Over the Hedge
The problem with moving forward, I suspected, was not going to be getting into the flow. I’d already learned how to do that. The problem was going to be moving at the pace I wanted to move, stopping when I got where I wanted to go. The other problem was that I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, or how concrete the future was. Would I change things by looking forward? It seemed unlikely, based on how the Fates described the weave of time, but I couldn’t be certain. I needed to be careful.
Nan had given me something new this time. It was one of the shards of colored glass that hung from the ceiling in the shop and tinted the sunlight coming in through the windows, dancing around the store. I had always loved those shards, and the effect they had in the shop, and she knew that. She explained that, unlike when I was traveling to the past, I wouldn’t be able to just fall back into my own time if I found myself struggling. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of getting lost! She told me the shard was a focus, something I could hopefully use to find my way back to the shop if I had difficulty. I thanked her, and went to begin my meditation.
I was able to feel the tug of time’s flow quickly, but I didn’t jump in right away. I continued to focus, steadying myself, until I was certain I would have about as much control as I could muster. Then, and only then, did I let myself flow along. Everything was a blur at first, and it took me another moment to recenter and focus on the work at hand. I forced myself to slow down, at least enough that I could start taking in some of the sights flashing past me. Here I was in a cabin with Rick, Matteson, and Alice. There I was at the house. I saw myself in a tuxedo and forced myself to stop.
I was standing in a room in the house, the size and layout looked like Henry’s room, but the decorations were clearly mine. The tuxedo I had on was clearly tailored, and looked damn good on me. She knew it, too, and her eyes in the mirror shifted to look directly at me and wink. I laughed; I hadn’t really considered that I would remember watching this happen. She smoothed out the jacket, then left the room as I followed. The house looked entirely different, I saw almost nothing that belonged to Matteson. What happened? When even was this? But she wasn’t lingering, and neither did I. We made our way out to a car, I suspected our car, and I slipped into the passenger seat as she turned the ignition. She sat for a moment, as if deep in thought, and then turned to me. She was younger than the mother at the crossroads, but still had those golden flecks in her eye. I suddenly felt exposed, as if she could see me with it.
“I can see you,” she said, calmly. “And also I remember this. It’s…a significant day for us.”
“Does it work? Do I get my answers?” I asked. She scowled.
“I can’t tell you that. But listen, you can’t stick around. I’ll take you where I’m going, and you can see briefly what it is, but that’s it, got it?” I nodded. “Good. Wouldn’t want to give everything away.” She smiled, turned her attention to the road, and pulled out.
“Is it because of those flecks in your eye?” She nodded.
“Yeah, they help a lot with time magic, and there’s a certain low-level awareness I have all the time now. I suspect I can see any time travelers, it just isn’t a common enough practice for me to have seen any other than myself.”
“That is a very flattering suit.”
“Thanks! Getting sized for it was a pain, but thankfully I knew the result would be worth it.” I watched out the window and realized we were pulling into Buhl Park. The car wound around a bit until it reached one of the pavilions, clearly set up for a wedding. I saw Matteson, Alice, Marz, and a few other faces I recognized there.
“Who’s getting married?” She parked the car and smiled at me.
“We are, of course!” With that she was out of the car, and I scrambled to catch up to her. “I’m glad we could do it outside. They were saying there was a chance of rain, but of course,” she pointed to the sky and I looked up into a cloudless expanse, “I knew they were wrong.”
“Well it wouldn’t be a day important enough to stop you if it was anyone else, would it?” I considered that as we walked. Alice glanced up, talked briefly with Matteson, then ran over to Jackie.
“You’re here! Good, we’re almost all ready. Don’t go snooping around behind the pavilion, now,” Alice said. I glanced down and noticed Alice was wearing a wedding band. Jackie smiled.
“Thank you so much for all of this! I really appreciate your help.” Alice leaned closer.
“John says you aren’t alone,” she whispered.
“Ah, yeah. I should’ve probably told you. That’s me from the past, she won’t be staying long, but that is how I knew the weather would cooperate.” Alice sighed in relief.
“Okay. That makes sense. I never know what to expect with you. Hello, past Jackie.”
“Hello,” I said. She clearly couldn’t hear me. “How long am I staying, anyway?”
