Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 12
Stories
Over There
by Tim Pratt
The Multiplicity Has Arrived
by Matthew S. Rotundo
Somewhere My Love
by Stephen Mark Rainey
The End-of-the-World Pool
by Scott M. Roberts
Hologram Bride: Part One
by Jackie Gamber
Folk of the Fringe Serialization
WEST
by Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card Audio
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
The Crack
by David Lubar
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Essay
American Idol
by Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

Somewhere My Love
    by Stephen Mark Rainey
Somewhere My Love
Artwork by Nick Greenwood

She lived in our town's one and only haunted house: a century-old, two-story Victorian with a pepperbox turret, windows of leaded glass, a sagging roof with missing shingles, and a wild array of blackened brick chimneys. The little paint remaining on its aging wooden skin was no longer white but crusty gray, so the structure lurked almost unseen behind a thick shield of cedar trees that ringed the property. Rather than a neat, paved driveway like all the others in the community, only a short, gravel apron, tucked up tight against the house, existed for the owner's car. The man of the manor had died before I was born, so the woman had lived alone in that place for over ten years.

At night, no light ever shone in any of the windows. But sometimes after dark, I would hear her voice echoing out of that old house, singing songs that seemed to me unearthly.

Her name was Jeanne Weiler, and she was my music teacher when I was in elementary school.

Of course, she was a witch.

Looking back now, I would have to say she was quite an attractive woman, though at the time, she presented such an imposing figure that just being in the same room with her intimidated me to the edge of fright. She stood nearly six feet (which, when I measured barely four feet, seemed so very tall indeed); had long, wavy black hair, which she often piled high atop her head, adding to her commanding height; and possessed the most piercing green eyes I have ever seen even to this day. She virtually always wore smart, tight-fitting black outfits that showed off a figure my youthful eyes could not yet appreciate, but her clothes insinuated no impropriety -- only dignity.

Despite my fear of Mrs. Weiler, I did adore her. In those pre-pubescent days, the concept of sexual attraction was still a mystifying, nebulous thing, which only the future would elucidate, but my typical physical response to her presence consisted of stammering, chills, and uncontrollable trembling. Had she but asked it, I would have fallen to my knees, kissed her feet, and been excited enough by the prospect to wet my drawers.

All the more proof that she was a witch, at least to me, for I recognized this effect as pure power -- miles and leagues beyond any held by my parents, or any other teachers, or the minister at church, or any of my fellow fourth graders. She terrified me because she could have made me do things. Anything.

Mrs. Weiler always spoke kindly to me, and showed me the same respect she showed my classmates. All the parents liked her. I know she was aware of the effect she had on me because I would often glance up and catch her looking at me appraisingly, one hand curled beneath her chin as if she were contemplating things in store for me that I could hardly imagine.

And, oh, her voice! She would sing so many songs to us as she attempted to teach us music, and that sweet alto would weave its way down to my deepest core, tugging at my soul with sorrow or joy, or whatever emotion to which the song was tuned. I remember she would sing "A Time for Us," the theme to Romeo and Juliet, with such passion that the whole class would be in tears.

No one else could have ever done that to me, or to any of my friends.

She was a witch.

Some of the songs we had to learn were stupid, and she took great pleasure in watching us humiliate ourselves by singing them -- badly, at that -- and I loved her all the more for it. Songs like "Morning Comes Bringing" and "Dreidle" and "Cherry Ripe" made my teeth grind, but because she desired it, I would sing my little heart out, and she would smile with joy. She was our mistress, and we could not refuse her. Sometimes, she would reward us with chocolate milk and cookies, or even let us out five minutes before the bell rang in the afternoon, for hers was the last class of the day.

It was late in the school year when I learned what she had held in store for me from the beginning. Not only for me, I might add, but for Johnny McCrickard and Tina Truman as well. The horror of it nearly destroyed me, and I think the day she announced it was the first and only time I ever hyperventilated. Johnny and Tina's reactions were not so violent, but the dread showed just as plainly in their eyes and chalky faces. The rest of the class, of course, cheered and sang their praises to Mrs. Weiler, no doubt relieved that she had not singled out any of them.

Johnny, Tina and I were to sing solos. Not only in front of the class, but in front of the school. We had shown such superior achievement that Mrs. Weiler was certain we would shine, and make her, our parents -- everyone -- very, very proud.

Johnny would sing "The Impossible Dream." Tina would sing "Love is Blue." And I -- I would sing "Somewhere My Love," Lara's theme from Dr. Zhivago, the big blockbuster of the day.

Mrs. Weiler looked pained and fearful when I began breathing and sobbing so hard -- and came immediately to me and stroked my hand, and gazed at me with such sadness in her green eyes. Almost immediately the paroxysm passed. Kneeling before me, she looked truly beautiful, and I wanted to kiss her. But she said, "Warren, you can do it, I know. Won't you sing for us? Won't you please?"

And taking a deep breath, I said, "Yes, Mrs. Weiler," because I could not refuse her.

The big event would happen two weeks later, at a special assembly held in the evening so the parents could come. There was plenty of other programming: scholastic awards, athletic awards, a farewell presentation for Mrs. Clairmont, who would be retiring at the end of the term. The music event would not occur until almost the end of the assembly, which gave the three unlucky participants all the more time to sweat and fidget.

