🛼 Other formats of this story are listed here.

I am the sorceress’s other-self. One of her many. Or, at least, that’s what I call myself, still, even though she’d say, “You were one of my other-selves.”

For, I have lost my ability to channel her through me. To her, I have become a mere figurine.

A palm-length ornament made of special clay, prayed upon for three full moons. Smooth-surfaced, for the most part, but scarred here and there from decades of usage. Detailed, to reflect the sorceress’s every visual feature—her deep purple eyes, her magnificent black cape, her lustrous long gray hair—and especially, her never-aging, tranquil face.

Like her, I was supposed to never age. I was supposed to forever function as her other-self, as the channel that could be placed anywhere, awaken and enlarge at her calling, and become the sorceress in human form whenever she pleased.

Any of us could become her at any given moment. She left us in the corners of stinking sewers, squeezed us into rough wall cracks, or attached us to the backs of black ravens just to see where those birds would take us, and thereby take her.

Using me, as well as many other figurines, the sorceress safely traveled across the world of reason believers and science worshippers. Never once had she been detected by the border patrol or governments despite her conspicuous appearance. She owned no passport, belonged to no country, and answered to no one.

Even if someone were to come after her, they’d never manage to catch her. She’d disappear into thin air, quite literally. All that she’d leave behind would be a mere clay figurine. And since the mundanes lacked sufficient imagination to believe that they’d actually witnessed a person turn into a figurine, they’d simply throw away the figurine or even better, leave it where it was. If, because of some mad drive, a mundane were to destroy a figurine, that’d be the end of that figurine, but not of the sorceress.

Conscious energy; vibrational intention; a supernatural force—that was the sorceress.

Not was. She is still so. The other figurines are still as before—her loyal servants.

But not me.

Magic, in plain sight—that used to be us, the figurines. Now, the sorceress thinks I’m one of them no more. I have lost the magic.

She came to that conclusion this evening, when she chose me and I couldn’t let her pass through me. That’s what the sorceress and we figurines call the process of her becoming one of us: passing through. Her energy passes through us and we become the human-sized embodiment of her, fully functional, instead of staying cold little figurines.

This process requires a lot more than mere enlargement and elongation of our body parts. We must become her in spirit, not just in looks.

Her smell, for example—that of sandalwood mixed with jasmine and lavender—is a crucial factor that makes us seem human to the mundanes. The right body temperature too. And of course, all the hormones that the humans of the 21st century think they cannot detect anymore, but do detect at the subconscious level, must be replicated. They can taste those chemicals in the air, those humans, even though they don’t notice it consciously, you see?

I believe this total copying of the sorceress is enabled through her blood—the blood that she smears on each figurine that is to become her other-self. During the creation process that requires three full moons, every single night, she cuts her finger, a new cut every time, and smears a fresh drop of blood on our clay surface. That gives us her life force. That gives us our purpose. Gave me a purpose, once. One that I used to live up to. Not anymore.

It was just after the sorceress passed from another one of her figurine-selves in Los Angeles to me, left under a manhole in Seoul, that she concluded that I’d lost the magic.

[Move,] I heard the sorceress say.

But I couldn’t obey her. I couldn’t budge. Couldn’t lift a finger.

[Move,] she said once again.

That was when I accepted that something had gone terribly wrong.

If I’d properly functioned, she’d have become me. She and I would have become one. I shouldn’t have been able to exist apart from her. Therefore, my hearing her command would have been impossible. She wouldn’t have needed to command me like that—I simply would have worked like any body part that properly functions: without resistance, almost subconsciously.

Furthermore, I could feel no warmth. No smell. No characteristic taste in my mouth, that default taste that humans carry around with them. The taste of their tongue, their spit, their hormones, whatever. The one that the sorceress carries, too, when she takes on human form. And I also hadn’t grown into a human woman’s size.

When I failed to fix the problem within a few minutes, the sorceress left me. I could feel her presence seep away from me, to some other other-self of hers.

Lying in the damp sewer located under that manhole, which, in turn, was located in a deserted alley, I strained to catch a sign of her. But only the distant echo of water dripping reached me.

I don’t know for how long I waited like that, in near-silence. Judging by the change in the direction of the moonlight trickling in through the manhole, I’m guessing it must have been several hours at the very least.

Occasionally, the subway rattled past, but too far away to shake me. A few stray cats meowed but didn’t bother to gaze down a manhole that smelled just like any other sewer in the mega-city that was Seoul.

I was useless to them. I was useless to the sorceress.

As I am now. Useless.

Near dawn, I saw several fingers squeezing through the gaps in the manhole. From the confidence with which those fingers clasped the manhole—which was designed to be difficult to remove easily—I immediately knew that the sorceress had arrived. Sure enough, within seconds, the manhole was flung away. But it didn’t land on the asphalt with a loud clank, for it hovered high above the sorceress. She was gazing down at me.

“You are broken,” she said, in her usual, calm tone.

The moonlight shining from behind her made it impossible for me to see her expression. My guess was that she’d passed through another one of her figurine-selves near Seoul and traveled all the way to this sewer through non-magical means. I felt terribly ashamed at having made my sorceress go through such an ordeal—even more so because I could discern no anger or disappointment from her voice.

It was as if she’d expected me to break at some point, because I was a failure. Somehow, despite my being her own creation, a creation that was never supposed to age, therefore never supposed to lose the magic, she wasn’t surprised that this had happened.

“I cannot use you as my other-self anymore,” she said.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t respond. I was a mundane figurine.

I wondered if she knew that I was listening to her—really listening, like any sentient being with consciousness would.

How much do sorceresses know about the internal lives of their own creations? I had no clue. Neither did I have any clue whether she had any clue. She spoke to me, but from time to time, even mundanes spoke to objects that were thought to be inanimate. Was the sorceress addressing me in that way? Did she have any clue about my humiliation, self-disgust, and confusion?

The sorceress swept down, fluttering her black cape. Gently, she landed in the sewer. She lifted me up with her soft, pale hands.

For a terrifying moment, I thought she’d throw me at the wall and shatter me. Instead, she jumped. High above the ground level, higher up than the three- and five-story villas surrounding the manhole, we soared together.

© 2021 Ithaka O.
All rights reserved.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author.

You might like this playlist:

Follow me on Spotify for more playlists.