A Child, a Name and a Nanny
Changing a Name
Names are special things. They attach themselves to people. Nowadays, most people are given names before they are even born. In some cultures the sighting of an animal or another occurrence in the vicinity of the unborn child results in them being named after it. The Fins are one of the few peoples on the planet who actually wait for a time after the child is born before settling on a name. This is quite an admirable quality but doesn’t quite explain why most Finnish names end in an ‘i’. You would think that the extra time would give them the opportunity to come up with something more experimental. But then, spending half the year in complete darkness and freezing temperatures probably plays havoc with the imagination.
There are other countries, such as Germany, where you are only allowed to choose from a set list of names. You are not permitted to make them up. This is a unfortunate thing in a country with so many people. It explains why so many of them carry the same name. Germans quite often end up using a last name or nickname to associate with people. There’s no other way around it. It’s not out of the ordinary to find yourself in a room full of people called Peter. You must resort to alternative names if you want to call someone out of a crowd. Otherwise, you will have the uncomfortable situation where, when you yell out a name, the entire room turns to face you.
Witches are not strictly human and thus do not adhere to the laws of earthly beings. No two witches have the same name. Admittedly, there aren’t nearly as many witches as Germans. Therefore, witches do have a numbers advantage. This makes it possible to have a truly unique name for every witch on the planet. Their names are more than merely a collection of letters. They carry a certain weight with them. They are not just words. They are powerful.
Witches and other beings of a mystical persuasion are effectively named before they are even conceived. Fundamentally, a name exists and then the seed of a child is attached to it. In some way the name is more important than the one who will bear it. Long before the person that is to carry it is even thought of, the name is there. If you think about it, in some way, it is actually similar in the sublunary world. Only, as with many things when comparing the two worlds, it is in reverse. For humans in modern times, once someone has left this world their name lives on forever. For witches, their names have preceded them since the dawn of time.
Ancient human cultures were more knowledgable where this was concerned and followed principles similar to witches. They knew the importance of names. They practiced that a name is buried with a person. It must never again be spoken aloud once they have perished or vacated the earthly realm. Because of the extreme explosion of life on the planet this has become impractical. There are only so many names in existence. Or perhaps there are not. Perhaps, just like the Fins, we are being to cautious and need to try and think a bit more out of the box.
Witches are products of an ancient culture, and therefore, they too adhere to the practice of letting a name die with its physical attachment. A name and a person are isolated yet connected entities. For witches there is great esteem attached to being bestowed with a name. As its carrier you have a responsibility to it. It is yours and yours alone. No one else can have the honour of owning it. Naturally there are individual names which are shared. It is the combination of names that make them particular to one person.
For this reason there are no nameless witches. There are those which should never be mentioned, but that is something altogether different. You find them everywhere. There are always bad eggs. But a witch without a name is no longer an entity. Once attached to someone, where the name goes, so does the body. In the same way, if there is no name then there will no longer be a body.
So, even though Anais Blue wished to change her name, unbeknownst to her it was an impossibility. It was complicated. Were she to do that, it could possibly mean that she would cease to exist. Even the mere action of trying to dissect herself from her name could bring about direst of consequences.
A Babe Out Of Arms
Anais Blue was small, even for a witch.
Most witches grow physically at a more protracted rate than their human counterparts. This is because witches live for a very long time. In order for a body to last three times a normal human life cycle, or even longer, which is the case with most witches, it has to have a very slow metabolism. The physical growth cycle of a witch is more akin to that of a tortoise or a koi. The physical world has its own set of rules and if you want to live in it you need to abide by these rules. One of the most basic laws of the universe is deterioration. Everything rots. Everything eventually wastes away to nothing. There is no way around this law. Every living thing must abide by it, except perhaps bacteria. But nobody really understands them anyway. Apart from them, everything in the physical world still has to stand the test of time.
Witches are no different. They are not impervious to the rigours of ageing. This means that in order to get very old they need to do it slowly. Even though a witch may look quite young on the outside, under the skin they are in fact vastly advanced in age.
