Witches used to ride broomsticks in the night. They don’t do that any more because it got to be too dangerous, but they still needed to get around, so “alternatives” were used. One of those alternatives was bicycles, because even when they weren’t being used to fly across the night sky they could be used for more mundane travel.
My name is Gigi, and I’m a witch’s bicycle.
Most bicycles don’t talk, or know how to use computers, or even know they are bicycles for that matter. I didn’t at first. All I knew were light and dark, warm and cold, moving and (mostly) not moving. I almost ended up in a dumpster after my first owner died. I was stripped of most of my parts and put up for sale in a garage sale, and nobody bought me. Some of my nicer bits sold, but I was unwanted. But someone said “I think I know a guy that could use that” about me and I had a chance at life again. I remember being warm for a long time as things were shoved under, on, into, and behind me, taken off, worked on and shoved back again while I was sat on. That went on what felt like forever as bits were bought, found, and what couldn’t be bought or found was made to fit, sometimes with a great deal of violence and emotion. I began to feel “Somebody loves me,” as I began to become whole again.
I was called the “Grocery Getter” at first, with the constant patter of how I was going to go to the store down the street and come back loaded down with “groceries”. I heard that as “Gross-eries” and thought “I’m going to be made to carry nasty stuff and be ugly”, but that was far from the truth. I was being made beautiful so the master’s wife would not have to walk to the store.
At first I didn’t notice I had become aware, I was unaware of being aware. I did notice that the person working on me was talking to me all the time, sometimes nicely when things went well, and sometimes with an angry tone of voice when things were not going so well. But he always called me the “Grocery Getter” at first, the sometimes later as “The G.G.”
“G.G.,” I thought. “That’s a pretty name, but I want more than that.”
“Hey! big dumb guy messing with my bits!” I thought out loud (or as out loud as a bicycle can think). “I don’t object to being used to get groceries, but that is not my name.”
“Who said that?” asked the big dumb guy.
“I did. I’m the bicycle you’re working on,” I said.
The big dumb guy said “I must be tired, I could have sworn this bicycle is talking to me. Bicycles don’t talk. They might get all eager to go for a ride like a puppy ready to go for a romp, but they don’t talk. And especially they don’t talk while I’m trying to build parts for them!”
“Well I’m talking to you now!” I said. “I don’t want to be called a grocery getter. That’s not who I am. I’m a diva”
“You’re a bicycle, and bicycles aren’t supposed to talk, which makes you a bad bicycle,” said the big dumb guy.
“I am not. I was a good bicycle until I got stuck in the dark place and taken apart,” I replied. “Now, I’m a diva.”
“Do you even know what a diva is?” asked the big, maybe not-so-dumb guy. “What do you think a diva is, and why do you think you’re one?”
“Divas are fussed over and taken care of, and given nice things,” I said. “You fuss over me, and take care of me, and the stuff you put on me so far has been pretty nice, so I must be a diva.”
“I fuss over all the things I build, not just you. The difference with you is I’m just trying to get you functional again, not make you into something else entirely. And I’m not getting you anything special in the way of parts, just stuff I pulled off the side of the roads that other people were throwing away, and a few things that I couldn’t find I bought. What I can’t find or buy I’m having to make from scratch, which requires lots of thought and looking at things and using my imagination to think about what will work and what will work and look nice, and what will work and look nice and be cool.”
“So you’re going to make me look cool?” I asked hopefully.
“Probably not, but I will try to make you as cool as possible within my budget.”
“Budget?” I asked. “What’s a budget?”
“Usually it’s money. I don’t have much money but I do have other things that I can do, and I have parts I can use to make parts for you. And some things I will have to break down and pay money for. You won’t get many of those.”
“But I will get things bought that you can’t find or make, right?” If I had an upper lip it would have trembled at that point.
“Only if I can’t find some other way to make you run.” A pause. “But I will make you run again.”
