Monday, February 13, 2017

A Moment: timestamped

“I could stop you.”

I don’t look over from tossing my visa and a fake ID into a bag, make sure I have my worst clothing on. “You could. There won’t be many people there.”

“Jay is going to follow you,” the wandering magician says softly.

There are things that loom large in the world, and then there are those that should but don’t. Hidden things. Secret things. Magician things, but others as well. Jay is eleven. He is also from far, far Outside the universe and could, on a very bad day, likely unmake the entire universe. I try not to think too hard about that. About what it costs to travel with him, about how much we try to protect him from. Innocent is armour, but not always. Not always. Sometimes I think it’s a chain as well. “I know.”

The magician nods. “Even the fae might not be able to hide the result of Jay being at a rally, Charlie.”

I look at him. “Do you want them to?”

He smiles. There is almost nothing of a magician in his smile, and I have some idea in that moment of what it costs him to do nothing. “I have no idea anymore. A magician’s power is small things, subtle workings. Jay is far much more. If I go, I would shift events when I should not. Need. Desire. Will.” He falls silent for a moment, staring off into some memory I know nothing of. “I will keep Outsiders and monsters from feeding off of events, from making things worse.”

“Worse.”

“They can always be worse.” It would sound like a cliché, if it wasn’t him saying it.

“The town isn’t that big. The protest won’t be that big,” I say, to myself as much as the magician.

“I know. Keep Jay safe.”

I nod and head outside, and he is beside me a moment later, saying he feels bindings and knows I’m doing an adventure and that of course means a Jay can help.

“Charlie?” he says after I don’t reply.

“It’s not that kind of adventure, Jay.”

“There are lots of adventures that feel like something else,” Jay says firmly.

“There are?”

“Like when food pretends it’s not food and!” I almost smile, but Jay stops me with a sudden, hard hug. “And going to places with lots of messy bindings is a dangerous adventure but that’s important too!”

“It is. You have to promise not to fix any of them.”

“That’s going to be really hard,” he whispers.

“I know. But sometimes being present without being jaysome is as important as being jaysome,” I say.

Jay blinks, scratches his head. “I think you went postjaysome, Charlie?”

I laugh, soft, surprised. “Maybe I did. Come?”

He nods, and walks beside me. The world stops. Even Jay stops, which I didn’t thin could be done.

The entity before me is tall and pale, young and ancient. “There are few incidents that draw me to a place in person,” it says.

I shudder. I’ve seen this entity once become. Seen more of it. “You’re Time.”

“Winter, if you like. Among other names.” Winter’s voice is soft, kind because Time can afford to be kind. “Trying to get Jay to be not jaysome in this way has drawn me here.” Winter embodies Time, making this Power perhaps as old as the universe. It sounds unsure for a moment. “Even I have no idea what to make of this.”

“A memento?” The words slip out. I’m always sarcastic when I’m terrified.

“Perhaps. A moment, seen and known. A time.” Winter laughs, and the sounds reminds me a little of Jay. “A time stamp, by Time. A moment known and preserved. This is very dangerous.”

“I know.”

“And very brave,” he says, to Jay, who grins. The rest of the world is frozen, but Jay is free of it and beaming proudly.

“I am really good at being brave,” he boasts. “Also, stopping me tickled you know!”

“Ah. Of course it did.” And the Power of the universe is gone, and time moves again as if nothing dared impede it.

I shiver, but Jay is holding my hand. Waiting. To learn how to witness without casting any judgement. I only hope I can somehow teach him what we both need to learn.

Secret Diary Entry #5

“Uhm.”

He’s not older than me by much, being only eleven and peers at me in the doorway of the house, and I almost think the door opened before I touched it.

“Hi, I’m Jay!”

“You’re my babysitter?” I demand.

“I’m not sure? Cuz I kinda met Kyle and he told me where he was babysitting only you aren’t a baby. Unless that’s a really good disguise?!”

“I’m seven,” I say firmly.

“Oh. I’m eleven,” he says proudly.

“I know,” I say and I wonder how I did. “Where is Kyle?”

“He’s having an adventure, but!” And Jay flings the word like a weapon, “he might not think so because of the giant snakes! Things don’t stop being adventures just cuz they’re scary, you know!”

I stare at him. He grins and even my mom and dad have never grinned at me like that. I step back and let him in despite everything I was told in class about strangers. He’s not a stranger.

“What do you and Kyle do, Asham?”

I never told him my name. I’m almost sure of that. “He lets me eat ice cream for supper.”

“Really?! I’m not allowed to and that’s pretty sad.”

