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"Execution Day"
by David M. Fitzpatrick

from Enchantments: The Many Facets of Magic
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“But if used for retribution, magic is vengeance incarnate.”
—Terry Goodkind,
Blood of the Fold


“Okay, here it is: Thurston is a witch.”

Billy Goodman’s face froze at his friend’s revelation. He was holding in smoke from the joint, and when he started chuckling, it was hell to keep holding. Blue-gray smoke puffed out with each hack, swirling about Jerry Wright like a miasmic cloud.

“Male witches are warlocks, buddy,” Billy said, passing the joint. “And dude, Rufus Thurston is a lotta things, including the worst math teacher ever, but he ain’t no warlock.” They stood beneath the overhang of a service door at the far side of Evervale High’s fifth wing, far from the student travel areas. They were at the edge of the thick Maine forest, where curious eyes wouldn’t see them near the shadowy pines.

“Yes, he is,” Jerry said, and he really sounded like he meant it. “And he’s not just a math teacher. Thirty-five years ago, he taught English here around the time Evervale expanded its English curriculum. We’re about the only school where you can find courses like Creative Writing, Arthurian Legend, and Fantasy and Science Fiction.”

“You’re going to tell me he taught Beginning Black Magic and Spellcasting 101, aren’t you?” Billy said with a lopsided grin.

“Damn close,” Jerry said, sucking in a deep, nervous breath.

Billy sighed. “Okay, let’s hear it.”

Jerry’s face lit up with the small victory. “Okay, so he gave me detention yesterday, and had me cleaning windows in his classroom. When I finished, he aid I could go, and he packed up his briefcase and took off. I was getting my gym bag and happened to notice those books on top of that big bookcase in the corner—the ones covered with so much dust you couldn’t even read the bindings. I’d always wondered about them, and I finally had the chance to check them out.”

He looked around nervously, then said, “There were books on black magic. Spellbooks for witches… druidic rituals… voodoo. And plenty of weird New Age stuff. There were books on divination, dream study, astral travel. You name it, it was there.

“So I was standing on a desk going through them when he came back for something. I made up some excuse that I was dusting them, but I wasn’t very convincing. He said, ‘Are you interested in those, Mr. Wright?’ So I told him the books were cool, and he actually smiled, kind of sideways and dark-eyed, and he said—get this—‘I used to teach that to students, many years ago. Come to me privately if you ever have questions.’”
“No shit,” Billy said. “You’re serious?”

“Completely. Check them out yourself. But don’t piss him off. Not over this.”

Billy managed a laugh. “Jerry, buddy, I’ve made an academic career out of pissing that man off. I’m not worried.”


From the moment he walked into Algebra II, Billy’s eyes jumped to the bookshelf like magnets to steel. The stack of books was there, tantalizing him. He supposed he’d seen them before, but like trees in the forest, he’d never noticed them.

The bell rang and the students found their seats. The bell’s echo hadn’t quite faded when Thurston strode in, stiff as if his skin were starched, briefcase in hand. He was dressed in a conservative gray suit, ivory shirt, and charcoal tie that seemed a bit too tight. He was bald save for a wreath of gray-brown hair circling his head, and his glasses were square and plain. He set his briefcase on his desk, snapped it open, and began riffling through papers within.

Billy watched Thurston, who was bent over with his face in his briefcase, and wondered fleetingly what kept the man’s glasses from falling off his face in that position, and suddenly a thought intruded: Maybe it’s a simple little spell, something to keep a little nuance at bay.

He shook himself out of it, grinning. Jerry had him going, all right. But even as Thurston cleared his throat and began passing out the day’s quiz, Billy couldn’t stop thinking about it.


The quiz took twenty minutes; the rest of the class seemed to last eons. Thurston lectured, droning on in that monotonous, slightly nasal tone which drove Billy completely nuts. He wasn’t the only one. It was easy to tell who cared and who didn’t, and most of the class didn’t. Thurston never seemed to notice when students didn’t give a damn, but he sure noticed when somebody was whispering, or when a rubber band twanged across the sea of desks, or when someone flipped him off behind his back.

Those things ate at Billy. The guy had a knack for seeing things he shouldn’t be able to see, hearing things students were sure he couldn’t hear. Not only did he always manage to hear the whisperers, but he was able to whirl around and point them out without a second guess. When a rubber band flew, he either heard the thing snap and from where, or he about-faced just as it was leaving the perp’s fingers. The ability the man had for always knowing what was going on it was almost like—


Billy was surprised the word had jumped into his mind. He was thinking more along the lines of “incredible luck.” He shook his head, trying to banish the thought.

