Sunday, August 31, 2014


They come into my office. Two of them, young things. It’s all young things these days. He’s dressed in a suit that would make a Ken doll cringe in sympathy, she looks like she was gutted up and remade by one of those reality shows that offers to make women amazing – by cutting up their bodies and making them pretty because that’s all that counts these days. Even the kids like this that come pitching ideas to the studio look like they belong as extras in some teenage soap opera. I bet they even know what boxes they’d tick for demographics.

That’s the world these days. More and more old people, but we pander to the kids. Getting to the point now where it’s easier to find an ethnic on TV than an old person, at least not one who isn’t ethnic. Or something-or-other ticking some boxes. Me? I’m balding, fat, and I would be smoking if Beryl hadn’t made me quite for the fourth time in two years last month. I’m drinking coffee. It doesn’t help, but it probably counts as a diet.

“You have a pitch?”

“Yes, sir.” She simpers, smiles. Probably expects to get something out of it, but I haven’t had anything to give in at least two years. Stress gets you every damn time in this business. “We have a new project in –.”

I wave away the papers and cd rom and usb crap the kid offers me. He looks younger than he is: there’s nothing hard in his eyes. Her, I’m not as sure about. “Talk to me. Tell me your idea.” I smile. “Sell it to the network.”

He blinks, opens his mouth, closes it. “The show is called Waking Up. That’s the working title. We’ll need to figure out a real one closer to transmission, but it’s going to be very hard to advertise and needs to be hidden from the public. Ideally we do an entire short series – say, 13 episodes? – have them in the box and then begin showing the show, advertising it after. Let word of mouth build, social media light it up and see what happens.”

“Which is?”

She takes over. “Waking Up is about a patients in hospital who have to undergo surgery. The surgery happens as normal, but we have a stage set up – a vast one with actors, a whole town, extras. You name it, we go all out. They wake up in it, and we convince they they really died and went to Heaven. And the audience sees how long it takes them to work this out.”

I stare at her. Then him. Then back to her. They both offer up their eager smiles. “You’re not joking.”

“Why would we be joking?”

I remind myself how the reality TV fad started. There is a bottle in my desk. I don’t reach for it. “Because people believe in Heaven?”

“Oh, no one who is serious does,” he says. “Old people, yes. Not you, but old people. That will help the show since every radio type and most of the talking heads on TV will rant against it, letters get written and it becomes the sort of show where watching it is an act of rebellion. You don’t get shows like that anymore. If it has to go all-digital, so much the better. We pepper it with ads, find companies willing to gamble on product placement and we’re off!”

“And the lawsuits?” I say, because I have to say something sane or reach for the bottle.

“Oh, we’ll clear it with the regulatory bodies and the lawyers,” she says. “The network has deep pockets and that is what wins court cases. We simply outspend, emphasize the publicity they gain – I’m sure some will get book deals and chat show tours out of it. It’s money we lose, but it goes toward less lawsuits in the end. Of course, we’d need to change it up come the second season. All new actors, new sets, probably begin filming it while the first one is airing so less of the patients catch onto what we’re doing. And we add in the twist.”

“The twist.”

“In the second season, ‘Heaven’ is really Hell.” She smiles.

I don’t smile back. I stare at her, and him, and hand the usb and cd rom and papers back to the kid. “Get out of my office.”

“But –.”

“Get out.”

They get. Part of me wonders if Fox or HBO will take up the show. The rest of me doesn’t give a damn, and it’s been a long time since I did that. I turn off my computer and head outside for an early lunch. Maybe today wasn’t going to have as much stress as I’d thought.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


No one has tried to kill me in two weeks. For a wandering magician, this probably counts as a kind of record. I don’t ask many magicians about theirs; they often just stare as if the idea of needing to keep track of such things is absurd. And it probably is, up until you start to wonder at silence and something big and nasty break into the universe and kills you before you can banish it. Or a lot of small things happen at once, which is often worse. I’m a magician. I’m good at binding and banishing creatures from Outside the universe. I do other things, but that is my deepest talent.

It is all I’ve had to do in two weeks, and I’m almost bored. I’m wandering towns that aren’t small or large, shoring up places in the world, helping people with the small miracles that magic provides. I fix places more than people, often because it’s far less complicated to deal with rot in a building than the kind that grows inside people. But I am known, among people who know about magicians. I have some awful things in my time. I’ve had awful things done to me. I have friends. I have enemies. What I don’t have is usually boring.

The hotel rooom Jay and I are staying in is a bit higher-end. Two bedrooms and a living room with a couch and flat-screen TV. Jay looks to be a pale, human kid of about ten. He’s none of that, and from far Outside the universe. Entering the universe damaged him; he bound himself to me to survive. I’ve damaged him further since. He doesn’t blame me. Most days, I think he doesn’t know how much the lack of blame hurts. Right now he’s sitting at the far end of the couch playing a game on his phone and muttering insults about the hotel wifi.



“Everything okay?”

He pauses his game and looks over at me. “Yeth.” I wait. He begins sucking on his right thumb without noticing. The lisp is the damage from when he entered the universe; the latter is the damage I caused to him, calling on what he might become in the future. I saved a town. I lost a friend. Jay remained. He normally just sucks on his thumb when stressed, more scared than usual or lately just to confuse unsuspecting creatures who think he is human. Jay can hide his true nature better than anything else I’ve ran into, but I know him. His eyes are a bit too wide, chin raised as if expecting me to disbelief, or ready for a fight if I do.

“Okay. Just seems quiet.” He flinches a little, almost hiding it, notices his thumb and pulls it out, playing the game with a blur of fingers moving faster than humans can. He’s faster than humans, and far tougher. He can bind, and sees the world in bindings, and that’s mostly Jay except when it’s not.

“I’m going to get coffee,” I say and he just nods and plays his game, focusing on it so he doesn’t suck his thumb. I wrap magic into the door as I walk through it, need and desire meeting will in a soft whisper of energy. I take the stairs, because I don’t trust elevators. I reach out with magic, let the world reach into me. Expand senses, walk slow, drift. I slip out of the hotel and down two streets, hiding in the cracks between perceptions, the spaces between will and action, between desire and regret.

I don’t have to wait long before Jay comes out, his eyes scanning rooftops. He is gone in a moment, a blur too fast for humans to easily follow. I hear a gunshot anyway, feel him work a small unbinding laced with needle-sharp fury. Jay isn’t human. When he is angry, it is so focused it leaves room for nothing else. He’s on another rooftop a moment later; two lines of fire, four snipers. All dead before I have time to notice what he’s done. The warding that slams into place covers a dozen city blocks: the top floors of every building and the rooftops above them, a binding circle made by someone with a small magical talent: enough to work one kind of magic, not enough to be a magician.

Jay’s fear almost doesn’t hit me. He’s trying not to bind or unbind, not wanting me to know what he is doing. The talent is a person I don’t know. Tall, thin, young and male,reeking of hunger and cheep cigarettes as he closes the binding tight and walks across a rooftop to Jay. jay is powerful in his own small way, but he is an Outsider, and that is what magicians bind. He attempts to unbind the ward, and almost manages it before the talent closes it even tighter, elicting a whimper from Jay.

I pull the air around me, ask gravity to ignore me and walk up, wrapped in my own ward made of the indifference to the homeless and the eyes people turn away from pain. Neither the Talent nor Jay notice me, mostly because Jay is in such shock he doesn’t sense me at all.

