Over the Hedge
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.”
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.
Goddess of liminal spaces
Queen of the Crossroads
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.