Wizard in a Witchy World – Jamie McFarlane

The delicate smell of perfume caught my attention just before a flash of red drew my eye. A pretty young woman opened the door to the bakery, looked my way and gave me an innocent smile before disappearing inside. For a moment, time froze and my vision became clouded. In my mind’s eye, this same girl was being chased by a wolf, calling my name for help. Her desperate cries tore at my soul, spurring my dream self into action. We hadn’t ever met, but in the vision, I felt a deep connection to this woman and knew I had to save her. Just as quickly as the vision came upon me, it vanished, leaving my heart racing. I shook my head and looked around, hoping no one witnessed my break with reality. Picking up my e-reader from the black wire-meshed table where it had fallen, I tried desperately to lose myself in the story again, but my mind continued to wander. I’d only had a few visions in my life and they eventually all came to fruition exactly as I’d seen them. Unfortunately, that’s nowhere near as helpful as you might expect. Without a date or some sort of context, I had no idea when or where this event would take place. Replaying the vision over and over, my mind searched for something more, but the dream faded, details slipping through my fingers as dreams are wont to do, leaving only fear, desperation and a hideous sense of foreboding. It was weird. I’d only been in town a few weeks and my choice of Leotown was purely random, or so I thought, but that was the nature of my life.

What I thought was random often turned out to be something entirely different. At least Leotown had an amazing bakery like Wheatfield’s, I thought, as I finished the rest of my scone. With renewed determination to concentrate on someone else’s chaos, I tipped my chair back onto the bakery’s brick façade and took a swig of coffee. It wasn’t the best in town, but the scones more than made up for the coffee’s shortcomings. Geez, get going already, I thought, willing the author to introduce some sort of villainous character. With adrenaline coursing through my veins, reading would be a lost cause unless this guy picked up the pace. The next thing I knew, a musky scent wafted across my senses. I hadn’t even gotten through the next paragraph. My highly sensitive nose is more of a burden than a gift. For the second time in as many minutes, I lifted my head and looked around.

A shaggy, heavily-bearded man in rumpled clothing leaned against the brick building adjacent to the bakery. The Old Market District was hardly the place to come if you intended to be picky about smells. Now, where was I again? Damn my A.D.D. The cheerful ding of bells attached to the bakery door made me sigh. It was the girl in the red jacket, carrying a bag that I was sure contained wonderful baked creations. I sarcastically checked myself. Yup, girl goes into bakery and buys baked goods. Certainly not out of the ordinary or the start of some dangerous journey.

Yet a strange urge to take a deep breath and hold it, as if I was about to step forward and peer over the edge of a cliff, overcame me. My life would have been much simpler if, at that moment, I’d just started reading again. It was irrational to feel protective toward a woman I had yet to meet. Some small part of me wondered if staying away from her would somehow prevent the danger I’d felt in the dream. My instincts, however, were on red alert. Something bothered me about the incongruity of Red and Shaggy. It further disturbed me that once she was past him, his head swiveled, tracking her. When she was a dozen yards away, he pushed away from the wall, looked around to see if anyone was watching and followed after her. I gave him the same dozen yards. With my reading tablet safely stowed in my shoulder bag, I got up and followed along.

They both turned the corner at Tenth Street. Too late, I slowed, nearly running over Shaggy while rounding the corner. He’d pulled up short and was using the shade of the building as camouflage. I’d already committed to the corner, so I walked on past him. Man, did he have a smell. By the time I overtook her position, Red had slipped into a small gray sedan. I kept on walking, glancing back when I got to the next crosswalk. I paused by the stoplight and watched her drive off to prove to myself that she was safely on her way. I risked a look back at Shaggy and didn’t see him anywhere. For once, I was being too sensitive.

I crossed the street again and headed back to the coffee shop. If I was fast, my coffee might still be on the table where I’d left it. As I turned the corner, rough hands grabbed my shirt and pulled me in close. Shaggy had waited for me and we were face to face. His stink assaulted my nose and I placed my hand on his chest and pushed hard. I’m strong for my size – coming from farm country and having had plenty of manual labor in my past – but this guy wasn’t moving. “Are you following me?” he asked gruffly, pulling me in closer. There was something wrong. Maybe my eyes were watering from the stench, but I had difficulty focusing on his face. “Back off,” I said through clenched teeth.

I grabbed his wrist and released a small amount of energy from my thumb ring. It should have felt like a small taser jolt, which was usually enough to temporarily disable someone. The yelp and relaxed grip I’d expected, but the rest, not so much. For a moment, while the energy discharged into his wrist, Shaggy’s face became crystal clear. He transformed into a half-wolf-half-man creature, complete with long fur and pointy fangs, the pupils of his eyes yellow and bloodshot. In short, the worst possible thing I could imagine happening while being confronted on the street. Oh, how I’d look back on that day and wish that’s as deep as the rabbit hole went. His face reverted back to what I would have to call ‘Normal Shaggy’ from now on, i.e. his human visage.

