It had to have started when I was a child, but I wasn't sure which came first: the darkness, or the witchcraft. Had I been drawn to the darkness because of my love for the craft? Or had I been drawn to the craft because of my love of darkness?

A passing car's headlight made its way through a crack in the curtains, the beam travelling across the wall and to the ceiling before vanishing. Small yellow, green, and red specks of light filled the dim room. Most would have considered it dark, but the ambient light from street lights and electronics was more than enough for me to see by. In fact, I was trying not to see; it was too bright for me to go to sleep. Instead, I was lying in bed again. Brooding.

Maybe I had just always been a dark child. I remembered being teased in elementary school, having the other students accuse me of everything from witchcraft to vampirism to demonic possession. My name, Mia, was often replaced with Morticia, or Miaticia, an homage to the classical Addams Family matron. It was easy to recall dozens of instances of sickness that my family had naturally attributed to heat exhaustion or dehydration. The fairness of my skin had only given way to a darker peachy color in recent years, too, and the recent lightening of my long, thick hair from black to a dark brown had helped ease the naturally gothic look I'd once had.

The actual witchcraft hadn't started until after the accusations. I had been accused of being a witch several times before I first ran across a book on witchcraft. It was alone on a shelf of comic books, black with a red title, tempting and foreboding at once.

The book was exactly what I would have expected from a book on witchcraft and magic. What at first looked like a simple black cover was actually very detailed and intricate, with the glossy black image of a tree over the solid matte black background. A fancy gothic script read the title in a rich, bright red, and I opened it up to read the first page.

I've got a feeling that if you're reading this book, it found you. Not the other way around. Some of us belong in the shadows, and are drawn by the nocturnal mysteries.

It held a special place in my bedroom now; topmost right of my books on witchcraft on top of the dresser, safely pressed against the wall. The companion books in the series preceded it, and then the books were mostly arranged by size. A fine layer of dust covered them, but I knew most of the contents by heart. I hadn't been able to part with the books themselves.

Looking back on it, I think it was my delving into astral projection where things started to get out of hand. The initial snap of freedom, of being unbound by my physical body, had been bliss. The freedom, the secrecy of it all, had been an addiction I'd fallen in love with. With it, my connection to the shadows strengthened immensely, as did my power and my focus. If I walked out of a dark room, the shadows would cling to me until they had burnt away. If I was near a candle, that one would burn brightest and melt first. If I talked to someone, I could tell them things about themselves they'd never shared with anyone. If I was in sunlight, though…

That was the problem, originally. School was diurnal, and the town I live in was a diurnal town. There was nothing to do at night, nowhere to go. So I'd project and work my blossoming witchcraft through the night, and the next day would be an exercise in misery. Lack of sleep and sensitivity to sunlight, fluorescent light, any light except the glow of a candle… it didn't work.

I'd hated school. I loved learning, did fantastic on tests, could write at least decently, but the frustration of being at school left me worn down. My grades showed it. Even if I could absorb anything I read, I was too exhausted to read. It had taken almost failing a class for me to swallow my pride and accept that I couldn't do my nocturnal workings and school together. As much as I loved the power, I knew school had to come first.

Taking eighteen hours of college courses my first semester had been just as bad. Not at first, of course, but as it progressed and the work started adding up, I'd been again buried in course work. The second semester had been almost as bad, with fifteen hours of courses spent trying to make up for the previous semester's grades, and my first summer as a college student had been built around working as a camp counselor with my mother.

It wasn't until the second year of college that I was able to delve back into magic.

That, really, was the big mistake. I hadn't known, or gotten very close to, the people I was working with. One of them, at the instruction of his spiritual guide and guardian, had begun pressuring me to let him 'connect' me to my guide. He had seemed harmless enough, really; the information he knew was mostly accurate with my background knowledge and a few checks, and he had no power behind his work. Additionally, none of the other witches I had met at college could tell what I was, spiritually, and my innocent interest in marine life and casual love of mermaids and pirates had led them to assume that whoever my guide was, it was a mermaid. The most the man would be able to do would probably be a mild tingling sensation as a 'connection' with my 'higher self' was formed; I could fake it and overpower him easily, and I knew it when I accepted his offer.

I hadn't counted on his guide.

