The Foundation — Finding It: Chapter 5
Over the years, Carlos and I had a curious relationship that at times bordered on hostility. I would go for days, even weeks without responding to his running commentary on the progress in my life. Hardly ever was he happy with what I was doing. To me, it was none of his business. Though I also felt that he was a part of me, I considered him more of a parasite than a partner.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that his status in my mind changed. And most of that had to do with meeting Dawn. Before that, I had no tangible confirmation that anything Carlos said about the foundation of the universe was true.
Sure, a lot of what Carlos told me was credible enough. I sort of believed that inside of everything there’s some magic. After all, I could do tricks. But he went further, saying that each living thing has a fixed amount of the essence of the universe lingering inside and for most, it served little purpose except to maintain the core of their existence. Somehow, I was different. Others like me possessed a level of the essence that could, with practice, draw strength and intensity to be expressed in momentary bursts that could alter the world immediately surrounding them. All I needed to do was learn my place, which was challenging enough. Depending on how skilled I became in controlling my gifts, I might prove formidable.
When I was a child, around eight-years-old, My true nature was first revealed. Being a wolfcat had no direct meaning to me other than I imagined something that was half-wolf, half-cat. Clearly, it was not real to me because every time I looked in the mirror, I saw the same toe-headed boy’s reflection that had always looked back at me. There were occasions, though, when being a wolfcat spared me certain death.
Once, when I was seven, I was exploring too close to the edge of a gravel pit. The ground beneath my feet gave way and I slipped over the side, falling several feet before I caught hold of a root jutting out from the side of the pit. There I dangled, swinging back and forth with icy water of unknown depth directly below. At the time, I didn’t know how to swim, not that the skill would have done little more than delaying my inevitable demise if I were to lose my grip.
Carlos, who always before that was a voice I heard, an imaginary friend, told me what to do and, being scared to death, I paid attention. Following his instructions, I worked my way to the edge, found a toehold, and used it to lift up enough to grasp a large rock outcropping that was securely embedded in the hard-packed dirt. Hand-over-hand, little-by-little, I climbed the ten to twelve feet necessary to reach safety.
Another time, I was playing in the woods behind the house where we lived at that time, and I found a den of foxes. Not knowing better, I was playing with the cute babies when their mother returned and growled, threatening to attack. Not only did Carlos tell me what to do, he also taught me how to communicate on a rudimentary level with wild animals. Sitting back, I scooted away from the den, while constantly maintaining eye contact with the mother fox, until she could enter the den and confirm there was no harm to her offspring. And then, she poked her head back outside to confirm I was leaving.
I wondered why Dad told me that if I touched a baby wild animal my scent would cause its mother to reject it. Clearly, that had not happened. But Carlos explained, “Your scent is not entirely human. There is a wildness about you that animals can detect and occasionally, respect if not fear.”
Sometime later, Carlos told me of the different levels and types of magic that I could pull from inside me as well as the energy I could engage with. There was a practical aspect, maintaining my lifeforce, which was something like recharging batteries, for example. But another aspect was an unbridled, raw force. Its purpose defined my direction. This wilder type of magic was what defined a true wolfcat.
Of the other levels I could access, some were common magic, shared by people through their expression of emotions. Everyone shared that potential and those were, therefore, more acceptable for public display because no one saw them as anything out of the ordinary, coincidental, happenchance. Those were often called by different names like intuition, premonition, or extrasensory perception. Even if such nature remained debatable, those terms are more palatable than referring to something with the more collective term, magic.
More recently, Carlos explained, “The essence is neither inherently good nor bad. Those concepts are tied to the intent of the individual not the expression of magic or its pure bonding to a specific natural force. However, there are practitioners with less than honorable designs and agendas. They do not belong to any single classification. Truly, there is good and bad in everyone and everything. The underlying structure of the universe is balanced between the extremes of magic, you see, but I have found the most danger to wolfcats comes from witches.”
“Witches are real?” I asked.
“Why would they not be? They’re as real as you.”
“But I’m not a witch.”
“Witches are part of nature. In relative terms, they have been around long enough that no one recalls whether they came before or after wolfcats, except that neither belongs to this world.”
“You said something like that before, and about another place.”
“You used to play there — in your dreams.”
“I’ve forgotten so much.”
“You received most of your wolfcat heritage from native American ancestors, but just as those attributes have comingled with witch attributes, there’s a bit of witch inside as well, just not at the forefront.”
“So, witches and wolfcats are compatible?”
“Both have survived those who are hostile to magic through interbreeding with the prevalent base species.”
“So, you’re saying there are a lot of witches and wolfcats around?”
