Sunday, September 30, 2018

Status Updates Aug. And Sept. 2018

August 2018

“Of course you’re going to get an Oscar. This is the role you were born to play, darling!”
“...The Only Conservative In The Village? That’s the real title?”
“Working title, dear. But they’ll have to give you an award. If they don’t, everyone will know why.”
“Because it’s not a good movie?”
“This is the Oscars. That is hardly a factor.”

There is no such thing as artificial food colouring. Everyone knows this, even if no one will admit it.

They called it a glitch when everyone got a notification that Facebook was in a relationship with them.

“I wasn’t scared of you.”
“I know.” The monster chuckled. “No one is anymore.”
“Are you going to drink my blood?”
“I can’t drink as much from you as the politicians have with their taxes.”
“That was a joke.” And that was when the monster stopped smiling and drank deep of human blood.
“Please,” the human begged. “Not like you. Don’t make me like you. I never want to live forever.”
“No one does any more,” the vampire said softly, and broke the neck as a kindness.

She smiled sadly. "Too often, evil is pretending what your allies do is normal solely because you are afraid of losing an identity you’ve clung to for so long."

“Blood?” The vampire sneered; she had a good sneer, one honed by long practise. “Do you even know what is in your blood? No vampire has drunk human blood in over two hundred years.”
“What do you take from us?” I whispered, half-against my will. Damnable, my curiousity.
“Unkindness. Anger. Hate. We drink it all, and wait for you to change.” She smiled, almost. “We live in the same world as you; we have no desire for you to destroy it.”

“But it’s not fair! All those ‘oh, here are excerpts from an honest vampire novel’ silliness isn’t fair!”
“That’s werewolf erasure. We’re right here!”
“Yes, but excerpts from an honest werewolf novel would just involve fleas, the pound, and being killed by hunters.”
“There is more to us than that.”
“The PETA endorsement?”
“...we don’t talk about that. Ever.”

“Of course I’m not afraid of you,” the child explained. “I’ve seen dragons on TV with dens that were huge studios and they aren’t scary at all!”

Once upon a time, a dragon discovered too late that insurance would have protected against the predations of adventurers, but spending money on insurance was antithetical to any creature with a hoard.

“But if we give up the valley to the enemy, we will lose the war,” the minister for agriculture screamed.
The general laughed. Even the king paused at that laugh. “It is a war, you old fool. All you can do is lose a war. This way, we can lose in a way that causes the least amount of deaths. Which some people might be in favour of.”
Well, well you’ll be out of work!”
“That is what every soldier desires.” And the general turned and left.

Once upon a time there was a monster who found out the easiest way to not be a monster was to buy the loyalty of humans with coin. It proved so easy that the monster almost forgot what they were really were in time as well.

“And what is a king without a crown but a shadow with nothing to cast it?”

“My liege. You do not need your crown to lead, to be moral –.”
“Perhaps not to lead, but morality?” The king chuckled. “A king has no morality, save that of the people. The kingdom is the conscience and guide both, unless one wishes to be ploughed into the fields like the kings of old as a reminder of hubris. To be a king is to be ruled far more than it is to rule.”


You said pain was the only truth you understood, and never grasped why I could not stay.

“This homicide I am investigating makes no sense, Commissioner,” the Detective said. “It has been four days and no one else has been killed, the case is not connected to a cold case,l or a recent unsolved murder haunting me, and no one has tried to kill me yet. I am starting to wonder if it was really a homicide at all.”

You said that every time God closed a door, He opened a window. I just wish it hadn’t been while we were on the plane.

'frozen stars are falling in your adjectival eyes'
Why, yes, I do write poetry.

“This is very strange? We always thought aliens would come as invaders?”
The alien chuckled. “Of course we wouldn’t. Now, where are we building the next theme park?”
History only happens when we aren’t paying attention. That’s why there is so much of it.

“Look, Dave, there is no way you’re beating Simon Warwick in a fight.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“He has a last name. You don’t. He’s going to win because that makes him more important to this story.”

“I never hated you, not even during the two years in the psych ward when no one believed what you’d done, what you were. Not even in the years before, when you killed every friend I made because there could be only you.”
“Why not?” the monster whispered in a voice like rusted bicycle chains scraping over small animals.
“You helped make me who I am; if I hate you for that, I would have to hate myself as well.”

Envy has more forms than anything else I know, even silence. I envy him the simple ‘Hey’ he gives me every morning, the way he call pull out small talk from nowhere as though it wasn’t small at all. That he found this space between popular and not, and slipped into it without any effort I’ve ever seen. He can hide better than anyone I know, because he’s never hiding at all. His face hides nothing, even if he thinks otherwise. And I envy him that too.

“Why? The poison in my…” He coughed. “I’m dying. Why?”
“Because you are a monster. The dead are as much a part of the world as the living. To be an exorcist is to execute the dead for crimes they have not committed. You hold the dead to the standards of the living, and there is nothing more monstrous than your arrogance.”

Sept 2018

I wonder how much of current US/Canada relations might be caused by Trump thinking poutine is Putin?

“I understand that only fools seek vengeance. But sometimes, just sometimes, I can be quite foolish indeed.”

“Wait. You can bring the dead back to life. And you… you’re… what are you doing?”
“What else is resurrection for, if not to ensure you get the best information from a suspect?”

Huxley’s father chuckles softly. “Knowing who you are is important, Bodhi. But in my experience it’s not knowing yourself that is important as much as learning to love what you find.”

Once upon a time, there was an evil wizard who wished for peace on earth and was left alone in a world where nothing else existed at all.

“Oh, this? It’s my dinner. I just tell people I’m on a diet and no one asks any questions about maldernourishment.”

“Oh, hell. Boss, you can’t –”
“Cannot? I have spent over six centuries sealing monsters. I believe I have some idea of what I can and cannot accomplish.”
“No, because this is a meme. You can’t contain it. No one can. The only thing we can do is try and defang it.”
“And that will work?”
“Only sometimes.”

“You can’t expect the world to dance for you just because you figured out a single tune.”

“You don’t eat people, do you?” Boy asked.
“What a peculiar place you are from to think we do,” the witch said.
“That’s not a yes or a no.”
“Ah,” the witch breathed, half a laugh. “I would be way, Boy, of questions that can be answered so easily.”
Boy raised his chin. “What about people who won’t answer them at all?”
“I am no politician,” the witch replied with gentle calm. “And bluntness is a crude instrument that never covers fear. Nor does it hide the thoughts under your thoughts.”
Boy said nothing.
“Tell me, what do you make of Reynard Fox?” the witch asked in the way of witches, which is to ask a leading question.
“Why ask questions you know the answer to?” Boy almost snapped.
“Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised,” the witch replied and Boy flushed slightly.