“OK. But I’m still not a Grocery Getter, I’m a diva. I’m Gigi.”
“OK you’re Gigi, now hush while I finish making your handlebars, or you’ll be a garage queen again.”
While the Big Dumb Guy was fixing me up (who I didn’t know at the time was really a Fire Witch) far far away someone was working to make my life miserable. Well not me personally, this was a long time before we actually met face-to-face, before I was even made, but he was working to make riding a bicycle a miserable experience, and by extension miserable for the bicycles that could be miserable, like me.
His name was Sheik Raht el Ennrahl, and he has a lot of oil. I mean a LOOOOHHHHTTT of oil, under a very small kingdom, which makes him Very Rich, but only as long as people buy his oil. So he uses the money from his oil to make people do things that make other people buy (more of) his oil. He could have invested his money in researching things that can be made from oil, but he didn’t. Instead he spent his money on a machine that made car gas from his oil. So if he wanted to make money from his oil people would have to drive cars and use lots of gas. Riding bicycles doesn’t use any gas, so Sheik Raht hated bicycles.
“Look at all those millions of people riding bicycles!” he shouted at his council of minions. “Not one of them is using a drop of my gas. This cannot go on, how can I get them to stop riding bicycles and start driving big cars that use lots of my gas?”
One of the minions shyly raised his hand. “Sheik?” he quivered. “I have an idea, but it will take a long time.”
“Well, the oil isn’t going anywhere by itself, we have time,” answered Sheik Raht.”What is your idea?”
“Make people riding bicycles look silly,” answered the minion, who came from the tiny town of Yobuhti at the farthest edge of Sheik Raht’s kingdom, about a half-hour’s bicycle ride from the Sheik’s palace. “We build lots of small bicycles for children, that aren’t very good for riding to school or for adults to ride to work, and we tell children that riding these bikes is cool. All the cool kids start riding bicycles that aren’t very good for riding and carrying stuff, that all you can do with them is just ride short distances and look “cool” while riding. Then we start saying that because kids ride bicycles but don’t actually do anything riding them that bicycles are just toys for children, and that people riding bicycles are just children that never out grew their toys.”
“But what about all those adult bikes that people are already using to get places and do things?” asked Sheik Raht, “Those thing last almost forever, and are very useful. And like I said, there are millions of people riding them.”
“It doesn’t matter, people have short memories, and if we tell them long enough that riding a bicycle is for children, then the children will believe it and grow up to be adults that believe it, and drive cars that use lots of your gas and make you rich. Well, richer, you’re already rich.” said the minion. “I even know the perfect place to start with your plan, a country called the United States. They already use most of the gas you make, but they have so much space to drive their cars in they could always use more gas.”
So they started on their plan, by building lots and lots of small bicycles for children. As hard as they tried though they couldn’t really make the bicycles bad, because if it works a bicycle is still a pretty wonderful thing. And I don’t say that just because I am a bicycle, lots of human beings say that also. But because these were such small bicycles and because there was no way to carry stuff on them, or to ride them in the rain because there were no mudguards or fenders put on them, or ride them very far because they didn’t have the right gears, when people grew up they quit riding them, mostly. There were still a few people that bought bicycles that were big enough for adults to ride and that had fenders and racks and baskets to ride in the rain and carry things, but not as many as had before, and more people drove cars to get places in the rain and carry things and they had been taught that children rode bicycles and they believed it because when they were children they had ridden bicycles and liked it, so it must be just for kids. They didn’t realize that they were being tricked, that riding bicycles was fun because it just is, not because it’s for children.