“No, but I’m saying there are enough that you will not be alone. So, don’t be surprised whenever you meet someone with magic inside that has grown and developed beyond your meager abilities.”
“What do I do when I meet someone like that?”
“You accept them. But be wary of their agendas.”
“What does that mean?”
“There are clandestine groups. For witches, covens are most common. But even they associate with other, larger groups for mutual protection. Some become vigilantes enlisting the aid of individual wolfcats to serve missions as they carve out a niche in their particular corner of the world. A few may bond to larger groups like The Resistance to protect others who have magic inside of them.”
“Are we in some kind of danger?”
“In this world anyone who deviates from a collectively determined normal is thought unnatural. More specifically, enemies coerce witches and wolfcats into service. They force cooperation in locating others who have the strongest expression of the magical attributes. They are either recruited or eliminated.”
“Eliminated as in killed?”
At first, Carolos didn’t answer me. But after I reiterated the question, he continued. “Protectors have been here since long before the first humans were fashioned. They adhere to instructions received from a godlike species from beyond this context. Although they are not responsible for humans being here, they were given charge to prevent the destruction of the Earth. They call themselves The Society. They are extremely wary of witches and wolfcats as potential threats to mankind’s survival and corruption to the balance of nature.”
* * *
While I sat in my pajamas, all cleaned up and ready for bed, I waited on a stool at the breakfast bar in the kitchen of my parents’ house. Eagerly, I anticipated the promised phone call that, any second, would ring, rehearsing what I would say. Also, I considered everything Carlos had told me in the past. Whether I believed everything he’d told me before meeting Dawn was immaterial. Already she confirmed that at least some of what he told me was accurate.
I reached for the receiver, snatching it up before the bell inside the wall-mounted phone could make more than a single ting. It was something I’d mastered, whether it was tied to my quick reflexes or the sense of warning I felt just prior to anything of personal significance happening.
“Hello,” I said softly, attempting to keep my voice low enough that it wouldn’t disturb my parents who were sleeping a mere two rooms away.
“Brent! How are you?”
“Fine, Dawn. How are you?”
“Great! Hey, I’m going to ask you to do something a little unusual.”
“Okay,” I responded, tentatively giving permission.
“Now that we’re in contact, there’s a bond between us that will serve us in future connections. I gave you the business card. You obviously kept it because you used the number on the back when you called this morning.”
“You’re going to hang up the phone. Go to your room. Get comfortable in your bed as if you are preparing to sleep. Then take the card I gave you. You may have noticed I sprinkled a couple of drops of my perfume on it. There is magic in sniffing it, drawing the scent in deeply.”
“I noticed the scent. It reminded me of you.”
“Yes, that’s exactly how it works. While you sniff it, think of me, what I look like, the sound of my voice, the spark you felt whenever we were close and touched.”
“You felt that too?”
“It happens whenever magic connects through people. It’s a way of confirmed whatever you see in someone’s aura,” she explained. “Anyway, once you have an image of me fixed in your mind and you remember my voice, the excitement we felt as our hands met, and the smell of my perfume, that locks in four of your five natural senses. That should be strong enough for our immediate purposes.”
“And what is that?”
“You’re coming here.”
“Not completely, not yet. But you won’t know the difference. That way we can talk, and my friend Jen and I can show you lots of cool things you don’t know about yourself.”
“See you in a bit.” The phone disconnected from her end before I could hang up on my end.
Doing as she instructed, I went to my room. I closed and locked the door, just in case. Then, I approached the bed, pulled back the covers, and removed the business card Dawn had given me from my wallet. Taking it in hand, I slid into bed and rested my head on the pillow. I closed my eyes, sniffed the fragrance that still lingered on the card, and thought of Dawn, only of her, what we talked about, what her eyes looked like, how they danced when she laughed, her lovely face, her warm smile, how when I said something that amused her, the response made me feel important. And I recalled her hand touching mine, first brushing against its back, the spark as if electricity discharged between us, how she cupped my face in her hand — when did that happen?
There was also a taste, but it grew stronger and more immediate. The sensation thrilled and stimulated me. When did she…?
“Brent?” I heard her voice as she withdrew from her kiss.
My eyes blared wide, focusing on her face as she still hovered close.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. But I had to seal our connection with a kiss. All five natural senses must be locked otherwise you will just bounce back.”
“I’m… I’m here. I… I… I’m not complaining,” I said. “About the kiss.” Sitting up I looked around, darkness illuminated by candles defining a circle. “Where are we?”
“A Podunk town outside of The Burgh. Believe me, it’s as unimportant as its name,” another’s voice came from the shadows.
“This is Jen,” Dawn introduced as she stepped out of the darkness and extended her hand from beneath her shimmering black robe. My eyes focused briefly on the large ring she wore, and her dark nails painted crimson and black.
