Even in hindsight I couldn’t be sure of the first time I saw her. Looking back, some of my memories seem like dreams; some of my dreams seem like memories, almost as if I came into being that day when I turned my head in the unseasonably bright March sunshine.
The music blared in the background and the hum of people talking, laughing and singing played in the foreground. It was a Saturday and the final day of the concert to coincide with the spring equinox. It was mostly a hippie affair; a lot of the music I didn’t care for though; a little too folksy for my tastes, there had been a mad bunch of Russian Elvis impersonators earlier that made even this jaded soul laugh.
I was part of the concert crew helping with the main stage and lending a hand to some of the smaller band crews when they needed it; nothing too technical just brawn required. The final band was on stage and would be playing out the final hours of the concert, so I was free to wander for the most part, checking in occasionally just to be safe, till the morning came and it was time to disassemble the entire installation.
I had just finished a spliff and had that pleasant ‘buzz’ going on when I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Spread out around me were a menagerie of concert goers; couples sat close together beneath large parasols, families sprawled out on numerous picnic rugs, bikers sweating in their heavy leathers lying back against their kitbags, pubescent teenage girls dancing in skimpy tops and short skirts under the watchful eyes of protective fathers, stoners lying on the grass pointing up at the fluffy white clouds drifting across the azure sky as they giggled. Pretty much your average and diverse crowd a weekend concert like this attracted.
I turned my head slowly my eyes roaming back and forth over the multitude; I continued to shuffle around on my feet not knowing what I was looking for until, after almost making a full circle, I saw the young couple sat cross-legged facing away from the stage. They were in their late teens and looked to be in the first flush of love. I reckoned they had been going out less than four months between the amount of tactile contact between them and the way his eyes never left her lips while she was talking to the person beneath the makeshift bivouac. I eased my way forward, scratching my fingernail over the crown of my head, gingerly stepping between the groups of people, stopping to let a dozen eight or nine year olds rush past along one of the randomly formed pathways.
I eventually came up behind the bivouac, made of a large blue and white tie-dyed sarong on two single canes and a pair of pegs. The girl had her hand out in front as it was being held by another’s; a white polished nail traced the contours of her palm. Oddly I was easily able to hear the girl’s questions and answers but didn’t even hear the faintest whisper of the unseen stranger. I stood and watched as the palm reading continued, the girl almost beside herself with excitement and the boy grinning broadly. The reading seemed to come to an end and the girl leaned forward beneath the sarong and then reappeared pulling her boyfriend away and off through the crowd.
I hesitated briefly before walking forward around the front of the temporary bivouac. A pair of slender feet came into view appearing from beneath a long light brown skirt; the legs crossed beneath it with the white finger nailed hands scratching lightly at the covered knees.
“Join me” came a whisper that defiantly penetrated the noise of the concert.
I paused for a moment and then moved to sit down opposite the shaded person. My eyes moved upwards as my head lowered; a loose sheer cotton shirt dangled over her hips, the sleeves roughly torn at the elbows. Her forearms were deeply tanned and the tattoo of a snake’s tail appeared from beneath the frayed material on the left arm. The tail seemed to writhe as her hand twisted and beckoned me down. A full pair of breasts filled the shirt, her dark aureola obvious through the cotton, unfettered by a brassiere. The top few buttons were undone exposing a deep cleavage, damp with sweat from the afternoon heat. Long dark curls cascaded down over her shoulders and face as she leaned her head forward.
“What is your wish on this day.... Mark?” she asked.
“W...what?” I stammered.
She slowly raised her head, a broad smile played across her full red lips. As her hair fell away from her face exposing a thin nose and high cheek bones she spoke in a soft Irish accent “Mark Lucas... or so your ‘All Access Pass’ says.” The curls fell away revealing a pair of dark brown eyes that seemed to sparkle.
“Oh... err... yes...” I stuttered, “My wish... err... I don’t really know Miss...?”
Her eyes looked slowly over me before she replied “I go by the name Cassandra and I can offer you a palm reading amongst other things but I sense that you are a cynic and not a believer in the hidden arts...” her voice was a whisper although easily heard. The sounds of the concert seemed distant. “What is it that you say...? “Only a fool would believe in something they cannot see” she arched an eye brow in question.
“Oh... mmmm... something like that I guess... your last customers seemed very satisfied”
She leant forward, her blouse billowing forwards affording me a generous view of the upper slopes of her breasts; as she took hold of my hands her eyes flitted to mine and a tongue darted from between her lips to moisten that smile. Her fingers were cool on mine as my attention focused; I became aware of a pale, seemingly perfectly circular chalk line surrounding the two of us. Everything within was of an incredible clarity while everything else didn’t matter. Sweet incense burned on either side of us and some part of my mind threw away the idea that the day had been quite windy and yet the aromatic smoke curled and coiled lazily like a well fed snake.
Slowly the world seemed to recede as I focused on her hand and then her fingers and then the white painted nails of her left hand as they glided over my palms; the tip of each tracing the lines and shapes etched into my flesh. Each nail seemed to follow its own path, delicately meandering across the expanse of my palms; the conjoined heart and life line on my left palm a broad river across the continent of my hand. The tips of the nails on her first and fore-fingers, the immense bows of a pair of huge sailing ships set on an unavoidable collision.
The moment when those two colossal galleons met the world melted and a series of memories that were not memories flowed through my mind. The world reinstated itself; music once again filled my ears vying with the chatter of the crowd. Wafts of tobacco and nefarious aromas sailed by us in the warm summer breeze; I looked up into the emerald eyes before me. “I must be an easy ‘mark’ as I am already ‘eight parts to the wind’” I asked.
“You would think so” she replied clearly.
“So are you going to tell me what a wonderful future I can look forward too?”
“You have a future! A lot more than can be said about the couple that were here before you!” she answered.
I looked at her confusedly, “They seemed strangely happy about that!”
“They are about to have the most wonderful twenty-four hours of their lives! They will lose themselves in each other for the next day and the world will open up before them. And then it will end! I very rarely play the bearer of bad tidings... it seems that knowing the worst never really helps in dealing with it!” the smile had left her face and her eyes had moistened. I noticed that her hands were crossed in her lap and we had broken contact at some point.
