The Witch and Her Stone

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Let me start off by saying that I am a certifiable nerd. No seriously, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was fourteen;  I read the Hobbit when I was twelve;  and I’ve spent the last four years raiding with my currently level eighty-five blood-elf.  I look the part too. I’m average height and a little pudgy; I have brown curly hair, glasses, and frequently wear t-shirts emblazoned with some reference to Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Doctor Who.  Now I want it to be clear that while I am no stranger to fantasy, I am still grounded in the real world, contrary to popular belief.  I may be a nerd, but I am not deluded into thinking that magic is real. Well, at least I wasn’t.

Like most stereo-typical D&D and WoW playing nerds, I am girlfriendless, and it’s not from lack of trying or any sort of social ineptitude on my behalf.  I’ve been on my fair share of dates – well, one or two, at any rate – but girls seem to lose interest in me when I tell them my major – Math,  or when they ask me any sort of variation of, “What do you like to do for fun?”  and I respond truthfully.

 I didn’t really care all that much until I met Fay. Chris first brought her to game night about three weeks into the second semester of our freshman year.  Game night is pretty much testosterone central, so when Chris brought Fay, the rest of us were a little surprised. I was more than surprised; I was smitten.  She was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen: short and petite, waist-length black hair with fire red tips, and sparkling blue eyes. She wore a skimpy red top that cut tightly across (what I deemed to be) perfectly rounded breasts and was all lose and flowing around her midriff.  She had on a black pleated mini-skirt and knee high biker boots. She was undeniably the hottest girl I had ever laid eyes on, and never had I ever wanted to date someone more than I wanted to date her just then.

“Who the hell is she?” Aaron demanded as soon as Fay cleared the threshold.

“Shut up, Aaron” Dave said, swiftly crossing the floor to greet Fay. “Don’t mind our socially retarded friend,” he said, in what he clearly thought was a charming and suave voice, “I’m Dave.” And then he actually took her hand and kissed it.

“Fay,” she said, giggling slightly.

“So, not that I’m not pleased to meet you,” I said to her, “But what exactly are you doing hanging out with the likes of him?” I jerked my head in Chris’s general direction. 

She giggled again. “I sit next to him in English. I’m a transfer and I don’t really know anybody, and he was talking about playing D&D, and I’d never played before, but I’ve always wanted to, so I asked him if I could come.”

“And I really want to run a four person campaign, so I figured I’d bring her along.”  Chris said.

I frowned slightly. I sat next to Chris in English class, and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember ever seeing Fay in our class before, let alone sitting on the other side of Chris.  I turned to Fay, intent on pointing this out, but as I gazed into her bright blue eyes, I suddenly decided to let it go.

“How about I show you how to roll up a character? I’m Ben, by the way” I said instead.

“I’d love that, Ben,” she said.

“Great, do you know what sort of character you want to be?”

 “I want to play a caster.”

“Wizard, sorcerer, or cleric?”

“Um, a cleric, I guess.”

“The party can always use a healer. Although, I’m not sure you want to play as a caster your first time. They’re kind of complicated to play.”

 “Trust me. I’m pretty sure I can figure out how to work a bunch of pretend spells.” She flashed a toothy smile that sent shivers up my spine.  God, she was beautiful.

 As it turned out, Fay was a natural at D&D. It had taken me almost a year to fully understand all of the game mechanics, and I was prepared to guide her through the first session, but she’d picked up on it all by the time we’d flattened a town full of undead.

“You sure you haven’t played before?” I asked her.  “It seems like you’ve been at this for a while.”

“Well you’d think I’d have my own dice set if I had.” she replied playfully.

It was exactly that remark that possessed me to go to IMAGINE, the only gamer shop in town, about a month after that night.  It’s in a kind of sketchy shopping center off the highway, but buying dice there is cheaper than buying them online.  It really wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the weird crowd that tends to hang around the occult bookshop next door.  Fay had quickly become a regular addition to our group, and she and I had really hit it off. So I had decided to get her a set of dice, and then, after giving them to her, ask her out to dinner. I guess it sounds kind of corny, but it was the best way I could muster up the courage. The worst that could happen, I figured, was that she’d say no and I’d be out six bucks. And at least then she would stop borrowing Dave’s extra set.

I walked out of the shop having purchased a glittering, translucent, ice blue set and a black velvet bag. I didn’t really know what color Fay would like best, but the set I finally chose reminded me of her eyes.  I had just let the door of the shop close behind me when I was approached by an unhealthily thin and dirty elderly woman. Her hair was scraggily and matted, and her skirt dragged the ground. Her shirt was wrinkled and baggy and she clung to a richly embroidered black shawl. She looked like a homeless ex-hippie.

