Magic isn’t big on fundamental truths, but one is that it sets you apart. There are people, and then there are magicians. There are people for whom the world is solid and real, and then there is the rest of us. It’s one reason magician’s die out: they go mad. Another is giving up the magic to be ordinary, which is often a worse price than dying. Or so I’m told.
It never even occurred to me that someone could give up magic until after I’d had it three years and ran into an ex-magician. He had all the patter down pat, quick and ugly as an anti-smoking advert, but the hunger in him told other stories, whispered of other needs. I almost put some magic in him to see what would happen but I wasn’t that nasty. I walked away.
I’m not walking away now. Just walking. I’ve left Jay and Charlie in the hotel room: she’s teaching him card games, he’s getting over being embarrassed at his voice. I have a god-eater teaching a not-vampire from Outside the universe card game in a hotel room and I don’t consider myself mad. I figure it’s a sign of something, but I don’t know what. I don’t know why I was drawn to them – or they to me.
Magic can offer up omens, but it’s mostly feelings. Hunches, twinges, odd pauses in the world. Right now it is silent. Waiting, content? I don’t know, so I walk side streets of a small town and ease pressures in the world. Bricks pressed tight to each other that will echo out into a fight between parents, fix loose paving stones that rattle underfoot. I’ve been getting noticed lately and it’s wearing and tiring in equal measure, so I press small magics into the world to hide such things, turn some signals into smaller noises.
The third paving stone I fix rattles after, something under it fighting my will. The creature that flows out from under asphalt is a dark grey cloud little larger than my hand, voice heard only in my head.
“This is mine, magic man!”
“My mine,” it says, and under the words I get rain and slick steps. Two broken legs in as many years, all the food it needs and enough small chaos in the world to keep it happy.
I could move it to the step of someone who deserved it, but I’m tired of thinking people deserve hurt. “If you keep hurting people they will destroy you. Roads are repaved,” I say.
“Mine!” All small and sullen, unable to see further than itself.
I wonder, for half a moment, if it is a mirror, and then shove the thought away. It’s a scrap of bad mood turned into something more: that it lasted two years is perhaps unusual, but a good hate can last most of a lifetime sometimes.
Curses are always stronger than blessings. Best not to think too hard on why.
“Here,” I say, and offer up an image/idea, of almost breaking legs, almost tripping people. The power to touch more lives, to send spasms of fear through dozens of people over what could have been. It wavers, swirls, then accepts the offer and flows back into the earth.
I head back toward the motel, not sure if I feel better but at least not feeling worse.