Then the Sheik and his minions made larger bicycles that were just like the children’s bicycles, with no fenders or racks or baskets to carry things, and also made them very poorly so that they would fall apart soon after they were taken from the store, and they told the people “See? See how quickly this bicycle falls apart? It’s only a toy, you can’t use it for doing adult things.” And other people also said the same thing, because these were really yucky bicycles. I don’t know how they did it, but these bicycles were actually not fun to ride even when they were new. My human calls these things “BSO” or Bicycle Shaped Objects. They look like bicycles, and they can be ridden like a bicycle if you’re very careful, but they aren’t actually bicycles. If you’re smart like a Fire Witch then you can take a BSO and work majicks into it and make it into a real bicycle, but it takes a long time to learn how to do that. My Fire Witch says it took him about 20 years to learn how, but it’s a moving target because the BSO are less and less like bicycles and more and more like junk before they even leave the store, so that there is less and less that you can use from a BSO to make a real bicycle out of it.
So, by the time I was made Sheik Raht el Ennrahl and his minions had been making and selling BSO for almost 20 years, and real bicycles were very hard to find in the United States where I was. You had to be careful of where you stepped to keep from tripping on all the messed-up and worn-out BSO that people would just leave where they stopped working, but real bicycles were hard to find. And because the Sheik’s BSO were almost the only kind of “bicycle” that most people knew they didn’t think “transportation” when they saw one, they thought “toy”. And because all they had to use for carrying stuff was cars they thought cars were the only thing you could use to carry stuff and get around. And you know how people get about playing with toys in the street, they get upset. Then they started calling people that had real bicycles names and yelling at them and trying to hurt them, because they thought the people were playing in the street instead of using a bicycle to get where they needed to go with the stuff they needed to carry. That’s the way things were when I “woke up” and discovered I was Gigi.
One of the Really Bad Things about people thinking that bicycles were just toys was that people in cars would think that adults riding bicycle to go places and do things and carry stuff, were really just playing in the street. Playing in the street is a very dangerous thing to do, because of the people in cars. Otherwise the street is a good place to play, or so my human tells me. Bicycles don’t actually play, we just do. Humans play, and so do some animals, but bicycles don’t play. I don’t know why that is. But anyway, because the people in cars thought the people Doing Things on bicycles were just playing, they also thought that they had to make the people on bicycles not play in the streets. I don’t know why they thought it was any of their business that adults were riding bicycles in the streets, but they did. So they tried to scare the people riding bicycles to Do Things by driving real close to them and by throwing things at them and yelling. They didn’t know they were being manipulated by Sheik Raht, any more than they knew that some of those people Doing Things were witches.
After my human finished putting me back together, I was used to Do Things like getting groceries, and deliver things my human made to sell, and after dark my human would ride me to meetings with the other witches to try to do Good Things, like make it rain when the soil was too dry to make things grow, and for sick people to get well if they could get well, or to have a quiet passing if they couldn’t get better, and other things like that. Sometimes there were other bicycles there, and we would talk to each other about what our humans were like, and what the humans that had worked on us were like. It turned out that most of the bicycles that belonged to the witches had been worked on by my human, but that I was the only one that talked to him.
The other bicycles would tell me what was happening when their humans were riding them and we would gossip about what was happening inside, and we would wait until things were done and say our goodbyes when the humans were done and rode us home. Sometimes the humans would say majick spells and we would fly, but not very often. Flying is fun, but really I would rather roll on the roads than fly. I never felt comfortable when my human was flying me because I couldn’t stop, or change direction very well, but my human said that flying was only for special times of the year and for “emergencies” where we had to be someplace very fast.
One night my human met the other witches in a big field. He told me that we had to heal someone very important, even though that person did not want to be healed but wanted to die. I asked him if this wasn’t a Bad Thing because we were doing something to a person that the person didn’t want, and he said no, not this time. Usually when someone wants to die it’s because they are sick and they are sad, and it’s time for them to go, but it wasn’t this person’s time yet, the witches had done a spell to see what would happen if this person lived and there were things this person had to do that hadn’t happened yet, some Really Good Things. Also they saw that if they healed this person that the person would be very happy after doing the Really Good Things. My human also said that this might get scary for me because I could talk to him and felt things that other bicycles couldn’t feel. There were lots of different colored lights, and things that came that looked like people but weren’t People, and some sounds that made me want to be back in the garage with the bicycles that didn’t talk much, and then there was a white light and the things that looked like people but weren’t People left and they were happy, and my human rode me home (on the road) and didn’t talk to me the whole way home. I didn’t know what happened, but I knew it didn’t make my human very happy.
