Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Airport Adventure

“This was a bad idea,” Charlie mutters. She glances askance at me. “Do you even have a passport?”

“I am the wandering magician.” I shrug.

“Trust me: this is the TSA. That’s not an answer.”

“I have one,” Jay says and pulls his out of thin air. “Oh! And the birth certificate the fae gave me and did you know the one plane outside to our right is secretly a dragon?!”

“No,” Charlie says patiently. She eyes me and mouths, ‘Is it?’

I just smile my second-best magician’s smile and she responds with a middle finger.

Charlie pulls out the tickets, hands them over at the counter. A magician, a god-eater and an eleven year old boy from Outside the universe get on a plane ... Jay wanted to fly, so we’re trying this. If it works. I pull out a passport, because the universe favours magicians and hand it over.

The man at the counter glances at them, at the three of us. “Purpose of visit?”

“We’re having an adventure,” Jay boasts.

The man looks caught off guard, returning Jay’s smile. “I see. No luggage?”

“Nope! Charlie says I can’t count as luggage and be stored in baggage even if that would be an adventure too,” Jay says happily.

Charlie tries not to blush and I fight back a grin as we head in the line for security.

“Honcho?” Jay says. “They’re doing a lot of bindings you know!”

“This is airport security. They tend toward being thorough.”

Charlie goes first, and they pat her down, pause. One of the TSA employees frowns, looking puzzled, but Charlie has a passport and ID the fae made. It gets her through.

Jay runs up, bounces onto the spot he’s asked to stop at, hands over his phone and says they can’t really search him because he’s ‘hugey like a Jay!’ Which is true, but innocent is armour and they laugh see nothing more to what he says. Jay is so good at hiding he’s from outside the universe that he’s let through without even a pat-down and runs over to tell Charlie he was entirely jaysome at this.

One of the TSA employees twitches at that word. I step forward, holding his gaze. There are wards about this place, as there are about all airports. Linking them into a certain space, a certain focus. Using magic here would be unwise, but that’s only part of being a magician. I walk forward, holding the gaze of the other agents.

Charlie clasps a hand over Jay’s mouth and pulls him away as a few other TSA officers converge. No one draws a weapon, but I’m not hiding what I am. Nor the authority that comes with being the wandering magician of an era.

The TSA officer who twitched steps forward. “Use of the word ‘jaysome’ means an in-depth examination and at the least missing a flight,” he says very quietly.

“I imagine so. But do you want to be the one who stops Jay from having an adventure?”

He’s never met Jay, but he’s heard stories. When you’re eleven and can do bindings on levels even magicians barely know exist, a lot of stories spring up. Most of them good, because Jay seeks nothing more than adventures and making friends.

The ones about me are generally something else entirely.

“You’re the wandering magician,” the officer says slowly.

I nod.

“You saved my brother. Niagara Falls, 2011. He still has scars from the waterfall trying to eat him.”

“Wrong place and wrong time. It happens. This isn’t that: Jay wanted to fly on a plane. You have my word that nothing will go wrong.” And it is one of my talents to speak truths that can’t be ignored.

The other officers step back, and I walk through the magician. It doesn’t go off even though my phone is still in my pocket. One TSA agent is staring at my metal belt buckle, but won’t meet my gaze as I’m waved on through. Charlie lets out a breath of relief.

We head toward a plane that isn’t a dragon in disguise and I just hope I can keep Jay from having too many adventures on the flight. Jay dashes on ahead to find food at a restaurant and Charlie looks over at me. The god inside her eyes is quiet, her own power held in check.

“Twenty says Jay has at least five adventures.”

“That’s not even a bet,” I say as we snag Jay before he can order three meals for himself and draw even more attention.

*

We’re allowed to board the plane first, and Charlie tries not to have hysterical laughter at that. Jay is, of course, quite proud of that and begins talking to the airplane once we’re on board. It is rather shocked anyone can speak airplane and wisely does not take Jay up on his offer to give it dinosaur wings.


I hand Charlie forty dollars before she can say a single word.  

