My novel was half complete and bearing heavily on me after six hours of non-stop writing, I needed a break. As I stepped outside, the cool, fresh evening air hit me; it felt good as I drew in lungfuls, breathing in its life force. The moon was full and the skies clear, perforated by a trillion stars. I began to walk and my niggling headache subsided.
I passed neighbouring houses, most with lights ablaze and pondered the lives being enacted within; always the prerogative of a writer to imagine and create from what he sees. My thoughts reached out and expanded to the street, the town, the country, the heavens and all of creation. I felt dizzy, intoxicated by the infinite.
I needed nature, the peace and strength of trees, so headed to the nearby woodland; a regular walking place day or night.
The creaking boughs welcomed me into their embrace, the moon sparkled through the branches and the wind played with the leaves. I stood still, deep in the wood, absorbing the relentless energy; then a strange feeling came over me.
I felt as though I were being transported in my mind, seeing deeper, further than ever before. My mind flew high over the trees, surveying a wondrous expanse of countryside with ocean beyond, all too brief – I was plunged back into reality.
A new sound grasped my attention, a chanting, then a light. A small fire burned nearby, from where the voice emanated. Curious, I moved to see more.
A woman, old and dressed in black, was drawing the flames towards her, I was compelled to draw closer. She was pulling me into her circle.
The woman looked up, sensing my approach long before she could possibly see me, she beckoned.
“Come near, friend,” she said.
“You are looking for something, your future. I see you, all of you.”
I was uncomfortable with her penetrating gaze and slow, intimidating tone.
“Do not be afraid.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is not important. I am what you might call a witch. I can give you what you want.”
At what cost, I thought.
“No cost, unless you make the wrong choice.”
I hadn’t spoken.
“You are perplexed. You write, great words, oh yes. But you wonder where it will lead. Correct?”
“Um, yes, I guess so.”
“I can give you success, I can bestow fame and glory upon you. Or I can give you truth.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Simple. You have two choices. To be a writer of popular fiction, through which you will gain fame and riches. Or, to be true to your art, to write from your soul, not caring for profit or renown. To go down in history as a literary genius. Your choice. Decide now and I will give. Or spend years wondering what to do.”
I thought long and hard, what was she offering? Success on one hand, struggle on the other. In my heart I knew the answer, it had to be for truth and beauty. I was compelled to give a response.
“I choose art.”
“Very well, it is yours.”
“Why are you doing this? There has to be a catch, a price.”
“No, friend. I owe a debt to your great-grandmother. She saved me from persecution, many, many years ago. In return I promised to help her great-grandson, you, to achieve great rewards as a writer. Just as your mother did.”
“But I’ve chosen the path of hardship!”
“Is that what you think? Go and write your heart out. If you do that you will reap untold rewards, people will love your work, you will be famous.”
“But I thought that was the reward for the other path?”
“Did you? Write your truth. I can say no more, the promise is fulfilled. You will see. Now go.”
The witch disappeared, vanishing into the flames which died immediately. I stayed a while in that place, until I knew the truth, for the first time, of who my mother really was.