2015 New Year's resolution? One new blog post every week. This is week 2, and so far I'm keeping up. I've decided to post in my two blogs on rotation. Since last week I wrote my first new Runner Confidential post in three months, this week it's Cut and Dry.
This story is a continuation of a story I posted way back in April of 2014, called, 'The Evils of Polka Dots'. You might want to check out the original before reading this one.
“Okay. I changed my mind. I officially don’t want to do this anymore. I’m ready to go home, and I promise I will never, ever say that my life is boring for as long as I live.”
My arms trembled around the baseball bat I gripped, white-knuckled, in my hands. The fingerless, cable-knit mittens I wore made gripping the instrument difficult.
“Don’t be silly!” Great-Aunt Cathrine told me, waving her hand dismissively. “You’ll be fine. Now go ahead and open the door.”
Aunt Cathrine spoke as casually as if she was discussing the weather. She didn’t sound concerned at all of the snarling, spitting, and howling that was coming from behind the rickety wooden door.
When she had asked if I was ready to actually try out the magic I'd been creating in my Weaver Apprenticeship, I'd jumped at the opportunity. But then she'd driven me to a run-down side of the city, to an old, brick apartment building that looked like it hadn't been lived in since I'd been born. I didn't know the old woman could pick locks so expertly, until she'd led me inside the ramshackle building and to the third floor.
“I don’t know, Aunt Cathrine,” I replied, barely keeping my voice from quaking. “Are you sure I can do this?”
“Of course I’m sure! You’ve already progressed well with your Weaving. It’s time you saw what the magic can do.” With visible effort, she dropped the backpack she was wearing to the floor and started rummaging around inside. “If you don’t want the bat, I still have the crowbar if you want to trade.”
I'd tried the crowbar earlier, but it had been too heavy for me, so I’d settled on the bat. “It’s not the bat I’m worried about,” I fretted. I didn't want to say, It's whatever's behind that door, so I said, “It’s the mittens.” I flexed my fingers nervously, as if making sure the mittens were still there.
Aunt Cathrine looked appalled. “Why’re you worried about those? I watched you knit them myself! They’re perfectly adequate, for a first attempt.”
Perfectly adequate didn’t seem like the best adjective for something that was supposed to protect me from certain death. “Are you sure I shouldn’t have made them with fingers? It feels like they’d be better with fingers.”
“Bah! Fingers!” Scoffed Aunt Cathrine. “Fingers would make gripping the bat too difficult. And, like I told you, the real power lies in the fists and wrists! Fists for fighting prowess, wrists for willpower!” She poked the gloves with her long, boney fingers. “Wool, for strength! Blue, for confidence!” With her other hand, she tugged on the flannel shirt I wore over my t-shirt, which she and I had sewn ourselves. “Plaid, for protection. Wool, for even more strength. And red, for courage.”
“You never explained why the magic only works in colors, patterns, and fabrics,” I said.
"You're stalling," Aunt Cathrine said. I gulped; she was right, but I had been hoping she wouldn't notice. "And as for why magic needs a color, needs a mood, I have no idea. My mother didn't know, so she couldn't teach me when I was a Weaver Apprentice. It just works the way it works."
I trembled, and the bat in my hands shook harder. "Why didn't Mom or someone else learn to be the Weaver Apprentice? Why did it have to be me?"
"It has to be passed from a Weaver to a female relative, at least one generation younger," Aunt Cathrine replied. "I never had a daughter. And your mother was always too interested in boys and basketball to bother learning the family secret."
The snarling behind the door grew louder. "But I'm twelve! I can't do this!"
"You and I Wove those mittens and that shirt together," Aunt Cathrine said, a little softer than before. She knelt beside me, wincing. Her knees were hurting again. "You know the magic that's in them. They won't let you down. And, more importantly, I won't let you down. I wouldn't let you try this if I didn't think you could handle it." She smiled, still looking young and energetic, despite being in her seventies. "I remember when you were just a little thing. You've grown into such a brave, capable young woman. You can do this, Maggie."
Tears had appeared at the corners of Aunt Cathrine's eyes. I blinked, and found tears in my eyes, too.
I bit my lower lip and tightened my grip on the bat. "Okay, Aunt Cathrine. I'm ready."
