"I'm sorry, can you repeat that?" said Anathema Device, frowning down at the notepad in front of her.
"I see," she replied. "And would I be required to … present this information, once the … Oh. Yes. Well then."
She paused, scribbled something down, and set the pen on the table. "Yes, I could do that. Yes. At your office? London. Alright. Okay. I could do Thursday, is that acceptable? Excellent. Thursday at half ten. Wonderful. Yes. Thank you. See you then."
She put the phone down and stared across the room at Mnemosyne who, in true cat fashion, stared back at her unblinkingly.
"Well then," she said. Mnemosyne continued staring.
"I think I ought to call Newt," she said. "I don't know why, exactly, but …"
Mnemo at long last blinked slowly at her.
"I know, I know, you're right. It'll help with the emotional processing part," she told her, and broke out of her still reverie to move over to the sofa and give the black feline her due. Mnemo purred and rubbed her cheek on Anathema's palm. Anathema smiled and leaned over her to pick up the phone handset. Newt's work number was on speed dial; he managed to lose and/or break mobile phones at enough of a rate that his employer had stopped providing him a company Blackberry.
"Hello, NATS Software. Newton Pulsifer speaking," answered Newt flatly.
"Hello, love," replied Anathema.
"Oh, hullo," said Newt, perking up. "How's things? Anything exciting happening in the thrilling world of research consultancy?"
Anathema smiled. "Actually…"
"Huh. That's new," said Newt. "Is it to do with that hotel chain again?"
"Oh - no, not them. I got a call from Channel 4," she said, slowly. "They want me to be on an episode of Time Team."
There was a weird sputtering noise and a long pause. Finally, Newt said, "They what?"
It all came out in a rush then, one breathless sentence that Anathema could hardly manage to control. "One of their usual documentary researchers is on mat leave, and they need someone to do some research on a site up in Lancashire - Malkin Tower, actually - and they got my name from someone at English Heritage, and so this television person called me up, and said they needed someone, and they were told I was 'good at witches'."
"We were only watching Time Team the other day," said Newt, stunned.
"And they just called you up?"
"Out of the clear blue sky," she said. "I was just working away on the report for Addington's, and there it was."
She paused. Mnemo chirped at her, peeved that the petting had stopped. "I've got a meeting with them on Thursday, to talk over the contract and everything. He said the filming season starts up in the spring, and they're still working out what the dates are for that dig, but he'll be able to give me a rough estimate for having the work done on Thursday."
"That's great, that's … really great. Absolutely mad, but great," Newt said, and started to laugh. "You're going to meet Tony Robinson."
Anathema burst into laughter, loud barking laughs, and the cat hopped away with a glare.
"You're absolutely right, sweetheart," she said through giggles. "I am! I'm going to be on TV. What in the…"
Newt pulled away from the phone, and she could hear him trying to quiet his laughter while also apologizing to someone, presumably a co-worker. "I mean, seriously, but that's all I can think of," he told her. "I just can't believe it."
"No, but I haven't even told you the best part," Anathema chuckled. "I haven't even told them about Agnes yet. They'll lose their minds. I'm going to be the Local Historian. They'll ask me to stand on the site and Feel Connected To My Ancestors, Newt."
"Oh my god."
"You’re going to blow their minds. Absolutely blown clean off."
"I know," Anathema laughed. "'Good with witches', God."
Newt snorted, and she heard another co-worker in the background. "Sorry, I've just got - I can't believe I've got to keep this quiet."
"Alright, I'll let you go," she said. "I'll leave you to the task of manfully trying to maintain your composure while you pursue your very serious business."
"Definitely serious. The most serious business that's ever…bizzed," Newt replied, still stifling giggles. "I'll see if I can't get off work early and we can go celebrate, yeah?"
Anathema shook her head. "Not yet. Wait 'til Thursday. You don't want to be jinxing it, you know."
"And if anyone would, it's me," said Newt, sighing. "Alright. See you tonight, sweetheart."
"Bye," said Anathema, smiling. "Now, where's that cat got off to…"
 Mnemosyne was a Greek goddess of memory.
124 Horseferry Road was precisely as ridiculous and flamboyant a building as Anathema had expected, right down to the rainbow-coloured Big 4 statue guarding the entranceway. It was a big glass thing that looked like it was made of Lego, with jutting red beams and chaotic boxes sticking out haphazardly. It had character, she had to give it that; the problem was that she wasn't sure the character was entirely pleasant.
The interior wasn't much better. Layers upon layers of glass walls, floors, and railings merged with cable cords strung across the gap between circular floors to create an effect the architect probably called "striking" but Anathema preferred to call "disorienting". It looked a bit like the inside of a great glass tunnel spider's web, except the flies were executives in trendy suits and rumpled people with earpieces.
"Good morning," she said, approaching the receptionist, a nervous-looking young woman who jumped when she saw Anathema. "I'm here for a meeting with Mr. Anthony Bryant?"
"Oh! Yes," said the receptionist. "Let me just make sure you're on the list for today… Can I get your name, please?"
"Anathema Device," said Anathema. "Research consultant." And part-time witch.
"Oh, yes, there you are. Could you just sign here, and here, please?" She handed Anathema a clipboard with a biro attached by a string. Anathema signed and duly passed the clipboard back, and got a rainbow-coloured lanyard in return.
"Here's your visitor pass. You'll have to return that here on your way out. If you need a parking pass, you'll get that when you leave. Mr. Bryant is on the second floor, in the Chadwick Street wing of the building. You'll follow the signs for on your left for room 214. Got it?"
"I'm sure I'll find my way there," assured Anathema, who vaguely thought that spiritual energy would help her find the way even if the signs did not.
The signs proved clear enough, although Anathema admittedly got turned around in one of the spiralling, cable-befouled glass stairwells, and she found herself being ushered into room 214 by a cheerful man in a red jumper.
"Anthony Bryant," he said, flopping down into his desk chair. "So nice to meet you, Ms. - Anna Thema Device, you said? Right?"
"Anathema," she corrected. "All one word."
"Right, right. Sorry about that. Lots going on here, as you can see," he waved expansively around at the piles of binders and boxes slowly colonizing the room. "Busy as a bee, I am. And hopefully you'll be as well, if we can get this all sorted! So take a seat, and we'll just have a look at all this then."
Anathema smiled, and took a seat on the brightly-coloured plastic chair sitting in front of the desk. He pushed a file folder with the Channel 4 logo towards her, and opened one of the large binders, flipping through tabs until he found what he was looking for.
"That’s for you," he said. "That's got the project scope for the Malkin Tower dig in there, some of the key questions we're looking to answer - mainly the historical narrative ones, so providing information about the people and the stories around the site. We've got different researchers actually working on nailing down potential locations for the site, on the archaeology side, so if you could keep your research more towards the personal, that would be great."
"That's no problem at all," said Anathema, slowly leafing through the documents. She knew her face probably looked a bit odd; she could almost hear Agnes laughing. "Are there any particular stories or people you'd like me to focus on?"
"Nope," Bryant replied. "You've got free rein. Well, sort of. Usually how it works is our researchers bring us a few possible storylines at a preliminary meeting, and we - that's me and some other producers and one of the execs - and we'll see which we like best and which suit whatever's turned up on the preliminary site research. Usually we narrow it down to two or three, and we'll film bits for all of them."
"And then choose which to keep as the dig progresses?" Anathema ventured.
"Bingo." Bryant clicked his pen at her. "Are you familiar with Time Team?"
Anathema blushed a bit. "I've watched a few episodes."
He winked. "Good, good. So you know the format, then. Always helpful. Sometimes we get researchers in who are just all over the place, lots of ‘critical analysis’ - whatever that is - and it's just not helpful. We want simple, we want relatable, we want something that makes the viewer feel connected to the past. Something that lets us put some names and maybe even some faces to whatever little bits of pottery gets dug up, you know?"
"Right. So," said Anathema, pausing a little. "You said on the phone that you also want me to present?"
"Ah, yes," Bryant said, a bit sheepishly. "I'm rather afraid that our usual -- actually, I said that, didn't I? Anyway, so our usual presenter for the historical sections is on maternity leave, and the local historian who wrote us and got the whole ball rolling doesn't really have the expertise for that sort of thing. So if you don't mind…"
He trailed off. Anathema wondered, faintly, whether the offer had been conditional on what she looked like. She rather hoped not; certainly they didn't apply that sort of standard to any of the men on the show, and Bryant seemed likable. Actually, Anthony Bryant was altogether rather different than what Anathema had expected a television producer to be like - for one, he was distinctly less American, which was an altogether baseless impression she was faintly embarrassed about. Secondly, he seemed genuine in his interest in the show and in putting out educational programming; he spoke with energy and passion, and there was an aura to the office that reflected his dedication. There was a poster with the show's title card, and couple of photos of the cast and crew at work, and one of the bookshelves was stuffed mostly with DVDs and old VHS tapes of historical documentaries, history-themed coffee table books and the kind of pop history that occasionally made the best-seller's list for non-fiction. But she supposed, a little cynically, that caring about history and education and being likable didn't make you at all immune from also being the kind of person who turned away a perfectly competent person based on their appearance.
"It's not an issue," Anathema told him. "Not at all. Actually, it's perfect."
Bryant raised an eyebrow, but he was smiling, and spun his clicking pen between his fingers. "Always wanted to be an actress?"
