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Auspicious Signs - Parker Sheaffer

2016 Halloween Writing Contest  

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Auspicious Signs

Parker Sheaffer



Sarah Miller sat by herself on the school bus, her nose buried in her biology textbook, trying to ignore the pandemonium that boiled around her. It was the usual noise and raucous behavior that occurred every morning on the way to school and she had endured it for nine years. Finally getting to high school had made no difference because it was the same bus, the same route, the same kids, and the same fat, sallow faced woman driver who always looked beaten down and defeated by life. Mrs. Edmonds couldn't stand up to the screaming and laughing children on her bus any more than she could stand up to her abusive husband. Instead of demanding silence and order, she merely kept her head down and hoped to survive each trip.

Sarah felt someone pushing rudely against the back of her seat and a wad of paper hit her book, almost causing her to drop it. She turned her head and glared at the boys who were rough housing behind her, but she may as well have been invisible to them. Sighing, she closed the book and stared out the window at the passing farms and houses. Would today be any different, she wondered, or would she plod through another day of boredom? It would be at least tolerable if she only had a friend, just one friend, someone to be bored with at least.

Sarah was one of the least popular girls at the school and always had been, for some reason. She was not pretty, and while she was only slightly overweight the cruel kids still called her fat. Her pale brown hair was always slightly curly, in an unruly way, and frizzy, despite her use of conditioners. A lifetime of seeing herself in the mirror, and being discouraged by the sight, had given her a sense of hopelessness, so she saw little use in trying to dress fashionably. When her mother took her shopping for clothes she looked for things that would cover her up instead of drawing attention to her body.

Finally arriving at the school she made her way to her locker and deposited her brown lunch bag before heading to her first classroom. No one spoke to her and she spoke to no one. It was at least better than being harassed and taunted by the other students. She would take invisibility any day.

As she made her way through the crush of kids Sarah felt as if someone was looking at her. It was strange the way she could often tell that someone's gaze was directed at her, and this time it was stronger. Turning her head left and right her eyes met those of another girl, an older girl, one who was very pretty. Immediately Sarah looked down, not wanting to seem to stare, not wanting to draw anyone's notice, but before she looked away she saw the other girl flash a friendly smile. As Sarah hurried away into her class her heart beat rapidly with unexpected excitement. She chided herself for being silly. The girl had probably been smiling at someone behind her.

At lunch time, Sarah took her sack lunch to a corner table in the cafeteria where she could be away from the others and could have her sandwich and apple in peace while she read her book. A soft voice spoke to her, "Do you mind if I sit here?"

Looking up, Sarah was startled to see the same pretty girl standing beside her, holding a tray of food. Speechless for a moment, she finally nodded and the girl put her tray down. Sliding into the chair next to Sarah the girl said, "Thanks. It's too loud at the other tables and besides, those kids all seem to know each other. I'm new here. My name is Victoria."

Surprised by the girl's friendliness, Sarah was still suspicious and wondered if she was being set up to look foolish. She offered a tentative smile and said, "Hello, Victoria. I'm Sarah."

"Hello, Sarah," Victoria said warmly. "I see that you like books too. What are you reading?"

Sarah blushed and showed her the cover, "The Enchantment Emporium, by Tanya Huff," she said. "It's urban fiction."

Victoria smiled and said, "I've read that. It's great. Don't you love the way she has a whole family of witches who are all so powerful? It made me feel powerful when I read it."

"Me too," Sarah said happily. "I haven't gotten to the end yet though."

"You'll love it. What else do you read?"

Sarah found herself being charmed by the older girl, and they chatted happily all through lunch. Victoria was a junior while Sarah was a freshman, so they didn't have any classes together, but Victoria asked for her phone number and promised to call. When they parted, she said, "See you tomorrow, Sarah."

Sarah went home that day feeling as if something momentous had happened to her. Could it be that she finally had a friend, she wondered.


Travis Brown was a sophomore at the same school. Unlike Sarah, Travis had many friends. His main clique however consisted of his best buds, Martin, Jamie, and Grant. The four of them even had a secret club that met each weekend at Martin's house. They called themselves The Lunatics and had laboriously built a clubhouse out of scrap lumber and salvaged parts in the woods behind Martin's house. The club was formed while they were in the sixth grade and back then their carpentry skills were pretty weak. They managed to keep their shack standing by shoring it up frequently and adding to it whenever they could. They raided the junkyard for windows and odd pieces of furniture.

The Lunatics had two rules that they posted on the wall of their clubhouse. Rule number one was "Don't Talk About The Lunatics." It was a rule that they all obeyed so carefully that no one else even suspected they had a club.

Rule two was, "No Girls Allowed."

Rule two had been Travis' idea back when they first started the club and it was happily accepted by the others. Certainly no one saw any reason to change it now. There was a special bond between the four boys and they didn't want anything, or anyone, to interfere with it.

Travis and his friends were all different from each other. Travis was a jock who enjoyed baseball and swimming, while Martin was artistic and hated sports. Jamie liked to get high and play video games and Grant was the smart one who read a lot and made all A's. Despite their differences they all had something that connected them and kept them together. It was something that they had recognized in each other four years earlier. Until then, each of them had believed that they were alone in the world, so finding others like themselves had been a happy, life changing event.

The Lunatics were popular at school, not as a group, but individually. They were handsome boys, all seemingly self-assured in their attitudes and easy going. They often sat together at lunch and shared a few classes, yet they didn't want others to know about their special bond, so the four of them were careful not to be seen together every day.

Travis waved to Grant as they headed to the parking lot after school. "Hey Grant, can I catch a ride today?" he called out.

"Of course you can, Bro. Hop in," Grant said with a smile. By the accidental timing of his birthday, Grant was old enough to have his driver's license, the only one of the four who did. His father had given him a car of sorts. It was twelve years old and had some dents and torn upholstery, but it was wheels and it meant he didn't have to ride the school bus any longer. Travis' home was near his so he gave his friend a lift almost every day. When the other two club members needed a ride, especially to a meeting, they knew they could rely on Grant. Someday they too would have cars, and that couldn't happen soon enough.

"Well, we made it through another day," said Grant. "I can't wait for the weekend. School is getting to be really boring."

Travis laughed, "Only because you're so smart that the classes are too easy for you. You should be dumb like me. But come to think of it, it's boring for me too. Hey, club meeting this Saturday, right? I had better call Jamie and make sure he brings some weed. At least then we won't be bored. Too bad we can't get high at school."

"Yeah, after all, it is called High School. Of course I know that if I smoked before Math class I wouldn't be able to add two plus two. I'll bring some sandwiches for the meeting. I know how you get the munchies."

"True that. I'll bring chips and sodas again," Travis said. "I can't wait."

Travis lived with his father, a former minor league baseball player who was now the assistant coach at the local college. It was just the two of them, but that was okay with Travis, he preferred it that way. Sometimes his dad would date some woman and that made Travis feel a little weird. Not because he missed his mother, who had walked out on them ten years ago, but because he wasn't crazy about women, or girls, at all. He didn't understand how they thought, why they liked such dumb stuff, and how they always wanted to get too close to him, touching and giggling. Besides, Travis could cook and clean well enough so they didn't need a woman in the house. His dad and he could take care of everything.

The house was dark when he went inside. Turning on some lights and dropping his book bag in his room, he changed clothes and put on some loose fitting shorts before starting dinner. He thought about how much he loved his friends and that made him smile as he went about taking care of a bit of housework. After putting some clothes in the wash and sweeping the kitchen floor, he put a meatloaf in the oven. He had prepared it the day before so now it only needed to be baked and it would be hot and ready when his dad came home. Two hours later he served up portions for both of them and they sat down to eat.

"Have fun at school today, Son?" his father asked.

"It was okay. Nothing special. What about you?"

"Great meatloaf, by the way. We have a new English professor at the college. She's pretty. I got to talk to her for a while and she was friendly... and single. I'm thinking about asking her out. Speaking of that, when are you going to bring home a pretty girl? I know they must be chasing after you; after all, you've got your father's good looks."

"Aw, I don't know. Girls are dumb," Travis said, eager to change the subject. "Say, are we going to the game on Friday night, Dad?"

"Sure Son, sure."