“So you tell people what they want to hear?” I asked mockingly.
“As Bob once said ‘what is the point of wisdom if it brings no profit to the wise?
’ If you knew you had a single day left to live and there was nothing
you could do about it; how would you like to spend it?”
I almost harrumphed at that but realised how petulant it would have made me sound. “I suppose...” I grudgingly conceded; “... and yes spending my last day watching the world roll by with the love of my life...”
“A wise course” she stated; “however I believe it is time that you were to return backstage.”
“I’ve got ages yet” I said pulling my phone from my pocket and checking the time; “Oh... how... err... time flies, I guess.” I gazed into her eyes; she held my stare firmly. And yet softly! “So what do I owe you for your time?”
“A coffee would be good”
There seemed no reason to question the payment and I rose to my feet; my calves were incredibly stiff as if I had been sitting still for at least an hour. I smiled and nodded down at her as she looked back up at me idly toying with a ‘glow’ hoop that circled her long neck. I shook my head and headed for the nearest food stall.
I was over ten yards away when I realised I didn’t know what sort of coffee she required and turned back.
It took me an instant to realise she was no longer there. Where she had sat between a group of three Goths busy listening on headphones on a shared I-pod and a ginger headed couple with obligatory 2.4 ginger kids and yapping Red Setter was three late-teenage boys playing cards with cans of cheap lager clasped in their hands.
I chewed on my lip, surveyed the crowd all around me till I came back to the teenagers. This time I harrumphed. “Sometime soon...” I muttered to myself. .......
The rain lashed down on the normally busy pedestrian street. The awning attached to the frontage of the various cafés and restaurants struggled with the torrential downpour. It was late June and had been humid and hot; the thunderheads had grown slowly through the day. The angry bruised clouds had unleashed their cargo just as I reached the halfway point between the Venue organizers office and my flat just off the Dalling Road. I paused on the cobbled street aware that I was already soaked through to my skin and looked up at the sky.
The clouds seemed to be visibly thinning as drops fell vertically all around me. A flash of lightning momentarily silhouetted a bunch of people huddled beneath a shelter; freeze-framing them in a Banksy-esque fresco. The water was warm as it poured down over me; my long hair matted to my skull as streams insinuated themselves beneath my clothing. I opened my mouth and drank of the storm.
Slowly the rain stopped and the sun broke free through the evaporating cloud. I shook myself vigorously and wandered over to a small coffee shop sparkling in the burgeoning early evening sunlight. I glanced at the ‘dry’ red-headed woman sitting alone at the only table beneath the awning as I stepped into the air-conditioned shade of the shop. The few seats that were available were all taken and from the look of the owner he wouldn’t appreciate my wet ass on his upholstery. I ordered my coffee and stepped outside.
I paused in the doorway, two large cups of steaming coffee sat on the small table in front of the woman. I looked away watching people pass by, each with a weather eye to the sky in case the rain began again.
“Why don’t you sit down?” said the woman. For a moment I ignored her, assuming she was talking to someone else but quickly realised there was no-one near. I turned to look at her and pointed dumbly at my chest. She nodded in reply.
“I assumed that you were waiting on someone” I said indicating the pair of cups.
She smiled back at me, high cheek bones either side of a slim nose with a pair of piercing blue eyes; “I was... and now you have arrived” she stated matter-of-factly.
Almost in a trance I sat down in the empty chair staring hard at the familiar yet different face. “You’re the fortune-teller...” I mumbled.
“I am” her lips parted as her smile broadened revealing gleaming white teeth, “I’m glad that you remember me Mark.”
“... you’re hard to forget... and sorta hard to remember all at the same time... Cassandra...” my eyes roamed unabashedly over her face and torso
Today she was wearing a padded Biker’s black leather jacket atop a tight white T-shirt. There was no sign of a crash helmet and her flame coloured hair looked like it had never been cooped up within one. She reached for her cup with her left hand raising it slowly to her lips while her right tapped a tattoo on the surface of the plastic table. Each of her nails were different colours; looking like shades of the rainbow, ten colours instead of seven though they seemed almost more ’right’ than the usual depiction. As she tilted the cup to her lips her eyes stayed fixed on mine as I gazed upon her chest. The jacket had opened wider revealing the sharp relief of a deep green bra beneath the white material as it stretched across her full bosoms.
“Please drink your coffee before it gets cold, Mark. One sugar and a ‘kiss’ of milk, I believe.”
My eyes dropped to the cup on the table, the coffee almost black; just the way I liked it. I raised it to my lips completely sure that it would taste as good as any I had ever sampled before. Placing the cup back down on the table; “So, what is this? Are you trying to make me a believer or something?” I asked.
She seemed to ponder her answer for a few moments, “...or something... definitely.” Her foot glanced across my shin beneath the table and a shock like electricity seemed to ripple and spread up my leg. “And you did owe me a coffee as well Mark!”
I shuddered unsure of what I had felt, “...err... so you are like a witch then?” I asked tentatively.
“The modern term is Wicca, but a witch suffices” she answered.
“Wicca...” I rolled the word around my mouth and mind; “...that would be a good... Wicca, I hope...”
“As good as the next person in the street” she laughed, “an age old prejudice born out of xenophobia, Mark. The evil harridan thing comes from within, there are good Wicca as well as evil Wicca; as there are bad politicians as well as... well maybe not!” Cassandra grinned.
“I suppose at least in these modern times you don’t have to worry too much about being burnt at the stake?”
She stirred her coffee “Not many witches were actually burnt at the stake or drowned for that matter. Most of the victims were in effect the village midwives, seems the Church hierarchy didn’t like the competition!”
“Well at least you’re not a stalker... are you?”
“I believe it was you that sought me out the first time and it was you who just happened here for coffee.” She lifted the cup and took a long sip.
“So you weren’t using your hocus pocus to ensnare me then?”
“It doesn’t quite work that way. It’s more about being in tune with the universe and persuading it to do what you want. I could no more force you to do something against your will than I could turn this coffee cup into a frog.”