"No," said Anathema. "I'm a witch."
The pen spun wildly out of Bryant's control and went flying across the room. He dove after it, hopelessly, before catching himself and straightening in his seat. "I'm sorry, beg your pardon?"
Anathema stifled her laughter. "You couldn't tell from my name?"
He shook his head very slowly, eyebrows climbing into his hairline.
"Device," she repeated. "The Malkin Tower witches, Elizabeth Device and her children."
Bryant shook his head. "I'm sorry, I…"
"That's where I get my name from. They're my ancestors," said Anathema, slowly, and then, "We've got a very comprehensive family library."
Bryant unfroze, clapping his hands and smiling. "Really? That's astonishing. No wonder Laura suggested you."
He was beaming at her, leaning back in his chair and grinning like Mnemo when she saw a freshly vacated spot on the sofa. "My word. That's fantastic. Perfect. Just wonderful!"
"I did tell you," said Anathema with no small amount of satisfaction. "In fact, I'm rather excited about it. I've always wondered where they lived, and what their lives were like."
"Of course, of course," said Bryant. He'd found another pen and was rapidly scribbling something on a scratch pad. "Related to the witches. Superb. Hmm… Let me just…"
The rest of the meeting progressed in a flurry of paperwork. Bryant took another look over the info packet he'd given her, just to make sure there was nothing that needed changing, and then he walked her through the contract and release forms and waivers. She didn't need to sign them right away, but she could mail them or fax them by the end of next week. He explained the update schedule, and the various deadlines for anything she'd want reproduced or made available for the shoot - he suggested, to both her amusement and horror, that they might film a segment in her family's library, or at least have some of the relevant sources brought up to the dig site - and the pay schedule, which was installments conditional on approval of her work, but he felt confident it would fly, broomstick in hand, over their expectations.
At the end, he walked her all the way back out to the front of the building, through the disorienting glass hallways and spider's-web staircases. He thankfully didn't stick around as she returned her badge, but said his goodbyes in the main atrium, leaving Anathema alone under the great glass skylight, with amusement bubbling up in her chest and the sensation of ghostly laughter in her ears.
"I'm being serious, Newt," Anathema said. "I would like to learn a bit more about them."
Newt raised an eyebrow at her over his pad see ew. He'd picked up Thai takeaway on his way home from work, because he knew she craved tofu pad thai like plants craved light, and also because Newt had extremely low-key ideas of what constituted a celebration. Thai takeaway and supermarket wine (the pricier kind, but on sale), and the pint of Hagen-Daz that was sitting in the freezer was about it.
"Don't look at me like that," she said, while Newt fumbled a prawn. "We don't actually know a lot about the Pendle Devices, at least in comparison with the later ones."
"Right," Newt said, sarcastic but fond. "Because it goes against the laws of gods and nature for you to live like the rest of us, with only a vague notion of what your 18-generations-back granddad might have been doing."
Anathema scowled at him and went back to her tofu. "Very funny."
"I try," he said, deadpan. "Did he tell you when you get to meet Tony Robinson?"
She laughed. "Not until the day of filming, I think. He talked about maybe shooting a bit at my mum's place, in the library there, which is a horrifying idea now that I really think about it, and they'd probably do that ahead of time."
Newt nodded. "You said horrifying, I say reality television gold. Imagine your mum meeting Tony Robinson."
"Could you stop with the Tony Robinson for just one minute?"
"Totally," said Newt. "Give you time to really think the concept over. Imagine it in full. Really have a good think about it."
Anathema shuddered. Her mother, bless her, was a Character. Anathema loved her, no question, despite her name and despite her mother's tendency to introduce herself at New Age meetings as a Witch By Marriage. She'd continued to care for the library, for all of it, even after Anathema's father had died. She'd let Anathema retrofit the room to bring it up to preservation grade after she took a course on preventive conservation one summer, and hadn’t complained that her utilities bill had gone up due to the dehumidifiers. But she was possessed of that trait very common in mothers, which was that she was extremely proud of her only child, and was almost entirely incapable of not talking her up in front of everyone she met, while also telling everyone extremely embarrassing details about Anathema's childhood.
No, Anathema thought. If they insisted on visiting the library, she'd make sure her mother was out of town. Maybe she'd buy her a weekend retreat to the Isle of Skye. Maybe the Orkneys. Someplace suitably pagan, and suitably far away.
Filming week rolled around quickly, one of the upsides to a winter busy with research. She'd lost almost all of January to conducting some provenance research for a regional museum - the usual sort of ‘is this really X major historical figure's X?’ project, but one of the few she'd actually been able to come back and tell them yes, yes it was, or at least there was a very high probability of it. She'd made no mention at all of the fact that the object practically played its history on a screen whenever she went near it, because she hadn't been able to find a citation format yet that covered psychic visions.
They had booked her a room in the village inn for the dig and the shoot, which was terribly nice of them. Anathema rather expected she'd be offered a tent, or to have to pay for herself, but Anthony Bryant had breezily assured her that expenses were covered, within reason. She arrived on Tuesday afternoon, the day before the dig was to start, and got settled in. The inn was consistent with her previous experience of village inns - dark, damp, remodelled at one point along the local tourist gimmick, which in the case of Newchurch-in-Pendle was witches.
Not Anathema's type of witch, the kind that knew their way around a theodolite and had never stood around a cauldron unless there was dinner involved, but the broomsticks-and-pointy-hats kind. (Thankfully, Anathema noted, if Newchurch-on-Pendle had ever tried to appeal to the Celtic-Woman-and-the-Sacred-Feminine type of witch, they'd fortunately left that in the previous millennium.) Newchurch-in-Pendle was all about that kind of witch, and it seemed like at some point all the local business owners had got together and agreed to really commit to the idea. The inn was called the Three Witches, with the sign to match; the pub part on the ground floor advertised "Witching Hour" specials, and the menu was more of the same. The high street was positively festooned with themed shops and little tea rooms with names like The Tea Cauldron and Crones & Crumpets and The Scone Witch. There was a children's toy shop named, horrifically, Toy & Trouble. Thankfully the local grocer had opted out, and Anathema managed to buy herself a small stock of vegetarian snacks without having to stare down another green-skinned, warty-faced mascot.
She ate dinner at the inn. There were only two restaurants in the village, and she figured there was no doubt she'd get a chance to eat at Eye of Frog (really) before she left. Plus it gave her a chance to meet some of the crew before tomorrow, which was a good networking opportunity if nothing else. The inn was entirely filled up with members of the production team, along with experts and a scant few archaeologists. These were, one production assistant cheerfully informed her, the ones with bad knees, the rest having chosen to sleep in trailers down by the dig sites.
"They like to be close to the dirt," said the assistant, a short round young woman with burgundy hair. "Helps them get a feel for the place."
"Knock it off, Melissa," groaned another crew member, this one a slightly older man wearing a rugby polo. "You know they're just mad paranoid about looters running around with metal detectors. Oh, and I'm Gavin, by the way. Ignore her, she's full of it."
Melissa laughed, and the two of them introduced Anathema to the rest of the crew members. They were apparently the designated extroverts, and took it upon themselves to make sure any temporary team members felt appropriately welcomed. There was the usual round of asking after degrees and publications and projects. Anathema dug out her own dubious claim to fame in historical circles, which was sorting out the provenance research and arranging for the donation of the Shadwell Collection to the Ashmolean. A few of the archaeologists recognised it - which was a good sign for the quality of the dig - and she happily recounted a few of the better (and less explicitly Unusual) stories from her time working on the project.
The whole thing sounded much more impressive the way Anathema recounted it. In truth, the donation of the Shadwell Collection was the compromise that Newt had wrangled old Shadwell into, after his heart attack and Madame Tracy's subsequent insistence on moving him to a beach cottage where he could ‘take the sea air’. It was, Newt argued, for the wider education of the British people about the menace o' witches. To which Shadwell had reluctantly agreed, and the whole collection - books, bells, and even candles - was cleaned out of his old flat and multiple storage lockers that he'd been renting for years. Anathema negotiated the contract with the museum, and managed to negotiate a role for herself as well; short-staffed as usual, they'd been all too happy to hire her to sort out the collection's provenance, particularly given ‘owned by the Witchfinder Army’ had not exactly seemed particularly legitimate to the institutional lawyers. In the end, she'd even managed a conference presentation on the project, and it had led to more than one contract falling into her lap over the years.
In a way, it’d even led to this one, she supposed. Funny thought, that. Here we are, hunting for witches, or at least their tower. He'd probably be proud, she thought wryly. Keeping up the fine old traditions, and all that. He'd probably also immediately want to set whatever they found on fire, but well, Anathema's family had a fine old way of handling that, too.
There was still mist in the air when Anathema set off in the morning, parting around her bicycle in swirling waves. The non-essential crew had been allowed to sleep in; their call time was seven.
They'd set up base camp at the village community centre's activity area, which was one of those barn-like buildings that sprung up around village greens and large parks. This one boasted pale teal and mauve accent stripes across its white concrete block sides, giving off a sort of 1993 disposable paper cup aura, albeit one that had been colonized by thick black cables and hand-carts loaded with all manner of equipment.
Anathema locked her bicycle to the rack by the car park, unstrapped her work bags and wove her way between SUVs and lorries to head over to the sign-in desk. There a dead-eyed tech checked her ID and handed her a badge with RESEARCHER printed on it, along with a handful of print-outs.