“As long as you want, really, as long as you don’t get too close to Matteson,” Jackie answered. Alice nodded and walked away, apparently confident she wasn’t part of what was now happening. “But you’ll know when you’re risking seeing too much. I have things to do, explore a bit.” She went off toward the people who were finishing setting up, and I stood looking around for a while. What was behind the pavilion? I made my way through the ceremony space, taking in the flowers and the ribbons. It was all very nice and beautiful, and purple. There was more purple than I would have expected. I rounded the corner of the building and caught sight of her. I couldn’t see her face, she was turned away from me, but I could see the wedding dress and the women fussing over her.
Of course. It was bad luck for the couple to see each other before the wedding, so she couldn’t peek back here. Did that apply to me, too? Part of me felt a bit sad, and as I slipped back around the corner to stop looking I considered why that was. I mean, yes, it was disappointing to know Rick and I didn’t work out, but I wasn’t that committed to being with him, was I? I wanted to look around the corner again, see who she was, but then I realized that this was it. That was too much information. I sighed, focused, and stepped back into the flow.
22 January 2007
At Nan’s urging, I took a break from attempting time magic and went into the city. I felt like I was fine, and could probably try again, but she was having none of that and basically kicked me out of the shop for the day. I wandered around the neighborhood a bit, without thinking much about where I was going, and ultimately found myself standing in front of the statue I had animated back when Hecate first took me on as an apprentice. I saw it move and jumped back with a yelp, but it was exactly as it already had been and people walking by looked at me strangely before slightly speeding up. I turned and took a step away, then watched myself take that step, and I stopped. Maybe Nan was right about how much recovery I had left. I took a few deep, centering breaths, then walked away without further incident.
I hopped on the L at the nearest station, figuring I’d just go to a different part of town and find something to do to kill some time. I watched the city through the window as the train clattered along, and my senses started to lag. Everything would start to slow down, almost to a crawl, and then snap back into place with a rush of information. It was disorienting, and when I realized it was getting more frequent I fought through the mental fog to reach the door. I stepped out at the next station and stumbled through the path to the street as time ebbed and snapped around me. I was holding my head, and now I was on the sidewalk, and now I was on a park bench. I tried to focus, and it was starting to help a little, but the jolts were too harsh to ignore and the mark on my forehead was beginning to sting again. I tried to focus, I tried to control my breathing, I did a little rhythmic chant I’d been taught growing up, and slowly things started to calm down.
“Jackie?” I looked up at Jacob, standing on the sidewalk in front of me, carrying a book.
“Oh! Hey, Jacob. How’re you?” He smiled and stepped closer.
“Better than you, it looks like. What are you doing? When did you get into town?”
“Oh, a couple days ago. I’m working on a project and needed help from Nan and Sergei.” He nodded.
“They seem good for that. Hey, have you had lunch yet?” I shook my head. “Well, come on, then. I was on my way for a burger.” I joined him and continued trying to push back the way my senses were struggling with time. He noticed something was wrong, but waited until we had our food and no one was around to lean in and ask what was really going on. I told him. When I opened my mouth, I thought I would brush it off, but it just came out. I told him about how my mentor was showing concerning signs about her intentions for me and apparently for Matteson, and how I was trying to learn how to see through time to find out what was going on, and how I was now struggling with backlash from pushing too hard the day before. He asked if that explained the mark on my forehead and my eye, and I told him the eye was something else. He seemed concerned, but didn’t press for more information on that.
After we finished eating, he suggested I go back to the apartment and say hi to the couple people who hadn’t gone separate ways. He explained that Matt was still there, and I found myself kind of excited to see what he was up to these days. So I went to the apartment, and met the new people who were there and started catching up with the people I already knew. It was a nice afternoon, and my head was starting to feel better, but Matt took me aside after a little while to ask if everything was okay. I found myself explaining everything to him, as well, and he just nodded quietly as I did. Finally, he expressed his agreement with Nan that I should not be practicing magic today, but he did offer to help make sure I could do it again soon.
“You’re getting unmoored from the flow by poking at it too much,” he said, bringing me back to the living room. “We can try to help you reconnect more quickly.” He explained to the others that we were all going to try a ritual, and they all scattered around gathering supplies and figuring out seating. I was seated in the center of the room and the others were in a circle around me, and Matt gave instructions to everyone. He explained to me that if this worked, it would probably take a little time yet to fully set in, but it should help speed my recovery. I agreed to let them try, and as I sat in the center of them they began.