His eyes told me he was not going to be forgiving about being zapped, but he seemed to take a moment to reassess the situation. I guessed he was simply trying to determine what level of violence to respond with. And yes, I was right. I really should have been more prepared as Normal Shaggy swung a fist into my gut. I doubled over and wheezed in pain. He followed up by smashing his other fist into the side of my head. A shout from down the street warned him that others were taking an interest in our scuffle. He leaned over and growled, “Don’t get involved, Slim, or next time I’ll rip off your head.” I felt sure he wasn’t speaking figuratively. He pushed, attempting to knock me to the ground, but I still had some pride and resisted.

As he walked away, I stood up, using the side of the building to help me. “Are you okay?” A middle-aged woman approached me with her phone on her ear. “I called the police. They’re sending an officer.” She held her phone out to me. I assured the dispatcher I was okay and didn’t need medical attention, but he asked me to stick around long enough to talk to the officers. A moment later, a police cruiser pulled up with lights flashing. A young officer in a dark blue uniform exited the cruiser purposefully, adjusting his belt as he walked toward me. He eased into the conversation by introducing himself as Officer Alan Tuttle, writing my name in his notebook and asking if I needed medical attention. By that time, a second cruiser pulled up.

I was pretty sure my situation didn’t warrant the extra attention. I’ve always had a knack for seeing through BS and Tuttle was on the level. The second officer joined him, standing just behind his shoulder. “Mr. Slade, could you tell us what happened? Start from the top.” “Felix, if you don’t mind,” I said, allowing my mind a minute to work. Tuttle just nodded, holding his pen over the small writing pad. “I was drinking coffee at the bakery. I saw this guy follow a young woman after she left the shop. It seemed sketchy, so I followed them just to make sure she was okay.

Long story short, the girl got in a car and took off and the guy figured out I’d been following him.” “Do you know this girl?” Tuttle asked. “Not at all.” His questions were asked politely enough, but he was trying to establish whether Shaggy and I had any previous relationship. At some point, I either convinced him of the truth or he gave up. “Very well, Mr. Slade … Felix. I strongly recommend you avoid this man in the future. If you think of anything else, please give me a call.” He handed me a business card and left.

As the cruisers pulled away, I knew I’d be disappointing Officer Tuttle. Shaggy was a werewolf and he was hunting that young woman. Even without my vision, it wasn’t the sort of thing I could walk away from. I loped back past the bakery and jumped into my faded blue 1977 Ford pickup. I needed to get to my new lab if I wanted to have any chance of helping her. I’d rented the top floor of Katherine Willoughby’s home. A nicer old girl you’ve never met, and deaf as they come. The perfect landlady and the perfect setup for keeping a low profile – private apartment with an exterior staircase, alley parking and an empty garage. The apartment had been advertised as having two rooms and a small bathroom. In reality, there was a combined kitchen / den / library and an overflow library that some might otherwise call a bedroom.

I found the book I was looking for in my library and tucked it under my arm. There was wizard’s work to be done and limited time to complete it. My lab was set up in Mrs. Willoughby’s garage. She hadn’t driven a vehicle in at least a decade and I needed a quiet place to work. The lab was enchanted with a glamour so if someone looked into it, they would see a normal, empty, dusty garage. The doors and windows were locked and I’d even gone to the trouble of enchanting the ground with a ‘creepy feeling.’ That’s not the technical term, of course, but it’s more descriptive than the eight syllable Latin phrase that describes the enchantment. Just a few tricks I liked to use to discourage visitors. The bolt slid back after I waved my hand across the door handle.

Kinetic manipulation was a particularly useful ability I’d discovered when I was younger and had become second nature. Spells to pinpoint Shaggy’s location, say, on a map weren’t familiar to me, but I did know how to track him. As far as enchantments went, it was pretty straightforward. I placed a copper cauldron over a low flame. Ideally, the cauldron would be silver, but who can afford that? I then pulled out a preserved willow switch I’d collected the week before, bent the narrow end into a circle about the size of a saucer and tied it off with a leather cord. With the cauldron heated, I added paraffin, mouse toes, moth wings, sulfur and a half dozen other items. The real power of an enchantment comes from the blood of the wizard. Coincidently, it was also the part that sucked the most. I hated slashing my finger – or any other part of my body for that matter – but, it’s who I am. With a sharp, ceramic knife, I drew a thin line across my right forefinger.