Amusements of a new job: a truly ridiculous amount of paper clips in a filing cabinet drawer.

“You could try being a good person. Just to see what it is like?”
“No, no I think not. Good too often tends to be addicting. Evil at least one can trust. Evil simply wishes to be left along to be evil; good always seeks to impose upon others.”
“You’re a superhero.”
“Yes,” Wonder Star admitted.
“And you don’t fly, or use fire?”
“It’s been over sixty years, okay?! Every good name is taken or in copyright!”

“I imagine there is a great deal about your world that is admirable, but very little that is real,” Bess said to the fox.
Reynard Fox only smiled. “Every world is less admirable the more real it is.”

It turned out that witches had no reflection as well, but that was solely because mirrors were scared of them.

I bet this could be
A very boring haiku
If it wanted to

The war ended by by the simply expediency never happening at all.

“The important thing, in the end, was the friendships we made along the way.”
“No. No, I think it was more the bodies we buried.”
“Well, we did that together too.”

“If it bleeds, we can kill it!”
“Sir, that – that’s not blood.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“According to my scanner, those are tears.”
“If it cries, we can kill -.”
“Tears of happiness, sir. I believe it thinks we’re playing a game.”
“We shot it with two impact rifles on full power. You could disable a civilian aircraft with that!”
“Yes, sir.”
“… perhaps we find something for it to fetch?”
“A wise decision, sir.”

“And you’re certain that isn’t a monster?”
“Well, most monsters don’t have Twitter - wait, never mind, probably a monster.”

“I know they want our money, but I really doubt the Girl Guides use the proceeds from their cookies to fund terrorism.”

“I don’t know why you’re scared; they’ve never met anyone like us before.”
“Yes, well, we’ve never met anyone like them either.”
“Oh. Good point.”

“I never meant to hurt you.”
“Would it be different if you had?”

You are the poem I should have written
Had I the words with which to write

2018: watching scared old white men lie for other scared old white men.

Status Updates June & July 2018

June 2018

They replaced poetry
With an app one day
And we only noticed
– I kid, we never did

Every photo of you has you hugging a stranger in it, only you’ve never met them before. But you keep seeing their pictures in the paper the next day, and they’re all missing.

You find all the memories you’ve lost in a scrapbook in a used-book shop. The owner only asks to keep the first 20 pages. And smiles at you.

The pride of lions joined the parade.

Once upon a time there was a ruler who refused to recycle, believing that any populace that valued recycling items would sooner rather than later apply the same philosophy to their sovereign.

We live in a world where even the politicians no longer want to be politicians, but that is only because they wish to become lobbyists.

The real estate development listed the second phase as almost done though no one was able to find half the buildings.

“You trust your books more than you do me.”
“They’ve never lied to me,” he said.
She laughed, short and sharp. “What else do you think words do? Why else chain them between bindings?”
And to that he had only a furious silence.

“This is a gift for Father’s Day,” she said, even though it was early.
Even though I am not a father.
Even though I have no children.

In the end, it was easy to let go of everything save for hate. And they wondered why ghosts exist.

The only thing important about the story was everything that never ended up on the page.

Proof that cats are better than dogs: you’ve never heard of a dog scan.

You said it was a gift, but you made certain I knew the price.

“Hatred doesn’t help.”
“Most things don’t, I’ve found.”
“I know one thing that helps me.”
“Hatred Lite?”

“Van Helsing, Van Helsing, Van Helsing. Really? Your family is still coming after me after all these centuries?” Dracula let out a sigh, a feat for one so very undead. “I have killed yes, to sustain myself, as you do. And I admit I am a monster, but I do not think I am your monster, not anymore.”
“Your lies will not avail you, prince of dark –.”
“Come now. I am centuries-old, yes, but I would have to work for a very long time to accomplish the same evils your politicians do in mere decades. I understand your desire to see the other as inhuman. It is a very real desire. But I suspect the monsters you should be hunting are abroad in daylight as well as darkness, and wear suits far better than my own.”

You said dreams could become real, but the cost to the real is always too much. No one talks about the price others pay for their dreams to come true, and sometimes I think it’s the only conversation worth having.

I said I had no secrets from you.
And I still don’t know why that made you weep.

The secret agent was so secret that she didn’t know she was an agent.

And after it all fell apart, I carried each piece despite the lessons everyone thought I should have learned.

Considering keeping this phone-made typo in:
“You’re not a bear?”
There is a pause. “Not right now?”
I gesture wirelessly to the cavern.
... wirelessly, wordlessly. Same thing, right?!

Apparently there is a surveillance car costing $5 million that can hack iphones. I suppose that's one way to get around the pervasiveness of cell phone use in modern stories...
"What do you mean, EVERY gang in the city has one?!"

“Use your power for good.”
“I have no power.”
The magician smiles. “Then you can be really good.”

“Why do aliens keep crashing on our world in spaceships that can travel light years?”
“Heh. What makes you believe any of them really crash?”

"The problem with power is that you are responsible for your power every moment of every day. What you do, what you fail to to, what you incite and support. Everything power does has consequences, and only a coward tries to pretend otherwise. You must always guard against yourself, unless you are a fool. In which case everyone else must guard against you.”
“Or you are cruel without kindness, and other powers must destroy you,” I say slowly.

And after the lion in the wardrobe savaged all the children, there were harsh words with the local zoo.

