The first woman disappeared at dusk on Friday, August 13th. Two friends walked down Sylvan Lane, chatting. Laura heard a rustling in the nearby bushes and turned her head for a second. When she looked back, her friend was gone. The police discounted her story, put it down to hysteria. “Of course I’m hysterical,” sobbed Laura. “Pema was there one minute and the next …” She could barely speak. The doctor gave her a sedative.

Exactly a week later, Jennifer and Joe headed for their favorite restaurant, taking the shortcut through the woods, down Sylvan Lane. “I’m starved!” exclaimed Joe. He closed his eyes, savoring the thought of a nice sirloin steak and a small glass of wine. When he opened his eyes, Jennifer was nowhere to be seen. The police suggested that Joe had already had too much wine. “Absolutely not,” Joe insisted, as he shakily called Jennifer’s mother.

Week three, week four, week five – the drama repeated itself every Friday evening. The police were bombarded with questions from terrified townfolk. “No bodies have been found. No foul play is indicated. We’re totally mystified.” Everyone now avoided Sylvan Lane. Yet, missing person reports still came in every Friday. My sister… My wife… My daughter…

On the twelfth Friday, DCI Kate Delaney received a letter related to the disappearances. She entered the deserted lane, admired the bright autumn colors, took the prescribed number of steps, spoke the word that parted the red-gold leaves to reveal the secret door, and walked through.

Two nights later, twelve women clad in flowing pastel silk danced under the crescent moon. No more pointy black hats, unkempt hair and wild cackling. No more misrepresentation of magick. These modern witches had been selected for their intelligence, their compassion, their courage, their burgeoning wisdom. All had eagerly answered the call.

DCI Kate sent in her final report, accompanied by a photo of the coven. “We’re all safe and sound, happy and healthy, learning the old ways, exploring the new. The sacred task we’ve given ourselves is to become healers for our wounded world. Blessed be.”

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Paul Lewthwaite
Paul Lewthwaite(@paul-lewthwaite)
8 months ago

Julie, a wonderful, uplifting take on witches. Love the recruitment drive technique and how witches have embraced a more ‘modern’ approach to their goals. Really enjoyed this.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
8 months ago

I really like the unexpected ending to this story, Julie. All the way through you drop subtle hints that something bad has befallen the women, but then we learn they were taken for a more positive reason. Nicely done.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
8 months ago
Reply to  Julie Harris

LOL, believe me, she already does Julie; she did play around with love spells in the summer of ‘69 after all ?

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
8 months ago

Wow! Your story flows so well, Julie. It was so smooth and subtle that it brought us the 12 modern witches. And the last paragraph about Kate’s last DCI report added even more color and satisfaction for me, especially when she said that “The sacred work we have given ourselves is to be healers for our wounded world. ” You made me smile sweetly, Julie. Nice work. I love it.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
8 months ago
Reply to  Julie Harris

You’re most welcome, Julie.

Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
8 months ago

Women in books mostly appear in traditional roles such as mythological figures or witches, but your ‘modern witches’ destabilise the old notion. Excellent, Julie!

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Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
8 months ago
Reply to  Julie Harris

You’re welcome, Julie.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
8 months ago

I love your different take on witches, detective stories and heroes that will save the world, Julie. Here, we have 12 intelligent, modern witches, one of them being a detective and all of them dedicated to healing this world. 12 is a sacred number, according to Google signifying “perfection of government or rule” among other things. I guess you chose it for a good reason.

Greene M Wills
Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
8 months ago

I always love a story that starts with terror and ends up with a message of happiness and hope! Well done Julie! ? 

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