Witch and wizard, p.4

Witch & Wizard, page 4

 part  #1 of  Witch & Wizard Series

 

Witch & Wizard
 


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  Judge Unger continued, “Therefore, based on the preponderance of evidence—”

  “Look, whatever the charges, we plead not guilty!” I yelled, grabbing the bars of the cage despite my handcuffs and shaking them with all my strength. Which I guess wasn’t the smartest thing.

  Smack! The bailiff raked his nightstick across my knuckles. Wisty gasped, and I barely managed to swallow a scream of pain.

  The One Who Judges literally leaped out of his chair and leaned over his desk, practically within spitting distance. “That’s showing those vermin! Well done, bailiff! That’s the only way to deal with this kind of filth! If you spare the rod, you spoil the deviants!”

  His face was mottled purple and white, his eyes bugging out of his head.

  “How say you to these charges?” he yelled at us.

  Dumbfounded, Wisty and I replied, “Not guilty!”

  The judge turned away from us. “Gentlemen of the jury, with that statement, the defendants stand in clear contempt of your will and this court’s mission. They mock us. They flout the standards of the glorious New Order! I ask you, what is your verdict?”

  “That’s it?” I yelled from the cage. “That’s our trial?”

  “You’ve got to be kidding!” screamed Wisty. “That’s not fair.”

  Smack! went the bailiff’s nightstick. Smack! Smack! Smack!

  Chapter 18

  Whit

  THIS WHOLE CRAZY THING was happening so fast.

  In ordinary, lawful trials, one juror stands and reads the verdict from a sheet of paper that often shakes in his or her hand. But this was a travesty of justice. This jury simply held their fists out. We watched as the men, one by one, turned their hands thumbs-down. All of them. Unanimous.

  Of course, in ordinary trials, there are also lawyers and due process and principles such as innocent until proven guilty, and things like that. Welcome to the New World Order, I guess.

  Judge Unger banged his gavel so hard that Wisty and I jumped. “Guilty as charged!” he roared, and my breath froze in my chest.

  “You, Wisteria Allgood, are hereby determined by the New Order to be a witch! You, Whitford Allgood, are determined to be a wizard!”

  Wisty and I could only stare up at him in shock and disbelief. But he had saved his best line for last.

  “Both of which are punishable by hanging… until dead.”

  Chapter 19

  Wisty

  HANGING UNTIL DEAD?

  This isn’t real.

  My ears started to buzz.

  This can’t be real. This doesn’t happen. This has to be a nightmare.

  My chest tightened up. The room started to go green. And fuzzy.

  And then I heard Whit’s voice. Like it was coming to me down a long tunnel. Finally, he shook my shoulder.

  “Hang in there, Wisty,” he said quietly. I blinked and focused on his face. “Love you.”

  I nodded. Whit didn’t think he was special, but his words and his touch were like a magic bullet of strength. I could breathe now. “Love you too,” I whispered. “More than I ever knew before.”

  I inhaled deeply and braced myself for what Judge Unger had to say next.

  “Unfortunately, executions are not allowed until said criminal is eighteen years of age.”

  The buzzing returned to my ears, the fuzziness to my sight.

  Whit would be eighteen in less than a month!

  I wondered why I wasn’t feeling a little flameish or lightningy right about now. I wanted to lash out at this judge so much that it hurt.

  “Therefore, both of you will be held in the state penitentiary”—he continued gravely, and then smiled—“for the time being.” He nodded at the bailiff in the courtroom and said, “Take them out of my sight.”

  The guards removed us from the cage—sort of clumsily, I might add, since Whit was thrashing like a rabid animal. “You’re making a terrible mistake!” he yelled. “This is insane! You’ll be disbarred! This isn’t legal!”

  “Shut up, wizard!” the judge screamed, and suddenly hurled his gavel at Whit.

  Whit held up his cuffed hands, and then—

  The gavel just hung there in midair for a good five seconds—maybe six inches from Whit’s face—then dropped heavily to the floor.