Sarah was anxious when she got home. Despite her pleasant conversation with Victoria, she still wondered if the girl was sincere or just playing some sort of cruel joke on her. She was relieved when her phone rang and Victoria was on the other end. After chatting like old friends for more than a half hour, Sarah was surprised that she couldn't remember much of what they had talked about. Conversation with Victoria was almost intoxicating and easy. They had a lot of common interests, especially in literature and women's rights. She was really thrilled when Victoria asked if she wanted to get together at the mall on Saturday.

"That would be fantastic," Sarah gushed, and wondered if she was displaying her neediness by sounding too excited.

When Saturday finally arrived, her mother dropped her off at the mall and Sarah headed for the rendezvous spot, the bookstore. Victoria was waiting just outside and suggested that they go in for a coffee and chat. Sarah ordered an iced coffee with so much cream and sugar in it that was almost like a milkshake, and it tasted wonderful. They were nibbling a couple of pastries when two more girls walked up to their table.

"Hey Nikki, Hey Julia," said Victoria, motioning for them to sit. As they did, Victoria introduced them. "Sarah, this is Nikki and Julia, from school. I met them a couple of weeks before meeting you. They like the same sort of books and stuff that we do, so they're cool."

The two new girls were pretty and stylishly dressed, so Sarah suddenly felt out of place. She thought, "Oh God, don't let me be the ugly friend that makes them feel prettier by comparison."

Both Nikki and Julia were similar in coloring, with dark brown hair and brown eyes, but Nikki was a couple of inches shorter than Julia. Julia's face was more heart shaped while Nikki's was slightly more angular. They both seemed to know the correct way to use makeup without seeming to use it at all. Their beauty looked quite natural and they were pretty enough to be intimidating to a girl like Sarah.

Fortunately though, the girls seemed friendly and after talking for a bit Victoria said, "Sarah, we want you to meet someone. She owns this store. Come on in the back with us and meet her. She has some things I think you'll like."

Sarah's instinct was to follow behind them, but Victoria put an arm around her shoulder and led her to the back. They passed through a doorway and entered a part of the store that Sarah had never seen and she was surprised by it. Instead of the modern steel display shelves, like those in the front of the store, this room was lined with old wooden shelves and seemed like an antique book store. It even smelled musty, like old paper. Instead of fluorescent fixtures this room was lit by odd looking sconce lights that offered a softer amount of illumination, just enough to read the titles of the books. There were a few gargoyle statues on top of the shelves and the lights made them cast creep shadows on the walls.

Off to one side sat an ornate wooden desk that was cluttered with papers and behind it sat a very striking woman. She looked like a Gypsy, with glossy dark hair that fell about her shoulders in a cascade of curls. Her large, dark eyes were lined with mascara to look even larger. Her mouth was red, like blood, but the overall effect was beautiful. Even her dress looked exotic as she stood and held out her hand to greet the newcomer.

"You must be Sarah," she said in a deep and smoky voice, sounding a bit like some lounge singer from her mom's old vinyl records. She had a slight accent that may have been German, Sarah wasn't sure. "I've heard so much about you from our dear Victoria. It is wonderful to meet you, my child. My name is Lilith."

"Thank you," Sarah said softly, feeling suddenly shy.

"Girls, why don't you show Sarah some of our special books and make her feel at home. I have to finish some paperwork and then I will join you. Sarah may have questions," Lilith said.

The girls took Sarah aside and Sarah asked, "What kind of special books?"

Victoria said grinned and looked mischievous. "Witchcraft books," she said with a laugh.

"Witchcraft? You mean real witchcraft?"

"Yes. The real thing. Are you interested," Victoria asked.

"Is, is Lilith a witch," Sarah asked.

"We all are, dear Sarah. Julia, Nikki and I are witches too. And guess what, so are you."

"Me? I'm not a witch. I've read about them and I can definitely say that I've never done anything that's magic," Sarah protested.

"That's okay," said Nikki. "Julia and I didn't know that we were either until Victoria found us and showed us what we can do. It's a great feeling when you finally get it."

"That's right," agreed Julia. "It's amazing. Don't be afraid to try it."

"Yes Sarah," said Victoria. "It will come naturally to you. You might even be the strongest of us all. I could sense it in you when I saw you for the first time at school. When you develop your powers you will be able to sense other girls who have the gift. It isn't everyone who has it, only a few, and that was why I was so happy to find you."

"I don't know," said Sarah. "This is all pretty weird, and scary too."

"This is a great thing, Sarah. You won't believe how wonderful your life can be. Sarah, you can become beautiful if you want to; you can be popular; you can get any boy you want."

Victoria sounded sincere. Sarah asked, "I can be pretty?"

"I said you can be beautiful. It's a simple charm. Join us, Sarah, and we will rule the school. We need a fourth witch to make a coven and then it will all come together."

"What about Lilith? Isn't she your fourth," asked Sarah. The idea of being beautiful was extremely tempting. Sarah tried to picture herself with a smaller nose, a thinner face, and fuller lips. Would people like her better, she wondered. Would she finally be able to attract a boy?

"Lilith has her own coven. We need to start ours. Come on and let us show you some things about it," said Julia. She took down a large book from the shelf. It was bound in stained and tattered leather and seemed to be very old. Julia opened it to the first page. The writing was obviously done by hand and in an old script that was hard to read. Some of the writing was in runes and there were arcane diagrams as well.

"This shows the ritual by which you awaken your powers by accepting the Goddess. The next one binds you to us, and us to you, and makes our coven complete. See, there's nothing scary about it, just some words to say, some candles to light, some wine to drink," Victoria coaxed her. "You are the one we've been waiting for to complete our circle. Come on, it'll be a blast. Say you will," she coaxed.

Sarah looked at the three girls who all smiled warmly back. "Well, I guess so," she finally agreed.

"Great, we are going to do the ritual on Saturday night, here at the store. Lilith will help us. Tell your mom that you are spending the night at my place," Victoria said excitedly.

Lilith approached and smiled. "So, our Sarah will join us? I'm so glad, my child. You will not regret it. Your life is about to change."

Sarah hoped it was true. Experience had taught her to be suspicious of others, especially when they were being nice. Unlike Blanche Dubois, she usually found that she couldn't depend on the kindness of strangers. That was why Victoria was a mystery to her. It was not only unusual for such a pretty girl to offer her friendship, it just never happened.

She wasn't wrong to have reservations about these other girls, these supposed witches. Victoria had not always been a pretty girl. Only two years earlier she had been terribly homely and withdrawn. Early on she was stricken with a bad case of acne that left her face pitted and red, so she was shunned by other kids. Her loneliness had left a seed of bitterness in her heart, a seed that continued to grow. Victoria remembered all of the old slights and barbs that she had suffered at the hands of other children and adults, and she didn't forgive any of them. Instead, she brought them out frequently to examine and review, like sores to be picked at that would never heal.

What a joy it had been for Victoria when Lilith had spotted her one day in the bookstore and recognized her potential. She had led her into the faith of Wicca, and helped her unlock her natural abilities. Victoria pored over the books of spells and tried to learn them. In the beginning her results were poor, but as she practiced them she grew better.

The newfound knowledge and power that should have brought happiness to her life only set her farther apart from the other girls at school. She quickly began to see magic as a way to get back at some of them for their past mistreatments. She didn't understand that power like that was indeed corrupting.

Victoria started to torture her classmates and her family in small ways at first. It was fun and no one knew why such odd things were happening, until she went too far one day. Just for fun, she used an illusion charm on a girl in her class and made her think that bugs were crawling on her. The girl screamed and clawed at her skin to get rid of them. The school nurse thought she was on drugs which prompted the principal to order a search of everyone's lockers. Victoria's spell book was discovered and her involvement in the strange events was revealed.

She was forced to change schools, and that made her even more bitter and angry. When she arrived at Sarah's school, Victoria had discovered and used the Glamour charm to make herself pretty. Before long she met Julia and sensed that she had some abilities, so they became friends. Then Nikki joined their group and they began to visit Lilith's bookstore. It was Lilith who told them to find a fourth and start a coven. Then they could connect with the Goddess and truly become powerful.


Martin got up early on Saturday to make sure the club house was cleaned up. Their "meetings" could get a little wild and he had not straightened up since their last one. Saturdays were his favorite day of the week, when he could be with his best friends, friends who were just like him. He sometimes thought back to his younger life before he knew Travis, Jamie and Grant. He had been so lonely back then.

