Pages

Wild flowers bloomed under a sky of purest blue, seeming to come alive by the artist’s hand. Muttering as she painted the bright colors, working a spell with each stroke of the brush, the mural was finally completed. The artist stood back to inspect her work, to assess if what she had done was good. It was. She smiled.

In times that had come and gone with the painting of the mural, she had achieved moments of perfection, and in that perfection the painting could be used to her ends. It was so fair a rendering of that fine, wide meadow that she could turn her mind fully upon it, and in so doing she could make herself a part of it. Lynn Weigenmeister had just completed what was to be a portal, a magical doorway.

Satisfied with what she had done, she collected the tools of her labors and she took it all down to the kitchen for a thorough cleaning as the mural dried in the cool air of a pleasant summer morning. But even as Miss Weigenmeister tried to busy herself, she could not keep her mind from the portal.

“Oh bugger it all,” she said, surprising herself with the sudden outburst. “I wonder if it’s time yet.”

Hiking up the skirts of her floral print, summer dress, she made her way over to a particular bookcase where she kept things that looked too dusty for any real interest or use. From the shelves she retrieved a leather bound book, the place marked by a flower taken from the field where her wall flowers grew.

Opening to the page and absently reading a script written long ago, she said to the book, “Well, I traded Beatrice a bushel of my best apples, a dozen jars of canned tomatoes, and a few private spells of my own. I hope you prove worth the effort.”

Removing the sprig of flower from the page, she sped up the stairs to the narrow hallway where earth and sky made beauty and magic together. Even then, even after so short a time, the enchantment was already at work. Vines thickened and flowers bloomed. Trees reached into the sky. The sun came to its zenith, chasing away the morning dew. Looking at it, Miss Weigenmeister thought that she could almost feel a breeze.

Then her mind caught upon the argument and she could feel a breeze. In that way the spell began upon its own accord. She opened the book and read aloud the passages that gave it strength and allowed its power to build. The breeze blew and she lost herself to it, like sailing upon the windswept heights on a winter’s night. It caught her and it took her away to another place and the spell was done.

“That was easy,” Miss Weigenmeister said, snapping the book shut. “All that fuss over nothing. Sometimes I’m little more than a silly girl.”

It was then she realized she had another problem. “How do I get back?” she asked herself, screwing up her face and looking around for inspiration. None came.

In fact, as she stared about the small meadow in which she found herself, the nearby stand of old maples, the small creek that ran noisily three or four steps away, Miss Weigenmeister realized that she wasn’t at all in the pleasant meadow of her painting. She had been transported somewhere else. Fortunately she was in the habit of visiting the nearby forests and fields and was reasonably certain she knew where she was.

“Well, a ride home might be easy enough to find, but how could I ever explain how I came to lose myself here? That’s a fine question, isn’t it?” Thinking, she absently tapped her foot on the ground.

“Well, that’s just another fine mess,” she groaned as the pain in her bare foot told her that she had stepped on a twig.

“All right, time to take a moment and gain a little perspective, I think.” She bit her lip and rolled her fingers over the thick cover of the book, forgetting her lesser problems and thinking.

“You, my friend,” she said, addressing the book, “are the real difficulty, of course. I can’t just leave you here, not even under a tree or in a hole somewhere. Things like you have a habit of being found under the strangest circumstances, and that is a risk I am simply not willing to take. Beatrice would kill me.”

Sitting on the ground, as unhappy with herself now as she had been pleased with the easy success of the spell just a moment ago, she said, “Perhaps I could try to make myself bigger when I change. Perhaps I could make myself large enough to carry you. And if I did that and I flew, as they say, as the crow flies, I could probably avoid…”

The sound of a voice brought an end to her mutterings. It was a groan mixed with some very filthy words. Miss Weigenmeister sat low in the flowers, hoping the floral print of her dress would act as a hunter’s green in the wild. The man swore once again, but instead of feeling sympathy, Miss Weigenmeister felt something else. She had an innate ability, perhaps as well named a curse, for finding trouble and she had the overwhelming feeling that she had found trouble indeed.