  The courtroom was completely silent for a moment. Then chaos took over. Angry voices howled, “Witch! Wizard! Put them to death! Execute them both!”

  And they really did mean us, didn’t they? Wisty and Whit. The witch and wizard.

  Chapter 20

  Wisty

  THE ANGRY CHANTING and taunting of the courtroom crowd filled our ears as Whit and I were dragged and shoved down a long, narrow hallway and through throngs of perfect strangers, all thirsty for blood—our blood.

  Talk about a way to kill your faith in humanity.

  A few days ago, it seemed like the worst thing that could happen to me was waking up with a giant zit during school-picture day. How could life as I’d known it change so quickly and bizarrely? My brother and I had just been sentenced to death.

  The horrid word “execution” kept bouncing around inside my head, sending me into a daze as Whit and I were shoved into another van.

  I thought of all the people I’d learned about in school who’d been executed or assassinated. I came up with almost a dozen. But they were all political or religious leaders. And I was just Wisteria Allgood. I wasn’t powerful enough to scare people. Was I? I was not a hero, a prophet, a saint, or a leader of any kind. It made no sense.

  And then, another horrible thing. Stunning. Something that changed my mind about the worst thing that could ever happen to me.

  As we rode through the city, we kept our faces pressed against a tiny window in the foul-smelling van—desperate for sunlight, if nothing else—watching the city streets go by, watching soldiers, soldiers everywhere.

  Until we saw a new sign being constructed by workmen.

  WANTED FOR TREASON

  AND CRIMINAL PRACTICE OF FOUL ARTS

  Underneath the words were black-and-white photographs of Mom and Dad.

  And then the kicker:

  DEAD OR ALIVE!

  “They got away,” Whit whispered. “They’re out there somewhere. Somehow, we’ll find them.”

  BOOK TWO

  VERY DICKENSIAN

  Chapter 21

  Wisty

  WHEN THE UGLY BLACK NEW ORDER VAN finally stopped, it was raining hard outside and the wind howled. We were parked in front of another large building, this one with high stone walls that looked charred, kind of like an old factory. Stains over the doorway revealed where foot-high letters used to be. They had read GENERAL BOWEN STATE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL.

  For a moment, I got the idea this nightmare might actually make sense. That’s it! I thought with a breath of hope. I’m psychotic! Everything that’s just happened has been a clever collection of my own delusions.

  That would explain the fire… the strange and random appearance of Byron Swain… the death sentence for being a witch.

  The good doctors’ll treat me here, Mom and Dad will come get me when I’m well, and everything will be fine again. I’m just psychotic, is all. No biggie.

  I smiled involuntarily at the thought. Whit looked over at me like I was—not surprisingly—certifiably insane. I sure hoped so.

  “What’s with you? You’re half smiling. Why? This looks like a hellhouse.” He grimaced.

  “Well, what were you expecting?” I said with a titter. “Warm and fuzzy?”

  We were whisked out of the van and past the stone walls. “Move it!” The guard jabbed me in the back with his baton, pushing me into a wide, dark hallway. One faint fluorescent light flickered at its distant end. A light at the end of the tunnel? I doubted that.

  “Will I be treated here?” I took the chance of asking. “When can I meet with the doctor?”

  Whit twisted his head around and gave me another confused look.

  “This is a jail of the New Ord
er, girlie,” one of the guards said, sounding both brusque and nervous. “For dangerous criminals. Like you two.”

  We were pushed into a very dim stairwell, lit by only the faintest light seeping under the doorways at each landing. My legs were shivery, probably because we hadn’t had anything real to eat since oh-nightmare-thirty. The guards marched us up higher and higher until I surrendered to fatigue and quit counting the landings.

  Finally we entered yet another dark hallway with what looked to be an ancient nurses’ station front and center. A woman inside was slouched over her desk, engrossed in New Order Administrator magazine. She must have been enormously tall, because even though she was sitting, she was able to look down at me.

  “Yes?” she croaked like a frog who’d smoked too many cigarettes. “Why are you bothering me?”

