Friday, October 31, 2014


There are things magicians simply don’t do and answering phones is one of them: we have some idea of what lies inside telephones and the Internet, or what they were made to do. Enough to avoid them, which is why I don’t react when Jay answers his cell phone until he tugs my shirt with his left hand and hands it to me while I’m driving down the road.

“It’th for you.”

I stare at the cell phone, then down at him. Jay is fighting back a delighted grin, but even so I pull wards about myself formed from the general annoyance of people hurrying past in the bright darkness of the town. Jay looks to be ten, but he’s from far Outside the universe and bound himself into my service. Not being human doesn’t stop him from pulling pranks: he loves to hand over telemarketers just to see what happens. Plus he’s still sulking over not having a costume for Halloween: he wanted to go as a headless horseman and me to make him a giant glowing head from magic. I’d said no.

“What?” I snap to whoever is on the other end of the line.

“For two easy payments of 19.95 you can get a personality,” Charlie says on the other end of the phone. “Seriously, magicians and phones. If I didn’t know better I’d think you were convinced they irradiated the human brain.”

I pause a beat. “They do.”

“I almost wish I was travelling with you and Jay right now, just so that I could hit you. Point being: you’re in the north-east, last I knew. We’re in Kansas: CASPER wanted Dyer and I to look into some weird textbooks that ghost writers might be using real ghosts to write. Problem is there’s also a urgent case about a haunted house about half an hour from you, if Jay’s GPS is accurate. Last week it claimed you were in Venice and London.”

“We were.” I don’t offer up anything more.

“Right. Okay, the owners are rich, expensive, connected: that whole deal. Apparently it’s bad enough that CASPER wants to send Dyer, but we can’t get to New York from Kansas in an hour. Which even our bosses should have figured that out.”

“I don’t deal with ghosts, Charlie.”

“I know that, but I’ll owe you a favour. Even owe Jay one if I have to. CASPER can owe you one for all I care. Trust me, Dyer and I have been driving around like mad fools for over two weeks and I’m this close to quitting this entire organization anyway. Get rid of ghosts and convince people they don’t exist my ass.”

“What kind of haunting?”

“The kids wouldn’t say. To anyone. At all. One knew what number to call for help.”

“Text Jay the directions, we’ll look into it. You will come and visit Jay afterwards – I can say he’s going to ask that as a favour without checking. We’ll have it sorted out by dawn one way or another.”

“Not by burning their house down.”

“Depends on how annoying they are.” I hang up and toss Jay his phone. “Check your texts: we have a haunted house to deal with.”

“We do?” Jay blinks a few times and frowns at me as I turn down the road, following the directions he reads out. “Why?” he says finally.

“Because it will force Charlie to come visit you.”

“Charlie doethtn’t have to be forthed to vithit me,” he pouts. I just raise an eyebrow and Jay blushes a deep shade of pink. “You know I went to thee her latht month!”

“I know. This way she has to return the favour, and it gives you something more to bargain with.”

“You don’t need to bargain with friendth,” he says, crossing his arms.

I turn my head and stare at him until he squirms; it doesn’t take long. “And every time you insist I buy you new games for your phone or tablet, kiddo?”

“That’th different. You’re keeping me happy so I don’t get really thcary!”

“Scary, huh?”

“I could be,” he says, trying to fight back a huge grin.

I shake my head and go back to driving as he plays games on his phone between texting Charlie. We spent two weeks overseas hitting tourist spots in short trips before returning to the USA. I’d hoped for a longer trip, but magicians are needed here around Halloween here: so many children with ideas and will pushing at the edges of the universe can be dangerous. We’d dealt with a few problems over the past couple of days, but nothing that involved a secret government agency.

If I was a betting person, I’d assume CASPER had thrown this case as Charlie because she’d ask me and they assumed my talents would be better for dealing with it. Whatever it happened to be. Magicians don’t have dealings with ghosts much as a general rule: magic answers need, and the dead are nothing except need.