It was a complicated rite, and since it was guided largely by Matt’s druid knowledge and style I only recognized parts of it. But those parts were things that petitioned for peace, or bound things together, or involved a sharing of burdens. I tried not to analyze it too much—it was better if I just focus on my participation than try to work out the details—so there was a lot of what was happening that I didn’t bother piecing together. By the time they were done, we were all hungry, so pizzas were ordered and we all laid around and watched a movie and joked around. It was nice, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed some of these people. We exchanged updated information and promised to keep in closer touch before I left, and Jacob escorted me across town back to the shop well after dark. He gave me a hug before leaving, and told me to be careful. I promised I would try.
21 January 2007
After the successes the day before, I decided to try pushing further back. I wanted to see if I could go back further than my own memories. I decided to shoot for Robert Johnson’s missing year, and to that end, I had a record of his music playing softly in the meditation space. The record and record player belonged to Sergei, who I had no idea listened to the Blues, and he insisted that I be very careful with them. I slipped into my trance and began to push backward against the flow of time, checking on my progress as I went. Here was my first day of Kindergarten. There was my parents’ wedding. I was now beyond the scope of my own lifetime, but still limited to perspectives connected to me. I pushed harder, trying to move outside of that specific stream of events. I felt the pressure building around me as I found myself looking at what seemed to be a gas station in…well, those cars looked like the 50s? Maybe 60s? I never was great with that. But the air was humid and the sun was hot and the people were speaking English. Probably getting close to where I needed to be, but it was growing more and more difficult. I tried to focus on the music, which I could still hear just on the edges of my senses. I leaned into it, tried to find its origin. Against a mounting wall of opposition, I found myself looking at a man with a guitar, sitting in front of an old microphone, strumming and singing along to the music. But the vision was distorted, as if I was looking at it through a thick pane of imperfect glass. The timing was slightly off, the features were indistinct, the edges of the image were just vague sweeps of color. I pushed, and time pushed back, and suddenly I felt myself falling, rushing away from that moment, unable to stop or slow down or even fully recognize what was around me. I crashed back into the meditation space, falling out of my seat and screaming as the paste on my forehead burned at my skin. I remember a sense of someone entering the room in a rush, and then everything was black.
When I woke again I was on their couch with a cold cloth on my head and a blanket over the rest of me. My forehead still stung, but it was more of a dull ache, and I felt weak. I heard the sound of the mortar and pestle in the kitchen, and tried to call out but all I managed was a whimper. Still, it was apparently enough; the noise stopped and Nan poked her head into the doorway.
“Oh! You’re up! Good, good. I was worried.” I laid there catching my breath as she disappeared into the kitchen again and then emerged with a plate of food. “You’ll need to eat, you’ve already missed lunch.”
“Oh stop it,” she said, pulling a kitchen chair in the living room closer to the couch and sitting on it. “You still need rest. Seems you pushed yourself a bit too hard.” She handed me the plate and I smiled a thanks before slowly working at it. “I feel a little responsible, it seems the mixture I whipped up for you could have been improved, so I’m working on that now. But all the same, you shouldn’t go poking around in time any more today, maybe even tomorrow. You need to get all your energy back up.”
“Yes, yes, the paste reacted poorly to reaching its limits. I think anything we concoct will do that to some degree. But I don’t think the mark will stay, we got it cleaned off you pretty quick, the burn isn’t deep. Not like that eye of yours. You never did tell me how that one happened.”
“Now don’t you worry about it right now. I’m sure it’s more of a story than you’re ready to tell. But please tell me you learned from it?” I nodded. “Then why’d you go and do a fool thing like this?” she pointed at my forehead. I sighed. “Well, anyway. You rest. I’ll poke at this mixture some more, but you just let me know if you need anything, okay?” I nodded and smiled, and she patted my hand before walking back into the kitchen.
20 January 2007
I excitedly explained to Sergei and Nan what had happened over dinner, how I had managed to peer backwards in time which had never happened properly before. They were excited to hear about it, and Nan took it as evidence that distance from Matteson was a good thing for my magic. It was hard to argue with her on that, but I tried to make sure she didn’t let her concern become any actual dislike of Matteson. It wasn’t exactly his fault if that was the case, and I was the one who chose to keep living with him. I could have just as easily stayed in the house on West Hill and let his influence on the space fade. Well, not just as easily; splitting the property tax with him was a smaller bill than rent would have been.