Today he had a new painting that he wanted to hang in the clubhouse. It was a deer, a stag with huge antlers, standing in a field, its ears raised as it listened for danger. It wasn't a great painting, but he was getting better. Martin had always been interested in art and was drawn to beauty like a magnet to a refrigerator. He loved going to art museums and basking in the genius of great artists. He also loved music and literature, but what he loved most was the beauty of the great outdoors. There was nothing so exciting and stirring as being out in the woods, experiencing nature at its purest. He was lucky that his parents had built their home at the edge of a large forest. He and his friends spent a lot of time out there and it was wonderful.

The clubhouse was situated about five hundred yards down a narrow path and was well hidden in a pine thicket, surrounded by immature trees that cloaked the rough board walls and mossy roof. A thick, fragrant carpet of needles hid their footprints and behind its camouflage the shack was safe from any casual notice. Martin entered and began to straighten the stacks of comic books and placed the fallen plastic models of superheroes back on their shelves. He picked up the litter from the floor and bagged it before straightening the blankets that covered the worn out sofa and chairs. He even swept the rugs. The place smelled okay, only slightly mildewy. The new plastic tarps they had put on the roof had stopped the annoying leaks so now everything was at least dry.

By the time he finished his work the other boys arrived. Travis set up the card table so they could put out the food and drinks. Jamie helped a bit before taking out four fat joints which he handed out to the others. Grant was admiring Martin's new artwork.

"Nice stag, Martin. I really like the expression of alarm on his face. You really captured the texture of his fur. Nice job, Bro," Grant said.

Martin blushed a bit and loved the praise. "Thanks Grant. I think I'm learning more each time I paint."

"Yes, you are. Okay guys, I say we light up these fine joints that Brother Jamie has so kindly provided and get down to business," Grant said.

Everyone agreed and soon wisps of fragrant smoke were escaping from the narrow cracks around the door and windows while the room inside became quite cloudy. Shortly, everyone was feeling very mellow and relaxed, so Grant said, "Well, if we're ready, I say we call this meeting of the Lunatics to order. Any old business? No? Well, any new business? No new business? In that case, I say we get naked!"

There was loud cheering as their clothes went flying all around the room.


Sarah's mother was excited for her getting to sleep over at a friend's house. She knew that her daughter had trouble making friends and it made her heart ache to see her so lonely. Sarah was good at pretending that it didn't bother her to be by herself, but her mother could see the pain behind the smiles.

When they heard the car pull up Mrs. Miller resisted the urge to ask to meet her new friend. She just told Sarah to have a good time and waved as she went out the door. Sarah was excited too. She wasn't sure what was going to happen tonight but if nothing else, at least maybe she would be part of a group now, maybe she could have friends. If what the girls said was true then she might gain even more from being part of their circle, their coven. She didn't believe in magic and witchcraft, but what if...?

Victoria was cheerful and talkative as they went to the mall. Julia and Nikki were already there and Lilith had everything ready for them in the back of the bookstore. She had food and drinks prepared and they browsed the books and chatted while they waited for the mall to close. Their ceremony would take place at midnight so the plan was to spend the night in the back of the store. Lilith had sleeping bags ready for them and would stay on hand in case they needed her.

As the clock drew closer to twelve, Sarah's nervousness increased with each tick of the second hand. The other girls were getting excited as well. Finally it was time to begin. Lilith asked Julia to help her roll up a rug that lay in front of her desk. There, underneath was a four pointed star painted on the floor in gold and red. A white circle surrounded it, touching each point. At the tips were arcane symbols and cryptic runes painted in black. Sarah had no idea what they said, but she assumed that the star pointed to the north, south, east, and west. Lilith directed Victoria to stand at the north, with Sarah at the south, Nikki to the east and Julia to the west. Each was given a red candle to hold and Lilith placed a thin crown of flowers on each of their heads. Attached to the circlets of flowers were two long ribbons and Lilith tied each one to its neighbor, so that all the girls were connected.

Lilith gave them each a piece of yellowed parchment on which was written a verse. "Read them when I point to you," she said. Standing in the center of the circle she began.

"Brighid, Earth Mother, source of all life, we call to you. Tonight we gather here to worship you and to beseech you. I bring these four maidens as acolytes, to do your service and to obey your wishes. By the mystical number of four they come to you, north, south, east and west. By earth, air, fire and water, we worship you. During Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall we serve you." She pointed to Victoria who held up her candle so that she could read her part.

"Mother Brighid, I am Victoria. I come to you by the north and by air. Humbly I ask your favor. Grant me the power to do your will," she read. Her voice seemed to echo slightly.

Pointing to Nikki, Lilith indicated for her to read. "Mother Brighid, I am Nikki. I come to you by the east and by fire. Humbly I ask your favor. Grant me the power to do your will."

Sarah could feel power building, like electricity in the air around her. Her voice wavered a bit as she read, "Mother Brighid, I am Sarah. I come to you by the south and by earth. Humbly I ask your favor. Grant me the power to do your will." Her hands shook but when she finished she felt a sense of calm settle upon her. She looked to Julia.

"Mother Brighid, I am Julia. I come to you by the west and by water. Humbly I ask your favor. Grant me the power to do your will."

Lilith raised her arms and said, "By the blessed Maiden, the Holy Mother, and the glorious Crone, I ask you to accept these servants and give them a sign of your favor."

Sarah felt as if she was lifting off the floor. Ecstasy flowed through her body like an orgasm. Then she felt a slight cramp and something warm ran down her leg. It was her menstrual blood. She gave an involuntary moan and sank to her knees, as did the other three.

"Behold, the sign of Brighid. Blessed are the four of you for you have been accepted. Rise sisters, rise and embrace each other. Rise and rejoice, for you are now bound to the Goddess," Lilith shouted.


Four exhausted boys reclined around the little shack that they called their clubhouse. Their snacks were finished and they napped for a bit before waking and heading home.

"Well, that was a blast, as always," said Travis. "I'm starved now. We're fixing steaks for dinner so I had better get home."

"I'll drive you," said Grant, as he pulled his jeans back on. "I'm hungry too. We should probably clean this place up a bit first, though."

"Don't worry about it. I'll get to it tomorrow sometime," Martin assured them. He was trying to find his underwear. "The mess will still be here then. Right now I'm too tired to worry about it."

"That's good to hear," said Jamie. "I hate housework anyway. Great meeting, you guys. I had a blast."

"Me too," Travis said. "That was some awesome weed, Bro. I hope you can get some more for next weekend."

"True that," said Grant, as he kicked aside an overturned end table, looking for his shoe. "I'll see you dudes at school Monday."

They said their good-byes and Travis followed Grant to his car. "Thanks so much for the ride, Grant. Someday, when I get my own car, I'll return the favors. Hey, we've got plenty of steaks so why don't you come and have dinner with us? Dad's grilling them tonight."

"Are you sure your dad won't mind?"

"Are you kidding. You know he really likes you. He's always saying, 'why can't you be more like Grant'. It'll be cool."

"Well, if you're sure. I can't say no to a good steak. I like them really rare, how about you?"

Travis said, "Same here. Yum!"

Grant asked, "How are things with you and your dad? Is he still trying to get you to date girls?

"As a matter of fact, he is. He tried to bring it up the other night but I skirted the subject."

"Ha, skirted it, huh? That's funny. It's a shame we can't come out to our families. Maybe someday. At least, in a few years, we can get away on our own where there's no one to ask prying questions. I always want to be friends with you and Martin and Jamie, though. We can never lose touch."

"I feel the same way," said Travis. "You are the only ones keeping me sane in this town. I love you all so much."

They smiled at each other and bumped their fists.


Getting a period in front of the other girls was embarrassing until she realized that they had the same experience. Once they cleaned up, Lilith left them to themselves.

Victoria said, "Well, we did it. I don't know about you, but I feel fantastic, like I could shoot lightning from my fingertips. I just know that my spells will work much better now."

"Yeah," said Julia. "I feel it too. I feel older and wiser. How do I look?"

Nikki said, "You look beautiful, as always. You even have a sort of glow around you now. I can't wait to reinforce my glamour spell."

Sarah was puzzled. "What spells are you talking about? What's a glamour spell?"