The map takes us down private country roads, the kind so expensive they don’t even show up on Jay’s GPS system. Vast old stone homes, properties large enough to drop entire gated communities into. Even proper mazes and gardens more expensive to maintain than some armies. Jay actually stops playing on his phone to gape at some of it, though in his case it’s probably the kind of bindings that have gone into making the properties that catches his attention.

The house we arrive at is appropriately large: wrought iron fence all around with barbed wire and sharp glass at the top. I ask the gate to open with a gentle nudge of power and it does so. Two vehicles are parked outside the main house and the entire building is dark and still, but too well made to be foreboding. If anything, it just gives off the impression of a genteel museum temporarily closed for repairs.

Jay follows me, waiting for anything I might need with a trust more complete and disturbing than anything I will probably find in this house. I relax, let my senses spread, listening to the world around me. Even to a magician Jay seems utterly human. The people in the house, not so much. Four people, three hollowed out and filled with something not quite empty that wasn’t human life at all. A sour magic saturates the air like bacon grease, a nascent magician having burned out the power to the building in a failed attempt to save her friends.

“Jay.” I reach through the bindings between us, let him see as I see. “The people who used to be in those bodies, can you find them and bring them back?”

Jay frowns, thinking that over. “I don’t know, Honcho,” he says, since I don’t like my real name being used in pubic. Or private, and Honcho is easier for him to say than magician. It started out as a joke and became something else: I’ve a theory that’s how the universe began as well. “Whatever hurt them puthhed them right into the Grey Landth. I can try and pull them back?”

“Okay. Work on that; I’m going to chat with –.” I pause, pulling her name out of the fear in the air, “Tasha.”

Jay sits down cross-legged on the ground, eyes unfocusing. I’m not worried: he’s tough enough to survive a shotgun to the chest and has a very, very good sense of when to run away. Spending your whole life before you entered the universe with things trying to eat you does that.

I walk into the house: there are wards on the door: a magician’s will turned to fear. I move through them without breaking them, letting my magic touch the house. It wants to be whole, and I answer that need by bringing the power back online. Lights flare, computers burst into noise, and Tasha tries to stop that but all she has is fear. It suffices to blow up two computers and murder six tvs but the power remains on. I head into a living room larger that some homes to find three unconscious people on a couch. Two males, one female, all just old enough to own cars. Tasha is thin and nervous as she paces in front of them, calling out their names in a voice that cracks with the effort of forcing power into it.

She doesn’t know what she is doing; even if she did, I’m not sure it would help her undo what she’d done. The coffee table is a mixture of wood and glass in some postmodern fusion. I’d generally melt it on principle, but it is already half-slag, with the remains of an ouija board having fused into the top of it.

I swear. Softly, but I can’t help myself.

Tasha spins, eyes wild and wild, and hurls her fear at me without thinking.

I catch it as a ball, squeeze my left hand tightly. She shudders at the invasion of her self, but some sanity returns to her face as she pants for air and stares at me in confusion.

“Who are you? How did you get here?”

“Can you help my friends?” I put in unkindly, and she jerks back as if slapped. “What happened here?”

“I don’t know! We were just playing with the ouija board and the pointer turned white and then everyone screamed and I don’t know what happened,” she says, fighting back tears with an effort.

“How badly did you hate them?”


“How much did you hate them?” I ask, threading some power under the question.

“I didn’t,” she says, the truth jerked out of her.

Jay? I prod, and he comes in, holding a cats cradle of gleaming gold and silver strands in his hands and beaming with joy. He’s exhausted but hiding it well.

“We – we don’t have treats here,” Tasha says, mind trying to scramble for normal.

“That’s Jay. He’s a friend.”

“I can do trickth,” Jay says proudly.

“But not right now,” I say, pulling Tasha’s gaze back to me. “What happened?”

“I –.” She closes her eyes, calls up her magic and brings the past to life around us as an illusion, the effort leaving her shaken. Four friends, underage drinking and the board, and magic waking – something. Not a ghost, but a way for something from the Grey Lands of the ghosts to manifest. Her magic woke and lashed out, blasting the minds of her friends far outside their bodies entirely by accident.

