See No Evil

David had lived with the witch for more than a year. He didn’t think much about it. Her powers seemed focused on mixing up spells and incantations that had more to do with her friends’ love lives than anything of substance.

According to Valerie, she came from a long line of witches. Her mother was a witch, as had been her grandmother and great-grandmother. Tonight was the first time that David had asked her to cast a spell for him. She wondered whether David really believed she could do anything more than mix together a bunch of herbs and oils, speaking odd sounding phrases as she blended them together and lit her black candles.

The apartment certainly didn’t appear odd in any way. It contained the usual eclectic collection of overstuffed couches, cheap wooden coffee tables, kitschy posters and threadbare throw rugs that one might find in any student apartment in Boston. There were plenty of books on witchcraft, as well as left-wing literature, The Catcher In The Rye and Carlos Castaneda stories. Nothing that would indicate something wrong or evil going on within the walls of their second floor apartment.

David was packing in the bedroom. It was getting late and he wanted to hit the road before night. Hitchhiking from Boston to Ann Arbor was no small trip and David was worried that he would get stuck out on the road for the night if he didn’t get a good ride before dark. Of course, Valerie assured him that couldn’t happen. Not now. Not since he asked her to cast a spell over him that would make the entire trip a snap.

Valerie walked into the bedroom just as David was zipping up his duffel bag. She was small, slim, and her jet black hair fell straight to her waist. She seemed a bit out of place amongst the radical students she shared the apartment with. She was soft spoken, introverted and thoughtful. Her dark sultry eyes seemed to take in everything that went on in a room. Her aura of deep knowledge and mystery contrasted sharply with David’s impulsive and loquacious personality. His long red hair and beard mixed with Valerie’s dark persona like oil and vinegar. She smiled, her soft and gentle voice barely finding space in the room that was filled with David’s presence.

“I need something that belongs to you. What can you give me?”

The request startled David. Although he had known Valerie, and very much liked her, for more than a year, it was as if she had asked him for a piece of his own body, for something that would tie them together, deeply, for who knew how long. He felt fear move across him for a moment and shook it off.

David quickly glanced about the room. He certainly wasn’t going to give her his guitar or Viet Cong battle flag. He thought about his comb for a moment, but that seemed too banal. Maybe one of his pipes would work.

“How long are you going to keep it?” David felt foolish asking her, and worried that she would think he didn’t trust her. Fear washed against him again and David wondered if she heard his voice tremble.

Valerie’s voice was cheerful and excited. “Oh, no, I only need it for a few minutes.” The pitch of her voice lowered. “But you have to keep it with you the entire time you’re away. You can never let it leave your side.” Valerie smiled. “It needs to be something that’s meaningful, something you like a lot, maybe something somebody gave you. Think about it. I’ll be back in a minute.”

David’s eyes scanned the room again. Three small objects that his father had owned as a young man sat on the bureau. “Perfect!” David smiled as it occurred to him that these objects might actually help him counteract anything evil, if he was getting in over his head. Reaching out and scooping the three small soapstone monkeys into his palm, he carefully looked them over.

“Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil,” he whispered to himself. Each of the three monkeys crouched with their tails wrapped around their bodies and their hands clasped to their faces. One covered his ears, another his mouth and the third his eyes. David put the first two back on the bureau and strode toward the bedroom door, clutching the third monkey, who saw no evil, just as Valerie entered.

“You ready, David?” Valerie stretched out her hand and took the tiny soapstone sculpture. She looked at it quizzically and laughed.

David blushed. He immediately felt foolish and exposed, and realized that Valerie could see his fear. He had told her many times she had no real power, but Valerie knew that he sensed something real and powerful move around them, every time they talked about her magic.

“It’ll only take a minute. McVickar said he’d take you to the truck stop.”

David watched the clouds gather in the west as he waited for Valerie to return. He pulled his navy pea coat tightly around his shoulders and let out a long sigh.

“All set! See you next week!” Valerie placed the tiny amulet into David’s hand and he quickly dropped it into the bottom of his jeans pocket. It was getting late, and it was time to go.

