Copyright 2015 Richard MacPherson
All Rights Reserved
This story is written for and inspired by my dear friend, Lisa Elliott, without whose kind heart this would not have been possible.
The future looked very uncertain for Alisha Sorenson.
As she packed uncountless boxes of personal effects to move out for her fashionable downtown Philadelphia condo, she tried not think about the reasons why she was leaving. The mountain of boxes had accumulated in the center of the nearly empty. Books, clothes, drafting equipment and supplies, dishes and other kitchen panoply. Jared had finished moving his earlier in the week and taken them to his new loft apartment in midtown Manhattan. She sighed heavily. Eight years gone, just like that, in the blink of an eye. She tried to stem the rising tide of anger that rose within her. If only she had not been enshrouded in her introverted caccoon of her architectural career, she might have seen it coming. Jared’s betrayal had completed blind-sided her as had his affair with his captivating young paralegal. She was not even sure how long it had been going on. It was until she became pregnant with his child that Jared had been forced to come to her to ask for the divorce. Now, three months later, she was on her own, the world she thought she knew in ruins around her. Sometimes she just could not help the tears that gathered in her eyes in these anguished moments. How was she ever going to love again?
His settlement had been very generous and matters had been concluded quickly. She chewed on the bitter memory. He could not wait to get away from her. And she had acquiesed, wanting desperately to start a new life far away from her old one. Now, in the next several hours, she would be en route to rural western Massachusetts to an ancestral home that she had not even known existed two months ago. When she had begun searching through genealogy records for a place to go far away from the memories to establish a new life, she found a record of a branch of the family that lived in Granby, a small hamlet near Holyoke in western Massachusetts. There, members of her family had lived until the 1820s when they were forced to move east to Boston and finally moving southward to Philadelphia.
Two months ago, she had flown into Logan Airport and rented a car to take the long drive out to Granby. It was pastorale and idyllic and far different from the life she had been leading. It was until she found the rundown old manor house that some had drawn her to take a look. The property was abandoned and no one had lived there since the Second World War. She knew that it would take a lot of work and was just the thing that she dive into and put her architectural skills to work on and hide the soothing sanctuary of work. Yet it was not the crumbling old house that finally made her decision. It was something else entirely.
Outside in the massive overgrown patch of high grass and brambles stood a lone grove of oak trees. As she explored the grove, she came upon a hidden sanctuary. Three of the massive oak trees had grown together and someone in the distant past had hollowed out the massive combined tree trunks to create the walls of a beautiful gazebo. Its roof had been fashioned from the boughs of the oaks that had deliberately been tied together in a thatchwork of branches and intertwined with ivy, mistletoe and honeysuckle. Around the base of the tree trunks, buttress had been carved which held up a semicircular bench which around the walls of the gazebo. As she walked inside, she could feel the cobblestone floor which was now moss covered and provided a soft cushion under sandeled feet. As she sat down on the bench, she felt a soothing calm come over her and a benevolent spirit that seemed to radiate like an aura. She pictured herself her at a portable drawing table doing her sketches. From that moment, her mind was made up.
She went back and talked to the estate agent about the place. At first, he was little mystified at why she wanted such a ramshacked old place, yet when she explained that she was an architect looking for a fixer-upper and an ongoing project, he relented. When she asked why the place had been abandoned so long, she saw a queer look steal over his face. Finally, with a hesitant sigh, he said that the last 3 tenants had moved out because they claimed the place was haunted. When she burst out laughing, he became slightly indignant and assured her this was no joke. Suddenly, childhood memories of spooks and goblins and joys of Halloween rose in her mind. It had always been a day that had brought her such joy.
It was then that she agreed to take the place.
Now, two months later, the contractors had nearly finished their accelerated renovations and she was about to get into a truck with all of her worldly belongings. With a resolute smile, she closed the door on her old life and climbed in the cabin of the truck. Seven hours later she arrived in Granby to see that the manor house had received an entirely different facelift. There was an enclosed porch that led into the living room of the house. Off to the right was a great stone fireplace with a dark rosewood mantlepiece and a great old mirror that hung over it. She tried to keep the inside the house as much as possible like the original design. When she had unloaded the truck and set all the boxed in their proper places, she set to the task of making her herself at home.
Over the course of the next 3 days, she began to think that the rumours of the house being haunted had been false until one night she was awakened by the sound of a door closing. As she came down the stairs slowly to investigate, she thought she heard the sound of footsteps. Picking up a walking cane from the umbrella stand at the bottom of the stairs, she walked carefully towards the living room with the cane at the ready.
That is when she saw him.
He was luminous figure, almost like a normal man with a glowing aura surrounding him. He paced back and forth in the living room for a few moments before finally going over to the mantlepiece and taking something in his hands, staring at it. Only then did she sees something like tears on his face and realized the thing that he might be holding his hands was a picture. With an audible groan, he suddenly vanished and the living room became dark again. The same thing would happen over the next 3 nights and she watched spellbound as he repeated the same routine each night. It was not until the last night when she returned to her bedroom that she saw the luminous figure outside through the window, treading the newly installed brick path that led to the gazebo.
