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Heck, the Witch Formerly Known as Warlock

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To Miss Ashtoreth:


To Ms. Ashtoreth:


To Nancy Ashtoreth:


Hello, Ms. Ashtoreth!


Hi, Nancy!


Dear Nancy,


Dear Nanny — 


You’re probably wondering who I am


Maybe you don’t even want to remember


I bet I was just another spoiled brat to you, but


I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I was a real pain in the ass for nine years a jerk who didn’t appreciate a really angry and unhappy kid your temporary daughter (at least for a few years).


My parents are Thaddeus J. Dowling, American cultural attaché, and Harriet B. Coopersmith (she’s using her maiden name now after the divorce), world affairs columnist for The Imperialist Observer. You and Francis looked after me when I was growing up in lower Tadfield because my mom and dad were too busy snarking on each other looking good for the camera setting me up for a lifetime of therapy working.


I was going by Warlock then, but I’m actually not a Warlock at all. I’m not even a warlock either. My name is Hecate Frances Ashtoreth Dowling, and I’m a witch!  I know it’s long and kind of pretentious, so My friends can’t really pronounce Hecate You can call me Heck for short.


Just to make it clear, I’m a solitary practitioner lonely secret Wiccan kind of witch. Wicca is a polytheistic, nature-based religion because non-human animals are so much easier to deal with than humans about connecting with the earth and your own power and not about zapping people with spells . There is magic, like the wonder and magic of all creation, but I’m not using it to make people do things. The enchantments are just specific rituals and tools you can use to talk to or listen to things in the universe. It just makes more sense to me than some dead white guy flying around in the clouds the nonsense church I grew up with. I still haven’t figured out how to tell my parents, though, even though they’re the least religious people in the world. Plus I have to wonder if the universe is listening sometimes, though.


In some ways, not much has changed. We’re in New York now, though I live with my mom. But my dad is still a workaholic dope obsessed with a son he never had totally clueless kind of absentminded, but he means well. My mom is still a perfectionist a super worrywart bothered by the littlest things really intense. 


I can’t wait till I graduate from high school and escape the anxiety fishbowl. I’m really looking forward to going to college next year even though I have no idea what to do with the rest of my life. My dad thinks I’d make a great politician; my mom’s pushing me to become a writer, but I’m only eighteen, so how in the me am I supposed to make a decision that's going to affect everything I do from then on? I think I want to keep my options open.


Maybe I can just rehabilitate snakes. Is that even a thing? It would be so cool just to help out such strong, amazing, beautiful animals like that all day, and I would never have to worry about them judging me.


I still check out the caecilians at the zoo every week watch slugs rescue would-be roadkill like creepy crawlies, especially snakes like you the massive cobras and constrictors and pythons. You’re They're so chill; they do whatever they want at their own pace, on their own time, and no one messes with them. And they change so easily; they break out of their old skins and wriggle away in new ones. I know it’s not easy; it takes effort, but they can do it naturally without disappointing their parents as just part of their life. 


You can do that too. I know because I saw you once at night in the garden talking to Francis. It was the summer I was five. That was the day I threw the huge fit because my mom and dad took the slug house out of my room and into the back yard because it was “an image problem” or something. 


I remember wanting to punch the entire world, so I was kicking you, and you were like, “Just a moment, young hellspawn — it’s time for your periodic reminder about indiscriminate violence and conflict resolution. Direct your rage toward those who deserve it: the people who have wronged you. Kick them; pummel them; hurt them. Then you will triumph, and no one will dare to harass you again. And don’t ever go for the blazer again. Do you know how much it costs to have this dry cleaned?”


Anyway, I stopped right away. I always wondered why you told me that stuff about hating and hurting because you never seemed to believe it. For all the messed-up lullabies and concealed weapons and weird eyeballs, you were never mean or gross or creepy. You were strict and uptight and strange and doing weird things with the gardener when no one was looking, but mostly you were just you.


And you were good to everyone, not just to me and my parents because they hired you. You glared at the kids who were smashing mailboxes and somehow inspired them to replace everything. You did something with one of your eyebrows, and then the butcher never cheated anyone again. You let the neighborhood kids use all your makeup for Halloween and gave that weird black lace thing to our chef’s daughter when her wedding dress was ruined. And you always said you didn’t have a sense of humor, but it was just really, really deadpan. 


You tried really hard to come off evil, but you were mostly just Goth, now that I think about it.


And you were the only one who ever held me still, even when I was freaking out, and really looked at me. I could see your eyes moving behind your sunglasses, just a flicker of light in the deepest darkness. Then, slowly, everything was okay. I wasn’t angry anymore. The darkness was good, and the light was good, and you were good, and I was good because you would always look at me and see me and know me, even when no one else did.


So, after I threw a tantrum, you were telling Francis about it that night. You were so upset that you kept taking off your hat and your gloves, which you never did at all, and putting them back on again. Finally you said, “My child — !” Your voice broke. I think you were crying.


Then Francis touched your shoulder, and something about that made you break. You shed your skin and became something different. You were a black coil of gleaming darkness, a snake as big around as my dad and I don’t know how long. You had wings like a swan’s. The feathers looked as sharp as scales, and your scales looked as soft as feathers. You looked strange — so strong and old, like you’d been around for thousands of years. 


But you were still you. If anything, you were more you than you had been before. I could tell because of your eyes. I figured out then why you wore sunglasses all the time: because your eyes were made out of light. You were made out of darkness, and there was so much light inside you that you were scared that you’d hurt people with it or chase them away. So you hid.


You’re so beautiful. I wish I could


Why did you leave?


Did I do something


Where did you go?


You don’t have to hide. I’m not scared of you. I never was. I know who you are, and I love like you that way. You can be yourself with me, your whole self.


Your light won’t hurt me; I promise. I’ve seen it before, and it never burned me. It just made everything clear. I’ve always wanted to see it again. Your darkness and your light are the best parts of you. I love them both, and they’re both good.


How do I even finish


What else is there to


I hope to hear from you soon 


I wish we could talk


Bye for now.


I miss you.


Best regards,




Your friend,


Lots of love and blessed be,


Hecate F.A. Dowling


Hecate Dowling




Your Heck (the witch formerly known as Warlock)