Counting six drops of blood, I mixed and stirred the potion with the straight end of the willow switch, all the while chanting: Aperi Fenestram Incantatum, Aperi Fenestram Incantatum, Aperi Fenestram Incantatum … Energy welled up from the earth beneath my bare feet and transferred through my body, down the switch and into the crimson paste. Instinctively, I knew the spell had activated. A two-foot square granite slab lay on my enchanter’s table and I placed the magnifying-glass-shaped willow switch on its smooth surface. With my bare hands, I lifted the scalding hot cauldron from the flame and poured the contents over the rounded end of the switch, careful to completely fill the circle. Aside from cooling, my enchanted seer’s glass was complete. As for my hands… that’s an old enchanter’s trick, hot and cold had little effect on them when I was working an enchantment. It was midnight when I got back to the Old Market District. My chances of finding Shaggy’s trail seemed good. There was always a lot of helpful natural energy at this time of night anyway, but the boost from uninhibited bar-goers in the surrounding streets would add to it. High levels of energy in the present somehow made tracking remnants of the past a whole lot easier and I would take every advantage I could get.

All was quiet in front of the bakery. The spot where I’d initially observed Shaggy leaning against the brick still reeked of his energy, if not his actual smell. I pulled the hardened seer’s glass from my shoulder satchel and held it as one would hold a magnifying glass, scanning the area a few feet away. Initially, it was just as you would expect. The darkened building shone through the ‘glass’ portion of the device. The change occurred when I waved my hand from right to left over its surface. Slowly, at first, time through the glass rolled backward, light increasing within the circle until Shaggy appeared. I reversed my hand’s direction and swung the glass around to follow the path he took as he turned to walk down the street after Red. The dimly lit street helped protect me from looking like a complete nutcase as I walked, waving my hand over a wax-covered willow switch. I paused for a moment when the phantom Shaggy took a whack at me.

It made me dislike him further if that were possible. I traced his path to a motorcycle parked along the street. I’d need to get my truck if I wanted to keep following. I allowed time to move forward, stopping after Shaggy pulled out into the intersection. It would be easy enough to find him again. Following the motorcycle out of the busy Old Market was an exercise in multi-tasking I was barely up to. The image in the seer’s glass was starkly juxtaposed with my current reality – literally night and day, which was probably the only way I made it through. Traffic lights I was supposed to obey were not in sync with Shaggy’s and I found myself waiting almost too long to slam on the breaks at a few reds. More than once, I nearly ran into the back of another vehicle because my brain was focused on the wrong perspective. I also couldn’t stop my reflexes from firing when cars in the daylight came at me, even though I knew full-well they weren’t really there.

Finally, I turned into an older neighborhood where I watched Shaggy park. In real time, the motorcycle was gone, so this must have been a temporary stop. I parked just behind where he’d been and turned off the engine and headlights. The ticking of my engine as the metal cooled seemed loud in the still night. I raised the seer’s glass and watched Shaggy walk down the sidewalk, only to disappear behind a tree. I’d expected him to cross the street, but he didn’t, at least not immediately. I really hoped I wouldn’t have to get out of the truck. It wasn’t as if it was illegal to skulk around a neighborhood with a magic mirror at one in the morning, but I had to believe it would make some people nervous. I found Shaggy’s visage skulking behind a tree, focused on the run-down, white clapboard single story house directly across the street. Shaggy just stood there, leaning against the tree with his hands in his pockets.

His funky smell was faint, but I couldn’t determine what it was he found so interesting. I used the mirror to inspect the house, trying to angle it to where Shaggy’s head was pointed. He didn’t take his eyes off of the house, but wasn’t overly particular about what he was looking at, clearly waiting for someone to come outside. Rolling the glass forward, I scanned the front of the house, and then I saw it. On the street, in front of the house, was a grey sedan that strongly resembled Red’s. It wasn’t as if I needed confirmation of who Shaggy was targeting, but a bright flash of red at the front door caused my stomach to drop. She’d opened the door and was hugging an older woman goodbye. Red left in her car and I expected Shaggy to follow, but instead he crossed the street to the house. Brazenly, he walked into the side yard and jumped the short, chain-link fence. I crossed the street after him.

He disappeared through an overgrown hedge running along the side of a dilapidated garage. It was a terrible idea to follow, but I believed, since his motorcycle was no longer parked on the street, I’d be safe. Pushing my way through the hedge, I got another strong whiff of werewolf. It made sense. The air wasn’t moving much back here and the guy had a real stink to him. His earlier self peered into a window on the side of the house. Ugh, what a creep. With good foliage covering him from anyone on the street, he could stand there unobserved as long as he wanted. Finally, after twenty minutes, he turned and walked out of the yard toward the street. So… about my thinking no one would have seen Shaggy… never underestimate the nosiness of neighbors.

