The Forest Witch: A Short Story – Part 2
The Forest Witch - Part 2
Under the cover of the night, River landed in the empty streets of the city. She took a quick look at her surroundings to make sure that she was alone, then cast a vanishing spell on the broomstick. She wouldn’t be needing it, or her magical powers, any longer. This was the beginning of her new life in the mortal world.
A raindrop landed on River’s head. She raised her hand toward the sky, readying herself to stop the rain with her magic. She paused. No, she wouldn’t use her powers. She needed to learn to live the mortal way from here on out.
River looked around the street for some place to go to get out of the rain. She noticed a light coming from a run-down looking building nearby. An illuminated sign in front read “Motel: Vacancy.” Perhaps she could stay here for the night. River approached the building and went inside.
“I – I need a place to stay. I – I have nowhere else to go.” River’s voice wavered as she spoke to the man at the desk in the lobby of the motel.
“Well, we’ve got plenty of room,” the man replied without looking up. “If you’ve got plenty of cash.”
“I have nothing.” River looked down at the dirty floor, her voice barely audible. She hadn’t considered needing money in the mortal world. She hadn’t been in the mortal city for more than fifteen minutes, and was already discovering that she wasn’t as prepared as she had thought.
“What was that? Well, perhaps we can work something out. We’ve been short-staffed as of late. You got any experience?”
“No, but I learn quickly,” River replied. “I’m very cunning.” Her voice was a little louder than before.
“Great. You’ll start tomorrow morning.”
The man took River to a room on the second floor of the two-story motel. In exchange for a dry place to stay, she agreed to work off her debt as a maid. She would begin her first day of mortal work when the sun rose in the morning.
River stood in the doorway of the first room she was charged with cleaning. Everything was in disarray, as if the previous guests had left in a hurry. She wasn’t prepared for how difficult cleaning without the use of magic would be. Back in the forest she could cast a simple cleansing spell and the dirt in the cottage would disappear instantly. She looked around and saw that her new boss was nowhere to be seen. She carefully pointed her finger at the bedding piled on the floor near the bed. The sheets and blankets lifted from the ground and found their rightful place on the mattress.
This wasn’t right. River had come here to find a new life living as part of the mortal world. She couldn’t take the easy way out. She knew that, if she wanted to become a part of this world and walk the path of a mortal, she needed to do things the mortal way. River sighed as she turned toward the bathroom and bent down to gather the damp towels from the floor. It took longer than she had anticipated, but she eventually finished the first room and was ready to move on to the second.
As she pushed the creaky cleaning cart from one room to the next, she looked down by her feet, almost expecting to see Moonlight walking beside her to help with her tasks. The cat had been with her since they were both very small. This was the first time that she had ever been separated from Moonlight. She was here in this new world alone, with no one to help her.
The first day was rough, but each room got a bit easier to clean as she got used to doing things the mortal way. She cleaned each dirty cup by hand and replaced each soiled towel. After the second day, the motions became automatic and River no longer needed to think about each action she was about to perform.
The days went by, and River thought of using her magic powers less and less. Though it wasn’t a glamourous job, she was proud of her work as a mortal. She was no longer bound by the expectations and rituals involved with being a witch. She finally had the freedom to follow her own path. Though she sometimes felt lonely without Moonlight by her side, she was proud to be out on her own for the first time in her life.
River’s first day off since she began her new life in the mortal world finally arrived, which gave her a chance to leave the motel for the first time since she took the job. For the first time in her life, she had the freedom to do anything she wanted without worrying about being back in time for the rituals that she found so constricting.
Since River had spent each day working, she hadn’t yet had the chance to properly see the mortal world without the cover of night. She had only seen the mortal world illuminated by artificial lights in the darkness. The sunlight reflected off the smooth metallic surfaces of the buildings and vehicles. River had never seen anything so bright before. Back in the forest, the trees shielded her from the sun.
As River walked down the sidewalk away from the motel, she noticed a woman around her own age walking toward her carrying a white cat. The cat reminded her of her own Moonlight. For the first time since her arrival, River realized how alone she really was and desperately wanted a new friend in this world.