Victoria stood and handed Sarah a small book. It was thin and bound in black leather. "This is my personal spell book, but I'm going to lend it to you. I wrote down some good stuff out of Lilith's books. One of the first ones you'll want to try is the glamour charm. It affects how other people see you. You will see the same Sarah when you look in the mirror, but everyone else will see a much prettier version of you. We've been playing with some of the spells for a bit, and they mostly work. I think now that we have been Blessed they will work a lot better. Keep this book a secret, though. I'll want it back when you start making your own. Oh Sarah, I knew when I saw you that you were one of us, and now you are going to have so much fun."

They had all turned in shortly after that. Before going to sleep Sarah thought about how good she felt. Not only had she experienced a religious transformation that left her giddy, but now she had three friends.

Sunday morning came too soon for Sarah. She had only ever had alcohol once before in her life and that was when her cousin had sneaked a bottle of vodka up to her room a couple of years ago at Christmas. They both drank a little and they wound up giggling a lot. Sarah felt a little sick the next day. This morning she had a similar feeling but it was much stronger. The single celebratory glass of wine she forced down the previous night had left her feeling quite dizzy, but she had needed something to steady her nerves after the ritual.

Later that morning Sarah's mother was surprised and pleased at the good mood that her daughter seemed to be in. Sarah kissed her on the cheek and reported that she had a wonderful time with Victoria. Then she excused herself to go to her room so she could examine the spell book in private.

Each spell was labeled with such names as Acne Curse, Stumbler, Pate Barer, and Weak Eyes. Those sounded like terrible spells and Sarah couldn't imagine using any of them. She wasn't that sort of girl. Then she saw a few more spells such as Glamour (the one that Victoria had mentioned), Friends Charm, Quiet Feet, and even one called simply Love. The Glamour spell seemed simple enough and Sarah had always wanted to be pretty so she sat in front of her vanity mirror and recited the verse four times while brushing her hair. To her disappointment, nothing changed. She still looked exactly the same. Now her mood was not quite so cheery as she went back downstairs to get a glass of milk.

Her mother was basting a chicken in the oven. When she stood up and saw Sarah she got a curious look on her face and said, "Why Sarah, I didn't notice when you came in, but you look just lovely today. I don't know what you're doing different, but I like it. Is it your hair?"

Sarah remembered then what Victoria had told her about others being able to see her as pretty, while she would seem the same to herself. Then she felt wonderful again and couldn't wait for school the next day.

Monday morning she got on the school bus and this time things quieted down a lot as she made her way down the aisle to her seat. Everyone seemed to be staring at her, at least a little. Boys who had previously ignored or taunted her now smiled and several girls looked surprised and envious. When she sat down and opened her book to read, Jason Foster flopped down beside her.

"Hey Sarah, how's it going?" he asked.

Sarah had never liked him so she mumbled that everything was just great, and continued to read. He made a few more attempts to engage her but she ignored him until he gave up.

At school she seemed to draw the attention of almost everyone as she passed through the crowd. At first the attention was uncomfortable for her. Soon, however, she started to like it. She actually felt pretty now for the first time in her life. Also for the first time she began to notice boys as something more than a nuisance.

"Looking good there, Sarah," said Victoria. She was suddenly behind her, whispering in her ear. "I see you found the Glamour spell. It worked great, you're gorgeous."

"Thanks," said Sarah, with a giggle.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but we need to work on your wardrobe. Now that you look hot, you have to dress hot. We're taking you back to the mall after school and doing some shopping."

"Really? That's so sweet of you," Sarah said gratefully.

"Not at all. We're sisters now, remember? Julia and Nikki will come with us. It'll be fun," Victoria told her and kissed her cheek before leaving.

The entire day was exciting. Sarah grew increasingly aware of the attention she was drawing from everyone. To come from being invisible to suddenly emerge into a sort of spotlight left her feeling rather giddy. It was fun.

The girls took her into an expensive clothing store that afternoon and began to load her up with cute, but expensive, outfits. "This is great and I appreciate what you are doing for me, but I can't possibly afford these things. This will cost a fortune. Let's go to that other discount store," Sarah protested.

"Don't worry about money," Julia told her with a smile. "Just try them on and we will take care of the rest."

At the register, the sales clerk was smiling and flirtatious. He was a cute guy and seemed to be enjoying waiting on four such beautiful girls. When he rang up the clothing Sarah was shocked at the total and embarrassed when Julia handed him a few dollar bills.

The clerk looked at the money and said, "Wow, I don't see this many hundred dollar bills very often. You must be loaded," and handed her back a fifty and some other bills as change.

As they left, Sarah asked what had happened. "It's a variation on the glamour spell. I just made the ones look like hundreds. It's so much easier than spending real money."

"But won't the clerk get in trouble when his register comes up short?"

Julia laughed and said, "Who cares. That's his problem, not ours."

The next day at school Sarah felt like an entirely new person in her stylish clothes. Kids whispered wherever she went, boys flirted with her and teachers treated her more kindly than ever before. At lunch she sat with Victoria, Julia and Nikki, the hot girls. She no longer brought her lunch in a bag, but followed her friends through the cafeteria line.

As they quietly munched on salads, Sarah happened to look across the room at a boy, a beautiful boy. He was probably the most handsome boy she had ever seen and she found it hard to look away. Twice he glanced in her direction and both times his eyes swept past her, as if he didn't see her at all. She felt disappointed.

"Do any of you know that boy over there? The one in the red shirt?" she asked.

Nikki said, "I see who you mean. His name's Travis, I think. He's a jock. That's his buddies that he's hanging with. They're all sort of cute. Why, do you like him?"

"He's hot," Sarah admitted, turning a little red.

Victoria smiled and said, "Flirt with him. I doubt he can resist you now. You can get any boy here."

Sarah made it a goal to get closer to Travis and see if he would ask her out. Over the next several days she tried again and again to get his attention. She kept putting herself in his path, smiling at him, even once saying hello in a sexy voice. It didn't seem to affect him, however, and his indifference started to frustrate her. What was the benefit of being pretty, of being a witch, if she couldn't get the boy she wanted?

The girls had scheduled a meeting of their coven on each Saturday afternoon. The regularity would reinforce their bond. This meeting was at Nikki's house, a large old farmhouse with a cool, brick walled basement. The dusty old shelves and stacks of rummage, the sagging cardboard boxes of junk, and the cobwebs suited their mood as witches. It looked perfectly spooky.

They lit candles, drew a circle star on the floor in chalk and recited vows to the goddess before drawing up chairs and enjoying cups of hot tea with fresh scones.

The witch of the North asked if anyone had noticed any particular increase in her power since the binding ritual. The witch of the East laughed loudly and said, "I turned on the charm and got Mr. Hammond to change my chemistry grade from a D to an A. All it took was a touch on his arm and a smile. He didn't even know what hit him. I may never have to study again."

"That's awesome," said the witch of the West. "That might have just been because you're so pretty. I wished for that skinny Agnes cow to trip in gym class today. She was the only one ahead of me in the hundred yard dash and after she landed face first in some mud she came in last." Amused at remembering the look on Agnes' muddy face, she gave out a musical laugh.

"Oh dear," said Victoria. "I just thought of something. You don't suppose our laughs will turn into a cackle when we get older, do you? I wouldn't want to be one of those old Halloween witches."

Nikki said, "With a hooked nose and warts on our chins? I don't like to cook in a cauldron either."

"I wouldn't mind turning someone into a frog, though," Julia added, grinning evilly.

"We can't actually transform someone into a frog, but Lilith says that we can make someone think that they're a frog, or a cat, or a monkey. Anything. Wouldn't it be hilarious to see Gretta hopping around and croaking?" said Victoria.

Sarah listened with concern that her sisters were doing mean things with their power. The only things she had done were nice, or at least not mean. Her glamour was the most powerful spell she had attempted, but other than that she had helped a girl find her cell phone. It sounded lame compared to the things the others were telling her. Sarah could have used the money glamour charm to pay for her lunch, but she still felt a little guilty about cheating the clerk at the clothing store.


As the Lunatics gathered at their clubhouse in the woods they settled down for their meeting. As usual Grant said, "Well, if we're ready, I say we call this meeting of the Lunatics to order. Any old business? No? Well, any new business?"

He hadn't expected a reply so he paused when Martin said, "Yes there is. Don't forget that Halloween is coming up. It's two weeks away and it falls on a Saturday night, so this year's Halloween party has to be extra special. I say it calls for a campout, here in the woods."