She began getting up in the middle of the night to wait for him. She soon learned that his routines varied. And through watching him, she learned many interesting things about the old house that she had bought. One night she very stealthily followed him into the roomy pantry at the end of the immense kitchen. She watched breathlessly as he knelt, exploring the floor boards exploring them carefully with the sweep of a luminous hand. When it seemed to find what he was looking, his etheral form vanished. It would not be until the next day in the full light of day when she explored the floor of the pantry that she found a cunningly contrived latch that she will pulled and slid it back revealed a secret chamber below and set of wooden steps that led down into the darkness.
Retrieving a flashlight, she took carefully step down into the dusty chamber. It was a fairly small space, perhaps the size of a small bedroom, entirely lined with shelves. As the beam of her flashlight moved along the shelves, she saw dozens of varying sized jar from small to large, all with the accumulated dust of what must have been a century or more. On closer inspection, she saw that there were not only herbs of every imaginable description, but small dead animals in the larger jars that had pickled and preserved. At this last discovery, she gasped audibly and stumbled back as she realized what this place was.
She had stumbled upon a witch’s lair.
She quickly fumbled back the stairs and slammed the secret door in place. Her heart racing, she went back into the kitchen and poured several stiff shots of scotch. Yet the realization slowly dawned that she could not escape the profound calm and beauty of the old house. Whatever magic had been wrought here was not of a malevolent kind, rather bathed in the most benevolent beauty. The entire house seemed to radiate in an invisible aura of peace. With that revelation, the lair of the witch seemed to take on a different, more magical aspect.
It would two nights later as she watched him making his way through the back hall and suddenly disappear just before coming to the back door. Taking quick steps down the long hallway, she came to the great oaken door with thick glass inset. Looking outside, she saw him as he walked towards the slow rise of a distant hillock. As he ascended, he knelt at the crest of the hill and it almost looked like he was praying, only to stand and finally vanish completely.
The next day she went out to the hillock to investigate. Its crest was overgrown with brambles which she quickly understood were the remnants of an ancient rose garden. Returning to the house, she soon found a rushed scythe and went back to the hillock where she cleared a path through the thick stand of thorny bristles. Once she found that it was the moss covered ruin of an old cemetery. Many of the stones were overturn and crumbling, yet one stood out from all the others, almost as if it had the constant touch of a caretaker’s hand. When she lifted it up, she saw the flat archaic shape the lettering that had been overtaken by lichen, moss and time. Using the tip of the scythe, she began to scratch away the accumulated passage of time until the incised form of a Celtic rose emerged and the name that was written below in raised beautiful script.
MARGARET LEIGHTON 1692-1728
MAY YE REST LONG IN THE SLUMBER OF LOVE
Sitting back on the other ageless stones, it suddenly became crystal clear. She was his lady love that even in death his spirit pined endless to be reunited with. She must also be the witch and suddenly felt that that it was some of her spirit that permeated the old house. As she made her way back to the house, she could not shake the feeling that something had drawn her to this place. It was a thought that at once frightened and fascinated her.
When he did not appear for a few days, she thought she might have done something to anger his spirit. Yet on the third day when night fell, she again was awoken by the sad murmur of his passage through the house. This time as she watched him, she saw him walking through each room, run his hands along the walls, along the window sill and even run his hands along the intricate brickwork of the fireplace. Indeed, he visited every room in the entire hourse before coming at last to the bedroom. As he stood before the antique bed, the luminous tears formed on his face. It was at that moment that it came to her that he was the architect of this great old house. Every brick and plank in it had been placed by him with loving care.
And that he had built it for her.
Again, he did not appear for a few nights. By now, she was spellbound at the developing mystery which had enshrouded her life. When he did not reappear, it was as if a veil of sadness had been drawn across her life. On a fourth night when he did not come, she began to worry and went downstairs to wait. She did not know what she would do if he had disappeared for good. A feeling of melancholy descended on her as the hours began to wear away towards dawn. Finally, when sleep threatened to overtake her, she roused herself and turned to go up to bed. When she turned into the main hallway, she saw the ghost waiting. Staring at her.
Only this time, it was not him. It was her.
Slowly, the ghost began to walk towards her. And as it came closer, a single shocking truth began to dawn on her until when she stood not an arm’s length away, it became an immutable inescapable fact.
The ghost was her.
In every detail, it was like looking in an illuminated mirror, she was starting at a ghostly form of herself. When she started to speak, the ghost held up a single finger to her lips and motioned for her to follow. Holding her breath until she could bear it no more, she followed the specter into the old library. All the dark wooden shelves were now empty, but at one time must have been filled with hundreds of volumes. The luminous specter glided along in front of the bookcase to its end. With the sweep of her illusory hand, she pointed to a single raised knob almost hidden beneath the shelf. She took the flashlight to illuminate the knob and pushed where the ghost indicated. There was the sudden sound of a deadfall behind the bookcase and suddenly a panel opened and a frosted glass cannister rolled out across the wood of the shelf and into her waiting hands. When she turned to look at the ghost, she looked down to her hands where she opened as if she were cradling something in her palms.
