SECOND PLACE: No- Dialog Contest (02-21): A witch is confronted by a stronger power
|The seagulls and fresh sea breeze, coupled with the sunshine, sparkling on the harbor waters, lent their magical allure. Sarah watched from her balcony, as men unloaded a big cargo ship, that had just landed in the harbor, below her. Born an aristocrat, from one of the cities oldest and richest families, she was also one of the most beautiful women in Ephesus, privately educated by some of the finest tutors in the area. Currently a priestess, in the local Temple of Artemis, she was learning medicine from Ephesus's finest physicians. In 6 months she would be finished, and married off, to a rich, eligible, aristocrat. Eligible would not necessarily mean attractive or desirable. Her family's rank, privilege, and magical bloodlines were the primary considerations. Sarah was a witch, who practiced a form of magic, according to the old ways, from long before the Romans came.
She fingered the amulet, worn around her neck. It was meant to ward off evil spirits and a gift from her mother. She had always told others it was ugly but that she was afraid of the spirits, and even more so of her mother, so she wore it anyway. Today she moved restlessly too and fro while staring out. She watched as the new man in town, who owned a shipping company of his own, organized the unloading of his ship. Tall and muscular, he was a widower, who had been living in Rome, and was very rich. The rumor was that he was a Christian. 10 years before a man called Paul had been active in the city winning many to this emerging movement, as a result of his preaching and miracles. Now the miracle worker was a man called John, an apostle by title, who had been with Jesus and had acquired his magical arts. Many people had turned from the old ways and even burnt their magic books. Sarah's family remained untouched by the preaching due to her mother, who was anxious that her daughter would inherit her position and status, as the head of Ephesus's secret magic circle, and not be contaminated by the magic of the Christians.
As she watched, the man dealt efficiently and respectfully with his workforce. Some amphorae were set close to the edge of his ship's deck, ready for unloading. Sarah focused on one, waving a hand in that direction, and started chanting a spell to throw it down. She timed it wrong and one of the man's servants was underneath, as the amphorae started to fall. Before she had time to regret her mistake, the owner moved with superhuman speed, some 50 meters, to rescue his servant, from the falling amphorae, that would have crushed his skull, by pushing him aside. The amphorae smashed against the dock and its wine contents spilled out. The man did not seem to care about the loss. The servant, who by now realized that his boss had just saved his life, was spluttering his thanks. The boss seemed to bark orders to the crew on deck, pointing vigorously at the cargo. She watched him climb onto the ship, angry, then seeing where the amphorae were parked, now puzzled. There was no wind and it was clear he was wondering how the amphorae might have fallen? He looked around and his eyes met Sarah, on her balcony. She ducked back into her room with a guilty look on her face. As she glanced back, the eyes of the man followed her. She leaned against her bedroom wall, her heart thumping in her chest and sweating with fear. It was as if she had just been confronted with a power far greater and even older than her own.
That night she was visited by an army of twisted evil spirits, like a dark cloud over her body, screaming at each other. The only words in their confused conversation, that made any sense, were to do with the man's arrival. The spirits would not allow her to see this man's face, which never broke through the darkness.