Karma is a Wytch

A mile off County Road 28, in a clearing surrounded by old-growth timber, Katheryn lived alone in a 19th-century wooden house. East of her homestead, the forest became patchy and the land smoothed into a gently rising and falling quilt of plowed fields, grassy meadows, and suburban lots. Encroaching civilization had never bothered her, however; she and the state of Ohio owned enough land to buffer her from modern America.

Until a year ago, when the governor permitted energy companies to sink gas wells in national forests. The Eastern Gas Company promptly began razing the trees just northwest of Katheryn’s property; they built their own access road. In a short period of time, she could look up and see the struts and metal stairs of a tower topped by a red-orange clockwork-like mechanism as it rose against the clouds.

Soon strange things began to happen. Her crystal clear water began to taste foul. Toxic fumes filled the air. Her centuries-old hardwoods and gardens turned yellow and died and earthquakes made her dishes rattle. The rage pressed into her thoughts like shale gas forced from fractured ancient rocks.  Her last straw came when she was awakened one night to see flames shooting from the top of the tower, snapping against the sky with translucent yellows, blues, and golds, the odor of methane floating through her window.

The next morning at dawn, Katheryn arrayed herself in her classic black velvet and marched through the woods until she came to a tall chain-link fence. A row of trailers set end to end and a parking lot stood on the other side of the fence.  As the rising sun brightened the area, she could see an enormous pressure chamber, and a large-bore green piping system with welded joints that crawled at right angles all over what appeared to be a storage tank. The central tower itself–she raised her chin and held her hat in place as she gazed higher and higher–was no longer burning. But that choking smell remained.

“It’s all poison,” she said. “And I’m going to put a stop to it.” She flicked her left hand and the fence melted before her. She strode forward–lifting her skirts a few inches above the tops of her high-button shoes–then turned to the right and moved on until she came to the last trailer, which she circled. She arrived at a painted porch and steps. “Hello,” she called. “Is anyone there?”

A man appeared in the trailer doorway. He was middle-aged, in shirt-sleeves. He clutched a Styrofoam cup of coffee with both hands. His eyebrows went up, his blue eyes narrowed.

“Are you the owner of this hell-hole?” she called up to him.

The sun hit the man in the face and he squinted. “What the hell are you doing here?” he demanded. “Who the hell are you? How did you get on site?”

“I’m unfortunately your neighbor,” she replied. She started to climb the stairs–raising her skirts again–each of her boots clicking in turn as she ascended.

“Whoa, you can’t come in here. Barry, call security, pronto!” he shouted to a shadowy figure inside.  “Ma’am, you will have to leave,” he said more calmly to her.

She was on the landing now, and stood taller than expected, staring at him eyeball to eyeball. “You will leave, now. I don’t know if I can fix what you broke, or get my water back, but you will seal this contraption and get off this land!”

He laughed. “Yeah, whatever.” He peeked around her in a way that meant some hefty hardhats were coming their way, and the police wouldn’t be far behind.

She snapped her fingers without even turning. She could read everything in the man’s stunned expression. “Are you the owner?”

“I’m … I’m the CEO, yes.” He backed a couple of paces towards the threshold, where “Barry” hovered, his face pale.

“Both of you, get on out of here. Get all these men out of here. You have ten minutes,” Katheryn said, her voice soft but flinty. She pivoted, and began to descend, her skirts flaring, her hips moving as if she were a young women on her way to a dance. Once on the ground she stopped and gave them a glance. “You won’t remember a thing after. Well, if you don’t get your sorry asses out of here, you won’t remember anything anyway.”

She ambled back the way she had walked in, remembering to unfreeze all those muscular workers she’d immobilized. She heard a siren blare.

Later that night, she listened to the radio, and nodded with satisfaction as a news anchor discussed the fracking well explosion and meltdown that had rocked eastern Ohio. “‘Fortunately,'” they reported, “‘no one was injured.” She sipped her tea–old fashioned Oolong, nothing fancy–stroked her cat, and smiled.

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Rivka Jacobs

Rivka Jacobs

Rivka Jacobs

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