July 2018

Starting a deliberately bad fantasy novel is an interesting experience.
The silent forge the blade that only the speaking may sing to life, but every blade cuts two ways.
- from the Proverbs of Mount Asl.
A cold wind whipped through the southern stepped of Westrin, the mountains holding the winter despite the Juvery air. Farmers huddled with their dhari against the wind, careful not to touch the fur that would burn with a fierce itching. Lonely towns lay scattered across the scrub fields, kin to fingernails of some long forgotten monstrosity that did not wear the skin of civilization. From a distance the steppes seemed almost steps, as though they had been carved in another age to reach a plateau that no longer existed. The past lurked about with promises, unremembered and unknown.
Threads of music played from the taverns of the town of Molsk, the famous Molsk brewery now only a distant memory to locals if they knew of it at all. The threads formed skeins into the lonely night as though they could lighten a sky that would be gunmetal if guns existed but settled for a dull grey instead. The impression of Westrin to others from the Three Kingdoms is that many things just settle, but what is settled to one can upend the cart of another.
The third compline in the waning of Juvery bore witness to the changing of the gods, the wind promising rain and cold in the coming months of Nanomber, Mapil and Arch. The huddled farmers eyed their flocks and began considering what ones to shear, the fabled dhari fur able to insulate as only glass wool could despite the ways it irritated the eyes, the skin, and the respiratory system. The moon waned in the sky unclaimed by any god of the Westrin pantheon, pale light offering some protection against the shadows cast by the mountains.
The taverns and inns of Molsk all claimed connection the ancient brewery that had given the town its name for generations, the name remaining even though the breweries were long time. Becoming a placeholder between the present and the past, as though then world were a book one could mark and definitively draw lines between one age and another. The inn was alike as any other, shutters rattling as the shinoo wind of the southern mountains played a gentle beat that seemed almost in time with the last of the songs from the tavern below.
Above the sky, the stars spread out across the night ways. Too many to be eyes even of the gods, despite how many gods lay in Eastphalia to the east. The eye of Akashic formed from a dozen stars looked down, those born under its ascendancy often said to call the attention of the gods. In time the eye would be gone, the stars shifting into different patterns and promises. Proof that even the distant hand of fate changed with time, that even the stars could touch destiny only with a fleeing grip like the pale of the false dawn seeping through the window.

I am having too much fun writing this story...
“The nature of a god is to know knowledge as a burden rather than a blessing.”
“You expect me to do a quest I do not understand?” Protagonist asked.
The god of the hearth smiled within the confines of gentle flame. “It would be a poor quest if you understood the ending before it had begun.”
“I am mortal. I already know how my story ends.”
“Well. With an attitude like that, perhaps you do!”

I am not a god, the narrator said, even though it spoke without a voice.

Part of the fun of writing Protagonist: a novel is the headers. Such as:
Sometimes we drown not because we cannot swim but because we forget we are in water.
- from the collected wisedoms of the wizards of Eastphalia

“I admit to finding that a little puzzling. Why are they called the mysterious caverns when there are many such caverns throughout Westrin alone?”
It was questions like that which betrayed Page’s ignorance. Mysterious caverns was a modern translation of mysterious’caverns in old Westrin, which has a very localized meaning in the southern steppes.
“The words are mysterious’caverns – with an apostrophe between them – in old Westrin,” Protagonist said after a short pause. “I imagine that makes all the difference.

“You would kill me?” Antagonist asked.
“You ask it like that, without fear. Why?” Protagonist pressed.
“We all die, even wizards. The least we owe this world is our bodies. I would rather live and pay back more than was given.”

The supervillain’s power to destroy poetry scared almost no one.
Not until they turned their attention on love.

Not that Protagonist had any use for ghosts: one of the older monks at the library, Name Later, had told him that if the dead could haunt the world, we would all be drowning in regrets. The idea had stuck with Protagonist for some time, though he had no idea why Name Later had been so insistent on that truth.
...Name Later will, of course, be very important to the plot. Later.

Molsk was a small town situated well away from any major trade routes, the cluster of wood and stone buildings organized around the central well and market that typified small towns in the country. Not that travellers from outside Westrin ever went to many podunk one-syllable places, none of which had combined with other towns to attain a second syllable. The comparison faltered against reality when one recalled that the towns of Po and Dunk had merged to become Podunk over a century ago, an alliance formed from both geography and trade routes more similar to the arranged marriages of Eastphalia than anything else. As little happened here, the destruction of the old fort on Guffin Hill had drawn people from their homes, even though an old stone fortress being reduced to little more than dust and shadow-scars of what it had been would do that most anywhere.
Protagonist slowed his horse. “What was that?” he asked, though no one responded. “You are responding. Whatever god this is, I do sometimes hear your voice. I am just trying to find out why you insist on telling me things I already know?”

The news is, after all, everything that is not normal. If it was normal, it would not be newsworthy.
But sometimes it's hard to remember that.

“Everyone has a power they should never use. I knew a woman once who could destroy any faith with logic and leave nothing behind; she never spoke in all the years I knew her. A man in Bangladesh who always got bargains. Even, his family claimed, from death. But the worst is when someone doesn’t know they have a power. When they unite the world for all the right reasons, in all the wrong ways.”
“You mean the pres –.”
“I mean that meme you started two weeks ago.”

“Sometimes I think you’ll forget me. That I’ll turn around one day and you’ll be gone and everyone I meet will be a stranger who looks like you but doesn’t know me at all.”
“I’d never forget you. I’d have to know your name first.”

“We’re going to die, aren’t we?”
Protagonist did not pause a beat. “Of course we are. What else is being alive for?”
“I meant,” Page said from between clenched teeth, “right now.”
“Oh. In that case, I rather hope not.”

Proposed solution to the climate catastrophe:
Move to the underside of the flat earth, where a new world awaits us.

“Sometimes,” he said, “to save a thing you must destroy it.”
And I backed away because no one sane said anything like that.

Me: "Oh, right, I need to do that prompt about things overheard when eavesdropping."
... proceeds to write a short story about someone wanting to use an interstellar mining vessel to help with apartment renovations.

And all your kindness becomes undone
By the monsters who work above you
To see only good is to be complicit
In evil that seeps through every crack

Protagonist and Page rode their horses for hours without rest, stopping briefly for the night to continue onward the next morning. By the second draft, they would be stopping and switching out horses every hour since horses are hardly cars. By the third, the author will be grappling with the fact that a horse doesn’t actually equal one horsepower. By the fourth draft, at least one horses will be called Hoof Hearted and the author will be wondering why anyone would take long journeys on a prey animal prone to spring from imagined danger with all the grace of the springs in a broken mattress.

It is not an easy thing to get book fairies into your home. A library is not enough – some of the greatest libraries in the world have never seen one – but sometimes it does happen. Firstly, one must not have a library. By which I mean: books one has never read. A library full of unread books is a deep sadness and not a true library at all. You will know one by the volumes with bent spines that have never been read. Secondly: one must have an infestation of book worms in your home. Thirdly: one must be kind. To books, to people, even to the book worms.
If you wish them removed but cannot bear to harm them – for they, like all things, must eat to survive – the book fairies may arrive. Unfortunately, the book worms are often drawn to the books one loves best. But if this happens, and the fairies come, you will never have dusty books again and book worms that will only eat books one no longer needs. (It is hard to think of such a book, but it must be done.) The book fairies are fed by leaving fine ink in inkwells overnight and not minding if they take some books to read for themselves. And that is all that one must do, as easy as all difficult things can be.