“No, I – that wasn’t true,” I fumble.

“But you said it.” And he looks so hurt I fall back from it. “That’s really rude if you’re lying to a Jay.”

“I’m sorry. I just – I didn’t mean to –.”

“Oh. Okay,” and his grin is back like something I’ve done nothing to deserve.

Jay orders pizza for supper for us, eating two entire pizzas by himself and watching two movies with me. I think I head something outside for a second, like the dog next door, only nasty, but it stops a moment later and then the doorbell rings and I barely see Jay move.

“Hi,” he says.

The man who comes in looks at me, then the living room. He looks ordinary, like Dad, only his eyes aren’t ordinary at all. He looks about the room like mom looking for places where I’ve tried to hide toys. “Jay. Charlie told me you were babysitting.”

“Uh-huh! I’m really good at it,” Jay says happily. “But it would be better if we had adventures!”

“I imagine so, but Asham’s parents might not approve.”

“I’d take care of Asham. I’m good at taking care of things, Honcho.” Jay says.

“I know. But Charlie wants your help dealing with the army of frogs from last night. From when you were really good at looking after frogs.”

“Oh, okay,” and Jay is gone. Not fast, simply gone.

I rub my eyes and the man walks over. “You’re all right,” he says.

I nod. “Jay did a good job. We had pizza and –.”

“I know.” He smiles. “I’m glad things worked out. But talking to other people about Jay could get – complicated.”

Jay says words that are joy; his are warnings, quiet and firm. I nod.

“Is Kyle okay?” I blurt out.

“He’s fine. He might not remember tonight, however.” Honcho smiles. “You will, because Jay would be sad if you don’t. And sad if you try and hurt Kyle with this knowledge.”

I nod. Sometimes Kyle tells me to do things I don’t like, and maybe I would have said things. Now this Honcho knows I won’t. “What about mom and dad?” I ask.

“I’ll talk to them.”

I nod, and head upstairs, and I hear mom and dad come home later, but later still there is a knocking inside my head that wakes me up in strange ways. And Jay says hi, and we have adventures and I’m not sharing those with my diary ever.  

A Magician’s Walk

People talk about dawn and dusk as though they were times of power. They wax lyrical over the gloaming and daybreak but there is no time that doesn’t have power, no moment that doesn’t carry meaning. You can find meaning in anything if you look hard enough, and power too if you desire it deeply. Eleven o’clock in the morning is a good as time as any other and I’m finishing removing rust from the underbelly of a car when I hear a cough behind me. The owner of the car is occupied inside with a phone call, and it is easy in the morning to make wards in the morning so that I am not noticed by other people.

But no magic is perfect or it would be something other than magic. I turn and find myself staring at a tired-looking woman in her early twenties who studies me frankly from dark eyes that don’t blink enough. “Can I help you?”

“I do not think so. You are the wandering magician? This town has no magician,” she adds quickly. “It is too small and had one been born I would have felt it or been told by others. But there is a magician who wanders the small places with no magicians to call their own, and I am assuming you are that one?”

“I am, yes.”

The Outsider nods. I have no idea how far Outside the universe she is from, nor what her real form is. I could find out; I don’t press the issue. She licks her lips. “There are stories about you. The Grand Canyon. Angels and demons in the state of Washington. The fae,” added even softer. “And that you travel with power as well.”

“And?”

“You are removing rust from my neighbour’s car?” she asks.

“The events – the stories – are things I do. Who I am is this. Wandering, offering small helpings. Little miracles and quiet magics.”

She stares. “You do not lie, but you are more than that.”

“I am when I have to be. Are you?”

“No.” She shakes her head. “I am a graduate of the Deep School and forbidden to be more. I work as a waitress, to better fit in with humanity. I am not sure if this is a punishment or not, however,” she admits.

“How long have you been a waitress?”

“Seven years.”

“There are other worlds you could pick,” I say dryly.

“I would be penalized for leaving this one, questioned and judged both. But it is hard to serve when too often service is taken as other things.”

I nod. I’ve never worked in a restaurant, but I’ve eaten in enough. “You wish for aid?”

She looks startled. “No. That would be noticed.”

I smile, reach through the bindings I have with Jay, and the Outsider blinks as bindings flicker about them and vanish a moment later. “That should make people be a little more jaysome too you.”

“Jaysome?”

“Jay made the bindings.”

“I cannot sense them at all, even though they have become part of me.” The Outsider shivers slightly. “I rather wished those stories about you were not true.”

“Jay can be scary even though he never intends to be.”

“And you?”