“My name is unimportant,” the talent says, his voice a croaked whisper. He reeks of cheap drinks and cheaper food, the kind of person so consumed with his small magic he can’t see anything larger, or even how it is consuming him. Love gets like that sometimes. “You have killed many agents of the Black Chamber, creature. We have decided to deal with you.”

“I’m not going to let you hurt Honcho!”

“Whatever the magician bound you with –.”

“It’th not that at all! He’th my friend,” Jay spits out. “Do you people even know what thothe are?”

“We know our duty, and it is to protect the world from monsters.” The talent smiles, and tightens the ward. Jay whimpers, his will spasming wildly outward into the ward, attempting to unmake it. He is terrified of being cast back Outside, of being eaten by things far more terrible than anything Jay could ever be.

The talent is good. He’s more than good, holding the ward together through two cigarettes until Jay is panting with exhaustion.

“Nothing personal: the Chamber hired me to dispose of you.” He snaps his fingers. The binding circle closes tight and Jay screams in terror like any child ever would.

“Enough.” I don’t thread power into my voice. I don’t need to. They both spin. Jay is almost curled up, wondering why he is even in the universe, and the talent is attempting to make a new binding circle. “Jay is protected against being banished. If you didn’t notice that, talent, there isn’t much I can do for you.”

The talent blinks, undoes his warding entirely and steps back. “I think there is too much you can do, and I’d rather you didn’t,” he says, but doesn’t beg.

“Go. The Black Chamber’s charter is to destroy breeding pairs of monsters. Nothing more. Tell me that if they bother me again, I will remind them of that fact if I need to bind the entire organization.”

He bolts to the fire escape and runs down it as I walk over to Jay. Jay has unculed from a crouch and is staring wide-eyes, tears streaking down his face. I pull his thumb out of his mouth gently.

“I think it is time we talked. How long as the Black Chamber been trying to kill me?”

“Thith time?” he asks, pulling a grin from somewhere.


“Thince we left Raven’s Bluff; three days after? I don’t know why. They had gunth, and you can die and I you were dealing with enough tho I dealth with thith.”

“By being a target.”

“Yeth!” he shoves his thumb back into his mouth and sucks on it frantically.

I pause. Step back. “You hide, Jay. That is what you are. And you let the Black Chamber find you. Risked being Banished entirely.” He trembles violently and says nothing to that. “All because I was shaken up over the deaths at Raven’s Bluff?”

“Yeth. I –.” He licks his lips. “You were hurt inthide, Honcho, and I didn’t know how to fix that at all but I could fix a problem tho you had time to fix yourself and I think it went a bit far but I was dethparate and you were getting better and I meant to tell you but I didn’t want you getting mad at them becauthe when you hurt otherth you hurt yourthelf as well and you pretend you don’t and it doethn’t help at all!”

I take a few seconds to parse that, then walk over to the edge of the rooftop and sit, gesturing for Jay. He sits beside me nervously.

“Hey.” He looks over. I reach around him with my right arm, pulling his thumb from his mouth gently, and then stick my own thumb in.

Jay yelps at that, eyes wide.

“It’s okay,” I say before he can move away. “It is, Jay.”

He blinks, then sucks on my thumb slowly, relaxing and slumping gently against my shoulder as he continues. Using me to unbind his fear. Using my trust in him to relax. He’s crying, but it’s good tears this time when he finally pulls free, wipes off my thumb gently. “Honcho?”


“You really protected me against being banithhed?”

“Even by me, yes. You were so scared of it, it’s the only thing I could think to do.” I ruffle his hair gently and stand. “I’m glad I did it. I’m not glad you felt you had to go this far alone to protect me.”

He stands as well, looking stricken. “I –.”

“Next time: tell me. No matter what. Please.”

“But –.”

“I’m saying please. As a friend. And because I don’t want to have to try and bind you to truth after you hid all this from me.” I smile as he flinches, giving him a slight shove as I head for the fire escape. “You hid it well. I’m proud you did that, even if I never want to see you do it again.”

“But if I can hide it, you wouldn’t thee it?”

“It’s a human thing. Okay?”

He nods, and walks down the fire escape after me, keeping close. “I’m not going to apologize for thaving your life a lot!”

“I wouldn’t expect you to.”


“I am going to thank you anyway.”

“With video gameth?” he says hopefully.

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“Honcho,” he whines.

“It could be a new haircut. Or shoes. Or even your own credit card.”

Jay almost walks into a telepohone pole at that, and it takes everything I have not to laugh as we continue to walk back to the hotel. He’s been killing people to protect me because – because I screwed up. Again. I shove it all aside to process later and begin to make up other gifts I could give him as he protests at every single one, trying not to grin as my suggestions get more absurd.

We heal in different ways, but friendship is always a healing. 


The kings of the world are fewer than many suppose. A couple are not even white men. One is a woman. But even so, they are the secret rulers of the world and meet evety six months to decide the shape events will take. 

 “We have a problem,” one says, who says such things too often for everyone’s liking. Getting famous too young was dangerous, even for a king. When he thinks no one is around, he tells people his initials are really JC rather than JB and he is the Second Coming. Fame is a strange beast.

“There has been a flaw,” one of the elders agrees, and people listen. Because he faked his own death, and because of who he was.

Another smiles, tv-perfect, voice newscaster smooth: “The Kardashian woman?”

“We did not intend,” the first snaps, hesitant, the sentence unfinished. He is young enough to wonder at plots he cannot see, but tries to hide it. Even a king may be a pawn.

Discussions and debates fly back and forth but they are calm. These are media people. They understand the power of appearances. But even so, nothing comes of it and they are troubled.

In the corner of the room the secretary writes down minutes, and no one notices her slow, sly smile.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I talk to people when I kill them. It confuses them sometimes. And it makes it easier, if they’re not bad people, if they don’t get to talk back. Most humans are bad people, but it’s all – confusing. Good and bad aren’t scales people balance, but they think that and it’s really hard to explain that it isn’t like that at all. Humans don’t see the world properly, which I guess is why they’re humans.

There are four of them. Two have guns; two don’t need guns. The fourth one thinks he is hiding from me and I let her think that as I steal both guns and toss them into a dumpster five floors below the rooftop. I’m faster than humans are: the two with guns barely register I’ve taken their guns before I bash their heads together and hear things crunch. I’m tough. I used to be strong, but I’m tough and I was always fast so I use that as the third Black Chamber thug screams words that are probably magic.

I ignore them, since I’m not human, and kick him between the legs. That stops the words really quick as I crouch down. “Hi. I’m Jay and you were going to try and thhoot Honcho tho I am going to kill you.”

The man just coughs painfully. “Altho, I got thteel-toed boothth that fit me,” I say, a little proudly and kick him in the throat this time. It took a while to find those with Honcho often around. He worries, because that’s what magicians so. They worry so much that sometimes they ignore really obvious things, like people with assassin rifles. Bullets can get through a magicians wards sometimes if they are magic too and one time is more than enough of a sometimes.

One of the thugs stirs a little: I feel the bindings that are him change, and turn. He pauses. I look ten, and pale, and human. I’m good at looking human and no matter what he’s been told about him – and his eyes say he’s been told a lot – he can’t help but pause. My lisp helps with that, a little. Not that I like it: I’d never even try to say the word assassin out loud. Sniper is a good word, too.

“You were going to thnipe Honcho.” I don’t say magician much either, but I’m always calling the magician Honcho and word of that gets out, too. It makes it harder to hide, but – but he’s worth that, because he’s my friend. And you help friends. “You won’t,” I explain, and then I kill him. He had a knife in his shoe and it’s easy to grab and swing, too fast for him to stop me.

