less benevolent. I plugged in my phone, its battery draining long ago in the cave, and as it began to start up I sat on the bed and waited.
August 2, 2006. Seven in the morning. All of that, and as far as the world was concerned, I had simply walked into my room for bed and emerged again, refreshed, in the morning. I got ready to take a bath, and as I slipped into the water, I couldn’t help but wonder if I should warn Matteson and what, exactly, I would be warning him about.
I couldn’t tell how long I was in the cave, since we were too deep to see the sun and we were fiddling with my sense of time. But we tried again, with the same point on the same thread, a couple dozen or so times. Each time I would get a little closer to clarity, and then pass out, have some food and drink and time to rest once I woke up, discuss what I was seeing with the Fates, and then try again. I was starting to understand why they didn’t tend to teach others how to do this, and appreciate that they were taking the effort to teach me.
During the downtime, when I was recovering from one attempt and preparing for another, they would give me tips on ways to ignore certain kinds of things, and how to navigate once I was in, and occasionally slip into their versions of various Greek myths. They told me that once I had a proper understanding of how to see within a person’s thread, I would have to learn for myself how to access those threads from beyond the cave. They could do it, of course—they said that it was as easy for them as breathing was for me—but they were not skilled in magic and did not know what it would take for a mortal to access that same skill. I explained my understanding that magic was just the act of connecting to one side of reality and using it to influence the other, and they seemed to think they might have an idea for me before I left.
By this point I was getting some sense of what I was looking for. By filtering out so much extra information, I was able to piece together that I was peering into my own thread, probably somewhere in my past. By focusing on those things I now knew, I was making much faster progress at getting a clear view of what I was being shown. It was still a few more tries before I was able to actually see the scene. Finally, after so much trouble, I saw me, my face blank, my body raised above the ground. I still felt a certain resistance, and when I pushed through, everything changed.
I was no longer on the outside, looking at my face as though through a window. I was standing in the moment, in the Crossroads, and the Fates were standing there with me. The Crossroads looked different, though, and sat in a vast empty plain. Millions of little paths stretched off from it in every direction, some even going straight up into the sky and others directly into the ground. In the center of it all sat Hecate, as I had never seen her, her faces showing both vitality and death, youth and old age, wisdom and desperation. She sat on a throne of animated bone, at least twenty feet tall, holding her hand up toward me. I was floating such that my eyes were at the same level as hers, and she looked to be mid-sentence. From behind her, the ravens were entering the space, but seemed to be coming from the space itself rather than any of the roads. I don’t know how I knew that, but it seemed so obvious somehow.
“Is this what the Crossroads really looks like?” I asked.
“Well, no,” Clotho said. “This is just your mind trying to make sense of what it sees. But it is more like what the Crossroads truly looks like than you have ever seen.”
“Because you are not really here, so it is not reacting to your expectations or comfort,” Lachesis answered. I walked around, taking everything in, while the Fates waited and watched me.
“I thought this was going to be somewhere in my past.”
“It is,” Atropos said.
“Why don’t I remember this?”
“Perhaps,” Clotho offered, walking over and resting her hand on my shoulder, “you should try to see the scene in action.” I remembered that they said I would need to learn how to manipulate the flow of events. I considered how I would do that, and without consciously deciding it, I reached out with my hand and began to turn it counterclockwise like a dial. Hecate’s mouth moved as slowly as my hand turned, and the ravens began to move backward and melt back into the scenery. I watched as I was lowered back toward the ground. I turned my hand the other way, a bit faster, and saw everything continue moving forward at the new rate. I backed up again, and then pushed my hand forward as though pressing the dial.
I watched the whole scene play out. I watched as Hecate told me to lead Matteson to her. I watched as she commanded me to forget the encounter, and I paused it again as the ravens took human form and I was leaving. I took some deep breaths, trying to calm down, and felt the weight of time on the scene pressing into me a bit again. It took a few minutes of focus to push that aside again, while I paced quickly through the Crossroads.
“What is this? Why would she do that?” I asked, to no one in particular.
“The Hecate you know is not the Hecate we know,” Lachesis said. “Your experience of her has been limited to what you want from each other. But there is so much you do not know about her goals, and her methods, and where all of this leads.”
“Will I know?”
“Yes,” Lachesis answered, “you will see the ultimate end of her thousands of years of work. It will be painful, and difficult, but you will be there when she makes her move.”
“What is all of this about?”
“You have learned all we have to teach you,” Atropos said, firmly, and with a snap of her fingers we were back in the cave, with no sign of the Crossroads or even the tapestry. “Be mindful, dear mortal. As you search the unknown, never forget that there is far more of it than you can ever expect.”