The drive to the truck stop on the Mass Turnpike was uneventful. As McVickar pulled beside the pumps, David grabbed his bag and climbed out. Just behind McVickar’s car, a dark sedan pulled up and a blonde girl leaned out of the passenger window.

“Need a ride?”

David closed McVickar’s door, took four steps and climbed into the rear seat of his first ride of the trip. He hadn’t waited five seconds. Tossing his bag next to him, he reached down and felt the blind monkey under the denim pocket of his jeans.

The journey to Ann Arbor was amazing! Not only were the rides coming one after another, but the drivers were all friendly, interesting people, which made the trip go quickly. Every ride provided plenty of comfort, roomy accommodations, excellent music and an occasional joint. It really couldn’t have been better. Except for one thing. As each vehicle stopped, David knew that it wasn’t luck or some hitchhiking skill that brought him rides, but Valerie; or, rather, her power.

It was as if there were another passenger in every car that stopped, a fellow traveler that sat silently watching him. As David crossed the country, the disturbing sense that his destiny was not his own grew. He was getting scared.

Ann Arbor was great. David spent time partying with friends, meeting new people and getting high. He even had a pretty girl throw herself at him. He also bought an ounce of Afghanistan hash-hish to sell in Boston. For the most part, he forgot about the spell. From time to time, however, David would reach into his pocket for change and feel the smooth hard amulet. One night, David pulled it out of his pocket and placed it on the nightstand by his bed. A weight seemed to leave and for a moment he felt lighter and free. He stared at the soapstone monkey. The monkey sat, waiting. David turned over. He thought about leaving the creature on the nightstand, for someone to find after he left for Boston. The monkey sat waiting. A voice, inaudible to the human ear, spoke to him.

“You better not.”

David turned over, grabbed the stone monkey, and shoved it back into his pants pocket. Then he fell asleep, full of troubled dreams and foreboding.

The week went by quickly, and David spoke with Valerie the night before he was to return home. Their conversation finally turned to the spell.

“Did everything go OK on the way out? Any trouble?”

David paused. “Everything went great! I guess your spell really worked.” It bugged him to admit it.

“Just don’t forget to keep it on you.” Valerie’s voice spoke each word slowly, with a grave, measured pace that made David’s skin crawl.

“OK. See you soon.”

David hung up the phone and reached into his pocket. He drew out the stone monkey and considered it closely. It was, as it had always been. Nothing about the monkey had changed.

“This is ridiculous.”

At that moment, a chill passed through the room and David involuntarily shivered. Shoving the charm back into his pants, David made sure everything was packed. He needed to get an early start, if he was to reach Boston before dark.

It was just after eight when David was dropped off on I80, just outside of Ann Arbor. The sun had risen long before, and the foliage was bright green. It promised to be a stunning day. Nothing, it seemed, could go wrong. David fingered the small charm in his pocket as he waited. His unwelcome companion weighed upon him. A car passed by. David looked at the soapstone sculpture and immediately felt foolish.

“I don’t need this.”

With that, David pulled back his arm and heaved the idol as hard as he could into the tall weeds, by the edge of the woods that lined the interstate. For an instant, David felt as if a heavy pack had been taken off his shoulders. Then a flash of fear.

“Oh, shit! What have I done?”

David felt his heart beat faster. He waited to feel something move in the atmosphere, to see or hear something dark and peculiar. But nothing happened. The bright sun continued to blaze steadily in the clear blue Michigan sky. He could feel the wind and hear the chirping and buzzing of birds and insects, as they moved on with their lives. A few butterflies darted and swooped over the tall weeds and a dragonfly alighted on a flower by David’s boot.

“That’s better.”

David turned his attention to the next car traveling down the highway. His eyes fixed on the approaching vehicle as it began to pull over. It was then that a wave of overwhelming fear swept away every thought and feeling that he had. David turned to run. It was a cop.

As David dashed across the eastbound lanes and through the grassy median, he could hear a door slam and footsteps pounding the pavement.

“Stop! Police!”