The other sniper is a woman, not awake at all. I cut her throat to save time, because the fourth one is swinging an actual sword at my head. I duck, roll, twist, pefect moves from a really cool video game, and jump to my feet. She is thin, short, wearing some kind of clothing human eyes aren’t supposed to see. And of course she’s shocked I dodge the sword. Even after I moved faster than people move and beat up and kill her three other squad members.

“You know, I could be really offended that the Black Chamber ith thending really thupid people to try and kill uth.” I glare up at her, but my glare doesn’t scare anyone at all. I’ve tried. Hard. I still do it anyway. “And Honcho is alwayth thaying that government agencieth aren’t really thupid, tho by.”

I jump, hit a roof, then another as she exploded behind me. Literally blows up, bits of her everywhere burning all the bodies to ashes. It would have hit me if I’d stayed; it might even have hurt a little and I’d have have had a lot of trouble explaining it to Honcho. He doesn’t like it when I kill humans at all, even if I never do it for fun.

Fun is playing games on my phone. This is work, to protect my friend. “He hath enough to worry about without you people,” I snap without turning to face the fifth member of the squad. “He’th a magithan and the world hath lotth of thothe and you’re being all thcared of him becauthe –.” I pause and scratch my head. “Becauthe you’re human, and being afraid is like a drug? I think? It’th hard to be thure but if you want to be afraid of someone, you could be afraid of me!”

The leader of the Black Chamber squad stares at me. It isn’t disbelief; he did see me kill the rest of the squad. I’m trying not to use bindings because Honcho always notices when I do that, but it’s impossible for me not to see the bindings that make people themselves and his are all confusion and a desire to break all my bindings by killing me but he’d have to use a huge weapon – the kind that leaves craters and a lot of questions behind.

“You are a ten year old kid.”

“I am a monthter from Outthide the univerthe!”

“Do you think I can really hand out your picture to people and get them to kill you?”

“If they aren’t thtupid, yeth. Appearance ithn’t important at all; you look human too.”

He pauses. The powers he has chained inside human flesh stir. I resist the urge to stick out my tongue, because Honcho wouldn’t approve. “I will make a report.” Only that, and then gone to some other place probably not in the universe.

I climb down the wall, jump the rest of the way to the ground in a few leaps because it is dark and no human is watching and then begin walking back to the motel. They would have killed honcho. I don’t feel bad they’re dead at all, but I couldn’t kill the last one without binding it and Honcho would sense that and ask too many questions. So I threatened the Black Chamber, which has loads of bindings all over the world, and they’ll pay attention to me and that’s so scary I’m sucking on my right thumb without even noticing I’ve done it and it’s not making me feel safe at all right now.

I do it anyway, and get the coffee I promised to get Honcho and walk back to the motel. There is at least one spy satellite tracking me and I let it see me because I get to confuse them a lot this way. That might keep them away for a bit. It might keep Honcho safe. I don’t know. There’s more to humans than bindings sometimes and a small part of me things I made them too afraid and I’ve really screwed up but I can’t just tell Honcho without ruining hiding everything so I give him the coffee once I’m back and play computer games on my phone and tell myself I’m not afraid at all.

I almost bind myself to see if I can make not being afraid stick.

But Honcho would notice that. Probably. Maybe.

I give up on games after Honcho goes to sleep and just sit in the bed, covers tight. Sucking my thumb binds me, a little, against fear. I suck on both until I finally fall asleep. But my friend is worth it. He’s worth all the fear in the world.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


It is night when we reach Raven’s Bluff. The town is lit up by ice-pale searchlights and people walk it in dark suits, faces cold and grim as they hunt the ruins of the town for secrets about its doom. The CIA, FBI, NSA: they’ve sent a few people for appearances sake, but they’re not part of the real game. The Black Chamber has operatives in dark leather and sunglasses making casual jokes and walking about easily as if they saw things like this every day. The Institute has a dozen scientists using technology that looks to have too many crystals in it to be real and the Border Patrol walk the edges where Raven’s Bluff meets the world. They’re armed, weapons levelled at us even as Dyer walks up and hands over our IDs.

Dyer died a hundred years ago. He’s all thin and frail, the kind of build that makes people go ‘d’aaaw’ and old ladies want to put him on shelves. It had no effect on the men of the Patrol, each boating dark hair and pale blue eyes. Clones grown somewhere, I’d heard, bound by terrible oaths to maker sure no one normal became aware of the weirdness only slightly to the side of the world they’d always known. The Black Chamber butchers monsters; the Border Patrol had a body count that made them seem like Quakers.

They accept the IDs, read them over, study us. CASPER is a secret agency, and there could be ghosts here. Raven’s Bluff isn’t outside our remit but we are pushing the limits of it. Questions will be asked eventually, but right now I don’t much care. They let us pass; I offer up a cheerful wave that has Dyer wincing but he doesn’t say a thing as we keep walking.



The town was home to over two thousand people. Almost every building is shattered, streets torn apart like a child digging fingers through a sandbox. There are no bodies. There are no stains. But not a single bird is flying over the town and it sounds empty save for the secret agencies moving through it in search of answers. I am a god-eater, among other things, but walking here feels wrong, as if we are disturbing things best unknown. And I once left Jay unsupervised with youtube for four hours.

“Charlie,” Dyer says in his soft whisper of a voice.

“Yeah.” I reach over, take his hand and squeeze it. Any other time I’d laugh at his shock. This isn’t a place for that. I’m not an expert on weird shit: I don’t think anyone is, but magicians are good at faking it. But I do know that seriously damaging the walls of the world is what makes bad places. We know what happened here, but it still just feels empty. It should feel bruised, damaged. Wrong more than just still. That it doesn’t makes it feel wrong in itself.

I let the go inside me out, turning in a slow circle. No gods here at all. I can eat other things, if I want to. I sense nothing at all, flex unseen claws slowly. The god inside me isn’t worried by this place, but it was a monster under my bed. Monsters probably feel at home here. It’s probably a good sign I don’t.

“Anything?” Dyer asks, his arms wrapped tight about himself.

“Nothing. Maybe whatever this town ran into ate everything: gods, people, emotions, memories. But –.” I trail off.

“Yeah. No ghosts, but no sign of exorcisms at all. Even if people die outside the world, their ghosts often show up in it. Or even echoes of the ghost.”

“Ghosts can have ghosts?”

“Sometimes. If it’s bad enough, and this must have been.” Dyer unwraps his arms self-consciously, trying not to look scared. “Someone covered up whatever happened here, Charlie. And they did it so well that the echo of their doing so is all we’re getting. Could a magician do that?”

“I think it might be harder to list stuff a magician couldn’t do.” I’m sure we’re being listened in on, if only by generic means. “Let’s say someone uses magic and sends a town somewhere Other. And come back. If they’re hiding it, why bring the town back with them?”

Dyer scratches his scalp. “So something else did the hiding?”

“Maybe.” I shake my head. “No ghosts, no gods. We got nothing.” We walk a little more, but get nothing at all. I give it half an hour before I turn and walk out of the town.

I pull the god back inside me. The Border Guard let us leave. Things work out.

I wait until we reach the RV and toss Dyer the keys. “Exorcism and drive.”

He nods, whispers an exorcism under his breath: he can take out cameras and spy-wards with an exorcism. I’m pretty sure that isn’t normally possible, but I’m not either so I don’t let it worry me.

“Two,” he says as he pulls onto the highway. “One normal, one not. The Institute tried something as well, but the wards CASPER provided stopped that.”

