"Conjure" by Alice Hoffman
Issue #15 / December 2014
Illustrated by Timothy Tang
KINDLE EDITION ($1.49)
ALICE HOFFMAN is the author of many bestselling novels including Practical Magic, The Red Garden, and The Dovekeepers. Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay “Independence Day” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.
"It was August, when the crickets sang slowly and the past lingered in bright pools of glorious light, even though it would soon be gone, the way summer was all but over, yet the heat was still on the rise. The weather had been extreme that month: days of drenching rain, sudden showers of hail, temperatures passing record highs. Local children whispered that an angel had fallen to earth in a thunderstorm. There were roving groups who swore they had found signs. Footprints in the grass, black feathers, a campfire in the woods behind the high school where there were sparks of shimmering ash. One neighborhood boy vowed that he had seen a man in a black cloak rise above the earth and walk on air, and although no one believed his account, mothers began to keep their children home. They locked the doors, called in the dogs, kept the lights on after dusk.
No one cut through the field anymore, except for Abbey and Cate, best friends, who at age sixteen were too old to be kept home and far too sure of themselves to be afraid of a story. They had jobs at the town pool as swim counselors, and late in the afternoons they walked home together, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, making their way through the pale heat, their long hair scented with chlorine. Usually they stopped at the library, where Cate would wait outside, dreamy-eyed, while Abbey ran in to find a new book, which would get her through the night. She’d had trouble sleeping lately, and books were her antidote to the darkness of these late-August nights. She had the distinct impression that something was beginning and something was ending; there were just so many days like this left to them. Before they knew it, time would speed up and the future would appear on a street corner or in a park, and there they’d be, grown women who’d forgotten how long a summer could last.
The librarian, Mrs. Fanning, often had a stack of books waiting for Abbey, and choosing the right one had become a sacred ritual. On this day Abbey returned Great Expectations and took up Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.