I lifted my cup to my mouth and drained the last of my coffee watching her fingers drum lightly on the table, her gaze wandered to the cobbles watching the remaining moisture slowly boil away beneath the rays of the sun. “...if the coffee cup really wanted to be a frog...?” I asked.
“In that case I might be able to help it on its way...” she replied as she took off her jacket. My gaze slipped to her chest, her nipples looked as if they were trying to push their way through her bra and top.
“... and what if I wanted to be ensnared?”
“Then I might be able to guide you in my direction just as the ‘want’ within your eyes is able to harden my nipples...” her green eyes locked with my own; “...and moisten my pussy...” her chest rose as she drew in a deep breath.
I gulped and my cock stiffened within my jeans as her eyes dipped to the table top, seemingly able to pierce the hard plastic and intervening clothing. I also inhaled deeply “You’re saying that we all possess magic?”
Her eyes rose slowly up my chest, a warmth spread with them reminding me that my shirt had been soaked only a few minutes before; my own nipples ached as her gaze flicked between them and my mouth went dry as it drew level with my face. “We do, it’s in our very nature; it’s just a matter of finding it. All of us at some point have used it or experienced it, some embrace it and some squash it; but it’s always there.”
“Are you saying that I have magic powers?” I said raising an eyebrow.
“Definitely, maybe a touch of precognitive abilities... all those times that people feel they have been lucky is when they are in ‘tune’ with the world albeit subconsciously”
I looked at her knowing she was serious although the rational part of my mind was somewhere between screaming and laughing; ever the complete cynic I continued “So magic wands, incantations and potions?”
The smile on her face never faltered as she answered “Only as an aid to concentration and meditation; incenses act through the sense of smell increasing the ability to focus on previous experience and knowledge. An incantation or mantra helps to achieve purity in thought.”
My rational mind was screaming louder as she seemed to be making sense “...and wands?”
“Simply a visual aid to concentrate on a physical point within the universe; a complete familiarity and knowledge of one’s wand is Key...“her tongue flicked out between her lips. “Though my own doubles nicely as a dildo” she reached down and pulled her ‘wand’ from the inside pocket of her jacket. It was about nine inches long and very thick where she held it tapering off to a narrow tip; it seemed to be twisted and covered in knots, made from a very dark, polished wood. Her fingers caressed it as she held it within her hand.
“How much of all this is true... and how much is just a wind-up?” I asked as I blushed slightly.
She held the ‘wand’ up by its narrow end; the thick end was almost flat though the edges were well rounded “Are we talking about whether I use it to play with the fabric of reality or whether I use it to play with my snatch?” her face was serious but broke as my cheeks grew redder and she laughed lightly. “It’s all a wind-up in one respect but it is also all true!”
“What do you want from me?” I blurted out.
“Everything of course!” she said simply and stood up.
Her eyes seemed to shine for a moment as she turned away and walked down the cobbled street. I watch mesmerised, her hips rolling slightly within a tight pair of black leather pants, fingers clicking in beat to her step as her arms swung freely at her sides. I was still lightly biting the inside of my mouth when a hairy hand placed a small dish in front of me. In the moment I looked up at the Cafe owner and back to the street Cassandra was gone. I reluctantly picked up the bill on the dish and dropped a ten pound note onto it.
I almost walked away before I realised her jacket was still hanging from her chair. “Sooner or later...” I muttered as I checked the pockets for any form of address but found them all empty; I looked down the street, picturing her clicking fingers wondering briefly where her Wand had disappeared to. My cock gave a brief twitch at the possible answer. I lifted it the age worn leather to my face inhaling a trace of Lavender from the lining as I ambled away ignoring the fake protestations of the Cafe owner about the size of his tip. .......
It had been almost a week since I had seen Cassandra and she was never far from my waking thoughts. My nights were restful and restless at the same time; each morning I would wake up, the ethereal tendrils of a dream evaporating as I struggled to recall what it was that left such a sense of serenity within me. The more I struggled to retain the mystery the further it was from me. The only sense that remained was the smell of Lavender and the salty tangy brine of the seaside. A sense of déjà vu persisted throughout the day and I would lie in my bed waiting/wishing for sleep knowing that my destination was fixed but with no idea of how I was to get there. .......
Her jacket lay on the seat beside me in my old Landie as I drove through London. It had never been too far from me, day or night, for the last two and a half months. Traffic was light, that moment of respite between people heading out for the night and the pubs, clubs and restaurants chucking them out. I was driving down old Pope’s Lane looking forward to a long hot bath after a long hard day. The thirty year old engine began to splutter so I quickly flicked on my hazard lights and pulled over to the side of the road.
I switched off the lights and engine letting the ‘auld gal’ cool down knowing it was my own fault as I should’ve serviced the vehicle over two months previously. I hadn’t had the time and always enjoyed a weekend doing it myself rather than putting it into a garage. It had been seven years since I had crashed ‘her’ a bare two hundred yards from the service garage pumping uselessly at the brake pedal.
“Don’t worry ‘gal’ I’ll sort you out before the months out” I said grinning to myself. I stepped out and ran my hand over the long ’sealed’ scratch on the right wing as I ran a finger thru my hair tracing the ridge of gnarled skin beneath. Wear your scars with pride
I thought to myself, what doesn’t kill ya’ makes you stronger... bollocks!!
Kevin Rowland interrupted my reverie telling me that I wasn’t his academic inspiration. I looked across the road at the public house opposite, two large bouncers standing outside the small door. The pub formerly known as the Wagon and Horses, now West 7; looked like it was jumping and used to serve a decent pint of stout when my mate Gavin used to drag me there. I grabbed Cassandra’s jacket, locked the Landie, checked the road and walked across beneath the baleful gaze of Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee.
“Evening fella’s” I offered as I approached.
“Evening Sir,” came the simultaneous replies, the smaller of the two who looked like a large brick outhouse as opposed to his colleague who looked like a larger steel re-enforced concrete outhouse
, continued “are you aware of the nature of this club?”