“I always intend to be scary when I am.” I smile, to blunt the truth, and the Outsider walks away as I finish removing rust from the car, walking down the street and touching the world with power.A ladder straightens here, an argument shifts into other directions there. Small magics, but I live for the days when I never have to do anything else. When it is just me and those who need help, when almost none of them will sense my coming or going.

The best magic remains the kind people are never aware happened to them at all.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Jay Drew and the Case of the Crimes That Wouldn’t Be Solved

Jay marches into the hotel suite and throws a hat onto the table with a sulk. The hat looks like the one Sherlock Holmes has in stories despite being bright yellow: I don’t ask where he got it, or from who.

“Kiddo. Something wrong?”

“Solving crimes is really hard, Charlie!”

I resist the urge to turn on the TV. We’re on the eighth floor, so the odds are good any sirens I hear might not involve Jay. It’s at least possible that none of them do, but he has been on his own for over two hours so I wouldn’t bet money on it. I set the book I was reading aside. “Jay. You can do bindings like nothing else in the universe. How is it hard to solve crimes?”

“Lots of them don’t want to be solved at all,” he wails.

I pause. Mentally back up a few steps. “You – ask the crimes if they want to be solved?”

“It would be really rude to solve them otherwise,” he explains.

“People normally solve crimes by finding and following clues.”

“Oh! I don’t do that. Clues are just traps to throw you off guard,” he says.

“Clues are traps?”

“Like in Clue, because you end up thinking wrong-things even if they make sense cuz clues lead you away from stuff you should be really seeing and a smart criminal would leave lots of clues so they never get found at all!” He beams proudly at that logic.

“So instead you ignore clues and talk to the crime itself.” I can’t help myself. “What if it doesn’t want to talk to you?”

“Who wouldn’t want to talk to a Jay?” he asks, honestly baffled.

“What kind of crime did you try and solve today?” I ask slowly.

“I found a dead end street and I asked why it was dead and! helped make it not dead, but that wasn’t a crime so I found a wall that didn’t want to have graffiti and the graffiti didn’t want to tell me who wrote it and that was all kinds of rude-face.” He thumps down in the chair beside me.

“Ah. You might want to talk to Honcho about this?”

“But then he might solve crimes for me and – ooh! I just sensed another one,” and Jay vanishes a moment later.

I text the wandering magician. The text includes several rude and urgent words. And then I turn on the tv. The news anchor is explaining that the station can’t field any more calls or tweets at this time regarding the state of Cloverside Road. If nothing else, Jay has probably solve the crime of people not watching the local news. I send a text to the number the fae gave me over a year ago, with just the word ‘Adventures.’ They’ll pinpoint the city we’re in and send someone to cover up Jay’s enthusiasm with glamour. Hopefully.

All I can do is hope Jay doesn’t try and solve a true crime, or run into one.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trying To Schism

“So. I’ve been patient like a Jay, but that’s not patient like a human and it’s time you went away.”

Heh. The sickness laughs like a shuddering cough. You invited me in. I am here.

“Charlie was getting sick like Honcho and I didn’t want that. So I took you into me and now you have to go. There’s you there, and me here, and that’ll be a schism.”

No. There is no laughter now, just a hunger that has taken away hunger.

“I did warn you. It’s important to warn, you know,” I say firmly.

You called me.

“Uh-huh. But I am huge like a Jay.”

Laughter, tinged with things that aren’t jaysome at all. That is the only reason why you are not dead.

I roll my eyes at that, and I can do it like a champ because I learned it from Charlie. “Nope.” And I reach, in a way that isn’t unbinding at all. “Hi!”

I stare at me. Me blinks. I’m twelve, staring at me at eleven, and somehow it’s a memory and not one as well. “A sickness. You break time for this.”

“I bend it. Jaysomely,” I inform myself.

Future-me flinches. The world goes funny. There are things I’m not allowed to know about the future, for all sorts of reasons, and future-me reaches and kills the sickness with a single snap of fingers and tricks I haven’t even learned to do yet.

“I called it into me. And destroyed it,” he says, and his – my smile – it’s not me at all.

I flinch back, making it a flinch-fest. I want to say he doesn’t have to be like this, to do a binding on myself, but this me is older and deeper and other things as well too.

“There is no schism between us,” I say to me. “I wish there was.”

I stare at him. At me. I have words, but somehow I know they can only make me hurt more. “Thank you,” I say.

The smile is almost an echo of jaysome, and then I’m gone back to the future.


I go back inside, and my tummy is growling for real food but I head into the living room instead and watch lots of TV and try not to remember how not-jaysome I become.  