On Jaysome Bees

The hive buzzes and buzzles and the bees swarm and dance with bindings. I’m texting Charlie and friends on tumblr and also helping the bees because stinging and dying isn’t fair at all. Only bees are pretty complexicated so I’m figuring out the shape of them and their wishes but it gets weirdy because there’s lots of human bindings that are not about bees and I’m trying to start again when the beekeeper walks up only they aren’t in an outfit at all!

“What are you doing?”

“I’m helping bees make a hive and you’re not wearing a beekeeping outfit you know!”

The beekeeper pauses. “A beekeeping outfit includes a mask so bees do not sting you. It is not, in general, deciding to wear yellow clothing with black stripes.”

“Oh! You’re just wearing a suit though, but I guess the fae like suits?”

The beekeeper stops entirely. “You are Jay, then?”

“Yup!”

“It is rather disconcerting that you see through glamours so easily.”

“Okay. I’ll try to be more concerting next time!”

The beekeeper stares at me in a really Charlie way for a moment. “Ah. Of course. You are, however, not needed here. I am helping the bees.”

“But they die after they sting people and! you’re not helping fix that?!”

The beekeeper takes a few steps back. “No. I invented the stories that bees were dying off in order to get humans more interested in them. It has been an interesting experiment.”

“Huh?”

“More bees die being transported places than from other causes; you won’t see activists protesting at those sites even if they should be. It will not get the coverage they desire, even if in my experience it is the activism that is not seen that matters the most. If your goal is to be seen, then that is the focus rather than actual help.”

“Uhm. I’m not sure I understand why you’d do that?”

“To test bindings.” The fae smiles. “Why else is anything done? Bindings are the shape of things, attempting bindings the wishes that bind the world together. You know this better than most do, I imagine.”

I frown and study the fae for a moment. “So you’re making fake bindings so the bees feel better about themselves?”

“In essence, yes. I am determining how important humans are to other species in terms of attention and inattention. The experiment has been jarred by a few magicians ‘helping’ bees in their cities. Most did not, presumably aware of the truth of the matter. You are another wrinkle in this.”

“So you’re hurting everyone for no reason?”

The fae sighs. “You do not understand –.”

“Maybe not, but I bet Honcho does.” And I do a wishing, which is asking Honcho to be here and he steps out of the air.

The fae looks more scared of Honcho than of me, which is right cuz Honcho is Honcho!

“Wandering magician. This is not –.”

“Jay. Bind the fae.” I do so and Honcho walks about them, and to the bees, and back over. “Bee colonies collapse all the time, in cycles no one understands. Unless there is a fae who is those cycles. You don’t like forever,” Honcho says softly, “but near enough, long enough for a hobby to get – dangerously close to obsession in ways that aren’t good at all. It might be better if you weren’t like that.”

And Honcho smiles. “I think the shape of you should be this,” and the fae is entirely different between moments and very, very shocked.

“What is – what did you –” the fae gets out.

“I taught you a lesson. I don’t expect it to stick,” he says, and gestures for me to follow and we walk away.

Some of the bees sting the fae, and the fae seems shocked it hurts and runs away!

“Honcho?” I ask.

“The fae is learning a lesson, Jay. Like Charlie sometimes wants you to.”

“Wow! That’s a really important lesson, then!”


“Yes. Yes, it is,” Honcho says, and makes a door back to the hotel room and we have lunch and then a new adventure!  

Tabop

“Hi! I sensed some broken bindings and –.”

He muffles a scream, a boy not older than a Jay, spins toward me. “Who – what – you can’t be here – is this a trick?” falls out, whisper-quiet in the bedroom. His eyes are wide with terrors.

“Jaysome isn’t a trick and I am pretty good at it!”

“But – my parents – if anyone is over –. I don’t know what you are, but you can’t be here,” and the words are almost magician-like, pleading like a command.

“Huh?”

“I don’t know how you got into my room, but they’ll –.” He stills, fear falling inward. “You have to go.”