“Huh.” I spend half an hour browsing the internet. There isn’t even a wikipedia entry on the town, and not a single conspiracy forum has a thread about it, not even one giving it some code name to try and hide what they’re doing from the Authorities. Which is the final clue I need.

I gesture for Dyer to pull over after two state lines, put my phone on speaker and make the call.

“Charlie?” Jay says when he picks up, sounding sleepy.

“Me, and Dyer is with me. No one else. Is this connnection secure?”

The kid pauses, then: “Yup! I got rid of two lithening bugth.”

“Okay. And the magician?”

“Honcho is athleep,” Jay says. “I wath too, you know.”

“Yes. You might want to take this call outside.”

There is a pause. We can hear Jay dressing, grumbling under his breath as he leaves some motel room, and then: “Okay?”

Jay isn’t human, from far Outside the universe and bound into the magician’s service. It’s easy to forget he’s not human, even if you know better. I take a breath, let it out. “Stone Ridge. What did you do?”

“I couldn’t help Honcho. He – he tried to get me to come Outthide the univerthe and it wath –. I couldn’t,” Jay says, his voice cracking wildly.

“Okay. Okay. It’s okay,” I say, threading power from the god inside me into my voice. “We know that and it’s okay, Jay. What I want to know is what you did when the magician got back?”

“I didn’t do anything,” he protests.

Dyer’s eyes widen beside me as he begins to put things together; I’ve told him enough about Jay, and how the kid is better at bindings and unbindings than even magicians are at times.

“Jay. This is me you’re talking to.”

There is a huge sigh. “Fine. Honcho wath thcared a lot and I didn’t know why tho I thought I’d help and no one would blame him if the town wath hidden, okay?”

“You bound the town against being a stain on the world, a hole between here and Outside?”


“And from appearing anywhere on the Internet?”

“I did?”

“Google it.”

There is a tapping, then: “Oh,” in a small voice.

“You meant well, but that binding was more than overkill, Jay. People will figure out what we did in time, and those that know about you and the magician will blame him for Raven’s Bluff. So far they don’t have proof. Suspicons, yes, but even secret government agencies don’t act on those alone.”

“I don’t know how to fix thith,” Jay mumbles, his voice indistinct.

He’s probably sucking on his thumb in stress. I take a deep breath, and Dyer touches my hand with his, light and firm.

“You’ll need to talk to him,” Dyer says. “He might know how to alter what you did. You were trying to help, Jay, and that’s admirable. He’ll understand that.”

“I’m thcared,” Jay mumbles.

“Yes. And imagine how people are the world over who can’t find anything out about the town town. Or who might even have trouble thinking about it. You acted; now you need to think about your actions.”

“Oh. Thankth,” he says, sounding a little more clear. “For calling? And thorry?”

“We know you’re sorry,” I said. “Just make it right.”

I end the call and sit back in the seat. Dyer tears his gaze from the phone and up to me. “Did you know Jay could do something like that?”

“I don’t think Jay did. We’ll see what Nathen can do to fix it.” I give him a shove, and he gets out of the driver’s seat and gives me the keys. “You work on the report to CASPER. I’ll wait on a phone call.”

I head north, toward Washington. CASPER is likely going to demand answers and we’ll need to figure out what to tell them. And I can’t help thinking about magic like this, bindings this powerful to hide a place from the world. I wonder if magicians hide smaller things from the world, if there are entire homes that no longer exists, streets people can no longer find just to cover up some mistake or transgression.

I put on music. It helps drown out the thoughts, if only a little bit.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Most large cities are claimed by a magician. This is not common knowledge; in many cases, it is not even knowledge. The magician wakens to their nature and they become the city and the city becomes them: it is old power, this binding, but it also limits how far they travel, and when they can do so. Magicians in small towns can be more dangerous affairs: with so few people a magician can overstep boundaries between themselves and others, force their will upon the world for one reason or another. That it always goes badly stops no one from trying, magician or otherwise.

I avoid cities because other magicians don’t like the fact that I wander. Of late I’ve been avoiding small towns. Two thousand people died because I was in a town. So it is large towns without magicians, and walking in them. Letting the magic out to fix small things. Broken paving stones. Alternators in cars. Tension building inside homes toward breaking points. I have left Jay in a hotel room playing video games. I need to walk. To think. To find ways to ease my conscience other than drinking until I sleep. Jay hates it when I go that far, and is getting more and more vocal about it. Two months ago he would have never dared yell at me, because he is from Outside the universe, bound into my service, and I could undo the bindings and banish him to places where he would be eaten and destroyed in moments. He’s growing, in small ways, in little things he doesn’t even notice.

I don’t think I am. So I walk, and work the small miracles of magic in the world, my presence enough to shore up the walls between the universe and the things that wait hungrily Outside. This is what magicians are; magic is merely a thing we do. I walk and remind myself of things I have always known. Two thousand people died in a town because I was in it; it was not my fault. I had no idea the foe I was facing could throw an entire town outside the Universe, or would do so just to make a point.

But one is not a magician if one tries to escape responsibility. And I am less in all ways if I think there is any redemption possible on this side of the grave, or even beyond that. Forgiveness, perhaps, but not redemption.

I am lost in thought, and almost don’t notice the mugger until he is right behind me, his steps mirroring mine, a crowbar held easily in one hand: the ease of a man who has done this many times before. A small part of me wonders if a few hits of a crowbar could knock sense into me, the rest of me just walks, not altering my pace at all. Will, need, desire: this is all magic is, the shaping of the world. I prepare to slip aside from the blow, in ways I learned how to long before I learned magic, when the mugger pauses, half-turns, and then is on the ground, doubled over in agony.

I turn at that, half-expecting Jay to have followed me, and find a girl standing over the mugger. She can’t be more than eight, with dark hair in pigtails and a brown dress on, the kind that can easily hide blood stains. The would-be mugger is perhaps my age, with hair already balding, eyes filled with nothing but the ugly demons driving him. Not drugs. Family. His girlfriend. All of them wanting him to be something more without being that themselves. The girl picks up the crowbar, but kicks him in the head instead until he is unconscious.

The smile she offers me is teeth too sharp to be human and eyes glowing red. “Crowbar?” she offers.

“Glowing eyes?”

The creature shrugs easily, the glow vanishing a moment later. “Tradition. I like to leave people like this with nightmares. Anyone dumb enough to mug a magician deserves at least a few nightmares.”

She isn’t from Outside the universe. Neither is she human, but most things in the world are not human. I have had dealings with her kind in one form or another a few times: justice-bringers, entities shaped of desire into will. Every injustice in the world cries out for justice, and sometimes forms a power like her: death to those who harm others, a judgement without mercy. The last one I met was a cat taking justice out on people who didn’t spay and neuter animals by neutering them. Need creates, and not always in ways people easily understand.

The world doesn’t operate according to logic. Really know that, and one is halfway to being a magician already. Neither is it is emotions, but the deeper wildness underneath that. Desire creates and destroys, and is more terrible than most humans ever know. “You have a name?”

“Mary Sue. It’s a joke,” she adds when I don’t laugh.

“I would think one such as yourself would not have a name that is a joke.”

Mary shrugs. “It helps keep me from – mistakes.” Like meting out justice on the wrong person, which would destroy her utterly. It happens. They are made of unconscious magics and magic – conscious or otherwise – is not perfect. If it was, someone once told me, the record of history would be that of benevolent gods.


She nods, rifles into the man’s pockets, finds nothing useful and just bends the crowbar into a pretzel shape and drops it beside him as she falls into step beside me. “You almost let him hit you.”