The thought alone made me tense in my bed, as though he could hear me. As though he could find me by the very thought of his name. The use of this spirit's magic, the one thing I had asked the human man not to use, had nearly broken me. In one moment, I was bound to my skin. My darkness couldn't break though enough to sustain my magic, and the years of witchcraft and meditation were over. No amount of focus could overcome the tightness, the futile pain of trying to enter a trance. The comfort of the darkness had died, completely, and no amount of spiritual healing had been able to bring back any of my gifts.

Slowly I sat up in bed and brushed my hair from my face, only for it to fall right back where it was. It had always been unruly, especially in the mornings. I missed its dark color, though, and the feeling of wind through my weightless hair as I flew.

Why was I thinking about this now?

He and the entire group I had known were gone; I had distanced myself from them, graduated, and I had been moving on with my life. Work and mundane reality were nothing compared to the freedom of my magic, but I had a couple of friends and I was content with my job. I could go out in the sun, could even tan if I wanted to, and I was getting along a lot better without spells and enchantments than I'd thought I would have.

My body felt like lead, and as I stood up I realized that I was lightheaded. It was almost four o' clock according to the alarm clock on the dresser, and I had work at eight. Somehow, I just didn't feel right, though. The sheets felt rough and the mattress was too firm for me to relax. It took a few minutes before I felt steady enough to stand up, and I grabbed one of my books off of the bookshelf and wandered into the living room. I knew without looking what book I'd grabbed, but I checked it out anyways and found myself reading the words I could recite by heart.

I've got a feeling that if you're reading this book, it found you.

Anger hit me suddenly, and I slammed the book down on the couch. It bounced slightly, not nearly as satisfying as it would have been to throw it on the floor or at the wall, and I stalked to the kitchen.

It wasn't fair.

I thought I had accepted the loss of my magic. It had been rough for the first few months, but damn it, I had been doing good for a year and a half. No anger, no crying. Why was I upset now? And angry, an emotion I rarely, if ever, dealt with.

But I wanted to fly again, to press past my skin and out into the night sky. I wanted to be free again, and for the first time since I'd realized I couldn't go into a trance, I began to cry. I grabbed a glass to get something to drink, something to calm me down, but stopped before I got to the fridge. It wasn't fair.

It wasn't fair.

The glass shattered on the wall of the kitchen, and I felt a sort of release. Yeah, I couldn't push out of my body, but this was my stuff. No one could stop me from breaking it. There was a sort of control, a power, there. No one could stop me. The first glass was followed by every other glass I owned, and then the ceramic plates, and then the bowls. I only stopped when I reached for the next bowl and found my cabinet bare. For a moment, I was angry again, and then just disappointed. I wanted more things to break. I also wanted my glasses and plates back.

The numbers on the microwave read four o' seven, and I left the pile of broken glass and ceramic on the floor. The anger I'd felt faded into sadness, something I was much more accustomed to, and I exhaled slowly. Maybe I could find some healer who would understand. Something had to change; I couldn't deal with this loss again.

My laptop was in my bedroom; maybe someone online would have a suggestion. After all, I sure wasn't going to get any sleep tonight, and I had until eight. I opened the door and froze, staring at my bed. At my body, asleep on the bed.

My eyes shot open and I sat up. The door was closed, and I was alone, in my room, in bed and gasping for air. I finally caught my breath and got up. Was that a dream, or a projection? I wasn't certain at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a dream. I couldn't have tranced without pain, courtesy of whatever binding had been put on me, and I couldn't project without entering at least a medium trance. Plus, I had moved and broken things, and I was never a telekinetic witch.

The tingling in my legs, followed by the pain of getting up, reassured me that this time I was awake. I grabbed my laptop, set it on the coffee table, and shuffled into the kitchen. Just because it was a dream didn't mean that the decision to get help was any less real, and the loss of my astral projection, and of my magic in general, stung like a reopened wound.

My kitchen was clean, a rarity for me, and I grabbed a glass and went to get something to drink. For a moment I considered smashing the glass again, destroying everything. I wouldn't stop this time, either; I'd break everything in the kitchen from the sink to the stove. I didn't do it.

There was a carton of iced coffee in the fridge, and I poured it until the glass was full. I put some bread in the toaster, brushed off the crumbs from yesterday's breakfast from the counter, and headed to the living room. The coffee was cold and had an almost metallic taste to it, and I relaxed as I set it on the coffee table and opened my laptop. The screen came on, welcoming me with a simple tune, and I sat down on the couch. Something hard startled me, and I got up to see what I was sitting on.

It was a book with a black cover and red title.

For the first time in almost two years, my smile was real.