A door opens, and it was locked from the other side. A man looms, shadows gathered about him. “Tyler? What is – what in the fuck is this?” and he is only human, but his voice –.

The boy stumbles. He is pale, and brave in terror. “It’s not what it looks like, dad, it’s not –.”

“You are not allowed guests. What if they find out? What if they learn?” is demanded.

Tyler is shaking, and bindings are breaking because of the ones forming.

“You are ten. That is far too old to wet your bed,” the father says, and –.

“Oopses happen you know,” I say, firm as a Jay.

He turns, and his hand is open and solid.

I’m quick like a Jay and tough like a Jay but there are bindings he can do in this room. To hit, to harm. I hit the wall, bounce, stand. He moves in for another blow.

Tyler is in front of me. “I don’t know who this is, or how they got in. I don’t, dad!”

I grab the next blow in bindings before it reaches Tyler, pushing the man back. There is a woman behind him, and Tyler lets out a small wounded sound.

“You’re hurting him, and that’s not jaysome at all!”

They move in. Certain. Sure of their power and control.

I reach into bindings. Touch Tyler’s. I’m not Charlie, to pull out energy. Not Honcho, to see deep into things. But bindings have history, and he’s scared and always scared and hurting and hurt all because he wets a bed. And other things, but I don’t understand them at all cuz there’s nothing jaysome about what they do to their son.

There are other children in the house. Hiding too. Scared.

“Honcho would do terrible things to you,” I say. “And Charlie might do worse. I’m not them. I don’t do human things.”

And I smile, and it’s not a smile a Jay does because there’s too many teeth and they’re sharp and some aren’t teeth at all. There is being a jaysaurus. And then there is being a jaysaurus. And then, too, there is being Jayseltosche. Which is even bigger in all the bad ways of the word.

I reach inside. No binding. Nothing like that, me to me. Hi? Time to wake up, I say. Need you.

And I smile again and it’s not a smile at all and there are bindings breaking and I remake them and twist them into new shapes and I’m breaking the rules Honcho told me about not doing bindings on people but I’m not Jay right now and I don’t care. They twist, and again, and I let go of the smile, and settle back down into Jay.

Even my fingernails hurt a bit.

Tyler is staring at me. Even Honcho has never seen me like that. He’s not afraid. He’s crying, but not afraid, and he knows what I did because I let him sense the bindings.

“Thank you,” he whispers.

The parents have left. To another room, shaken. Broken of their power, for now and ever.

“That was a really bad bindings,” I whisper, and: “There’s others like that, but I don’t know if I can –.” And I don’t because it hurt.

“I’ll be jaysome,” he says and means it and I’m crying and we’re crying and it’s okay.

It shouldn’t be, but it’s okay because he’s tough like a Tyler and a human and his jaysome is a really good one too!

I find Honcho outside. He just looks at me. Hugs me, gently. Offers ice cream, and I know he’s doing lots of helping and fixings too so I eat a lot and Honcho looks at me after.

“That was pretty brave of you, Jay.”

“Nope. I was doing what is right and that’s doing what is right, and –.”

“Jay.”

And he is Honcho and I just nod and follow him outside. I have another good cry at the hotel, and it is a good one and he just holds me and presses a finger to my lips when I try and talk.

“There are hard lessons you’ll have to learn, and one of them – this one – is that there are things that can’t be solved by being jaysome. And no, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But –.”

“You didn’t,” he repeats, and I’m crying again and held again and I don’t understand Tyler’s parents even if I saw every binding they had and Honcho says it’s okay not to, sometimes, that sometimes one can know so much that they can’t be wise and it’s dangerous to learn what you can’t unknown.


And he says lots else I think, but I fall asleep and almost dream.   

Of Broken Mirrors

The bathroom on the fourth floor no longer works, the entire fourth floor of the school having been closed for budget reasons. That doesn’t mean no one has keys, and for two months I’ve had them. Which is one reason why I’m leading the new transfer to the bathroom even if he’s only been here one day. He’s in grade 10; if he was older, I’d wonder if he was a narc. I think it’s because he’s ordinary. He looks so ordinary that it seems odd, especially in high school.

