This is my response to this week’s Flashback Track Friday prompt, where they asked us to:
Share a piece inspired by witches, real or imagined.
My story is 100% real. There’s no way I can do it justice by anything other than a straight journalistic account. Even then, there’s no way I can write this so it has the same effect on you, but I hope I have come close to describing the effect it had on me.
Can I state, right up front, that I’m a scientist? Seriously. I studied physics to a high level. That’s how I trained. My first job was in the Atomic Energy Authority. Experiment, observe, draw conclusions, and try to build empirical laws. That’s how my world works.
There is an explanation for everything, that everything is understandable. If we don’t understand why something happens, it just means that we haven’t discovered the reason yet.
There are many examples to cite. We go out, and the sky above us is blue. For millennia, it just “was”. But now, we understand why. It gets dark, and we see specks of light in the curtain of night. And we understand, now, that they are stars. And we know how stars work, the method they use to create the light we see. And we know how they orbit, and can predict their paths hundreds of years in advance.
Or, in the field of medicine. I had my COVID booster yesterday, and, think about the miracle of it. That we understand how vaccines work, that giving ourselves a small dose of something, we trigger our bodies to protect themselves against it.
My point is, that humans learn. We start off without a clue, and we find things out. There is a reason for everything, even if we don’t know what it is yet. The sky is blue because other wavelengths are scattered by the atmosphere, not because God happened to have some paint left over.
I want to get that out of the way, because there is no way I can convey the absolute terror that I felt after I met someone who claimed to be a witch, and I couldn’t process it. All I can really do is recount how I felt, what I saw, how shook up I was afterwards.
I was at university – the height of my science training.
This woman was my then-girlfriend’s best friend. She was great company and, to tell the truth, I had the wrong girlfriend. But we were all young once.
We were talking one night, just the pair of us. No booze, no drugs. The subject turned to my grandfather, who had died four years before, and who this woman could not have met. She told me various things about him that I don’t think she could have known otherwise. And in the process of the evening, she disclosed to me that she was a witch. Really, no shit! That’s what she told me.
I know, I know. That’s exactly what I thought, at first. That she must have found out these things somehow. I just didn’t know how.
All these years later, following deliberate attempts to put it out of my mind, I can remember few specifics of the conversation. I can, however, remember my emotion.
The most uncomfortable part was when she talked about my smoking habit. “He doesn’t like you doing it, you know.” Like as though he was sitting there, in the corner of the room. Maybe, to her, he was. In fact, my grandad smoked like a proverbial chimney and this was likely what caused the heart attack which killed him.
But, at that part, I was merely uncomfortable. Lots of people smoked, but the health risks were becoming increasingly clear. Lucky guess?
She told me that the “powers” were stronger in me than in most people. I know. Total flannel. I’m replaying Star Wars in my head. She spins everyone this line, right?
There was one other specific that I remember. This woman was into her crystals. Magical powers and whatnot. Hocus Pocus bollocks. But she had a crystal pendant. It fell nine or ten inches when you dangled it.
And, do you know what happens when you dangle a pendant? It does little figures of eight, almost, gradually losing its energy. Ever decreasing circles, kind of thing.
Well, I held this pendant – let’s be clear there was no physical contact with this woman – and this pendant swung around in small circles as any momentum dissipated because of the friction in the chain.
Then the woman warned me what she was about to do. She just looked at the crystal on the end of the pendant. And it stopped dead. Did not move a millimetre.
No touching, remember?
Like I said, I can’t possibly do this story justice. For one, many of the details of this night, over thirty years ago, are gone. I can’t expect you to feel any of what I felt, so I’m not even going to try. But I can at least tell you how freaked out I was. A diehard sceptic, I hate not understanding things. I racked my brains for explanations but found none.
And my only conclusion was simply that some things, we just don’t understand – call them supernatural if you wish. And how, even if we are 99% certain that something is bullshit, there is still that 1%.
This account is totally honest. I have lost details over the years, and I’m not making any attempt to conceal this. But I remember that sinking feeling, as my neat scientific world dissolved around me – like it was yesterday. I bet you’re all better at remembering moods than details, too.
This woman’s name was Noreen, and this took place in the Halls of Residence during my first year at university in Cardiff, UK. I was nineteen and she was no more than a couple of years older.