"I was gonna ask which witch is which, but it's been done" - cliche' detective

The Witching Hour
by Ekpeki Chovwe Donald ©2019

I stood on the top of the oldest palm tree, the one that lay on the south end of the village. My balance was perfect. I had no fear of falling and I was in my element. It was night, pitch black to everyone else but glowing to me. It was my dawn. It was awake, and the night revealed all to me. The lights of little glowing spirits, the chirping and chitter of living insects. It was a preternatural and lovely blend of the supernatural and natural. This was life. Not evil. How could it be? Never evil. The hooting of the owl drew me out of my reverie and hinted me that my hunt was to begin. Hunt and haunt. With a languid sigh, I leapt of the tree. I fell a few feet then caught one of the power lines that led to the human spirit. Thus, it was with both the spiritual and the physical, the literal and the metaphysical. You had to fall a few feet to rise in glory. The lines I followed were lines visible only to initiates such as I. One of those judgemental people like yourself referred to as witches. The link was strong, the call of this spirit. It sang to me, the music of the soul. How sad that this song mostly led to misery and death. But no time for philosophical musings. I had a mission. I sailed swift and sure. I was recognisable tonight. I hadn't assumed animal shape. There was no time for such finesse. It could be dangerous if dawn met me in any other form. No time for fear either. This call was strong. I felt the pull, the natural hunger of the supernatural to feed on the natural. I swooped in...

***

We sat in my hut, bare as it was, I and her, on the even barer floor. The kerosene lamp hung from a nail on the wall, it's flailing yellow light the only illumination in the room. We or at least I didn't need much, being a creature of the night. I continued my narrative and she, my first acolyte listened attentively to me. Ejiro was my sister's child and this was one quirk I had in common with the rest of old world witches. I liked to take them from family, where they were cut closest to us. Blood was more than just a symbol after all. My mistress the old one didn't though. She chose me for another reason. Because of my 'goodness.' I chuckled lowly thinking of the rich irony. I had chosen mine for close reasons. Our reasons were close but our motives were as far as palm oil was from groundnut oil. You could fry with both but only one was good for yam.

My wannabe acolyte watched me carefully and raptly waiting on my next words, then tentatively broke in. She was timid and quiet as I said, another one of the reasons I chose her.

"Did you kill her?"

"Jiro" I cautioned gently. "I told you before. The power lines cast by normals, ordinary day dwellers that can only reach into the other side, unconsciously stretches from them by virtue of their heightened emotions."

"Yes." She continued, her voice gaining in bravery and picking it up from me there. "By their heightened emotions, pain, fear, anger, lust, of a negative nature makes them vulnerable."

I smiled my broken smile and nodded accent. She was an intelligent one my Ejiro. She would make a fine start of a line of new world witches I sought to breed.

I continued my lessons.

"the negative emotions sent by these ones in their sleep send out vibrations into the other side, the one where the supernatural exists and which normals are barred from."

She raised an eyebrow and her lips moved to ask, questions that were obvious to me. We had a spirit rapport me and this child. I answered, saving her the effort of asking.

"I know not why the other side is mostly accessible at night. It is just the way of it. The sun is warm at noon, brightest after noon and dying at evening to be reborn again the next day. I know not the why of it. For knowing more than the normals, there is a lot that we othersiders don't know. I know not the why of it. The process I am conversant with...

Normals could touch the other side unconsciously, mostly at night in strongest form during their sleep. This was due to their heightened emotions. These emotions send out lines of power that draw us witches, creatures that could consciously access the other side at night and follow this to the source where we fed. The process normals referred to as being 'presse' because it gave a choking, suffocating feeling as they slept and because our fastening on them gave the feeling of being pressed down physically.

I continued my lessons

"The rules I know because I must to operate as an agent of night. These rules, go over them again for me" I instructed.

I was fond of this one and wouldn't want to lose her to casual mistakes. I was more than fond, you could say I loved her even. My face hardened and timid Ejiro's voice quickened to answer.

"You must leave and be back before dawn...

"Especially when you take the form of a beast of the air or field." I added in hard tones. "This is the most important rule. Never forget it. Many have gotten caught up in hunting and feeding frenzies and been caught by the dawn. They are trapped in the other side come daylight and unable to exist there without the clear access and power focus granted by night and unable to survive without that part of them that leaves for the other side. These ones are usually found dead the next day. Then of course," I continued ignoring her scared look. She needed to be scared to do this for long without violating that one sacrosanct rule. "The ones in beast form. You've heard of people found in half beast, half human form. That is the consequence of being caught by dawn on the other side in another form. It is a gruesome way to die."