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Jaysome Morning

I open my eyes to silence. For most people, silence would be safe. For someone who has spent four years dealing with Jay, silence generally means he’s hiding and did an ooops, or had an adventure. Or both at once. I form a ward from excited kids in the rest of the hotel and leave the bedroom, knocking on the door of Charlie’s bedroom and wrapping the ward about her as well.

“We can’t avoid coffee forever,” I say, half-joking.

“Yes, but we’re dealing with Jay. He’ll have – gifts.” Charlie pauses. Jay is eleven. He is also from far, far Outside the universe and terribly enthusiastic almost all the time. The concept of restraint is often lost on a creature who can do bindings at levels magicians can’t operate at.

I squeeze her hand and walk into the kitchen even as I hear the microwave go off. I almost stop, force myself to keep going and stop dead as Jay pulls out bacon and puts it on the dining room table in the hotel suite.

“I’ve been keeping the food warm for hours,” he snaps.

And there is food, because Jay likes eating. I’m not about to ask where he got it all from, really hoping he didn’t try and make it all. “Ah, Jay –.”

“It’s Christmas morning and I’ve been doing my present for you and Charlie for hours and waiting and waiting like a Jay can wait!”

The microwave didn’t explode. Nothing absurd has emerge from it. And there is a strain in Jay’s voice. I look at him in the way of magicians and also the way of a friend, and then step forward and hug him hard.

“Honcho! You’re not supposed to guess the gift,” he protests.

“What?” Charlie says. She looks about the kitchen, then at Jay. “What?” she says again.

“I made breakfast and and and found some of it,” Jay says happily, “but the real gift isn’t jaysome at all but I’ve done it and it will be a whole day without any adventures that’s all about relaxing!!”

Charlie blinks. Stares at Jay. She looks about to ask if he can even do that, catches herself. We eat a breakfast made by various chefs all over the world that Jay has done favours and helpings for all week to get this food and he’s beaming with pride at the end of it. Doing dishes without Jay doing any bindings on them is an experience at least.

“This takes so long,” Jay protests, because he normally cleans dishes with bindings so that there is more time to have adventures.

“Lots of jaysome things do,” Charlie says. We had gifts in mind for him. I was going to work out a way for Jay to enter the Grey Lands just to see how ghosts live. Charlie had found apps for his phone she was certain Jay would enjoy.

We set them aside without talking about it and have a snowball fight outside with other people who join in. No bindings, no magic, no tricks by Charlie and the god inside her. Just friends drawing other friends into it. Two forts have been built within the hour and Jay hurries over to me as I’m making snowballs, looking worried.

“Honcho?”

“Kiddo.”

“Everyone is being jaysome, you know!”

“They are. Jaysome is something you are, Jay, not something you do. You can’t not be you, even if you’re trying to avoid adventures.” I ruffle his hair. “And you draw people to you because you’re you.”

“Oh!” He grins, and the snowball fight lasts until people are tired, kids have to go inside and we’ve used up a lot of snow in the area.

Afterwards, Charlie informs Jay that she and I are going to have an adventure and he gets to come along.

“But but but –,” he protests.

“The rule is that you don’t have adventures. Not that we don’t,” I say.

“But you’re cheating,” he wails.

“No. We’re being jaysome to you,” Charlie says. “A Jay without adventures is a gift to others sometimes, but not to yourself at all. So you’re coming with us and having an adventure. Or else.”

Jay giggles at the idea of being threatened to an adventure and bounds out the hotel after us.

We turn every piece of graffiti in the town into a kindness. It’s fun, tiring, and I use the time to gently undo some of the bindings Jay has done on himself against having adventures. If only to make the world far safer at midnight when this binding he has done drops entirely. Sometimes the best gift we can give is understanding, and jaysome at least can always be given.

The second snowball fight involves cheating on Charlie’s part.

Friday, December 23, 2016

That One Christmas

I used to hate summer more than any other time of year. Thighs scraping together, sweat pooling about my body like the worst superpower ever. One year I even wore a car air freshener almost ironically. But winter gets worse every year. I have a beard because it’s easier than not having one. I don’t think about it too much but every winter the kids stare, and then ask me if I’m going to be Santa. It’s not bad, with the little kids, but children grow up faster with every year. They know the truth sooner and sooner, and the question becomes barbed. Because of course there is no other job for you when you’re fat.

Only that’s not true at all. Santa is fat and jolly, but Santa isn’t obese. You see fat people as Santa all the time, but never anyone like me.