Either way, Nan felt she could improve my results with the right application of material components. So she started working out some ideas while I helped Sergei close up shop, and when I came down to the shop the next day she had a couple crystals set out and a few herbs in her mortar and pestle. We talked through my experience again, how I was connecting with time and what everything felt and smelled like, and she added a few more things from behind the counter and ground them up into a fine powder which she mixed with a little bit of water. She asked me to add a drop of my blood, which I did by picking at the scab from the day before, and she turned it into a fine paste which was gathered into a small bowl. She instructed me to try again, and use the paste to make my wave marking before I began, and gave me a different incense she thought would be slightly better. I thanked her, went to the meditation space, and tried again.
While Sergei and Nan worked in the front of the store, I spent some time in their meditation corner working on some of what I had learned from The Fates. After returning to the physical world, I had been unable to duplicate the results I’d had in the cave. This was to be expected; The Fates had warned me that it would be much harder to do as it was, and the impact of Matteson’s nature on my magic, even when he was away, was probably a factor I hadn’t adequately considered. But I had a new theory to work with that I couldn’t access time the way The Fates did, anyway, at least not outside of their help. The thread they gave me was a focus, but the means they used relied on their nature as spirits, which I didn’t have. After my conversation with Sergei this morning, Nan suggested that spirits have their own paths to magic, distinct from humans. And, since I relied on a type of elemental energy, I may need to reframe my attempts at time magic to something that could connect to my element.
“This,” she said, “would be very difficult for some elements, like earth, which is too rigid. But water? I think you’ll figure it out.” If that was the case, then maybe I shouldn’t be thinking of time as a tapestry the way they did. Maybe I shouldn’t be thinking about time as a thing at all. Maybe I should be thinking of it as a flow.
So I sat down in the meditative space, the thread woven into my hair, trying to commune with water and feel the flow of things not just through space, but through time. Nan had set an incense burning to help me, and I had a stone from the Ohio River in one hand and one from Lake Michigan in the other. I quieted my mind, and began seeking the flow.
I don’t know how long it took me, as I started to lose sense of nearly everything before it happened, but I finally felt something click. I opened my eyes and looked around. At first, nothing seemed different, until I turned my attention to the incense and saw the smoke frozen in place. I felt pressure building up on me, and I suspected that this was because I was trying to stand still. Here I was, meditating on flow, and when I finally slipped into it I was looking at a single moment instead of going with that flow. I tried to push backward, but the pressure was stronger that way. Going against the flow would be even harder. But I knew I could do it, if I just gave it a little more energy. I bit my thumb, hard, hard enough to draw blood, and used that bit of blood to paint waves on my forehead as I chanted. Slowly, I felt the pressure begin to ease, and I turned my attention to the smoke again. I stared at it, pushing, until the smoke started to curl downward toward the fire. It was slow going, but I was getting there. I was watching time in reverse!
I stood and continued pushing, and when I glanced back I saw myself sitting in place, eyes closed. I left myself behind and walked out of the meditative space into the shop at large, and watched Sergei walking backward toward the office while Nan pulled a crystal out of a paper bag, folded the bag, and put it under the counter under the warm gaze of a customer, who had coins floating up into her hand from a change purse. I watched, in absolute glee at the fact that it was working, before I suddenly felt the pressure hit me again and throw me forward.
I gasped as my eyes flew open and I dropped the stones. I checked my hand, and my thumb had a small droplet of fresh blood on it. But I was out of the trance, and it had proven that I could do this. Now I just needed to get better at it.
19 January 2007
My flight into Chicago landed shortly before dinner, so that evening was mostly spent catching up with Nan and Sergei. It wasn’t until morning, while we were all in the shop beneath their apartment, that I got to work. In the back room, I laid out the notes and images I’d brought, and showed them to Sergei.
“So Hecate is being bad now?” he asked, looking everything over.
“I don’t know. I know she wants something from me, but I don’t know what. I think it has to do with Matteson, but I don’t know why. And I know she’s willing to threaten or endanger me to get it.”
“But you don’t know how?”
“Oh no. I very clearly remember how.”
“Okay. So what you need is…what?”
“Well, there are a couple things. But the big one I would like from you, specifically, is your theory on Hecate taking on different names across history.” He gave me the biggest smile I can ever remember seeing from him.