"Yeah, great idea. We'll keep our campfire going all night and sleep under the stars," Jamie said. "I'll pick us up something special to celebrate with."

Martin said, "I will find us a good spot to camp out. I think I know a perfect place about a quarter mile from here, deeper into the woods. I'll get it ready."

Travis added, "I'll sneak some liquor from my dad's cabinet. He won't miss it. Guys, this is going to be epic."

Grant said, "It sounds like a great plan. A special Halloween like this doesn't come around very often. Now we all know what to do, so if there's no other business, I say let's get on with our meeting." Then he started to get undressed.

Grant was the leader of the Lunatics. Not officially, of course, but he somehow seemed to take charge of things, a natural born leader, and the other three were content to allow him that role. A good looking boy with a brilliant smile and golden hair, he was popular at school and made excellent grades. He never seemed to date anyone and whenever he was asked to a party by someone he always declined the invitation saying that he had to study.

All through his earlier school years he had been picked on and called a nerd because of his small frame and black rimmed glasses. Other boys liked to trip or bump into him, making him drop his books or his lunch tray. Girls laughed at him, especially when he felt like crying. No matter how upset they made him, Grant never let them see a tear. It was important to him to remain strong.

When he turned twelve he blossomed and grew several inches taller, as well as much more muscular. His eyesight improved until he no longer needed his spectacles. Now he felt no great need to socialize with his peers at school, many of whom had been his earlier tormentors, but was content with his small group of mates, boys who were just like him. They all shared a secret that their classmates wouldn't understand.


Things began to change quickly for Sarah at school. She was certainly no longer invisible and wherever she went she drew stares. The boys smiled at her and many of the girls tried to make friendly overtures. Instead of basking in their attention Sarah was too distracted to pay attention to any of them. Her association with the other girls was the subject of much gossip and a lot of it was bad. While Sarah didn't engage in mean acts, the others frequently were rude and even cruel to other students. Rumors were whispered about them and people steered clear of them. It all made Sarah feel uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, her efforts to meet up with Travis were going nowhere. Despite her beauty he continued to ignore her and it was starting to be really annoying.

Victoria noticed her silence at lunch and saw that her eyes were locked on the boy at the other table. She said, "Oh screw it, Sarah. If you don't want to just ask him out then try the Love charm in the book. That'll make him come around."

"I don't know. I would rather have him like me for myself. It would feel funny to use magic for something like that," Sarah said with a sigh.

"Darling, we are Witches. Witches don't follow normal rules. Rules are for normal people, you know, Muggles. If a Witch wants something, she goes and takes it. Anyway, it's better than mooning over him every day. Just do it."

Sarah decided that Victoria was right. That night, under the light of the moon, she lit a red candle, pricked her finger and let a drop of blood fall into the flame, and recited the spell. Then she cut a picture of Travis from the previous year's yearbook and placed it under her pillow. When she slept she dreamed of Travis.

The next day at school, Sarah expected Travis to give her a warm reaction when she said hello to him in the hallway. Instead he passed by her as if she wasn't there. Stunned by his indifference she felt embarrassed and disappointed. Then her mood began to darken as she thought about his snub and she grew peevish for the rest of the day.

Magic can be a tricky art, with side effects that are often overlooked. No one had bothered to tell Sarah that the Love charm that she used was designed to not only bind someone to her, but to bind her to that person as well. While Travis was unaffected by the spell, she herself was now more deeply in love than she had been before.

At lunch, her bad mood was apparent so Julia asked what had gotten her panties in a twist.

"I can't believe the spell didn't work on Travis. I did it exactly like the book said, and I even dreamed about him. Today he doesn't even see me," Sarah complained.

Victoria told her to try it again that night. "Maybe something wasn't quite right. Give it another try and see what happens tomorrow."

The next day saw the same results. Victoria frowned and said, "I don't understand it. He should be begging to have lunch with you by now. Something is off. I think we should visit Lilith after school and see what she thinks."

Later, they walked into Lilith's book store and quietly explained Sarah's romance situation. She took them into the back and sat down with them to explore the problem in private.

Lilith said, "It could be any of a few possibilities that I can think of. Perhaps you are simply not yet strong in that area of charms. You may grow in strength later. Or perhaps your heart isn't really into it. You have to really want it, you know. And yet, the most obvious reason for his resistance is that he's homosexual."

"That's it!" snapped Victoria. "I'll bet he's a fag. I mean, he hangs out with three of his buddies, like that Martin Sloan. He's artistic, you know," she sneered and held up a limp wrist.

Sarah rebuked her, saying, "You shouldn't say fag, Victoria. That's not a nice word. Gay is kinder."

"Hah, wait until you've been dumped by a queer. I know because I dated one for two months before I found out that he was a salami swiper. They pretend to like you and then one day they say, 'oh, I'm sorry, but I like boys now', as if it's no big thing. I was humiliated. Other girls laughed and said, 'oh didn't you know?' as if they did. I hate those fags," Victoria said in a voice dripping in venom.

Julia said, "I'll tell you what. I'll throw a love spell on one of his friends and see what happens. If he doesn't go for me then they really must be gay. He hangs out with that Grant Moss. Grant's pretty hot so I'll try it with him. Then we will see what tomorrow brings."

Sarah asked, "But what if he falls in love with you and you don't really love him? You'll break his heart."

"Who cares? He's just a boy."


That night, Travis had another bad dream. In it he was walking through a dark forest of bare trees. The sky was gray and cold and there were brambles in his path. As he forced his way through them the briars snagged his clothing as if trying to detain him. He forged ahead, ignoring the scratches on his arms and tears in his shirt. Finally he was through them and the path ahead seemed to be clear when suddenly he was attacked by a black crow that tried to peck out his eyes. He swatted the bird, knocking it to the ground. Then he picked it up and broke its nasty, flapping wings, and then twisted its neck. It was the same dream he had for the past few nights. After that, he slept soundly.

Grant was also having a dream. In his dream he too walked along a forest path. Instead of brambles the path was lined with red berries. They looked lush and ripe, but something seemed to be off about them. Something told him that these berries were poison. They were not for him, so Grant felt no temptation at all to sample them. The path took a downhill turn and there he encountered a marshy area. Wading through the shallow water he saw a snake swimming toward him. As it tried to wrap its slithery body around his ankle he stomped it into the mud and continued on his way. The next day he remembered the dream when he awoke and he laughed lightly when he replayed it in his mind.


The girls met at their lunch table the next day to compare notes. Julia and Sarah were both in a bad mood.

Julia said, "Not only did he not speak to me in Algebra class, but I sent a stumble spell at him and it didn't do a thing to him. He kept walking like it was nothing."

"Now that's really weird," Victoria said. "Let me try something." She stared at the four boys across the room and whispered something while making gestures with her fingers under the table. "Damn, it didn't work."

"What were you doing?" asked Nikki.

"They were supposed to choke on their food, or at least one of them. I've used that spell twice before and it worked both times. Julia, try to make him knock over a glass or something."

A moment later Julia said, "It's not working either. What's going on here?"

"I don't know," Victoria said, "but I plan on finding out. Let's keep trying different spells on them today whenever you get the chance. Throw some at those other two, as well. Something is bound to work."

For the rest of that day and then Friday the witches tried various hexes and curses on all four of the boys. Their constant failures resulted only in growing frustration and anger. The rest of the school seemed to be appropriately afraid of them, but these boys continued to insult them with their apparent immunity. It quickly became a challenge for them and they needed to seek the help of Lilith in order to succeed.


Martin was lying on the old mattress in the clubhouse, reading a comic book while he waited for his friends to arrive. He was not as interested in the stories the comic books contained as he was in the beautiful artwork. The drawings of muscular men in skin tight outfits turned him on. He practiced drawing men like that at home in his bedroom, and he kept those sketchbooks hidden under the carpet in his closet. Martin was not out to his family yet and he dreaded thinking about what his mother's reaction would be when she did find out that her baby boy was a homo.

His childhood had been frightening and lonely, knowing from a very early age that he was gay. He somehow knew that he shouldn't talk about his attraction to other boys because everyone would hate him if they knew. It became a serious burden for such a small boy and it caused him lots of stress. Puberty had brought many new changes for him, some wonderful and some confusing ones. That was why the Lunatics were so special to him. Here he was accepted for himself, not tolerated for being different, but celebrated for that difference.