As the class and Thurston’s lecture dragged on, the books atop the bookcase were there, almost calling to Billy. His gaze kept drifting from whatever he was looking at—his doodles of goofy cartoon characters and marijuana leaves, Sludge Branson’s brown sneakers thumping to a tune known only to Sludge, Susan Carmichael’s panty line clearing visible through her sheer skirt—to the books. He swore he could feel energy emanating from them. What if Thurston really had mastered such magic powers?

But that was silly. Thurston was old, dull, and an asshole, but he was nothing more than a math teacher at Evervale High School. That was all.


When the bell sounded like a victory alarm, Billy bolted for the door. The whole class did the same, but monotonous Thurston suddenly reared his true, ugly head.

“Be seated!” he hollered. Everyone hit the brakes, including Billy, who was at the door. Back-to, he waited, impatient. He just wanted to be free of Thurston and get to baseball practice.

Somebody in the room complained about wanting to leave. “That’s too bad,” Thurston barked, and Billy sighed and leaned against the door frame. “This is my classroom. And if I say you’ll stay here after the bell rings, then stay you shall!”

Thurston’s eyes were wide behind thick glasses, his nostrils flaring, his bald pate glistening with sweat. It was time for Billy to up the ante with the angry man. He turned around, clearing his throat, and said, “Bell rang, Mr. Thurston. School’s out.”

The room was silent. Thurston versus Goodman matches were not entirely uncommon in Algebra II, and everyone loved them. And Billy loved that they loved them.

“As I said, Mr. Goodman, I make the rules,” Thurston said, glaring at him. “We’ll stay a few minutes longer.”

“Not me, pal,” Billy said. “I have batting practice.”

“It will wait,” Thurston said, dark eyes boring at him, thin lips tightly pursed. “This test is big. You must be prepared for it.”

“We’ve been priming for it all week,” Billy said. “I think it’s safe to say we have it down, Rufus.”

Waves of tittering bubbled through the classroom.

“Really?” Thurston said with a crooked smile. “I suppose you’ll pass with flying colors.”

“Well, I’ll pass,” Billy said with a broad smile. “That’s what matters. See, I don’t know what anyone else is planning to do with their lives after high school, Thirsty, but I have grander plans than this.” He loved being ignorant to the man’s face, and he already knew the ace card he’d play once Thurston blew his gasket. “Most of us will do something useful—not, say, teaching algebra.”

Not a student made a sound as Thurston stood silent, taut, his eyes softening behind his glasses. “Mr. Goodman,” he said, his voice quiet and even, “you have earned a detention.”

Time for that ace card.

“Taught any witchcraft lately?” Billy snapped, with a mild dose of ferocity. He could feel the stares from the confused students, feel the hate from Thurston.

“I beg your pardon?” Thurston asked, perhaps sounding too innocent.

“I hear you have quite a collection of books on magic,” Billy said. “You tried to recruit a student into the black arts.”

“That’s preposterous.”

“Okay,” Billy said, and then he was striding across the room, past the stone-faced teacher, past the rows of desks, and to the back corner. All eyes tracked him as he went, as he leaped up on a desk, grabbed one of the books. “So what’s this?”

He flashed it up, and the whole class gasped. Thurston was stolid as ever in the face of Billy’s triumphant grin.
“An algebra book,” Thurston said.

Billy snapped the book around and felt the color drain from his face. It was, in fact, an algebra book. He tossed it back, pulled two more out. Calculus, trigonometry. He ran his eyes over the other spines; they were all math books. Billy felt his confidence melt away like a candle in a house fire, felt his face burn red. The students were snickering.

“The rest of you may leave,” Thurston said.

At that point, nobody wanted to miss any of it, but they knew better. A minute later, Billy was alone with Thurston and the math books.

“Been meaning to clean that bunch up,” Thurston said.

From his desk perch, Billy glared at the man across the room. “Jerry told me what happened.”

Thurston raised a smug eyebrow. “Mr. Wright must have been pulling your leg.”

But Billy knew better. He’d seen the fear in Jerry’s face. “No, he wasn’t. You just moved the books.”

“Let me put it this way,” Thurston said from the front of the empty room. “If there had been such books up there, they would have been innocent but easily misconstrued and I’d have removed them long ago. But there were never any voodoo books up there, Mr. Goodman. No divination, no astral travel, nothing of the sort.”