“You’re the witch?”
“You say that as if it is a bad thing.”
“Let’s say I’ve been warned.”
Jen cackled. “Your companion, no doubt. He’s not yet here with us. He can’t follow through with the connection until you allow it. So, for the first time in your life, you’re free of him…truly by yourself.”
She offered her hand. Accepting it, we shook. “Good to meet you.”
“It takes some getting used to, traveling this way,” Jen said as she flicked a wrist and turned toward Dawn. “I rarely bother anymore. There are so many other ways that are — how do I say this? — less cumbersome.”
“Am I still in bed…I mean — back home?”
“If that makes you comfortable, you can go on believing that. Just don’t overanalyze things. It will only confuse you. Where you originate serves as the anchor for your return. That’s all. Otherwise, for all intents and purposes, you’re here.”
Dawn caressed my face, dragging her long nails around the edge of my jaw and lightly scratching them across my chin as if to prove the point. “You feel that don’t you?”
“And you like it.”
I had to admit, I did. I could see them, hear them, smell the hot, scented wax from the burning candles, still taste Dawn’s lipstick as I licked the tip of my tongue across my lips.
“Some people call it projection, but it’s so much more than that. Your essence is here, physically. Others might suggest it’s a lucid dream. Though, when you return, that is how it will feel, you will remember every detail and that won’t fade like dreams do as the ensuing day progresses,” Jen explained.
“Come,” Dawn grasped my hand and tugged until I stepped down from the table. Blinking my eyes, I continued to adjust, trying to perceive detail from the shadows.
Still clinging to Dawn’s hand, partially afraid everything would disappear if I didn’t, I followed her and her friend as they parted a heavy velvet curtain hung from above the threshold to an adjacent room, one that was illuminated with soft white incandescent bulbs on a dimmer switch. A TV was set off to one side of the room with a table and chairs on the other. A sofa and chairs with pillows adorning them were arranged to provide the best view of the TV. Decorative tables with lamps, framed photographs atop lace doilies were situated next to the ends of the sofa and beside chairs. Knick-knacks and whatnots adorned one shelf of a bookcase while all the other shelves were crammed full of volumes that appeared to be texts more so than novels.
“You’re in college?” I asked Jen.
“Why, yes. You’re observant. Obviously, you noticed my books. College is a racket, but a necessary evil — in case you haven’t been told. You buy books and hope you can resell them at a sharp discount when your semester ends. But at least you recoup some of your money. Unfortunately, professors have a knack of revising their books and when they do, the previous edition is rendered useless for students and worthless for resale.” She shook he head. “Anyway, this is my last year. History education is my major.”
“You’re going to be a teacher?”
“That’s the plan.”
“How long have you known that you’re a witch?” I asked, still appraising her appearance, jet black hair with a streak of gray from the part framing the left side of her face. Her piercing blue eyes were heavily shadowed, and she wore black lipstick, perhaps to look more like the role she was performing for my benefit.
Jen paused, turning to look first at Dawn then, back to me before smiling. “Mom’s a witch as well as two of my maternal aunts and a maternal uncle who is a warlock. My grandmother, great-grandmother… it runs on that side of my family,” she said. “How long have you known that you’re a wolfcat?”
“Ten years, I guess, maybe longer. I mean — I knew about some of the abilities before that, but I didn’t know anything was unusual until Carlos told me.”
“Carlos is your ‘Other’?” Dawn asked, as she took a chair at the table and silently gestured for me to have a seat beside her.
As I watched, Jen swept up the tail of her robe with one hand and sat across the table from us. “I’ve known a couple of hosts. It’s always unique how the balance is struck, especially when the host has some command over nature as you do.”
“You mean, regular people are hosts, too?”
“Sure. There’s an overabundance vapid people in the world. They serve no lasting purpose other than to procreate. Frail consciousness is easily subsumed. Even when there is resistance from the host, the Other’s spirit dominates and overwhelms. In your case, balance will be struck. I venture, for now, control is more of a compromise.”
“More like armed truce.”
Jen laughed. “In time, the two halves will merge.”
“I’m not sure I like that.”
“It’s necessary. Otherwise, you will cause one another numerous problems until it becomes potentially dangerous. You serve the Other as a means of continuance. Survival is paramount. Without him, you are diminished by more than merely half.”
“We’ve already caused one another troubles.”
“Allow him to join us,” Dawn said.
“How do I do that?”
“Close your eyes and think about him. Then settle your mind and allow him to reach out and join you.”
“Okay. I think I can…”
“Is he with us now?” Jen asked.
“I’m observing with great interest. And I must say you were right, Brent. Dawn is prettier without the heavy stage makeup.”