Aunt Cathrine stood, wincing again. "Okay. Creatures from The Darkness can sense Woven magic, and they're scared of it. You need to draw on the blue, for confidence. So when you run in, give it your best battle cry, okay?"
I took a deep breath. "Okay."
She gripped the knob. "Ready?"
I stared at the door, gripping the bat tighter. The gloves suddenly started to feel warm on my hands, and my fear started melting away. By the time I opened my mouth, I almost believed what Aunt Cathrine said about me actually being able to do this. "Ready," I said.
Aunt Cathrine threw the door open, and I ran into the room before I could talk myself out of it. I screamed as ferociously as I could, holding the bat like a sword.
The room was dusty and dingy, full of overturned furniture and boxes of junk. Evening light created a haze in the air through the grimy windows. At first, I didn't see anything, and my battle cry ebbed away. The I saw some movement in the corner of my eye, behind a moth-eaten couch. I moved around it, holding the bat high, ready to bash.
At first I thought it was a cat, because it was hairy, and not much bigger than a cat. Then it opened its eyes. All of its eyes. There were, like, twelve of them, each one bulging and bloodshot. And I was so busy counting its eyes that I didn't notice its teeth until it opened its mouth and growled at me.
Boy, were there a lot of teeth.
The bat suddenly felt very heavy in my hands. It began to droop. My gloves started to cool.
"Don't lose your confidence!" Aunt Cathrine yelled form outside the room.
I tried to reply, but it came out as a tiny whimper. The furry, bug-eyed Darkness creature hurled itself at me.
My battle cry changed into a scream of terror. But the creature never touched me; instead, it slammed into a invisible wall inches from my face and ricocheted against the busted couch. My flannel shirt heated so quickly that it felt like I'd stepped into a sauna.
"That's the plaid!" Aunt Cathrine called. "It's protection is only good for one hit that fierce!"
I looked down, and found that Aunt Cathrine was right. What had before been a plaid shirt was now simply a red, wool shirt. The protection had been used up; the plaid was gone.
The creature lay dazed on the floor, but it was starting to stir. I screamed again, and this time it was a battle cry. My gloves warmed again. I charged across the room. The bat suddenly felt lighter as I lifted it over my head. The temperature of my shirt matched my gloves.
The creature looked up at me with those eye again, and it snarled through a mouthful of fangs. My confidence wavered, but I simply screamed louder and brought the bat down on the creature with all my strength.
The thing exploded in a wave of cold, black smoke. The bat struck the floor, and with an ear-splitting crack, broke in half.
I stood, stunned, for a moment, until I felt Aunt Cathrine's arms around me and heard her cries of excitement. "You did it, Maggie, you did it!" I blinked for a few seconds, and then I finally was able to understand what had happened.
Where the creature had been, the carpet and walls were stained with ash and soot. The bat lay splintered at my feet. And my fingerless mittens were gone; they were now only a pile of shredded blue wool on the floor. The shirt Aunt Cathrine and I had made was gone, too. There were only a few shreds of red cloth on the ground and clinging to my t-shirt, but even they were crumbling away to nothing.
"Oh, looks like you burned through the magic pretty quickly," Aunt Cathrine said, dusting the remains off my shoulders. "The more you need it, the more quickly it gets burned up. And it looks like you needed it. Or, at least you thought you needed it." She picked up the broken piece of the Louisville Slugger from the carpet. "Looks like you put all of that Woolen Strength into one swing, grasshopper!"
I was still breathing heavy. Now that the Woven magic was wearing off, I was feeling sore all over. And cold, since all I was wearing was a t-shirt in the chilly building. "Aunt Cathrine," I said, unable to take my eyes from the bat's broken handle in my hand. "I'm ready to go home now."
She put her arm around my shoulder and guided me from the room and down the old building's stairs. "Of course, kiddo. Hot chocolate from Starbucks on the way home, on me." She squeezed me tightly. "None of the other seventh-graders would believe them if you told them what you did this weekend, would they?"
I numbly shook my head, but smiled anyway.
We stepped from the building into the wintery January air. Aunt Cathrine took off her own coat and wrapped it around my shoulders. "You going to keep that promise, kiddo?" She asked.
I looked up to her, puzzled. "What promise?"
"That you're never going to say you're life is boring, for as long as you live."
I actually laughed, and leaned close to her so she could hug me tighter. She did. "For as long as I live."