  Dark eyes, without any whites, bored into mine. She had a crooked nose and a pointy chin with a huge mole that had wiry black hairs growing out of it. Heck, if the New Order was really looking to arrest witches…

  “Two more despicable degenerates for you, Matron,” announced one of the guards. “A witch and a wizard.”

  My stomach sank down into my socks. My short-lived fantasy of psychosis was officially over.

  You know life really sucks when you’re desperately wishing to be institutionalized, drugged, or shocked back to reality. I’d gladly take a lobotomy at this point. I guess that’s what you’re faced with when freedom isn’t even a pipe dream any longer.

  Give me lobotomy or give me death!

  Chapter 22

  Whit

  “POLICE MUST BE DREDGING every rancid trash pile in the country,” the Matron snarled, “finding all these… maggots for me to look after.”

  And with that cheerful introduction, our situation might have hit a new low. At the moment, I was actually more concerned about Wisty, whose eyes were scarily glazing over.

  The Matron swiveled her chair away from us to grab a couple of thick files off the desk behind her. A greasy, heavy ponytail hung down the back of her white nurse’s uniform like some enormous piece of seaweed or a dead lake eel.

  “Yes, ma’am,” said the guard. “‘Maggots’ is exactly right, only maybe a little too kind, if you ask me.”

  “I didn’t!” snapped the Matron. The guard cowered and did his impression of a dashboard-mounted bobblehead in a dune buggy.

  Then she heaved herself to her massive feet with a weary grunt. “You know why you’re here, instead of some namby-pamby jail?” she asked.

  “No, sir,” I said, clearing my throat.

  “Funny boy.” Her eyes narrowed to gleaming slits. “This is a dangerous place,” she said. “For dangerous criminals. But keep in mind that your cheap tricks won’t work in here, my pretties!”

  Did she actually just call us “my pretties”? Did I hear her right? Maybe there was a reason I was in a psychiatric hospital.

  “The New Order’s had this place spellproofed.” She gloated, and then her expression changed and she began muttering to herself. “I don’t know what they think I’m going to do with any more of this filth, though.”

  The Matron led us down the hallway to a thick wooden door with a wire-glassed window. She unlocked it, and the guards very roughly pushed us inside. They removed our chains and tossed our meager belongings—one drumstick and one empty book—on the floor behind us.

  “Welcome to death row,” she said as she slammed the door shut and locked us inside.

  Chapter 23

  Wisty

  “A LITTLE CREEPY, huh?” I said, trying to make it sound like this place wasn’t much worse than a haunted mansion at a kiddie theme park.

  “Uh, not as creepy as you,” said Whit. “I hate to break this to you, sis, but… um, you’re glowing.”

  Glowing? Does not compute. Does not compute.

  “Huh?” I said, deadpan. “What do you mean?”

  “What part of ‘you’re glowing’ do you not understand?” he asked.

  “The part where I’m glowing,” I said. “How could—”

  I looked down and saw that my skin, my clothes, the air about an inch around my body, were suffused with a thin, faint, greenish light—enough to see by.

  “Have you been playing in toxic waste lately?” Whit made an unfunny.

  I held my shaking hand out and examined it. It started to get so bright I had to turn away. The whole room lit up—the dark, grime-filled crevices, the piles of medical waste, the bedpans, the holes in the baseboard that could easily accommodate rats.

  “Ugh.” Whit winced. “Do me a favor and hit the dimmer switch.”

  “I don’t know if I can,” I said, my voice cracking a little.

  Except for my flighty flower-power first name, I’d mostly escaped freakishness in my life. Didn’t have to wear hideous hand-me-down clothes from an older sister. Never the last one picked for a team in gym class. Never called four eyes, metal mouth, or fatty. Now I was an official freak, three times over. A witchy flamethrowing radio-active freak.

  That’s not great news for a fifteen-year-old, let me tell you.

  I suddenly welled up with tears, desperately needing my parents. “Mom? Dad?” I whimpered. The echo of their names hit my ears cruelly.