“The problem we have is that I cannot do it. I cannot imagine a world in which you don’t exist, for I fear if I do that I will not be able to live in a world in which you do.”

you asked me to write a poem
and this is
that poem

First Contact turned out to be a nightmare when it turned out that the alien name for themselves, translated into English, was ‘Hashtag’ and they were very, very baffled at the things humans said about them. #woke

“The results are in from our experiment, sir. It turns out that it’s easier to make people believe the Earth is flat than make them believe that politicians will act in ways that benefit the public.”

Friday, August 10, 2018

Guarding The Zones

It takes almost thirty seconds for anyone at HQ to realize what the alarm is even for. It used to be the Closed Zones, the Dead Zones, then the Ruined Zones before people kept trying to enter them. A void is space where everything that could go wrong with war went even worse. No one knows what the wars were about. Who fought, who died, who lost: all of it has been buried in ruin and twisted space. No hyperlanes work, not even wormholes pass through the Zones. We don’t know how big they are. Just that a war happened, and the scars have never healed.

It has been five year since anyone even approached them. The last one was a tour of certain problematics. Generals. Rulers. The kind of people all too eager to fire weapons but never be in wars. Seeing reality bleed into space changed them. A few killed themselves, so the tour never happened again. Before then was the same as now: scavengers. Idiots thinking they can find something famous or amazing.

I slip into the shiftsuit and take off, data trilling through my senses. No one is certain how long the new model will survive. I have an hour, at last count. Get in, try to save fools, get out. If they past the first zone, extraction isn’t even possible to attempt. The suit projects images to approximate what is around me as I dive in; actually trying to perceive the ruins of space and time isn’t something anyone survives. Which means the craft is flying in blind, attempting to extract anything and bring it out.

That no one has succeeded never stops the attempts. And people wonder why the Zones ever happened.

The shiftsuit bucks and twists forms around me. Holding steady against what feels like the remains of a black hole. Also a white one, gravitational and chronal distortions making anything else impossible to even guess at. I make it through that. The shiftsuit can make it through the first layer intact. No idea who bankrolls the Zone Watch, but it cost more than I ever want to know to even make the suits. The suit twists; I move with it.

I don’t know many other species that could even survive being inside this model; I make a note to let HQ know, then pause as the shiftsuits datafeeds blink out. Flick back on. The onboard AI is as primitive as it can be, since normal AI would have their minds destroyed by this place as well. The shiftsuit has gone white about me, when I didn’t even know they changed colour. I move slowly, trying to find the source of disturbance, and – air. Actual air. Gravity within accepted norms. A pocket of reality, which shouldn’t be remotely possible.

I fall into it, and there is a young man. Human, 14, just standing in the air and looking out at the zones.

This is so far past bad. I order the suit to disengage five times before it agrees and lets me breathe the air. Breathable air, a field of real in the middle of – this. And the human who registers entirely as human.

I say my name in my native tongue, which I haven’t spoken in several centuries.

The human smiles and responds in the name. Then offers his name. “You are not surprised?”

“You are Jay, who is Jayseltosche. No one – nothing else could be in here, the way you are. You didn’t trigger the alarm.”

No. It will be triggered shortly. Even Time is broken here,” he says softly. “The Powers that govern the universe have no sway in this place. Neither can anything from Outside enter. It will take thousands of years to heal, if it ever does at all.”

“It has improved. The first zone –.”

“My bindings hold there to an extent. In the rest –.” He sighs. “There have been wars here.”

“I know. We Hingari began many of them,” I admit.

“And others. A galaxy was carved in half once. I was in a hurry, it was in my way. Several attempts to kill me formed part of the Zones. I thought containing it in one place would be safer. Instead it led to a different kind of war.”

“Wars have been fought against you; you have power unlike anything else. That is known. That’s not the same as you fighting though,” I say slowly.

“An argument got out of hand.”

No boast, no laugh. Just a fact so alien I can barely grasp it. “You can fix this?”

“I have begun so. And finding your HQ as part of that end. Destruction is so much easier than creation for me right now. But it has not always been so.” And he holds out a hand.

And Jay is standing there. Shorter, eleven, and looking rather exited. “You wanted help with an adventure?”

“I do. I require energy to fix – things.”

“Oooh.” And the younger Jay turns and looks about. A slight frown touches his forehead like something alien. “Wow. That’s a really hugey oops you know!

“I do.”

“And some of it wasn’t even an oops. But I can always do helpings!” And Jay grins. Jaysel – no, Jay, at eleven, grins.

The shiftsuit actually whimpers.

Joy. Kindness. Innocent. Wonder. Power without corruption spills out, and the ruined zones shake in response.

“You need to go now,” Jayseltosche says.

Jay turns to him. “But I’m confusled because that felt like unbindings a Jay would never do!”

“And a Jay would not. But you spent a lot of energy, and you need to return.”

And Jay waves to me and vanishes between moments.

Jayseltosche touches energy, and weaves it. Like lace spiralling through the entire ruined zones. A wrapper that slowly turns a ruin into a present. “That helps. It will still be centuries, but it helps.”

“Jay set the alarms off?”

“He is – not subtle, so yes. I am no longer what he is, so some of what he can do was – necessary.” And Jayseltosche’s voice cracks a little.

I turn slowly, toward a being so far beyond gods that we have no words for it. “You are crying.”

“I am.” His smile has an echo of the past. “It is – very hard to...”

We have a bar at HQ. And drinks. We could share drinks and food.”

I did not wish you as a witness for that. Hingari can live a long time, you can take many forms. I’d like the HQ to be run by you, and we can meet for drinks when it is no longer needed and the Zones healed.”

“We can, but you need a drink now.”

Jayseltosche blinks. It takes everything I have not to activate the shiftsuit and bolt. I almost yelled at him. The laugh he lets out a moment later is soft and sad. “I imagine I do. Very well.”

I return to HQ, report it as an anomaly – trusting Jay will make sure my shiftsuit agrees – and join him in one of the bars. He looks tired, and younger than he is.

“I have heard it said that nothing can be forgiven.” He glances over at me without a word. “And I think there is some truth in that. The living can be forgiven; the dead merely remain dead. I think there is no forgiveness, but there can be redemption.”


I don’t ask who he argued with, or fought against. If it was himself or something else. We share a drink in silence, each remembering different wars. There are so many reasons the hingari hide now. I’d like to think I understand Jayseltosche a little. And perhaps I do. But I think I understand Jay not at all. 

One Jaysome Night


There are battles that cannot be won, but sometimes that is why they must be fought. I have spent six hours explaining to Jay that @teacup13 is allowed to like coffee more than tea, that a tumblr use-name doesn’t define anyone. Not even Jay. Which he doesn’t believe, because he is Jay and so very randomly. And trying to explain to Jay that Jay – or even jaysome – don’t define him... no. There are some places I definitely have no desire to venture.