One thing I really liked was getting groceries. I have some nice things on my rack that hold lots of groceries and my human would fill me up and ride me home from the store and put all the stuff inside the house. Sometimes the groceries were very heavy and I would creak and groan and complain about how I was being abused and my human would have a hard time pedalling me, and sometimes I would be stuffed as full as I could get and it felt like I was empty. Either way was fun for me , because I was doing what I had been made for, and doing what you are made for is a very special thing for a bicycle. When a bicycle is doing what it was made for, everything is as perfect as it can get.
One thing I can do that makes my human kinda mad at me is I can whistle at dogs and make them bark. My human doesn’t like barking dogs, but I think it’s fun to whistle and make the dogs bark. When dogs bark they’re talking, but I don’t understand Dog.
And that’s what things were like right until they weren’t like that any more.
The day things started to change was pretty much like any other day, starting out warm and bright and getting hot and it made my human sweat buckets from under his helmet, which was not fun for my human, so he was in a bit of a bad mood. This also was not unusual, the Fire Witch was usually in a bad mood when he sweated a lot and it was still early in the day. We were getting some things from the store, what my human called “consumable tools” that would get used up while he worked on things. That was another reason he was in a bad mood, because he hated tools that turned to dust while they worked and lately he was complaining that his consumable tools were getting consumed at an even faster pace than usual. When he came out of the store he was actually so mad that the sweat was turning to vapor on his head with curly whisps coming out of the vents in his helmet.
“The price of the cut-offs went up again,” he growled. “The price keeps going up and the quality keeps going down, just like with the BSOs. I’m not buying tools any more just tool-shaped objects.”
And he threw a small bag into one of my carriers while muttering under his breath.
As we rode home from the store someone driving all alone in a thing that looked like a cross between a truck and the Witch’s living room yelled at him to stop taking up the whole lane and get on the sidewalk. The he threw something at me and my Witch, and almost knocked me over. The Witch shouted something when he got hit, then pulled us over to the curb.
“That was just about enough of that.” and then he started chanting something I couldn’t hear clearly, and the thing the thrower had been driving started making lots of smoke of different colors, then half of it just disappeared in a big puff of smoke, and the part that didn’t disappear just fell over with a big clang and a lot of sparks. The Witch pushed me away from the curb and pedalled past the guy and shouted, “I think you lost something back there! Get on the sidewalk.”
“That was fun, but a bit mean, wasn’t it?” I asked.
“Oh you bet it was fun,” said my human. “I just get so tired of people complaining about my taking the whole lane when they are driving by themselves in a vehicle that could transport their entire extended family, so I just changed his vehicle to one that was more suited to the number of people he carries in it. I just need to refine that spell a bit, the car was supposed to be still drivable but only half as wide, not just half of what it was.”
“Well, maybe if you didn’t mumble the spell it would work better,” I told him. “I couldn’t understand what you said, and I was right here. If you want the deities and elements to do what you want you have to be understood, or they will do what they want.”
“Well, I didn’t want the guy in the SUV to hear what I said, he might get suspicious,” said my human.
“So, speak clearly but in a low voice, so you don’t get heard. Your mouth guard will keep people from seeing you talk.”
And my human rode on home with me.
The very next day we were out for a “fun ride” just to get away from the house. My human calls these “thinking rides” because he uses this time to let problems he’s working on ferment in the back of his mind until a solution bubbles up to the top that can be used. We went way out in the country away from just about everything, on little roads that were practically driveways with county road signs on them. I don’t know how far we rode together, but for me it was fun, whistling to the dogs and hearing them bark things I couldn’t understand, watching the squirrels run back and forth across the road ahead, but getting off the road when we got close so I didn’t have to worry about hitting one.
