Philo's Stories

"Bog Witch"

the Subaru's wheels make deep ruts in the snow on the logging road
she hasn't been up here before and she takes it slowly, consulting the map her friend drew for her and a compass
her desire to go required no explanation, as all who visit the bog feel something

she straps on her snowshoes and hikes through the woods to the clearing where the trees abruptly stop
the surface of the bog is a rolling mass of snow-covered peat and ruddy brown leaves with the occasional small pine tree

she can feel something in the air from the confluence of leylines beneath the surface
checking her snowshoes, she sets out onto the springy surface of the bog
every step sends waves through the peat, and she knows that the bog's magic is shifting underfoot

the wind whips at her as she gets away from the protection of the trees

any step could prove her doom, even with the snowshoes, but her footing is sure as she approaches the center of the bog

the entombed lake is probably a hundred feet deep here, and power's percolating through it
she brushes the snow off a mound of moss and takes a seat, crossing her jeans-clad legs
the bog gas is bubbling especially strongly today and she breathes deeply of it

a hundred tiny spells cast themselves inside her lungs and she exhales
she takes another breath and begins mouthing words in a language hasn't been spoken aloud for three thousand years, half of her own accord and half from the bog gas filling her lungs

the mound she's sitting on begins to sink, and suddenly she's in the lake underneath the peat

there's a presence there that speaks to her and makes her feel a part of this environment
she welcomes it into her mind and body, cementing it with another breath of bog gas

a moment later, she emerges from the bog, missing her snowshoes
she's perfectly dry and warm, despite the winter wind whipping at her and the lake she just took a dip into
she can feel the magic of the bog even more clearly now; it's almost overwhelming

she treads so lightly across the surface that she leaves no footprints

as she drives back down the logging roads, onto pavement, and then onto the highway towards home, her thoughts turn to the presence that spoke to her under the bog's surface

something seems to have shifted in her thoughts and inside of her
she doesn't know what, but it's a very good feeling

as she undresses after a long day of driving and hiking, she discovers swooping lines and leaves tattooed all over her body

lines like the trunks of black spruce curve down her legs
rings with the outline of the leaf-like structure of sphagnum moss wrap around her neck and wrists
her ankles are ringed with silhouettes of the leaf-tentacles of the carnorivorous sundew

she runs her fingers along the smooth lines, begins to float off the ground, and giggles a bit

over the remaining weeks of winter break break, she grows more used to her newfound power

when she returns to her uni's brutalist campus, she feels out of place and disconnected

while walking at night, she sees a circle of silhouettes with pointed hats on the roof of the tallest building on campus and realizes that they're the source of the magic she feels
their magic feels like glass to her: perfectly smooth and modern, yet fragile

she feels to them like a confluence of leylines somehow moving around: rough-hewn, impossibly ancient, and impossibly powerful
she floats up to them and they rapidly hit it off, despite the differences in their types of magic