That, and he asked about the stories of the bathroom and if I could show it to him. It’s only been two months, but the stories have spread like wildfires spread. I said yes without thinking. It didn’t even occur for me to ask who he’d spoken with, or find out if one of his parents were on the school board or something like that. Normally I’m more careful. I know I should be, but he asked and we’re at the doorway before I’ve really begun to process it.

“The trick is to turn on the lights, look into the mirror and say ‘Jay’ three times. Like Beetlejuice, and the creature appears and grants wishes,” I say, the spiel easy from my tongue. No one talks about Jeff. Most of the time I don’t even think about what he saw, but the new kid’s eyes are weird. Older than they should be, like he’s seen some shit.

“Perhaps you should say the words.”

“I already have.”

“Ah. When?”

“Two months ago. I was the first who did,” I say without even thinking. “I heard the whisper, spoke the words and met Jay. He helped me. He helps people.” Not Jeff, but I manage not to say that out loud. Maybe some people just can’t be helped.

The bathroom smells bad. Two months since anyone cleaned it properly, but that’s part of the thrill, of feeling like you’re in a horror game. The new kid looks at the door, then at me. “Then you’d best follow.”

And those words. He speaks them like them an adult does, with this – this weight and I find myself following without thinking. He opens the door even though I haven’t unlocked it yet, flicks the lights on.

Some of Jeff’s blood was never cleaned up. He ignores that, staring at the cracked mirror above the sink for a moment before he turns to me. “I’m going to need you to call him, Donna.”

He seems taller, now. His gaze holds mine, not letting me go.

“You’re not a student, are you?” He says nothing to that, but his voice is like Jay’s. There is power to it. A force more than him, demanding I act. “Jay. Jay. Jay,” I say, louder each time, more defiant with each breath.

The cracked mirror spills out a thick blue fog that swirls and then shivers in the air. “Donna. I need others,” Jay’s voice whispers, only this time it is sharper. Uglier.

The student coughs, only he’s taller than I am now. In his mid-twenties, but still ordinary and unremarkable.

Jay screams, the sound ugly and nasty and hungry and moves. The fog has teeth now. Claws. Something too much and not enough like eyes.

It quivers in the air as the man holds up a hand. “Your first problem was Donna, I think. She wanted to know secrets: it let her pierce the glamour I’d asked a fae for, but it also meant she’d know what you were in time. The second was using Jay’s name. Clever, but eventually Jay would find out. I’m not sure I want to think too hard about what Jay wold do once he found out you might hurt the name Jay, or the status of jaysome. Which means I came instead when the rumour reached my ears. Superstition is powerful, but one doesn’t toy with magics that old without a very good reason.”

The thing I thought was a spirit writhes and screams, held in the air.

“You stole energy, will, power. And one of them saw you too closely, so you broke them.”

“Jeff.” My voice isn’t steady at all.

“I have power, magician,” the thing hisses in a voice like breaking glass.

“Yes, but it is all stolen. Mine is not.” And this man – this magician – squeezes one hand, and the creature is gone. The world ripples weirdly, and its gone. He presses one hand ot the air before turning to me. “My apologies for the deception. I doubted it would have manifested had it known the wandering magician was here.”

“What – what was – is. Oh, God, Jeff –.”

Donna.” My name contains echoes I have never heard, and I fall silent in a strange wonder at the future it promises in possibilities. “The entity used you: that’s what creatures like that do. It helped you, and you thought it was helping others. I’ll have Jay – the real one, that is – help this Jeff, and see about helping others it might have hurt.”

“What do I do?” I whisper.

He smiles, and the smile is surprisingly gentle given what his voice can do. “Make sure this room isn’t used. Guard it, and pass the guarding onto others. Other entities could use this place, could build on the superstition to try and find a way into the world. Your task is to stop that from happening.”

I nod. I have something to do. Something to fix. “What if I need help?”

And he tells me a cell phone number, and pulls me back into the world I know. “Call that number; someone will answer. Let them know you want to speak to the wandering magician.”

