She ascended from the murky ocean depths, riding an enormous surge of salty, foaming water. She twisted slightly in midair, gliding downwards toward the rock of the cliff face. Carefully, she planted one bare, anklet-ridden foot on the rock, and collapsed on it gracefully in a kneeling position as if she were in slow motion. She raised her head slowly to look up at the sky. It was a bright day along the coast. The sand along the beaches below reflected the sunÕs blinding presence everywhere. Ahead of her, there stood her house—basically an earthen structure with a thatched roof. It was a pleasant, secluded little patch of cliff she lived on, several minutes worth of walking distance from the tiny vllage, which lay to the north of the island. Living far from the village had its advantages, she reflected silently. Here she was able to practice her witchcraft uninhibited and unobserved. And IÕm improving she thought with a smile. She stood up and stretched, soaking up the sunlight. She was a most attractive young woman. She was relatively tall, with a thin figure, and sapphire eyes. She gave her hair a toss, flinging droplets of sea water everywhere, and bringing some of the natural curl back into her hair. It was, in fact, quite an odd color—the result of a spell gone horribly wrong. It was a kind of hybrid, somewhere between blond and white. She checked the mesh bag at her side. In it, she had captured a crab, which was now trying to crawl away, several stones from the floor of the ocean, and a couple specimens of sea plants. They were all to be part of the spell she had in mind for that evening. It was, of course, incredibly complicated. Right on the edge of her magical talents, she had failed the same spell on two other occasions. It was understandable. After all, it did involve a three hour dance, a long and tedious chant, a large ritual sacrifice, artifacts from the sea, an inconceivable amount of energy on her part, and it all had to be done before moonrise that evening. She disappeared into her earthen dwelling, leaving the mesh bag on the precipice of the cliff, and returning with her spindly arms full of food. Everything from corn, to squash, to radishes, to beets, to cucumbers, to pineapples, to tomatoes, to potatoes, and more she carried from her house in several trips. She piled the food on the edge of the cliff, allowing the waves crashing against the rocks to drizzle over the mountain of produce –her entire store of food for the monsoon season when the ground was too flooded to yield anything. Well, so much for the offering, she thought, Now for the other elements. She stooped to retrieve the bag on the edge of the cliff. She upturned it and shook out all the rocks she had collected and arranged them in a circle around the fruit and vegetables. The crab was side-stepping his way back towards the ocean. She smiled wryly at the crab. Your death wonÕt be in vain, you know she thought, picking up the struggling crustacean. Which is more than I can say for me right now, she reflected grimly. This was, after all her third attempt at this stupid spell, and it could only be attempted once a year at the proper alignment of planets and stars. And all for the sake of a man. In the village there lived a young man with whom she had fallen in love. He was tall and muscular, with bronze skin and black hair, and a fine patina of stubble along his jaw. There was but one sure-fire way to earn his affections of which she knew. A strong enough love spell should have him swooning all over her within a matter of days, if she did it correctly. That, of course, was the tricky part. Love spells had always been particularly finicky in the history of magic, and with good reason. You are, after all, playing around with one of the strongest emotions known to mankind without the knowledge of the subject. She glanced absent mindedly at the pile of soggy food on the cliff face. That was the offering. The offering was one of the most crucial elements to this enchantment. It was only fair. If youÕre going to gain the affections of someone you most want to love you, itÕs just that you be required to give up the thing that means the most to you now. She had decided that the food would make the best offering because without it, she would starve during the flood season when everyone had to rely on stored reserves from the year before. Life wasnÕt worth living without love, she had decided, so if she failed again, she wouldnÕt have to endure any longer. She gazed at the horizon. The sun was about to set. It was time to begin. She turned to face the churning ocean, glimmering a robust reddish-orange in front of the setting sun. Yes, it is time she thought calmly. She closed her eyes, envisioning her goal –a life of pure bliss and happiness with the only man she had ever loved. She squinted one eye, peaking out at the horizon. Here goes nothing, she sighed inwardly. One last pause, then she took her position near the offering É and began the dance.
Witchcraft at the Sea
September 1, 2007