"Look for the table with your name on it," he said. "Once you're set up, there's tea and coffee and breakfast in the kitchenette, which is through the main area and over to the left. Morning meeting's going to be in…" He checked his watch. "15 minutes."
The space was a positive maze of rectangular tables and folding chairs, laptop cables and lamps. Dig crew members waited around, drinking their caffeine with the hazy expressions of people awake several hours earlier than they were accustomed to, while the tech crew darted between them, shouting at each other in a kind of half-code. She smiled and waved at Melissa and Gavin, and eventually found the table that had "A. DEVICE" written on a piece of masking tape. Someone had left a black bag with cables trailing out of it on the table, and a tech swung by and swooped it away without a word.
Anathema put her bags on the table, and looked around. She wasn't quite sure what she was supposed to be setting up for. Her work was done already, submitted and analysed and incorporated into the script for the episode, unlike a lot of the researchers here, who had contextual evidence and ideas lined up, but were ultimately waiting on the dig to dive into their projects. Still, she opened up her laptop and got connected to the wireless internet they'd set up, apparently after multiple years of complaints about being unable to access research library catalogues remotely, or so said one of the object technicians.
That done, she went in search of tea, which was plentiful, and came with pastries. Grabbing a croissant, Anathema followed the others out onto the green, where the crew was congregating around a man standing on top of a crate.
"Good morning!" He hollered. "I hope everyone can hear me!"
There were nods and murmurs.
"Good, good. So as I hope all of you already know, welcome to day 1 of the Malkin Tower dig!" He paused for scattered, absentminded applause. "For those of you who don't know me, I'm Mark, the production coordinator for this dig. For those of you who do know me, I'm so sorry."
A few people laughed, but by and large the caffeine had yet to kick in. Mark forged on regardless. "Geophys has already started off at two sites: the local team is over at Sadler's Farm here in Newchurch, and the away team is surveying the Blacko Hill site. We've got two other sites on deck, should neither of those pan out. We'll keep you updated as the day goes on."
He paused, and clapped his hands. "Alright! Excellent. Specialists, we'll be coming around to each of you once Tony's back from the Blacko Hill site, and we'll start on filming your bits. Anna Thema, we'll be wanting you first since we've only got the local historian around for another hour and we'd really like to introduce you two, get some scenes together, the whole shebang. The rest of you, please have everything you'll need ready - if you've got any talking points for Tony, make sure they make it to Natasha beforehand."
He checked his watch. "That's all, everyone. Thanks so much, you'll be great. Like I said, I'll keep you updated with what's going on at the dig sites. Once things start coming out of the ground, object techs, you'll be free to go start poking around, but if you could please, please, let myself or Melissa know before you leave base camp that would be great."
He clapped his hands again. "Thanks again, everyone. Enjoy!"
The man jumped down off the crate, and turned towards his trio of assistants. Anathema finished the last bite of her pastry, and tried to quash the anxiety crawling up her throat. There really was no reason to be nervous - she presented at conferences often enough. She used to give museum tours, during grad school, and there was nothing they could come up with that was any weirder than what came out of the imaginations of bored primary school students.
The feeling remained nonetheless. Anathema took a sip of her tea, and marched over.
"Excuse me," Anathema interrupted, as politely as she could manage. "You wanted to see me? I'm Anathema Device."
Mark turned around, the assistants turning with him. "Oh, is that how you say it? So more like Anastasia than Anastaysia. Is it Russian?"
"Er," said Anathema, falling back on a lifetime of well-worn embarrassment. "No."
"Interesting," said Mark, with a face that provided zero support for the argument. "So we'd like to get your scene out of the way now, like I said. Clarissa, can you take her over to the locals? It's not far. Bring Derek with you, he's not doing anything yet. Dennis should already be there with Tony, or should be there soon enough."
"Can do," said Clarissa, who immediately started herding Anathema back to the base camp like she was a stray sheep.
"Pick up anything you'll need. Basic context, family history, that kind of thing. Any maps, notes, family photos, whatever - bring that with. No laptop, you can leave that here," she instructed, and Anathema obediently put it on her chair and threw her raincoat over it. "Derek!"
Clarissa loaded Anathema and the erstwhile Derek - a tall man with a camera strapped to his chest and a failure of a beard - onto a golf cart, and then over to the Newchurch dig site. There they met Belinda, a local historian, and apparently one of the people who had initially contacted Channel 4. Belinda was built along the usual mold for local historians, in Anathema's experience; middle-aged white women with more enthusiasm than critical thinking, and wearing a scarf with some kind of ditsy print on it. Belinda's weapon of choice was a Cath Kidston scarf, a blue-and-pink floral, and Anathema knew with deep, sudden certainty that Belinda was the kind of enthusiastic local who called her book club a coven. With Belinda was the man himself, Newt's favourite, Mr. Tony Robinson. Anathema tried not to laugh.
A few crew members walked over, and Tony made sure everyone was introduced to Belinda and Anathema. One of them turned out to be the assistant director, who was going to walk them through the scene, and make sure that they were staying on track.
They stood around for a few moments, while Clarissa went over the general ideas for the conversation with the AD and Tony, and the camera crew got set up. Almost before Anathema knew it, they had been positioned in front of one of the local businesses - making sure, of course, that the novelty witch-themed décor was visible in the background - and someone was waving a clapper board around.
"Speed," said one tech.
"Rolling," answered another, and the board clapped.
"So can you tell me, Belinda," Tony Robinson began, "A bit more about the Pendle witch trials."
Belinda cleared her throat and adjusted her scarf. "The Pendle witch trials were one of the most famous incidents of witches in England, in the early seventeenth century. Twelve people were accused of being witches, and ten of them were hanged for it. The reason they're so famous," she went on, "was that the clerk of the court wrote a book about the whole thing. There really weren't a lot of people in England actually executed for the crime of witchcraft, so it's a really remarkable and horrible moment in history."
"Is that correct, Anathema?" Tony Robinson asked, turning to face her.
"Yes," she said. "In total, only 500 people were ever executed for witchcraft in England, so the 1612 trials of the Pendle witches - and the Samlesbury witches, who were tried during the same session of the Lancaster Assizes - represents an unusually large number of convictions and executions. Typically, English witch trials resulted in lesser sentences or in not guilty verdicts. For comparison, the number of witches executed in Scotland during the same period is an estimated fifteen hundred people. On the continent, it's much higher, with the number of people executed for witchcraft estimated to be about fifty thousand people."
"Fifty thousand?" said Tony, incredulously. "That's horrible. And people really believed in witches?"
"They did," said Belinda. "It was something people really, truly believed in. People at the time were very religious, but in a different way than people are today. They really, actively saw the world around them as manipulated by divine and occult forces. So if something good happened, that could be attributed to the power of a blessing or a prayer, while if something bad happened, that had to be the work of the Devil. And who consorts with the devil?"
"Witches," Tony laughed.
"Exactly!" said Belinda, adopting a horrible, nasal voice. "Devilish, maleficent witches."
"Now, Anathema," said Tony, once Belinda's fake cackling died down. "I hear you have a special connection to this area, and to the Pendle witches. Is that true?"
"It is," Anathema said. "My father's family, the Devices, was originally from Pendle, and in fact, several of them were executed for witchcraft during the seventeenth century. Three of them were charged as part of the Pendle trials, and eventually found guilty."
"And burnt at the stake?" Tony asked.
"No, they were hanged," Anathema replied. "Being burnt at the stake was not very common as a punishment for witchcraft in England. Witchcraft was considered a felony, so hanging was the appropriate method. Burning was much more popular in Scotland, as well as France and Switzerland, which is where a lot of our modern stereotypes about witch burning originate."
Tony and Belinda nodded, and then Tony asked, "Are you excited about finding the place your ancestors used to live?"
"I am, actually. My family has a lot of documentary history, but we don't actually know where their home was located," said Anathema. "It's an important piece of the puzzle, and I hope the team can find something over the next three days."
"Cut!" shouted the AD. "That was great."
"Yeah, that was fantastic," agreed Tony. "Are you sure you haven't done this before?"
Anathema flushed. "Oh god, was that okay? I was so nervous. Do you need me to do it again?"
"No, it's fine," the AD said. "You did a good job. Very clear, very steady. Just what we need."
"I had to do it again," Belinda said, sounding a little put out.
"Thanks," Anathema said, running her hands through her fringe. "Is that all for now?"
"Yep," said the AD. "Clarissa will take you back."
"It's okay," she answered. "I'll walk. I know the way."
"Nope," said Clarissa. "Not until you're released for the day. We've got to keep tabs on everyone."
"Even Stewart," Tony added.
Anathema sighed, and followed Clarissa back to the golf cart.
After that, Anathema's existence promptly dropped off the production management's radar. She spent a few hours in the base camp, rather expecting someone to come looking for her at some point, but no one did. She re-read her notes on the project, and she chatted a bit with some of the others. She ate lunch, which was catered - of course they had catering, and they even had vegetarian options. Base camp stayed surprisingly low activity; a few of the object technicians had gone off to the actual sites, but the half-dozen or so finds and historical experts stuck around, forgotten.
At one point Anathema started to wonder if something had gone horribly wrong, and she'd asked Marguerite, who was a finds expert, if this was normal.
