“Do you believe in the afterlife? Or maybe reincarnation?” Ezra was thoughtful as he played with a straw and chewed it contemplatively.
“Don’t ask me things like that first thing in the morning, Ezra. I’m not in the mood for deep thinking today.”
“But I want to know. It’s important.”
“For fuck’s sake, why? Stop acting like a child and buy me some breakfast. I’m hungry.” She grabbed the sleeve of his brown jacket and tugged it lightly. “I feel like having some croissants. Or thick toast with lots of butter.”
They stopped at a little cafe and headed in, ordering raisin and butter croissants and thick black coffee. She was ravenous, devouring her food appreciatively. “Hmmm…wonderful,” she murmured as she bit into the croissant. “So, where are you planning to take me today?”
His eyes glinted as he grinned at her. “Ever heard of the Salem Witch Trials?”
“Yes…” she started slowly. “In fact, that was the reason why I to put Salem on my travelling map…”
“Oh, really? I’m impressed. Someone who appreciates Salem’s history!”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m interested in history,” she countered hastily. “I just have a fascination for most things, er… dark,” she finished lamely. She continued biting into her croissant, her eyes wide as she fixed them on him.
“A-ha! Then I have news for you, o’ lil’ dark one. You’re in the centre of what used to be the great Salem Witch Trials of 1492. Did you know, 20 alleged witches were executed then, burned at the stake, and many more were tried and suffered the penalty of witchcraft?”
“I did, in fact. Know that, I mean.” She wiped the crumbs off her dress and smiled. “I have a feeling you have a surprise for me.”
“Oh yes I do. I’m sure you’ll never forget Salem after this. Drink up, and let’s go.”
Half an hour on, they were still walking, but heading out of the town at last, towards the quiet outskirts. It was a fine day, the sun was shining and it was cool. As they walked farther, the houses disappeared and the woods appeared, more thickly and densely. Trees were unnaturally green, the grass was unnaturally long and ticklish: everything seemed strange and quiet. There was a stillness in the air that she could not comprehend.
“Are we almost there yet?” she asked for the third time. “We’ve walked an awful long way.”
“Not far now. Just keep walking.”
“I’m getting tired- and bored with walking.”
“Enjoy the sunshine! We’ve only been walking for 20 minutes. Come on, buck up, A.”
“Why do you call me that?” she asked and stopped suddenly. He turned round to face her, and saw that a stray wisp of hair had come undone from her ponytail. She looked young and she was oh-so-very pretty…
“It just seems more you, that’s all,” he shrugged. “Know what I mean?”
“No, I don’t. You hardly know me. How can you say it seems more me? Or do you always judge people?”
He turned away, not bothering to answer her. They walked in silence for a while more, then he suddenly stopped in his tracks, and his arm snaked around her shoulders. His touch made her gasp, partly from the shock and partly with a tinge of pleasure.
“Look over there, just behind those trees.” He pointed in the distance, and her eyes followed his pointed finger and gaze.
A house stood there, not a very large one, with trees all around. It looked very old and part of its roof had crumbled in. Moss and ivy had overgrown all over the walls. But she imagined that in its heyday, it must’ve been very beautiful.
“That’s Hawthorne’s house,” Ezra proclaimed proudly. “Or rather, the house in which he was born.”
“No…! Do you mean, Hawthorne of the Scarlet Letter?”
“One and the same. They called it the House of Seven Gables; also the House of Witches, because that was where the witches were examined.”
“Wow…that’s amazing.” She started forward automatically, but her pulled her back. She frowned at him.
“Don’t go there.”
“Because nobody ever does.”
“I’m not nobody. I want to see the house up close.”
“Please…Don’t go, come on.” He took her hand in his now, his eyes fluid and easy, taking in her face. She faltered, her lips parted as if to protest, but no words came out. “Come, walk with me.” He led her along, sweeping her lithe body in front of his, her hand still in his. Somewhere, it felt right there, and she didn’t brush it away. She felt his light breath against the back of her hair.
“Salem is very big on its witches,” he said at last. It was getting warmer now, so he stopped to rest under the shade of a large tree and took off his jacket. Spreading it over the ground, he sat down and made room for her beside him.
“I should think so. This town probably thrives on its infamous witch trials.”
“Do you ever wonder- whether it was wrong? Witchcraft, I mean? Many innocents could have perished because they were simply different. I don’t deny that some of them may have had some divine, magical powers, I believe in that, but still…if they weren’t causing anyone harm…” his voice trailed off.
“Wrong? I don’t know. I’m hardly in a position to say what’s wrong or right. Witchcraft isn’t something up my alley, even though I like reading about it.”
“Haha. Know how to cast a spell?” He leaned over closer to her, and she thought that he was pulling her leg. But his smile was tender. He wasn’t teasing her.
“You’re strange,” she laughed. “Of course I don’t.”
“Don’t be daft. I don’t know any spells!” she laughed.
“Pretend, then. Pretend you’re a witch, a good one. Pretend that you want me to fall in love with you.”
“This is dumb.”
“Just for the fun of it.”
Her eyes twinkled. “OK then. Close your eyes and lie back.” Before he could protest, she pushed him gently backward until his back was resting on the tree. “You asked for this.” For a long moment, she sat quietly, studying his strong silent profile. If a man could be beautiful, perhaps he was, then. She was beginning to discover things about him that she liked. A lot.