“Excuse me, young man” she said to me in an eerily, scratchy voice. “Could you spare a dollar?”

I fought a strong urge to recoil and ignore her, but my conscience wouldn’t let me do it.  Sighing, I reached into my pocket for the change that the cashier had handed to me. “Here,” I told her “it’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got on me.”

“Thank you, young man” She said, clenching the change as though it were a life line. “Now let me give you something in return.”

“Um, no thanks,” I said, taken aback.

“I insist!”  She said and produced a small round stone from the folds of her clothing.  I took it from her without really looking at it and tossed it into my shopping bag. “Thanks.” I said half-heartedly, anxious to get away from her.

“It’ll grant you wishes,” She said, her eyes widening with excitement.  At that point, I started to retreat from her, heading toward my car. She followed me, but I walked faster than she could. She shouted at me, “Just hold it in your hand and picture the outcome of your wish, and it will come true!”  As I got into my car, I stole a last glance at the woman. She was maybe ten feet away from my car and staring at me intently. Our eyes met, and she flashed a toothy smile at me. She looked oddly familiar to me, but that was impossible. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d seen her before.

When I returned to my dorm room later that afternoon, I had all but forgotten about the stone. It wasn’t until I carried in the shopping bag from IMAGINE that I remembered it. I extracted the stone from the bag and inspected it closely.  I was surprised to see that it was a polished gemstone, well gemstones, really.  It was bright orange with little green flecks and perfectly round, about the size of a half dollar in diameter. Inlaid in the orange stone was a triangular deep purple stone.  The whole thing looked like some sort of exotic eye.  I could hardly believe that the woman had given it to me – it seemed like it was worth some money. I immediately jumped onto my laptop. I wanted to find out what gems the stone was comprised of, thinking that I could maybe sell it and put it toward my tuition.  After about an hour of searching, I was pretty positive that the orange stone was Mexican fire opal and that the purple was amethyst. It was a strange pairing, because the fire opal was worth considerably more than the amethyst. Fused together as the two stones were, I could only hope to get about five-hundred dollars out of it, which wasn’t nearly enough to pay off what I owed the school.  Nevertheless, five-hundred was better than nothing, so I decided I would post it up on ebay; I figured I’d get around to it over the weekend. 

Since I was already thinking about my tuition, I tabbed over and checked my balance. I owed the school roughly $17,000 and really had no way to pay it off. I qualified for loans, but was too stubborn to take them out. I found myself just wishing that balance would disappear. Then I wouldn’t have all the added stress of paying for college as well as trying to survive it.

It was almost time for game night, so I closed my laptop, sat the stone down on my desk, grabbed my dice and character sheet, and the bag from IMAGINE, and headed over to Chris’s apartment. I gave Fay her new dice, and she seemed to really like them, except when I handed them to her she said: “How sweet! I hope you’re this nice to everyone else in the world.”  I didn’t know why at the time, but the way she said it really weirded me out, so much so that I almost forgot to ask her out after we were done playing. Honestly, I only remembered when Dave tried to nonchalantly grab her butt when he gave her a goodnight hug.

“Hey Fay,” I said as she walked to her car, “Would you like to go to lunch or something with me sometime?”

“Um, sure,” she said, her eyes widening with slight surprise, “When would you like to go?”

I distinctly remember thinking, “well that was easy” as I said “How about Saturday, um around noon-ish; I’ll pick you up, if you’d like me to.”

“That sounds great. I’ll see you in English tomorrow.”

I couldn’t believe my luck. And as it turned out, my luck would get even better. (Well, or so I thought).

I checked my email the next morning before classes, as a part of my normal Friday morning routine. I nearly dropped my coffee all over my keyboard.  I had just opened an email from the campus financial services. I was expecting it to be their monthly, not so friendly reminder, telling me that I owed the school money, but instead the email said that I had been awarded a last minute full scholarship.  I thought it had to be a joke or a mistake or something. I mean, I’m smart, and I made good grades (it pretty much comes with the nerding territory), but my grades that semester weren’t nearly good enough for a full scholarship. I opened a new tab and went to my balance on my student account. Sure enough, it said, “amount owed: $0. Scholarship credited to account; effective immediately.” I went to the financial services office before my first class, and they confirmed for me that the scholarship had been intentionally awarded to me. It wasn’t a mistake. And then, I remembered the stone. I couldn’t believe it. I had a stone that would grant wishes and a date with a mega-hott girl who was actually interested in the same nerdy stuff that I was.