“Ouija boards are a board game,” I say, keeping my voice as even as I can. “You’d have more luck using them to call up spirits of deceased bankers with Monopoly.”

Tasha glares at me. “We’re not stupid. I knew what number to call for help and I know it’s just a game, okay?”

“Okay. Jay?”

Jay walks over, thrusts out his hands and the strands flow out into the bodies, mind and flesh binding together again. The kids being to cough, shaking their heads, waking in slow confusion.

The ouija board burns with black flames as something begins to manifest. I step forward and shove my left hand onto the board as Tasha lunges in front of her friends, telling them everything is fine and wanting, so much, for them to forget she’s not as normal as they. The magic inside her dies, taking their memories of anything strange with it, and I am not certain she understands knows what she has done.

Jay lets out a soft, wounded sound as Tasha’s magic dies, eyes stricken at the sight of so many bindings ceasing to exist, so much potential shattering into nothing. It hurts to know it happened. It hurts to feel it. I shove the hurt aside to deal with later, focusing on the black fire.

Whatever is using the board can’t enter me. I have no idea if it is the wards I have drawn up about me or if I am missing something the kids here have or if Tasha’s actions damaged it. I don’t much care what the reason is: I grab the death of Tasha’s magic – it hurts my magic, hurts me, to touch such a thing, but I throw it into the link between the board and whatever is on the other side. The fire dies out, the coffee table crumbling into a pile of dust and ash.

I walk out, leaving the kids to explain the coffee table and their confusion to each other.

“Tasha died, Honcho,” Jay says as we reach the car, his eyes wide and scared.

“The magic in her did.” I pause. “I notice you only had two colours of bindings for those three kids, you know.”

Jay nods. “The oldest one, Keith, he found hith own way back once I thhowed them the way. Ith he a small magithan?”

“I imagine so. His magic woke something. I don’t know what he saw or believed, but he woke something and woke Tasha’s magic far too early to try and stop it when his couldn’t. Hers died too soon, his survived: he might never recover from what he’s done.”

Jay scratches his head as he gets into the car, and waits until we reach the road. “Honcho? Two people in one houthe being magithans is weird, right?”

“I don’t know. Boredom can sometimes be a path to smaller magics. Text Charlie and let her know it’s dealt with. Make sure she knows it involved an ouija board.”

Jay nods and does so; I figure Charlie’s responses alone will make his evening. I drive, faster than the speed limit, trying to ignore the feel of a magicians magic dying in front of me.

I need a drink. I don’t dare have one. In time it rains. I stare at the rain, losing myself in it.

“Pull over,” Jay says, intent, not quite frantic.

I do. “I forgot to turn the wipers on.”

“It’th not raining, Honcho. You’re crying,” he says softly.

I swear, softly and bitterly, and Jay keeps silent in the way of friends until I feel ready to continue.

He doesn’t suggest we stop for the night.

Facebook status updates part XXVIII (Oct 2014)

Once upon a time, there was a prince who saved a princess from a dragon by bringing with him a dietitian who explained to the dragon what their diet was lacking and why they felt compelled to capture and eventually eat such a high-carb meal and got the dragon on a sound diet that did much for their digestion. The dragon and dietitian eventually had a cooking show together.

"You see," the Detective said, "all it took to catch the killer was to examine personal ads in the paper."
"But I’m not a killer. I just wrote that I liked long walks late at night," the suspect wailed.
"Exactly! Who wants to be out late at night in the dark except a murderer?"

this was going to be a poem to you about us but I forgot to put in line breaks so I guess it is prose instead, a story about where our story went wrong and how there are no endings – happy or otherwise – and the holes we leave behind us never as big as the ones we fill.

"Everything is political," he said gravely. "Consider children's cartoons: which of the two major parties in the USA do you think is the Road Runner and which is Wile E. Coyote?"

“We’re all addicts. Everyone is addicted to something or else they would be dead.”

Make the choices that are right for you; sometimes it is all we can do.

We build our wholeness out of so many broken things.