I felt fine, and the way the Fire Witch was riding me I think he was not doing too bad either. We were fast, but not too fast and he was barely breathing hard, just enough that I could tell he was working but not very hard. This was the way he rode when he was either thinking hard or just having too much fun to care, and sometimes both. I think that day was both.
Then we heard another long loud blast on a car horn, and this really fat woman leaned out the window and screamed at us about being in the middle of the road then leaned on the horn again. I heard my Witch chanting again. and just as he got to the end of the chant he pulled to the right and stopped suddenly. The pink cloud surrounded us as half the car disappeared again, but this time it was the part in the middle of the car and 2 parts of the car fell over in the road. He jumped off of me like he was on fire and I had to put down my kickstand to keep from falling over while he ran to the woman laying in the road, shouting “Are you all right? Did you see what hit us?”
I was thinking, “Nothing hit ‘us’,” but since I’m not supposed to talk when other people are around that the Witch calls “muggles” I didn’t say it out loud.
The Fire Witch kept shouting about “What was that?! Did you see that?” over and over, like he didn’t know what really happened, and I saw that he had somehow managed to cut his arm and there was blood running down over his hand while he held it against his arm. Then I understood, this was a way to make it look like it wasn’t his fault that people’s cars fell apart.
The Fire Witch was telling the woman that he saw something coming on the wrong side of the road right as she honked but that it was going too fast to tell what it was and he hoped she got a better look at it than he did, because he couldn’t tell what it was. The woman was screaming over and over but not saying anything I could understand, nothing that sounded like words was coming out.
Then my Witch said, “Can you call 911? I don’t have my cell phone with me.”
And the woman stopped screaming and just pointed to her purse laying torn apart in the middle of the road, and started screaming again, “My purse! It hit my purse that was sitting right beside me, now look at it!” and the screaming with no words started again.
My Witch went to the remains of the purse and found what looked like a cell phone case. “Is this your cell?” he asked the woman. She nodded and continued to scream like a hurt child. My Witch pushed some buttons on the phone and then spoke into it about a wreck, which I guess this was. What he told the person on the other end of the call was that something had hit them both but had just brushed him before cutting the car behind him in 2 and that the driver of the car didn’t appear to be hurt but didn’t look too good, and that we needed a tow truck and an ambulance but that he didn’t know the name of the road we were on.
I knew what had happened but it was still a little scary to be there with the woman screaming and my Witch bleeding and the 2 parts of the car sitting in the road with whisps of pink smoke coming off them. Pretty soon we heard sirens coming and the woman stopped screaming and just sat there with her mouth hanging open and moaning a little ever now and then. There was a fire truck and a police car there and an ambulance rolled up and 2 tow trucks. My Witch was telling people that he saw something coming fast on the wrong side of the road but because the car behind him was honking at him he didn’t get a good look at it as he went for the side of the road to get away from it. And aside from the 2 parts of the car and my Witch’s cut arm there wasn’t anything there that showed a wreck, of course. Since the wreck was caused by the Witch’s spell he was casting there wasn’t anything else there. But it looked like something had torn the car apart and then disappeared, leaving the woman untouched, and me, of course.
The policeman was saying, “The woman never saw it, too busy shouting at the guy on the bike, and the guy on the bike doesn’t know what he saw except that it was fast and on the wrong side of the road.” Then he picked me up and put me in the back of the police car.
It was dark in the back of the police car, and it smelled funny, and not the funny that makes you laugh. We went bouncing around down the road for a while, and then the cop was pulling me out in front of my witch’s house, and my witch was helping him do it.
After the cop left I said to my witch,”You kinda blew that one didn’t you? That spell isn’t going to work if it gets you hurt and when cars fall apart you’re always there.”