And then she disappeared.
Hurrying to the kitchen, she flicked on the overhead fluorescent light and was startled by its harshness. Sitting down at the table, she began to examine the frosted cannister. The top was made of old tin and fastened to the top of the cannister by means of threads etched into the glass affixed with sealing wax. When she gently unscrewed the lid, the wax gave way and the cannister opened with a rush of air. Turning upside down, a piece of rolled parchment slid out on the table tied by a single red silk tie. Unable to contain her excitement, she untied the tie and gently spread the parchment out on the table. It was written in a cursive elegant handwritten script that was so indicative of the colonial period and she slowly read the words.
I must act quickly...death will soon come to claim me. I have written these words for you to find, only must take these last moments to tell you what moves my heart. I have worked a powerful magick to make these things possible and fear that there will be a great cost....one that I am more than willing to pay. For I am a witch and I have used the magicks taught to me by my mother and her mother before her to call out to you.
I do not know you or your beliefs....I am only hoping that you believe in rebirth. I have used my magick to call out to you, a future incarnation of my spirit, to ask a boon of you. I do not wish to steal your life, only ask that you might grant me this in the final moments of my life. Please help me fulfill the loving bond that fate and destiny have made impossible for me to honor....
I do not know if there is love in your life. If there is, then pass this by and I wish you well and hope that your love is all that you desire. If you find that your life is bereft of love, then I would ask that you look into the Witch’s Window to behold the love of my life. You will never meet a more kind, loving and caring man than him. You will see him as he was in life and if your spirit moves you, you will find your way back to him.....
And as she sat there speechless, the ancient parchment crumbled to dust in her hands.
For a few moments she sat there, unable to comprehend what had just happened. Only when the fluoresecent bulb unexpectedly shattered, spraying the entire kitchen with microscopic rivulets of glass did reality suddenly return. Even after sweeping the glass and replace the fluorescent bulb, she was still lost in the events of the night and looked outside to see the first rays of the rising sun. Making her way up to bed, it was like she was in another world. Yet sleep was fleeting and she awoke again the early afternoon to the sounds of the passage of a tumultuous thunderstorm.
The day drifted along in a haze of uncertainty and doubt. She had the frosted cannister as proof that what occurred last night, yet it was a hollow piece of evidence. She went back to inspect the secret compartment in the bookcase and found no clues there either. As the day wore on towards evening, she regarded the coming night with a mixture of trepidation and wonder. Yet as the sun slowly sank at the western horizon in the rain-washed sky, she found herself eagerly awaiting his return.
And tonight, she was not disappointed.
Soon after a gibbous moon rose in the cloudless night, she heard the mournful treading of his passage. Taking light barefoot steps toward the living room, she stood in the wide frame of the open doorway as he entered from the dining room. It was really like watch a living man surround by an ethereal aura. His features were clear—the long angular face, the sloping regal nose, firm stern chin and slight upturned mouth. Yet the most striking feature was his eyes. Even within the veil of light, they were a pale blue that seem to reflect the light, enhancing their color even further. Then there was a long blond hair, tied back in the traditional colonial style, yet very obviously his own and not a wig.
Suddenly Margaret’s loving words came back to her and found that her heart was racing and she watched fascinated as he crossed to the mantlepiece. When he took up the invisible picture that she knew must be her. Once again she watched the luminous tears trace down his cheek, she found that this time she was crying tears of her own as she watched the obvious pain on his face and anguish in his eyes. As the tears clouded her eyes for a moment, she slipped on the smooth wooden floor and fell hard with a crash against the doorway. When she regained her balance, she looked up to see him staring her at her.
With a sudden intake of breath, she grasped that he had heard the sound.
He took a few steps uncertainly, head cocked to the left, his brow furrowed in puzzlement. Then his shoulders slumped in disappointment and he turned back to the mantlepiece to restore the phantom object of his affections. He then hung his head and his entire frame trembled and his voice shook in a cry of desolation. She wanted to rush forward to comfort him and even as the thought took shape, she knew it was impossible. Suddenly his form melted into the darkness and for a moment she almost felt like she would feel him rush past her and down the long hallway towards the back door of the house.
Quickly, she turned and ran down the hall and flung upon the back door. She saw the distant form of ghostly figure as it ran along the track towards the distant gazebo. Without thought, she was down the steps and sprinting after him down the brick pathway. She saw the illuminary figure enter the gazebo where he stopped and turned around. As she ran towards him, he spread his arms wide and lifted his head to the heavens and disappeared. She stopped at the entrance as the night fell again to enshroud everything in darkness.
Her heart felt suddenly heavy with his loss and turned to go. As she began to walk towards the house, she recognized that the night was suddenly becoming lighter. When she looked about her, she saw the reason. The heavy evening air had become thick with fireflies. She spun about in child-like wonder as they seemed to be everywhere, stretching as far as the eye could see. Something seemed to be drawing them forward for they moved passed her towards a very singular objective. When she turned around, she saw what that was.
They were headed for the gazebo.