“Oh yes,” he said, pointing at me as he started to jog for the stairs up to the apartment, “Yes, I have you.”
“It’s ‘I got you,’ Sergei.”
“Also that!” he yelled, vanishing into the stairway. He was gone only a few minutes before returning with his large poster, which he had made attempting to lay out the whole timeline for me. “Okay,” he said, unrolling it on the table, “we start at beginning.”
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.”
7 July 2005
I had been here for a month and found nothing so far. All of my cursory searches had turned up no sign of Alethea, surprisingly few ghosts in general, and I was digging deep into my notes to find any last resort tests. I didn't want to be desperate about it, but I also didn't want to feel like I'd up and moved halfway across the country for no reason.
I called Nan and got some input, and she dug around the shop and called me back later with a test I could do that would turn up any ghost activity that had happened in the last couple months. It was complicated, a ritual and some herbs and a questionable potion, but she assured me that if it didn't turn up anything, there was nothing to find. She also warned me not to drink the potion on an empty stomach.
It took me a couple days of looking to find all the ingredients, and I finally started the ritual this morning. After a hearty lunch, I knocked back the potion, inhaled the smoke from the herbs, and finished the last few steps of the ritual with my eyes closed. When I opened them, I nearly fell out of my chair.
The entire house was glowing, to the point where it was almost painful to look at. I made my way through the house, clutching my head as the brightness stabbed into my eyes, and tried to take in everywhere the ghost had been. It was easier, in the end, to note where it hadn't been: our roommate's bedroom was the only place untouched by the presence. I stumbled back to the living room, the sheer energy of everything beginning to overwhelm me, and fumbled in my bag for my kit. I had to know whether it was Alethea or not. I had to know why this was all so well hidden, how I hadn't seen any trace of it before when it had clearly been absolutely everywhere. I groaned and tried to shake the fog from my mind that was beginning to grow as the light continued to assault me. I finally found the kit, but apparently passed out from the stimulus before managing to use it.
When I woke on the couch, it was because Lori was shaking my shoulder and asking if I was okay. The kit was spilled open on the floor under my hand. The spell had worn off, but my eyes were still blurry and the sun was coming in the window and it all made Lori look like she was faintly glowing. I jerked back, rubbed my eyes, and when I looked again she seemed perfectly normal. I told her I was okay, now, but thanks, and she went to go find Matteson who had apparently come home while I was out and thought I was taking a nap. I spent the rest of the day debating about whether or not to try again, but just the thought of how strong that sensation had been turned my stomach.
I had proof, though. I knew something was going on. I just needed another way to find out what it was.
There is a division between the physical and the metaphysical realms, though the exact nature of it seems to vary. I've only had to interact with it in Chicago, where it is thick and dark. But Abuela said that back in Honduras it was thin and airy, bright and covered in flowers. She told me stories from before the Europeans arrived, when the division between realms was like the surface of water, when the only thing really keeping a mage from diving too deep or dwelling too long was not the difficulty of crossing, but of staying.
This claim raised a number of questions for me, so I began to study other concepts of the division from around the world. Sometimes called a wall, or a veil, or any of a number of other such concepts, I have come to understand it as a hedge. This is partly because it was the manner in which I had always known it through Abuela's descriptions, but I was also convinced that no other title adequately described the variety of its experience or the fact that it seems to be alive in its own way. The living, changing nature of it is part of what I think explains the history I was taught. My best guess is that the Victorians are to blame.
The first thing to note is that the metaphysical realm itself is not static. Whatever else may be true of it, it is a dynamic realm where the thoughts or emotions of human beings seems to leave a direct impact. Nan's study of auras suggests there is something more to them than a revelation of what people are feeling, and Abuela said that our dreams and fears and memories walk alongside us on the other side of the hedge. Hecate taught me that seeing what was really happening in the metaphysical realm requires a still and disciplined mind, as any fluctuations I bring with me will change both my perception of the realm and the realm itself; but she also taught that strong connection to one's own emotions aids in accessing the power of the realm for other forms of magic.