“Well,” she said to herself as the man sat upright, “as glad I am that I did take cover from unfriendly eyes. Your eyes don’t seem very friendly if I may trust in my own to judge the difference.”

“And they are naked,” she added in disgust as the man stood and started to walk away, his condition no longer masked by fortuitous obstructions. Biting her lip to stifle a laugh, she corrected herself, “I suppose eyes are usually naked, leastways if they are skinned, but the rest of him shouldn’t be naked too.”

The man scratched himself in an improper place and Miss Weigenmeister winced. “It’s the Coach,” she said. She moved sideways, putting the wide trunk of a maple tree between them for added cover, shielding her eyes to avoid the displeasure of seeing any more than was necessary.

“There’s nothing for it,” she told the book as the man moved deeper into the forest and out of sight. “I must leave you to your own devices. I must follow him. I hope you come to no mischief.”

Finding a dry spot far enough from the creek, Miss Weigenmeister set the book down and was about to cover it with a large, flat rock when the breeze again began to blow. Somehow it felt like the same breeze that had blown in front of the mural. Just as she thought she would be transported back, the book flipped open and its pages fluttered in the breeze. In the fluttering of the pages it was very much like the way her dress fluttered in the breeze.

“Oh,” she said, realizing the hint, “I didn’t think of that. So I should take care of the dress and you at the same time? Or maybe it is better to say that you will look after the dress for me? Thank you, book. I think that is a fine idea.”

Checking to see if the man was out of sight, she lifted off her dress and, snapping it smartly to shake out the wrinkles, she set it upon the air. The dress hung before her, and she smoothed and flattened it in modest appreciation of the lovely print and the flattering cut and the well worked seams that had been sewn by her own hand.

“You won’t let my favorite summer dress get stained?” she asked the book with a tone of voice that was sterner than she was used to employ. Though there was no reply, she felt reasonably assured, and started upon the weave of magic. At once the dress began to fill, and became within the confines of fabric and air the shape of a woman.

“Well, you didn’t have to be so well proportioned,” Miss Weigenmeister said as she inspected her work. “But I suppose I shouldn’t be jealous. Now, book, you should be off. We must all make haste as is proper in such times. Do try to stay out of danger.”

Tucking the book under the invisible arm of the dress and smoothing the last of the wrinkles from the fabric at the knee, she turned and began to prepare her mind for the next task. Speaking the ancient words of the transformation, the change already taking shape, she leaped up into the air. With a flick or her wrists, feathers grew broad and black, sending her high into the sky.

Having made the change into a crow, Miss Weigenmeister circled toward the dress and the book, cawed twice and gave a quick wink to say farewell, and was off to the spot where the man had been. She found his scent easily enough. It was hard to miss with her crow’s sense of smell. Circling above, something closer to the road caught her eye. It was a dead animal, a young deer. Its spots were not yet faded to the tawny brown of late fawn. The man’s smell was rank upon the deer so she went to have a look.

“Strange,” she said to herself, “the wounds look as if the poor thing was attacked by a dog, perhaps even a wolf, but the gut is intact. Any dog or wolf would have eaten the organs first. It doesn’t make sense.”

She looked the carcass over in closer study. “But how do you explain the smell? He’s a man. He certainly wouldn’t have rolled around in it, would he? That’s not a thing a man would do, not even the Coach.”

She saw something dark, down below the neck from where the kill had been made. Using her beak to get at it, she removed the item. “If I had a guess, I’d say that was a toenail from a dog. What can it all mean?”

Shocked by her revelation, after the Coach she went, flapping her wings hard to rise high above the trees. The chase led three miles to a small hunting cabin deep in the woods. As Miss Weigenmeister settled upon the roof to listen and to wait, the Coach went inside and straight to bed.

#

Early that evening there were signs of activity within the cabin, but the Coach didn’t appear until the sun had set, leaping from a window in the shape of a large wolf. His coat was mottled black, melting into the darkness as he sped away.

“But it’s only a quarter moon by my calculations,” said Miss Weigenmeister as she took to the air. The darkening sky had thickened with clouds and thunder boomed in the distance. The blowing wind was already troubling her flight. “I see that much is puzzling about our Coach.”