“Frequented by Gays and Lesbians I believe, but sure I won’t hold it against them... well unless they ask me really nicely, of course” I smiled. The deafening silence that I got in reply was par for the course and I wondered would I ever meet a bouncer who had a sense of humour that went beyond the occasional beating of a drunken luckless punter. I held up the jacket “I’m returning this to a friend...”
“It’s rather crowded in there tonight, Sir, but you are welcome to try. The cover charge of five Pounds is still required though”
“Never doubted it for a moment...” I said as I passed between them into the darkened interior.
My eyes took a couple of seconds to adjust, Tweedle-dee was right; it was three deep around the long horse-shoe bar. The old piano room to the left had some standing room but most of the seats were at least 150% full. A large bald middle-aged man was belting out a show-tune behind the Bechstein. The dance floor beyond the bar looked like it was crowded as a House re-mix of the Scottish National Anthem belted out of the speakers.
Maybe I did have some ability to see into the future because I had no doubt that Cassandra was somewhere within the throng. I meandered around the bar near to the dance floor scanning the faces searching for those ever changing features. Even though I didn’t see her I knew that she would appear. I stood in line behind the mass of bodies vying for the bar staffs’ attention near to the seats that were locally known as Dyke’s Corner.
I was still looking around as I got nearer to the bar, the girl in front of me leant forward on the bar and I was pleasantly surprised when ‘Darlin’ Nikki’ started playing she pushed her ass backwards against my crotch and began to grind against it. The song was less than half done when she stopped rolling her denim covered hips and looked over her shoulder at me, her long black hair falling back to expose a whole row of piercings following the shell of her ear.
She raised her eye brow and I leant forward to hear her; “You’re not Gay are you?” she asked.
“How can you tell? Is that Gaydar or something?” I replied innocently.
She smiled “Definitely something!” she turned back to the bar resuming her hip swivelling and ordered her drinks. I brushed my fingers lightly over her hip as my erection pressed into her ass. When the song ended and she gathered her drinks she and stretched up on tip toes to kiss me on the cheek and talk into my ear “Nice Jacket, though it looks a bit small for you” I noted the Gay slogan emblazoned across her small breasts unfettered by a bra beneath her T-shirt.
“I’m returning it to a... err... friend” I answered.
“Well when you manage that there’s a bunch of us sitting just outside in the garden” she nodded towards the rear of the dance floor, “please come join us.”
“I’ll see how it goes with my friend... so I take it you’re not Gay either?” I said my nose brushing her piercings.
“Well, let’s say... or something” she swung away from me brushing her behind once again over the hard lump in my trousers.
I watched her wind her way through the throng and then turned back to the bar. With a pint of Guinness in my hand I strolled around the club looking for Cassandra, sure that I would recognise her but after twenty minutes and most of my pint consumed I figured that maybe she hadn’t arrived yet. I downed the last of my pint leaving the empty on the bar and headed for the garden. As I stepped out through the door I pulled my tobacco pouch from my pocket and rolled a cigarette vaguely scanning the seats beneath the heated canopies. Flicking my Zippo I inhaled deeply on the smouldering weed as I saw the girl from the bar wave to me from the back of the garden.
I wound my through the tables and approached her table. “No luck finding your friend then?” she asked. The two men to her left, obviously a couple, looked up from their conversation and smiled “This is Richard and John... those two across there, if they ever come up for breath” she indicated two women who were busily kissing each other “are Joanna and Lucy...” One of them vaguely lifted a hand in a half-hearted wave.
I waved back to each of them “My name’s Mark, pleased to meet you all”
The girl indicated the short cropped blonde sitting beside her “... and this is”
“The friend I was looking for...” I placed the Jacket on her shoulders covering a loose black chiffon blouse; “hi Cassandra!”
“Hi Mark, you took your time!” she said turning around on her seat looking up at me with a pair of pink eyes that I found quite disconcerting. “This is Nikki by the way” she said indicating the girl who had introduced me “... like the song!”
“A personal favourite of mine” I replied sitting astride the bench beside Cassandra on the opposite side to Nikki. I noted that Cassandra’s hand was resting on Nikki’s right thigh, the nail of her forefinger scratching a figure of eight upon it. I’m not sure what expression flickered across my face, whether it was disappointment or hope.
Cassandra’s eyes widened slightly “Thank you for returning my jacket Mark. So how have you been?”
“Busy in the main... and odd” I stated.
“Odd? In what way has it been odd?” Nikki leaned back against the fence as Cassandra’s fingernail began describing ever more complex patterns on her jeans, meandering back and forth from the girls’ knee and almost up to her crotch. Nikki breathed in deeply and closed her eyes, one hand gripping Cassandra’s left shoulder the other digging into the material on her left thigh.
My eyes remained fixed on Nikki for a brief moment before returning to Cassandra’s to watch them darken slowly from pink to a fiery red. “There’s been a dream...”
“Dreams are good...”
“I think it’s a good dream... it just evaporates in the daylight...”
I heard Nikki moan lightly from behind Cassandra as she asked “Is it a familiar dream?”
“I... don’t know... I think so... four or five times a week and yet... it was so familiar... like a forgotten memory...” An expression crossed her face that I was unable to fathom, something like satisfaction mixed with sadness.
The world began to shrink once again as it had done at the concert, the sounds of the music blaring from the open doors faded; Cassandra’s right knee, bare below a short rah-rah skirt moved as if through liquid to meet mine as the background seemed to lose focus. The gay men beyond Nikki became indistinct, ghosts moving across a rippling pool of oil; Joanna and Lucy just pale shadows on the periphery of my sight seeming to twist within their embrace. Nikki remained visible but seemed to glow from within and her image seemed to flow as she arched her back pressing it against the rough texture of the wooden fence.
That electric touch seemed to crawl through my knee where her flesh touched my denim clad leg spreading so slowly through my body. My eyes were locked on Cassandra’s and yet I was able to see all within our own bubble of reality. Cassandra’s nipples stood out like bullets through her blouse as Nikki’s were tiny nubs beneath the first ‘y’ and the capital ‘D’ in the slogan ‘Only really good little Dutch boys get to put their fingers in this DYKE!’
