Over the Hedge
Time Warp, Part Twelve
I fell asleep quickly that night, but soon found myself standing in The Crossroads. I looked around, confused, since the Hound hadn’t come to summon me. I just seemed to be there.
“Hello?” I heard my voice, but I hadn’t said anything. I spun around and there, coming down one of the paths, was me. I recognized her. This was what I looked like, back in elementary school. Nearly twenty years ago, well before my first trip to The Crossroads. But she was alone, and confused. I lifted my hand to wave, and opened my mouth.
“Hello, child,” my voice said. Again, it wasn’t me. I looked to my left and there was a woman, old and frail, like Abuela in her last days. She looked so much like her, but I knew that wasn’t the case. One blue eye and one brown, flecked with gold, peered out of that wrinkled face. “Let’s take a look at you all.” All? I turned around again and there, coming up from another direction yet, was another me. Another future, she looked to be maybe twenty or so years older. She looked confident, powerful. I stepped forward finally as the three other woman came together. The maiden, the mother, and the crone. Assuming I became a mother, I guess, but these are the titles we take in such a form. But what did that make me, the me watching this? The crone ran her hands along each of our jaws, looking us over.
“What is this?” I asked. The crone smiled.
“This is where we make the choice,” the mother said. “This is when we settle the path ahead.”
“But wait,” the maiden said, pointing at me, “if I’m here, and we’re all me, why doesn’t she remember?”
“You don’t know how to do this yet,” I said, piecing things together. “You were pulled here, rather than walking into it through magic.”
“And so it feels like a dream, and will fade like one,” the crone said. “But your input is valuable anyway.”
“How can we be doing this? How can we be here?” I asked. “The Crossroads isn’t ours to do with as we please.”
“This isn’t the Crossroads. I don’t know what it is,” the mother answered.
“You will,” the crone said, smiling.
“But if I tell her,” she said, pointing a bony finger at me, “then you will know, and the cycle will be changed.”
“I don’t think we should break the cycle, whatever it is,” the maiden said.
“So what’s this cycle?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s complicated,” the mother answered. “You’ll be told it isn’t a cycle.”
“And they’ll be right,” the crone added.
“And…I suppose they’ll be right. But we’ve learned much about time, and about The Crossroads, and about things we can do.”
“And who we know,” the crone winked to the mother, who sighed and scratched her hair.
“I don’t know if you remember how recent that is for me.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Don’t worry,” the crone said, “it will all make sense. When you return.”
“Okay, okay. You said we were here to make a choice? What choice?”
“What we will trust.”
“Who we will trust,” the mother said.
“What path we will take?” the maiden asked. The other two nodded.
“So how do we do that?” I asked.
“We do not choose. We have chosen,” the mother said, pointing between herself and the crone.
“So…?” I pointed to the maiden. The mother and crone shook their heads.
“She is here to advise. You choose.”
“How can I advise?” the maiden asked. “I don’t even know what’s going on!”
“But you remember what we wanted when we started,” the crone said, resting a hand on her shoulder. “And that will be helpful here.”
“What I want? I want to understand! You all talk like you’re in on some secret!”
“I’ve been trying to understand,” I said, “all my life.”
“And that understanding has shaped more than you know,” the crone said.
“Oh!” the mother said, stepping backward and putting her hands over her mouth. “It’s…we told him, and then—”
“That’s quite enough!” The crone stomped her foot with authority as she said that, and the mother stopped.
“Sorry, sorry. I hadn’t realized yet.”
“How does this help me decide who to trust, exactly?” I asked.
“Who are we not sure about trusting?” the maiden asked.
“Hecate,” both older women said in unison.
“Oh,” I said. “I…I don’t know yet. That’s what I’m trying to find out.”
“You’re going the wrong way,” the mother said.
“The beginning hasn’t happened yet,” the crone said. I gasped and looked between them.
“I don’t have to be looking backward!” I cupped my hands over my mouth as soon as I said it, and thought about that. “I can be looking forward, can’t I?”
“And you will meet others,” the mother said.
“Are they nice?” the maiden asked.
“They are…something like nice, yes.” The mother looked at me, and I noticed for the first time that she also had the golden flecks in her brown eye.
“Is that another spell gone wrong?” I asked, pointing and hoping she remembered what I meant. She smiled.
“It’s more like a spell gone right.”
“Do you trust Hecate?” the maiden asked me. I took a moment to think.
“I don’t think I do, anymore.”
“But you are still in her debt,” the mother noted. “You will need to do the job she has for you, and you do not want her to think you hesitant.”
“What is it? What does she want from me?”
“You are a means to an end for her,” the crone said, waving her hand. “It isn’t about what she wants from you, it’s about what she wants in general.”
“And I give it to her?”
“No,” the mother answered, “but you must do the task she gives you. And then, when you know the truth, you know what to do about it.”
“So I’m right not to trust her.”
“But what about the others? Can we trust them?” the maiden asked.
“Who are they?”
“You will know very soon now,” the crone said. “Very soon indeed.”
“Heed their warnings. Do not forget that they have different goals than you,” the mother said, stepping closer to me. “What is good for them is not always good for you.”
“Are their goals good?” I asked.
“That is a matter of some interpretation,” the crone answered. “I may have an answer, soon.”
“You must decide whether to trust them or not,” the mother said. “We can only advise.”
“What do you advise?” I demanded.
“Caution,” the mother said.
“Diligence,” the crone said.
“Hope,” the maiden said. We all turned to look at her. “Well? You both made it through, right? There’s hope, then.” The crone smiled.
“Perhaps the most valuable of all,” she said, mussing the maiden’s hair. I was about to ask them another question when I suddenly found myself sitting on the couch in Nan and Sergei’s apartment. I made my way into the kitchen and poured a glass of water. The clock read 1:11 as I drank, and I couldn’t help but feel like the timing was important. But I doubted I would get any more answers tonight, so I finished my drink and went back to bed.
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