Hello and welcome to my Featured Story page. As you can well imagine, this is where you will find my featured story that I will update on a two to four week basis. Please feel free to read the following story titled, "The Familiar". I hope you enjoy it, and please, by all means email me or post your thoughts and comments on my blog. I would love to hear what you have to say. Happy reading!
I awoke in the cold morning upon the lumpy bed. I was comfortable for the moment, cozy and warm, settled beneath the thick, down comforter. But then, the expected shriek could be heard.
“Get up out of the bed, damn you! Come and get your breakfast, if you want to eat!”
It was the crackled and hysteric voice, of my wife. Not a woman you would want to upset and definitely, not one you would want to have on her bad side. Cranky and stubborn, and if prodded she had a mean streak to match that of a nest of hornets.
But, not only that… you see, my wife is a witch. It was just a little aspect of her person I would almost come to regret, and still I married her. That was many years ago… fifty-three years ago next month, as a matter of fact. Ah! I loved her then, and to this day I still love her, I really have no choice, since I have come to depend on her for just about everything.
Now, one might say I am not really a man, allowing myself to be pulled around by the nose by my woman, but I like to think I am a man. Although, I am sure the townsfolk wonder if I have a spine at all. Rumors abound within the lives of folk, who live in small villages… even amongst the heathens who live out amongst the dreary moors, where we just happen to dwell. But, it does not matter much to me, not anymore. I never go into town any longer, at least not in the light of day. So, I never have to face those that may wonder what ever happened to me.
It was not always this way, for I used to work in the flour mill on the other side of the village. I worked there, for god knows how many years. Uh… now, let’s see… it has been forty-seven years… almost forty-eight years now, if I remember correctly. I was the breadwinner in those days. I was known around the village as the one who was married to the ‘witch’. I was the one that at times, was shunned for being married to a practitioner of the dark arts, and at the same time… I was the one treated kindly and with great respect… lest, I should go home and tell my wife I was treated unkindly, and thus, bring her wrath down upon anyone who spoke ill of her, or her own.
A strange conundrum my life has been, all these years. Whether anyone truly respected me, or if they just tolerated me… I suppose at this point, in time, it does not really matter. Since I have not worked at the flour mill for well… almost three years now, and frankly, I have become used to this way of life.
Although, she can be ornery and lash out at me with a few choice words regarding my lack of manhood, or threaten me with locking me outdoors to fend for myself for a while… most of the time, she is bearable to be around. That is when she allows me to be underfoot, and when the full moon comes around, she can be down right sweet… allowing me snacks between meals and time to just lounge around and be myself… or at least be, what I have become… not really a man at all.
She rules the roost… both of us know it, and in my own way, I have become reticent to this way of life. I mean… I rarely speak back to her anymore. I have surely learned my lesson in that regard. Oh, I may whine and be vocal with my displeasure on rare occasion… but for the most part, I keep my mouth shut and allow her to perform her magical work, unhindered.
In fact… it is at the times of the full moon, when she not only allows me to observe her moments of spell casting and rituals… but she now allows me to actually partake in her acts of magic and sit within the cast circle. This is something she never let me do in her younger days. For, she always told me… “Joseph… if you do not truly believe… you lessen the spell.” But, I believe now! Oh, I surely believe now.
For many years, she was unskilled in her spiritual path. Yet, over time, she learned the ways of witchcraft and sorcery from an old crone that lived within the gray and foggy bottomlands of the moors. Estell was the old witch’s name. Withered and frail in physical form, but powerful and daunting in the workings of her craft, Estell had taught my wife very well.
Through the long years, my young, attractive wife would venture almost daily, across the shrouded banks of the moors and visit with Estell, while I traveled the three miles to work at the flour mill. Most days, I would return home before my wife. Sometimes, she would not return until the morning, and when I inquired of her whereabouts, she would tell me she was learning secrets of her craft beyond my understanding. Which… at the time, I thought nothing of such a response. For, few folks lived out amongst the dreary and soggy swamps and bottomlands of the moors. In fact, other than Estell, we were the only inhabitants in this part of the countryside.