I knew, but had no idea how, that Cassandra’s fingernail was writing a spell in arcane lettering upon Nikki’s leg as her nails dug viciously into her tormentor’s shoulder. I could smell and feel the heat from both of the women’s pussy’s and knew that Nikki’s was clean shaven and that Cassandra’s always mimicked the hair on her head.
Cassandra was breathing through her nose as her right hand forefinger began etching unknowable runes onto my left thigh. The flow of power into me increased and spread rapidly although I seemed to be aware as each and every atom of my flesh became infected. As it surged up my cock I knew that I had never been this hard before in my life.
“Dreams are good... you should always... follow your dreams... wherever they lead...” she whispered; I knew that our three hearts were beating in unison as our sensations flowed back and forth, the intensity Jacob laddering with each pulse. The three of us disintegrated together losing individuality for the most finite and eternal of moments.
Mundane reality slowly reasserted itself as I heard birds begin to sing their dawn chorus. The three of us still sat on the single bench, still touching as we had been; we were alone in the garden. The back doors to the club were shut and padlocked, the lights within extinguished; all the other benches were stacked on the tables except for ours. Cassandra smiled and stood up, stepping back over the bench with a supple grace lifting our hands to follow. The sky was brightening rapidly above her raven black hair.
Nikki regained her composure before me “Can we take him home Cassie... please...?”
Cassandra dropped Nikki’s hand and stroked her cheek “Not tonight... or even this morning darling Nikki... today I am yours and you are mine...”
She led the two of us to the gate in the rear fence which was oddly
unlocked. Outside she turned to my crest fallen face and kissed me lightly on the lips, “Soon... dear Mark... soon...” and turned down the alley leading Nikki away waving to me as they turned the corner and out of sight. .......
Ten minutes later the sun broke the horizon as I turned the key in the lock on my door. The answer phone blinked insistently and relayed the message that I wasn’t needed at work for the next couple of days much to my relief. I fell onto the fresh sheets of my bed fully clothed and fell fast asleep. .......
...and I dreamt of a small cottage surrounded by a blossoming garden, the sounds of waves crashing gently on the shore... .......
The next morning I remembered my dream, a dream that I had as a small child over twenty years before; a dream that had always left me with a perfect sense of serenity. A dream to follow... .......
The sea sparkled to my left in the late morning sunlight as I drove the Landie down the seldom used coastal road. The Satnav remained silent on the dashboard after the epileptic fit it threw when I had turned on to it. Twelve seconds of “You have left the highway, stop immediately” had been enough for me to pull the power lead out of it. The radio had remained silent after the newscaster had ridiculed a bunch of “New-Age hippies” being arrested for trying to get through the temporary cordon thrown around Stonehenge as the police did every year.
The window beside me was wound down fully allowing the briny air to wash over me, the smog of ‘Olde London Town’ banished into memory. The hedges on the landward-side of the road, which was rapidly changing into something less than a lane, grew high and wild; often blocking the sight of the countryside even from the elevated view of the Landie. I shifted into four-wheel drive and slowed as grass began to grow up in the middle of the increasingly broken and ruptured tarmac.
The sea view remained unobstructed, the land slowly falling away to the shore in a blanket of coarse grasses and the occasional white explosion of Campion bursting from every rocky outcrop. Just after turning onto the unapproved road the land had fallen away completely at a hard right hand turn; a vertical drop had beckoned me as I pulled the steering wheel hard around to the right. The Landie rolled and dipped as I dropped the gears still further; my attention switched between the vista and the road I was crawling along.
I’d glance at the path the wheels of the vehicle wanted to take, sure that they knew what they were doing and looked out across the white tipped waves inexorably rolling into the stony beach below. The calls of the Seagulls washed over me as my hand light on the steering wheel would swing from side to side; the birds would swoop down to the sea and the shore in an acrobatic display that would make any Stunt Pilot die with envy.
The bonnet of the Landie reared up as it drove up a small hillock marked by a large oak tree and my gaze moved to follow. As it crested the summit and the vehicle levelled the acres of sky swooped down to my journey’s end.
A small cottage stood a hundred yards in front of me; the lane I was driving on had ceased to be and was now nothing more than a path of shorter grass through a wild meadow. The roof of slate was green with moss, the occasional grey tiles poking through. A low dry-stone wall surrounded the house on the landward side failing to keep the planted flowers within or the haphazard nature of the meadow without. As the walls reached down towards the sea they gradually disappeared beneath the soil and shingle. Two small trees stood either side of the ramshackle gate as quiet sentinels guarding and inviting the world outside to the world within. A thin stream of smoke curled and twisted as it rose lazily from the single chimney.
Sitting in the Landie, fingers poised on the ignition key I considered the dream that had lead me here; at the same time I knew what lay ahead of me and yet it all was new. Parts of the dream had been lucid beyond belief; the smells and sensations as real as they were now. Other parts were just unfocused feeling; the vague sense of coffee at my lips or sweat slickened flesh beneath my fingertips; the chill of an adrenalin rush. Some of my conversation, within the next spin of the earth; as clear as if it was being played back on Dolby surround sound and yet watching Cassandra speak was like an old fashioned Silent Movie without sub-title panels. The contradictions coiled and spiralled within me.
I switched off the engine and left the incongruous mechanism atop the hillock, in the shade of the lone ancient tree and climbed out. I stood beside an ancient standing stone looking out across the vista, I noted four other stones forming part of a great circle about the cottage; I knew that there were more surrounding the dwelling on the far side and beneath the waves rolling into the shore.
I walked slowly through the short grass, my left hand surfing across the top of the longer blades; the coarseness of the vegetation scratching, caressing, tickling my palm simultaneously. White butterflies danced in and out of the long stems as two bees raced over to investigate me; the new intruder. They orbited around me, one landing briefly on my outstretched hand as the other alighted on my bare right knee beneath my ‘cargo’ shorts. I paused as they crawled over my flesh as if checking my credentials and whether or not I belonged.
I knelt down on my empty left knee and unfastened my walking boot, pulling it off with my woollen sock. The two bees joined each other on my shoulder as I switched knees and removed my other boot and sock. Standing, feeling the stiff blades of grass crumple under my bare souls, the bees seemed satisfied and flew off to resume their guardian roles.