I tell him that teacup13 is a label, and labels are great for clothing but not so much for people. And Jay pokes at his tumblr, then looks up and grins. The grin is huge and proud and innocent.

There are sirens, tires screaming, people shouting outside. I rub the bridge of my nose.

“Did you know that @eclectic-like-furniture isn’t actually eclectic?” Jay says. “Like how @feverfewm isn’t Muffin! I figured it out!”

“Ah. Good. Dare I ask how that involves the traffic?”

“Uh-huh! There are lots of rules for traffic, Charlie, and sometimes people ignore turn signals entirely!”

I stare at Jay. Only innocence stares back. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if he is trolling me. “So you’re fixing bindings for cars.”

“Yup! Everyone will stop for crosswalks that aren’t cross and let people merge into lanes and everything,” he says proudly.

“But there are people who cross the road while jaywalking. What if a Jay isn’t allowed to cross a road?”

Jay gapes at that in shock. “I did an oops and bound myself?!”

“You might have. It might be safer to undo it all?”

“Oh, okay.” There are even more sirens and screeching tires for a moment. Then Jay says that, since he fixed the oops, he probably should get a second dessert.

I tell him to bring back ice cream, and watch him vanish. I think I gained at least a dozen more grey hairs in the past five minutes, not that Jay would ever notice. What’s scary is never the power Jay has over bindings, nor even that he’s eleven and so innocent in it, but the way he just accepts things literally until told otherwise. Some days I have trouble remembering all the facts I’m hiding from him.

“I got ice cream, and it’s the good kind,” Jay says as he reappears with three tubs.

“The good kind?”

“I asked Honcho, and he said it’s the kind that never has calories!”

“Ah. Of course.” I accept a tub as Jay flicks the TV on and begins scrolling through channels.

I eat food, relax, and keep an eye on Jay.

...only I should have kept both eyes on him. And never fallen asleep.


I wake up to a loud thump. I’ve fallen asleep on the couch, and Jay has turned the TV down. Which would be rather considerate except I can barely see the TV as the small common room in our motel suite is full of boxes. Kitchen gadgets. Knives. Appliances. And Jay is shoving a mattress into my room. Where it barely fits.

“Jay. What are you doing?”

“Hi!” Jay turns and grins. There is no fear, no hint he did an oops or an accident. “Did you know that sometimes the TV wants you to buy things?!”

I stare at Jay, sit up slowly and look at the Home Shopping Network. “You’ve been buying things.”

“The man and woman on the TV were doing bindings and kinda desperate cuz no one was buying things, and this Jay has a very jaysome credit card you know!”

“I do.” I look about the room slowly. There is at least an hours worth of... items, all neatly stacked. “What do you plan to do with twenty food processors?”

“I haven’t decided yet, but I bet they’d like to process a lot of food!”

“And the mattresses?”

“They can give a better sleeping I bet. And I got a lot of knives that are really sharp but not tough as a Jay.”

I close my eyes. Count to ten. “You tested the against your skin, didn’t you?”

“Yup!” Jay being from Outside the universe is sometimes never as worrying as him just being eleven.

“And what do you plan to do with them?”

“I got a book on juggling, so I’m going to learn to juggle,” he offers proudly.

I don’t point out that juggling fifteen sets of knives might be difficult, since to Jay it would just be bindings he’d move. The blue couch that is around when we need it replaces the couch I’m sitting on. Or was there the whole time in disguise. It is a lot larger on the inside than the outside, so I convince Jay to store everything in it and then go to bed.

And call the fae to explain what he has done with their credit card. This time. I don’t entirely know how the card works, but I know there are consequences for spending too much money with it. The fae on the other end of the help line that exists solely for Jay’s credit card isn’t fazed at all. Compared to other things Jay has bought with it, this barely warrants a note. Which the fae makes a point of reminding me of, as if I’d forget the time Jay decided to buy Venus. What was worrying wasn’t that the card had that much currency so much as Jay found a seller.

I make sure everything else is cleared away by the time the wandering magician returns from his trip. He looks about the too-clean hotel room, then at me, and raises a single eyebrow.

“I fell asleep. Jay discovered the Home Shopping Channel. The results are in the couch.”

He opens the side of the couch, lets out a low whistle. “What does Jay plan to do with all of this?”

“Juggle, so far.”

“Of course he does.” The magician chuckles and takes his coat off. “At least it wasn’t that bad, Charlie.”

“Not that bad? He bought several thousand dollars of.... that! I don’t even know how he got it here after buying it, or what kind of shipping arrangement he had.”

“Ah. We’ll need to look into that. But this isn’t bad.” He pauses. “Jay could have watched infomercials.”

“Oh,” I say, very slowly. “He would have – probably bought an entire TV network to fix worried bindings, wouldn’t he?”

“At least one.”

I make a note to talk to the fae about some upper limit on what Jay can spend at once. Again. And we head to sleep, certain that if anything breaks in any hotel we visit in the next two years we’ll be able to replace it without a problem. Because Jay.

Rite of Passage

I’d like to say I don’t hide, but that has always been a lie. Learning to hide is important: sometimes I think it is the only lesson that matters. If you are seen, learn to be unseen. If you can’t hide, find ways to disguise yourself. It is always easier for some than others. There is a skill to hiding, a knack some master. You could walk past the most powerful magician in the world and never know it. That one wanders far: you have probably met him at least once.

I find some places to live. Places holding unhappy memories or tempered ghosts. The kind of place that are rented rarely simply because no one stays in them. I do what I can for them, and sometimes it is enough and I move on. Oh, I do other things: being the magician of a place means there is much one must do. I am not forced into it. Nothing like that. But I am part of the city, and the city is part of me.

There are problems magic can never solve. Every magician knows that, or they do not last long at all. The magic is a gift more than a talent, a thank-you from the universe. To be bound to a place is closer to a marriage, though not at all like it. Magic is about the places where need and desire meet, you understand? Being bound to a place is not like that at all. There are obligations without duties. Times when one fixes things simply because there is no one else to do it.

I’m heading out to buy dinner: something cheap for the small microwave in the apartment I’m in, so it doesn’t feel lonely. I’m debating time, because I always use the number 9 on my microwave since it is the loneliest number. This is how magicians are, at least some of us. It’s why I don’t notice him until he is almost on top of me.

Tall, thin, eyes bright with desperation, a jacket reeking of stale cigarette smoke two sizes too large. One sleeve hangs empty. The other hand finds my chest, pushes me into the wall.

