Written by Rory Lee
Size: 8x5 in
Gemma Ash is a techno-witch, which means that she gets along way better with computers than people. But who needs people anyway? She has her twin sister, Enid; their familiar, a drooling Saint Bernard named Bronson; and a creaky attic filled with computers that may or may not grow like vines under the loving care of her magic. What else could a girl ask for?
Well, this particular girl is asking for donations to build a new school in Secret Hallow. Ethernet cables might grow on trees, but money, sadly, does not.
One of Gemma’s online friends, FeistyFox95, is happy to donate a healthy wad of cash to the ComePayMe fund—in exchange for a favor.
FeistyFox95 wants Gemma to cast a love spell.
How in the world can an agoraphobic techno-witch find romance for one of her best online buddies? She’ll need to get help from the coven. She’ll have to collect ingredients that aren’t made out of fiberoptic cable. And—gasp—she’ll have to leave Secret Hallow to get a sample of FeistyFox95’s hair on the full moon. That last bit is scariest of all, because Fox’s profile picture is uncomfortably attractive.
The only question is what Gemma wants more: to be an eternally lurking hermit in her computer room, or to bring education to the witches of Secret Hallow at the cost of her privacy…and maybe her heart.
Big magic workings in Secret Hallow often happened at night, and the night Gemma watched the witches gather was no different. Gemma had good reasons to watch. After all, it was her great-great-so-on nanna’s school that was being rebuilt with the town’s magic.
On the other hand, Gemma’s sister Enid was right in the thick of things, like she always was.
It looked like fun, generally, from Gemma’s comfortable spot across the street. Enid in particular looked like she was getting into it. She helped the others set up tables for food and cider and chased some of the kids underfoot until their shrieks of joy reached Gemma in the distance. Gemma was far enough back that she couldn’t make out individual words—being closer would mean that people would know she was watching—but she could hear the general hum that went along with talking, the joy that was in everyone’s voices.READ MORE
And then, in the middle of it all, Gemma could see the occasional magical working.
She could feel it, too. Everything in Secret Hallow seemed to intensify when people did workings, so the slight autumnish chill to the air grew just the slightest bit sharper, and the smells from the pies on the table wafted Gemma’s way. The breeze rustled Gemma’s dress, and she wrapped her long sweaters a little tighter around herself, grabbing at her hat to make sure it wouldn’t fly away even though she had it attached to her head in several different ways. It was just better to make sure everything was in place.
The workings never got anywhere. Emilia Ash’s magic was too old and powerful to harness easily, and every time Gemma started to get her hopes up, the whole thing would collapse, sending the magic back where it came from. It didn’t seem to bother the witches running around. Quite the opposite, actually. They laughed at each other—their laughter grew louder the later it became and the more cider they drank—and played with the kids and ate food and went back to try again. No one seemed worried that the Ash Academy wasn’t coming together.
Gemma wasn’t worried, either. She was too busy trying to decide what she would do if someone saw her, or if she should go over even if no one saw her. She knew she’d be welcome. She always was.
Instead, she pulled out her phone and took a few pictures. Her phone could only do so much at night, but there was enough light from the lanterns the coven had brought that she could see the ruin of the school and the people running around. It definitely looked like a party, and a relatively informal one at that.
Gemma smiled at the pictures, and then she sent them along to her most frequent contact: FeistyFox95. Look like fun? she asked in a message.
Lots! Came the reply right away. How about this?
The picture that came back was a picture of Fox’s computer, like it so often was. (A lot of Gemma’s pictures back were of her own setup.) She had a graphics program open, and a drawing was half-done.
It did look like fun. Gemma slipped away from the gathering; she’d rather be at home with her own computers, really.
Been drawing for long? Gemma asked, typing out her messages with her thumbs as she walked.
Couple hours. I just got home.
Do you envy my glamorous life?
Gemma laughed. Mostly asking, but yes, I’m jealous.
Don’t worry, I’ll send along the links when I have them. You’ll just have to go through the old material in the meantime.
I’ll find a way to survive. She stopped under one of the lanterns hanging to light the street and took a picture of her face, making sure to pout in an exaggerated manner.
The picture she got back was Fox’s face, lips pursed in a kissing gesture. Gemma laughed a little to herself, feeling warm enough that she hardly noticed the chill in the air, and turned toward home.COLLAPSE