I breathed deeply, inhaling the salty air; a scent of Lavender wafted from the direction of the cottage as I resumed my stroll through the idyllic scene. The sun beat down on my back piercing my shirt with its heat as I neared the sentinel trees. The garden was a bedlam of colours and scents; even though it was so late in the year a nest of nettles and Clematis were vying for attention as they bloomed against the western gable end of the house. A Passion flower spread its tendrils holding sway on the opposite side.
The grass beneath my feet had become softer and more luxuriant than any man-made carpet I had ever walked upon as I approached the porch of the building. I laughed as I saw a black cat sitting atop a stone plinth beside the door; it ignored me completely as it rolled a paw over its face completing its ablutions. The bare wooden door consisted of four twisted and warped wooden planks covered in a multitude of knots; the dark gaps between varying in width leaving the impression that it would fall apart the first time it was opened.
I was three steps away when the door swung silently inwards. Cassandra stepped through into the light; “Glad to see you found your way here Mark” she smiled. Her feet were bare on the stone floor. She was dressed in a light blue cotton dress that rose from a frayed edge just below her knees; buttons ran up the front, the top two undone revealing her lightly tanned skin and a golden chain-link necklace holding a single emerald below the hollow of her throat. Her hair was a wavy brown, the fringe haphazard across her forehead above a pair of deep brown eyes. A smattering of freckles spread out either side of her nose. I knew that this was Cassandra’s true face, the face that she never revealed.
“Not the easiest of places to find...” I smiled back, “impossible I imagine if I hadn’t had a dream to follow...”
“You remember it all” she stated as she stepped forwards, fingers entwining through mine as she raised herself onto her tiptoes and kissed me tenderly on the lips. Her power flowed into me as if reacquainting itself with a childhood hiding place. She dropped down onto her soles her thumbnails sliding up and down on my palms.
“All of my part, though parts are rather... ethereal to say the least...”
“As it is with me... if there were no surprises life would be somewhat dull.”
“I wasn’t sure the Landie would make it along that last stretch, must be so much easier on a broomstick...”
“It would be, I imagine, if such a magical device existed, I prefer my Ducati Desmosedici!” she nodded to my left at the black beast of a motorbike nestled in a hollow beneath the Passion flower. She let go of my left hand and led inside the cottage.
I gazed around the room, so familiar and yet so new; the room was bright even though there was no artificial light and the windows were small. All of the windows, the two to the front and the two to the rear were thrown wide open allowing the sea breeze to wander through the house. The door to the beach stood ajar a few pebbles scattered at its foot around a set of small wet footprints. To the left within a high arched fireplace stood a wrought iron range; the glowing embers shining through the grill keeping a large old kettle gently steaming on top of it. Pots, pans and utensils hung from rails each side of the flue which disappeared up into the chimney breast.
Either side of it in the natural recesses created by the chimney stack were two sets of drawers with shelving rising all the way into the apex of the roof. All of them were crammed full of bottles, jars and tins, the odd candle; the highest shelf almost five metres in the air behind the King’s Trusses of the roof. Almost all of them contained foodstuffs; I grinned and winced simultaneously as I saw the iconic forms of four Heinz baked beans tins and the dark brooding shape of a jar of Marmite. A large over-stuffed settee sat to my left beneath the front window, the black cat lithely walked over the sill and spiralled three times beside the arm before settling down and lifting one paw to cover its eyes.
Cassandra’s hand held mine as she let me continue to drink in the details of the room. Opposite the settee beneath the southward window sat a modern simple wooden table with three chairs tucked beneath it; a large vase crammed full of blue Lavender stood in the centre, two mugs of gently steaming coffee in front of them. A large hand stitched rug lay between them, covered in Celtic symbols and runes with a golden knotwork circle surrounding a Triskelion spiral at its centre.
The other end of the single room cottage was dominated by a large wrought iron bed with a fluffy plain white duvet that hung down both sides to reach the flag-stoned floor. Beneath each window either side of the bed sat large oak chests with candles of various shapes, sizes, colours and age. A few of them were adhered to the dark wood with solid pools of wax.
Above the bed a tapestry hung frayed and faded with age; it depicted four characters that I instinctively knew were the “Youth of Cups” and the “Knight of Wands” at each end, with the “King of Swords” and the “Queen of Coins” sat upon ornate thrones between them. My eyes locked on to the eyes of the Youth of Cups, the resemblance to Cassandra unmistakeable. I felt her smiling beside me as she raised her right hand and pointed her ancient wand at the Knight of Wands dragging my eyes to it. I felt no shock or surprise as I recognised my own face woven in thread centuries before.
I felt a surge of energy emanating from my centre and travelling to my shoulder and down my right arm to flow into Cassandra. She breathed deeply beside me as she lowered her wand and her head fell back, her hair rippled down her back and a low keening sound rose from her mouth. I felt my eyes glow with the hidden power and for a moment the world held its breath; dust motes ceased there slow descent in the bright light streaming through the window and birds froze mid-cry outside in the air.
Cassandra’s keening ceased and the world resumed.
I turned Cassandra towards me and wrapped my arms about her holding her close. Our chests rose and fell together; our hearts beating to the same rhythm. She looked to the tapestry “Take a closer look at the King and Queen...” she said. The Queen had eyes the same shade as Cassandra’s and the King had my jaw line.
“I take it there is a story behind this...” I asked, Cassandra nodded and reluctantly broke our embrace leading me to the kitchen table. She lifted her mug of lukewarm coffee, pausing for a moment to let it heat till steam once more rose from its surface before taking a sip. I watched her and then lifted my own, I let my ‘will’ move into the liquid and felt as its temperature rose; Cassandra laid her finger lightly on my wrist.
I looked up at her, the flow of heat moving from the mug into my hands; “The trick with this trick
is to know when to stop... but that was impressive for a novice...”
“So... I’m a witch... or wizard or whatever? Are we distant... very distant cousins I hope... please don’t tell me we’re two siblings seperated at birth by an evil stepmom!”