I sighed at Ejiro's frightened nod and wide-eyed look and my voice softened

You have no problem so long as you remember this one rule. Let me tell you about the old one who opened me to the powers of the other side and the ability to feed. You will learn a thing or two of why we feed.

She, was a family friend but unrelated to us by blood, the one who opened me up. She did it because she liked them sweet and kind. Of course, they had to be young. Every young child had a tendency to the other side which waned the older they got and more set in the physical world. Except the naturals who had the talent strongly. All the normals could send out distress signals to the other side. The othersiders could have their sight opened up at a young age. Some who had the talent very strongly, even at an older age could be opened up. The process was always done through food. Ingredients saturated with the substance of the other side that created an addiction for otherside food. This forced their body to transition every night when the other side was open to satisfy the craving.

Like I said, she who opened me did so because of my innocence and goodness. She always chose those ones. She was a malevolent one. She exulted in taking them as they were sweet and kind and corrupting them to be blood thirsty hags who fed for the pure joy of the misery it inflicted. There are three types of witches. The first kind fed to satisfy the craving. The second kind enjoyed it but initially did not. They came to do so after a long period of consumption. The last, the ones like the old one who opened me, mama Ishaka had a naturally craving for evil. They were inherently, naturally born evil. They were not turned but came to the other side of their own accord. They found their way to it of a strong, iron will to do evil. These ones were the dealers. They dealt with the dibias and medicine men. These dibias, medicine men were the strongest of the othersiders, usually prophets and healers. These medicine men, they existed on the other side and here with a keen balance and could access it at all times and in ways that made us witches feel like normals. Sometimes witches who were dealers did odd jobs such as assassinations for these dibias. Normal witches generally stayed away from them. But this is our tale. Theirs is another tale so let me not stray too far into theirs.

The old one, she took me on nightly hunts. I was one of the strongest whose sight she ever opened. That she took me in my teenage years and almost into adulthood was a testament to how strongly talented I was. I could sense misery easily from greater distances than the others, no matter how faint. She gloried in making me seek out those most faintly there. A good hunt she called it. Then when there, she gave them sendings, tortured them with dreams, nightmares and visions. She toyed with them. Sometimes gave them visions, sendings that appeared to help them, glimpses into the future that were initially beneficial. They came to depend on these dreams and nightly visions, imagining them perhaps sendings from ancestors or well meaning spirits. Then when they were hooked and trusting she sent a vision that its following would lead to ruin and death. She was a real witch.

This was only one way she destroyed them. She did not always take the time to be this creative though. Sometimes she simply fed, amplified their misery and fed till they were so weak their heart gave out of their organs failed. Of course, feeding was not just for malevolence's sake. It was also for power. The more you fed, the more powerful you became. You could see further into the future of the normal world, take the shape of more powerful beasts to hunt and affect items and events more, though even the strongest of us only minimally. You lived longer too. The more you fed, the stronger you were and the more you needed to feed. That is why the oldest of our kind were the most malevolent.

So she held back and made me feed, always pushing me to feed, I always stopped though, before the victim's life force gave out. I was a most difficult one to corrupt she would always say, then cackle and search for the next victim. But it was a mark of my resistance of her to always leave them alive. It was frustrating to her, but she was a patient one. The feeding was addictive and the craving grew each time. So, she knew it was just a matter of time. She took the backseat and made me feel more. I could not help it. Nightly I transitioned to the other side and she was waiting.

There were covens in the other side, associations and places of meetings where witches met. On old, rare trees such as the great Iroko they were summoned, by the call of owls and other night creatures. But the old one kept to herself. She called these things distractions and went along solely with singular determination to pursue the all-consuming task of wrecking lives and magnifying misery and pain.

As I said, I was getting stronger, also coming to crave more and more, getting closer to feeding to the point of no return.

It was during one of those hunts I made my first sendings. As I fed, I fed beyond a certain point and I began to see the soul's life threads. My power had activated fully. I saw the life threads stretched before me. This soul was in misery due to poverty and a plethora of bad choices that had left them impoverished. I had the life threads stretched before me. Their life's possibilities. There was a glowing white thread that led to positive ends if they took certain actions and followed certain paths in the normal world. There was a black thread too, the negative counterpart that led to an ignominious cease. When the old one tortured her victims, she usually sent bits from the early sides of the white thread, minor positives, then skipped to the end of the black thread and sent the final disaster, that furtive step that led irreconcilably to death.