“I never said voodoo or divination or astral travel,” Billy said. “I only said witchcraft.

Thurston smiled up at him. “Of course. Now, come down from there, and serve your two-hour detention.”

“I have batting practice.”

“Not anymore,” Thurston said, and his face was chiseled and dark.

“We’ll see about that.”


“...and, as we continue down life’s long road, events such as these unfold—Bill, you have to take it in stride, roll with the punches. Who said life was a walk on the beach? I can tell you, it isn’t. You’ll meet many people, Bill, and you’re going to have to learn to deal with them—and they with you. It’s a two-way street. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back. Simple as that.”

WESLEY GYVERS, PRINCIPAL, read the nameplate on the desk. Billy fought the urge to roll his eyes, shifting into a more comfortable position in the sticky vinyl chair. The title should have read CHIEF CLICHÉ OFFICER, but Billy was used to it.

“ you see where I’m coming from, Bill?” Gyvers was middle-aged, wearing a perpetually uneven haircut. He was lanky, like a grown-up version of a chess-club geek, and his lips jutted from his face like a duck’s bill. He gestured constantly, symmetrically, as he talked. “Am I hitting anywhere near the infield?”

Billy was missing batting practice, but he had handled Gyvers before, knew just how to deal with The Duck.

“Definitely, sir.” He manufactured a broad smile and leaned excitedly forward in his chair. “You always know just how to explain things. I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“Why,” Gyvers said with a smile of admiration, leaning back and curling his bill up into a ducky smile, “that’s marvelous.”

Billy did his best to dazzle Gyvers with sparkling eyes and a respectful nod. “May I report to Coach Wallace now, sir, for batting practice? You know how Old Wally hates to have his star players missing.”

“Well...” Gyvers trailed off, brow furrowing. “Mr. Thurston seemed rather intent on a detention.”

Billy sighed. “I do like Mr. Thurston. He has so much to give. I only wish I had the skills to absorb it all... he and I are different people, and sometimes I think we don’t quite understand each other. I feel terrible that he misunderstood me, but it’s my fault for not explaining myself very well.” Billy gestured to Gyvers’ diploma on the wall, right next to the man’s psychology degree. “Class of ‘76, huh, Mr. Gyvers? Our bicentennial year. Wow—they don’t come with more school spirit than you, do they?”

Gyvers smiled. “Well, I’ve always been attached to Evervale, but... anyway, Mr. Thurston was terribly concerned, you know, about this witchcraft thing.”

“That?” Billy feigned incredulity. “A cruel joke on Jerry’s part, and I fell for it. I thought Mr. Thurston would laugh with me, but I think he was a little down today. I wish it hadn’t happened. Just trying to put a laughline into his old face.”

Gyvers listened as if he were contemplating the universe. Billy snapped himself out of his theatrical reverie. “Well, if it makes Mr. Thurston feel better, and makes peace in the halls of Evervale High, then I’ll go clean his blackboards. Perhaps I could run out first to let Wally know I won’t be pitching in tomorrow’s game, though? I won’t be much use without a good afternoon of practice. Say, Wally was coaching when you were a student here, wasn’t he?”
“Why, yes,” Gyvers said, beaming, lost in some world of his own now.

“Quite a pitcher yourself, I see,” Billy said, nodding to the awards on the walls. “Did you really pitch a no-hitter against Bangor your senior year? Man, talk about ‘for the glory of Evervale High,’ huh?”

Gyvers nodded, deep in thought, and then his mind seemed to be suddenly rubber-banded back into its body. “You know, Bill, it is about the glory of Evervale High. You need to go to that practice and serve your school.”

“But, sir,” Billy said. “The detention.” He was on a roll now, and almost hated to leave.

“No worry,” Gyvers said, and Billy half expected the psychology degree to crack or burn or fly off the wall at any moment. “It’s obvious Mr. Thurston misinterpreted the situation. I’ll talk to him. You get going, before Wally misses you.”
Billy flew out of the front office and came face to face with a smirking, waiting Thurston. “Now then, Mr. Goodman, you can begin your detention in my classroom. I’ll be back there momentarily.”

“And I won’t,” Billy said, and that was all he needed to say, but he lingered long enough, grinning, to see the look of understanding overtake Thurston’s confident face.

“What?” Thurston said, voice cracking, but Billy was off, jogging up the corridor, towards the locker rooms.
“Later, Thirsty!” he called back, enjoying the image of Thurston reddening from chin to bald pate.