“I am allergic to good deeds,” the villain explained. “I trust you will not breach the rules of hospitality and attempt one in my castle. The results would be more unfortunate.”

“It’s not as long as we wish it was: forever never is.”

“The only thing I have learned about love is that you can’t put someone in checkmate.”

“I have a door I dare not open,” he said.
“And you expect me to do something about this?” I enquired.
“I merely expect you to know.”

“I am rather more than I appear,” I snapped.
She smiled. “That’s hardly a trick, darling.”

I said that if your writing was beautiful enough I could forgive you anything. And oh, it is. And oh, I was wrong.

“I don’t believe in muses,” the writer said roughly.
“I know.” He almost smiled. “Is that why you can’t love me?”

“I think — I think I love you, and that’s why it’s never going to work out between us.”

“The budget came through, sir. I believe we’re going to need to consider a bake sale for funding.”
“But we are the military!”
“The teachers might lend us money. It was that kind of budget, sir.”

“If it ever comes up, I am highly inexperienced in dying. I haven't done it yet.”

"I - I can fix this. I just need a spade. Two garbage bags, the industrial kind. And no questions asked."

"How can we help you?" the bankers asked, in a way that was not a question at all. And their eyes. Oh, their eyes. I never wanted to know what made eyes like that. What was left behind when cruelty had hollowed out even greed.

"I lose myself in you, my hand finding your flesh, pressing on bone through skin. I only know I should have been more careful, not stabbed the knife so deep. The stains might never come outing my carpet: I guess this means you were right. I will never forget you."

What if they turned your life into a movie and you couldn’t even get a part as a background extra?

Plot is how you get there. Story is why you get there.

"It’s too early to be morning," he muttered and fell back asleep despite the noises outside his window.
The aliens who had been considering abducting him took pity and abducted his cat instead. It worked out better for everyone in the end.

"Sir, you can't risk impeachment just to destroy the career of that teacher who gave you an F in chemistry in grade 9!"

"We have so much knowledge: think of all we could do with this!"
"Yes. So much knowledge, but how much wisdom?"

Research for NaNoWrimo factoid of the day: You can find pictures of crack dens on pinterest. I am pretty sure this is not normally what people look for on it.

I am trying to keep up with your silences.

Some people have talents that aren’t talents. Me? I can lose anything. Wife. Kids. Jobs. Money. As talents go, it’s right up there with being able to pleasure a rhino. In a manner of speaking. Not that I’ve tried.
Which is why I was shocked when the oldest man in the world found me in a bar. I tend to be hard to find; he didn’t care about that and wanted just one thing.
"You’re serious?" I asked. "You want me to help you forget?"
"Like Alzheimer’s, yes. I am old," he whispered. "So old and I have forgot nothing in over a billion years."
I could have said humans weren’t that old. I could have said a lot of things, but there’s some things you don’t say. Not to the oldest man in the world and certainly not to the pain in his eyes.
"I’ll see what I can do," I said, and the bastard treated it like a promise.

It probably says a lot about me that I am utterly horrible at promoting my own work, but fictional characters I make are quite happy to shamelessly promote themselves.

Halloween costume idea: Go as the new Disney character who has to get back home by midnight to write words....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I won’t follow you, and you won’t follow me. Let us dance around each other: reaching, never touching, voices speaking words the other never hears. We have no words left; we never had anything else. (This is not a poem. I swear to you, on – I don’t know what you swear on. Let it not be me.) We are not dancing. We walk, skipping through snow to avoid each other’s footprints. We make paths the other will not follow.

We build labyrinths that are too easy to escape. We see each other without knowing. We know without knowing. I would say it is hard, but we have both known worse. I hold out a hand, knowing you will not touch. You fall, knowing I will not catch you. And no one else understands. And no one else can.

We have such capacity to destroy each other. And it hurts in the most wonderful way.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Drowning Magics: Cover

And, thanks to mojo5050 allowing me to use her photography, the second novel has a cover! A very badly done one, but hey.