I nod. He turns, he walks outside. I check my phone, and find the number is already in my contacts. Under Jay.


I have no idea what this Jay really is. I hope I never need to find out.  

Following Jay’s Footsteps

There are journeys that are impossible. This is why we take them.

I walk through a door that doesn’t exist, feeling it close behind me. The ground is soft under bare feet, though I came here wearing shoes. My phone isn’t in my pocket at all, and my wallet is missing all its change. It’s summer. Green trees, a bright sun, but the sky is a thousand shades of blue and the forest about me moves away, or is gone. There is warm stone under my feet, though it feels cold as well. About me is a caldera of white stone, looking as though it is made from marble.

I am the wandering magician, but there is nothing here of wandering. Nothing my magic can made a ward from. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. “Hello.”

What are you?

The voice is cold, despite the heat of summer. A voice of judgement without mercy and honour devoid of kindness. A fae voice, though deeper and less wild than any fae I’ve known before. “The wandering magician of this era. The one who was prisoned under the first tree. I walk with Jayseltosche, and Charlie. You are the Summer Court. A place of judgement for the fae, to the fae A glamour so deep and potent almost no fae likely believe you exist.”

You should not know this.

“I don’t know the fae well, for all that I am. I know of the fortresses the fae stand guard at to protect the universe, and the works they do in some worlds. I always wondered why we had myths of seelie and unseelie courts when nothing of the fae linked into that. I imagine judgement is made just because they don’t have a notion of being judged to twist their actions and motives.”

You presume much, mortal. Were this the Winter Court, you would be dead already.

I snort. “I have no idea how often fae get judged, or on what, or to what end: but I doubt you’re that stupid.”

Stupid.

The word is strange. Not flat, not cold. Not even bemused. I doubt anyone has spoken to the Court like this in a long time, if ever.

“To judge the fae and be hidden from them requires a great deal of power. I won’t deny you have that, but the fae tend to be powerful only in dangerous ways. Those with depth enough to perceive Jay and survive – all too many of you only consider his capacity for destruction. He could unmake the universe, yes, but that’s not a singular power, not even a unique one that other powers aren’t capable of as well. And yet powers like yourself fixate on that: you look at what he can unmake, the things he can unbind and sever: but that’s nothing next to jaysome.

“Inside the universe or Outside, these are truths we all know. One of them is that there are no happy ending. Some argue there are no endings to try and hide from that. But you know better. So do I. Jay does not. He could make happy endings that nothing can stand against. That is the core of everyone I do: to make sure he understands endings and accepts them.

“I have some power as a magician. You have some as the Summer Court. How often is your will denied in you place of power?”

Never.

I don’t point out Jay’s arrival and departure were that. “Imagine that you are Jay. Imagine that your place of power was everywhere.” The court goes still and silent. “Everything I am teaching Jay is about how to let things go. I don’t pretend to be good at it. I don’t even pretend it’s going to work. But there will come a time when he has to learn that lesson. You don’t want to make that time be right now.”

You journeyed this far from the realms you know to threaten me?

“No. I’m stating a fact. A fact isn’t a threat unless you make it so. That, and I wanted to see what Jay had met and be certain he wasn’t confused. Or had created you.”

The silence that follows that statement contains my death as a promise barely held in check.

“Jay finds adventures. They also find him. It’s part of being eleven and from far Outside the universe. Also of jaysome. I’m pretty sure you existed before Jay visited you, but I felt it best to make sure.”

You will leave.

I don’t press my luck. I reach for Jay, since we’re linked together, and he makes a door that I step through. He asks if I had a good adventure and then begins telling me all about new friends he made on tumblr. I listen, head to the small bar fridge the hotel suite has, pour myself a drink. I have no idea what to make of this, so I wait, then once Jay runs down I tell him I lost my phone and he can go buy me a new phone.

He grins hugely at that and vanishes to have another adventure.


I wonder if the Winter Court will try and find me, and if Spring and Autumn have courts as well. I pour myself another drink. And I wait.  