"Yeah, this is normal," she told Anathema. "Day one's always a bit rubbish. This one's slower than usual, at least for me. Means they haven't found any solid evidence of habitation yet. Usually they call me over once they start getting the good stuff, to clean it and photograph it. But no one's called me yet, so…" She shrugged. "Probably just bricks and faunal. Don't need a ceramics person for bricks and faunal."
"So we just…wait?" Anathema asked.
"Pretty much." And that was that.
At three, it started to drizzle, and there was a brief flurry of activity as the tech crew hurried to get anything important and/or electrical under cover. A few of the golf carts were packed up in a hurry, with tents and buckets and tarps for the dig sites. It waffled a bit, raining heavier and lighter in turns, but by half 5 Mark was back, standing on his crate and calling everyone to attention. The digs weren't going well, but nothing unexpected. They were closing down the Blacko Hill site, and Stewart - the landscape archaeologist and lone wolf - had identified a possible second Blacko site at Malkin Tower Farm. That earned a few chuckles, but apparently that was another wildly inaccurate local legend as geophys and some test pits showed nothing. They were going to keep investigating the Newchurch site, and tomorrow morning they would have Geophys survey the other two possible sites. Oh, and they could all sleep in until 8 tomorrow, which earned Mark a round of cheers.
Day two began much the same as the first. Anathema cycled over to the camp site, signed in, dumped her belongings on the table. Tea, breakfast, morning meeting. They'd apparently started test pits at the two new sites, since there were apparently meaningful blobs on the Geophysics survey printouts. At 11, her name was called and Anathema reported for duty to Mark, Melissa, Clarissa, and the other one, whose name Anathema remained hazy on.
This morning, they wanted her to run a scene talking about the specifics of the Pendle witches, to try and add a little narrative to the episode.
"Something exciting," Mark told her. "Give us a good people story."
"I think I can manage," Anathema replied. "I've got some sources here, there's some family trees…"
"Excellent!" he said. "Melissa, can you go find Emily? Tell her that she's got to be back here to run that scene Dennis wants."
"Yes, sir," said Melissa, taking a swig from her Thermos and jogging off. Emily - the assistant director, who Anathema had met yesterday - arrived some ten minutes later, with her camera crew and, of course, Tony Robinson. She wasn't star-struck, exactly, because he was very nice and very normal, but it was nonetheless very strange. It was almost like being psychic, or like having the Book had been - she knew lots about them, she knew what they were like, and they knew nothing about her, didn't even know that she knew. The upside was that when it came to that, Anathema at least had plenty of practice pretending otherwise.
Mark and Emily conferred for a few minutes, while Tony and the camera crew joked around. Eventually the discussion broke up, having come to some decision, and Emily came back over to them.
"Right. You had some sources?" she asked Anathema.
"Ah, yes. Over at my table… Is it okay if…?" asked Anathema, hands twisting about.
Emily nodded. "As long as the light's good. Should be fine, right?"
The cameraman made a vague noise of agreement.
"Good, good. Let's go get that hammered out, then," said Emily. "Where's your table?"
They got set up at her sad, makeshift little desk, moving bags and folders and reports around until it looked like Anathema had been hard at work for a day and a half rather than mostly reading novels and waiting around. She walked the AD and Tony through what she wanted to talk about - the two feuding families, the poverty of the area, Catholicism, and the Malkin Tower meeting. Emily nixed the Catholicism - she could mention it briefly, but it was a big topic and not one to throw in lightly, and anyway bringing up religious conflicts, even centuries-old ones, was not a recommended subject. But the rest she gave her approval to, and set the cameras rolling.
"Hello there, Anathema," began Tony Robinson. "How's things here at the research camp?"
"Great," she replied. "Hard at work here, trying to sort out the trial records."
"Sounds exciting. What have you learned? What exactly were the Devices accused of?"
Anathema spread some large photographs of book pages out in front of her. "So the trials happened in August 1612, and they were recorded by a clerk named Thomas Potts, who wrote a book about them titled The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the County of Lancaster. It's a really remarkable book, and it's the main source for the information we do know about the Pendle witches."
"Wonderful?" said Tony. "Was it really something to be excited about?"
"Well, 'wonderful' meant something a little different in the seventeenth century," Anathema explained. "It was more of a sense of shock or awe, rather than something delightful or good."
She continued. "What's interesting about the Pendle witches is that it's really the story of two families having a row that gets blown up into this big event. It starts with a woman named Alizon Device, who tries to buy pins from a man named John Law. He refuses to sell them to her, because they were often used for witchcraft, and because the Device family had a reputation for being involved in the occult. The matriarch of the family, Elizabeth Demdike, had been known as a witch in the area for nearly fifty years."
"And were people okay with that?" Tony asked. "If being a witch was illegal…"
"It wasn't so much being a witch as using witchcraft for harm. Ordinary people were more than happy to consult so-called witches for healing or protection, but when things went bad, it was then that people started to blame witches." Anathema went on, explaining the feuding Device and Chattox families, the meeting at Malkin Tower, and the charges laid against them.
"The very saddest part, to me," said Anathema, "is that the prosecution's star witness was not only a child, but nine-year-old Jennet Device, Elizabeth Device's daughter and sibling to Alizon and James. She testified against her family, and against most of the accused, identifying people she had seen at Malkin Tower that night."
"That is sad. She testified against her own mother?" asked Tony, incredulously.
"She did," Anathema confirmed. "A number of the accused witches actually spoke against their own family members in their confessions - which were not reliable as they came from torture, mostly."
"Awful," Tony said. "What happened to her?"
"We're not sure," she answered. "At the 1634 sitting of the Lancaster assizes, a woman named Jennet Device, who may be the same person, was tried for the murder by witchcraft of an Isabel Nutter, with the chief witness against her a ten-year-old boy."
"Was she hanged?"
"She was convicted, but the judges refused to sentence her to death. The case dragged on in appeals in London, where the boy admitted he lied, but even though four were pardoned, none of them were ever released and it's very likely that Jennet Device died in Lancaster Gaol."
"So she got her just desserts, in the end," concluded Tony.
Anathema frowned a little. "I'm afraid she very probably did."
"Cut!" yelled Emily. "That was good. Would you mind repeating some of the bits in the middle? The ending's very good, but you just got a bit rambly in the middle."
Anathema flushed. "Sorry."
"It's fine, we'll just re-do some of it and we can cut it together. So start with the bit about the two families, make a bit simpler. It's a lot of information."
They had her repeat a few sections like that until they got what they wanted out of her. It was weird and a bit embarrassing, and kind of annoying at the end, when someone dropped something just as she was saying the important part, and they'd had to film it over again. But they got it done, and Emily thanked her, and Tony thanked her, and the whole group of them went off to go make someone else repeat the same three sentences over and over.
After that, Anathema was freed for lunch. It was catered again, although the sandwiches and salad had started to look a little soggy. She grabbed a cheese-and-tomato sandwich to go with the rather uninspired vegetable soup, and sat down to eat in the makeshift cafeteria, which was three tables awkwardly squeezed into the small kitchen.
"It's just frustrating, that's all," said one of the archaeologists. "Nothing really good's coming out. There's a wall at the Newchurch site, but it's probably just a barn."
"Better than the last dig, though," said another, this one a ginger man in a bright blue fleece. "The trenches haven't flooded."
"Not yet," said the first one - a woman in a purple jumper - with foreboding in her voice. "The forecast says rain."
"The forecast always says rain," interjected a third, a blotchy-faced woman with her hair cut short and a dark green fleece. "If you don't like rain, go join the finds team."
"How's everything going, then?" asked Anathema, as she set about unwrapping the little crackers that came with the soup.
"Nothing good," said Sour Purple Jumper, whose face was just familiar enough that Anathema suspected she'd seen her on TV before.
"That's too bad," replied Anathema. "It's terribly boring here at the camp. I'd thought I might ask if I can go take a look at the digs this afternoon."
"Sure, sure," said the ginger. "Nothing good for us doesn't mean it's not interesting for everyone else."
"Actually," said Green Fleece. "You're the witch, right?"
Anathema grimaced a little into her soup. "Historical consultant, technically, but yes, I'm… Yes, it's my family's house. Was."
"Dennis would probably love footage of you walking around the sites." Dennis was the director, whom Anathema had met very briefly the previous day.
Green Fleece gestured with her fork. "Liven it up, since we're hardly doing anything exciting."
"Oh, well then," said Anathema. "Should I go find Mark, or…?"
"I'll let him know," said a man at the end of the table, rising and tidying up his rubbish. "I was going to go ask him about something, anyway."
"Alright then," she said, nodding. She was determined not to rush her lunch on the vague hope of something exciting. The stop-start, feast-famine rhythm of the set made Anathema a bit uneasy. She was used to working at her own schedule, whether that was slow and steady or intense and quick. Waiting around for other people to decide whether she had permission to do things or whether she was needed was surprisingly stressful.
In the end, there was no need to rush. Clarissa came to find her not long after Anathema returned to her table, to sit around reading a novel she'd sensibly thought to bring with her this morning. She confirmed that Dennis thought it was a good idea, and once again Anathema was herded off to the car park, this time to an SUV rather than a golf cart. There was a fine mist in the air, not quite a drizzle - more of a warning of the potential of proper precipitation - but Clarissa kept the wipers running anyway, and they made a dry, squeaking sound.