Already they were countless numbers of them swirling about inside, their tiny flickering lights pulsing endlessly, and more arriving by the moment. It caused the gazebo to pulse with their reflected light and take on a much more enchanted aspect. She walked slowly towards it almost as if she were being drawn forth. When she was right at its threshold, she stopped and marveled at the delightful mystery of it. It was like she stood on the verge of a magical portal. She stopped suddenly, the memory of Margaret’s words slamming home.
I would ask that you look into the Witch’s Window.
She reached out to touch the swirling cloud of fireflies contained within the gazebo. Was it possible? Quickly, the memory returned of the first day she had visited the property. The ethereal beauty of the gazebo had captured her. It was part of what had drawn her to finally decide to make this her home. With an unexpected gleeful laugh, she stepped passed the threshold and into the center of the gazebo. All about her the fireflies coursed in an ever-moving cloud. She was enthralled by the magic she felt and how it seemed to charge her and lift her heart. And for moment she heard the sound of a woman as she sighed the deepest sound of utter loving contentment, only to find that that voice was her own.
And just as quickly, it was over.
The fireflies dispersed in all directions, scattered as if they were driven by an unseen wind, until she was left in the center of the gazebo in darkness. Yet the feeling stayed with her and stood for a few moments in the darkness as the serenity permeated her soul. With quiet measured steps, she slowly returned to the house and made her way to bed. Sleep came quickly and for the first time since she could remember, she awoke refreshened with thoughts of the future bright in her mind.
The morning seemed fulminant with possibility. She gathered her sketchbook, bag full of pens and other materials and a mug of coffee and went outside to confront her future. Almost with a skip in her step, she traced the pathway towards the gazebo, thoughts of last evening still swirling in her head. She quickly sat down on the bench and began to spread everything out. She took a few moments to ponder the previous evening before quickly became lost her drawings and an hour had passed before noticed that the air was filled with a strange humming sound. She looked around to noticed that a morning mist had risen that had shrouded the gazebo and the surrounding grove in its white mantle.
She stood and stretched, marveling at the ageless beauty of the place. She was about to sit back down when the mist at the edge of the gazebo swirled and parted and suddenly the figure of a man stepped through the mist. He was carrying a wooden toolbox and quickly knelt at the other side of the gazebo. His appearance so stunned her that she stood still as a statue, unable to move. It took another few seconds to register that he had no idea she was there. Lastly came the belated realization of exactly who he was.
It was the figure of her ghost, made flesh and blood.
She watched spellbound as he pulled out a hammer and chisel and been working on the fine filigree woodwork on the top of the bench. He slowly and carefully sat back down on the other side of the gazebo, breathing in short drawn breaths. His face was a study of concentration as he worked the top panel of wood to become what looked like the beginnings of a rose. It slowly dawned on her that she was looking at him create something she had looking at the finished version for weeks. The weight of this knowledge struck her full force.
She was looking across the gulf of time at a man who had been dead for two centuries.
Once he had finished the top part of the rose, he sat back and regarded his work carefully. A slow smile came to his lips of measured satisfaction. She found that slightly upturned smile curiously striking. She was forced to take in his lean features, golden locks that fell across his shoulders and disconcerting blue eyes, trying not to think of how attractive she found him. Suddenly, the smile vanished to be replaced by a look of weary melancholy. He hung his head as of the weight of it seemed to descend upon him.
“Oh, Maggie.....I only you could have been here to see it.”
The shock of hearing him speak forced her to intake a sudden gasp of air that seemed loud in the morning stillness. He suddenly jerked his head up and looked directly at her.
“Is someone there?”
Forcing the words out, she said,”I am...sorry...I did not....mean...to disturb you.”
His face immediately softened.”Sweet Maggie....it is you. You have come to visit. I know that you are only the desperate conjuration of a sad heart, yet I am so glad when you come to see me. Life is ever so lonely since you have been gone....”
Again, the words proved difficult to say.”I.....am.....not....her.”
Suddenly, suspicion crowded his features.”Then what are you? Some demon come to taunt me? A wayward shade come to prey upon my broken heart?”
Quickly, she was up on her feet, raw emotion filling her soul.”I am neither....I have not come to hurt you...rather to heal my own broken heart.”
He immediately softened when he heard the distress in her voice.”Forgive me, my lady....I did not know. Why is it that I cannot see you?”
Pondering her response, she decided that truth was the best.”Because I am in another time distant from your own.”
His response was unexpected. He took a few steps and sat down on the bench, seeming to gauge her words. Finally he looked at her and spoke.
“Then it worked.”
Her surprise was framed in question.”What worked?”
Staring right at her, his voiced wavered.”Maggie’s....enchantment. Her beautiful magick has reached across the distance to bring you here. You sound just like her.”
She took an involuntary step.”You knew that she was going to do this?”
He nodded sadly.”When I returned from my service in the colonial militia, I found her unmarked grave in the cemetery and a loving note written in her final hours speaking of her desperate plan to reach out to you.”
Memories of the frosted cannister immediately sprang into her mind.”She came to me...to tell about you.....God, I don’t even know your name...”