The Wind Talker

I make friends when walking down a street, because a Jay is pretty good at that and I talk with lots of things. And some of them are pretty surprised a Jay can talk to them – sometimes even that they can talk! – but my new friend isn’t at all.

“I have an uncle who is a tornado.”

“Oh?”

“Everyone talks about him. Not just other winds. The waves. Storms.” The zephyr let’s out a sigh smaller than it is. “Even the earth knows his name.”

“Oooh! So you’re all kinds of sad-face about being a gentle breeze?!”

“Yes. I’ve felt you change winds. Move storms. Make things – more. Bigger. Terrifying!” Each word a gust, and after the zephyr barely manages a whisper: “Change me. Help me.”

“Jaysome is jaysome; it doesn’t have to be like that you know!” I stop walking so it isn’t tired when following a Jay. No one else is about. “Honcho knows that change isn’t always a helping. Sometimes help is learning to be you, not wanting to be other things. It’s a happiness if no one knows your name like they know tornadoes and typhoons and lots of other things starting with t I bet!”

“But I’m so small.”

“Uh-huh. And they were too once. They grew, and you can too: but you don’t have to grow the way they did. You can be big and not be feared!”

The breeze quivers when I’m firm like a Jay, but keeps on going too!

“But you are big. You are Jay, of the bindings, and the wind that howls between the worlds knows your name.”

“Well, I am jaysome. But that’s me being me and making friends and doing loads of helpings. Being big is more this -.”

And I reach, for a moment. Down inside, but also sideways and upside-ahead as well. It’s not waking up. (it hurts.) It’s not – it –

rememory
stirring-undone
being-wholeness
input-GIGO-output
darkness-light
flight

I let go. Push it away, and back, and far to the edges of jaysome. I think I almost don’t manage it, but I’m not sure because it’s the biggest binding I’ve ever done! I’m sweating and I have a headache, which is pretty new and my head doesn’t want to stop aching.

“... that is very big,” the zephyr says in a voice so small I almost don’t hear it.

“Uh-huh! There are lots of kinds of big, and some bigs even a Jay doesn’t want to be. Being small is better since it’s hard to big like a storm and not hurt and have people scared of you!”

“Thank you,” the breeze says, and goes off to be a breeze and nothing like a storm at all!

I head back to the hotel and hope Honcho can help with my headache.


The Yarrowing

The monster did not have a cave
The monster never, ever waved:
Only claws that rend and tear
Bloodied fur, this hungry lair!

The magician wandered inside
Without even a Jay by his side!
“All this death, the grim release -
There are options more than these.”

The monster growled and bared a tooth
The magician hit it with the roof.
“I don’t fear you, thus I defang.”
“Die!,” the monster lunged, harangued.

“Look at the damage humans have done;
All you do nothing next to the ozone.
You aren’t scary when next to me
All you do is kill, and never softly.”

“I am a monster,” the monster said.
“Yes, but one day you’ll be dead.
And no one will be left to remember you -
True fear is that which outlives you.”

The monster thought that over
And with a shiver did discover
The magician spoke only truth
The world itself a bitter proof.

“Leave your cave behind you;
A new destiny will find you.”
And the monster walked outside
And met a Jay who did not hide!

“Hi, Monster friend, a new face
Lets you be monstrously acesome!”
And where the monster had been
A flower gleamed unlike a grin.

“Ah, Jay?” the magician asked,
Cuz this wasn’t a jaysome task.
“What kind of binding was this
If the monster can’t even hiss?”

“Yarrow is poisonous a little bit,
I’s kinda not a monster I admit
But I had a prompting to win
And this is now a shoo-in!”

The magician spoke no words
Wise in the ways of the absurd
The monster was left to flower
As its only source of power

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Mountain

There is a monster in the mountain. Everyone knows this who knows anything at all in the village. Sometimes the monster speaks, and the world shudders. Rarely, the monster screams and the stars themselves take new shapes. The village survives, though no one in it knows why. Sometimes kings come, and armies that fly with steel that sings, but the monster merely looks and they are unravelled and unmade.

