It happened decades ago on a sunny Easter Sunday morning. My witchy black-spider aunt Regina led me down the cliffside walk to her beach, where she stood me against several bales of hay, casually nocked an arrow to the string on her longbow, stretched it taut, and aimed it at my heart. I was six years old. My grandmother Jenny saved my life, and years later, when she died, she willed me everything she owned. Regina-her daughter-killed her, and now Regina, that self-same human cockroach, is coming after me again.
I am told I have great powers, but I know less than I should about what they might be. And my time is running out.
I work in the motion picture industry as a stunt lady. I know what I am doing and I do not take unnecessary risks, so it is not as dangerous as you might imagine. I was at my agent Sumner Blinker's office in mid-Wilshire just east of Beverly Hills when I had my first hint that my life was about to change. I heard a ring tone and reached for my cell phone.
What I heard was an old blues song:
It ain't necessarily so/It ain't necessarily so
The things that you're liable/To read in the Bible
Ain't necessarily so...
I did not recognize the caller ID. Still, answering the phone is something automatic with me. The phone is a lifeline in my business. Ignore at your own risk. But when I flicked it on, there was nobody there. And yet I was still hearing It ain't necessarily so... Then a woman's voice came on the line and said, "It's Blu Baxter! Hey, girl, may I come on in?"
I replied with a sharp "No!" with some degree of attitude. I hate cold calls, people wanting to clean your air ducts or sell you solar panels. There was no click or anything, just dead air, so I guessed the person went away.
Sumner gave me a funny look.
"Of course I'm okay. It's just my damn phone."
"You took a pretty bad tumble up there on Mulholland."
"Sumner, I did not fall on my head."
Maybe I was a little too sharp with him. He was not on my favorites list at that time. He was supposed to be my agent, always in my corner, always there for me. But I was suspecting that had recently not been the case, and he was acting more than a little guilty.
"Okay, okay!" He threw up his hands, gave me a disgusted look, and turned his attention out the nearest window where absolutely nothing was going on. He was being even weirder than usual, and that only fueled my suspicions.
I have premonitions. A lot of people do, but with my family history I tend to pay attention to the little things. In a way I am just a beginner at the important things in my life. I guess you could call me a raw apprentice, a sort of witch in training. I am not all that old (as in old hag) but it takes a century or two to begin to master the craft, if such a thing is possible. So I am just a kid at this game. And worse luck, I do not have anybody training me. My grandmother, so the old family story goes, dated William Shakespeare. But maybe she was not born back in that time. There is another way to do that. But I am getting ahead of myself here. I promise, I will explain.
Anyway, I am in no way your old-school definition of a magical person. I have not memorized any spells or incantations. Not yet, at least, though I have been tempted, and I do have a book of special mixings, chants, and "mind pushes," and I have been fooling around with a curse or two (without much success). My little not-prayer book was handed down to me by my mother, though I doubt she ever read a line of it herself. My mom was sure those ancient scribblings in old dead languages were the work of the devil. Maybe they are. It depends on your definition of what a devil might actually be.
So, clearly I can be expected to have no recipes for eye of newt and wing of bat, no heavy black cauldron that I have to lug around, and I can say that most of the common prattle you hear about witches is superstitious nonsense or badly misleading and if I were you I would not worry about it.
You hear crazy stories about women with powers and you have to realize those are just ways to explain things that are impossible to understand, even with the general public's current awareness of parts of the universe known as dark matter, or as some of us refer to it, the dark side. A person appears out of thin air, helps you or zaps you to a cinder, and then disappears. They must have come from Mars, thank you, Orson Welles. How else do you explain it? You have a hot dream, the best, most fantastic sex ever and you wake up to realize you are alone in your own totally messed-up bed. Oh God, just another wet dream. Or was it?
If people only knew one way or another for sure, they probably would not come up with the superstitious stuff, or all that crazy, outdated sci-fi stuff, either. No, there are no canals with water on Mars. Of course, if you took away fantasy, then I guess nobody would watch The Wizard of Oz any more, and I for one would miss the part where Dorothy gives the Tin Man that quizzical look, What the heck are you, anyway? As often as not when I see that shiny fellow, I start wondering how all his parts work, but let me admit that is just ordinary oversexed me, and if you are lucky in that way, maybe you are a bit of the same. Seriously, have you ever wondered how it would be if the tin guy had actually been a tin lady? Think about it. Every time you had to take a leak, you would risk a rusty butt, and what sort of life would that be? Keep the oil can handy, gal.
Sumner kept ignoring me, and then my phone rang again. Or maybe not-hard to figure out what was happening with it. All I knew was I heard another ring tone from somewhere close by and I picked up again. There was a sound of drunken laughter, and I had the feeling I was trapped in a bar in Munich during Oktoberfest and a merry band was chanting
Ist das nicht ein Schnitzelbank?
Ja, das ist ein Schnitzelbank!
The ring tone cut out and a cheerful woman's voice said. "Juniper Warner, it's Tillie Noonschnapper!"
Nobody I knew. "Go away," I said out loud.
Those Germans sounded like they were having a great time, but I certainly did not know anybody named Tillie, much less with the ridiculous last name Noonschnapper. Sounded like she was hanging out in a happy beer hall. I bet she was getting her share of fine Teutonic romance and good lovings, to boot. Okay, so I was jealous of a person I did not know in a place I had never been. Nobody is perfect.
I was on pain meds for my knee at the time and so I was feeling a drowsy mean, so to speak, and my mind started to drift. I could not remember the last time I had gone for some really great affectionate intimacy. I do not know why it has to be so difficult. There is nothing even remotely mysterious about the rules for how to have wonderful sex, or of cosmic physics, for that matter. You give me five minutes and I can dispel a lot of silly old beliefs about sauerkraut making you impotent and pickles making you horny. Actually, it is a bit of the other way around, particularly if you are talking about those tiny little green gherkins. Now there is a turnoff for you. As for modern science, no, Pope Urban VIII, sorry, but these days nobody follows your declaration that the sun revolves around the sun. After all, since Einstein and Hawking figured out a few bits of the space-time continuum, anyone can see how a person like me (and maybe you) might be able to bend time a little, or raise or lower your body density so you could punch like Iron Man or disappear through a solid brick wall. You see how drifty I was.
I can only guess why I am bringing up a lot of doubts and concerns here, but believe me, ladies with powers are basically just ordinary people with wants and desires and plenty of faults, and they are just as confused about the meaning of life as anybody else. And since we are talking about superpowers, sooner or later you are bound to ask, and the answer is no, I have not yet found a guy with a rod like iron who can go all night without chemical additives. That does not mean I have stopped looking. Hope springs eternal, if you will pardon the pun.
And in the next moment there was a third ring tone! This time I heard an old Harry Belafonte ballad:
Love, oh love, oh careless love/Love, oh love, oh careless love
You've broken the heart of many a poor guy
But you'll never/break this heart of mine!