He found himself softly singing the words to a song that had special meaning to him. It was an old song, but somehow it seemed to fit his life. He sang, "... my back to the wall, a victim of laughing chance, this is for me the essence of true romance, sharing the things we know and love with those of my kind, libation, sensations that stagger the mind. I crawl like a viper through these suburban streets, make love to these boys, languid and bittersweet. I rise when the sun goes down, cover every game in town, a world of my own, I'll make it my home sweet home..."

The song created dark visions in his mind and made him feel strangely sexy and he ground his hips into the mattress, pressing his erection against it.

Grant and Travis soon arrived and flopped down beside him on the mattress. Martin gave them a soda and they relaxed for a few minutes until Jamie came with the weed. Soon their good mood became a great mood and they started to grin and laugh, enjoying being together. Jamie was sporting a new plaid fedora that he had found at a yard sale.

"You look cute in that hat," Martin said to Jamie.

Jamie grinned and said, "Oh, I'll bet you say that to all the boys."

Everyone laughed.

They discussed the next week's party and Martin assured them, "I found a great place. It isn't far but we shouldn't be disturbed. There's a clearing with flat ground and lots of moss and stuff."

"That sounds perfect, Martin. I can't wait," Travis said.

"Oh hey, guess what. My dad's going to take me hunting next month. There is a private game ranch that my dad's boss knows about and he got us permission to go there," Martin said.

"Oh wow," that's going to be awesome," Grant said. "I'm jealous. What sort of game do they have there?"

"Mostly Elk, but there are some boars and Big Horn Sheep and some other stuff. We get to eat what we kill."

Travis said, "Martin, that's sounds great. I hope you'll bring back something for us. I haven't been hunting anything other than deer for ages."

"Imagine bringing down something as big as an Elk. Those things can get huge. I'd like to take on a boar sometime. I love pork," Jamie added. "Just thinking about it makes me excited. What do you say we get on with the meeting." He kicked off his shoes and started to tug on his belt.


Across town the girls were meeting with Lilith again. They reported their frustrating failure to her and she immediately had some advice.

"These guys sound like a real mystery. I don't know why the spells seem to bounce off them, but I'll tell you what to do. Remember that next Saturday is Samhain and there will be a full moon. The signs are auspicious for a Witches Sabbat, a special celebration. Come to my house at dusk and we will have a renewal ceremony. My coven will be meeting anyway so we can join forces. We will all pledge ourselves again to the goddess. There will be a bonfire and we will combine our powers to strike at your enemies. There is a spell that I have only used once. It is powerful. It's called the Lunacy Curse."

"What does it do?" asked Victoria eagerly.

"Because the moon, Luna, is the sister of the earth, Gaea, she often lends us her power. You know that the word lunacy means moon madness. Well this spell causes madness, at least for a while. Depending on how much of our will we can put into it this could affect them for a year, or even ten years. They will have to be locked away to keep from harming themselves."

Sarah gasped, "Oh no, that's awful. No, I was angry with Travis but I don't want something this bad to happen to him. Let's forget the whole thing. Please." She had not grown as hard hearted as the other girls. Her time as a witch was too new.

Victoria scowled and said, "Don't be a wuss, Sarah. Remember, you are the Witch of the South, not someone to be messed with."

Lilith said, "I have to agree. We are witches and we must be respected. To that end we must be strong and ruthless, especially when it comes to men. No witch can be defeated by a man, she must rule them. Remember your pledge to the Goddess. She is unforgiving to those who are unfaithful."

Julia and Nikki were excited about taking part in a spell this powerful and eagerly looked forward to having another coven join with them. They expected the power to fill them to overflowing on the Sabbat.

All week long Sarah wanted to get a warning to Travis, but she could not think of a way to alert him without telling him everything. Any way she went about it he would think she was crazy. All she could do was try and dissuade her coven from going through with the curse. She pleaded with them until they became vexed at her. The more she begged, the more adamant they became, as if her words nurtured their cruel intentions, spurring them on with the desire to test out the measure of their power, even if it was evil.

"That's what it is," Sarah thought. "This is just evil. I never wanted to be a dark witch, just a nice one." Even though she no longer felt any animosity toward the boys Sarah was afraid to cross the others, especially Lilith. She had seen too many examples of their magic and heard plenty of their threats to take them lightly. It was a bad week for her, leading up to Halloween.

For five days at school Victoria, Nikki and Julia threw spells and curses at the boys. Sometimes they missed and hit another student by mistake. All week long kids were tripping and stumbling, even falling down. They spilled things, sprouted acne in the middle of the day, grew suddenly depressed as if all the joy had gone from their lives. One girl was seen in the nurse's office, crying and clutching a handful of hair that had begun to fall out. Every missed shot made the trio of witches angrier and more determined to show these boys who was boss.

Saturday night finally arrived, time for the meeting at Lilith's house, and when the three others of her coven knocked on her door, Sarah didn't want to answer it. She sat in her room and closed her eyes, willing them to go away.

"Sarah," her mother called up to her, "Your friends are here. Come down, Dear, and don't make them wait."

When she reluctantly descended, her mother asked, "So, are you girls going trick-or-treating?" She made that assumption because they were all dressed in black dresses and were adorned with silver amulets and pins that all looked very occultish.

"It's just a small party, Mrs. Miller," Victoria said, trying to look innocent. "It's a quiet affair with a few friends. We will have Sarah home early, so don't worry about her."

"Well, I hope you all have a wonderful time. I'm going to be answering the door all evening for all the little spooks and goblins. They are always so sweet and charming," Mrs. Miller said, sounding truly excited and merry about the prospect.

The coven ushered Sarah to the waiting car and off they sped to Lilith's house. Her house was not at all what Sarah had expected. Instead of a creepy farm house or a cute Tudor cottage, Lilith lived in a traditional brick ranch with a nice green lawn. There were other cars parked on the street so Victoria pulled into the drive and stopped the car.

Lilith answered the door and invited them in. Her living room was just as ordinary as the exterior of the house, with a sectional sofa, a couple of wingback chairs, and a recliner all arranged around a low coffee table. Other chairs were brought out so that everyone could sit. The first few minutes were spent with introductions. All of the witches in Lilith's coven were older women, the youngest being in her thirties, but Sarah wondered how many of them were not as young as they seemed. She was fairly sure that they were all taking advantage of the glamour spell. The three women were sophisticated but not aloof. Their movements seemed refined and graceful and they were easy to converse with. Sarah liked them.

"Help yourselves to refreshments," said Lilith. "Don't be shy about it. I've spent all day making delicious treats. I hope you like the punch, it's a special brew."

The way she said special made Sarah feel suspicious about the drink but when Victoria smiled and held out a cup of it, she drank it down. The stuff tickled her tongue and it wasn't long before she began to feel a bit woozy.

Lilith was not the real name of their hostess. That name was much more mundane and she had shed it long ago after learning the Craft. Her teacher had been her aunt and Lilith had shown a great aptitude for her teachings. Now she kept her eyes open for other young women who could become witches, because every time she created a new coven it increased her own power. It was sort of like Amway, that home products scheme, where a person sold the products until they could get others to sell for them, with the hope of someday having many underlings and sub-underlings, all funneling money back up to the top.

The more girls she recruited, the more magic she was given. At ninety years old she was extremely powerful.


Martin and Jamie had been working on their camp site all day. Having selected a nice opening in the forest where the earth was flat they set about clearing away the leaves and branches from the ground. Then they gathered firewood, chopping and sawing downed limbs until they had enough for an all night blaze. They collected stones and placed them in a circle for a fire pit. They even made beds of moss and ferns to lay their sleeping bags on for later.

Grant and Travis arrived at dusk with a cooler of beer and some steaks to cook over the fire. "Great job, you two," Grant congratulated Martin and Jamie. "This is perfect. I've been so excited about this all day that my cock has been hard as a rock."

"Yeah," agreed Travis. "This will be a night we will remember for a long time. You guys are the best, I mean it."

They all grinned and slapped each other on the back as they popped open some brews.

"Now, I promised you something special for this evening and here it is," Jamie announced, pulling out a plastic zip lock bag. In it were some pieces of brown stuff that looked sort of like mushrooms. "These are actual Peyote buttons from New Mexico. Uncle Ryan sent them to me."

"I've heard of that stuff," said Grant. "It's what the Native American Shamans take to have spiritual experiences, to talk to their gods. It's supposed to be great."