I followed Phantom-Shaggy out of the back yard and for a minute, didn’t notice I had company. “Freeze! Police!” a voice commanded. Crap. I released the spell from the seer’s glass and held my hands above my head, dropping the now ineffective willow switch. Chapter 2 O TRESPASSING nce I’d been loaded into the back of the police cruiser with cuffed hands in my lap, Officer Joseph Lozano leaned on the door. “Would you care to explain what you were doing in Mrs. Barrios’ back yard?” he asked. It wasn’t a good time to be evasive, but honesty wasn’t an option either. I decided to slice it down the middle. “It’s going to sound nuts,” I said.

“Try me. I have some experience with that type of thing,” he answered. Officer Lozano had a forthright aura. He was a man who took his job seriously. I hated lying to him, but there was no chance he’d believe me. “I was driving on Harney Street, headed home. A large dog ran out in front of me. I thought I’d hit him, so I followed. It looked to me like he’d run into that back yard.” “Care to explain the stick you were holding?” he asked.

He didn’t believe me. “I found it on the ground,” I said. “Mr. Slade, have you been drinking tonight?” “Nothing more than coffee.” “Sit tight. I need to look around and make sure you haven’t caused any property damage.” Part of being a wizard – for me – is receiving small glimpses of the future, called portents. It’s not like I can see future stock prices or anything. It’s more like I can sense likely outcomes of the near future. These perceptions are different than visions… but, I’m getting off track.

In this case, I sensed something bad was about to happen to Officer Lozano. Small flashlight in hand, he approached the house. I’d have felt better if he’d unclipped his pistol, but he clearly wasn’t expecting trouble. Methodically, he swept the flashlight’s beam back and forth, inspecting the house and nearby grounds. The beam paused momentarily on my willow switch, but quickly continued on. I had a good view of the officer’s path as he approached the back yard, but once he disappeared around the unkempt hedge, I was only able to see occasional sweeps of the flashlight beam. His startled shout and the light from the flashlight spiraling away into the brush alerted me to something going down. I waved my finger across the lock of the hand-cuffs and repeated the same on the cruiser’s door. The lock clunked down and I pushed the squad door open, jumped out, and sprinted into the back yard. I heard struggling and the growls of an angry canine.

“Lucem,” I commanded. Light burst forward from the wide silver ring on my left hand. The light was blinding initially, but my eyes adjusted in time to see Lozano rolling in the grass, grappling with a large wolf. I didn’t know if it was Shaggy, but it was a reasonable guess. When I’d discharged my thumb ring’s energy on Shaggy earlier, I hadn’t been overly successful, but then I’d only been trying to get him off of me. Lozano looked to be in real trouble and I needed to act quickly. The cop was my responsibility, as I’d stumbled into something and dragged him along with me. If I’d thought he could handle a full-sized lycan, I’d have let things play out. Without a gun loaded with silver bullets, Lozano was completely outclassed. Fortunately, I wasn’t.

Shaggy had crossed a line and he had to deal with me now. The pair was too entwined for me to do anything long-range, so I ran up on them. The wolf snapped menacingly at Lozano, trying to bury its teeth into his shoulder. Lozano had a good hold of the wolf’s neck and was keeping it off, if only for the moment. I grabbed the back of the wolf with my hands and pulled hard. This was two hundred pounds of mean that had no intention of being dislodged. I was fine with that. I’m a wizard who’d worked most of his teenage years throwing bales of hay and mucking out stalls. Brute force was my first choice, but I had better options if he wanted to play it that way. “Adoleret.

” The command activated the ruby on my right hand. A gout of fire burst forth and I directed it across the back of the wolf, brushing his fur and directing the flame toward its head. The blast only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough. The wolf jumped forward, yipping in pain, forgetting all about Lozano. Tail between its legs, the wolf made a mad dash out of the yard. “Are you hurt?” I asked Lozano, who’d rolled to his feet, gun in hand. “On your face, drop your weapon,” he commanded, his gun leveled on me. I sighed. I could only imagine what was floating through this poor man’s head. I complied, sinking to my knees and lacing my fingers behind my head.

He walked behind me, pulled my right wrist behind my back, paused for a moment, then pulled my other arm back, locking them both into nylon zip-cuffs. “I’m going to stand you up,” Lozano directed, grabbing the back of my arm. He counted me down and steadied me as I stood. “Thanks,” I said, turning around. “How’d you get out of the cuffs and my cruiser?” he asked. “You didn’t get the door fully closed,” I said. “And I think your cuffs are faulty.” He wasn’t buying it. “Where’s your weapon?” “Look,” I said. “I know you won’t believe me, but I don’t have a weapon.

That dog left because I kicked him. And before you ask, I got out of the cruiser because it sounded like you needed help.”

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