Our date that Saturday didn’t exactly go well, but I didn’t think it was too terrible. I took her out to a little sandwich shop about a mile from school, and we just talked.  I had just thought how nice it was not to tell a girl my major and have her immediately lose interest, when Fay asked me: “So I know you’re a Math major, but why?”

“Um, I guess because I’m good at it. I dunno; I never really put a whole lot of thought into it.”

“Hmm, and what do you want to do with it?”

“Once, again, I really don’t know. Probably teach at some pretentious high school or something like that.”

“Why not teach at like an inner city school, or in a developing country. I mean, wouldn’t your skills be more useful there?”

“Maybe,” I shrugged, “But there’s no money there. I mean there’s not a whole lot of money in teaching in the first place, but I’d like to make more than thirty-six-thousand a year.”

Fay suddenly looked worried.

“Is something wrong?” I asked her.

“No, not at all.” She said in a sort of fake cheeriness. I decided not to push the matter.

“So what’s your major?” I asked her.

“Well, I haven’t declared yet, but I want to help the poorest people in the world. Make a difference in their lives, you know, so I’m thinking about international relations.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I bit into my sandwich to make the silence seem less awkward. I continued eating until Fay broke the silence.

“What would you wish for, if you could wish for anything in the world?”

I nearly choked on the bit of sandwich in my mouth. My immediate thought was that she somehow knew about the stone. “Why do you ask that?” I said as soon as my airways had cleared.

“It’s just a question. I mean you weren’t saying anything, so I’d thought I’d ask.”

My heart rate slowed down to its original pace.  “Um, I guess security, you know, in life. I’d wish for a steady job, a wife, a modest home, a couple of kids, a dog, and a lock on the front door.”

“Nothing bigger?” she said. “Like how about an end to world hunger, or systematic poverty, or a cure for AIDS?”

“Well, I guess those things would be nice; I mean I’m all for saving starving kids in Africa, but honestly, my own security popped into my head first.”

She looked worried again.

The whole rest of the date went like that. She’d ask me questions and I’d answer honestly, and the more we talked, the more worried and flustered she’d become. By the time I’d dropped her off, I was thoroughly perplexed.

It was a week later before I tried to use the stone again. Over the past seven days I had managed to convince myself that it had to be coincidence.  Magic didn’t happen in the real world, and I naturally felt stupid for jumping to the stone.  But I still wanted to test it out; determine once and for all whether it was a coincidence.  I decided to wish for something moderate, not so small that any positive result could be chalked up to coincidence, but not something so large that if my wish came true, it would draw unwanted attention to me. (So wishing for a million dollars or world peace was out of the question). I also wanted to be careful – I’d read too many cautionary tales about wishing. I decided to wish for a motorcycle. In the end, I phrased the wish like this: “I wish to own a working motorcycle, provided that this wish will not harm anyone.”  And I imagined myself riding on a sexy little supped-up sports bike. Three days later, I received the call that I had been the winner of a sweepstakes (which I had never entered) for a Honda cbr 600. Two weeks later, it delivered.

Needless to say, my friends were a little suspicious. They knew I was strapped for cash, and couldn’t believe that I’d accepted the motorcycle.

“How are you going to pay for the classes and gear that you’ve gotta have before you can get your endorsement?” Chris asked incredulously, when I showed them the bike, “let alone pay for the insurance?”

“I’m looking for a job,” I said, wrapping my hands around the stone, which I had started carrying around in my pocket, and instantly began wishing for a cushy, well-paying job. “I actually think I’m going to be a math tutor.”

“That bike is a stupid waste of resources.” Fay said with disgust. “You could be doing better things with your money than paying for the insurance of something so frivolous.”

Sure enough, I got a job tutoring some rich kid from the local private high school. His parents agreed to pay me twenty dollars an hour, and I tutored him for two hours after school.

“Seems like you got your pretentious little teaching job just like you wanted.” Fay said scathingly when I told her about it. She’d grown increasingly cold toward me ever since our date, but I still hadn’t gotten rid of the idea of dating her. I could always resort to the stone if I had to.

I continued making more wishes, always relatively small ones and always for myself. I didn’t want to attract too much attention to all of my apparently random good fortune. Chris, Dave, and Aaron could hardly believe it when I told them that I made a 98% on my Calculus midterm that I had taken on a Friday morning after a particularly late game night. Fay, on the other hand, seemed downright pissed. In fact, the more wishes I made, the more hostile Fay seemed to be toward me.  Every time I made a wish, she’d make some sort of derisive comment about the outcome. I thought it was a coincidence – even with a magic stone, I still believed in coincidence.  I was determined to talk to her about it though, so after English class, about two months after I had made my first wish, I pulled her aside.