“Hello.” River attempted to get the woman’s attention. Unaccustomed to casual conversation, her voice was quiet and shaky. “Your cat is beautiful. May I pet her?”
The woman slowed her pace and turned toward River. A look of distain crossed her face and she turned away with no further acknowledgment, continuing down the sidewalk. River wondered if the woman could sense that she was somehow different. She was left with a sudden feeling of loneliness and regret as the woman and her cat disappeared from her view.
In all her time in the forest, River rarely had the chance to meet other witches. After years of living alone in the forest with only her mother, father, and cat, connecting with others didn’t come as naturally as River had hoped. Moonlight had been her one and only companion, and now she had abandoned her. She remembered the day she first met Moonlight when she was still a small child and Moonlight was but a tiny kitten. The black cat had been huddled under a willow tree by the river near her home, cold and alone. River knew from the first moment that she saw the kitten bathed in the light of the full moon that she was meant to be her familiar. The two had been inseparable since.
At least they had been until River decided to leave the forest. River missed Moonlight, but knew that this was where she belonged now. There was no room in the life of a mortal for a familiar spirit. Perhaps one day, when she settled into her new life, she would open her home to an ordinary pet to keep her company, though she knew in her heart that no other pet could ever replace her Moonlight.
The days turned into weeks. River went outside and looked up into the night sky after finishing her shift one night. The full moon hung high in the sky over the balcony of River’s room. It had been an entire month since she had left the forest and moved to this city. In her old life she would be helping her mother perform the full moon ritual right now. Moonlight would have been right by her side, helping her to prepare potions and charms for the ritual.
Now that she was on her own, there was no reason for her to perform pointless rituals. She had the freedom to relax and enjoy the night on her own. She did miss Moonlight, however. As she looked up at the moon, she wondered if her former familiar spirit was just as lonely, or if she had found a new witch to work with by now.
It had been weeks since River had attempted to use her magic powers. Perhaps it would be alright if she used her powers just this once to check on Moonlight. As long as she didn’t use them to do mortal things, it would probably be fine just this once.
River held her hands in front of her and formed them into the shape of a sphere. She recited the incantation to create a scrying ball between her hands. Though she had promised herself that she wouldn’t use her magic while in the human world, she needed to check on Moonlight.
A spark of energy emanated from her fingers and faded just a quickly. Her powers had weakened. She tried two more times, but the results were the same. After only a few weeks of living without magic, she was unable to conjure a simple scrying ball. Her only link to her old life in the forest was gone.
Defeated, River gazed up at the moon for some time before going back inside her room. Once inside, she went straight to bed. She had to be well-rested for the day of work ahead.
Several moons had passed since she arrived in the mortal city and River quickly settled into the life of a mortal. She had attempted to use her powers a few more times since the night on her balcony. Now there wasn’t so much as a spark. The magic of living the life of a mortal was beginning to fade as well. The sun-drenched sidewalks seemed lifeless compared to the dirt paths through the forest. River began to long for the familiar sights and sounds of her old home. She longed for the carefree days of running between the trees with Moonlight.
After finishing a few errands for her boss, River walked along the road to return to the motel that she now called home. The city environment seemed lifeless and dull. Where the forest was filled with lush trees and the sounds of birds and wildlife, the city offered only lifeless metal, concrete, and the sounds of bustling traffic.
A quick movement caught her attention from the corner of her eye. River turned to look and caught a glimpse of a black cat scurrying into the bushes. For a second she hoped that it was the friend that she had left behind in the forest. Her hopes were crushed as quickly as they formed. It couldn’t have been Moonlight. She had always been able to feel her familiar’s energy around her instantly whenever she was near. Now, in the bright light and warmth of the sun, she felt only emptiness. Her connection to the natural world, and to her home, had been severed. River stared at the spot in the bushes where the cat had disappeared for several moments before continuing down the road alone.
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© 2018 Jennifer Wilber