With an arched eyebrow, he said,”It is Alexander, my lady. And you would be kind not to take the Lord’s name in vain.”
This last brought a smile to her lips.”Please forgive me, Alexander. Things are a little bit more.... libertine...in my time. I am very glad to make your acquaintance.”
He stood and bowed slightly in her direction. The utter formality was striking.”Well met, milady. And your name?”
She offered a slight curtsy, even though she knew he could not see it.”I am Alisha.”
I stood thoughtfully for a moment before speaking.”Alee-sha. I am very glad to have made your acquaintance, Lady Alee-sha.”
She smiled, glad that he could not see her grin.”No, Alexander. Just Alisha...one word.
He smiled a bright smile which instantly faded.”Alisha it is. Maggie’s letter said that you would be her reborn spirit. Do you look like her as well? That beautiful wild flaxen blond hair, enchanting brown eyes and crooked smile....her sassy laugh and clever ways.....her...”
Suddenly, he stopped. When she looked at him closely, she could swear he was blushing.
He coughed and looked down before he spoke.”Her.... endowments.”
This time she could not help laughing a rich laugh. Men had always liked her large breasts.
“Yes, Alexander....physically we seem to be alike in every way!”
He smiled and this was a smile of fondness that lingered.”I am glad to have made you laugh, Alisha, even it if it is at my expense. And you do have her beautiful laugh as well.”
She took steps closer to him so that she stood only several feet away.”I do not know how to solve the riddle of the Witch’s Window. Its existence was only revealed to me last night. Do you have any idea where I might be able to find the answer?”
He nodded as he scratched his chin thoughtfully.”Best place to look would be in Maggie’s Witch’s Weir. She would have left some sign for you to find. Do know how to find it?”
“Yes, I do. You showed me...or rather your ghost did.”
He snapped upright and stared at her.”My...ghost?”
“Yes, Alexander. You have been haunting this house for nearly 200 years. I am only hoping you can forgive a lady for making you wait so long...”
Suddenly that brilliant smile returned, only this time did not fade.”There is nothing to forgive, dear Alisha. You have come and that is enough. I am forever in your debt, dear lady.”
He looked at her with curious tilt of his head.”I know that you are not her, Alisha. You are something mysterious and exotic....”
He stopped for a moment before adding,”And I would do anything to mend your broken heart.”
At the mention of that, she felt her heart start to melt, only to see that the image of him had started to fade. Not wanting to let him go, she took quick steps towards him, only to find empty air. She looked up to see the morning mists had dissipated and a bright sun had begun to climb in the eastern sky. Her heart was suddenly wistful and sad at his departure. She knew that he had already begun to creep into the heart. Only then did she think of his words.
“Mysterious and exotic,”she said, testing the words tentatively before squealing in delight,”that is just too cool!”
The afternoon found her down in the secret chamber that Alexander had named her Witch’s Weir. She had quickly found that it more than just a storage place for all manner of magical items. There was a workbench where she appeared to have all manner of string and twine made from hemp and cotton, wire, threaded and gut. There was the traditional cauldron and variety of bowls and vials for the potions and lotions that were tucked away in a rack on a far wall in addition to several smaller cauldrons that reeked of paraffin and were obviously used in candle making. Her last discovery was by far the most interesting.
At the back of her Witch’s Weir was a drafting table which had all kinds of elaborate sketches and designs. She quickly realized that Maggie’s style was quite similar to her own, disturbingly so, and seemed to be yet another reminder of the similarities in their spirits. She had found a folio of sketches that she had rendered for the gazebo from Alexander had obviously worked from in its initial creation. She also Maggie had another character attribute that she shared with her and that was exhaustive manner of her creation. There were literally hundreds of drawings of the gazebo that Maggie had created and took her hours to catalogue them in some kind of order, always look for clues in its construction for how to unlock its secrets. It was early evening before she realized how long she had been work. As made ready to return upstairs, she saw something carved into the wood that had lain hidden by the sheafs of paper. Leaning closer under the flickering light of the flashlight, she saw the hastily carved message.
ALISHA, PLEASE TELL IT WAS NOT A DREAM....COME BACK TO ME.
Her blood ran cold as she realized that it could only be from Alexander. Something had happened. She literally ran upstairs, through the house, out the back door and down the pathway towards the gazebo. When she arrived, she sat down breathless and waited. An hour passed, then another. Nothing happened. She finally realized that the morning mist must have something to do with his appearance. Resolutely, she returned back to the house and went up to bed where she fell into an uneasy sleep. When the first light of dawn broke, she was already dressed out and outfitted for a vigil within the gazebo.
She sat hour after hour patiently waiting. The morning mists came and went with no sign of him. She sketched idly, hummed forgotten tunes, traced imaginary designs in the air. By the end of the day, she had the sad revelation that she had no idea how to reconnect the Alexander. Day after day passed in the same fashion with a mounting sensation of frustration in her heart. Each day she returned to the old house in sadness. There was a growing fear that the living Alexander was now surrounded by doubt that what they had shared had been real.