Cassandra’s teeth gleamed as she smiled broadly, “No, not very distant cousins or distant cousins...” she paused as she watched my face begin to fall; “... we are not related at all. The story behind this...” she looked over at the tapestry, “...well once upon a time...”
“Far, far away?”I added as her teeth shone again.
“Don’t all the best stories start that way?” her eyes twinkled, “Far, far away... across the Irish Sea at least. Don’t take the tapestry too literally, without a doubt there was a lot of poetic license used in its making. The ‘King and Queen’ were our ancestors, somewhere around eight hundred years ago.” I whistled lightly trough my teeth as she continued, “His name was believed to be Maccus and she was Bèatha, her father was the head of a large clan and Maccus the son of a wandering craftsman, possibly a wheelwright or some such. It basically gets a little ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at this point suffice to say that Bèatha’s mother, Medb, an adept herself, didn’t approve of their love. It is said that she sensed the Serpent within Maccus...”
“The Serpent?” I asked raising an eyebrow questioningly.
“The Serpent... the same one that was cast out of the Garden of Eden... the same one that is oft blamed for the evils of the world...” Cassandra lowered the mug from my hands and took hold of them. “When you heated the coffee you felt a power surge through you... that is what the True Wiccan call ‘The Serpent’, a power that naturally is stronger in women than it is in men.”
This time I raised my other eyebrow in light mockery “Its simple biology Mark," Cassandra continued, "the ‘Serpent’ surges back and forth through the bloodline. Carrying a child within you for nine and a half months a strong magical link is forged that stretches all the way back to the very beginning. To the first glimmers of conscience in the earliest forms of life and so links us to the entire world around us, letting us feel and sense it. And letting us guide and persuade it to our desires as it guides and persuades us. A power that the ‘Church’ has always felt threatened by and has always sort out, or at least tried too, and has always destroyed. You felt it within you, an essence that has lied dormant within your bloodline; that was hidden. Deliberately
“Deliberately?” I asked.
“Bèatha was a novice in training under her Mother’s tutelage and expected to be a very powerful Wicca but Medb cared more for her position within the clan than for her daughter’s happiness and wanted Bèatha to marry ‘well’. She called for Maccus and set him a test without Bèatha’s knowledge telling him that if he passed it she would happily let him marry her daughter. Of course the test involved him travelling to a distant land and he was supposed to bring some precious magical gizmo or other back to Medb. Of course Medb’s desire was that Maccus would fail, either dying in the process or failing to find the gizmo but supposedly she took out some insurance as well.”
Cassandra paused to take as drink before continuing “You’re sitting here all these years later suggest that Maccus found the gizmo. Medb’s insurance was a spell she had placed upon Maccus before he left that meant that if he ever found his goal that he would forget all about Bèatha and even the Serpent within him.”
“And the spell was to infect his descendants as well?” I asked.
“So it seems as Medb confessed all to Bèatha on her death bed. By all accounts Medb had been driven insane with remorse and was raving most of the time about how it wasn’t her fault; creating visions of doom to assuage her guilt; talking to a host of ghosts past, present and future. The tale varies a little here as to whether Bèatha sent Medb’s soul screaming all the way down to hell as she tortured her own Mother with unspeakable curses in her last moments or simply forgave her and let her die in peace. The myth is crystal-clear on the point that she did try to use her powers to search for her love. Only towards the end of her life did she take a lover and give birth to a daughter, Aoife ,
who she taught and instructed to continue the search.” Cassandra got up from the table and walked to the shelves on the far side of the range and lifted down a bottle and two small glasses.
“So Aoife taught and instructed her daughters and so on...” I said as Cassandra poured two shots of pale amber liquid from the bottle sliding one across to me.
“Down all the years to me,” she looked across at the tapestry, “my ancestor, Françisquita was obviously a very powerful Wicca when she had the vision that led to the creation of that tapestry.” Her gaze returned to me seemingly slightly sad “Powerful and accurate. Since those days in Spain the Family has used it as our guide and our hope. I was told by my mother of the absolute joy that spread through the Family when I blossomed into adulthood and so resembled the tapestry; it made up for the many generations of disappointment.” Her eyes moistened “It’s a shame that she didn’t live long enough to meet you... even without the prophecy she would have liked you immensely...”
I put my palm to Cassandra’s cheek, feeling a single tear roll down beneath my palm. “I reckon I would have liked her, someone who does such a good job of a daughter has to be admired!” I smiled and got a smile in return. I gave her a moment to compose herself as I lightly caressed her cheek, my eyes flicking across the freckles on her right cheek. I looked down at the rug beside us on the floor.
“I don’t understand how, with these powers, your Family weren’t able to locate mine over all these years?” I asked.
Cassandra lowered my hand and rubbed at her eyes with her right before answering “It’s a big world and unfortunately as it’s become smaller with the likes of air travel the population has increased. Searching for a needle in a haystack that keeps on growing... we also think that part of Medb’s spell was designed to hide you from Wiccan detection. It was only as I entered puberty and my powers began to flourish and mature that I began to have the dreams. Something I got from Françisquita... I’ve dreamt about our life together and the day that we met. I don’t normally do the fortune-teller gig!”
“Maybe Medb’s spell was weakening?” I asked.
“Possibly but it seems to have been quite resilient through the centuries.”
“Maybe... maybe not....” I put my hand into the thigh pocket of my ‘cargo’ shorts and pulled out a rag which I placed on the table. Cassandra stared at the threadbare material. I slowly began to unfold the layers of cloth “This has been in my ‘Family’ forever... I think. It’s always been passed down from father to son as far as I can tell. It’s sorta hard to say... my father told me that he had been given it by his father a fortnight before he died. My father gave it to me... he gave it to me with no fanfare, no... I’m struggling a bit here and that in itself is weird. I mean he died in a car accident two days later but only now am I... thinking, remembering it.”
I paused to gather my thoughts as I lifted the final fold of material. “So damned odd... when he gave it to me he attached no importance to it and I think he had never attached any importance to it... almost as if we were trying to hide it from someone....or something... or some spell.”
On the table in the centre of a tatty old piece of blue velvet, a slight smell of Clove oil wafted up from it, sat a small silver object. It was about two inches across and incredibly old and intricately constructed. A small Triskelion spiral sat inside a silver knotwork hoop; at the very centre a small green stone sat dull even in the bright light that shone across the table through the window.