Every morning, I would watch my wife trek across the boggy ground, along the path to Estell’s cottage. So, I knew there was no other man in her life. I just figured, living out amongst the bottomlands… the only place we could afford at the time, that if she could find happiness and meaning in her life by following her spiritual path, then it was a worthwhile effort on her part.
Our marriage was good… if not a bit quirky in its own manner. For, obviously we did not live with traditional Christian values and within the structure of society’s customary roles of man and wife. But, I loved her and she loved me, and through the years, we settled in and grew comfortable with this way of life.
But, as time went by, my wife attained more ability in her practice. She would spend full moons and new moons over at Estell’s cottage and when she returned, she would seem a little bit more confident in her methods and means of magic.
Then, one evening, when we were still fairly young, my wife arrived home from Estell’s cottage. She had a gleam in her eye… one which I could discern the moment she walked in through the door. Being particularly inquisitive that day, I asked her why she seemed a bit happier, than her usual self.
“Oh… I have met and surpassed a goal Estell had set for me.” She replied, with a smirk.
“And, what was that goal, may I ask?” I said to her, in turn. She hesitated and then, relented.
“Well… since you will soon know anyway… I have been allowed a familiar.”
“A familiar?” I asked, in my bewilderment.
“Yes… an animal that will serve as my spiritual minion.”
Now, living in sixteenth century England… and not being one of the more educated members of society, my wife’s words only accentuated my confusion. She saw the distressed look upon my face and attempted to relieve me of my angst.
“Yes dear… a familiar is an animal friend. But more than a friend, a familiar is a spirit a witch can confide in, can work magical spells with, and train to do my bidding.” She stood there beaming at me, with a proud look upon her face. Although, while I thought this whole concept odd… I perceived it as just being one more step in my wife’s spiritual growth, so, I thought nothing more of it
During the next month… over the following lunar cycle, my wife went through her magical ruminations in attaining her familiar. I looked on from afar, not asked to help in any manner, nor consulted as to what kind of animal would be the perfect familiar. Of course, it had been thought for centuries a witch’s familiar was the traditional black cat, and my wife did not disappoint. For, not two days after the previous full moon, my wife came home from Estell’s cottage with a small bundle, lightly wrapped in swaddling cloth.
“What have, you my dear?” I asked, inquisitively.
She smiled broadly, but before she could answer, a tiny squeak could be heard, emanating from the bundle in her arms. She laughed lightheartedly, as she did in those days, and she unfurled the cloth. Lo and behold, a little kitten with fur blacker than a moonless night, sat comfortably in the crook of her arm. He seemed so content and happy, until I attempted to reach out and stroke the little critter upon his furry little head. With a hiss and a spat, and a swat of his little paw, he let me know, in no uncertain terms, he was the chosen one. He was the one that for the rest of his life, would share in my wife’s magical secrets, and it would be he to partake in and do her bidding in whatever manner she would choose. A long life, this cat… this familiar did live. For thirty-six years… an unnaturally long time for a cat, did this animal live.
So, over the years, while this cat… this familiar, which my wife named Zeus, had lived with us, my wife’s magical abilities grew, in both truth and legend. As her spells grew stronger and her herbal potions became more potent, the stature of Zeus in my wife’s spiritual life, became more apparent, and with the burgeoning relationship between the two, my life became more one dimensional. I would leave in the morning before the sun would rise, to go to my job at the flour mill, and depending on the season, as in the winter months, it would surely be as dark when I returned home, as when I had left. All the while, my wife and Zeus would work their magic together. Each morning, when my wife would leave on her daily trek to Estell’s cottage, Zeus was there at her feet… following her along the boggy path.
So, it went, day by day, week by week, month by month, one full moon cycle after another, until before I realized it, many years had passed and there was no mistake, I had been supplanted by Zeus, in the life of my true love… my wife, the witch. Needless to say, I was not fond of the cat… the familiar, known as Zeus. In fact, I despised the animal. For, how could I not? Oh, and the feelings were mutual. From the very day she had brought him home, he made it clear he belonged to her, and I was inconsequential to him. For, if he had his druthers, he would have banished me from our home. Such, was his hatred for me. But, neither did he have a say in the matter. For, even though he was close to my wife’s heart, he also knew my wife still loved me, and held me dear. So… we tolerated each other. We lived under an unspoken truce for the benefit of my wife… and his magical madam.