“Hey Fay, what gives?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Ben.” She practically spat out my name.

I sighed. “Two months ago, you and I were really hitting it off, even if our date didn’t go so well, but you’ve been hostile toward me ever since then. I’m sorry if I did something wrong, really. But I don’t know what I did, so could you please just tell me what I did instead of treating me like I’m scum from the bottom of you biker boots?”

“You just aren’t the kind of person I thought you were, that’s all.”

“Huh? What do you mean by that?”

“You’re a selfish pig.”

“That hurt.” I said, and I meant it too. “Look, Fay I think you have me all wrong. Will you please, please just give me a second chance?”  As I said this I hurriedly reached into my pocket and began formulating a wish.

“Only because I suppose that I have to.” She said. Her eyes looked as though they could kill.

“Let’s go downtown tonight.” I said, “I promise you’ll have a good time.”  Again, I clutched the stone.

As I had promised and wished, Fay and I had a good time. It was a warm night, so we took my motorcycle, which she seemed to really enjoy. Dinner was excellent, and afterwards I took her to Isis Park, which had a beautiful majestic fountain in the center.  We walked around the park, talking and laughing until we stopped at the fountain.  I continued talking for a few minutes, until I realized that Fay was staring into the water and crying. I was really confused, because as far as I could tell, nothing in my conversation should have made her cry; it was mostly stupid banter. 

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

“You are really a good guy, Ben.” She said, still staring at the moving water.  “But you are too selfish and self-absorbed.”

“You keep telling me that, but I don’t know what you mean. What have I done that’s so selfish?” I found myself growing frustrated.

“You only use that stone on yourself.” She turned to look at me, her blue eyes gazing at me fiercely.  My stomach plummeted.

“H-H-How do you know?” I stammered.
            “I gave it to you, you idiot.” She said, turning back to the fountain. “But you didn’t recognize me, which should have been my first clue that I’d chosen poorly.”

I remembered the woman that had given me the stone. It had been Fay – no that was impossible – but it had been her eyes and her smile that had made the woman look so familiar.

“But out of the four of you, I thought you were the best candidate.” Fay seemed to be talking more to herself than to me. “You didn’t mentally undress me like Dave and Chris, or greet me with hostility like Aaron. And I thought it was a good sign that you showed me charity when I was in my other form, but then you took the stone and didn’t use it for any good. And I don’t want to do this, but it’s time, I suppose. You brought me to this fountain, after all.”

“Fay,” I said firmly, “You aren’t making any sense. How did you know about the stone?  And you were the old woman? And it’s time for what, exactly?”

At this, Fay began to cry harder.  “I’m what you’d probably call a witch.  Although, I’m kind of new at it, and really bad at it, apparently.  My mother Isis gave me the stone to give to a human. And if the human used his or her wishes for good, I was supposed to give them an extra long and healthy life so that they could continue to do good. If they used their wishes for evil, however, I was supposed to kill them.”

At that moment, Fay looked absolutely frightening. I believed that she meant it when she said “kill.” My heart began to pound, and I had a strong urge to run.

“But I haven’t done anything evil!” I protested, taking a step back.

“No, you haven’t.” She sighed. “So, at least I wasn’t completely wrong about you. I mean, you’re intelligent – intelligent enough to realize that not all of my stories made sense. You knew I hadn’t been in your English class before you met me. And you were kind to me when I was the old woman... I had a lot of hope for you. But after our date, I knew that I had chosen poorly. I prayed to my mother Isis on your behalf, because even though you hadn’t done anything overtly evil, I was still suppose to kill you for your complacency. But she sought pity on you, mostly I think because I am so new at this. She told me that nothing would happen until you took me to this place. I kept hoping that you’d change, but you never did.”

“So what does that mean for me?”

“You are STILL thinking only about yourself!” She shouted at me. “Oh why couldn’t you have just repented and tell me that you’d use the stone for good from now on?  But of course it doesn’t work that way, either. THIS! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS, you stupid, selfish boy!”  She held her arms to her chest in the shape of an X, then thrust them out toward me. It felt as though something invisible had rammed into me. The force was so powerful that it knocked me to the ground, and by the time I’d stood back up Fay was gone and so was the stone.

That was two years ago. Six months ago, I was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease. The doctors say that the cause is unknown, but I have a sneaking suspicion. Of course, I doubt my doctors would believe me if I told them that a witch had cursed me for only thinking about myself.