Over the Hedge
The Fates, Part Two
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.”
The Fates, Part One
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.
Poison River Players, Part Eight
24 July 2006
I didn’t get to see the actual race for Small Ships Revue because I was busy getting everything we would need for our set organized and in a safe location near the stage to allow for quick set up. When I asked later how we did to a few of the actors who had already begun drinking, I was reminded that winning the race isn’t really the point, so I assume we did pretty poorly.
The event was much larger than I expected, and I was informed that people come from all over the area to attend. It certainly looked like there were more people than I realized had even lived in Sharon; in retrospect, I should have probably expected that the area was more populated than it looked from the low number of people I generally saw wandering around downtown, but I was still thinking in terms of my years in Chicago and didn’t think it through. At any rate, the bar and the massive parking lot behind the Lube were packed with people the entire day, and Rick made a point of showing me around to all the normal attractions that tended to be included. When it came time to get ready for our set, I met the rest of the group and Matteson’s band near the stage area and we went over the order of things one last time.
The set was well received, the music was helpful, but Rick and Charles said that whoever was mixing the audio put too much of the band in and there were a couple bits that were hard to hear. Still, we raised a couple hundred dollars for the theater and the band drummed up interest in their CDs, so we considered it a success. At the end of the set, I was introduced for the first time as a full member of the theater troop, and for me, that was the highlight of the day.
Poison River Players, Part Seven
1 June 2006
Work was progressing in Columbia Theatre, and today we were working on updating and expanding the fly system. I was standing on a scaffolding, running lines through the system in the ceiling and trying not to look down. Backstage, Marz was testing the lines that had already been finished and helping determine what we needed for counterweights and if we would need to order more. Neither of us was here when the pulleys were mapped out and installed, so it was also taking extra time for us to figure out where everything was supposed to be. We had been warned that some of it was not actually ready for our work yet, and we had taken some guesses about which parts of the system were affected based on the notes left for us. The possibility that we had been mistaken on some of those guesses suddenly occurred to me when I heard a crack, and then a snap, from my right.
Before I could react to the noise, a fly passing in front of me stopped in the air, its wings stuck mid-stroke. I breathed heavy and looked around, and found a heavy metal pulley that had broken off the ceiling and stopped in place about a foot away from my neck. I knew, immediately, that if it had continued on its arc either I would have died; either from the initial impact, or from the unavoidable fall that would have followed it. I swallowed hard and tried to step aside, but found that I could only move my head. I turned to my left again, and saw the Hound sitting on the scaffolding and watching me. I opened my mouth to speak, but a flicker of movement in the corner of my eye drew my attention away again. As I turned to look forward, I found Hecate. She was standing on the stage, but so tall that her eyes were level with my face. I took a deep breath. Why now, after all this time?
“Mistress,” I whispered, my voice unsteady. She smiled.
“Am I, still?” I furrowed my brow and tried to formulate a question about that, but nothing coherent came out before she smiled and continued. “I saw how you handled that ghost, and cleaning up the park afterward. You seemed confident in your ability to proceed without invoking me.” She looked to my left, and I followed her gaze to the pulley. “Yet you do not seem so confident now.”
“I had not heard from you in a year, Mistress. I didn’t know anymore if you were even listening.”
“I suppose I can understand such fickleness from mortals, a year must seem like such a long time to you. But you must know better than to believe that about me. Besides,” she blinked, and her eyes were replaced by the sight of me in Chicago, laying on that couch in John’s arms. “You clearly wanted some space from me. Am I not free to give my mortal instruments what they desire?”
“I’m sorry. I was recovering from a moment of weakness and just…” I sighed and lowered my head. “I’m sorry.”
“Will you show me?” Her eyes returned to normal, or what passed for normal from her.
“I want to see that you are sorry, not simply hear it.”
“I have a job for you to do. But not yet. For now, it will be enough for you to swear to me that you will do it. And your continued usefulness, of course, is a great encouragement to keep you around.” My eyes widened as I realized why I couldn’t move the rest of my body. I was being given a choice between power and death.
“I swear, Mistress.”
“Very good. I shall call on you when I am ready.” I felt my body unfreeze as she and the Hound vanished, and I quickly shifted around the pulley to stand behind it. As soon as I was in the clear, the pulley snapped back into motion and crashed against the wall, sending scraps of wood and drywall flying. I was breathing heavy, and the noise of the impact had left my ears ringing for a moment before I heard Marz calling to me. I pressed my hand to my heart, exhaled hard, then peeked down.
“I’m okay. But I think we should take a break.” They gave a few quick nods, and I began to climb down.
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