We are all susceptible to the ravages of ageing. Witches are no exception. They are not immortal. They just age differently to the rest of us. Take dogs for instance, if we look at their true age and their human age there is a specific correlation, something along the lines of seven to one. Dogs hold their age extremely well. You can’t really tell how old a dog is just by looking at it. On the outside they tend to remain the same once they have reached maturity. Maybe their hair thins a little and they drool a bit more but physically they stay the same. The only thing which gives them away is how freely they move. A young pup will jump around like a maniac and show enthusiasm for just about everything. An old dog will prefer just sit and take in the world with a disapproving eye. Dogs can be incredible judgemental in this way. It’s a good thing that they don’t have a say in what we do otherwise we wouldn’t be permitted to do anything. A dogs life is kind of a contradiction in that way. Firstly they are allowed to act like complete idiots and get away with it. Then, later in life, they get to stand back and criticise. Dogs are actually no exception to the rule. We all do the same. It’s the circle of life.
Witches have a similar ageing trick to dogs. On the outside they change at a barely perceivable rate. On the inside time is flying. As far as Anais was concerned she was a pup on the exterior. Physically she was beyond toilet training and all that inconvenient bodily function stuff. She could even feed herself if she wanted to. It wasn’t the highest priority on her agenda and more often than not she forgot to eat. If she wasn’t reminded about it she just wouldn’t do it. Some of us are pre-programmed to know when to chow down. Some are even intensely passionate about it and make every mealtime a special occasion. Finding or making the best tasting food is akin to the search for the holy grail. People who are like that enjoy eating. Others just do it more out of necessity. For them, eating is a chore. It’s something that has to be done in order to keep functioning. If there was some other way of pumping energy enriching vitality into a body without all the preparation and chewing then that would be fantastic. Almost certainly one day there will be a pill for all that, just like there is for everything else. Anais was a member of the latter group. She had better things to do with her time than eating.
Her disinterest in food didn’t help her growth rate either. It only exacerbated it. Her biggest disadvantage was her size. Because her rate of growth was so incredibly slow she physically resembled a five-year-old. She found this to be an intense irritation. She just wanted to grow up. Really grow up. Hiding behind her toddler facade was a young woman. Inwardly, Anais was actually in her late teens.
The outside world only saw someone who had just learnt the basics. They saw a small child who could walk and talk and not do too much else. She had the same problem most five-year-olds had to deal with. Nobody took them seriously. They usually did themselves a disservice. Nobody really wants to hear incessant chatter about how you just discovered the difference between a feather and leaf. There is also an irritating preoccupation with sticks, water and sand.
Anais was beyond all this. Sticks and such were no longer playthings. She was more than capable of holding a lucid conversation. This she invariably did with anyone who cared to listen. The only problem was that nobody expected her to say anything of much value. Quite often people never even heard her opinions on world affairs or her comments on the strength of the American dollar on the Stockmarket. They switched off the moment she opened her mouth.
This was not without its benefits. Living in the body of a five-year-old had a lot of positives. In some ways it was the perfect disguise if you knew how to use your status in the world. As a witch it was an especially favourable position. For Anais, it the most advantageous time of her life. Ignorance can be bliss. As adults tend to ignore strange behaviour in young children, she could practically do whatever she wanted. Grown ups don’t pay close attention to what a child is doing. Generally, if a child is happy doing something then it will be left alone. If a child is accompanied by another adult then it will be completely ignored altogether. Adults are willing to let children do anything as long as they know it has been ok’d by a parent or guardian. Almost anything goes as long as an adult has given permission.
This was the only really essential stipulation Anais required to roam freely as a witch. She needed an adult. Even though she was quite capable of being left to her own devices, whenever she went out in public she needed to be chaperoned. And perhaps someone who occasionally reminded her when to eat. For this purpose Anais had Nan.
Anais carried around an entire file system of notes stuffed in her pockets. If you’re a small child, a letter from your mother can get you places. Even better is if you are able to compose the letters yourself. Then you have total control. The things you were able to do would only be limited by your own imagination. You would have permission to do practically anything. Anais didn’t have a mother to write her notes. Instead, she had Nan. And even though Anais had her notes, Nan rarely let her go out on her own.
Her nanny, or Nan for short, was in her early thirties. She was tall and slender and quite beautiful, but had a coarse edge. She was strict and certainly not someone to be crossed. She was not what you would expect from a nursemaid. She had been with Anais since she had been separated from her mother when she was six years of age. It was at this time that Anais began to display the first traits of a witch. The Organisation had elicited the help of Nan and sent Anais to live with her.
It has been said that with great power comes great responsibility. This is especially true in the case of witches. It is generally accepted that women rule the earth. They are the mothers, and not only in a biological sense. They are the caretakers of the planet, in some cultures the earth itself is considered a mother. They make sure that men don’t stuff it all up. In order for this to be successful there has to be some form of quality control. There has to be a structure or formal skeleton to work from. Everyone can’t just run riot. Hoping for the best won’t work. Some form of management is required. There needs to be an organisation.