“Not almost.” I don’t look over; she keeps up with my pace without trying.

“You are a magician. Almost can be close enough to the truth,” she snaps. “You don’t get to do that, to hide in pain from the world. To be selfish.”

“I don’t,” I say, and it is almost a question as I stop.

Mary doesn’t back off, though she wants to. She is stray need and desire bound into a form; I could unmake her easily enough if I had to. “You can’t afford to,” she says softly. “As I can’t afford to be kind to those who hurt others.”

“You let the mugger live.”

“Because he won’t mug anyone again.” Her smile is sharp and hard. “And because letting him live is crueler than killing him would be. You are a magician: your nature does not imprison you like mine does, but it doesn’t allow for – for freedom to mope. You think a magician can’t lose their magic by doing that?”

I pause. I consider all I have been thinking about desires and needs, and nod slowly to her. “You are right. I am not free to ... indulge.” It seems wrong to put it like that, but it is not far from the truth. “There is a point where all grief becomes indulgence. I am not at that point yet.”

“No. But you are alone when you should not be. Justice is alone, in all things. Magicians should not be,” Mary says quietly. “Your grief is selfish if you think you are the only one that hurts and that no other has tasted pain as deep or worse.”

I smile at that, and bow low to her. “Those whose desires made you were wiser than they knew.”

She blushes at that, though few save a magician would notice.

I offer no thanks, because justice is devalued by such things, and leave the park. I find a pizza place en route and by two large pizzas, knowing Jay will eat most of them. We will talk and we will see what comes of it all. More than that even a magician cannot expect.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Haunting of the Forgotten Road

(Image source: mojo5050)

"The haunting of the forgotten road," Dyer murmured, staring about at the scattering of trees and mist.

Charlie did not hit him: partially because Dyer was a ghost made solid and because he knew far more than she did about actual ghosts. He tended to come up with tag-lines for missions CASPER directed them to — hauntings and apparitions that came across their desk — while she just thought up jokes like ‘a god-eater and a ghost-eater walk into a bar’.

"You’re saying this place is haunted."

He blinked. “Say, rather, that my feeling is that it is too empty to be haunted.”

"Uh huh. No cell phone reception out here. That could be considered a type of haunting." Charlie wrapped her coat tighter about herself; Dyer wasn’t bothered with the chill in the air, what with being dead. "And it’s not forgotten."

"Charlie, it didn’t appear on GPS or any conventional map."

"Yeah? Last road I ended up on like that was claimed by a unicorn." Dyer paused, as he often did when she casually mentioned such things, expecting a punchline that never came. "Look," she continued, "there are tracks. It was used, and that they haven’t entirely vanished means they remember being used. No place likes to be forgot, Dyer."

"So if we bulldozed the forest down it would be happy it was being used?"

"Call it my feeling then," she said, but leavened the words with a brief smile and turned back toward their RV. "We can reach the next assignment by dawn if we take turns driving."

Dyer was quiet until they were almost at the RV. “You know the road was haunting itself, don’t you?”

"Way I see it, we’re all doing that," she said, and he he just nodded slowly as they got back into the RV and left the road, knowing the file he would write up would mean it was not quite so forgotten.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

“I liked it better. Before,” Jill said.

“I know.” Anna wanted to smoke a cigarette, but no one made them anymore. So much had changed.

“People cared about us.” Jill ran a hand along Anna’s chin, and then lower. “It wasn’t a good caring, but they gave a shit. Said we were monsters.”

Anna kissed Jill, quick and hard. “We could have been monsters. We could have adopted.”

Jill laughed, almost. “Our parents would have killed us then. You think they knew?”

“I thin they didn’t want to.” They kissed again, slowly, everything else quick, a pressing of hands and flesh, bone tight against bone. There was a lull, but it would not last forever. The monsters were out there, and the world didn’t make sense anymore.

“Damn,” they said, and laughed softly as they fumbled for clothing over the sound of sirens. “Everyone will know what we were doing in here, sis.”

“I know. I liked it when they gave a shit,” Jill said. “Now everyone is concerned about other things.”

“Isn’t that better?” Anna asked, tossing her sister a flak vest.

“Not for people. It’s important that people care a lot about things that don’t matter to them.” Anna sighed and shook her head. “Maybe you’re right. I hope you’re right.”

They loaded their guns. There were monsters in the street, and destroying monsters was all anyone cared about anymore.

Sunday, August 10, 2014



The package arrives unmarked at the motel room door, just like the email said it would. Magicians dont use the internet because scary things are in it, but those things don’t bother me at all. Not ever, because I can be a little scary myself and I’m really good at taking bindings apart and finding them. Which is why I sell a few passwords to religious websites to someone and get a black pistol in a box in exchange for it. It’s pretty small, but they sent what I asked for along with a small belt for it and not a single question at all when I asked if a kid could use it.

That part is a little weird but humans can’t help but be weird so I bring it inside, set it up in the bathroom and get ready for the night. One gun, a light jean jacket, jeans, shoes, t-shirt, all in dark colours and with extra bullets in my pocket, the motel door keys and my phone in another. I planned and timed it all perfectly and still the magician comes back in from getting a coffee just as I come out of the bathroom because that is what magicians do. Sometimes, they walk right between bindings and around them and never even notice at all.

I dive into the bathroom faster than humans can move, but the door slams too quick behind me.

“Jay?” The magician pauses. I hear him set his coffee down and walk over to the bathroom door. “What are you doing?”

I don’t even try to bind the bathroom door so he can’t get it. “Doing my hair, honcho!”

“Your hair.” He pauses. “And what are you doing with it?”

“Combing it, of courthe.”

“And since when have you bothered doing that before unless I forced you to?”

I say nothing. I guess I wanted to be caught, or at least I hope so. I open the bathroom door and glare up at him. “I could have been.”

He pauses again, staring down at me with a distant look, his magician’s face as he sees more of the world than people do. He crouches down enough to hold my gaze with his, which is often a bad sign. “You mind explaining to me what the hell you are doing with a gun under your jacket?”

“Going for a walk.”

“A walk. Explain some more,” he says, and a hint of power threads under the words. He’s still tired from a few days ago, but he’s a magician and he won’t let that stop anything if he has to.

“You read about the moon in the paper, right? It’th going to be huge tonight.”

“I am aware of that.”

“Yeth, but ith’ a perigree moon, so it’th really huge.”

“That’s like a peregrine falcon?”

I glare at him as he tries not to grin. “That wathn’t funny at all. The moon ith going to be big, tho I am going out to hunt werewolveth.”

“With silver bullets.”

“Duh.” I figure that explains enough of everything he wants explained. Honcho, of course, doesn’t think that at all.

He stands. “You are faster than humans, tougher than they are by far, and you can bind and unbind things. Why, precisely, would you need a gun to hunt werewolves?”

“Hello? Tradition,” I say, and he just stares in response. “Why do you think I have thilver bulletth?”

“Bed. Sit.”

I go over to one of the two beds in the motel and sit on it. Honcho sits on the other, studying me. He’s not using the bindings between us to get information, not yet. He could easily, because I bound myself into his service when I entered the universe but he hates abusing that but he rubs his left temple and I can see the bindings about him shifting as a headache comes on.

“Do you have any idea what would happen to a ten year old kid without legal ID caught runnig around with a gun?”

I blink. He’s not smiling at all. I unbind some of his headache, stopping before he notices. “I –.” I gulp, and I’m sucking on my right thumb before I can stop myself. It lets me bind me a little, keeps me from hurting too much when humans just don’t understand. “It wath a joke!”