The only conclusion I can draw from these notes and my own studies and experiences is that the metaphysical realm is fundamentally reactive, that its very nature is to reflect what is poured into it. It is the astral plane where minds meet, and the realm of dreams, and the great pool of human memory and desire and terror, and the abode of spirits. Are minds inherently connected? Did we create the realm? Was it created alongside us? Is it possible that there was a time before the realm, and that something bound all of mankind to it? Is it any more, or any less, possible that it existed before us and that somehow we either connected to it or arose from it? If there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is it connected to the realm, or to their own version of it, or not at all?
Wherever the realm came from and however it came to reflect us, the division that keeps the physical separate from the metaphysical seems to share its nature. It is reactive, putting up as much resistance to us as we give to it. This would explain why the hedge is so much more daunting in Chicago, where there is very little acknowledgement of it, than it is in a village where the existence of the spiritual is simply an assumed part of daily life. It also may explain the change that happened to harden the hedge, apparently on a global scale.
The Victorians were in a unique position in that they had novel ideas about spirits and the means to enforce those ideas in other cultures. Victorian spiritualism introduced the idea of a hard barrier between the physical and the spiritual, a massive wall that could not be broken without significant effort and cost. Their fiction and nonfiction writings that touch on the matter reflect this notion, and their deep interest in the spiritual meant that they spent a great deal of time honing this idea and reinforcing it in their own minds and culture. Under any other circumstance, this would have created a stronger wall in places where they congregated in large numbers, but had little effect anywhere else. But this was the height of the British Empire, which meant that they congregated everywhere. Their ideas spread naturally among their own world-spanning culture, and their subjugation of other cultures ensured that what they believed about the world was taught to these other cultures. Their literature, which was placed as the global standard, forced other writers to explore the themes and ideas that they had written about. Finally, the spread of these ideas across European borders into other colonial powers sent these ideas to their own empires. By the time the Victorian age had come to a close, the vast majority of the world had been force fed a concept of spirituality that put a hard division between realms.
With that many people all around the world believing the spiritual was inaccessible, the metaphysical realm had to make itself inaccessible. It had no means of fighting against the popular tide of the human imagination because it does not, and possibly cannot, operate fully independent of that imagination. This inaccessibility became the hedge that now stands between the realms and has never been fully uprooted. This hedge has made the spirits more distant from us, made the energy that fuels magic a more limited resource, and I cannot imagine that putting distance between humans and the one thing that unifies us all has been a positive influence on history.
Colonialism killed magic, and its blood still drips from the thorns of the Hedge.
Nan told me some months ago that it was probably not worth the effort to dig much into the two beings that appeared to me when I was tracking down Alethea. But something about them seemed important, and the lack of solid information on them in the lore we knew kept nagging at me. I had to see if I could find anything.
The first lead we had was the idea that they might be Odin's ravens, who were tasked with traveling around the world and reporting what they saw to their king. But the description given of them was vague at best, and they did not strike me as beings who answered to a Norse deity that would have no reason to interact with me. Their behavior did not strike me as passive observers. And when I sat down to think about it, I began to suspect I had heard something of them from Hecate.
It took a great deal of digging before I realized that the only places where I found references that may have described this pair were on the fringes. They were background entities, present for a great many first-hand accounts but rarely active enough to be remembered in later tales based on the events. Other spirits seem to know of them, though my experience and what I've heard from Nan suggests they are not a comfortable topic of discussion. But a few universal facts arose; they alternate between human and raven forms, they are always seen together, and they possess great power but are rarely seen using it. Then I began to put the words used to describe them into columns and that was when I noticed that the descriptions of the woman always seemed chaotic, wild, and active, while the descriptions of the man always seemed ordered, reserved, and cryptic.
When Hecate told me about Anchors and Warlocks, she claimed that they represented the same forces that 'The Two' represented; Anchors brought physical order to the metaphysical realm, while Warlocks brought metaphysical chaos to the physical realm. By association, then, perhaps the man (who is always described as clean dressed as human or solid black as a raven) is Order and the woman (who is always described as composed of swirling energy) is Chaos.
But what are they? Do they influence both realms? Do they influence only one? Or are they simply beings who operate in the domains of order and chaos and do not themselves control it? Hecate deeply hates ravens; is it possible that these beings claim some dominion over Anchors and Warlocks (who she also claims dominion over), and if so, are they rivals to her? Are they rebellious servants of hers, originally tasked as intermediaries between her and the humans under her domain?
There is something to this connection between her and them, and I cannot help but feel it is the reason they arrived in my life when they did. I cannot let this go now. I have to learn more.
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.