“Actually I thought about that. I could say someone is out to get me, but they have bad aim,” my witch replied, “Or I could just improve the spell so that it doesn’t leave the car in 2 pieces when it makes it narrower.”
“I think you need to think about it some more, Witch,” as he put me away and made sure I was OK.
The next week was normal, with my witch going to places and doing things, and I took him there. Then we went for another ride out in the country, but on different roads than the last time. We stopped at a country store and my witch bought a soft drink, and my favorite road snack, a Wet Nap. Hey, they do a good job of cleaning the road grime off my frame, and they make me feel good and smell good. I’m a diva, and a diva must always look her best and not be stinky. Besides what do you think a bicycle would have for a road snack?
Anyway, I’m purring from the Wet Nap, and the witch is drinking the soft drink when an idiot pulls in talking loudly about how he doesn’t want anyone playing with toys on his roads, and babies had better stay off his roads. He repeats this very loudly every time he walked by us. Then he gets in his big SUV (naturally he’s driving a big, big, SUV) and starts to drive off, when I hear my witch chanting something under his breath while holding the soft drink up like he’s drinking, and this time I saw what it was that made that lady’s car fall in two pieces, moving very fast down the road straight at the SUV with the loudmouth driving it. It looked like a blue flame riding on a whisp of pink smoke, and it was moving very, very fast. I said “Uh. oh.” to my witch, just as the right two-thirds of the SUV turned into a cloud of pink smoke, and then the flame-thing vanished with a loud Boom. The remaining piece of the SUV fell over, and Loudmouth climbed out of the open window. The pink smoke smelled like cotton candy and motor oil (which I thought smelled pretty good, but then I like motor oil on special occasions), and my witch jumped up and said, “It came after me again! Call 911!” Of course I knew it wasn’t after him, but I’m a bicycle and I’m not supposed to talk to other people besides witches, and also, I kinda thought Loudmouth deserved it for threatening my witch. Of course the police came, but this time nobody was physically hurt. Loudmouth hadn’t connected his threats against my witch with what happened to his SUV, and the cop said that whatever hit the SUV wasn’t the same thing that hit my witch and the fat lady’s car before. The cop asked a bunch of questions about what hit the SUV, and the Fire Witch told him that he still couldn’t see what it was except it was fast and on the wrong side of the road again, and pink.
After my Fire Witch finished talking to the cop the lady behind the counter at the store brought out another soft drink and handed it to my witch, telling him it was on her. I didn’t think it was on her it looked like it was in a can to me, but I’m a bicycle and sometimes I think people say funny things. When the Fire Witch finished the second drink he thanked the lady several times, got back on me and headed down the road, but not to the house.
“What, are you out hunting, or something?” I asked him when we were away from the store.
“Or something.” the Fire Witch said with a flat voice. “I have a weapon, but I can’t use it very often,” he continued in that same flat voice. Then he brightened up and said in a happy voice, “So I better make sure that when I use it the people really deserve it, right?”
“How will you decide when people really deserve to have a huge chunk of their cars turned into pink smoke?” I asked.
“Well, the last guy that got it, the one making noises about playing with toys in the roads? He really deserved it.” said my witch. “That fat lady maybe not so much, but the first guy definitely deserved it.”
“So, just yelling to get out of the way isn’t enough, but saying things about killing people playing in the road is enough?” I asked again. “That makes some sense, what about people that yell at you and pass real close?”
“Oh, they definitely deserve it. But I’ll have to take some damage when I do their cars, like I accidentally did with the fat lady.” Then he smiled real big and happy, “But I have to make another spell that will take the chunk out of the middle without leaving the car in two pieces. Or maybe turn the car into something else, but that’s something that might cause me trouble with the other witches.”
And as we rolled down the road we rode hard and fast and every few minutes he would laugh a little bit, and he sounded happy and I felt good. I could still smell my Wet Nap snack, and I felt real good.
to be continued