I have wards. Protections. Power I could draw upon from the city. A thousand vehicles hurling by outside would force him away. But need and desire work both ways.

“Can I help you?”

“Magician,” he hisses. There is no hesitancy in his words. His body shakes with the force of the truth. “You work magic.”

“I am a magician, yes,” I offer.

“Fix me,” he demands.

Sometimes, the ones who find me just want to know. To be certain there is more to the world than they know. To be able to carry that truth with them like a flower the world cannot blow away. Sometimes they want help, too, but too many have eyes riddled with expectations.

I slip away from his grip easily. I feel his anger, certain I would not if he had two arms. Unaware it would not make a difference. I enter my apartment again.

The man follows like something cages. Pauses. The apartment is small and dingy. I’ve done what I can with paint, and spoken to the sadness in this place, but it has not all gone. There is a small laptop, because there is more to the world than the city. The table with the microwave. A sink. A futon I salvaged from a dumpster. Some clothing neatly folded beside the bed. The clothing just shows up every few days, no matter where I’ve been. There are always those who insist on paying you back, even if they never need to.

“I need my arm. I need it back. You can do magic,” he says, his anger rallying him.

I sigh. “I am a magician, yes.” I could tell him what it is really for: that there are holes in the world, and a magician patches them. But he would not understand. He has seen small things I have done, come across repairs to walls, or changed graffiti, or the lost I’ve reunited. Enough to drive him onward. Enough to make him seek me past reason. Hope is always there past reason, burning in his eyes.

“I am afraid you misunderstand, Raoul.” He starts. It always surprises them, when a magician knows their name. “This,” and I hold out a hand, and starlight spills onto the ceiling.

He makes a noise, and there is hunger in it more than wonder.

“This is magic. It is a river, you understand? There are magicians who never understand this, but it is true. Magic is a poem more than prose, and it answers need and meets desire. But what we desire is not the same as what magic does. Not the same as what the world does. I have never met a fish that did not wish to be a bird, and that is the nature of the world.”

“I don’t understand; I want my arm back,” he snarls, but there is less anger. He doesn’t notice some of the stars are brighter, as the anger had to be released somewhere.

“All magic is change, friend. For a wall to become a window. For a duck to become a man. That is what magic can do, what magic is. Oh, one can fix some things, restore other things. But that is not what things desire. All things desire to change, and change looks onto to the future. Magic cannot restore what was lost anymore than I could feed the poor with it, or bring the dead back to life.

Change is not movement that goes backwards, not for magic,” I finish softly. It is a lesson that took me years to learn, and one I will never master.

“But –. I need –.” He flatters.

“I know.” I head to my futon, reach under it. Return with money. “You could get a prosthetic.”

Raoul stares at the money wordlessly.

“It is from a bank; there is an arrangement with magicians. I do not spurn the arrangement, though I give away far more than I use.”

He takes it slowly. “Magician –.”

“Everything has a cost,” I say, and let him feel how this small apartment is the better for what has happened here. I set the key to it on the counter, get my laptop, and leave.

Raoul doesn’t move. He tries to speak, but nothing emerges.

I offer a faint smile as I leave, enough to let him know I heard.

We only meet once again, that he knows of. I make certain to nod to him as he enters work, and he turns back to stare in shock, leaving bread to scatter and birds to dive as he runs across the road.

“That’s one way to lose other limbs,” I say dryly.

“You – I – I work here now,” and he waves his hand to the soup kitchen. “Government grant, and I – I gave the money away. I found someone who needed legs.”

“There was never an obligation,” I say as gently as I know how.

“I know.” And I think he does, better than some do. He steps back. “I’m still in that apartment.”

I nod. “Good. It needed someone who understood.”

And someone calls for him across the road, an annoyed demand. He turns, and I slip away from his gaze. Not hidden.

Never hidden.

Merely waiting to be found.

Sun Shades

The last reporter has left the building. Everyone else has gone home, even the janitor. I slump back in my deck, eyes blurred. Too many screens, too many questions; too much of anything at all. My hands won’t stop shaking even as I pull my glasses off and rub the bridge of my nose. There are only so many ways you can say ‘this isn’t possible’, only so many ways to spin the truth into acceptable sound bytes that won’t terrify everyone.

Every since I looked out the window earlier, everything has been insane. But somehow I survived it.

I think I understand a little how the Flat-Earthers can lie to themselves. You have to believe the story a bit to sell it. But it’s all lies. The sun isn’t working, and that makes no sense. I’ve had a dozen conspiracy sites email me, and for all I know it could be an alien craft between the earth and the sun. Every satellite claims there is a cloud that doesn’t exist.

I don’t keep anything to properly drink in the office. I’m considering starting or just bursting into tears when the door opens.

A woman I don’t recognize enters, pulling a boy behind her. He is eleven, and looks rather indignant at being dragged into an office. I open my mouth to inform them that the building is closed. But that’s when the boy spots me. And grins.

Hi,” he says happily. “I’m –.”

“Doctor Cheu doesn’t need to know who you are,” the woman snaps.

“Really?” The boy twists free of the woman’s grip and stares at her in shock.

“Very really, yes.” The woman turns to me. “What happened to the sun was an accident. It is being fixed right now.”

“What?” I say.

“Well,” the boy says, “I found out that @torrentialmonsoon wears sunglasses you know, and big sunglasses hide you from the sun and that makes the sun sad you know! But!,” and the flings the word out excitedly, “the sun hurts eyes too, only I fixed it so it couldn’t and then I got in trouble.”

He lets out a huge, put-upon sigh.

I stare at the woman. “A storm wore sunglasses?”

It’s complicated. A cloud was put in front of the sun so sunlight wouldn’t necessitate sunglasses.” The woman pauses. “This was noticed,” she says dryly.

I want to ask how, but the grin on the boy’s face somehow got rid of worry and my want to drink as well. No one has ever smiled at me like that. I don’t think anyone will again. “And it’s been fixed?”

She nods. “The –.” She catches herself. “We thought someone should tell you, so you can explain it as something other than aliens.”

“It could be aliens,” the boy says. “I bet I could find the best aliens ever!”

“Yes. You could. But you’re not going to,” the woman says. Her gaze flicks back to me. “There are going to be some abnormal weather patterns over the next few days you can use to explain this.”

“Going to be,” I repeat slowly. “What are you?”

We’re friends,” the boy says, utterly certain of that statement.

The woman gestures, and the boy heads to the door. They walk through, but end up somewhere than the hallway. The door closes on the boy protesting that he didn’t do an oops at all.

An oops.

Changing how the sun works as some kind of – of accident.