Finally, after two weeks had passed, she awoke with a strange sensation of possibility. She knew what she had to do. She grabbed her laptop and stuffed in her messenger bag and then a drawing pad with a dozen pencils. She slipped on her favorite jeans and faded jersey and after a quick trip to the kitchen to prepare lunch, she made her way to the gazebo. Once she got there, she opened her messenger bag and took out her laptop. Removing the folio of her drawings and began to work furiously. The hours clicked away and she lost hersef in the creative whimsy. Inside the gazebo, she felt its spirit infuse her and her drawing tablet began filled with intricately detailed drawing of the gazebo. When she saw the light of the setting sun in the western sky, she stopped and looked at what she had created. It was an elaborate headpiece that fit over the top of the gazebo with supports were like a frame that went down the sides creating a wooden arch like the stone arches of the great gothic cathedrals. When she stopped looked closely, she saw it meant.
The Witch’s Window was now a Witch’s Door.
Yet her next thought chilled her to the bone. This meant nothing without Alexander to create its majesty, the Witch’s Window would remain a Witch’s Window. And she had no idea about how to find out the difference between the two. She must reestablish her connection with Alexander, yet she had no idea how that might happen, what special condition might be missing that had made the connection possible in the first place. After an absent-minded dinner, she slowly climbed the stairs to the bedroom. Slipping under the sheets, she once more fell into a fitful and troubled sleep, only to awake two hours from a poignant dream where she heard the ghost of Alexander calling to her. When she sat up in bed, wiping the cobwebs away did the dream make the most amazing sense.
The key was course Alexander. Only it was not the one living two centuries past that she had met and conversed with.
It was the ghost that had haunted this house for two centuries.
She quickly donned her robe and went downstairs. She took careful steps toward the landing, she began to grasp a truth that she was about to give life, something she had pushed out of her mind since all of this started. She took the light and went into the living room and stood against the fireplace and steeled herself to say the words she must. With gathered breath, she spoke.
“Alexander, can you hear me? Please come to me, my love. It is me....Maggie...I have been reborn.”
She waited as the anxiety rose within her. She had avoided thinking that it was actually why she was here. The spirit of the women that Alexander loved had found new life and slumbered within in her to be reawakened. It did not make her any less of who she was, only part of the perpetual mystery of the great journey of life.
Suddenly he appeared and took tentative steps towards her across the living room. His face was a mixture of hope, fear, love and turmoil. His spectral form stopped scant feet away from her and stared. All the emotions suddenly melded into one of extreme joy. The luminous tears poured down his cheeks and he reached out to her with a trembling hand.
She could barely contain her own tears.”Alexander, you must help me. There may be a way for us to be together again, but you must help open the Witch’s Window so that I may speak to you again in life.”
For a moment, he just stood staring at her. His features gradually softened and he lifted ghostly hands to frame her face. Only then did the look of boundless love cross his face and he nodded and turned away to walk towards the back door of the old house. She followed a few steps behind, stopping almost as an afterthought to grab her folio of sketches before chasing the retreating ghost.
He quickly made his way to the center of the gazebo where he raised his arm in an outstretched fashion as he had before. This time he stared at her with the most loving smile for his ghostly form disappeared in the darkness. She waited rapt for what she knew what must come next. Only this time, it was not whimiscal magic of the fireflies. She soon heard the distant sounds of a flock of wings flapping and barely had time to hit the ground before it blew past her.
Hundreds of bats in a frenzy of flight, headed directly for the Witch’s Window.
She watched captivated as they flew into the narrow chapel of the gazebo and gathered in a roiling mass of black wings and shrieking cries. For a moment they just hovered there and then there was a flash of blind light within the gazebo. Shielding her eyes until it passed, she carefully looked up from her prone vantage to see that the gazebo. She leapt up, grabbing her drawing folio, and ran into the center of the gazebo. It was empty. She twirled around several times before falling to one knee as dizziness overtook her. Suddenly, the rushing humming sound she had heard before filling her ears and she fell into unconsciousness.
When she awoke, the soft light of early morning filled the gazebo. Her nightdress and robe were wet with the morning dew and her body felt the stiffness of sleeping on the roughness of the cobblestone floor of the gazebo. As she stirred slowly and tried to rise to her feet, she heard a familiar voice speak in the morning calm.
She turned to see Alexander sitting on the bench of the gazebo. She was on her feet in an instant and ran to embrace him. Only to have her loving hands pass right through him. She pulled back with a few tenuous steps and looked at him.
He shrugged and smiled at her.“Apparently the gulf of time still separates us, but at least we can see each other now. I tried to awaken you, but to no avail.”
She looked at his handsome face with its mesmering blue eyes and long blond hair that framed it. He now wore that same look of boundless love and she wanted desperately to rush into his arms. At least he could see her now. She suddenly became conscious of time and the fact that she had no idea how long they would have together.
“Alexander, did Maggie ever tell you the difference between the Witch’s Window and the Witch’s Door?”
He nodded sagely.”Yes...the Witch’s Window was for beholding the past and the Witch’s Door opened passage through.”