Coach Wallace was indeed missing his star pitcher, since Billy’s 1.67 ERA the previous season had made it possible for the team to go to and win the state title. Jerry “First-Base Ace” Wright stayed well away from Billy; he’d clearly heard about the episode in Thurston’s class, as Billy was sure most of the school would by tomorrow. Billy made sure he put some extra angry power into his throws to first.

Practice was over by three-thirty. Billy kept his cool until Wally was nowhere around and everyone else was soaped up in the showers. Still in his pinstripes, Billy strode into the shower, splashing his cleats through the water. Everyone but Jerry saw him coming, and when Billy body-checked the naked Jerry hard into the tiled wall, Jerry yelped like a scared kid. Billy grabbed his chin and squeezed, angling his head to face him.

“You made a fool out of me, you lying bastard,” Billy growled.

“I swear to Christ the books were there!” Jerry yowled through scrunched-up fish lips. “I’m telling you, witchcraft, voodoo, spells—they were all there. The guy’s a fucking witch and I don’t care what you or anyone else says!”

The water poured over them as the whole team looked on in shock. Billy locked eyes with his friend, and he knew his instincts during his private conversation with Thurston were right: Jerry really hadn’t made it up. There was no way he was lying—not being held naked in the shower with twenty guys watching. Billy let him go and stepped back. He hesitated, then turned and sloshed off.

“Just be careful, Billy,” Jerry called, his voice echoing through the sprays of a dozen shower heads, and Billy turned back to him.

“You’ve pissed Thurston off more than anyone ever has, and you might have gone too far today,” Jerry said. “So… watch out.”


He’d pitched poorly that afternoon, with the witchcraft thing hanging across his mind like a banner across Main Street. He needed to get home and relax in a major way, so he hopped on his twenty-one-speed and pumped the pedals.

The cool wind against his face was refreshing, cleansing him of the Thurston situation. Jerry had seen the books, but they were just books. Even if Thurston were a warlock, there were no spells to cast, no Billy Goodman voodoo dolls to jab with pins, no goat sacrifices to convince a demon to eat Billy’s soul.

He released the handlebars, running his fingers through his sweaty hair, coasting lazily through the school parking lot. It seemed surreal how often he pulled off what he had with Gyvers, which was tantamount to getting pulled over for drunk driving and having the cop let you off with a warning. It was almost a magic in itself, a sort of supernatural gift given by some feckless god who didn’t give an ichorous shit what the rest of the pantheon thought. Certainly, Gyvers was slow-witted; if ever there were a finer combination of an idiot teacher and a principal who could likely be conned right out of his underwear, he couldn’t imagine—

The car appeared out of nowhere, from around the row of parked cars nearest the road. Its horn blared and tires squealed. Billy grabbed for the brakes and he skidded the back tire sideways and almost dumped the bike. The car halted inches from him.

It was a beige four-door sedan. “Watch where you’re going!” Billy hollered.

“Watch yourself, Goodman!” came the reply, and Billy could see the fist shaking out the window. There was no mistaking the bald head.

“You asshole!” Billy yelled, righting his bike. “You tried to run me down!”

Thurston laid on the horn. “Get out of my way!” Now, the bald head poked out the downed window, and Billy could clearly see the dark eyes—

Were they that dark before?

—burning at him.

“Or what—you’ll run me down?” Billy said. “People are watching.” Several were, all over the schoolyard, some close enough to hear. Billy wondered if they really were all that kept Thurston from flooring the gas pedal.
Thurston’s face flamed red. He laid on the horn again. “Move it, you stinking kid!”

“‘Stinking?’” Billy echoed, and laughed. “For a ‘kid’ you can’t seem to get in detention, I’d say I smell pretty sweet.”

Something seemed to visibly click on Thurston’s face. Billy couldn’t help but shiver then, despite the low-80s temperature, as the anger on the teacher’s face took on a whole new dimension. Psychotic, maybe, or evil—or something worse.

“That is it!” the man yelled out. “I’ve had it, Goodman! You think you’re invincible, don’t you? You’re wrong!” He was half out of the window now, arm flailing wildly, tight tie fluttering. “I’ve put up with your crap for three years, you miserable little bastard, and I’m not putting up with it anymore! I will get you, Billy!” His eyes, burning black fire, seared all the way to Billy’s bones. “I will get you!”

