There are few magicians in the worlds of the waking or the dreaming, and fewer with every year that passes. If I had been told what would hunt me when I became a magician, what would haunt me, what it would do to the only life I’d known – I think I would have found some other path to walk. But I did not know, and the world does not need magicians any less to mend the walls between the world and what lies Outside. Magic is the smallest part of that.
I walk. The city of New Grimsby isn’t large or even new. Two elementary schools, one over-burdened highschool. It is falling apart in ways people can sense but seldom see until it is too late and streets are littered with empty shops and houses are no longer homes. There is darkness in the world as well as things lurking beyond the dark. A magician deals with things. I wander. I repair. I fix. Some would be told of what magicians do, and think it as useless as holding back the tide. But we can hold back the tide. We can draw lines in the world that Entities cannot pass, make gardens bloom and prevent them from ever failing.
It is not enough, not all the time. But we can leave the world better than we find it, or at least safer. It is enough, some days, if I do not think too long and hard on what I have done to reach the present. I focus my will, draw power from within and without, whisper words of binding that flow into the world, knitting together pieces of light and making the darkness before me a little less deep.
Jay wraps his right hand in my left beside me and squeezes, needing comfort. He looks to be about ten, all thin and pale, like a waif out of a movie. He is from far Outside the universe, bound into my service to save himself from being eaten by things far larger that he could ever be and the journey into the universe left him damaged and weak. That he trusts a magician is proof enough of that.
“Honcho?” he says in a small voice.
“I don’t like thith placthe,” he mumbles, not quite trying to tug me away from it. The lisp is a sign of the damage down to him, that he cannot even speak his own true name.
I study cement walls ringed in interlocking fence, a parking lot empty of everything save weeeds and two lone lights serving only to make the shadows seem darker still. “It is an elementary school. There is school of thought that a magician should be in every school the world over.”
“Oh. I can thee why,” he says firmly. “It’th all twithted up and-and like an ache that can’t go away.”
I grunt, pulling my hand free of his. Jay sees the world in terms of bindings and loosing, able to see bindings I never could dream of. “Did my binding help the school?”
Jay says nothing. I look down. He bites his lower lip hard.
“Jay. Did my binding help?”
“Honcho,” he says, little more than a whine.
I repeat myself a third time, threading power under the words. Jay jumps a little at that, eyes growing wide. I don’t force the bindings between us often, and not without cause.
He shakes his head, saying nothing, lips tight together.
I pause, then crouch down to eye level. “I’m not mad at you.”
Jay gulps. “Really?”
“We’re bound, me to you, you to me.”
“You get mad at yourthelf all the time,” he says.
“But not you.”
He thinks it over, then says: “The darkneth felt you coming and went deeper?”
“So the binding is a band-aid and not a real binding?”
Jay grins at that, wide and huge. “Yep!”
“And you thought I’d be angry at you for saying that?”
“You thought it had worked and it hadn’t.”
“I’d only be angry if you didn’t tell me that, Jay. Failure means I can try again; thinking I succeeded when I failed means I can’t. Got it?”
He looks puzzled but nods. I stand, ruffle his hair and turn back to the school. “There is a darkness to this place that will make the hearts of teachers harden, grow cold, become armour against wonder. That is what schools do, for so many reasons. But you are affecting the children as well, and that goes too far.”
I reach into the school, letting my will and the magic brush the walls, and loose the light I find inside. Nothing happens on any visible level, but Jay lets out a gasp beside me and blinks a few times, rubbing his eyes to clear them.