“I don’t… I don’t understand. I can’t be a witch,” I said as I sat behind the chipped wooden table, my hands shivering in my lap.
The doctor stared across at me, an uncaring expression crumpling his old features. “Well, you are. If you are having trouble coping with this situation, there are various counseling services you can contact,” he said, his voice automatic, making it clear he was saying something he’d learned by-heart. Without bothering to get up from his chair, he leaned over, rummaged through the pamphlets lined up in the plastic holders behind him, and plucked out several. Never glancing at them, he slapped them down on the table and scooted them over to me.
One or two fell off onto the ground, and I automatically leaned down and picked them up. Then I caught sight of their titles – from the Work Regulations of Witches, to Housing Services for the Magical – and I hit my head on the underside of the table.
Cursing, I sat back up, rubbed my head, and carefully placed the pamphlets as far away from me as I could put them. Again I went back to shaking my head, the move more feverish this time. “There has to be a mistake. I have no family history of witches. I only bothered to get the test—”
“Because your latest bloods showed unusual markers. Look, Miss—” the guy searched through the file on his desk until he found my name, “Samson, this isn’t something to be scared of. It happens a lot.”
… This wasn’t something to be scared of? It took a lot of self-control not to tilt my head back and snort in this guy’s face.
I wasn’t a newbie to the world of magic. I lived relatively close to a magical housing unit. I also read the papers and watched the news, for God’s sake. I understood just how much a diagnosis of witchism could change your life forever. Though there wasn’t that much stigma against witches these days, they were highly regulated entities. They were valuable, after all. It meant the government got to dictate what you did for a crust. They got to decide where you lived. Heck, they pretty much got to have a say in every aspect of your life from now until the day you finally died.
Sure, technically a diagnosis of witchism wasn’t the end of the world, but if you valued your freedom – like I did – it was close.
So this had to be wrong. I leaned in, clutching the edge of the table once more. My fingers easily slipped into a set of grooves that made me wonder if people just like me had done exactly this before, clutching on for dear life as they tried to make sense of their rapidly crumbling world.
Before I could demand another test – yet again – the doctor leaned back, crossed one arm in front of his body, locked his elbow on the table, and proceeded to massage his brow with two fingers. “Look, Miss Samson, I get it – this is going to be a big change for you. But like I said, there are plenty of counseling services that can help you through this transition period. It’s not the end of the world,” he emphasized that with his hard baritone that shook around the small office, practically bouncing off the multiple certificates on the wall – including the one that was pride of place and proved his government certification as a witch specialist. “I’m not giving you a diagnosis of cancer here. You don’t have an incurable illness. You have powers. Now, what’s wrong with that?”
I opened my mouth to automatically reel off everything I could think of – from lack of freedom to the fact I would now have to apply to the government for permission to leave the freaking city.
Then I saw the look in his eyes. I’ve always had the ability to read people’s emotions, and this guy was being pushed to the limit.
“You know what I used to be before I became a witch specialist? A trauma surgeon. You haven’t been shot, you haven’t been stabbed, and there’s nothing wrong with you. Witches, on average, lead much longer lives than non-magical humans. Yes, you’re going to have to work in a government-sanctioned job from now on, but you’re also going to have a job.” He emphasized the word have. “In this difficult economy, that isn’t exactly something to cry about. You will also be moved into permanent accommodation. So let me once more reiterate the situation.” He brought up his hands and started to count on his fingers. “You’re not sick, you’re not dying, you’re about to get a permanent job, and you’ll never have to worry about a roof over your head again. So what exactly is the issue?”
My fight quickly withered and died up as I tilted my head down and stared at my hands. “When you put it like that—”
“Thank God you’re finally being reasonable. I thought you’d be one of those witches who demands 10 more tests.” He gruffly pushed up from his chair, and it scraped along the floor behind him. Leaning back, he cracked his neck. “Now, take whatever pamphlets you need.” He indicated the pamphlets behind him with a tilt of his neck. “You aren’t my only patient today, and I really need to get to the rest of them.” He turned to walk off, leaving me in a totally fragile state, with nothing to hold onto but a bunch of poorly printed pamphlets that talked in cheery tones about the fact I was now never going to have another say in anything I ever did again.
He got half a meter away, reaching a hand out toward the door that would lead him to his back offices – which were a darn sight nicer than here. I’m usually relatively observant, and the first thing I noticed when I walked in was that this meeting room was barely decorated and the furniture was all old and easily replaceable. Though I was definitely taking the news about my witch diagnosis badly, I knew my reaction was mild compared to most. I caught a news report only last night of a soldier being told he was a warlock, only for the guy to use his newfound powers to absolutely trash the hospital reception room.
The doctor turned hard on his expensive shoes, shifted over to the chipped, old bureau behind him, opened one of the doors with a creak that echoed through the room, and rummaged around. Finally he found what he was looking for and pulled it out. “These are your registration papers.” He shifted over to the table, plucked a goldplated fountain pen from his front pocket, and quickly, if carelessly, signed the last two sheets of the form. Then he shoved it over to me. “You need to fill these in and take them to the Government Registration Board downtown. Due to your genetic subgroup, I want your powers tested sooner rather than later.”
I paled. “What does that mean?”
“Relax,” he said in that same compassionless voice that told me he’d been dealing with freakouts just like mine for way too long. “I don’t think your powers are dangerous. It is precisely because your powers haven’t manifested properly yet that I want them tested. You’re going to need to take these papers straight down to the registration office, got that?”
“But I had plans—”
He slowly arched an eyebrow at me. Then he let his gaze tick down my body – or as much of it as he could see, as I was still seated compliantly, my hands clasped hard in my lap until my knuckles had gone white.
“You don’t look like the kind to make trouble. I’m certain I shouldn’t need to remind you of this, but this is serious, Miss Samson. Witches are powerful, and for the good of them and everyone else, they must be regulated. But the government doesn’t want you to lose your every civil right. So for now,” he emphasized the words for now with a deep, guttural growl, “we trust you. If you become noncompliant—”
“I get it,” I cut him off short as I leaned in, grabbed up the papers, resisted the urge to tear them up, and instead neatly folded them and placed them in my bag. “I’ll comply.”
“Good. Now welcome to your new life. I assure you it won’t be as bad as you’re imagining.”
As bad as I was imagining? No, it would be worse.
Much, much worse.
The rest of Forgotten Destiny Book One is available from most ebook retailers.