Note: This piece is (as of now) the earliest chronological piece in the magician series, the writing of it inspired by Eric Boyd's prompt. There are very good reasons the magician doesn't bring up his past often.
Sometimes people do things you can never pay them back for. I knew Ryan hated me. He told me often enough, his fists found my face often enough as well. That's what hate felt like: being beaten down to the ground, hearing him scream insults at me that I didn't yet know. I was twelve. Google searches told me what he meant, and why. The worst part was knowing he was right. That's how it felt then. The worst part by far was knowing his words had hit as surely as his fists.
It was months before I finally I talked to my mother. She just smiled a strange sadness and said she'd always known. It had taken all I had not to scream at her. If you knew, why didn't you tell me? rang through my head. I grit my teeth so hard my jaw ached for days.
When I turned thirteen I became a magician. Not all at once, not sudden-like. I think there had been small things before then, little echoes no one noticed. The echoes became sounds: things happened for me, luck twisted in directions I bent it. It was an ugly summer, driven half mad by a mirror-borne spirit I later bound with pure desperation. And school came after that.
He was waiting, but I was no longer the kid he'd beaten up. He stepped forward and swung. I let the first blow hit, and drew him inside. Memories, loathing. All of it. I knew we were the same, then, in some ways, and I was somehow a mirror-spirit to him. Less hidden, more visible. Others had been making jokes about me as well. He knew all the jokes, was terrified of them turning on him as well. And he knew I knew; I was not magician enough to hide what I'd done.
He swung again, and again, wild and terrified, and I let each blow slide past me in cold judgement. There was a circle around us when he finally came to a stop, a teacher shoving students aside behind me. I turned, and said in a voice that could not be ignored: "We were just talking."
And we were, in ways that did not need words. The teacher fell back before the truth. People scattered from my gaze, for reasons wholly new. I turned to Ryan and smiled then, and I'm sure it looked as ugly as it felt when I whispered: "Was that good for you too?"
The colour drained from him in that moment. I didn't ask about a date. Nothing that cruel. Nothing that kind. I just turned and walked away, leaving him knowing I could speak the truth about him, and they would all believe me.
I was almost sixteen when he killed himself. I had said nothing, no one had known. And he was free of his prison. I never saw his ghost: I'd learned quickly to not see ghosts, and I made a point of not looking at all for his. He died, and his prison fell away. They said his suicide note mentioned me, but they said a lot of things I didn't pay attention to.
He taught me about prisons, and that being a magician was not what changed me, nor who I was before. I left town a week later before it became a prison all its own and I will never be able to pay him back for teaching me that lesson.