“He’s here,” I said.
“That’s good.” Jen smiled broadly. “It will make it easier for you to understand. I’m sure your Other knows things that you do not. He will guide your adjustment.”
“This is not my first rodeo. But he doesn’t listen too well.”
“I cannot hear him at the moment. It happens sometimes, especially with the way you have arrived. So, you will serve as his voice,” Jen said.
“Tell her I’m torn between which of them I like better. The smoky, gothic, mysterious, alluring witch or the gracefully sensual daughter of the Wolfcat Goddess. Not that it matters — there is one for each of us.”
“I’m not telling them that!”
“Where’s your sense of adventure? Did you leave that back in Ohio? Oh, I forgot. You keep telling me you’re not the adventurous type.”
I shook my head.
“He’s talking to you,” Jen said.
“Yeah. He says you’re both pretty. Among other things.”
“Why thank you, Carlos,” she said. “I’ll bet he said something like there is one of us for each of you.”
My eyes widened, revealing the truth. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Predictable.” Jen focused on my eyes. “You’re not my type, Carlos.”
“So, Brent. What do you want to know?”
“Everything, I guess. Like, how do I control it, what do I do with it, how do I prevent it from ruining my life.”
“Well, that’s one thing we’ll need to work on.” Jen looked to Dawn and sighed. “Obviously, you’re not happy with your situation and don’t want to be a wolfcat.”
“That’s pretty much where I’m at with all this.”
“You don’t see the utility of your gifts.”
“Sometimes it’s beneficial, I guess. There’ve been times it saved me from something bad. But I also think that without it I might not have been in the situation in the first place. And I kinda feel like I could do without it.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Jen said. “The magic is you. You would be next to useless without it. Until you embrace it and understand that you are connected as an integral part of the universe, you will struggle, and your life will be miserable.”
“Tell him, sister!”
“It should be easier for you since you have an Other,” Dawn said. “You don’t listen to him, but you need to start.”
“You don’t even begin to know how difficult it has been.”
“Maybe if I knew everything, all the potential and stuff like that, I could figure out how to fit it into my life.”
Jen shook her head. “You have it backward. Your mundane affairs fit into your being a wolfcat. If you want to learn a few things, Dawn and I can show you. That’s easy enough. The magic is there and from all indications its potential is strong. She told me it is powerfully expressed when you allow it. You just need to focus and learn how to access it at will.”
“Otherwise, what happened at your school at the magic show will happen at random and be a continuing source of embarrassment and frustration,” Dawn said.
“At least he met you.”
“Yeah. That was a good thing,” I added.
“Why, thank you,” Dawn looked into my eyes, giving me a chill.
“You heard that?”
“Carlos just told you that at least you met me, and you confirmed that was a good thing.”
“You can hear him, and me? But Jenn just…”
“We’re both wolfcats. That makes a difference,” Dawn said. “I can hear him, but I cannot communicate directly, only through you, because of how we are connected at the moment. I promise I won’t reveal any of your secrets and I’ll refrain from being inside your head as much as possible, at least until we teach you how to protect your thoughts?”
“Fantastic, she can hear me!”
Dawn took my face between her hands. “Yes, Carlos, I can hear every word, every comment, and every snide remark. So, be careful what you say.”
“All along? Even from the beginning?”
“I don’t have any problem with you being able to hear my thoughts. It’s no secret that I’m attracted to you.” I projected mentally.
“Yeah, the attraction is mutual,” she responded in kind. “Which complicates things a bit.”
“I’m a couple of years younger.”
“That’s not why you’re here. Jen and I are going to teach you how to survive as a wolfcat in a human world hostile to all of us who are magical.”
As I looked up Jen smiled. “You two finished now?”
“You could hear us?”
“I can hear Dawn’s projections, and your voice through her — so it amounts to the same thing. But I do not have direct access to your thoughts — because I’m not a wolfcat.”
“She hears a high-pitched whistle whenever we are communicating with each other,” Dawn said. “If I allow her to access my mind, she can intercept things.”
“The whistle is not loud or annoying. But because of it, Dawn has always been able to alert me that she has something to tell me.”
“And then I let her in,” Dawn concluded.
“You went to school together, so you discovered this ability.”
Dawn nodded. “Yeah. We found out about it in kindergarten.”
“I don’t think I’d have survived high school without her,” Jen said. “Now let’s teach you how to protect your thoughts from others who can sense them.”
Jen and Dawn took turns showing me how to construct a mental fortress, surrounded with layers of complicated defenses, mazes that led nowhere or looped back around to the beginning. It all began with envisioning a tranquil lake and concluded with imagined barriers shielding against any intrusion.
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