“The first thing you must do is forget about learning to see time,” Clotho said, standing from her spinning wheel and resting her hand on the stone wall. It lit up with a brilliant tapestry, its form completely alien to me, that stretched on as far as I could see in every direction. It was so all-consuming that I could no longer even make out the cave. There was only the four of us, standing in the midst of the great image. “Time is too big, too senseless, too…unformed. It is vast and raw and chaotic, and if you truly succeeded at seeing it for what it is you would go mad.”
“Then what am I learning?” I asked, as I made my way over to look at the tapestry.
“To follow the threads,” Lachesis answered. She plucked at one thread in the tapestry, and it resonated like the sound of an unearthly guitar and rippled through the whole structure. “You cannot think anything so broad as looking at a time, or even a time and a place. There are so many things at play that you cannot possibly prepare yourself to experience that way. Instead, you learn to trace a single line, and see what it contains.”
“Even the King sees history in this way,” Atropos added, “through one set of eyes at a time.”
“The king?” I asked. “King of what?”
“Of us,” Clotho said. “And of nothing. The name is not perfectly accurate, but it was a name given by the one who named him. You have met the King and Queen already.” I thought for a moment.
“The ravens?” Clotho nodded. “I was told they were Muininn and Huginn.”
“Like all of us, they are known by many terms and take many forms,” Lachesis said. “It is not important which of their names you use, what matters is that he has seen all of time, he remembers all and recalls all.”
“If you don’t mind the tangent, I have been very curious about them for some time, and—”
“There is but one thing you need to know of them from us,” Atropos cut in, “and that is how they relate to the vision you seek. In a sense, she is the chaos of time, and he is the threads woven from it. We see in a manner that he permits and establishes, though it is not exactly as he sees. This is the skill we will teach you.” I took a deep breath, then nodded. Clotho took my hand and guided it toward a single thread, which suddenly seemed larger and more distinct, as if it was yearning to be touched by me, stopping just before making contact.
“You must learn how to see only what you need to see,” she said. “To peer at even a single moment in a person’s life is to see the full weight of the forces that have shaped and are being shaped by that moment. It is too much for mortal minds to grasp. You must learn to focus, to filter out all of the noise of causality and simply see what you are seeing.”
“How long does it usually take mortals to do this?” I asked. Clotho shrugged.
“We’ve never shown it to a mortal before,” Lachesis said, “and we never will again. But it is destined for you to learn it.”
“I thought you determined destiny.”
“When it comes to destiny,” Atropos said, staring off into space, “there is little difference between seeing and deciding.” Clotho nodded, then touched my hand to the thread.
The initial experience of touching that thread was like standing between a train and an airplane as they collided. There was deafening noise, impossible pressure squeezing me, rapid and fractured movement, flashes of light and color and parts of faces, of places, of moments. I heard the voices of the Fates urging me to focus, and I tried. It was overwhelming, and I didn’t even know what I was looking for. I searched for something solid, something secure, some point at which all of this was fixed upon. They said that the weight of causality would surround even a single moment, but that must mean that there is something at the core of all of this, that everything I was experiencing was built on the thing I was supposed to see. I tried to look deeper, to ignore everything, to see only what I came to see.
It was impossible to tell how long it took. I was feeling the movement of so much time that it felt like I spent centuries fixed in that one spot, but I don’t know how much of that was time that actually passed for me and how much was just the weight of the time I was trying to sift through. I kept trying to focus, trying to filter my experience, trying to dig and find the core, and I made some progress. I found some things I was able to block out of my senses, and things got ever slightly more clear. I kept pushing and pushing and pushing…
And then I collapsed. The experience left me entirely, and I found myself laying on the floor of the cave with the Fates standing over me. My nose was bleeding, my vision was blurry, and I was exhausted. One of the Fates, I couldn’t tell which, laid a platter of fruit and cheese in front of me, and I ate a couple grapes and a few olives before passing out.
The road gradually changed, and after maybe a half hour of walking it had become a dirt path at the base of a cliff overlooking a dark and motionless sea. The path tilted up, and soon we were climbing back and forth along outcroppings of the cliff until we came to a dark cave far above the water. I looked up, but was unable to see anywhere the cliff ended. Hecate later told me this was the base of Mount Olympus itself, and there was no path that high available to mortals.
The cave was long and winding, digging deep into the mountain. There was a fork in the road, one path leading deeper down and the other curving back up. We took the latter, and finally emerged into a chamber bustling with activity. Three women worked quickly here; one spinning thread, another measuring out its length, and a third cutting it. The Fates, the Greek pseudodeities who were believed by their culture to determine the destiny and duration of every life, glanced up and smiled as if expecting me. And, of course, I suppose they were. It didn’t seem to much matter whether or not I held to the religion of the ancient Greeks. The Fates exist, whether as a distinct set of people or as but one manifestation of a deeper concept, and by existing they must have at least some insight into the destinies of individuals.