They drove only a few minutes before making their first stop just outside of Newchurch-in-Pendle. This, according to a large laminated sign with the Time Team logo on it, was Dig Site 1: Sadler's Farm. They parked the SUV in a laneway cluttered with other vehicles, and Clarissa led Anathema across the empty field towards the tent village that had sprung up around the trenches.
"Dennis!" Clarissa called as they approached. "Visitor for you."
"Excellent," shouted Dennis. He was a big man with a goatee and rimless glasses, wearing a dark green Time Team fleece. "Thanks, Clarissa."
He turned to Anathema and offered her one of his large hands to shake. "So you wanted to see what's going on at the digs, Miss Device?"
"I did," said Anathema. "It's been rather dull, and I thought that-"
"Yes, excellent. Have a look round, see what's happening. Let's take you over to Tony, we'll shoot some great footage, get you talking to the archaeologists. Where's Tony?" He took off walking at a brisk pace, and Anathema scrambled to catch up. "Tony!"
Tony Robinson emerged from one of the tents, turtle-like in his large jacket. "Hello, Dennis!"
"Back to work for you," said Dennis lightly. "I'd like to get some shots of you and Miss Device here talking about the digs. Ask her about her family, how she feels, how exciting it all is. Talk to Phil or Raksha if you can, get them to talk a bit about what's come up in the last couple of hours."
"All right," said Tony Robinson. (Anathema found it very difficult to refer to him by his first name only. She kept thinking of Newt's stupid laughter every time she saw his face.) "How's things, Anathema?"
"Boring," she said simply.
He laughed. "That's the way of film sets, I'm afraid. Lots of hurry up and wait."
"I'm learning," Anathema grumbled.
Dennis called the camera crew together. They were a pack of poncho-wearing ducklings, trailing after Dennis like he was their mother, or a human with tasty snacks in a bag. Except the tasty snacks in this case was Anathema, and Tony, and the archaeologists.
"Just act natural," Dennis told her, and she laughed. "Just walk around a bit, ask people questions. Or let Tony ask people questions if you feel uncomfortable. They're used to it, they know what to do."
"Alright," she said, immediately feeling her body freeze up into the least natural casual pose it could imagine.
Anathema and Tony walked around the edges of the trenches, peering in on the archaeologists as they worked. Anathema kept her hands in her pockets, thankful for the rain; she just knew if she let them out, her hands would start doing some kind of stupid Casual Stroll swing and it would throw the whole thing off.
"What’s happening down there?" Tony called down into the trench.
The nearest archaeologist looked up. Anathema recognized her as the Asian woman with the purple jumper from lunch.
"Hello Raksha," said Tony. "Anything new for us?"
She shook her head. "Not much. As you can see, we've started to see some walls emerging-" Here she pointed at a few slightly darker areas in the earth, filled with smallish stones and mortar. "But there's really not a lot of solid evidence for what kind of structure this might be. If it was a cottage, we would expect to see more finds indicating human habitation, but we're just not seeing that, Tony."
"Hang on, I thought Phil showed me some pottery?"
"Yes, well," said Raksha, shaking her head from side to side. "That's been about it, really, and what we have isn't obviously the sort of pottery you'd expect from inside of a cottage. It could be from a bowl or jug used to carry milk, or animal feed, or something like that."
"That's too bad," Tony replied. "Anathema, what do you think?"
"Oh," she said, a bit stupidly. "I do think it's interesting."
As she said it, she thought about the walls, or what remained of them. "Do you think I could get closer to have a look?"
"Sure," said Raksha. "Just be careful stepping down, there you go. Over there. See that darker line? There's pretty clearly a foundation a building there, with seventeenth century stone fill and mortar."
Anathema stepped into the trench, and knelt down in the dirt. The walls really weren't much, but stone had a long memory. It could maybe… If she just…
She closed her eyes and ran her hands over the stones, listening with her mind as intently as she could. She could hear something, faintly, and there was a definite smell of something animal, but nothing very definite. Oh well, she thought. It was a worth a try.
Tony leaned down into the trench. "Find anything exciting there? Do you think your ancestors might have built that wall?"
"I can't say," Anathema replied. "It's all a bit vague."
Raksha raised an eyebrow at her, but went back to scraping at the section of wall she was working on. Tony leaned forward and offered Anathema his hand, and she climbed out of the shallow trench.
"Onwards?" he asked.
They all piled in Clarissa's SUV after that, and drove over to Blacko. Dig Sites 2 and 3 had been closed already, and Dig Site 4: Cross Gaits Inn, another field with another tent village, was being closed up as well by the time they arrived. At this site, too, there was little evidence of anything interesting, and they let Anathema stand around looking at things while they film Tony talking to an archaeologist about that decision. She tried getting a read off this site, touching the stones and some of the objects they've excavated, but she got little more than the usual psychic noise of people's lives. Nothing specific, nothing out of the ordinary, and certainly nothing at all like the waves of occult sensation she was used to from her family's objects. She so hoped to feel something, once she had the idea, that sensing the amassed energy from people simply living in a space wasn't as satisfactory as it normally was.
Dig Site 5 was at the Lower Black Moss Reservoir, which was back towards Newchurch, away from the village of Blacko. They had only got the geophys surveying finished there just before lunch, so the archaeologists were still setting up the trench by the time Anathema and the others arrived. They got to watch the digger cut into the grass, which Anathema had to admit was weirdly thrilling, although nowhere near as exciting as the archaeologists rushing about to get their fingers in the dirt seemed to think it was.
The cameras were still rolling when Anathema walked over to the lumpy remains of the structure they were investigating. It was little more than a pile of stones, but she thought she might try and get a read off them, anyway, while the archaeologists got to work scraping and sifting through the top layers of soil.
She knelt down, and ran her hands over the stones, brushing away some moss and leaves. The feeling came over her like a flash, a flicker of firelight and the scent of roasting meat. She heard laughter, and shouting, and urgent whispers, and a woman crying. Then she saw their faces; dark hair and green eyes, a nose, a chin. She didn't know the faces, but she knew their names: there Elizabeth, and there her mother; there was Alizon and James, with the sheep; and little Jennet, watching, who didn't know any better. She knew them all, could feel their echoes in their bones, the Devices and even Alice Nutter, Agnes' grandmother.
"Have you found something there, Anathema?"
And then suddenly Anathema was back in the twenty-first century, kneeling in damp grass with Tony Robinson of all people asking what she was doing.
"Is there anything exciting?" he asked again. The camera crew had followed him, she saw now, and she tried to put an expression on her face that looked something approaching normal.
She stood up and brushed off the knees of her jeans. "I'm just taking a look at some of the stones here."
Tony raised an eyebrow. "The archaeologists getting to you? Will they make you one of them yet?"
"No, no - well - sort of." She stumbled over her words. "I'm just trying to get a feel for the site, I suppose. Wondering whether this was the place. I have a… I have a feeling about this place, I think."
"Well, I think Phil and the team hope so. Seems like Pendle's been thoroughly cursed so far. Any record of that in your family histories?" he said, teasing.
"Not of that, no," Anathema replied. Agnes had written precious little of what came before her. She'd included an About the Author on the last page, which used to make Anathema laugh for how anachronistic it was. It had mentioned her place of birth (Roughlee, Lancashire), her late husband (Thomas Device), and her hobbies (brisk walks in the woods, knitting, and keeping fowls). It had said, in all eagerness, "Thys if the author's firft book."
Tony Robinson had said something else, she knew, and she thought she might have replied. She didn't remember.
This was what Anathema hated the most about being psychic, really. Knowing things beyond evidence, with a certainty she could never honestly attest to in any report. She liked the knowing. She would always like the knowing, having spent so long with the future mapped out so precisely, so exactly, so definite, more so than any Device before her. Uncertainty made her anxious; it reminded her of the time after that final day, how adrift she was. Do you want to be a descendant for the rest of your life?
She hadn't, and yet… It had been so uncertain. She'd sought routine so desperately, had gone back to school to get her PhD for real this time (which had been a very embarrassing day for her, explaining she'd lied as much as Newt had, the day they met). That had led to research, which led to the business, which led to the Shadwell donation, and it had all, once again, circled back to here, this place. Devices and Nutters, witches and witch-finders. Apparently one couldn't decide to just stop being a descendant.
They took her back to the base camp in Newchurch, afterwards. It was weird, watching them dig and hoping they'd find the proof she already knew. She almost felt like she'd fast-forwarded a day or so, that she'd seen the end of the episode before they had. It was strange, really, and made her glad that her clients usually already expected a yes or a no; that the object was out of the ground and there was nothing Anathema could say or do that she couldn't either delete or hastily attribute to some obscure source in her personal library.
The rest of the day passed in a haze. She threw herself back into her novel, to try and distract herself. She called Newt at one point, and needed to go hide around the back of the building because he kept making her laugh. She gave in and took a nap, for a while, until Melissa shook her awake and told her there was a fresh batch of snacks in the kitchen. Around 6:30, Mark called the shoot for the evening. That too was a strange experience, standing around while Mark talked about doing cleanup on the Sadler's Farm site and the closing of site 4. They would be putting all their effort tomorrow on site 5, the Lower Black Moss Reservoir site, which they'd just finished cleaning up the surface, he said, and it was looking promising already with period-appropriate pottery finds, to which Marguerite whooped loudly. Then they were dismissed, and Gavin hopped up on the crate to shout that there'd be rounds at the pub on Phil, because someone had lost a bet, and they should all take advantage.