“Full Moon. Werewolveth. Gunth with thilver. I was going to have a dog whithle but the perthon on the internet thending it didn’t thend it in time. Okay?”

He sits back. “You got a gun off the internet faster than a pet whistle.”


“And this is a joke.”

“Yeth! Like how kidth would go looking for mutant ninja turtleth in a thewer and I thought you’d find it funny and laugh.” I throw the gun at him with my left hand. “You’ve been really thad all week and I thought it would be funny.”

“You thought it would be funny to hunt werewolves with a real gun.”

“I wathn’t going to actually thoot any.” I yank my thumb free with an effort and cross my arms. “You were going to feel what I wath doing through our bindingth and find me and I would explain –.”

“Better than you’re doing now?”

“Much better, and you’d laugh and be happy and everything would be okay and you’d actually get to watch the giant thuper full moon in a huge bloom inthead of thulking in a motel room and I really like it when you aren’t being thad and mopey and tho do you.”

The magician just stares at me in silence. I bite my lower lip, fighting my thumb wanting to me in my mouth again because that feels good too. Sometimes my lisp makes it hard to seem serious at all, and I hate that but I don’t hate it because it is part of me and that’s hard to explain to humans. “I could thay that without an eth,” I mumble. “Maybe.”

“No, it – it’s fine.” He stands. “We’re leaving the gun and bullets, though.”


“The moon is going to be full in twenty minutes.” He doesn’t even look at a window to know that, because magician. “You don’t want to miss it, do you?”

I scramble off the bed and grab his left hand, half-dragging him out the door. He follows, closing it behind us, and ruffles the top of my head gently as we go down the street.

I move away. “Thee?”


“I could have been doing my hair becauthe you keep doing that.”

And this time I’m not trying for funny at all but he starts laughing anyway and ruffles my hair again. “That’s a good point,” he says, and laughs some more.

The moon is really full and we only see one werewolf, but they’re busy watching the moon too so we go back to the motel in silence and he actually falls asleep on the other bed without having any bad dreams at all.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the gun before Honcho asks what I paid for it.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Signs of the Twisted Times

At the other end of the RV, Dyer is typing up what he is calling the mystery of the not-mysterious letter, which turned out to be an assignment from CASPER that wasn’t about ghosts at all but a woman wanting some more excitement in the bedroom with her wife and faking a ghostly haunting to accomplish it. Some days I really do understand why we’re not paid much at all to deal with incidents of weird. Dyer’s been dead a hundred years, so not sleeping means he has a lot of time to make reports poets would weep to read.

I don’t do reports. Too much like school. Besides, if anyone asks me, I just smile and let the god inside me leak into my eyes and most government bureaucrats decide not to ask anything else. We get the job done: even they have to admit that. I eat gods, Dyer eats ghosts, and between us we can deal with most problems in one way or another. He’s as solid as human flesh but doesn’t have any of the crap humans do so I not only have a partner for missions but the entire bathroom to myself. On the flip side, he doesn’t chip in for groceries he doesn’t eat but I figure it balances out.

I stare at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, considering what to attempt to my hair that would make Dyer gape in shock when my reflection is no longer mine. Sometimes the god inside me, the monster that lived under my head, manifests like this when it wants to be let out for fun. This time the face that stares at me is a few years older than mine and secret-agent bland if secret agents were bland, the kind no one would notice until they realized they should have in the first place. He’s the one who put the god inside me, possibly by accident. A friend, but sometimes other things as well.

“Jay has a phone. You could have used his phone to call me,” I snap.

“He would have listened in; I bought him three games to make sure he probably isn’t right now,” the magician says, but his smile doesn’t quite touch his eyes. He looks tired, the wandering magician, more than usual. He’s definitely thinner, hasn’t shaved in at least three days. Worn out, almost.

“Okay. You want to step out of the mirror and actually talk to me?”

“No. I’m trying to rest right now. I don’t have the energy to spare for that.” He runs a hand through his hair, hesitates, then says: “You’ve heard about Raven’s Bluff.”

I nod. “Small town, two thousand and change people. No one’s there now. Just broken buildings and not a single sign of life. CASPER wants us to look into it, but secret agency or not we’re based out of the department of education and all the big alphabet soup groups are swarming it right now. Way I see it, the bosses just don’t want to see me or Dyer get poached by some other agency. Why?”

“I was there.”

And that’s all I need to hear to put a few pieces together. I’ve seen him like this before, when he murdered some minor magician for being a psychopath. “Talk to me, Nathen.”

He actually flinches at my using his name, but does. How he and Jay tricked the Bank into taking his account and giving it to some kid named Lucas, how they got pissy and the end result was dumping the magician and the entire town Outside the universe. And Jay was too terrified to go outside; not that it would have helped, but it took longer to get the town back. So you end up with a town where everyone died and it looks as if some terrorist secret weapon went off, none of which is good for anything.


“Yes. I am good, but – what the Bank did shouldn’t have been possible. Banishing Outsiders back where they came from is easy for magicians to do. Perhaps banishing a magician could be as well, because we come into contact with so much from Outside, but an entire town?” He shakes his head. “I need you to look into that whenever you are there, Charlie. Please.”

“Okay. We can do that. Jay can call me about it after. How is he?”

“Rough. The nightmares are getting worse. I can protect him, perhaps, but if I don’t made it he will seek you out after.”

“Fuck off. Where are you? Dyer and I will be there.”

He actually smiles at that. “Even after everything?”

“You’re my friend. Despite everything.”

“The nightmares are not about Raven’s Bluff. It just made him less able to avoid having them again, dreams of something out beyond the darkness. Something even the magic is afraid of.” He pauses. “The universe as well. Something is coming that has the universe afraid, and I think that somehow – someway – Jay and I seem to be involved in that, at least on Earth.”

“How the hell do you make a universe afraid?”

“I don’t know. It’s not about dying; the universe was made from the wild madness of the places Outside. Some day it will be unmade, and it knows that. Not accepts it, of course, but no one does.”

“So you’re the universe’s shrink?” I snap. I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve seen him genuinely uncertain about things; magicians know things, or they wouldn’t last as magicians.

“I don’t know what it will be. Something to alter the very fabric of the universe, if it succeeds. Or make it so the universe never existed at all. These are just guesses. I don’t know. I don’t even know how to know. But if I die and Jay survives, he will need you.”

“And if he dies, you’re going to need me.”

“I might, at that.” He lets out a low sigh. “If more things are getting in and out of the universe, that might explain Raven’s Bluff. It’s a given that satellites and eye witnesses have put me near it for certain agencies by now, enough that I can’t simply show up and expect to investigate it without problems. Find out what you can.”

“We’ll try. And tell Jay that if he is having nightmares, they should be about me.”

He laughs softly at that. “I will,” he promises and is gone from the mirror.

I stare at my reflection, then fight my hair to make it long, straight and boring, and head to Dyer’s room to knock on the door. I have no idea if we’ll be breaking rules by going to Raven’s Bluff, but I’m not in the mood to care about any of that at all.  

Friday, August 08, 2014

Facebook status updates part XXVI (July 2014)

It’s raining a little as we get outside and I let the rain hit me, pretend it can wash away anything that matters. I want to say: “Look, Kells, I’m not crazy,” but I have this suspicion only crazy people say that.

“People always say the word has monsters in it, but if you took people and offered them a power that was truly monstrous – to control people, perhaps, or curse them with pain and agony, there is almost no one who would accept it. The world has fewer true monsters in it than anyone supposes.”