“Are you a Santa?” is asked from behind me. I turn, pause: the kid is eleven. I am too pissed off to register anything else – or even wonder how I know he’s eleven in the way people know hair colour and skin tones – and I give him my best glare.

“No. I’m not going to be Santa this year; you don’t get to be a Santa when you’re too fat to get into his grotto,” I snarl. “Or did you want to make a joke about how I ate Santa and Ms. Claus, or had too many Christmas snacks? I’ve heard it. Whatever joke you want to make. I’ve heard it all before.”

The kid steps back, eyes wide. “But I was doing an asking, which isn’t a joke at all most of the time you know,” he says.

“What?”

He pauses a moment. “Oh! I guess a knock-knock joke is a question that is a joke, but I didn’t say all the time because I’m clever like a Jay!”

I manage to say what again.

“Is that a joke too? I sometimes miss human jokes even if Charlie says single words can be jokes but she means my name when she says that. I’m Jay,” and he says it as if we’ve been friends forever.

I check his arms for bracelets, spot nothing. “Uh, kid, are your parents around?”

“Nope!”

“But you are a little odd,” I say. “Is your mother –.”

The kid stiffens. His grin vanishes and he stares up at me with an expression I’ve never seen before and hope to God I never see again.

“I – I – I didn’t mean anything,” I manage to get out. “I meant that you weren’t alone?”

“Oh!” And he grins. The word doesn’t do anything justice. The grin is huge and welcoming and I’d swear blind that my knees ache less just because the grin is so open and honest, but I can’t forget the look before it and the terrifying certainty he was closer to killing me than even he knew. The kid is eleven: that doesn’t factor into it at all.

“My name’s Rob,” I say. “Sorry. I just – this is a bad time of year for me.”

Jay nods. “Lots of people say that, even if it’s Christmas but people say that about every holiday and sometimes I wonder why humans have them unless they’re weapons to wound other people with?”

“Sometimes they are,” I say, managing to not make it a question. I thought something was loose inside the kid’s head, but now I’m wondering if it’s my head or if he’s real at all. I let out a breath. “I’m not a Santa, no. My beard isn’t white yet.”

Jay nods. “I don’t even have a beard, so I can’t be one at all! And I’m not allowed to be an elf.”

“Uh. Why not?” I ask because I can’t help but wonder what his answer will be.

“Because the kind of gifts I make aren’t nice like the ones elves make, even elves that aren’t nice at all.” He pouts. “And I try really hard at making them because I’m jaysome you know.” He brightens a moment later. “I bet I could help make your beard white for you! Charlie says I give her lots of grey hairs, so giving white ones shouldn’t be hard at all.”

“That’s not –.” I stare down at him. I’m certain he can see me, but I can’t shake the feeling he’s not seeing what other people see. “I’m fat, Jay. I’m so fat that I once tried to audition to be an extra in a movie – the fat background guy in a scene – and was told I’d need to lose weight to get the part.”

It’s a joke but also a true thing that happened. Jay doesn’t laugh. The kid just scratches his head. “I’ve lost lots of things, but not important ones and I bet you’d want to be a Santa, right?”

No one has ever put it like that, and there is something behind the words. “I would,” I whisper, which I’ve never told to anyone before. Not even to myself.

“Perfect! I have some friends you can be a Santa for,” he says, and grabs my right hand.


There are stories you don’t tell anyone about, because you don’t believe they happened even if you were there. I don’t have many of those, but seconds later I know this is going to surpass all of them as a Bigfoot stares down at me. It is at least eight feet fall and smells even worse than it looks. There is a fire in a fire pit, a circle of – some of them look like people. Others don’t look like anything I know of at all. Some hurt my head just to see, as if my brain simply can’t process whatever is in front of me. One of them claims to be named Ms. Apple and is an old lady only she’d not that at all.

“Jay.” The voice beside me is human, and resigned. I turn and look at someone so ordinary it calms me, his eyes full of wry understanding.

“Honcho! I found a Santa,” Jay says proudly.

I notice every thing else has moved to give the boy space; I’m certain he hasn’t noticed that at all.

“Of course you did.” The man called Honcho looks me over without a hint of judgement, and does – I think he gestures, or whistles. Calls. I know that much. He calls something, and I am wearing a perfectly fitting and comfortable Santa Claus costume a moment later.

“Honcho! He doesn’t have a sack of presents,” Jay says. “I bet I could get lots of them and –.”

“Meeting Santa is a gift, Jay. Being one also gift enough,” Honcho says. “You don’t need to give gifts when you are one: people forget that too often.”

“Oooooh,” Jay says. “I’m a gift all the time then!”