Travis said, "Yeah, wow, I can't believe you got some. It's the same as Mescaline, isn't it?"

"That's right, it comes from the Mescal cactus," Jamie said. "Let's go ahead and smoke a blunt right now so we can get an appetite. After we eat our steaks we can try these and see heaven."

It was Jamie's uncle Ryan who supplied him with things like good weed and occasionally psilocybin mushrooms. Now he had sent him the Peyote and included a warning to go easy on them. Jamie and Ryan, his dad's brother, were kindred spirits, easy going guys who didn't take the world too seriously. Ryan was a programmer and he encouraged Jamie to get interested in computers. Ryan took Jamie on a road trip out west once, when Jamie was thirteen, and they camped out for three nights in the desert of New Mexico. It was there that his uncle first introduced him to Peyote.

"Jamie, I know your secret," Ryan had said and Jamie suddenly looked panicked. "Relax, I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I'm just like you. I don't know if it's inherited, but if so, you may have gotten it from my side of the family. It's cool, it's natural."

Jamie was a bit shaken by the revelation. "Thanks, Uncle Ryan, that does make me feel better. I've been afraid for Mom and Dad to find out. It's weird, but ever since I was a little kid I knew that I was different. I somehow knew that I shouldn't tell anyone the truth about me so I invented another Jamie, a good Jamie, for everyone to see. Inside, I was still the bad Jamie, the Jamie that no one would like. It was hard to keep it secret all the time."

"Well, your secret is safe with me. The reason I brought you out here is so that we can explore that bad Jamie, get you in touch with a different part of the world. Here is something that a Shaman gave me. It's Peyote, a natural substance that will give you beautiful dreams. The First People use it to contact their spirit guides and I would like for you to have that experience. It made a change in my life and I think it will do the same for you." Uncle Ryan had been brewing a tea over their small propane stove. He added a large dollop of honey and stirred it in. Handing a tin cup of the liquid to his nephew he smiled and said, "This is going to taste terrible, but it will be worth it."

Fully trusting his uncle, Jamie drank the tea and was amazed at the result. He and his uncle had been very close since that night.

As a programmer, Ryan showed Jamie many things about computers. Jamie loved computer games, and playing them while stoned made everything much more fun. He didn't stay stoned all of the time though. His goal was to someday become a programmer and create computer games, so he studied hard and listened to his uncle's advice. Everyone at school thought that he was a slacker, a stoner, but they didn't know about his computer skills or that he had access to such killer weed.

The only things Jamie loved more than weed and games were his uncle and the Lunatics Club. His gang made him feel complete. He even let them in on the secret that his uncle Ryan was just like them.


Sarah's head was feeling strange and her eyes seemed to be playing tricks on her. Colors were more intense and objects moved that should not have been moving. When she waved her hand it left trails in the air. It was funny and she began to giggle. Then she looked at the other witches in the room and began to have weird thoughts. She wondered which one was the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, the three aspects of the Goddess. Picturing Victoria as the Crone made her laugh out loud.

The others looked at her and they too started to laugh at whatever unspoken joke had tickled her. Everyone was filled with a warm happy glow. Sarah felt a mounting sense of excitement and well-being as the darkness of the evening came on and Lilith finally announced that it was time to retire to the backyard.

Behind the house was a large area that was bounded on three sides by a tall, wooden fence. There were four giant oak trees that seemed too large for such a suburban neighborhood. They spread their branches over the entire yard, but somehow there was still a soft carpet of thick grass beneath them. In the center of the yard was a circle, about twelve feet across and filled with small, round white gravel. It seemed to mirror the full moon in the sky above them.

In the middle of the circle was a statue. It almost looked like a cemetery sculpture, a tall woman in a deep hooded robe that hid her face in shadow. On her shoulder sat a stone crow, while around her feet was twined a serpent. Symbols of the sun and moon were carved on her robe and a bronze diadem of stars floated over her head.

Seeing the statue caused Sarah to hold her breath and gape in wonder. Power emanated from the idol in palpable waves and they all stood in awe before it. The carved robe seemed to move in the evening breeze. Everyone was silent as they encircled the goddess and held hands. They began to move slowly in a widdershins direction as Lilith led them in a chant. More than once it seemed to Sarah that the stature moved, its robes shifted, the crow and serpent both stirred. Sometimes she was certain that the unseen face under the hood was looking directly at her, and it made her uneasy. Perhaps it was magic, or perhaps Lilith's special punch that made Sarah feel extremely witchy.

"O Great Brighid, Mother of All..." Lilith began with a tempo and the others took up the words and recited along with her. For thirty minutes or more they chanted and with each repetition of their prayer they all felt an amazing sense of fulfillment and power. Their hearts beat faster, their breathing quickened and ecstasy made them cry out in an almost sexual moan.

"We pledge to thee, Great Mother. We are yours," Lilith shouted and they fell to their knees, exhausted. After a brief rest to collect themselves Lilith said, "Let us continue now with our spell. These sisters come to us in need of the Lunacy curse. They have enemies who defy their will, enemies whose refusal to submit demeans all Witches, enemies who must be punished for the greater glory of Brighid. Prepare the scrying bowl."

A table was brought forth and a wide basin of glass was set upon it. Then it was filled with water and finally a bottle of black ink was poured into it. The ink didn't mix with the water but floated on top, forming a black layer that reflected the lights of the torches.

"Let us see these men, these foolish boys," Lilith said, muttering some words under her breath and making gestures over the bowl. It was as if someone had turned on a television because a clear picture formed. They were looking down on the boys who appeared to be out in a forest. Sarah saw Travis right away and she longed for him. He and his friends were having a party, with beer and food. Their shirts were off and they held sticks over a campfire, with chunks of meat skewered on the ends. They were laughing and seemed to be intoxicated.

"You were right, Sister," said Victoria. "Those are four faggots if ever I saw one. They look like they're getting ready to screw each other. I don't want to watch that."

There were shared words of agreement from the other witches, except for Sarah. Even though they claimed to feel disgust at the thought of the young male perverts, they all were experiencing an underlying heat in their loins, a disturbing feeling of lust from seeing the handsome forms.

Lilith said, "Yes, now I do not know where they are, but I can help you find them. The spell will be prepared here, but you must take the magic to them. Throw it into the air and let it settle on them, then it will be done. Now, I have the ingredients here so let us chant while I combine them."


The forest was filled with an earthy scent of moldering leaves and damp wood. The smoke from the campfire was better than any incense to their noses. The night air was crisp and clean.

After they smoked up a good buzz and drank a couple of beers each, the boys sat around the campfire, chunks of steak sizzling on the ends of long sticks. They all preferred their meat rare, just well heated through and drenched in wood smoke for flavor so it didn't take long for it to cook. Risking burned fingers, Travis tossed his steak from hand to hand until it was safe to hold it. Then he looked at his friends and grinned and tore into it. It was delicious. Greasy fat made his mouth shiny in the firelight and blood and juices ran down his hands. The others laughed and did the same, choosing to forego plates. It felt good to act like cavemen, letting their primitive selves emerge. The rest of the food was eaten with their hands too. Laughing at each other, they crammed their mouths with chips and cookies, eating like wild animals.

Martin cracked open a beer and poured it into his open mouth. Beer ran down his neck and chest until the can was empty. He crushed it and tossed the empty can into the fire as he let out a loud belch.

He sighed and said, "I quaffed that one. You know, Terry Pratchett says that quaffing is like drinking, only you spill more."

His friends laughed.

Finally sated, they sat back and just enjoyed the experience of being together in the forest. When their food had settled a bit, Jamie brought out the Peyote. "I'll make a tea with it. It works faster that way. Hand me that little pot."

He put in some water and a couple of buttons and sat the pan on the hot rocks. It began to steam after a few minutes so he took it off and let it cool.

"I'm going to add this honey," he said, "but it's still going to taste terrible. Drink some beer or liquor after it to wash away the taste."

The effect came on slowly at first. Travis looked up at the full moon above and it seemed to grow larger, as if descending to the earth. He felt a strange connection to the glowing orb, as if the moonbeams were penetrating his skin and filling him with silver light, so he threw back his head and howled loudly. His voice echoed eerily through the woods, startling birds and small animals.