David crossed the westbound lanes and headed for the woods. The footsteps grew closer. Leaping the fence, he made it into the tree line as he reached into his pocket and removed an ounce of Afghanistan Hash. The police officer was now no more than five feet behind him. David knew he faced a minimum ten year sentence for possessing an ounce of Hash. As David shoved the drugs into his mouth, chewed frantically, and swallowed, he could hear the cop panting heavily behind him. He quickly did the math. At least 150 of his friends could get totally trashed on an ounce of hash-hish.

Fear welled up, and then panic.

“Oh, God, I’ve got to get to a hospital. I’m going to die!”

The cracking of branches under the deputy seemed so close it could have come from David’s own feet. He expected to feel a strong hand grip his shoulder, dragging him to the ground. David ran faster than he thought possible. The deputy’s footsteps receded and grew fainter. Within a couple of minutes they were gone and David was alone in the woods. His heart pounding, heaving for air, he sat against a tree and waited.

It seemed like hours had passed. The woods had turned into a nightmarish thicket, gnarled trees thrusting out their branches as he tried to make his way back to the highway. Hoping the deputy had long since gone, David dashed across the road, desperate to get someone to stop before the police returned. There was no way to get the monkey back. There was nothing he could do, except bear the consequence of his unbelief and rebellion.

“What a fool I was. She told me not to do it. I’ve got to get help.”

David drifted from car to car. It seemed like days passed as the hours went by. David stood with his hand out, staring at the sun high in the sky. As he waited by the road, the flaming orb slowly sank beneath the horizon. The stars shone more brightly than he had ever seen them and David turned to see a line of five or six cars waiting for him. Nothing made sense; as he drifted back to Boston he tried to find help at one of the truck stops. Instead, he encountered a band of rednecks who offered to cut his long hair with their hunting knives.

Finally, at six the next evening, David stumbled into his Boston apartment. Valerie looked up as he walked through the door, her eyes fierce and piercing.

“Have a good trip home?”

She knows! David’s mind was in a panic. How the hell could she know?

“I threw it away,” was all he said as he fell exhausted onto his bed, allowing the deepest sleep of his life to overtake and subdue him.

It was seven the next day when David awoke to the sound of the Rolling Stones blaring from his stereo. The curtains were open, and the sky was bright. David yawned slowly and suddenly woke up. The clock now said six am, and the stereo was as silent as he had left it the night before, when he fell exhausted onto his bed. David recalled his dream about just waking up, and ambled into the kitchen. Someone had made coffee. The smell was deep and rich. David smiled and sat down in a worn Formica chair and immediately woke up in his bed again. It was seven in the morning once again and he could hear Valerie talking on the phone. David was scared.

No matter how many times David awoke, no matter who he talked with or what he did, he would awake again and again in his bed. Sometimes the stereo was playing, at other times it was silent. Sometimes it was early in the morning, while at other times it was midday, but it was always a dream within a dream within a dream, and David remembered each one, like Russian tea boxes filling each other without end. David would walk outside, feel the cool black railing at the entrance to his apartment, talk to a passerby; certain he had finally awoke, only to open his eyes again, still lying in his bed. Day after day opened, started to unfold, and closed again to yet a new day, another dream. At one point, David sat eating breakfast at the local drugstore, repeating over and over to himself, “This is real. I’m awake, I’m awake, I’m awake,” only to awake once again in his bed. After a while, he lived out longer and longer periods of each day until one day he made it late into the night and fell, terrified, onto his bed and slept like a baby.

Valerie moved out not long after that, and David returned to Oregon. The fear of waking up back in his Boston apartment faded after time.

David awoke on a bright April morning. As he lay in bed, looking at his bookcase, his eyes focused on two small soapstone monkeys that he had kept with him for more than thirty years.

“Speak no evil, hear no evil,” David whispered to himself.

His eyes gazed at the spot where the third monkey should have been. David often thought about Valerie, and the monkey that saw no evil, and realized that although people may choose not to see evil, it wafts through the atmosphere they breathe and drifts from street to street; unseen powers and creatures living side by side with humans; capable of affecting destiny and looking at us through the eyes of those who think they can play with fire.