A woman beside me snorts. She looks human, though I don’t think that means anything here.

“Charlie. You don’t have to be mean,” Jay says.

“I snorted.”

“You did it in a very meany way though!”

I start laughing I can’t help it. The kid is somehow impossible and grounding all at once, and the man called Honcho is – I think he’s keeping me whole, sane, here, though I’m not sure why I feel this.

There is no grotto, but Santa is the grotto. I understand that and some of the things here were once human, or where human forms, or were never human at all. But they’re in a country where you almost can’t escape holidays. There is a yearning in them, and there is one in me as well.

I sit, and my voice sounds deeper than normal when I ask who wants to talk to Santa.

Some do. Some do not. I don’t remember most of it, which is for the best. Some of them don’t have voices. But at the end of it all I feel content and Jay offers up a huge that impossibly goes all around me and hugs me tightly. I think tentacles are involved, try not to think about that and am back home moments later.

My beard is white. I think it’s going to stay that way. It’s only the next morning when I realize my knees and back don’t ache at all that I realize I was given a gift as well. I just hope it’s not the kind that is secretly a burden. Not that I think Jay would do that, but I am not sure he’d understand it at all. I put clothing on, head outside. It’s snowing, and some kids ask if I’m Santa. Even the older ones don’t have as much bite to the question as they did before.

Maybe it’s the beard. Maybe it’s last night. I just smile and tell them that they should try being Santa as well, and that seems to leave them content. And I am content as well, which is gift enough for an evening I am already halfway to forgetting.  

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Cell Phone

You texted me that it was over. Not even words, just emojii you expected me to figure out before you blocked me. I’d kissed you goodbye at seven, you said I’d see you at five. We’d exchanged our usual grin after. You didn’t return any of my texts when I was on breaks, but I figured you’d forgot to turn your phone on, didn’t think anything of it until I came home to the apartment half-empty, the text on my phone. Your keys on the table.

No note, no explanation. I went for a walk, in the direction we always did. The habits of ten years don’t die overnight. I walked faster than normal, texted you to no reply six times. And did the only thing I could think do, the only thing that was real: I threw my cell phone into the ocean in one overhand throw of over five hundred dollars left on the plan. You never liked that I could think of things like that, but you’d never had to. There was a wall between us. I collected coupons. You barely knew what they were. I didn’t think it was insurmountable. I never thought anything between us was. The world is made of walls, but we are ladders: with our words, our poetry, our art and hopes. Every dream a rope ladder to the moon. If we both want it to reach. If we can trust that the other will carry us, and I would have sworn we did.

You’ll never read this. It isn’t for you. I don’t even know if it’s for me. I walked home, packed things up. The boy who arrived was from a few doors down, I think. I’m not sure. He was eleven and helped. He didn’t ask a question, didn’t offer a single word. Just helped me pack everything and after handed me my cell phone. I mean, everything was on it, as if it was mine but that wasn’t possible. Maybe I hadn’t thrown it, maybe I had.

“I made sure you’re unblocked,” the boy said, and his eyes understood everything. The understanding took my breath away. He hugged me and left, and I don’t know if he was real. Some days I think he wasn’t. On really bad days I pretend you weren’t, but I can’t do it for long. We were friends for five years, lovers together in that apartment for ten. We meant too much to each other to ever be friends again and that’s hard to say, harder to understand sometimes. But being friends isn’t the same, doesn’t have the same depth, the same richness. I couldn’t go back, couldn’t pretend that never happened.

I’m certain beyond telling that if I sent you a text now, you wouldn’t be able to block it. But I don’t. I hope I’m strong enough that I never will.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Government Agencies in the Magician Series

The Black Chamber: Probably the most well known and infamous. The Chamber has no problem with the existence of monsters – many native to this world it reality – and recognize them as part of the ecosystem. But even so they take steps to limit their populations via the execution of breeding pairs. They are very good at hunting and exterminating monsters as well as hiding their existence be from the world at large.

CASPER (Centre for Secure Poltergeist Elimination Research): A branch of the Department of Education, CASPER exists to convince the public that ghosts don’t exist. And do this by means of exorcisms on ghosts as well as disinformation campaigns.

The Montauk Project: Time travel experiments gone wrong. It was founded(?) in the 1940’s and source of the Manhattan Project, though most stories about it don’t begin until the 1980s.
At least 70% of the time it does not exist.

The Border Patrol: There are more attempted incursions into the universe from Outside than most know. Not everyone is met by one with the power to meet such things. For the rest, there is the border patrol. They are THE elite if secret agencies and generally the only one magicians respect. Every other agency is technically at their beck and call. If you need anything done efficiently and violetly, they are the only number you need to call.
Their attrition rate of members is a thing of legend.