It made me wonder, as I revisited the topic later, about the nature of Hecate herself. She is Hecate, and she is also the Mistress of Magic, and the Queen of the Crossroads, and the Goddess of Liminal Spaces. But are those titles for a single being called Hecate, or is Hecate a title for a single being who is fundamentally the Goddess of Liminal Spaces? The name is easier to work with, and a recognizable form, but that doesn’t mean that is her true identity. I may have to revisit Sergei’s ideas about the many faces of Hecate through the ages. This idea was bolstered later by the Fates themselves, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was brought before the Fates, and Hecate informed them that I was interested in learning the secrets of time. Clotho, the first woman, explained that theirs was not the whole of time, but the allotment of an individual’s portion of time. Atropos, the third, pointed out that this gave them insight into the past and future, and therefore could teach me to use that insight, but it would only be part of the whole if I wished to truly master the flow of time itself. I explained that it was my desire to understand, and therefore insight seems the most natural place for me to begin.
“She will see how it all began,” answered Lachesis, the woman measuring the thread. “Her destiny includes sight of the past and future, and witnessing the rise and fall of the eternal.” Hecate rested her hand on my shoulder, and when I turned back to look, she was smiling.
“Very well,” she said to the three, “I leave her in your hands. The Hound will wait outside and see her home when you are done with her.” With that, she left, and the Hound made its way outside the cave.
“Thought she’d never leave,” Clotho grumbled.
“No you didn’t,” Atropos said, and they all laughed.
“Come come, sit down,” Lachesis said, waving a hand to me without turning her focus away from the thread. “There is much work to be done.”
“What did you mean, that I would see how it all began?” I asked, moving forward and sitting on a large, smooth rock. “Am I really going to see that far back?”
“Back?!” Clotho shouted with a laugh. I must have shown my confusion, because Atropos gave me a comforting smile.
“The beginning has not happened yet, dear,” she said, calmly. “You will find time to be more complicated than you realize.”
1 August 2006
It had been a long day, and I was ready to crash for the night. I got up to my bedroom a little after 11, and as soon as I closed the door I saw the Hound sitting next to my bed.
“Don’t you usually wait til I’m asleep?” I asked. It cocked its head, then stood and turned around. The wall behind my bed folded out into a forest path overlooking the sea, and the Hound began walking. I yawned, stretched, and followed.
I wasn’t sure whether it was simply because I was going to the Crossroads physically for the first time, or if I had really changed so much that my experience of the Crossroads had to be completely redesigned, but the path seemed much more real than it ever had before. It was partly the senses; the smell of Central American flowers and ocean air, the feel of the ground under my feet, the sound of birds lilting through the trees. But there was something else, something that felt much more surprising: the path no longer looked magical. Before, it had always had an air of mystery to it, a sense that it couldn’t possibly exist in the real world, and of course it couldn’t, not with the ocean hovering overhead and the path forming and disappearing in response to my steps. But this, this felt like home, a home of which I only had very sparse, fleeting memories, from so many years ago.
What was Hecate playing at?
She didn’t behave as if she noticed the difference in the realm when we reached her, and she certainly didn’t present herself any differently in reaction to context. It was strange, looking upon a Greek goddess standing tall in a wilderness half a world away from the mountain her kind called home, carrying herself as if this was her own personal temple. And, well, it was. Whatever the Crossroads looked like to me, it remained the Crossroads, and that made it hers. But the effect was jarring, and my new doubts about her intentions after negotiating with my life prevented me from simply dismissing that incongruity.
“Jacqueline,” she said, her voice dripping with honey. I bowed.
“I’ve been thinking about you, you know.” She sat on her throne, which hadn’t existed before and looked like black marble carved by Aegean sculptors. I stood upright. “About your skill for magic and desire for knowledge. You, my dear, did not stop developing and studying when I stopped calling on you.”
“I don’t see why I would have.”
“You’d be surprised, child. Everyone has their own goals, and those whose goals truly center on me lose their way quickly when I give them space. But others, they truly believe in something. They truly desire something, something I am happy to give in exchange for their service. I think it only right to offer you new knowledge, in honor of your development so far and as a sign of good faith as we continue.” The Hound was sitting by her side by now, and she gracefully slipped her hand down to scratch at the back of its neck. I stood silent for a moment, processing.
“What new knowledge did you have in mind?” She smiled broadly then, baring teeth that seemed to be just a bit more sharp than I remembered.
“What would you like, dear?” My breath caught for a second. I could choose? Would she accept anything I chose? I briefly considered my options, before a common trait of all of them came to mind. I straightened my posture and met her gaze.
“I want knowledge of time magic,” I said, firmly. “I want to know how to see the past and future, and ultimately, how to travel between them.” She chuckled and leaned back into her seat.
“Are you sure? Time is a complicated thing.”
“I’m sure.” She considered me for a moment, then clapped her hands together and stood.
“Very well! Come, come, let me show you the way.” She turned toward one of the other roads leading away from the Crossroads, and it suddenly seemed like there were hundreds of them. As she walked, the Hound rose to join her, and I began to follow.
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.