I shut down my computer, turn to the office window and open it. The half-moon hangs in the sky, as bright as it always is. I let out a sigh of relief, close the window, close up my office.

I’m halfway home before it begins to hail.

Abnormal weather patterns, the woman said. I make a mental note to put snow tires on my car first thing tomorrow morning. And then try, as hard as I can, to forget that entire encounter.

(The) Always of Adventuring

The air cracks with broken thunder. I pause outside the door to the hotel suite, drawing up wards made from the annoyance of guests and the simmering bitterness underneath some of the staff as I push the door open to find Jay sitting cross-legged in a chair, his eyes crossed as well. I watch as he twists his arm, his elbow impacting with his face.

I watch as his elbow and arm twist about and he pokes his nose with a frown. “Kidlet?” I say slowly.

Jay grins with the joy only a jaysome eleven year old who is from far Outside the universe can. “Hi, Honcho!”

“Hi. Is there any particular reason you are trying to break your elbow today?”

“I’m trying to break my nose,” he says proudly. “And @argumentsfromwithin says that elbows break noses really good!”

“Ah. And this would be an adventure?”


The danger in Jay isn’t so much his power over bindings so much as an innocence devoid of limits. And part of being the wandering magician – and more being Honcho to Jay – is knowing how fragile that is and how much of it remains.

“Jay. Breaking bones isn’t an adventure you want. You are tough like a Jay, but that means that when you do get hurt –.” I pause. “May I?”

Jay nods, nothing but trust in him. He is bound to me on levels so deep I can’t sense all of them. His trust perhaps runs deeper still. I reach out. Find the nearest hospital. Find a troll trying to heal an ancient broken hand. Find a crack in the earth that never ceased to hurt. And I bind them into Jay.

A moment, and I release it. There is always pain, and then there is never pain.

Jay doesn’t move. For half a moment, there are shadows in his face that make it too near my own. “Honcho?” He rubs his arm slowly, waits.

“That kind of pain isn’t an adventure. Not all adventures need be sought, not even by a Jay. Some can only offer hurt.”

Jay blinks, once. There is a question in his eyes.

“I don’t seek them out. But a magician answers need.”

“I can do that too!”

And Jay vanishes a moment later. I feel the binding against pain he puts on the hospital, and then he’s visiting the troll to help them as well.

The troll tries to eat him, and while Jay is occupied with that adventure I gently undo most of the binding he put on the hospital. Because pain is important even if Jay doesn’t understand why in human terms. Some day he will, but not until I’ve done everything I can to stop that.

Unless my everything causes it.


I turn. Charlie has come into the hotel room. The god within her hasn’t stirred, which is good. But Charlie knows me better than almost any other person in our five years of friendship.

“You okay?” she asks.


“Is Jay okay?”


“I can eat what you’re feeling,” she offers, god-eater to magician.

“You can’t.” The words slip out. I have a talent to speak truth that cannot he ignored.

Charlie winces. “His innocent is... important, magcian. We both know that.”

I nod. We’ve met Jay when he is older. Keeping him eleven as long as possible is important.”

“It’s always important, even if it never changes what will be.”

“That was almost a question,” Charlie says softly. “Are you sure you –.”

And Jay returns between moments, to tell us all about his adventures and boast about how not breaking his nose is an adventure and how he’s totally ready for an adventure having suppers now.

The moment passes between us, but I don’t think it will be wholly gone. And I don’t know what to think about that.

Seeing Auras

The aura – I have no words. I’ve been inventing new colours for hours, but this – this is like the dark side of the sun. Like cold fire, like the ending of dreams. The shape is human. That terrifies me even more. Aura upon aura, repetition without end. Nothing should look like this. They walk down the street.

You don’t walk, with an aura like this. You don’t do – human things. But they are. The other auras fade, even my own, as though only this aura was real.

“Apologies,” The man standing before me is maybe thirty, and ordinary, and the aura is gone. Folded away. Moved somewhere where I cannot see it. “Most people who can See learn how to control it quickly. There are not many magicians, but we are – parts of places, as much as other things. It confuses.”

“What?” Mylie moves forward, fists balled. “I don’t know what you’re going on about, but -.”

“I am sorry, but I was not speaking to you.”

Mylie made nurses in the hospital back off; she pulls back instead. Seeing no auras, but the magician’s voice is a deep well of truth.

“Grandma isn’t -. She can’t -.” Mylie flatters. “There was a stroke.”

“Ah. That, a magician would not dare touch.” The magician smiles, slow and sad, at my expression. “You saw auras for a time, Emiline. There is a power to that, but not the kind some might envision. To be a magician is to understand the helplessness of power better than most.” he says, and I don’t think Mylie hears these words.

“A gift one cannot control is not a gift at all.” His sigh is low and tired. “I can bind you so that you no longer see auras. It would be safest, because there is a boy named Jay in this town as well and I do not think you would survive his aura. Not that he ever intends harm, but to see complete auras without control would break you perhaps even beyond what Jay can easily repair.”

There is nothing for me. I don’t speak. I can’t, not words anyone can understand.

The magician hears. I am not surprised, given that aura. “You will be missed. That is hardly nothing. Listen: Jay is eleven, and from far Outside this universe. If your seeing his aura destroyed you, he would try to make it right and never understand the harm he would cause in the process. That is something as well. You have choices still.”

I think about an aura bigger than the magician’s. I think about what it would do, how I would die. Here, in front of Mylie. Broken.

Help me.

The magician touches my forehead. One finger, and I can no longer seen the gentle aura about my granddaughter. It changes nothing between us.

She grabs the magician’s hand, yanking it away, about to make demands.

“I’ve never done a poking game, Honcho!” The boy who is beside the magician is eleven, and his grin – his grin defuses everything. It is pure and innocent and wonderful and the magician gently turns my chair away. I think it is him, though he does not touch it, and the force of the grin diminishes a little.

“Games do get interesting when you plan them, Jay. I was helping here, and am done. You might want to see is Charlie is ready for lunch?”

“Okay! Bye, new friends!” The boy waves to Mylie. She waves back, looking dazed. Every puzzlement she had, every question she was going to ask the magician: it has all been driven from her mind by the sheer exuberance of Jay.

The aura behind that smile that would have destroyed me. I have no doubt about it.

But I think it would have almost been worth it. Almost.

To Answer Need

The house is a small, single-storey affair so drab it almost vanishes into the homes around it. The picket fence is black rather than white, the lawn immaculate in its plainness. Nothing about it jumps out as strange, but even so I’m not surprised when the wandering magician opens the front gate and walks in. I follow carefully. I’m no magician, but we’ve travelled together off and on for almost five years. I feel the wards he pulls up around us, my own power responding to the energy.