Grant walked over to a large Oak tree and began to rub the bark, letting his fingers explore the rough texture and feeling the wood suddenly become soft. He slid his hand through the bark and inside the tree and felt its heartbeat pulsing. The wood felt warm and moist and alive. As he looked up at the wrinkled bark he thought he saw a face looking back at him, a face that smiled kindly. Grant felt as if the tree spirit was acknowledging a mutual kinship, like a father to a son.

Jamie thought he heard a rustle in the Rhododendron thicket that sat on one side of the clearing. As he looked he saw a black bear walk out and approach the fire. The bear sniffed around a bit and looked straight at Jamie, who picked up an uneaten chunk of meat and tossed it over. The bear caught it in its paws and ate it in one bite. Then it nodded at Jamie as if thanking him for the treat. Jamie held out his hand and touched the bear's fur. It was softer than he thought it would be. Stroking its broad head, he felt the great animal sigh and relax. The bear licked Jamie's face with its sandpaper tongue, like a playful puppy and Jamie felt a strong bond of friendship with the Ursine spirit.

Martin picked up a charred stick from the fire pit and saw that the end looked like charcoal so he began to draw pictures on a large, smooth rock that he had been sitting on. He drew the things that he loved, men. He drew a comic book type man with bulging muscles and a cape. It was a handsome man, a strong and virile god like the ones that Martin dreamed about. Then he drew another man, a younger looking one. This one looked much like him. Somehow he was not amazed when he saw the figures move and begin to slide across the stone surface. The man held out his arms and embraced the boy figure. They kissed. Martin understood that it was a promise that he would someday meet his own hero, a strong man who would love him. He was so touched by the vision that he wept silent tears that fell on the drawings and made the lines run.

They were all caught up in their own reverie, communing with their own mystical spirit for an unknown length of time until finally they recovered enough to return to the real world. Nothing was said, or was needed to be said as they all exchanged a look of mutual fondness and understanding.

Travis added more wood to the dying fire and stoked it back into a blaze. Then they all began to take off the rest of their clothing as Grant put on some music.


Victoria's eyes glowed with gleeful malice. She asked, "They must be close, but how will we find where they are?"

Lilith said, "I will lend you my Sprite. She will lead you to them." Clapping her hands she called out a name that Sarah didn't quite catch. A small light popped into existence in front of them. "This Sprite is my servant. She knows where to go so just follow behind her. Call me when it is complete."

The girls got into Victoria's car and the small ball of light hovered in front of the hood. It began to move slowly up the road. The girls followed the guiding light, driving slowly so they wouldn't lose sight of it. The Sprite led them directly to Martin's house so they parked by the road and walked up the drive. They didn't want their headlights or the sound of the engine to give them away. Stealthily they made their way past the house. No lights were on inside. The moon above gave enough light to show them the path that led into the trees and the Sprite began to move toward it, leading them farther into the gloom.

Victoria whispered, "I can see a light somewhere up ahead. It looks like a fire. We can finally find out what these fags are up to and teach them a lesson. They may be able to resist our other spells, but this one will bring them to their knees, although they probably spend a lot of time on their knees anyway." She laughed at her own joke.

Soon they could hear music and the flickering flames sent beams of yellow light between the thin shadows of the trees. Stopping at the edge of the clearing, where they were still hidden behind a shrub, they were amazed at the sight before them. Throbbing music pounded from the portable stereo and four young men danced naked around the fire. Their dance was not frenetic but was somber and slow. They strode around the fire making shapes with their arms and legs and hands. Muttering strange words they reached for the moon as they danced. The boys were beautiful and their swirling limbs and swinging phalluses aroused a warmth of desire in each of the girls. They stood as if hypnotized, aching with longing but unable to move.

Travis continued to dance as he called out, "Why don't you come on out girls. We know you're watching. Don't be afraid, we've been expecting you." He reached over and turned off the music.

The taunt of being afraid made Victoria stir from her trance enough to gather her wits and say, "Come on. Let's get them."

The boys stopped their movements and watched, completely unembarrassed by their nudity, as Victoria led the others into the open. Clutching the leather sack of poisonous powder, she sneered in her most imperious Witch of the North voice, "Well, look here. Four faggots dancing with each other, and not a stitch of clothes. I knew you were all queer for each other. Wait until we tell everyone at school what you've been up to."

Grant laughed and said, "Gay? You thought we were gay? Oh, you got it all wrong, Bitch. We're straight... well, except for Martin that is. We always take off our clothes so they don't get ruined or torn. Gay? No, we're something else."

"Then what are you? We are servants of the Goddess Brighid, the great Earth Mother. We are powerful witches, but you have resisted our spells. We don't know how that can that be, but we are here to punish you. We have magic that you cannot resist."

As Grant spoke his voice seemed to grow louder and deeper, "We felt your weak attempts at magic, but we are immune to your efforts because we are magic. Your spells were a mere itch between my shoulder blades. You may be witches, but Brighid isn't the only power in the world. Don't forget about Cernunnos, the Horned God, Cernunnos the hunter. We are Servants of the Horned God and we bask in his limitless power. Tonight we celebrate our Lord on this Samhain, with this full moon watching over us. Tonight we give thanks to the Great One for the sacrifice he has sent us."

Victoria looked troubled. "Sacrifice? What sacrifice is that then? I see nothing here."

Grant threw back his head and laughed. "You are here, Witch. You ask what we are? We are Hunters for the Horned God, Sons of Crenunnos, we are WEREWOLVES."

The four witches turned to flee but it was too late. They were drawn back toward the fire by claws that pierced their limbs and teeth that tore their flesh. Their screams of terror were cut short.





Ryan had first turned loup when he was twelve. Puberty seemed to trigger it in most young Weres. Unfortunately for Ryan he had no one to explain things to him. He was all alone, confused and frightened by the phenomenon and had fallen prey to thoughts of suicide. Then, one evening, in wolf form he roamed the woods behind his house, hiding in the shadows and fighting down the urge to destroy, when he heard another voice in the darkness. It was a kindred creature and Ryan ran to seek him out. It was a fortunate event because the man told him enough about being Were to save Ryan's life and keep him out of trouble.

When Ryan had first seen and smelled his infant nephew, he knew right away that Jamie was like him, and he vowed to himself that he would never let Jamie suffer the confusion and fear that had dominated his early life.

Now, Ryan ran through the forest, faster on two legs than any animal on four. He leapt fallen tree trunks, passed around patches of underbrush, and jumped from one boulder to another. He almost seemed to fly. The stag fled before him, its head twisting from side to side to avoid tree branches and flecks of foam flying from its mouth. Ryan could almost hear the great beast's heart pounding with fear and exertion. His own heart was filled with the joy of the hunt, his nose wrinkled at the acrid scent of the stag's terror. Shortly he would feel the flash of hot blood flooding his throat. That was his strong desire, his focus. Suddenly another body flew from the side and slammed into the fleeing animal, knocking it off its feet. A snarling monster, covered in striped grey fur locked its jaws on the stag's throat and ripped it out. Ryan landed beside the other creature just as it turned its blood soaked face to the moon and let loose with a chilling howl.

Changing back to his half-form so that he could speak, he said, "Jamie, you are getting faster all the time. That was some take down. He didn't even know what hit him. Where are the others?"

It took Jamie a couple of moments to pull himself together and push his inner beast back down inside him. He spit out the hunk of bloody flesh and said, "Thanks Uncle Ryan. They're just behind me. I think they got distracted by a boar. You know how Travis loves pork."

The words were barely out of his mouth when Travis dropped out of the giant poplar tree beside them, his claws leaving deep gouges in the bark as he slid to the ground. His guttural growl became a deep laugh as he transformed back to his human form. "Yes, I love pork, but there is one meat I like even better, fresh Witch."

Martin and Grant slunk out of the shadows, silent hulks that dripped saliva from their snouts, and shrank back into teenage boys.

"That was a blast," exclaimed Grant. "I could never truly let go like this back home. Thanks a lot for bringing us to Canada, Ryan. It's the best graduation gift anyone ever had."

"Yeah, thanks Ryan. It feels amazing to be so free. We must be dozens of miles from anyone else," Martin said. "I think I'll move up this way after college."

Ryan grinned and said, "You guys are great. I'm really impressed with all of you. Remember though, wild game is fun, but we have a coven of witches to sniff out. These are more wily than any of the others we've killed so far. One of them is near, so let's go hunt."


Happy Halloween and a creepy Samhain to all.


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