Cassandra stuttered “Th... th...” she glanced down at the incredibly similar pattern on the rug.
“I think you called it the ‘Gizmo’.”
She lifted a hand hesitantly and then looked at me. “Maybe Maccus managed in some small way to fight Medb’s spell?” I suggested.
Tears poured down Cassandra’s cheeks as I felt my own moisten “Hope... it’s the one thing no spell can ever destroy completely... you can destroy the physical vessel within which it dwells but it will remain forever within the soul...” She reached slowly for the Gizmo as the dam on my memories burst apart, I realised I had never touched it directly. I moved my hand quickly so we would both lay our flesh on the object at the same time. I murmured the name “Bèatha” as Cassandra muttered “Maccus”; at the instant we touched the Emerald in the centre blazed and the room was filled with an incredible white light. For a moment and for an eternity we became one. .......
We sat naked on the rug atop the Triskelion spiral, my arms wrapped around Cassandra as we weaved in a slow circle. The fire within the range extinguished and the sun set below the horizon; the full moon creeping slowly up into the night sky. The only light from six candles sat on top of the trusses beneath the roof, our shadows flowed and flickered around us marking the Runes and symbols as they passed. Our flesh glimmered with the sheen of sweat, our hands sliding as they roamed to and fro over our skin. Our bodies fused and locked together, beating, breathing, pulsing as one. Fingertips used to caress, nails used to excite, tongues used to taste flesh and mouth.
The ebb and flow of our passion arcing around the room causing other unlit candles to burst into flame, books to fall from shelves, bottles and jars to shatter as the pulse of our coupling increased. The black cat that had no name watched with mesmerised eyes from the furthest window till her own heat built and built and she disappeared into the night in search of her own satisfaction. A wind chime outside the beach door crashed in musical medley to the floor as our minds folded and merged into each other. Maccus’s Amulet hanging from two chains around both our necks was bounced and squashed between our chests.
The Serpent surged through and out of us, sparking like electricity between our nipples, fingertips and our tongues. Silent lightning flashed down from a cloudless sky around the cottage fusing sand and stone into grotesque shapes of Fulgurate. Our conjoined sex channelled our energies as the rhythm increased; the bottle and glasses of whiskey, untouched, on the table exploded in a bright orange fireball. The shards of glass flew across the room passing harmlessly through us to imbed themselves in furniture and fixings. The curtains beside the table shredded and the panes of glass in the window melted dripping surreal stalactites from their frames.
Blue lightning began to crawl and creep over our flesh.
We swung in wider and wilder circles from our hips, my hardness twisting within Cassandra’s warmth; the golden thread within the rug beginning to glow and pulsate. The plinth beside the front door cracked and fell apart with a crash. Our hands flew to each other’s shoulder, nails drawing blood as we pulled together; mouth meeting mouth and tongue sliding over tongue.
Maccus’s Amulet burned brightly between us, its unearthly light blazing through our bodies throwing hazy shadows of our skeletons over the cottage walls. The wrought iron bed collapsed in a shower of sparks and the tangy smell of ozone. The iron range glowed with heat as a filigree pattern of fractures flowed across it. I could feel the standing stones around us glow as the ley-lines funnelled energy from the earth towards us.
Our world imploded as I became Maccus, Cassandra became Bèatha, Maccus became Cassandra and Bèatha became me. The four of us spiralled tighter and tighter dragging calling all those who became between us. Both doors slammed open, the front one falling from its hinges as ethereal phantoms raced through. More and more appeared darting through the wrecked windows as well spiralling in towards our weaving bodies. The maelstrom of spirits inhabiting the centuries span faster and faster and tighter and tighter together till we all shrank to a single point and detonated. .......
The King of Swords held the Queen of Coins hand as they looked fondly at the Knight of Wands and the Youth of Cups joined together before them, within the tapestry and without. The bloodlines were at last joined, the circle was complete, the Serpent free. .......
The morning sun struggled to shine through clouds as we walked across the meadow towards the Landrover. The cottage was a wreck. We were heading to the local village to get some supplies. We had cleared up most of the debris; Cassandra had repaired all that she could but even with her considerable talent and power some of the damage was beyond her.
“Do you have it?” I asked.
She pulled the old cassette tape from her jacket pocket, “Right here” she said.
We climbed into the Landie and I pulled it round and headed down the lane watching the cottage disappear in the rear view mirror as Cassandra sat twisted in her seat.
We descended one last hill on the way to the main road, it swept down rapidly to the cliff’s edge before turning away inland for the last half mile. Halfway down the brakes failed as I had known they would; Cassandra gripped my hand painfully on top of the gear stick as I pumped desperately at the left hand pedal. The sheer drop above the wave beaten rocks accelerated towards us, I knew at this speed the old heavy four-wheel drive vehicle would never make the turn; less than fifty yards remained when the brakes finally caught; I applied them as hard as I dared.
The outside wheel ran off the patchy tarmac on to the loose shale beside the road; pebbles and stones spat off the cliffside to fall to the churning sea below. The rear end of the Landie dropped for a moment before we left the road to plough into the field beyond. I pulled the wheel further round and stopped the ’auld gal’ eight yards away from the cliff. The both of us shivered as our hands and feet went cold from the adrenalin hit. I leaned across and kissed my love hard and deep.
We bounced and bumped our way through the field for the last half mile till we met the main road. Cassandra looked at me as we paused on the edge of the mundane world. I leaned over and kissed her lightly.
She slipped the tape into the machine and Spider Stacey's crackly voice soon joined the melody singing the first chorus.
Putting the Landrover into gear I pulled out onto the main road, my left hand in Cassandra’s, our eyes fixed on each other as we said the title line to each other quietly.
"Love you till the end..."
The petrol tanker slams hard into the side of the Landrover.
Final song by the Pogues; lyrics sung by Spider Stacy.
Track No.8 from the ‘Poguemahone’ album released in1995.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/the-way-of-the-wicca.aspx">The Way of the Wicca</a>