And through it all, Mrs. Weiler stood by me, whispered little encouragements in my ear, ran her fingers affectionately through my hair -- making me melt as her power coursed through my body like an electrical current. She was kind enough to Johnny and Tina, but her attention was focused on me; an attempt, I suppose, to cast a spell upon me like none she had ever conjured before. It must have worked, for by the time I was to sing my song, my heart was thumping and my knees were weak, but I went out on stage after Tina and Johnny, consumed with desire to please Mrs. Weiler. The multitudes of eyes on me, and all those expectant faces -- including my mom and dad's -- meant nothing. Only the green eyes gazing at me with such tenderness had any influence, any meaning, whatsoever.

The record began playing over the loudspeakers. It was an instrumental version, which left the vocals entirely up to me. I glanced at my teacher, who nodded at just the right moment, giving me the cue to begin. I stepped up to the microphone and the voice that came out was no longer mine. It was a rich, hearty stranger's voice, entirely on key, and absent any trace of quaver.

"Somewhere my love," I sang, and nearly fell over right there on stage, surprised and shocked by the entity that must have entered me for the sole purpose of releasing its voice.

I saw my teacher leave her place behind the curtain and make her way down the stage steps, coming slowly to stand at the edge of the platform before me. Her eyes gleamed at me, and this thing of Mrs. Weiler's making, having seized my lungs and my vocal cords, had its way with me until the music ended, and I stood there alone in a vacuum, without so much as a whisper of breath to break the silence.

Until I looked down at the green eyes, and saw them smiling. And then a single pair of hands came together, cracking in the air like a gunshot, and a moment later a thunder erupted in the auditorium: a monstrous peal of applause joined by the crying out of hundreds of voices. I nearly swooned, for it seemed that a cold wind swept past my body, threatening to topple me as my adrenaline high faded, leaving me unsteady and on the verge of hyperventilating again.

Mrs. Weiler's strong hands supported me, though, for in an instant she was beside me, and I looked into my parents' eyes and saw them beaming with pride. I smiled, probably for the first time since the news of my "performance" had been broken to me. Without looking at her, I knew that Mrs. Weiler's eyes were focused on me, perhaps in attempt to take back the thing she had released to take possession of my body. Was it a kind thing? I wondered. A dangerous thing? All I knew was that for time it had been mine, and Mrs. Weiler had made it so.

Because she was a witch.

That night became something special in my memory. Afterward, I sang and I enjoyed the sound of my voice, but it was always my voice. The sounds falling from my lips at that assembly had come from something apart from me, and try as I might, I could not regain it. Only Mrs. Weiler knew the secret.

Shortly after school ended for that summer, Mrs. Weiler died. I do not know how or why, only that I never saw her again. I cried, harder than when my grandparents died, more bitterly than when my father passed away a couple of years later. My mother is still alive, and I love her dearly, yet I cannot imagine shedding tears more meaningful when her time comes than those I shed for Mrs. Weiler.

One day when I was eighteen, I went to the house where she had lived, for it still stood then, and indeed, remains today as something of a monument in this old town. On that day, though, remembering so well the effect she'd had on my life, I wandered around the place, taken by a feeling of melancholy. I stepped up to the rickety front porch and tried the front door, not expecting it to be unlocked.

But it was. As if I were expected.

So I went inside and as soon as I stepped over the darkened threshold, the scent of her rushed into my nostrils, undiluted after so many years. Dust-shrouded furniture remained in place, as if nothing had been touched since her death. A grand piano occupied one corner of the large living room, and stepping up to it, I touched a key. A clear note rang out, and so I played a few chords, to my surprise finding each key in perfect tune. I had become proficient playing the piano, though never so well had Mrs. Weiler been there to guide my hand and attune my senses to the music.

But what came out in that dusty old chamber was a clear melody -- "Somewhere My Love" -- a song I had never played myself, now played as perfectly as I had sung it on that night in fourth grade. I felt the same current in my soul as on the night she had released her power into me, and I would have sworn then I heard her voice singing in accompaniment.

When I stopped playing, the notes echoed into the darkened halls of that house, stirring something. Something that whispered my name and touched my cheek and brushed my lips with a sweet caress.

I left there knowing I would return. Soon.

And I did.

When I graduated college, I disavowed the ritual practiced by my friends and virtually all the rest of the town's youth -- leaving home for greener pastures, never to return, or if so, only for brief family visits. Instead, I managed to place myself as music teacher in the local school system.

I moved into the old Weiler place, which is where I still reside. I often wish I had been able to know her as an adult, for I had come to understand her power and her love of music. I came to feel what she must have felt when a beautiful melody played and touched her heart. I still feel her and hear her and smell her in the halls of this house, and within these walls, I feel the magic she once gave to me on the stage of our little elementary school.

I take that magic with me every day, and when I encounter a little one who shares, however vaguely, the power that Mrs. Weiler bestowed upon me, I give to that child all I can spare, conjuring up that thing that once took me and that still lives within the walls of my old house. It doesn't like light, but favors the dark, so in the evenings, I walk with it and sing, or play the piano or the guitar, or whichever instrument that brings it pleasure. It prefers the old things, so I don't change the furniture, or otherwise renovate the place any more than necessary to keep it habitable. And I remember those times when I was a child and heard Mrs. Weiler's voice in the night, and didn't understand.

But I am older now, and I understand so much more. And though most children don't understand, there are those few who one day will. Those are the ones upon whom I focus -- to perpetuate the spirit that Mrs. Weiler passed on to me. I can do this; I have that power.

Because I am a witch.

Of course.


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