Anathema had laughed with the others and cycled back, but by the time she was back at the inn, her head was pounding. She begged off when Melissa asked her if she was coming, claiming she had a migraine. It was easier to explain than post-psychic energy hangover.
"I really shouldn't," she said, rubbing at her temples. "Sorry."
"It's alright," Melissa replied. "Anything I can get you? Aspirin? Hot water bottle? Discreet pint to go?"
Anathema laughed, but waved her away. "I'm fine, it's normal. Go on, say hi to the others for me."
"If you say so," said Melissa, skeptical.
With that she went, leaving Anathema to change into her pyjamas (a very attractive combo of flannel pants and oversized t-shirt) and crawl into bed. She dug out her snacks, opened a bag of cheese and onion crisps, and flipped channels until she found something light. Ghosts, she found, didn't usually stand up to the power of potatoes and panel shows.
To her relief, she felt completely fine the next morning. She even woke up before her alarm - although only by a few minutes - and as she went downstairs to unlock her bicycle and head over to the set, she felt rather a bit smug. Half the booths in the pub part of the inn were filled with archaeologists and crew members consuming fried potatoes, bacon, and sausages with the grim determination of people attempting to defeat a hangover with the power of saturated fats. Melissa in particular glared at her, but Anathema only laughed and took a slice of fried bread off her plate.
It was bright and sunny that morning, which would undoubtedly be both a blessing and a curse for most of the crew. Anathema enjoyed it, taking her time with the ride and observing the village as she went. It was a brighter place when it wasn't raining, although any place was, and the sun even softened her mood towards Newchurch's choice in landscaping.
The base camp looked almost familiar now, as Anathema waved her badge at the security guard and got her things set up. She wasn't sure they would need to film any scenes with her at all today, at least not any research ones. She knew they'd almost certainly want her for the end of the day wrap bits, although that was a long way off and her call time was as early as it had been the previous days. The others were starting to filter in, making their way into the kitchen for their second shot of caffeine and carbs. Anathema joined them, being as obnoxiously perky as she dared over her tea (with lemon) and croissant (cheese).
They all made their way over to the crate on the green, and Mark the production manager clambered up and called everyone to attention.
"Good morning, everyone!" he called. Anathema saw at least three people physically wince. "Welcome to Day Three! Lots to do today. We'll be shifting our focus away from Dig Site 1 and towards the Lower Black Moss Reservoir site - site 5 - so some of you will be relocated to that site. We'll have the main camera unit - so Dennis's team - over there, while Emily and unit 2 will be over at Sadler's Farm and roaming as required. As it's the last day, those of you who are archaeologists need to start making sure your documentation is in order for the report and that our closed sites are properly documented so that the clean-up team has everything ready for them. If you're part of the dig clean-up team, please, please bother your colleagues who are not, because the documentation will really help Wessex Archaeology with the final site report."
"Finally," he continued. "We'll have some of the locals 'round in the afternoon to shoot the conclusion, show them what we've found, the usual. This means the site is probably going to get crowded, so please remember to follow the general safety policies for public digs - clean up after yourselves, don't leave your trowels lying about, keep your personal belongings bagged and tagged. Tech crew, that means I want all non-essential equipment packed up before 4 so that no wandering eyes get any ideas, alright? Good. It's been a great shoot so far, we've got some great footage, and thanks to everyone so far."
He stepped down off the crate, and the crowed started to disperse.
"Hold on just a moment!" shouted Melissa, getting onto the box a little unsteadily. "I've got some good news for everyone - a light at the end of the tunnel if you will - the Cross Gaits Inn has agreed to let us use their back field for the wrap party tonight. They donated a sheep - if anyone can tell me why a sheep, that'd be great - and we'll be having a bonfire. There's going to be drinks, we'll have really terrible music. Come on out, we'll send Malkin Tower off in proper witchy style!"
The crowd laughed and cheered a bit, while Melissa got down off the box and took her coffee Thermos back from Clarissa.
Anathema wandered back into the building, to check her email and try to be a responsible historical consultant, since no one seemed to want her for anything yet. She had a few complicated replies to write up - some clarifications and one quote - so she might as well do them now, especially since she'd not really bothered with more than the easy responses since Monday.
That kept her occupied for most of the morning. The base camp grew progressively busier as the day went on, with the finds from the closed sites brought in and recorded. She got the impression that something was starting to really happen over at the reservoir site, because at half-ten Marguerite abandoned her station and went off after Clarissa.
"They've found something exciting, then?" she asked her neighbour, an object tech named Jordan.
"Seems like," he said, looking up from his work. "Dating evidence, probably. They only call her over if they've got something solid and want to shoot a bit on it. Otherwise she gets to stay back here with the rest of us cataloguing monkeys."
Anathema laughed. She was glad something was turning up. It would make the whole thing easier to keep straight in her mind, when people asked her about it later. That was the tricky bit, separating what she knew from tangible sources versus what she knew from more esoteric ones. If they were starting to find dating evidence and interesting finds… Well, it pleased her, to say the least.
Jordan looked a bit miserable, with his trays of finds, and Anathema took pity on him. "Anything I can do to help?"
"Yeah, actually," he said, brightening. "I know you're not an archaeologist, but you have some object handling experience, right?"
"I do," she replied. "I do provenance research, so yeah."
"Great. Do you mind photographing these? I've got the station all set up, it's pretty easy. Just get yourself a pair of nitrile gloves, and I'll show you how to do it." He reached under his table and pulled out a tissue box full of blue disposable gloves.
It really was fairly easy, and Anathema was glad to help. All she had to do was place objects in the little square, make sure the number tag was laid next to it, focus the camera - it was a digital one, very fancy - and take three pictures of each side. Then object and tag were laid in the next tray for Jordan to start logging their numbers and category, so they could be bagged and stored, either for later analysis or for permanent storage. It was so simple that she actually felt a bit guilty for not offering to volunteer earlier in the dig, but no one had really seemed very busy at the time, and well. Anathema had to admit she'd been living a bit in her own head, more than she really should have.
When lunch arrived, she and Jordan finished up the tray they were working on, and went into the kitchen. It smelled unexpectedly good today, which might have been because she'd actually been busy, or it just might have been that she was slowly growing accustomed to catering as a lifestyle. Fortunately for her household budget, the smell turned out to be the soup of the day, which was curried lentil, and far more enticing than the anemic soups of the previous days. She added a bowl of it to her tray, along with an egg-and-cress sandwich (which, in her culinary expertise, she thought would pair better with the soup than the other vegetarian option, cheese and pickle).
Grabbing a ginger ale, she joined Jordan with the others at one of the lunch tables. Marguerite was there, and Raksha, and the other archaeologists, some of which she recognized from the previous day. They were deep in the middle of a conversation about the dig, only half of which appeared to be complaining about paperwork. Raksha had been moved over to the Black Moss reservoir dig, the Newchurch site having been left to the newer crew members, and she was delighted.
"There's actually things coming up, real things. We've got walls - more than just the visible ones," she said, between bites of prawn sandwich. "It's so nice. And the weather's cleared up, so I don't have to get all sticky digging in my rain coat."
"What was the dating on all that, again?" someone asked. Anathema thought she recognized him from her first night, in the hotel.
"It's about right," Marguerite replied. "Late sixteenth, early seventeenth century. We've turned up some bits that are earlier than expected, but nothing later that wasn't surface material."
"Nice," said Jordan. He cracked open his Coke.
"Yeah, it's starting to come together," she replied. She looked around. "Where's Brigid?"
"Still over at the site," Raksha told her. "She's got that section that's in the walls. Said she'd come over later."
"Her loss." Jordan shrugged.
"No, she was starting to get what looked like a skeleton in the wall. She was really excited."
"Oh joy, more faunal," he deadpanned.
The archaeologist whose name Anathema had forgot spoke up. "Could be rats, could be something else. Could be an infant, for all we know."
Marguerite made a face. "I hope not. Who puts an infant in the wall?"
"Someone trying to hide it," he told her. "Happens all the time, even today."
"Lovely. I am eating lunch," Marguerite grimaced.
The man shrugged, but he smiled with his eyes. Anathema paused. She remembered reading something, once… "If I remember right, I think it used to be a practice to put things in the walls for spiritual protection."
"And the dig's local witch comes to the rescue," teased Marguerite.
The other archaeologist nodded. "Makes sense. I've got a mate who works in historic house conservation, says he finds children's shoes in walls all the time."
"They do retain something of their wearer," Anathema agreed. "Lots of animals have spiritual powers in witchcraft mythology, so it's very possible someone put an animal there for a similar reason."
"Neat," said Jordan. "But also disgusting."
There was widespread nodding, and Raksha hastily changed the subject.
It was a little bit past two when Melissa walked over to Anathema's table.
"You're wanted over at site 5," she said. "You won't believe what they've found."
Anathema, who had spent the last half hour reading up on the act of placing objects and animals in walls, was beginning to suspect she might. Still, she packed up her notebook and folder, and followed Melissa out to the car park. There they got into an SUV ("It's not far, but the golf carts don't work on the hill," she explained) and drove the little way over the reservoir site.