She nodded in return.”So this is why we can only see each other, not touch.”
Alexander sighed heavily.”Sadly so, dear lady. I have so many things I want to tell you—“
She stepped forward to interrupt him.”And I am so very eager to hear them, Alexander. Only there is something that I must show you.”
Reaching into her folio, she pulled out the drawing she had created and knelt to spread on the ground between them. Alexander knelt with her to look at the drawing. His hands hovered above the drawing as if he were tracing the lines of its construction. He took a few moments to study it carefully, almost as if he were memorizing the drawing.
He looked up her again.”Are you thinking that this new addition with alter its purpose?”
She nodded her affirmation.”Don’t ask me why, Alexander. It was an inspiration which got while I was sitting in the gazebo. You can make the changes.”
He stood upright in mock indignation with a raised eyebrow.”Do you doubt me, my lady?”
She stepped forward until she was only inches away from his handsome face.”Doubt never crossed my mind, my love. I have the enduring faith that only love can provide.”
And that his face melted into a beautiful smile.”Oh, Alisha. How can you be sure?”
She ran a hand over the contour outlining his face.”Because I am her reborn and apparently that love has been reborn as well. I cannot explain it. I only know I love you!”
He reached to pull her to him in a loving embrace, only remembering at the last moment that that was not possible. Sighing deeply, he pulled away from her regarding her for a moment. Then his mind flashed with the fabric of a thought nearly forgotten and remembered.
“Alisha, I asked Maggie once about the magick of the Witch’s Window. She told me that the construction of the gazebo made it work in conjunction with the elements of nature. Wood, earth and stone were bonded to together to make the magick possible. Yet it was the living force of nature that would give it power and bring the magick to life. It would be all of God’s creatures that would make this possible.”
She suddenly remembered the fireflies and the bats. They were the forces which actually brought the Witch’s Window to life. Yet the common thread of how to enact those forces seemed a mystery and one that might be difficult to solve. Until she thought about the common thing which had brought them to life.
Alexander’s ghost. The spirit of the dead which was able to call upon the force of life once inside the Witch’s Window.
Alexander’s melodic voice brought her back from revelry.”My love, I can create it the Witch’s Door from memory, only it will take many months to complete....”
His words made her smile.”You forget, dear one. We have the luxury of time on our side. What may take many months for you to complete will become apparent the next time I behold your beautiful gazebo, my loving wonderful man!”
With that she saw that beautiful smile again. She reached involuntarily to touch him, only to see his smile shimmer and fade until he vanished altogether into the hazy morning light. She let on an exasperated sigh.
“And sometimes this time thing just sucks!”
Yet even as trudged wearily back to the house, she could help feeling bolster by the events of the day. He had actually seen her! He had looked in her eyes and she loved what she saw in his. Now she would do almost anything to make the crossing to be with him. She stopped at the door when she thought had deeply she did love him. She could help thinking that it was true that Maggie’s love for Alexander had been reborn in her. After a long soak in a tube filled with strawberry scented crystals and soothing cup of ginger tea, she felt rejuvenated. Indulging in an extravagant dinner, she absentmindedly began chopping carrots and onion, she reflected on what the future would probably hold.
Scooping the vegtables into a large iron wok, she filled a large copper pot with water and out on the stove. Set the wok next to it, she turned up the flame under both. Suddenly, she looked toward the back door. It was now fully dark outside. She had no idea what would be waiting for her in the morning. The idea filled with both excitement and fear. She was trying to come to terms with the fact that somewhere inside Maggie had been waiting for this moment. What was more difficult to accept was that she was Maggie and had been reborn into this body. Two months ago, she had just been Alisha, an architect from Philadelphia. Now she was something else entirely.
Pouring the rotini into the boiling water, she brought the heat under the wok to a medium flame. She could soon hearing sound of the sizzling oil. Sprinkling generously with pepper, tumeric and cumin, she stirred the vegetables and was treated the satisfying aroma of the pungent mixture. Working simultaneously, she stirred the noodles while blending the vegetable synthesis into a heady concoction. Her mind continued to race as she watched the bubbling water churning the rotini furiously. For a few moments she became lost the seething liquid. Suddenly, someone called her back to reality. A voice calling her name. She turned around to see herself standing staring at her. The figure immediately put her finger to her lips.
Alisha involuntarily closed her eyes and then opened them. She was gone.
Catching her breath, she had only a moment before the rotini suddenly erupted in a foamy geyser. Shutting off the flame under the pot, she leaned against the stove. Once the superheated water had receded, she poured the rotini in a collander and into a waiting bowl. Giving the vegetable mixture a final stir, she poured it over top of the rotini. Taking the bowl to the table, she sat down and gathered her thoughts before eating. Looking down at the food, she plunged the spoon in, delighting its rich smell.
“You need not be afraid.”
Her head jerked up. Maggie was sitting at the end of the table.
“We only have one chance, Alisha. Please love him like I could not. I beg of you.”
Alisha gathered her breath.”What....do I...do?”
Maggie’s smile was unnerving. It was her smile.”Love him, Alisha....it is that simple.”
