The old well was a mossy, crumbling pile of fieldstones left over from the halcyon days of the Rourke estate, now taking up a small corner on the edge of the Hill Valley artist’s enclave with the encroaching forest just started to enfold it, with vines and saplings weaving their tendrils through the nooks and crannies. Taz always liked to hang out there, peering into the shadowed well to catch a glimmer of the light reflecting on the water below. The nearby artists would frequently lug their easels and canvases, or sketch pads and charcoals, or wood blocks, or chunks of clay, or whatever their preferred medium was, in an attempt to capture its eerie peacefulness that somehow seemed to still speak of potentialities, mysteries, adventures to be had in the world. If Taz was hanging out there, they’d include her in the work: a strange, thin, tumbleweed of a woman who breathed and looked about as though she wasn’t quite sure which world she was in at any given moment. The well and Taz seemed to get along.
It was to that well that Taz went before her first mission to New Orleans, flipping a coin into its depths and quietly calling out Whim’s name. “I need to leave for a while, but will you be here when I return? Please, Whim. It’s important.” She had waited, and, failing to hear the coin hit the water, she nodded her thanks and headed to the bayou and the horrors that awaited there.
Now back in Hill Valley and no longer screaming in her sleep from the visions of thousands of people carefully, lovingly sewing themselves into a tower of flesh and madness, a vision that held shreds of the memory of her own temptation to join them, to finally find her perfect spot in the world in that beautiful tower, Taz made her way back to the well. She gazed at it with eyes that were a little more weary and thoughtful, picking out a good spot to…there it is. Her crafter’s eye found the safest place to rest and that’s where she went, straddling the green grass on one side and the foreboding, enticing plunge to the well’s depths on the other. Another coin, another silence. Taz closed her eyes and began speaking.
“Hey Whim. Thanks for coming. I’m…well, things are getting pretty heavy. Guessing I don’t have to tell you what’s been going on, from what I can remember you probably knew way more before any of us. Thing is, I’m not even sure how involved I’ve been in any of this. Something is telling me that it’s more than I’d like to know, but a holy man recently told me that if I can figure that out, I can stop things from getting worse, at least. He talked about atonement, and being free from guilt. I don’t think that’s going to happen, and to be honest, it doesn’t much matter. What matters are people, all people. This world and the good it tries to strive for in spite of all the shit. Maybe the Patrons are right and we’re all under some other thing’s control. But assaulting and exploiting millions of people, tearing apart the land, driving innocents to madness and suffering, committing mass murder…no. You don’t win freedom for people by slaughtering and using them like sheep, no matter how you call yourselves liberators. You win control. And anyone willing to do what they’ve done just to get there…
“I need your help. That door the Patrons opened. We need to close it, and soon. We’re going to try to protect the earth with anchor points of the collective consciousness: all the hopes and prayers of the world shielding it from the onslaught of afterlife. And we’re trying to use the resonance, the rhythm of the world to close that door. It’s crazy, and idealistic, I know. But they hurt us so badly by using our own traits against us, and we were so short-sighted and foolish. I’m going to guess something. I’m going to guess that you don’t necessarily want that door closed, right? Because a bokor in Louisiana explained something to us about the old magic that’s been coming back into the world through it, waking up that magic in folks around the world. Doing what you were willing to risk people’s lives and sanity for, to give people the opportunity to live up to their potential, right?”
Eyes still shut, Taz reached down and took something out of the pack nestled by her feet. A strange, dull metal contraption, covered with odd ridges and switches, appeared in her hands and she blindly began making adjustments, fingers roaming over its surface with practiced ease. A low hum filled the air, and the object – a cube? A globe? – glowed softly, its light almost unnoticeable in the late afternoon sun.
“I love creating things. No joy in the world quite compares to that moment when you’ve built something that solves the problem in just the right way, or hell, doesn’t even solve any problems but somehow adds to the world just in its sheer interestingness, you know? At least, I used to think that. Nothing could compare to the moment of realizing your potential. It felt right. Just as right as that fucking tower. Thing is, we all have potential. What happens when we decide to realize that without any care toward anyone else? Anything else? Because we’re so wrapped up in our own selves that we can justify anything, rationalize any damage because doing what we feel we were made to do just feels so damn right, so how can it be bad? I think the Patrons are kind of like that. They want what they want, they’re convinced they’re right, and they’re willing to kill and destroy and manipulate and hurt…everyone.
“I remember when I saw the place they took you, you and the other kidnapped children, out in Minnesota. That old sewer with the locked rooms, the drawing on the walls, the cells. What they did to you is unforgivable. They turned you into a mage, but do you really think what they did was the way to do it? Deep down? Do you really want to allow people in power to hurt and experiment on others like that again? Whim, magic is back. The door did that much, and there are people all over the world trying to grasp at an understanding of something inside them that maybe they never knew they had, or were missing. If that door stays open, a whole lot of ugly is going to hit us, too, and those people are going to die screaming, maybe insane, maybe taken and used. And this wide green world is going to crack under the weight of that pain.”
Taz released the gadget from her hands and it hung in the air, methodically scanning the area.
“It’s searching for those nanites created by the Patrons. I finally got enough info to at least try to detect them before they infect others. Too late for a lot of people, including myself, but hopefully it’ll benefit others.”
“Help us close that door. There’s so much potential already unlocked, and we can work together to help develop it in a better way. We can bring back the mage school, but not as one place that can be targeted, or even overly controlled, but a network of mentors and apprentices all over the world, supported and protected. I talked with Dr. Skaar and The Empire Foundation is willing to do this with you. You know their transparency and what they’re fighting for, so no back deals or backstabbing. What you can do, nobody else can. You can help people find their way in a world that has become something frighteningly new. And you can help us close that door before it destroys all the potential inside us.”
A soft rustle of downed leaves, a nearly silent outtake of breath. Taz opened her eyes and turned toward her companion. They stood quietly, searching each other’s eyes for understanding. Whim took out a familiar coin and flipped it in the air, catching it neatly and slapping it on the back of her other hand. She glanced at its face. Then she reached out and took Taz’s hand, pulling her up from the edge of the well.
“I have a few ideas. Let’s take a walk.”
As they turned toward the forest, the odd gray scanner floating behind them cast its beam over Taz’s back and began to beep urgently, its warning light still barely noticeable in that late afternoon sun.