There are days when a magician has to be a magician, when the world needs magic too much for you to relax. I walk through the city – it is small, as cities go, and the magician who has made it her home is swamped past capacity. Arisha doesn’t object to my being here to help: some would. So I walk, and let the magic out. Some days it is easier than breathing to be a magician, but not on a Friday the 13th with a full moon thrown up with it. Magic is borne of need and desire, and the desire all about me is for the stories to be true: for accidents and random luck, for a poor showing of miracles.
I ignore that, focusing on bindings and what the world needs. Holding one vehicle together, making sure ladders do not break. I have, in my day, made walls against creatures from Outside the universe to guard the world against harm, forced ancient powers to turn away from courses as old as time. It is a mistake younger magicians make to believe that this is not as important. A falling ladder could shatter a life, ruin a family, twist the myth of the day into something awful in their heads.
I lose track of the number of black cats I’ve saved from harm by the time evening rolls around. Jay is walking along beside me in worried silence; he is bound to me, and from far Outside the universe. I’ve been drawing on his strength slowly and steadily because he is tough and because he wants to help. We’ve walked over half the city, and the bindings I’ve made are holding or Jay would have said otherwise: he can see bindings as easily as humans see light, and even bend them if he has to.
I get hot dogs from a stand and eat two while Jay wolfs down four.
“Honcho? A lot of people are puthhing at the bindingth,” he says.
I raise an eyebrow. “Really?”
He rolls his eyes. “Not jutht yourth. It – it’th like they want the world to break, to show them...” he trails off, looking lost and confused.
I find a park bench and sit, and Jay plops down beside me. He’s not sucking on his thumb, which he does not during stress, but I can feel he’s getting there, unease humming through the bindings between us. “Humans do weird things, Jay. Sometimes people want to believe in a world bigger than the one they know, if only for a day, no matter if that world is all bad luck and missed chances, crazy-minded people and harm to everyone. We hunger, and sometimes we don’t know what we hunger for.”
“Oh! Like a hot dog. Becauthe you don’t know if it ith too thpicy until after you eat it,” he says proudly.
“Everyone does give it different toppings,” I say, “but sometimes they forget it’s a hot dog underneath all that.”
Jay nods seriously to that and gets off the bench, fighting back a yawn. “Then we need to make sure the hot dog is well cooked, right?”
I stand and stretch slowly. “I think you’re taking this metaphor a little too far.”
“You mean the fool moon and the bad luck? Becauthe,” he adds firmly, “food ith too important to be a metaphor.”
I smack him on the back of the head just before he could duck and he lets out an indignant squack that I waste magic on that. I continue to walk, circling toward the end of the city and the suburbs. Arisha would have questions about how I had kept going for so long that I have no desire to answer. There are magicians who would want me dead for being bound to Jay, and I don’t know if she is one.
We leave the city before we need to find out, and Jay doesn’t ask a single question about it since he doesn’t like saying the name Arisha at all. The bindings we made hold, dissolving as the moon begins to wan the next morning. I am certain there are people who will take the lack of weirdness as proof of weird but we did what we could in one small part of the world even if it was not enough.
I wake the next morning to Jay shaking me on my bed in the motel room. There are precisely thirteen dead mice piled outside the motel room door. I have no idea if this is the black cats thanking me or issuing a warning. I have Jay get rid of the bodies by unbinding them and removing stains as well and get the local paper. The headline is about Friday the 13th in the city and how bad luck ran rampant.
I put the paper down, head back to the motel room, and go back to bed.