The reason Dennis wanted to see Anathema was that Brigid had uncovered a cat in her section of the wall, much to her delight. To Anathema's horror, it appeared to be mummified before the whole structure was buried; it still had bits of skin. She had a fairly high tolerance for morbid things, as anyone raised on eschatological literature would be, but mummified anything was just a bit too much. Thankfully the director didn't want her to look at it or worse, touch it.
"Do you know anything about this?" he asked her, with a tone of voice that definitely suggested she might actively be involved in cat-wall-sacrifices herself.
Anathema thanked her lucky stars she'd thought to go over a few journal articles about household magic and animal spirits after lunch, and replied, "Enough to talk about it for a little bit."
"Good." He called the camera crew over, and once again Anathema stood around with her hands in her coat pockets while the crew got set up. They had her and Tony Robinson - who had been sitting down in one of the find tents - do a painfully fake walk over to the trench, where he hailed Brigid and starting asking her about the cat. They did their bit - a few times over, because Brigid kept talking too fast in her excitement - and then the conversation flowed over to her.
"What do you think about all of this, Anathema?" asked Tony, waving his hands vaguely towards the cat, the trench, and the site at large.
"It's really fascinating," she replied, trying to remember the mental script she had come up with. "It really reflects the very spiritual worldview people had in the seventeenth century."
"Well, people didn't just put cats in walls for fun. It was an act that really held meaning," she said, trying not to stumble over her words. "Cats were particularly complex. They were known to associate with witches - as familiar spirits - but they were also a really important household animal in terms of vermin control. Barn cats were very useful for killing mice and rats, but people noticed that cats were very sensitive and unpredictable, so they developed this reputation for being more in-tune with the supernatural world than humans are."
"How does thinking that Tabby sees ghosts lead to putting her in the wall?" asked Tony.
"Well, like Brigid said, people used to put lots of different things into buildings in order to give that building certain qualities. So putting a cat in the wall could give the building the same qualities as cats. Maybe that was warding off vermin, maybe that was providing the building with some protection against spirits. Some sources suggest that since open areas like doors and windows were more vulnerable to witches, putting a cat nearby could actually protect the building from attacks by witches."
"It all sounds a bit voodoo."
Anathema laughed, but it sounded super fake to her own ears. "It does, doesn't it? But seventeenth-century rural people still had a lot of beliefs and practices that ring distinctly pagan today. Their world was so much more embodied, in terms of spirits really walking amongst the living. Especially with the two families involved - the Devices and the Chattoxes - each believed the other was using evil magic against them, so they would have been very much concerned with making sure that their rivals couldn't attack them."
Dennis yelled to cut after that. Anathema practically crumpled, apologizing for not making any sense, but Tony said she was doing great. Dennis didn't feel quite the same, and had her repeat the whole thing over again.
"This time," he instructed. "Could you try and sound a little surer? You're the expert, here."
Anathema, who had been an expert on the subject of dead cats in walls for about half an hour, didn’t necessarily feel it. Still, Dennis insisted, and they repeated the whole conversation over again. She couldn't remember what she'd said, exactly, but tried to make sure it was vaguely in the same order and that she used less maybes.
This seemed to satisfy Dennis, who handed her off to Melissa, and went over to direct some shots of the other side of the trench.
"You alright?" she asked. "You're doing great. Everyone sounds nervous the first time."
Anathema rubbed her temples. "It's embarrassing, being told you're saying things badly."
"Better than saying bad things, though, right?" Melissa pointed out. "Better to stutter over a good sentence than to say a bad one clearly."
It was a curious kind of logic, and Anathema smiled. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," said Melissa, opening the passenger door for Anathema. "Let's get you back to camp."
It was around 4 when they called everyone together for the final meeting.
"All right!" shouted Mark over the noise of a fuller crew and the sounds of tech slowly packing up. "We're just about ready to shoot the final staged scenes over at site 5. Both camera units are going to be over at that site, and the rest of you as well just to pad out the crowd. Natasha tells me there are already locals over there, and they're pretty eager to get started, so if everyone could make sure their stuff is locked down and we'll head over."
He paused, while Melissa said something. "And no golf carts! We've already had one get stuck in the mud, we don't need to waste time digging out a second!"
That got a few laughs, but for the most part everyone was too tired to really bother. Anathema followed the crowd, and found herself hustled into the back of a Nissan with Jordan.
"'Sup," he said, reaching over her to get his seat-belt.
The short drive over took longer than it should have, mostly because of parking. The small cars had to park on the road, which necessitated some planning to avoid both the holes in the road and blocking anyone in. A few of the larger cars ventured closer to the site, where there was less walking required and more space to park. Anathema and Jordan's driver, who might have been called Nish, parked just on the other side of the hedge, where there wasn't much of a slope but more room to move. This meant that Anathema and the others had to make their way down the hill on foot, which was trickier going now that the road had been chewed up a little more, but Anathema had stayed true to her roots and worn sturdy hiking boots.
A plastic barricade had been put up a few meters from the edges of the trench, where a small swarm of village residents watched and waited. Anathema followed the leads of the others and waved her badge as she squeezed through a gap in the fence; the tech on guard duty nodded. One of the camera crews was standing around waiting, while the other took a few shots of the crowd and the site.
Once everyone was gathered, Emily started moving people about. The non-excavating staff were to stand just over there, inside of the fence but in the same shot as the crowd. She wanted anyone who'd dug on the site in the trench looking busy. She arranged Marguerite with a few trays of key finds (the dating evidence, Anathema guessed) and positioned Mick and Phil over with Tony. Brigid was to be near the cat, since it was her find. Anathema was stood over with Belinda and a few other women with scarves, presumably for the touchy-feely bit.
The two directors conferred for a while, and then split up. Dennis went to talk to Tony and the archaeologists, while Emily went to instruct the crowd and the non-speaking crew members.
"Right," she heard Emily say as she approached. "You lot. You're mostly just going to be smiling and nodding with the rest - but don't be fake about it, just act natural but interested, okay? Belinda and Anathema, Tony's going to ask you a few questions about your feelings. You can say what you want, but stay positive, alright?"
"Well, I won't need to lie about my feelings," Belinda informed her. Anathema rolled her eyes, and Emily sent her the kind of sympathetic glance that spoke to a communal history of dealing with Scarf Women before walking back over to her camera crew.
It wasn't long after that Anathema heard the clapper and Dennis' shout. The two camera crews both focused on Tony, but from different angles. It was weirdly fascinating, watching them orbit around him and the two senior archaeologists like satellites around fleece-and-questionable-jumper-clad planets. They filmed quite a bit of talking there, and then went over to Brigid and the cat, and Marguerite after her, with Phil climbing down into the trench to talk a bit more about the archaeology and the layout of the site. Finally, Tony and Mick came over to Anathema and Belinda, who practically fluttered once she noticed the cameras on her.
"I'm really amazed, you know," she told Tony. "It's just extraordinary. I really think this settles the question as to where Malkin Tower was located."
She fussed with her scarf. "It's been such a point of debate in the community, and now we know where it was. It will be so good to be able to get a plaque up and be able to mark it properly."
And add it to the town witch map, and sell little Time Team: Malkin Tower magnets, and an entire unending stream of tourist rubbish, Anathema thought, a tad unkindly.
Mick, on the other hand, just shrugged. "It's definitely very possible that this was the site, but we really don't have any archaeological evidence tying the Devices specifically to this cottage. It's the right period, it's the right size, it's got the cat which really shows that the occupants were the kind of people that were concerned with witchcraft and magic. But we cannot say for 100% certain that yes, this was the same Malkin Tower where the Device family lived."
"I agree," Anathema found herself saying. "There's very strong documentary evidence that this might be the case. We know that Malkin Tower was probably not an actual tower, as you mentioned, and this site certainly seems like a building more in keeping with what we know of their economic status. The cat is definitely an important indicator of the culture and beliefs the people that lived there, but we just can't say for sure."
"Is that a bit disappointing for you?" asked Tony. "As a Device yourself, were you really hoping to find conclusive proof they lived here?"
She paused, considering. The smells of the site flickered at the edge of her psychic memory, the ghosts of Devices past.
"I'm not, actually," she said at last. "As an historian, I know that there's not a lot we can be certain about when it comes to events and places from four hundred years ago. There are things we do know, and there are things we can say are very, very likely to be true, but there's a lot of uncertainty about it."
She shrugged, fidgeted with her hands in her pockets. "I can see how they might have lived, if they lived here. We know they lived in the area of Pendle Forest, so even if this isn't the site of Malkin Tower specifically, it's very likely they came through here at one point or another. So I do feel their presence, here. It's a very connected feeling."
Tony nodded along with Mick, and then he turned to the camera to give his final lines and close out the episode. Then Dennis yelled, "Cut!"
Thankfully, no one asked her to repeat anything this time. It seemed like it was far too much effort to have to re-do the entire shot, or maybe they were happy with what she’d said this time around. She rather thought the last part was pretty good, even though she just knew Newt would make fun of her for it.
The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur. The villagers were shown around the dig in a slow procession; Brigid pointed out the cat while people flinched and children shrieked; Marguerite went around with her tray of pottery to explain how they determine dates. It was all very well-organised, and at the end everyone was marched back up to the top of the hill and out to their cars, Anathema and all the other auxiliary crew included, leaving only a few archaeologists behind to get the site under cover for the clean-up crew.
Getting out of the field was a nightmare, however, and Anathema sat in the Nissan for what felt like half an hour while people tried to back out into the narrow road.