Leaning over the length of his body, her face so close to his that she could kiss him, she whispered into his ear, “Magic candles, magic hands, magic love, you are my trance. Magic sleep, magic tree, magic love, please come to me.” Reaching into her bag where she kept a little pocket knife, she bravely took it out and pricked the tip of her left index finger, ever so slightly, then squeezed a tiny little pearl drop of blood out. Pressing the bloodied finger onto his forehead, she whispered again, “I bind your love to me, Ezra…”
At this point, he opened his eyes. Her finger was still pressed to his forehead and he took her hand. His eyes widened when he saw the little cut there. “Shit, what the hell did you do?” he asked. She smiled and sucked her finger.
“I just put a spell on you. And I bound you with my blood.” A devillish grin.
“Now let me tell you something that a Greco-Egyptian text mentioned once…..a necromancer can actually use the dead to seduce the woman he desires.”
“Yes….let me tell you how. First he makes a wax doll and pierces thirteen needles into it- mouth, nose, ears, eyes, feet, hands, stomach, anus, brains, genitals. Then he takes to the cemetery at sunset puts it on the grave of someone who has died early in life or died by violence- he is assumed to know this. Then he calls up on the spirits of all those who had died premature deaths and also the powers held on by an eclectic group of gods and spirit which include Persephone, Ereshkigal, Adonis, Hermes, Thoth and Anubis.” Here, he paused for breath and noticed the glazed look in Anka’s eyes. “What?”
“How the hell do you know so much?”
“I’m a necromancer,” he shrugged, then smiled and went on. “Okay, now the poor dead corpse is reanimated. The necromancer marches it to the door of his heart’s desire and he chants something like this: `and bring her hither and bind her….Let her sleep with none other, let her have no pleasurable intercourse with any other man, save with me alone. Let her neither eat nor drink nor love, nor be strong or well, let her have no sleep except with me….’ And so on. Mumbo-jumbo stuff like that. Then the poor maiden’s supposed to love him for life, who can resist such seduction?” He smiled again, leaned back and bit on a blade of grass.
“How do you know so much?” she asked in wonder.
“A, I live in Salem. I know everything there is to know about
“Don’t you like them?”
“Why would anyone like vampires?”
“Because they’re like us.”
“No, they’re not.”
“Yes, they are. You see, A….vampires are a depiction of what we would be if we didn’t cling on to our beliefs and scruples. Vampires are what we’d be if there was no order in the world.”
“But vampires are anti-Christ, and we’re not anti-Christ.”
“Some of us are. And no, they’re not anti-Christ, they just fear Christ, that’s all.”
“But if they fear Christ, that means they’re anti-Christ.”
“It’s not the same thing,” he insisted. But what I’m saying is….vampires are just like us sometimes, they’re just deprived in a different way and we always fear what’s different. They’re forbidding yet seductive. The perfect embodiment of darkness and evil, yet as you would say, evil is subjective.”
“Evil is NOT subjective. Evil is evil, and not a single person would disagree on that. Vampires are therefore evil, because they suck the life blood out of people. Death is evil.”
“Why do you say vampires are evil, and witches aren’t?”
“I never said witches were not evil.”
“Well, you’re implying it. You said witches weren’t wrong doing what they did.”
“Well, some were for good causes, I believe. Witches don’t just suck anyone’s blood and drain their bodies and leave them all bloodless and lifeless and totally blue. That’s a bad way to go. No, sirree. I wouldn’t want to die like that. I’d rather have a spell cast over me or something….I’d rather die like that than having to be conscious during the last moments of my life and see the vampire’s fangs biting into my neck and spurting blood all over my face. It’s too depressing. Really.”
“Witchcraft is never done for good purposes, A.”
“That’s not what I heard from you earlier. Anyway, neither is vampirism.”
“Okay, so none of them are justified.”
“By the way, do you believe in witches and vampires?”
“Do you?” The question was left unanswered.
They both laughed and she leaned back, placing herself beside him. They lay there for a long time, with only the silence between them. The sunlight filtered in through the cracks between the tree-tops and birds were chirping quietly. It was pure heaven.
“Ezra?” she suddenly said.
“Don’t you feel funny about this whole thing?”
“Me. You. Us.”
“What’s so funny about me, you and us?”
“I mean….there’s this strange connection here. Don’t you feel it, too?”
“What do you mean- connection?”
“I mean…we’re two total strangers from different parts of the world and…we just click, you know…which is simply amazing, since I can hardly find anyone who talks to me as much as you do in less than 24 hours; some people I know don’t talk that much; I think you know more of my views than friends who’ve known me for 5 years…..which is saying a lot, actually, since I don’t like to talk much…..”
“I enjoy being with you, too, A….” came Ezra’s slow, long drawl. “Was that what you were trying to say- that you enjoyed being with me, even though you can’t comprehend why?”
“That’s great, A. That’s great.”
“You know…..I mentioned to you that I haven’t talked to God for a long time….” Ezra said.
“I don’t go to church, I don’t pray, I’m a horrible Christian. Do you think that’s bad?”
“No? Not at all?”
“It depends, you see.”
“Well, if you carry that faith in your heart, you don’t have to show it outright so long as you know you believe in God and that He’s there for you. Remember, Jesus Christ died for our sins. He’s always there.”
“How do you know He’s there?”
“I just know.”
“Are you a religious person?”
“No, I’m not.”
“But you do pray?”
“Maybe you should.”
“Yeah. A prayer makes all the difference in the world. You know He’s listening to you. Always.”
Ezra sat up. “Let’s go now.”
“I haven’t spoken to God for a long time. I want to talk to him now.”
It was that simple.