It was about how we saw the world. I’d like to think it’s why you’ve never been in love. I don’t think you can do that, not wholly, and not believe in magic somehow. Belief without believing, maybe, that it might turn out all right. Happily ever after. I think that’s all magic is now. I don’t know. You’d go on about waveforms and how no one died because the universe was a hologram and it might have worked for you. It didn’t for me, after the car hit you. When I was told.
All we’d been trying to learn, to become,and you went and got hit by a car speeding through an intersection. Maybe you wouldn’t have tried a seance. You wouldn’t have done it like I did, I know that. I felt like I didn’t have a choice. That if magic – if making street lights change colour, or someone forget your name for few seconds – if that couldn’t do anything, then there was no point to anything. I’d be the first to admit I wasn’t right in the head, even then.
We do stuff out of anger we’d never do out of love. You can quote me on that, wherever you are. So I did up symbols in the attic – no sacrifices, because you were a vegan – tried to focus, and reach, spoke words that made no sense at all. Near the end I felt like the words were speaking me, but I kept going. Pushing. Trying to pull a miracle out of the shit-can of life, and not caring what it would cost.
I had wards up, the kind we knew would confuse and slow people. The kid wandered right through them, each symbol dissolving as if it never was. He was thin and pale and looked to be maybe ten, the kind who could pass for younger easily and maybe even older if he had to. Jeans. T-shirt, shoes, a bag from the local pharmacy in his left hand. Nothing special at all, but he walked up into the attic as if the wards didn’t exist and scratched his head as he stared at me.
I,” the boy said as he glared at me, “am taking medithine to the Honcho and we don’t have time for people to rip holeth in the world and he’th got the flu and ithn’t up to fixing them right now tho you can thtop it right now!”
He talked like that, with a lisp so pronounced it would have been funny any other time. I spoke that word that made your mom go cross-eyed for two days, and he didn’t even blink, just let out this huge put-upon sigh.
“You’re not doing a thingle binding right and I can thee what ith there,” he snapped, waving his other hand to the space beside the old broken window.
“What?” That was me, articulate as all get out.
“I thaid I can thee….” The boy made a face and was quiet a few moments, mouthing words under his breath. “A hole in the fabric of the world can be felt right there,” he said, pointing at the wall, “and you will close it or I will.”
“I want to see Jess again.” I said that. You can laugh. I meant other things too, but that’s what came out.
“Oh. You mean a ghotht?” He scowled, then tried: “Thpirit, right? They’re not that good to meet,” the boy said, as if he did that all the time. “And that ith not what ith there.”
I lost a few seconds. At least six, maybe ten. The air smelled like burnt cinnamon and there was a hole in the wall where the insulation had been. Like something had eaten through it, and the kid was just standing in front of it with his hands raised, then turned back to stare at me as smoke raised off his fingers.
“That almotht hurt,” he said, looking stunned as he stared up at me. “That wath thome kind of-of grief eater and you jutht opened a way for it without a bargain or limitth on it? Humanth,” he added, “I don’t underthtand how you haven’t all been eaten up yet. Maybe the eater wath afraid to catch the thtupid?”
It might have sounded silly — even thilly — except he’d said ‘humans’ and sounded utterly serious in the question. I had no idea what the kid was, or even what I’d done, but he’d almost been hurt and he didn’t get hurt often, at least not by whatever a grief-eater was. I haven’t tried to find out. The kid just picked up his bag from the floor, flexing his fingers and glaring at what had been insulation.
“If you try to come back, I will have Charlie eat you,” he said to the wall, and seemed quite satisfied with that.
“What – what are you?”
He thought that over. “Jay.”
“That’s a name.”
“Altho a what,” he snapped.
The air felt strange still, Jess. Sickly-sweet. Wrong. I’d done something wrong here and I was finally realizing that, coming down off the high that I’d done anything at all. That’s why I asked: “Are you an angel?”
The boy blinked. Blinked again. If anything, he seemed more stunned by that than by his hands earlier. “I am tho glad honcho ith thick and not here,” he said finally. I have no idea who or what this honcho was, but the kid just added: “Nope,” quite firmly, clearly fighting back a grin at the idea.
I wanted to ask something else, find out – I don’t know what. Something, but he had the bag in hand and was past me and down the stairs so quick I barely saw him move. I reached the window at least as the kid crossed the road. He was on his cell phone and looked ordinary. Normal. I watched until he walked around the corner, thought about you. And me.
Maybe about angels, too, because I cleaned up the attic and came here, to your marker. To talk. Because I can’t do it. I don’t know what that grief-eater was. I don’t know what that ‘Jay’ is. But he was scared and it was my fault and I think if this magic is real, if I’m going to be something more than use it, I have a lot to learn.
I wish you could be here to learn it with me, but everyone thinks that sometimes. And whatever magic is, I don’t think it’s meant to take away our griefs.