The stranger came to the village in a year worse than others. Most crops had failed, and the stranger walked and listened to stories. He carried something within him that drew stories from others. After, he nodded and walked toward the mountain.

The locals have no records of what happened next.

*

“Jay.”

The monster emerges from the cave. He is twelve. He looks human, even now. “That is not my name.”

“Devourerer. Entropos. The Walking Emptiness. Those are the names I hear, when I ask of you.”

“My name is Jayseltosche.” the monster hisses.

“You are not worthy of it.”

The monster raises a hand, then slowly lowers it. He swears in a language extinct for many years.

“You can try again, but you have to know it won’t work. My skill in this is far more than your own. And know this as well: if we fight, the village at the base of the mountains will be gone.”

“It is under my protection,” the monster says, voice not at all empty.

“There has not been a child born to the village in five years. Every year since you arrived, their crops have lessened with each year that passed.”

“Don’t you dare talk to me like that!”

“In a tone of truth? I will if that is what I have to say. This place did not ask for your protection. Not to be some sort of point you could make to yourself.”

The monster stiffens, says nothing.

“We could fight. You can’t win, but we could fight. At the least, the local galaxy would not survive the result.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because you can’t keep hiding. You have to move, to be in order that you may become.”

“And if I do not?”

The stranger sighs. “I can force your hand, monster.”

“You are not that much older than me.”

“No, no I am not. But I was you once. And I am older, and I can be nastier than you’ve ever dreamt of being.”

The monster laughs. The sound is harsh, wild and fractured. Had any birds in the world survived his gaze to the sky, the laugh would have killed them all. There are no insects left, after the laugh. “Try me. Older me, older Jay who isn’t any more jaysome than I. Try!”

The stranger sighs. “You should know what springs forth when I try.”

The monster hurls power then. The mountain screams, unmade and remade between moments. The village rocks visibly like a drop of rain in a wild ocean. The villages cry out, huddling together as if their fur can somehow warm them against a cold that knows nothing of kindness.

The stranger does not move. His voice carries, because he is fifteen and remembers being twelve. Because he is older in so many ways than his younger self. But even so, he almost hesitates before he speaks: “He knows. He sees, he watches, and he knows.”

The monster turns a colour even ghosts cannot manage. He flinches visibly, and only terrified madness stares from his eyes. He vanishes.

“Well. At least he’s left the mountain.” The stranger sighs, begins restoring bindings to the world. “Sometimes, just sometimes, I almost wish I couldn’t move through time.”

No one responds, and the stranger seems to be alone.

*

This is probably for the best.

Wishes Unasked For

I kept your secrets to the grave. I don’t see how you could expect more from me. What are secrets, after we are dead? What import is all the worries of life when we have let go? I am dead, as you are, and yet the exorcist came with questions. And with power.

Perhaps nothing is truly dead. Perhaps nothing is wholly final even after memory is lost. Being a ghost is almost proof of this.

It is a strange thing, to be dead and yet know fear. But a god burned in her eyes almost like your gaze and enochian rolled from her tongue in practised cadences. She could have unmade me with or without it, but did nothing save present credentials, ask questions without forcing answers. A sword kept sheathed. I know enough of power to understand how rare that gift is.

She asked why I wasn’t in the Grey Lands. Spoke of them easily, her eyes stubborn with knowledge. And so I told her. About you. About us. About what bound me to this place.

The exorcist smiled after. You used to hurt me with smiles; hers hurt me not at all though I can see the scar it left in you. “The wandering magician can deal with this, if that is your wish.” She spoke the words with terrible gentleness. And showed me some of what the magician could do, which was far greater than what Charlie might do.

“No.” I don’t know if I said that for you, or for me. I still have no idea. I think there are punishments too great for any crime. I wonder if I should wish I thought otherwise.

The exorcist nodded. “Very well,” Charlie said without judgement. And then she bound you. To my will. To my wishes. I haven’t hurt you yet. I could. I can. I have power over you, thanks to what she did. I did not ask for it, but she could – she had to act. The living must and I could not deny her that.

