Disclaimer and credits will be found after the end of the chapter.




by Robert M. Schroeck


1: Upstairs, Downstairs


"Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" -- Glinda the Good

Bedivere: How do you know she is a witch?
Man in Crowd: She looks like one!

-- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail


Zoom in on a city.

A city by a bay; ocean to the west, a harbor to the east. A narrow strait along the north, spanned by a bridge painted orange but called "Golden".

Pan past the "downtown", where office towers cluster around the skirts of a building that is ostensibly a pyramid, but whose long, thin white construction looks more like a rocket about to hurl itself into space. Pan further, westward and southward, as commercial district gives way to residential, and the average building height drops even as the land elevation climbs.

Dolly through a street that would look almost suburban were it not for the Victorian houses that line it, and the steep angle at which it climbs. This is an old neighborhood, and a comfortable one. Quiet. Calm.

Pan out of the street to bring the point of view to rest on one particular house, painted a peculiar shade somewhere between pink and purple. It's not unpleasant, but even in this city of brightly-colored homes it is distinctive.

High on one wall is a semi-circular window. Through it a neat, clean, and mostly-empty attic can be seen. Still, the carefully-preserved, beloved artifacts of several generations stand at attention in ragged ranks along the walls, as if waiting upon an order to march.

In the center of the attic, surrounded by uncluttered hardwood floor, there is a bookstand of dark oak.

And on the bookstand is a book: a great, folio-sized volume that would dwarf a latter-day "coffee-table" book, bound in ancient, chocolate-hued leather.

Without warning, its thick, heavy cover opens of its own volition. As if blown by a strong wind, parchment pages covered with text and drawings in a dozen different hands flutter by, then stop. At the top of the page to which the book is now open is a phrase in a bold, archaicly-neat script:

"A Spell To Save One Lost In The Void"

Below it are several dozen lines of seeming poetry in the same writing; even as the eye passes over them, a faint luminescence briefly limns each word then rushes on to the next. Before the bottom of the page comes into view, though, the weak, almost non-existent glow is long gone.

A disk of rainbow light appears, floating vertically in midair before the great palladian window. Almost as soon as it becomes visible, it expands, revealing its rainbow colors to be merely a border around a broad, black gateway more than two yards across. A moment later, a loud piercing whine, like that of a small jet engine, fills the room as a motorcycle hurtles out of the hole in the fabric of space. There is a man in helmet and leathers, limp and seemingly unconscious, strapped to it.

With a flick of its cover, the great tome slams itself shut.

As the rainbow-and-ebony disk vanishes, the motorcycle and its rider smash through the attic door. They careen off a wall, leaving deep, ugly gouges in the lath-and-plaster surface, and then plunge down an oak-and-redwood stairwell.

Halfway down, at a small landing, the stairs make a sudden right turn.

The motorcycle doesn't.

The impact shakes several framed prints and photographs off of the walls to shatter upon the floor.

Then all is quiet.

* * *

Piper stood stock-still in the entrance to her home, the knob of the heavy wood and stained-glass door still gripped tightly in one hand. The other hand was wrapped loosely around the day's mail, which had begun to slip out of her grip.

While all the Halliwell sisters were inured to the unusual and bizarre, it could be argued that Piper was the least unfazeable of the three. She blinked twice and didn't notice when the pile of catalogs and supermarket fliers slipped out of her hand to puddle on the floor around her feet.

"Motorcyle crash," she said numbly. "On the landing." She stared numbly for several more seconds, then, looking to the ceiling, she shouted, "Leo!"

This page was created on February 9, 2007.
Last modified March 12, 2011.