The wind changed during the night. Even as they slept, the Witch and the Ladies of the Magic Mirror felt it and stirred in their beds. Kahlil the raven, who was sitting on the roof, felt it, too, and as he looked down the highway, he spotted the travelers. “What’re those folks doing on the road?”
The travelers were walking along the highway built only a few years ago by the people of the country towns who had fled from El Presidente’s capital city. They were coming toward the Witch’s house, too many for the raven to easily count: women, men, and children dressed in dark clothing that was stylish a hundred years ago.
The sun began to rise. The travelers came closer. The Witch and the Ladies got up, got dressed, and stood on the porch to wait for them. At the direction of the stout woman who was leading them, smaller groups broke off and turned toward other houses in the small town. The stout woman led her people to the Witch’s front porch. The wind changed again—and look! The travelers were no longer wearing dignified attire. Cloth caps instead of bowler hats on the men’s heads, headscarves on the women, scraps wrapped around the children. “They’re laborers,” said one of the Ladies. “Migrants.” Another Lady nodded. “And they obviously need our help. They need to be fed.” “They need jobs,” said the Witch. “How can we help them?”
The stout woman, now wearing a headscarf patterned with rosemary and a shabby coat over an equally shabby dress and a red apron, stepped forward and addressed the Witch. “Madam,” she said, “I am the Matriarch of my people, whom you have seen on the road. We have heard about the good works you do, and, yes, we are seeking your hospitality and your kindness. We were bullied and attacked at home.”
“You mean you were chased away,” the raven muttered. “They threw rocks at you.” And the travelers nodded.
Mrs. Worthington stepped forward. “Matriarch,” she said, “we recognize you as a True Sister.” “Yes, come in,” said Mrs. Bezukhov. “Come in and we’ll talk.” As Mrs. Janedoe made welcoming gestures, the travelers entered the Witch’s kitchen, where other Ladies were already preparing vegetable soup and other healthful foods. Mrs. Fairy handed cookies and glasses of milk to the children.
The raven was standing in the middle of the kitchen table as the food was served. “Soup’s on,” he croaked, “though I’d rather have a good, fresh eyeball or two.” The children laughed, and a little boy fished a pea out of the vegetable soup and tossed it at him. “Tiny eye,” the boy said. The raven ate it.
“Now,” said the Witch when appetites seemed to have been satisfied, “where are you going and what are your plans?”
“We’re going to the capital city,” the Matriarch told her. “We hope to meet with El Presidente and convince him that we are worthy of safety and acceptance in this nation, that we are deserving of employment and homes to live in and…and…” She didn’t need to finish the sentence. Everyone knew El Presidente’s reputation for bad behavior. Everyone knew that even young children were now copying his bullying and open cruelty.
“I hate to say this,” said Mrs. Worthington as she buttered another slice of bread for the little girl sitting next to her, “but things just aren’t going to get better for people like us. Not for anyone who doesn’t share El Presidente’s prejudices. Not going to get better—”
“—till the wind shifts again,” the raven said, eating another pea given to him by the little boy. “Not till the people wake up.” He looked around at the Ladies. “Girls,” he said, “maybe ya gotta do some scryin’ in yer magic mirror. Sorta get a hint of what’s to come? Speak to the wind? Maybe start some kinda little change that’ll grow into a big change?”
The Witch stood up. “Kahlil, that’s an excellent idea. Ladies, friends, let us adjourn to the dining room. I’ll fetch the mirror. Kahlil, you go find your friends to stand in the corners of our magic circle and gaze into the mirror with us.”
And so, after the travelers had swallowed and wiped their faces and hands with real cloth napkins, they walked into the dining room, where the Ladies had set their scrying mirror in the center of the table. A minute or two later, Kahlil and three more ravens flew in through the open window and settled around the mirror. As Mrs. Worthington, Mrs. Janedoe, Mrs. Bezukhov, and Mrs. Fairy invoked the elemental powers of the four directions, the surface of the mirror went cloudy. It looked like clouds were blowing across it. There seemed to be blue under the clouds, and maybe some green. Suddenly the wind shifted. The clouds turned around, the colors disappeared. “Uh oh,” said one of the ravens, “I don’t like that.” “Not a good sign,” another raven said, and all the human beings around the table nodded. “Well,” said Mrs. Worthington, “let’s scry and see what we can see.”
“Mirror, mirror on the table,
“Show us all that you are able.”
Nothing at first, then some stirring under the dark clouds, as if the citizens of the capital were restless. Then, suddenly, large letters: JOURNEY ON.
Well, to shorten this story, the travelers spend the night in the Witch’s house listening to the restless wind, and in the morning they all regroup and set out along the highway, on which there is almost no motorized traffic. The Witch, the Ladies, and the ravens watch them in the mirror.
And, of course, the wind changes again. But look! They’re not human beings anymore. The mirror shows golems, jinni, dragons, chimeras, aragogs, the shelob, manticores, grootslangs, Mongolian death worms, gorgons and ghouls, banshees and harpies, zombies and gargoyles, vampires and werewolves, the Jersey devil, and the Minotaur. Hundreds of them, all marching on El Presidente’s palace. “El Presidente, come out!”
And who comes out of the palace? A huge, orange Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The Matriarch is striding beside the Jabberwock. She throws off her coat. It’s the Red Queen! “OFF WITH HIS HEAD.”
What will the wind blow when next it changes?
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.