The soul I fed on was the first recipient of my fully realised powers. I went down their white thread, falling down a cascade of images. I gave them a positive sending and goodly warnings while feeding. The old one was unaware of my actions. I continued to go for nightly hunting with more relish. To search out the weakest, the most miserable souls to feed on. While feeding I gave them sendings from their white threads. They were the ones that needed good the most in their lives. And I provided this while feeding, an unholy exchange. I followed these ones in the waking world to confirm how well they were doing. The ones i could locate, I confirmed were doing well. The initial, impoverished victim was now affluent and a chief in her village.

The old one had left me to go on my own hunts. She had broken me or so she thought. And I was doing good, or bad as it really was. So, I thought till this good day. Night it was actually, and it wasn't really good. It was a bad bad night. She came to hunt with me. I had gone on hunting solely as she had taught me, never joining any of the covens. Like her I didn't want to be distracted. Though the other witches knew me in the waking world. Witches could identify others with the sight in the normal world.

So the old one joined me and I accepted her presence impassively. She sought out a power line and followed it. It led us to one of my former victims I had helped. They were weak and their misery was sharp, quite contrary to how I left them, flush and full of fortune. Someone had given them a lot of sendings from their black thread and turned their fortune dark. I knew who it was of course. The old one had known all along when I got the ability to send and what I did and proceeded to undo all my work and destroy them the minute my back was turned. One by one she took me to all my old victims and made them true victims, feeding on them till their thread snapped and they died. I was powerless to stop her, or not brave enough to 'cause we always have power though not the will to use it. I was good and kind even as a witch remember? and sometimes goodliness is synonymous to weakness. It dosnt have to be but it mostly is. Until she got to the last victim. The formerly impoverished victim I had first helped. The one on whom I had first used my power of sending. She had kept this, the best for last.

Finally, she achieved what she had always sought. She broke me, though not in the way she wanted. I turned on her as she fed on this one. That is possible though it rarely happened and only in cases of overambitious acolytes. She was not expecting it from me, a good witch who went around helping her victims. She was the serpent, poisoning my friend/victim and I assumed the form of a vicious cat, the leopard and savaged her badly. She turned to fight me but I had a death grip on her and didn't let go till I was sure she would never ever destroy my work again. I was a bitter-sweet victory. I had lost myself in her, done that which I vowed never to do, fed till death. Thus, I came about the freedom to do good by doing the final evil. I was now truly a witch, in name and deed.

I looked at Ejiro after my long tale. Her eyes were big and wide. She managed to timidly ask the obvious question. "if you hate witchcraft so much and it's so bad, why are you..."

"Why am I initiating you?" I completed dryly.

After that battle that ended in the demise of the old one and of my innocence, I desisted from hunting. Hunting or granting sendings. I was broken and unsure of myself so stayed far from the other side.

"Yes" I answered her unasked question. "Witches with rare willpower have been known to resist cravings and stay away from the other side altogether. I befriended that formerly impoverished lady I once helped that opened me up to the ability to send. She maintained her wealth and had learned to make good decisions. She must have because I seriously doubt there were other good witches out there. It is not something our kind is naturally disposed to. I married her brother who had no idea what I was. She also married, a chief and had a child. That child is you."

Ejiro's eyebrow climbed ridiculously. I merely smiled slyly. She wanted to ask more. I interrupted her by standing and opening the door of my hut. "Darkness has fallen and it is easier to show rather than tell you what I mean."

***

We stood at the top of the top of the oldest palm tree in the village. The night was alive around us. Two realms open to us. I meant for us to change things from how they were before. Two simple women, one almost too old to make any difference, the other maybe too new and inxperienced against a world, the set way of things. But we were all there was and if we failed it wouldn't be for lack of trying.

My young acolyte looked to me.

When I called her, us, what we do evil, the old one told me, there is no good, no evil. Only power and the uses those who claw their way to it put it.

I will train a cadre of white witches of which you are the first.

Eventually this power may come to be known as good if enough people use it for good. But enough of talk. She looked to me and without needing prompting, we leapt of, following the call of souls, connecting to the power lines, into the living blackness to perpetrate a dark goodness.

x x x

I knew I had to use this convoluted tale when I realized (1) I couldn't even BEGIN to pronounce the writer's name, and (2) the writer is a law student from Nigeria! A perfect potential resident for Anotherealm - not to mention a darn fine spinner of yarns, Ekpeki Chovwe Donald is a welcome addition to 2019's line up. Make him feel at home on our BBS. - GM



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