As with many planet-wide administrative bodies the World Witch Organisation grew organically out of a need. In the beginning the world was not fully aware of the rest of itself. Each country or area was self-managed. Some were more successful than others. Some were complete disasters. There were wars and such with immediate neighbours. They were all like little islands fighting to maintain their individual independence and way of life. In more recent times this has all changed and the islands have been bridged. There is now much more freedom of movement. This presents its own set of problems. Sometimes it necessary to have something or someone to supervise it all. Freedom has a price. In order for it to survive it needs to be managed.
The history of the world for witches has been no different. Like the rest of the peoples of the world, it took quite some time for individual witches on the planet to realise they weren’t alone. This primarily revealed itself through inclement weather. Basically, too much psychic power gathered in one place is unmanageable and has a tendency to be incredibly destructive. But we won’t go into the specific details of that right now. Needless to say, witches realised that they weren’t alone. Over time their numbers grew and it became necessary to manage their affairs and bring in some form of committee as overseer. The World Witch Organisation grew out of this necessity.
Nan was one of the few mortals who was party to this inner circle of witches. This honour was not readily bestowed on just anyone. You needed to have a specific skill-set. Nan had this, she knew a great deal about what made a witch tick. She was the daughter of one. She could relate to Anais through her own experiences. Not that she was forced to be apart from her mother. It had been a personal choice. Not all families live in a constant harmonious state. Kin that don’t have disagreements are practically as rare as witches giving birth to other witches. Nan and her mother couldn’t stand one another. But apart from her own mother, Nan liked being around witches. She wished that she had been born as one. She needed a substitute. She found one in Anais.
It wasn’t an easy relationship. Quite often Anais thought Nan was a pain in the butt. She grappled with the usual things which a child has to deal with when under the supervision of someone older and perhaps wiser:
Who was this person?
What right has she to order me around?
She isn’t the boss of me.
I know what I’m doing.
Stop telling me what to do.
You aren’t my mother.
Leave me alone.
Perfectly normal reactions to a caretaker. As Anais had aged she struggled more and more with the restrictions of her physical self. Her mental self wanted freedom. It wanted to roam. It was sick of being stuck in the same place. It wanted to see the world. It didn’t want to be mothered. It wanted to be treated like the growing adult that it was. It couldn’t though. The five-year-old body she was wrapped in needed help, it couldn’t do it alone. It required assistance.
Nan liked her role but could see that the same rebelliousness she had experienced with her own mother was going to create problems. She didn’t want to lose Anais in the same way. She didn’t want to ostracise her or make her the enemy. She wanted to be friends. But being a friend and a parent is a difficult balance to maintain, like a precarious wander on a slack-wire. Nan was in the position where she couldn’t truly be either one. She was more like the hired help. Twelve years was a long time to be together with someone who you weren’t related to. She felt morally responsible, but then again, if she really wanted to, she could walk away. She had begun to think what it would be like to have life of her own. She wondered if she still had it in her to find someone for herself, or even if she was capable of having a meaningful relationship out in the real world.
Essentially both women were in the same situation. They were beginning to rub each other the wrong way. There was an anger brewing. Nan knew that she had to curb her own personal desires. She had to reduce the friction between them or it might get out of control. She didn’t know what an angry witch was truly capable of. Maybe it was something to be feared. She had thought to consult The Organisation about these developments but decided to attempt to solve it herself. At least for the time being. After all, she knew Anais better than anyone else. She had formulated a plan. They needed more time apart. She had decided that it would be better for them both if Anais was let out on a longer leash. Possibly Anais could find some new friends. She certainly needed to do something useful and she should develop her skills. Nan couldn’t really help her in that department. Although Nan despised the thought, she knew the time had come. Anais should do more things on her own.
Anais was in a similar position. She wasn’t particularly lonely. She had Nan to talk to. This helped but one person didn’t really provide enough to fill her world. It would be much better to have different people to bounce stuff off. She regretted there wasn’t anyone her own age to hang out with. But therein lay the whole problem. It was a bit difficult. There were certain physical barriers to her making friends. If you’re only a metre tall and look like you have just graduated from nappies then you are not going to attract the sort of attention you want. A bunch of adults cooing over you and calling you cute doesn’t cut it in the teen stakes either. There is no honour in that. It’s uncool. Apart from the change of name Anais simply just wanted to grow up.
She had spent too many years trapped in her petite prison. It was getting on her nerves.