She stood up and walked around the table. Alisha stood up and turned to face her as meet her face to face. There were tears in her eyes.
“We will now be as one. You will have everything you need.”
Her form became insubstantial like hovering cloud of mist. It swirled around Alisha, enveloping her in its white shroud. She felt her skin tingling for a moment and then a warmth surrounding like a soothing aura. Slowly the cloud dissipated as she felt an invigorating rush of adrenalin. Slowly, she sat back down in her chair. Every nerve felt like it was on fire. Looking down that the food, she realized that she was starving. With fevered relish, she devoured her stir fry creation with a new renewed sense of hunger. Once she had finished, she found that she was crying tears of her own.
“Don’t worry, Maggie. He is in my heart now.”
Weariness descended on her suddenly. The long night on the gazebo stone floor began to weigh on her. Slowly, she made her way upstairs and stripped off her clothes. Pulling on her favorite silk nightgown, she climbed into bed. She was exhausted and simply beyond understanding or comprehension of what was happening. Sleep slowly drifted over her with its comforting blanket. Her final conscious thoughts were almost dreamlike as she saw Maggie smiling as she lifted her arms heavenward to sprout wings and soared off into the night sky.
When she awoke, the morning sun was slanting in through the louvered windows. She could hear the chirping of birds and sounds of life outside. She sat up suddenly realizing that she had never heard these sounds before. Her curiosity rose quickly as she threw on a robe and flew down the stairs. Anticipation sent her running through the kitchen and out on the back porch she came to an abrupt halt. For a moment she stood there staring, scarely believing what she was seeing.
The Witch’s Window was now teeming with life. Completely overgrown with ivy, fuchsia and honeysuckle, she could barely see the structure of the gazebo underneath. Swarms of honey bees and hummingbirds darted over the blossoms. Small birds like wrens and warblers flew in and out bearing twigs to build nests. She saw motion in the limbs of the trees above the gazebo and squirrels running back and forth through the ivy. Other small animals like raccoons and chipmunks also hide within the ivy. In the center of the gazebo, she saw something else.
Alexander stood gazing at her, a bright smile on his face.
She flew down the steps and ran the short distance across the threshold of the gazebo, stopping just short of the tall figure. Reaching out tentatively, she let her fingers reach out to the smooth shaven face and the soft touch of his smooth skin. With a howl of delight, she leapt into his embrace, wrapping her arms so tightly around him. She pulled back to look his face and saw his eyes aflame with a lover’s joy, tears streaming down his face. Framing his face with her hands, she kissed him softly at first and her kisses became more furtive and impassioned with each passing moment. He reached up under her to wrap her legs around his waist. She felt her nightgown ride up and suddenly realized she was wearing nothing underneath. Feeling suddenly shy, she pulled away to stare at him blushing. He quickly realized that things were moving too fast and enfolded her in a gentle embrace. After a moment, she pulled away and turned to look back at the house. Things seemed suddenly different in a way she could not understand. She started to walk out of the gazebo, only to feel the firm grasp on Alexander’s hand on her shoulder.
“You cannot walk past the threshold, Alisha. Maggie told me that once the journey was made, if you left the Witch’s Window, the door would close....permanently.”
She turned to face him and saw the questioning look on his face. In that moment, she felt her heart burst open with what she felt. Why would she ever want to go back? Grabbing his hand, she pulled him across the threshold. There was a bright flare in the morning light that surrounded the gazebo in a rainbow aura of light before subsiding. She knew that there was no going back now and that knowledge filled her with joy. Yet she had to be sure.
Almost pulling Alexander around the side of the house, she soon saw what it was that had seemed out of the place. The additions were gone. Where there had been an asphalt driveway leading up to the road, there was now a narrow wagon track that led up a dirt trail which led to what only be the small village of Granby in the distance. She could smell the fresh clean air that was only tinged with the smell of wood smoke.
He turned to look at her and she saw the smile on her face. She led him to the front door where he lifted her into his arms and carried her across the threshold. They immediately walked into the living room which was virtually unchanged. The memory of the ghost of Alexander wandering through it still haunted her, only she turned again to see Alexander very much alive at her side and wept openly before seeking the refuge of his comforting shoulder. When they walked into the kitchen arm in arm where she made dinner the night before with a host of modern appliances, she saw only a pot belly stove and a cedar counter and table. Not an electrical outlet in sight. The truth was slowly sinking in.
He seemed to sense it and asked almost in a whisper,”Any regrets?”
She pulled him to her in a soft kiss.”Not a one. I have come home.”
Hours later as they lay wrapped in each other arms exhausted, she could hear the measured cadence of his soft breath. Disentangling herself, she went to the makeshift closet where she found a woman’s nightgown. Slipping it on, she was not entirely surprised by its wondrous fit. She went down the stairs that led her here only a few hours to the kitchen and finally to the back door. Stepping outside onto the wooden porch, she looked to the setting sun which now stood directly behind the gazebo. It cast a long shadow which fell short of where she stood shivering in the evening air.
Smiling, she turned to go back into the house where love waited patiently.