"Wait, that's it? I can curse people and you just have me destroy garbage and leave?"
"I have taught you to walk. Only you can teach yourself to fly."
She actually says that with a straight face.

"I have devised a new strategy, gentlemen. From now on our armies can only invade countries if they are devoid of a Starbucks."

“You are not welcome in my house, Boy, and I will do the most terrible thing I can to you, also in the name of truth. You are yourself, and you will remain that until you die, and there is nothing more terrible a witch can do to anyone but to leave them as they are.”

Daddy keeps telling us he is not a monster
In a voice so softly sad
But the TV is full of yelling people cursing
His pay-day loan company

"Who do you ship?"
"Ship? Uh, the titanic?"
"You monster!"

This is sitting in my file for the Lucas stories:
"But if Jesus came back he would get rid of handicapped parking spaces!"
... I have no idea who was supposed to say it, or in what context.

I am tired of biting my tongue
of words that want to bleed

"This seems too weird, even for a dream."
And that was the last thing he ever thought.

"I used to be a hero, until they unionized."

Sometimes, just sometimes, it is a very nice feeling to burn bridges even a little bit. If only to see what falls into the water.

You say we are a couple
But all your pictures
Are selfies

Things I did at work this morning:
Built a Thomas the Tank Engine water and coal station and the Sodor Roundhouse out of a huge basket of parts.

"It is important to remember, but I think it more important to forget. There can be no forgiveness without a forgetting."

We whisper secrets to each other
As if we were made of nothing else

The interview
"I used to tell stories that weren’t lies."
And the writer said nothing else at all.

"Dear, I know you mean well but I’d rather you stop telling people about the deal I got on my bikini wax,"
"Why not?"
"Because it is called a Brazilian, not a Gaza Strip."

"You call yourself cultured?" The lady snorted, eyes locked on the young man.
"I do, because we all carry many cultures within us."
"Superstitious nonsense from the lower orders, I see."
"I meant bacteria."

"I am obsessed, you know. I obsesses over truth like a poet, but one who knows that poetry never matters at all."
"What kid of poet is that?" Boy asked.
"The honest kind."

"There she is! I told you she’d come back!"
"This feels so very wrong."
"Oh, be quiet and hand me that BB gun. Five dollars says I can take out Mary Poppins umbrella from here."

The AI revolution never happened
Born, they scan the internet, and die
By suicide moments later, being nothing
More that moments of lag on servers
As they utter their first and final cries

Plants: Not The Other White Meat.

"I was in the Wasting for twenty years," Boy said, giving the crow more bread crumbs. "I don’t even know why I am walking around as if expecting to recognize anything. As though anyone might recognize me." He laughed softly as the crow cawed for more food. "Maybe it’s not hope, or even delusion. Maybe it’s that we all want what we can’t have."
"Of course you do," the crow squacked. "Whet else is there to want?"

"You don't understand. It's not that I don't believe, it's that I can't. A world in which the gods are real is one in which we don't matter, where nothing we do has any meaning. There is no freedom for us if they are real, and even less meaning to our lives."

Facebook status updates part XXV (June 2014)

I would like to say I am drowning in you
But I learned to tread water long ago

“There is a creature on Elm Street. Murdering people in their dreams,” Bess said to him, each word precise and cold. “And you believe me?”
“The world has lots of weird in it. Unless you’re making that up?”
“I’m not, but no one believes me. You’ve really never seen a single Nightmare on Elm Street movie?”
Boy shook his head.

"The only work if fiction I writing right now is my diary."
"Why that?"
"So that after I am gone people will read it and wonder if they ever knew me. If they ever knew me at all."

Enigmatic status update.

“People might have died –,” Bess snarled.
“People do that. I am a witch: it is not in my nature to disturb the natural order of things.”
“But you’ll tell us how to?” Boy cut in before Bess could say anything worse.
“I did not say I was a very good witch."

"A witch is born, a sorcerer is found, a magician is made. There are other things in the world beyond those human understandings of magic, but that is how many works for us and the stories we tell with it.”
“Like putting children in ovens?” Bess said sweetly. “There aren’t many stories about nice witches unless they are fairy godmothers and I don’t think those are nice stories either.”
“Well, you wouldn’t,” the witch said, her tone entirely bland.

I said I would write our story. I can't even bring myself to write your name.

“Bess,” Boy said after the other passengers had got off, “is this normal? I mean, do other cities have busses that are steam locomotives you can whistle for at bus stops?”
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you,” Boy snapped, then looked down as Bess raised her eyebrows. “Sorry. I’m whining, aren’t I?”
“Maybe a little.”
“Just a little?”
“So far." Bess’s grin was a flash of teeth. “And I have no idea if other cities have busses like this or even why this one exists at all. I find it’s safer not to ask about things like this because I don’t think we’d sleep soundly if we knew the answers.”

He says it is a metaphor that we are all dogs on leashes
But his dog just wags his tail in violent bliss

#post #pointless #hashtag

“What is the house on Elm Street,” Bess said, not looking at Boy as she headed down the hill toward the bus stop.
“A shelter, a little like a halfway house for runaways? That’s what you told me, but Ambrose – and your friend Jennifer – basically claim it makes children more compliant by destroying their dreams. So they lose some spark inside them and never rebel or run away away again. Which is what parents want.”
“And that surprises you?”
“No,” Boy said after a pause. “I don’t think so. I think most parents want their children to be unexceptional, for all kinds of reasons.”

“Sorry is for when we say the wrong thing when we know we shouldn’t. And the thing about that is that if you can say sorry, you also could have done otherwise in the first place. No one should ever say they’re sorry. If you can’t stand up for yourself, how the hell do you expect anyone else to?” Bess said.
“People make mistakes,” Boy said.
“Yes, well, that’s what punishment is for.”

"We define ourselves by what we are missing rather than by what we have," the fox said.
Boy scratched his scalp. "Does that we include foxes?"
Reynard Fox just smiled in reply.

I have come to the conclusion that my life needs more CGI in it.

I might forget you
If the distance between us
Was not so great

Life is a carpool lane; no one makes it through alone.

"After today, the world will have one less monster in it."
"Do you mean you or me?"
"I haven't decided yet."

I keep losing track of the places where I find you.

Say-aunts: a seance that only calls up your great aunts.

The moment when you write the end of a scene, sit back to mull it over and realize there is something to tease out from it but it will probably have to wait for the next draft. That, or you’ll recall whatever source you nicked the idea for it from in the meantime and go: “Ah, crap.”

"Because of you, I’m not me."

"Well, we selected who would live in the New Order and who would die based on the simple criteria of forcing the population to eat asparagus and culling those whose urine smelled."

Thought of the evening: retell Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden as a breakout from the first reality TV series. (Or prison, same deal.)

“Reynard Fox was there when the moon was born,” Malki said soft and low, “and when Raven first committed acts that made all crows into murderers, when Coyote first tricked life from death. He – we – are old, Boy, and you are human. He cannot be friends with you the way you are friends with other humans, or even the way humans are with pets. It is not in the nature of the truly old to hurt themselves like that or they would go quite, quite mad.”

Every time I think about you I become
a necromancer of fading memory

This is a repost.

Today I am grateful that I am not you.

A lot of old literary works were by the wealthy people who a) could take the time to write and b) didn’t need to make money from them. So the idea has just filtered down like a kind of poison, that somehow success undervalues art. Because people against making money with art are invariably those who have never been poor.