  Whit got that annoyingly worried look on his face again. “Wisty…”

  “Shh,” I hissed, crying now. “Mom… told me about everything, Whit. She told me about the birds and the bees, like, way before any of my other friends’ parents did. How she and Dad fell in love—very romantic. And Dad—he told me about his most embarrassing moments in school. And how proud he was of you, and me, and… and he was never afraid to say ‘I love you’ like the other dads.” I sucked in a tortured breath. “But why didn’t they tell me about all of this?”

  Whit came close and hugged me, glow and all.

  “The worst thing is, Whit, maybe they did tell me about it. And maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention.”

  Then I really started sobbing. My tears soaked into Whit’s jumpsuit, and he held me until we both sank into sleep, and my glow faded, faded away.

  Chapter 24

  Whit

  WHOA!

  Celia came to visit me again that night, or sometime during those first harried hours in the new jail. I wasn’t so sure about the passage of time anymore. I wasn’t sure about anything.

  “Hi, Whit, missed you,” Celia said, same as before, only now she said it with a wink. “I was thinking about you. The way it was. Happy days. Our first date. You wore that wrinkly bowling shirt you love. Alley Cat. Remember?”

  Of course I remembered.

  Oh man, oh man, oh Celia. What is happening? Am I totally insane? Is that why I’m in a nuthouse? “Celes, listen, I need to ask you a question. Why did you stay away for so long? Please, if you don’t want me to go completely crazy, tell me what happened to you.”

  Amazingly—especially if this was a dream—Celia reached out and touched me. I could feel her. It made me calm. Calmer. She felt like the old Celia, looked like the old Celia… and had the same sweet smile.

  “I will tell you what happened to me, Whit. I want to so badly.”

  “Thank you.” I let out a sigh from the bottom of my sneakers. “Thank you.”

  “Not now, though. When I see you for real. In person. Not in a dream. We have to be careful, though—The One Who Is The One is watching us.”

  I couldn’t let Celia go again. I held her close—very close—and I asked her once more for some kind of rational explanation.

  Then Celia pulled away, but just far enough for her to stare into my eyes. I loved being able to look into her eyes again. We had the same baby blues. Her friends used to joke about the kids we’d have one day.

  “Here’s all I can tell you for now, Whit. There’s a prophecy. It’s written on a wall in your future. Learn about it. Never forget it. You’re a part of it, of running the world. That’s why the New Order’s so afraid of you and Wisteria.”

  I couldn’t eve
n absorb that major information drop before she took a quick breath and continued. “Whit, I can’t be here any longer than this. I love you. Please miss me.”

  “Don’t go,” I pleaded. “I can’t take this again. Celia?”

  She was gone, but somehow I could still hear her voice: “We’ll be together again, Whit. I miss you already. Miss me. Please miss me.”

  Chapter 25

  Wisty

  THAT MORNING, Whit and I were startled awake by a tapping sound, like a stick or maybe somebody’s cane. My heart immediately started racing full blast, but Whit still seemed groggy and disoriented.

  “Celia,” he mumbled. I shoved myself away from him. I loved my brother, but this was no time for hopeless romanticism.

  “No, it’s your sister, and as a reminder, we’re at home sweet hellhouse,” I said, and gave him a gentle slap. “Wake up! I need you here, dude!”

  I held my breath as the knob slowly turned. By the time Whit showed any recognition of where he was, the door had opened several inches, but all I could see was the dimly lit hall through the crack.

  A cold voice finally came from behind the door. “Thank you, Matron.” Its evil chill made my heart practically stop. “I’ll take it from here, if I may.”

  “Watch yourself, now,” said the Matron. “These are dangerous fiends.”

  “Thank you for your concern, but I think I’ll be just fine.” The door opened wider, and a towering skeletal figure—almost inhumanly tall—stepped into our room.

  He was like Death itself, but in modern garb. A charcoal suit hung on him as if he were made of clothes hangers. His skin had a ghastly pallor, unhealthy as a plant left in a closet. For years.

  Instinctively I moved back. Then, like a snake striking, a black leather riding crop whipped through the air with a hiss and smacked me hard. “Hey!”

 
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