Despite what appearance suggests, crows are poorly adapted to the night, preferring to live their lives by the light of day. As she trailed after the wolf, Miss Weigenmeister was ever dodging leaves and branches and only narrowly avoided disaster far too many times to count. The wolf traveled quickly in the dark and she could not keep up. Soon he had disappeared. By then there was little doubt of the direction. The Coach was headed toward the school.

Coming to the realization, Miss Weigenmeister said, “I fear his taste for blood has returned. He intends some mischief this night and there can be no doubt. He has an evil heart and no fawn will be enough to satisfy.”

Taking to the sky far above the trees, the rain starting to beat down upon her, the crow flew to the school. All was quiet, the activities within ended. But the Coach’s scent was thick and recent, and even torrents of rain couldn’t wash away her suspicions.

A car was stopped at the far end of the parking lot, its headlights shining into the thick forest beyond, lighting the raindrops as they fell to the earth. From the direction of the forest came the sounds of a struggle, a girl’s frightened call and an angry growl.

“The villain must have tricked her into stopping, played the wounded animal and preyed upon her sympathy,” said Miss Weigenmeister as she followed. “If he gets her down in that ravine, she’ll be too far from any chance of aid the road and traffic may provide, but then he didn’t count on me.”

Lightning flashed. Miss Weigenmeister saw that the wolf had a grip on the wide bottom of the girl’s jeans. He was pulling her away from the parking lot, down into the ravine as Miss Weigenmeister had feared. The girl was struggling to get away, but the Coach was able to keep her off balance, taking her down the slope.

In the next moment Miss Weigenmeister dove, clawing the wolf’s eyes. He thrashed his head, fending her off, but keeping a firm grip on the girl’s leg.

“Wow, that was fast,” said Miss Weigenmeister to herself. “I thought nothing could beat a crow, but I see tonight I may have met my match.”

Righting herself in the air, she turned and renewed her attack. This time she tore at the wolf’s nose with her claws, then rounded to poke at his eyes with her beak.

Shocked and pained by his bloodied nose, the wolf let go of the girl, twisting away from the nightmare bird as she sought to peck out his eyes. Rolling over onto his back, the Coach struck the crow with a heavy paw.

Stunned, Miss Weigenmeister hit the ground. Thinking only to save herself by motion, she scrambled backward on the wet earth. When lightening flashed next, she spotted a hawthorn bush nearby. The wolf lunged at her, slipping on the muddy slope of the ravine, missing the killing grip with his jaws and tossing the crow into the air.

Miss Weigenmeister fluttered her wings toward the thorny bush, desperate to find cover before she blacked out from the pain. At last she made it, pushing in as deep as she dared amongst the cruel spikes. The Coach jabbed his paw into the bush after her, hitting Miss Weigenmeister again and again on the head and body, but unable to drive her into the open. A car engine revved.

The wolf stopped, listening, then ran off up the ravine after the girl. Tires spun on wet pavement and there was a sharp yelp. Miss Weigenmeister pulled herself deeper into the bush, finding safety amongst the thorns. She smiled as she heard a long, frustrated howl, and then her inner light faded, and she knew no more.

When she woke late the next morning, Miss Weigenmeister found herself under the protection of the hawthorn. Her leg was broken and her wing was severely sprained. Her head ached. But it could have been worse. The Coach had been stopped if not defeated, but the girl had escaped, which at the moment was good enough to be considered a victory.

With nothing but a few local herbs with which to remedy the hurts she had suffered in the fight, Miss Weigenmeister worked what spells she could and found that she was able to make short flights with only mild discomfort. Keeping the guise of a crow, she made her way home by early evening. Finally she collapsed upon the sofa, ready for a little tea and perhaps a special brew from her garden.

Almost in response to the mental image, a noise made her sit up. She scolded herself for not checking as thoroughly as she should have when entering the house and making the change back into a woman. But then, coming from the kitchen was not an intruder but her own summer dress, holding a tray and a service of tea for two.

The End

This entry was posted on Friday, February 18, 2011 at 12:12 PM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

0 comments

Post a Comment