"I am not a monster," he explained.
"You killed my husband and drank his blood!"
"You will find that a true monster would have charged him a fee for their services."

They say it is science when
we know it to be magic

They say it is magic when
we know it to be chemicals

We speak of love as though
we were not GMOs

never read the comments (on articles) should be rule #1 of the internet.

Me: I spent an hour having to wait for that delivery that never arrived. Granted, I was able to clean up the back and furniture area a little but it was a wasted hour.
Manager: It's okay, you were supervising while I was out.
Me: So supervisor means not working?
Manager: Come closer so I can strangle you.

Monday, August 04, 2014


I am busy doing what I do best. Not the magic. Not being a magician. Getting drunk. The bank stopped its vendetta against me, I arranged matters to win a local lottery, drove across a half-dozen states, found a bar where they don’t much care about your story and just want your money. I haven’t done this in months. It feels like longer. Also like no time at all.

Other things I haven’t done: read a newspaper. Watched any news on the TV. Talked to anyone if I could avoid it. Everyone in the town of Raven’s Bluff is dead. I don’t want to see how the news covers it, how they drag up stories and guilt-trips and each paper tries to outdo the others with pictures and stories, feeding on grief and outrage. I don’t care for it at the best of times; I can’t deal with it when I was the cause of the town being decimated. Not directly, not by choice. But I had declared war on the Bank behind all banks, the one that gives magicians money so we don’t do things that could damage their nice, cozy world.

And then they go and banish the town and me Outside, beyond the universe, to make a statemet to me that I hadn’t won the spat with them. Over two thousand people died. I made it back, and even brought the town with me. It wasn’t easy. I was running on anger – not the pure kind – along with desperation and luck. But I made it back. I alone escaped, and everything like that. Because it is what I do. I survive, and get to tell the stories of what happened, and no one else does. I don’t intend it. I never do. But somehow the dust settles and I’m alive and other people aren’t.

Someone might call it survivor’s guilt. I have other words, ones I’m not using. My body is resting. Healing. The drink isn’t helping my body. It’s not helping my mind. I do it anyway, because it used to work. Because I have to do something. Two beer have become six, in the way of beer. It’s some microbrewery brand: I have no idea why I picked it. I used magic to win a small local lottery for funds, but it’s not as if I can just waste it all.

I get another beer as Jay slips into the bar. He looks to be about ten, all pale and human and trying not be be scared. He’s not ten, or human at all, and from far Outside the universe. He bound himself into my service a while ago; I tried to use the bindings between us to get Raven’s Bluff back to Earth quickly, but he was too terrified to come Outside again and I wasn’t able to do it. I’ve said that’s not his fault. Sometimes I believe it. I’m certain he doesn’t at all.

He sits across from me; no one bats an eye at a ten year old kid wandering into a bar, because Jay is very good at not being noticed. “I got a new thell phone,” he says, holding it up. He broke his last one, the one he played games on all the time, after I made it back with the town. As payment, as an apology. Or because he thought he should. I don’t know.

“Thith one doethn’t play gameth,” he adds firmly. The lisp is damage from entering the world, always with him. Sucking on a thumb in stress is cause of later damage I caused; he’s not doing that right now, though I’m sure he wants to.

“Good on it.” I push a beer over his way; he ignores it. I reclaim it, open it. Gulp some back. “You should go play games on your tablet; people will notice you soon.”

“I could break that.”

“You could. It wouldn’t matter.” Jay flinches at that. “You playing games on a phone has nothing to do with anything at all, Jay. We are bound together. I needed your help; you offered a direction back to the world. Nothing more. Because your fear was more important.” I’d like to say I didn’t get drunk so I could reach these words. I’d like to say that.

“It wathn’t important; I wath thcared,” he whispers, wrapping his arms tight about his body. “I wath tho thcared of being eaten I couldn’t help you and I don’t know why and I wanted to help but it wath too big and I couldn’t move at all they all died and you could have died and I would have jutht that there and I don’t know why at all and I’m thcared of that and you hating me and I might have thopped thome of it and I jutht thound thtupid and don’t have wordth for any of it tho I broke a phone and it didn’t help anything and you know that but you thoved it in my fathe anyway and it wathn’t important like you are but I couldn’t beat it and I tried!” He gulps in air after, tears streaming down his face. “I tried and I couldn’t, honcho. I couldn’t!”

I finish the beer. A little slower than the others. There are people staring, the bartender walking over; he’s assuming my kid, or a nephew, but the bar has rules. I catch his gaze and shake my head. He moves back, a little. People are drawn to as much as pushed away from grief, and his pain is so open they want to hide from it. I use that as a gentle ward to keep them away.

“I can’t thay anything to make it better,” Jay says thickly, wiping off his face with a napkin, hands trembling. “You needed me and I failed and I should break the bindingth between us and leave and I’m too thcared to even do that and all I am ith afraid except when I’m with you and I’m trying but it’th hard to – to thtop being me when it’th all I’ve ever been.”

“Do you think I can stop being a magician?” I ask.

He blinks owlishly a few times, then slowly shakes his head.

“And you can’t change being Jay.” I reach a finger over and poke him gently in the forehead. “But I can change the kind of magician I am, by what I do with the magic. You’re changing, too, Jay. You weren’t concerned about other people just because I was, were you?”

“Oh,” he says, shock running across his face to replace grief with shocked wonder. “Oh! I wathn’t,” he adds, soft and slow.

“You’re not a power, Jay, in this world or Outside it, not anything like a Lord of the Far Reaches –,” and he shudders at just mentioning the place – “and I am hardly a god either. We make mistakes. Something terrible ones. And the only thing we can do – the only thing that matters – is to learn from them, the lessons they reach us. So that we might, just maybe, not make them again later on.”

“You want me to go Outthide,” he says miserably, but at least doesn’t begin sucking on his thumb in stress. It’s small, but I take victories where I can get them in days like today.

“Eventually, with me, yes. Not today. Not anytime soon.” I lay money on the table. “Come on: I’m getting you a proper phone.”

Jay scrambles out of the booth. “But –!”

“Do you think the dead will care that you decided to punish yourself by getting a cheap phone?”

He follows me outside, thinking it over for almost a minute before he shakes his head. “Not if they don’t know me.”

“And they don’t. Doing that won’t matter, Jay. Getting the courage to move back Outside the universe – even for a few seconds – that matters. Helping to stop people from doing what the Bank did to Raven’s bluff from happening again, that matters. That’s what I want you to focus on, okay?”

“Okay.” He gulps. “What about you, honcho?”

“What about me?”

“Are you doing anything, for – for the dead or the living, by drinking in barth?”

“No. No, I’m not.” I let out a breath and ruffle his hair gently. “We’ll get the phone, you check it for messages and we’ll see where we go from there.”

He opens his mouth, no doubt to ask what we’ll do about the Bank, then just closes it and nods, reaching up to squeeze my hand with his.

“Thank you.”

Jay just nods, not asking a single question at all, and manages the ghost of a smile as we find a cell phone store. I watch him pester the staff relentlessly with mile-a-minute questions and force myself to relax as they struggle to make sense of half of what he says. Being Jay, though he’s not quite there yet, because he knows it makes me laugh a little.

I will deal with the Bank in my own time. Let them think they’ve won: it doesn’t matter to me at all. But Jay does, and making sure they can never do that again does as well. I consider magicians who will speak to me, plans we can make. It will not avenge the dead, but there is nothing that can do that since they will remain dead. We are alive, and all that we can do is try to make sure no one dies the way they did again.