The Metric Board/Commission: A little-known agency who police various magical talents in Canada and the United States. It’s rumoured that they kill more humans than any other agency and other agencies consider them a newcomer to the field and a poorly-run one at that. They are rare in operating jointly in two countries at once.

Sister Eye: A satellite system and providers of data to whomever requires it. They have access to alien tech, satellites only they know about and can actually detect some fae glamours, which is pretty much their claim to fame. A very minor player, but a useful one.

Homeworld Security: An umbrella UN group with global leverage, they oversee all other secret agencies and, as the name implies, are charged with keeping Earth secure. This is largely done by allocating resources to other agencies as needed.

MK Ultra: One of several names (Illuminati etc.) given to an organization that tried to hide weird shit from humanity via telepathic tricks, etc. The rise of the internet pretty much put an end to it and the organization was mostly folded into other ones.


Other Groups

The Deep School: A school that exists to teach creatures from Outside the universe about it and how to fit in/disguise themselves. Who founded it and what its overall motives for are unknown but they do supply ‘experts’ to agencies if needed and do aid in destroying Outsiders who break their rules.

The Bank: Created by the global banking industry, The Bank pays magicians handsomely each month so that magicians never feel the need to enter banks, use their magical powers and rob them blind. How many organizations pay into The Bank is unknown but they do have strange soulless ‘agents’ who can deal with magicians if one tries to cross them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Last Spell

Jay

“Jay.” Charlie stares at the wall of the bathroom, then at me. “Hissing at a wall is –” she pauses “– probably not an adventure. What are you doing?”

“I was told that walls in bathrooms open and lead to pits with fridges that freeze people!”

“Fridges?” Honcho asks.

“Because sometimes if you hiss at walls it opens a chamber of secrets that leads to a monster that freezes people,” I explainify.

“The only chamber of secrets I believe this bathroom contains is the toilet,” Honcho says.

“I have this,” Charlie says and Honcho leaves.

“But I was told to have a friend or two –.”

“And I am one. Look, Jay: it’s from a fictional book. Some kids get into a trap and run into a basilisk.”

I scratch my head. “But those aren’t fictional, Charlie!”

“I know basilisks exist Jay, but –.”

“No, no. I did research like a jayboss does cuz I remembered the story and it’s at Hogwarts which isn’t real but! then it got all confusling.”

“What got confusing?” Charlie asks carefully.

“I don’t think Harry expected to be met by a Jay and he tried to use magic on me that was really meany!”

“Ah. One moment.” Charlie walks back out really fast as if I did an oops only I haven’t and Honcho comes back in.

“I do know what Harry Potter is,” Honcho is saying. “I saw one of the movies once when comforting a kid whose babysitter turned into something Else. I dealt with the Else, but didn’t want to leave the child alone. It could be a fae creation done just to screw with humans.”

“I’d notice that,” I say all firmly. “And it wasn’t but it maybe wasn’t real? Also, Harry was only wearing green clothes you know!”

“Oh,” Honcho says, and it’s a magicians ‘Oh’ that’s all about knowing stuff!

Charlie slumps against the wall. “Do I even want to know,” she grumbles when the wall opens up and she falls way down into the dark.

Honcho looks at me. “Did you make that trapdoor, Jay?”

“I’m not stupid,” I say all indignant like a Jay. “Charlie would be really cross if I let her fall down a trap!”

His lips twitch. “A good point. Follow me,” and he slips down the side without making any wards at all which is really weirdy but I follow because we’re going to have an adventure!


Charlie

I hit the ground, rolling as I do. Nothing broken, a few things bruised. I’m almost certain Jay didn’t make a trapdoor, but I am certain he and the wandering magician will find me. The air is cold like I’m inside a fridge and it’s dark, but the god inside me is a thing of closets and dark spaces so I can see just fine. That the cold is reaching us at all is a surprise. I hear dripping water, and then the sounds of a clock.

I walk toward it, gently flexing my power. There are no gods here to be eaten, but there is something. Not a god, but a made thing. I don’t press it yet. The large room leads to a narrow cavern and a creature. It is long, grey-green and the clock down stops as it turns toward me. Time begins to slow, crawling, the source of the freezing evident now. I draw on the god inside me, reach out and eat the energy and keep walking.

“A basilisk has a lot of legs. You have none,” I say. I’m not Jay or the magician: I can’t just strike up conversations with most anything, but this entity is close enough to a god to understand me. Which I didn’t know I could do until now.

