The Morning Star

 BD Hesse has asked her readers “Write a story about someone who loses their religion.”

Here’s mine.

This story uses characters from my upcoming novel (series?) Project Quintessence. It takes place near the end of part one, but doesn’t spoil anything unrelated to a certain character’s change of belief.


The Morning Star

Alice read the headlines. “Wicca’s growth rate faster than ever.” And now she understood what Ken had said about not liking it when someone joins a religion for a bad reason.

Alice had never really considered being a Wiccan a huge part of who she was, but she hadn’t questioned that it was a part until a few months before her 16th birthday. And with her mother’s then-upcoming marriage, her doubts hadn’t been the most pressing thing on her mind then either. She’d known Ken was a skeptic, but he was too non-confrontational to raise the topic himself, so it would wait until Alice’s mind was clear, or so she thought.

The whole world changed on the day that Alice met Ertiada, but it was her own world that changed the most. She’d fallen in love with someone who seemed to fit her so perfectly she’d been inclined to thank the Goddess and start believing in fate as well. And seeing Ertiada use magic, real tangible magic, not unprovable manipulations of probability, seemed like the ultimate validation of her practice and her rituals.

Except Ertiada was an atheist. The ‘magic’ she used had nothing to do with gods and didn’t care what the user believed. The pentagram was used for its geometry, not its symbolism. And it wasn’t even supernatural, not really magic; the aether force had been discovered scientifically before anyone native to this Earth had put it to work.

With her new girlfriend and new stepbrother both being atheists, it was only natural that Alice would be open to the possibility that if she was wrong, they might be the ones who were right.

And as for fate or divine plans, Alice was downright ashamed that her own good fortune had made her want to believe in such things, because she knew so many good people who had suffered needlessly. If everything that happened was the whim of the gods, then the gods were cruel. The thought that much suffering had no intent or purpose was a great relief; it meant there didn’t have to be any monsters who were too powerful to defeat.

Seeing something so close to her traditions be so clearly explainable without gods, Alice just couldn’t believe her mother’s religion anymore. It wasn’t who she was anymore.

But the superficial resemblance was precisely the reason that other people were changing their paths to Wicca. Alice didn’t usually criticize people for mostly harmless beliefs no matter what she thought about them, but if anyone were to actually ask her about it, she would say that the thought process that amounted to “magic circles work now, so the religion that had them when they didn’t work must be right” was profoundly simplistic and fallacious; she doubted she would feel any differently about that part even if she was still Wiccan herself.

Alice pulled out her pentacle necklace and considered throwing it in the river. What did it mean now? The one thing she had gotten from Wicca that she was keeping was the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do as thou wilt”. But even that was a principle that most of her friends and family had picked up elsewhere, and if there was a person who really lived that principle with all her heart it was Larissa, who belonged to a religion whose own “moral” rules were entirely incompatible with it.

Alice raised the pentacle about her head and hesitated. She couldn’t keep her eyes off a very bright star. It was almost dawn. It must be Venus, heralding the dawn as the morning star. And what was a pentacle or pentagram but a star? Alice took another look at her necklace. It had never actually symbolized the God and Goddess she no longer believed in. It represented the five elements; Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit. Alice knew those weren’t the literal elements of physical reality, but Alice’s life had been shaped by groups of four plus one. By quintessence. Aether was appropriately named; the fifth classical element, the fifth physical force. And Alice was a part of a team of five, wasn’t she? She put the necklace back on and for the first time in months wore it with pride; the symbol of something more important than any god. The symbol of her bond with the people she loved. The bond that was a star guiding Alice’s way toward dawn.

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