Whenever I confronted my love… alone, which was difficult to do, since Zeus was always under her foot, I would plead to her and ask her, why she had chosen a cat… a mere animal to help her work her magical spells and do her secret bidding. She would look upon me and tell me, with her still beautiful, yet aging face, “Oh Joseph… you know you are not a believer. How could you possibly help me with my spiritual tasks, when you yourself, do not believe? It certainly would not work.”
When I would bow upon my knees and grasp her hand, and beg and plead for her to allow me to enter within her realm of magic and secrecy, she would say things such as, “Now Joseph, how would you fulfill the roles Zeus performs for me? You know many of the villagers come to me for healing and fortune telling. You know in many instances, I must have someone that can be stealth and quiet, and travel afar very quickly to learn the secrets of the villagers, so I can cast my spells as requested.”
Yes, it was true. For, my wife… even though she was a witch… she was an honest one at that. She was basically, goodhearted and she did indeed help many of the local folks round about the village. For, there were those folks that came to her in secrecy, seeking her help and knowledge in many things. Some came to her, for healing purposes and some came to her, to know what life would bring them beyond tomorrow, and still… there were those that came to her for other, more unsavory purposes… purposes I cannot speak of here. Even those held in high esteem, within the Christian church in the village, would seek her out for her guidance and wisdom… all under the shroud of secrecy, of course.
Undoubtedly, Zeus played a significant role in her magical workings, for as a cat and a familiar, he could travel quickly and stealthily, in an uncanny manner. So much so, that in some instances, he had left the house, to attain much needed knowledge about a particular person my wife was working spells either for, or against… and he would soon return and disseminate the gained knowledge to my dear wife, so she could complete her spells and bindings upon that particular person. Most often, he completed his magical ventures in time frames that were unnatural… such a great familiar he had become.
As time passed, she relied upon him more and more, and no matter how much I begged and pleaded, my requests would go unheard. So, I watched through the years as we grew older together… myself, my wife and her familiar. My strength ebbed and my work at the flour mill was cut back. My wife, working her magic for such a long time, suffered the consequences of doing so, for although she drew strength from her spiritual path, over the decades her spell work took its toll on her physical beauty and her health, and Zeus, over the years… he too diminished, and his role in her magical workings grew less.
Then, there was a day, when my wife returned from Estell’s cottage and she was disheartened and she cried, and Zeus comforted her, and when I asked her what the matter was, she told me, Estell had finally passed into the next realm. One hundred and forty one years of age she was, but, all things must pass… and my wife knew the time for Estell to move on, into the infinite was coming soon, although she did not expect it to be this day.
Then, exactly a year and a day, to the death of Estell, Zeus also passed, great in age and wisdom, was my wife’s familiar, living well beyond the years of a feline.
Now… here I sit upon the bed, being called to breakfast by my ornery old wife… the witch, who is still very powerful in her magical ways, and as was stated earlier in this story, she is definitely, not one to rile. So, I jumped off the bed and stretched my back, arching it high, so as to limber up my old spine. I shook myself and carefully wandered into the kitchen, my tail held high. The kitchen was the place where she not only cooked our meals, but this is where many of her spells and herbal potions were contrived.
I looked up at her and called out to her, in my meek and gentle manner. She looked down upon me, smiled, bent over and picked me up. She stroked the back of my neck and ran her old, crooked fingers through my dark, black fur. She set me down upon the table, where my meal bowl was always there waiting for me. However, before I started to eat, she sat down and looked at me, and told me,
“Now Joseph… you always wanted to be part of my magical workings… and now, you have gotten your wish!”
Yes, it was true. Her excuse always was that I was not a believer. But, after that one particular day… soon after Zeus had passed, she had mentioned it was time for her to find another familiar, and when I opened my mouth in protest, I angered her, and in her moment of uncontrollable fury, she turned me into her new familiar… her black cat… and, mark my words… I do believe.
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