Billy felt a sudden blazing terror erupt within, lighting every nerve in his body afire. He had to get out of there. He threw his bike forward and jumped on the pedals, zipped out of the parking lot and into the road. He could hear Thurston laughing maniacally like the insane bad guy in a really bad B-movie—

Or is that in my head?

—as he shifted the bicycle and pumped the pedals hard down the hill. He needed to get home, to do something to calm his electrified nerves—to do anything to kill the intense fear that growled within like a swelling black demon.


Billy lay on his bed, totally lethargic.

Thoughts swam through his head like a school of zombie fish. He felt weak, as if a vampire had drained a little too much blood. It was no wonder, considering the incident in Thurston’s room, baseball practice, almost getting run down, and a record-breaking speed-ride home.

I will get you. The prophetic words hovered eerily in his head, fiery letters like burning bushes.

He was angry at his silly fear. Thurston could do no worse than flunk him. Billy didn’t need the credit for the class; he attended mainly because he got such a kick out of dueling with Thurston. But today was it; he’d drop the class.
It wasn’t just Thurston’s foreboding words, or his dark voice, or the insane look on his face. It was all those things, wrapped up in a sinister little package. I will get you, he’d said, and he’d meant it. Maybe Thurston would do more than flunk him—and Thurston didn’t need to be a witch or warlock to exact revenge. Maybe Thurston would simply snap and blow him away.

Billy couldn’t get that terrible phrase out of his head. His imagination was severely out of control.

I will get you.

He jumped and spun his head about. That hadn’t been in his head; he was sure he’d actually heard Thurston’s barely audible voice. But that was crazy—

I will get you.

There was no mistaking it this time. It had come from directly beneath him—from under the bed. Ever so slightly, he felt the bed tremble, as if the washing machine in the basement was on an imbalanced spin cycle.

“No way,” he whispered to himself. “Thurston is not underneath my bed.”

Yes I am, Mr. Goodman, came the reply, muffled but clear. I’m here to get you.

“No,” Billy whispered, but he felt a life force beneath him, radiating through the box spring and mattress. Fear gripped him again like a giant, invisible fist.

I’m under your bed.

Billy closed his eyes, focused, and started counting well-hung pink sheep leaping over barbed wire. He grinned at the image. Every now and then, his imagination got the best of him, and one of the pink sheep would catch it’s ramhood on a barb and make a horrible BAAAHAHAHAHAing noise, falling with a wooly SPLOOF sound. He laughed aloud.

Under... your bed...

“No,” Billy said again, the sheep forgotten. “You are not under my bed.”

Then look.

He sat up, sweat streaming down his face. He hadn’t been aware of his perspiration, but he was soaked, slick and gleaming like oiled glass. Thurston wasn’t some magic folklorist, incapable of anything more than a card trick or pulling a rabbit out of his ass. He was a warlock, all right—how else could he be under the damn bed?

His breathing was shallow through his parched mouth, and his vision was blurred. He had to check under the bed, no matter the consequences. Slowly, he swung his shaking legs over the edge, and looked down at the floor.
There was a flash of something on the blue rug, skittering out of sight under the bed.

Billy yanked his feet up, sucking in his breath. A hand. He was sure it had been a hand, but it was gone just as fast as he’d thought he’d seen it. And had there been the flash of a gold Timex watch, like the one Thurston wore?

It didn’t make sense, but somehow, the bastard was under there, and Billy resolved he wasn’t getting dragged into some under-the-bed hell with his algebra teacher. He kicked his feet out, clumsily leaping off and away from the bed. Nothing grabbed for him. He eyed the hanging bedspread from a safe distance, sinking slowly to a squat. His heart beat against his chest, threatening to splinter his ribs. He could see only shadows beneath, so he dropped to his knees and leaned in, reaching for the quilt, and then he snatched it and yanked it up.

There was nothing there. Just the blue rug. He leaned closer, as cautious as a proctologist with a flatulent patient. All he saw were bits of paper, lint, a few random marijuana seeds, foil from a Trojan wrapper, and his old teddy bear. He shuddered in relief, falling back on his ass.

The room was silent save for his thick, heavy breathing and the steady whirring of the clock on his wall. On impulse, he checked his pulse over fifteen seconds, watching the spinning second hand. One-forty. He instinctively clutched at his chest, as if his heart was about to smash through his ribs and rampage around the room.

Maybe that was it, he thought. Maybe Thurston was making Billy hear and see and feel things, trying to give him a heart attack...

*     *     *

The bad experiences are just beginning for Billy Goodman, who perhaps should have just served that detention...

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