I’d like to think some part of me wanted you to be hurt. That I was not that far lost. I do not know. I am not afraid of you now. It is strange to say that. To see that. I could destroy you, but you helped to make me who I am. I cannot hate you for that and not hate myself as well. It is a truth the living do not often understand.

I am leaving now. I have left you a way out as well from this place. If you can find it. You will need to grow a conscience first. I am not certain if you can survive that, not and be you.

I do not know what I think of this.


Good bye. I say this for the first time. I think it will be the final one as well.  

Censuring: a warning

Home is still. Not frozen, merely still. Every moment a silence, every ripple flowing back into quiet. I heard a bell ring out only once in all the times I have been here. There is a lake made out of the sky, and everything is translucent casting reflections of neverwere. It is the closest thing to a home I have, and I am never more afraid than when I am here. Outside, I am a Power. Outside, I am feared and respected. Here, I am barely Moshe. It takes everything I have to hold my beauty together. The one thing that is me, the one thing that defined me long before I was claimed by this place.

My beauty is not stripped away. I do not know if this is a kindness. Awareness shivers through me, studies. Pushes and pulls. I have no secrets, not here, and never from this place.

“You drew on my power near the anomaly.”

They aren’t words. They’re reality, each one inside my mind without a need for speech or even thought. I whimper, unable not to at the force of the concepts bearing down upon me. Anomaly means the space the inhabitants call the universe.

“The wandering magician was being foolish. I returned him to his place. He was seeking –.”

Stillness runs through me. For a moment even the Far Realm I am in, the entity I serve. For a moment it isn’t, and then I am again. Me again. Here again.

“I apologize.” The voice of the Realm is different. Subtler. Less terrible by a small degree.

“Apologize?”

“I unmade you for a moment. You are restored.”

I say nothing as loudly as I can even as my body starts shaking. The Realm waits, and waits again. Nothing so small as judgement regards me. “This is the seat of your power. The place of you. You do not make mistakes here?”

“Nothing is beyond error.”

I wrap my arms about myself. “The wandering magician is – I am concerned. About him, for him. Jaysel –.”

“Not that whole name. Not here.”

The words are flat, without anything behind them. “Jay is only a part of this,” I whisper.

“To you, perhaps. But not to others.”

“I do not understand. He has no desire to leave the universe.”

“The desire is rooted in fear. There are motives stronger than fear.”

“There are. The wandering magician will not stop his questioning. I have no answers to give him, not in this. There are things I am forbidden to know?”

“Explain me, Walker.”

“I am a Walker of the Far Realms. Of your Realm. You are – we don’t use names. The Stillness Between Falling. That is my term, because rain does not fit you. Others Realms have other names. Functions? This is something far beyond me. Each Walker is chosen, but you also have Aspects. Part of you that can – act, when you need to. Mostly you watch each other. I do not pretend to understand.”

“The anomaly has Powers within it. Time. Space. Justice. Ideas given form. Form defines function. The Far Realms are a means to an end. Others are not as safe. Not all are Realms who could become; some cannot become. It is a danger to draw their attention.”

“Like a fire calling a moth.” I feel regard turn inward.

“Yes. If the moth could consume the light.”

I stare. Jay’s progenitor could devour a –. I cut the thought off, as if the thought could make it happen. “And Jay?”

“We do not know. It is thought: the next stage in the – evolution you would deem a war between us all. Or an end game. We do not know.”

“And I have Jay pissed off at me.”

I didn’t know the Far Realm could laugh. The sound is still stillness, but somehow it ripples as well. “Yes. Your survival is useful in how others perceive my strength. There will be no punishment, but do not draw upon Me again without asking.”

The words are not a command. I have no idea what to make of this. I say I will try not to, and then am back where I was in a wild spot in Outside, negotiating the end to a conflict as only I can.

I am so distracted I almost forget to seduce my target.


I am scared to go back to the universe. I fear I will have no choice.