“I am repurposed. Remade,” it says, voice a roll of an aristocratic English accent. “Floreat Etona, you understand.”

“Not even remotely. I know of one story with a gator and a clock in it.”

“And an eaten pirate. We are one. It is very bad form,” the creature says.

I blink. Green. Oh. I almost ask a question I’m not sure I should when I hear Jay behind me.

“Hi!” He bounds over. “We’re friends, right?” he says, offering a huge grin to the creature.

“No.” It tries to use its power on Jay. I’m not sure he even notices. Jay is from far Outside the universe for all that he is 11 and the creature has no hope of binding him at all. That it resisted Jay trying to be its friend is scarier than anything else so far.

“A creature that can’t know friendship can resist jaysome,” the wandering magician says as he wanders up behind me.

The gator-thing growls.

“Hush.” The magician doesn’t thread power into his voice, just looks at it. “I am not part of your story, not this one nor the others. Sleep,” he says, and with a shudder the creature falls asleep.

“Honcho?” Jay looks baffled. “I couldn’t do a friendship binding at all!”

“I know. The sleeping should hold. We’re under a hill, and there is often a king who sleeps under a hill,” he says.

“This is a king?” I say.

“Sometimes.”

“What is going on here?”

He blinks. “What do you think happens if a child becomes a magician?”

“I have no idea.”

“They burn the magic out. It’s too much – the knowing, the weight. the awareness. It gets thrown out of the world, or at least into the cracks between real things. Sometimes it manifests itself as stories.”


Magician

“But that can’t last,” Charlie says when she finds her voice. “Magic isn’t a thing that lasts.”

“I know.” I whisper a request to Jay down the bindings between us and Jay grins and vanishes a moment later. “Which is why it gets dangerous. You can come out now,” I say. This is a place of magic: anything I worked here would turn out badly, if I was lucky.

“No magicians come here. Never. None,” the voice says and a boy flies down from the shadows above us. He is young, if you don’t look at his eyes, and dressed in green and carrying a piece of wood like a talisman.

“Some have,” I say, listening to the magic around me. “Children. Lost boys and frightened girls, scared of the magic inside them. Each one seeking Neverland, knowing magic means it must be real. And they come here and you drain them all because that is their deepest wish.”

“I do no wrong. None,” he says as he lands on the ground.

“I’ve never gone looking for you because I was told you’d been destroyed. But you weren’t. You tried to move on, to become Harry but you’ve spent too long being Peter. You can’t escape, no matter how hard you try. Tick-tock.”

The boy lets out a scream and waves his wand toward Charlie and me.

I pull a wand out of thin air. It has colours I don’t know and vibrates with a friendly humming.

“Oh, dear gods,” Charlie says.

I smile. “Obviate.”

The creature ceases to exist a moment later.

“Obviate?” Charlie says as I shake the wand and it turns back into Jay.

“I thought using Latin might give it power enough to remain.”

“Being a wand was a lot of fun,” Jay says happily.

I set that worry aside to deal with later. The magic – the hunger – of this place begins to fold it on itself without the parasite to pretend something symbiotic that was holding it together.

I listen to the magic. Not hurrying, even though a children’s story that turns on itself leaves no way out. There is always a way out, a way stories won’t take if they can avoid it. Words come, and I raise my voice and speak: “I call upon the winds to scream, the sky to crack, the earth to quake. I summon powers from beyond and give myself up for my friends' sake.”

The death of the place shudders at those worse, pauses, and I use the pause to force a door back into the real world, yanking Charlie and Jay after me before Jay can try and stay and make himself another friend this morning.

“What – what was that?” Charlie demands.

“Watership Down, or at least that’s what the words told me. Death is a stranger to the really young stories. It gave us a way out.”

“So it’s gone?” she asks.

“For now. I’ll need to tell other magicians about it. We’ll need to find a way to stop it from forming again.”

“Obviate.” Charlie shakes her head. “Sometimes you are so lucky that you scare me, magician.”

I nod and look at Jay. “No more bathroom adventures for a while. Or train ones.”

“It’s okay. Bathrooms are really weirdy and... ooh! Someone needs a wand,” he says, and vanishes a moment later.

I close my eyes. I manage not to swear.

“And sometimes,” Charlie says slowly, “not so lucky at all.”

“You know Harry Potter: can I summon him back using something from that?”

“While he’s having an adventure?” She snorts. “Good luck.”

I sigh and head out of the bathroom, listening for a too-familiar sound of sirens to lead us to Jay.