Being a god eater doesn’t mean many things, not these days. But it does mean I can eat other energy; I’ve never been foolish enough to test my power against his magic. There are limits, no matter who or what you are. Even he has limits, though sometimes it’s hard to realize that. We’re both human, for all we’ve been and done. He’s bound to a creature from far Outside the universe; there is a god inside me that stirs even now. I feel fur about, claws nothing human can see. A threat, somewhere.

The woman who comes out of the front door of the home is almost as wide as she is tall. She comes up to my shoulder and a long black dress both hugs her and flows about her. Her eyes are dark pits, hollows of rage and despair and the promise of death in her clenched fists. Her teeth are sharp and distressingly white as she bares her teeth. She moves down the stairs with the certainty of an avalanche, her voice inhumanly cold and controlled.

“You are the wandering magician.” The magician nods. “And the god eater; I have heard of you.” Her gaze flicks over me, and back to the magician. “I enter the universe under the auspices of the Cone and the Grave. I am a graduate of the Deep School, part of this world and universe for all that I am from Outside it.” Her voice is low and rolling, waves mingled with thunder.

There is no storm above us. I can’t shake the feeling that there should be one.

“You are bound against acting in the universe,” the magician says softly. “Yet you wish to: your need called me here.”

“That was a day ago.” There is death in those words, naked fury in her eyes. She holds her human form with obvious effort. Her right hand jerks up, and she gestures. Short, sharp. There is energy here, and power, but it is too alien for me to try and eat – even if I was fool enough to try. An image. A human girl. Short, also. Large, but not as large as her mother. Pale, and then – other things, as well. Wounds. Holes. The image vanishes, snaps out of existence.

“My daughter is dead, magician. I demand a response. This is not a matter for human justice.”

“There are other justices. You know who I am. And what?” the magician asks gently.

“I have heard stories.”

“Some are true. This truth I offer to your grief: I am bound to Jayseltosche, who is also from Outside the universe. Jay is, at present, visiting those responsible for the death of your daughter. They will never hurt anyone else again, not in word or deed.”

“That is not enough. They must suffer,” the woman says, and I swear the world buckles around us at the word. For a moment her will imposes some place Other. Some alien wildness that I feel rather than see, know rather than sense as my brain goes blank rather than try to explain it.

Jay is eleven, for all that he is also from Outside.” The magician lets out a sigh. “There are many things he does not understand. They are trying to explain why they broke so many bindings to him. He is explaining that they were not jaysome at all.”

The woman pauses. Some of the fury settles within her. “That term I know.”

“Jay does get around,” the magician says dryly.

The woman’s laugh surprises her. “You think that will be enough?” she asks. No demand, no bluster to cover for the laugh. She knows herself, and hides nothing.

“What do you know of Jay?” I ask.

The woman turns her gaze back to me. Part of me wishes she wouldn’t, that she’d forget I was here. I hold her gaze despite that, holding the god inside me as tightly. Power always wants to test power; this isn’t the time for that. If there ever is one, this isn’t it at all.

“I have heard of him. That he makes friends with anyone. That he is a force of nature without knowing he is one. That he can bind anything, but would never dream of abusing that. That no power in the universe is as deep as he is, though he is unaware of this. I know you are his friends, and I do not envy you the burden of that. But it changes nothing.”

“Jay won’t make friends with them. For what they did, to your daughter and the others. That will –.” I pause, trying to find words. “There are places Outside the universe that are as real as the universe, as solid as it. You know of them?”

“You should not know of the Far Reaches,” the woman says. There is a fear in her voice at even mentioning them.

“You’ve seen them?”


Which says more than enough about how scary she is. “Imagine being on them. Part of them. Knowing you could be part of them, and then being denied it. Losing friendship with Jay, losing all chances of being jaysome: that is worse than that by far.”

The woman holds my gaze for a moment, then turns back to the wandering magician. “You impress me with your choice of friends.”

“Charlie has her talents. Sometimes,” he adds, after a pause I’ll make him pay for later. “But she does speak truth.”

“They will kill themselves.”

They won’t. Because then Jay would be very sad. They are going to spend their entire lives trying to be jaysome, to become friends with him, to explain and make amends. And they never will, but I doubt Jay is aware of that. He will hold out a promise they can never have, not understanding he is hurting them. You cannot make them suffer more than this, not by killing them or by keeping them alive.”

“Magician.” There is grudging respect in the word.

“I am sorry I could not be earlier. And Jay – wanted to help, not understand he couldn’t at all. This is not the first time I have done this,” the magician adds, softer still, not hiding what it costs him.

“Another burden,” the woman says, as softly.

“Not as great as your own.”

The woman nods. “I will abide. By rules and law, I hold to my pact.”

“I had hoped you would.” And the wandering magician smiles, his own smile a flash of ice. “You will have another child, and the rules and laws will not apply when you protect them.”

The woman goes still. The dress – not a dress at all – as frozen as her expression. “... who are you, to promise that? What are you, to change my arrangement?”

“Someone who can borrow power to change bindings,” the magician says mildly.

“Not only that.”

“Only that for now,” he says. He doesn’t move, but there are depths here I am not certain I understand at all. Not a secret, nothing so small as that.

The woman nods to the both of us, her movements slow and stiff. “I thank you for your aid.”

“I am sorry for your loss,” the magician says.

We turn, and are at the gate when Jay comes bounding up to us, stepping through the world from some other place. No one notices, because he is jaysome.

“Honcho honcho honcho!”

“Yes?” the wandering magician says.

I tried making friends with the people who broke bindings but! it didn’t work and everything went weirdy,” Jay flings out. “I think maybe I didn’t want to, even if being jaysome is important for everyone so I was figuring you could fix it!”

“Ah. I can try, at least.”

“Okay. Hi,” Jay adds, waving to the woman.

She waves back, her expression dazed under the force of a jaysome grin of innocent pride and unbridled joy.

The magician asks Jay to take him to the people so he can talk with them, and they vanish between moments.

The woman walks over toward me. Slow, but beside the gate before I move. She opens them for me.


I nod. “He is that.”

“To lose that – it will be enough, I think,” she says, finally understanding. “I am in the debt of the wandering magician.”

“No. There are no debts, not against grief.”

The woman stares into me for a long moment. And nods. She says nothing else.

I walk away. Jay texts me before I’ve gone half a block, saying Honcho is confusled too and they probably need KFC. I have a feeling this is going to be a very long night, but not as long as it could have been.