"You coming to the wrap party?" Jordan asked, as Nish the Nissan Driver slowly inched forward. "There's going to be a sheep, apparently."
"Yeah, I think so," Anathema replied.
Nish caught her eye in the mirror. "What is with the sheep? Does anyone have any idea?"
"Mutton isn't on anyone's proscribed religious diets?" Jordan guessed. "I mean, a pig would be tasty but then some people don't eat pork, and cows are huge and anyone Hindu couldn't eat that…"
Anathema laughed. "I mean, that's true, but I'm pretty sure it's just because James Device stole a sheep for the witch's meeting at Malkin Tower."
"You're not serious?" Nish said.
Anathema smiled wryly. "I wouldn't put it past these people."
"Yeah, they're a bit much on the witch thing, aren't they?" agreed Nish, before slamming the gas to seize an opening, driving them away from the dig site for the last time.
It had been an absolute impossibility that Anathema's mother would let her only daughter's television debut go completely unremarked. What had started with Anathema and Newt agreeing to watch it with her had slowly exploded into Anathema, Newt, and most of her mother's friends and extended family watching it together. Newt, in an attempt to make the entire situation more bearable, had invited some of Anathema's friends as well.
It was not making the situation better. Not in the least. Her mother, who since primary school had seen herself as the ultimate arbiter of who should and should not be Anathema's friend, had passed by her not once but twice to inform her that her friends were too serious, and shouldn't a serious girl like her have happy friends? Friends to make her laugh and dance?
Anathema was perfectly happy with her serious friends, thank you Mum. They were respectful and quiet and knew how to have fun without half a lorry's worth of Star Beer and a dozen pre-made appetizer platters, although now that said platters were on offer, she had to admit they had rather colonised the cheese one.
"Okay, so," Newt said, cornering her in the hallway. "It's half six. The episode starts at seven. Do you think we have enough seats? I've pulled all the extra chairs I could find that didn’t require two people to lift them. Do you think Sabrina and Emman and the others will mind sitting on the floor? I can't see your mother letting any of your family sit on the floor."
"She won't let any guest sit on the floor in her house. We'll be sitting on the floor," Anathema told him, exasperated. "You're overthinking it."
"Am I?" he asked, rubbing at the back of his head. Anathema hadn't told him yet, but his hair was starting to thin in that spot, probably from all the rubbing. "Because I remember last New Year's, and that was a fiasco."
Anathema winced. "I haven't forgotten."
Newt nodded vigorously. "We've got to stay on top of things, or else…"
"No, we don't," she told him firmly. "It's her stupid party, she can deal with her own guests. If she wants to blame you for it, I'll… I'll pull the princess card. I'll tell her it's my special day, and how can she ruin things on my special day by insulting my partner?"
"And when she pulls the marriage-and-grandchildren card?" Newt said, reasonably. "What then?"
"I'll… I'll say we're getting married. I'll pull out the engagement card."
"You know you can only pull that one once," he pointed out, but he leaned his head in towards her and smiled.
She laughed, and kissed him on the nose. "I know. It's a weapon of last resort. It's too powerful for anything but the most desperate of situations."
"And it comes with a cost, that’s for sure," said Newt. "She'd have the whole thing planned out in a week. She'd probably try and make it a destination wedding in a bog somewhere."
"Stonehenge, more like. She'd bribe English Heritage into letting her do it."
Newt groaned, collapsing onto her shoulder. "You're right. You are horribly, horribly right."
It did settle out alright, in the end. Her mum did try and put them on the floor, digging out embroidered Indian-style floor pillows from some dusty corner. Emman, blessed be her name, intervened and made sure that Anathema and Newt got spots on the new sofa, taking one floor spot for herself and pulling Sam down with her before anyone could change their mind. Her mother checked that the PVR was recording three times before she was satisfied. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when one of her cousins (Rabia, maybe? Or maybe Catalina) started opening a bag of chips just as the TV announced that what was up next was a brand new episode of Time Team, but one of her mother's friends got it all sorted.
There was Tony Robinson, walking around the village of Newchurch-in-Pendle, kitschy witch businesses on display, talking about the Pendle witches and the mystery of their missing tower, promising that they'd investigate.
"And we have just three days to do it," he said. Cue opening credits. She could already feel that her face was hot and red as a beet. Newt squeezed her hand.
The assembled audience was quiet, for the most part. Her mum, on the other sofa next to her sister (Anathema's aunt), was firmly fixed on the screen, keen eyes peeled for any whisper of a glimpse of her daughter. Well, Anathema thought a little more charitably, she was probably interested for Dad's sake as well.
Half the room screamed when the episode got to Anathema's first scene, with Tony Robinson and Belinda the local historian, and her mother yelled at them while trying to turn up the volume with the remote. Her own voice filled up the room then, shockingly loud, and Anathema couldn't look. Her voice sounded nasal, and smug, and what she saw of her face looked awful and blotchy. She sounded like an idiot, not a trained professional.
"This is the worst," she told Newt, embarrassment filling every corner of her body. "I actually hate this."
"It's fine, you're fine," he assured her. "Tony Robinson seems impressed."
"I hate you, too," she told him.
Thankfully she wasn't on screen for another ten or fifteen minutes, because she hadn't shot another scene until the second day. She even managed to sneak out during a commercial break to go breathe slowly in the corridor for a while, staring at the dark, panelled walls and apologising to every member of the Device family she could think of. (She did not apologize to Agnes.)
"Anathema, where are you? Come back in here! You're on the telly!" shouted her aunt, and Anathema collected herself and slunk back into the sitting room. She was indeed on screen; she was showing Tony Robinson graphics explaining the family connections between the Pendle witches. She sounded better here, which was gratifying, given how often they'd made her repeat this part. Maybe it was because she’d had practice, or more likely they’d just edited together all the best bits from each, and now Anathema couldn't remember what was said when.
The rest of the episode was like a non-stop humiliation parade. They'd kept in all the footage of her walking around the sites and talking to people. They even caught her kneeling in the dirt at the one site, which earned a "That's my girl! Feeling the energy of the place!" from her mother that made Anathema sink deep into the sofa cushions. It was awful, really, how mothers could make you feel 14 at the slightest provocation, even when you were a grown woman with a successful independent consulting agency.
The whole thing with the cat in the wall was a welcome respite. During commercials, she was peppered with questions - did it smell? Did they put it in alive? Was it a sacrifice to the Devil? Did they find any roosters? Did they plant it there just so they had something exciting to put on TV? - and answering these was much easier than looking at her own dumb face. (The answers, for the record, were kind of, probably not, no, no, and definitely not, please stop assuming everything is some kind of conspiracy theory.) Even listening to herself talk about the cat was better than before - maybe because Anathema had been more keenly aware at the time that she sounded dumb, so the humiliation was sort of partially digested already.
Finally, after what felt like an age, they played the scene with everyone at site 5, all the locals and crew and everyone. Everyone oohed and ahhed appropriately, and when Anathema talked about feeling connected to the site (oh, how she cringed to hear herself say that), her mum looked practically misty-eyed. Then the closing music played, while they showed shots of the bonfire and everyone at the wrap party, with the conspicuous absence of the roasting sheep, which had been a little unpleasant to look at. Maybe they cut it for ratings reasons, she didn’t know.
And then it was all over, and Newt was hugging her to his side and kissing her hair, and her mother and aunts and cousins were all clapping and cheering.
"You did great," he told her. "You were fantastic. You could be a regular."
"Never again," she vowed, although she couldn't be certain about that, either.
She sighed. "I know."
He gave her a squeeze, and stood up. "Come on, let's go greet your adoring fans."
"If I have to," she said, feeling nauseous and hot and in desperate need of a pillow to smother herself with.
"I rather think you do," Newt told her, hauling her up by her arm, and almost directly into the arms of her mother.
"I'm so proud of you, my girl," she said loudly, right in Anathema's ear. "My only daughter! My wonderful girl. You looked so good! You sounded so smart! And they all loved you, I could tell. I can always tell."
"Thanks Mum," Anathema said. "Thanks."
"Why are you thanking me? I am only saying the truth," she said in reply. "Anyone can see."
Anathema extricated herself, but her mother grabbed her by the shoulders. "Anyone! Look around, at all these people. They are here for you! They are all proud of you."
She spun her around, and spoke right in her ear. "Now, go be nice, and listen to them, and answer all of their questions. Charlotte will be jealous but that's fine, she is like that. Her daughter is not worth anything. You are brilliant and smart and good, and next year they will be asking you to have your own show on Channel 4, and Charlotte's daughter will still be worth nothing."
"Er," said Anathema. "Right."
"Now go!" Her mother pushed her out in the crowd.
Newt caught her by the hand and smiled at her. He looked about as overwhelmed as she did.
"Once more unto the breach?" she asked him, darkly.
"Something like that, yeah," he said. "Come on. We'll give them another half hour, and then I'll beg off because I've got work tomorrow."
She snorted. "Like that's a problem."
"They don't know that," he observed. "And as soon as I say it, half of them will remember they're not 21 anymore and they've got kids to pick up from somewhere, or that the sitter charges by the hour, or something. Half your mother's friends are usually in bed by now."
Anathema laughed, and bumped his shoulder. She could always count on Newt to go with her, wherever social or actual nightmare she accidentally dragged him into.
"Yeah, okay," she said. "Let's go."