The Lorelei Signal

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The Cat, the Witch and the Bookcase

Written by Henry Peter Gribbin / Artwork by Marcia Borell

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My sister, Elba, owns a bookstore which caters to a wide range of customers. The store is close to an urban college campus so she gets professors and students looking for some arcane book that you couldn’t find elsewhere. She also sells books on religious matters and books that deal with myths and lore. Some of the later deal with herbal remedies so she gets ministers, priests, rabbis and the occasional witch as part of her clientele. Now, the really interesting aspect about her store is that some of her customers are not human (she calls these creatures her “Special Ones”). Vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters are included in this group. The thing about these creatures is that they are always searching for information. They are just as confused about their origins as we humans are of ours. They also pay well for any book my sister can dig up, so they were always welcome in her shop.

 

In the front window of the store sits a big black cat with white paws. She likes to sit there and watch people walking up and down the street. She also eyes everyone who enters the store. The one thing about the cat is that while it provides a flair of ambiance it also is a form of an early warning device for my sister. Whenever any of her “Special Ones” enter the store the cat makes a beeline for the back room. She will stay there till the creature leaves, and then she will resume her spot by the front window.

 

I have another sister who is a very powerful witch. Her name is Eda. My mother’s side of the family produces a witch every generation. Eda was this generation’s witch.

 

Now, Elba and Eda have not spoken to each other in many years. Besides all the usual sisterly nonsense which went on since they were in grade school, there is one other big reason why the two don’t talk to each other, namely that Eda, like most other witches, is not a fan of vampires, werewolves and other types of shapeshifters. This feud has been going on since the dawn of man. She is a legend in the witch circle. There is one story that says she once wiped out a pack of werewolves with the snap of her fingers because they romped through her rose garden during a full moon. So there you have it, one does business with creatures of the night, and the other destroys them.

 

Before our mother died a couple of years ago, she made me promise that I, the only brother, would do my best to bring my sisters back together again. I have tried and have been rebuffed countless times. However, I finally got the two to agree to a meeting. I would be there to act as moderator. The meeting was to be held in Elba’s bookstore after closing on a Wednesday night. I was looking forward to getting the two back together, but I was also a little afraid. Brokering a meeting between two siblings that haven’t been in contact with each other can be tricky, especially when one can destroy a werewolf with the wave of her hand.

 

Anyway, the appointed day and hour finally came. I arrived at the bookstore shortly after closing. Elba seemed calm and collected. I was a bundle of nerves. Eda arrived shortly later. The cat sped to the back room. I went over and gave her a hug. She returned the sentiment but never took her eyes off her sister. Neither spoke, but a little spark of flame shot out of Eda’s nose. There was a whiff of smoke.

 

A bookcase behind Elba started to shake spilling some books onto the floor. Elba just smiled. “You always had a flair for dramatics,” she said.

 

Eda said nothing. She gave me one last hug and then left the store.

 

I breathed a sigh of relief. “That went well, don’t you think?” I asked.

 

Elba just smiled. At least her store was still in one piece.

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