The Boy Who Trapped The Witch Using Poutine

This did not happen once upon a time. It was last Friday, in the hours when it becomes Saturday and kids can stay up later huddled under their bed covers reading books on their ipads and sometimes proper books as well that smell of mould and dead trees. Robert is huddled up under covers reading fanfiction his mother would have been horrified to know existed and his father probably read in secret, which says little about them at all but everything that will be told in this story.

Robert is wide awake in the way of children, listening to the movements of shadows and the deep creaking of floorboards. He is half-convinced his parents bought the old house just to give him nightmares, because of some cruel thing he’d done as a child or might one day do as a teenager. He tells himself he is not afraid, but he knows the telling is a lie. It is part of what keeps him up under artificial light, the rest is a waiting.

He has a missing tooth, and he is waiting for the tooth fairy. To see her and not to capture her, not even as an image on his phone, which to some would suggest Robert is a good boy and others that he has a dearth of imagination that would be quite hideous to behold. The truth is neither as simple as the extremes make it out to be. He is waiting, and not sure what he will do until he does it.

There is a creaking of the old window, a rattling of glass in a wood frame that lets in cold air every night despite his fathers attempts to caulk it. Robert doesn’t mind the cold that much and is wondering how hard the wind is blowing when he hears the soft creak of wood rising up and footsteps softer than a cats alighting on the ground. He does not move under the bed, because part of him is pretty sure that tooth fairies fly, but the footsteps come closer until he can’t pretend they’re not real.

He pokes his head up from under the covers and finds a witch standing over him. She is obviously a witch, dressed entirely in black from head to foot, with a face marked with acne rather than true warts but Robert is not surprised at that: real witches, he figures, are probably good at hiding that they are witches.

“Hello,” he says, and the witch goes still.

“Hello,” she says finally, and her voice sounds utterly ordinary, like an older sister might, but Robert is not fooled at all: older girls tend to hide behind nice words in his experience, and then tear you apart without throwing a single punch.

“You’re not the tooth fairy: is she ill?”

“I don’t believe so,” the witch says slowly.

“Then why,” he presses, in the way that makes his teachers twitch, “is a witch here instead?”

The witch pauses, and for the first time Robert notices she had a black bag as if she was also filling in for Santa even though Christmas is not for another 41 days. “You think I am a witch.”

“I’m not stupid,” Robert says, wisely turning off his ipad and keeping it hidden under the folds of his covers. He doesn’t think a witch would steal it, but he’s pretty sure his dad wouldn’t get him another even if it was a witch that stole it, because adults are always unfair.

“I imagine not,” the witch says, and hides her black bag under her clothing.

Robert decides not to ask about it, since witches do terrible things in stories and he doesn’t want anything horrible to happen to him. “Are you hungry?”

“Pardon?” the witch says.

“I’m not allowed to get snacks after supper, but I don’t think that applies if there is a guest here,” Robert says, and he is quite proud in declaring the witch a guest, since he is pretty sure it means she can’t do all the terribly evil witchy things he is trying very hard not to think about.

The witch just nods and Robert gets out of bed and puts his robe on, padding into the kitchen as quietly as he can. The witch is far quieter behind him, her steps slow and uncertain, and Robert gets fries from the fridge to put in the microwave along with gravy from a can he can heat as well after he turns on the kitchen lights.

“We don’t have cheese curds,” he says, “but it is still poutine.”

“Oh. I see,” the witch says, and she sounds as if she is trying not to laugh.

Robert bites into his lower lip. The kitchen is brighter than the bedroom and the witch is staring at him and it feels too much like some of the kids at school.

“Is something wrong?” the witch asks, suddenly soft.

“You’re laughing at me.”

“I’m not,” the witch says, and presses a hand to her heart. “I cross my heart.”

“Everyone knows witches keep their hearts outside their bodies,” Robert says.

“Well, I would if it was here,” the witch says after a short pause. “Why do you think I am here, boy?”

“Witches steal dreams,” Robert says. “But I don’t have any you’d want to steal so you’d be really hungry. Poutine is good for that.”

“You don’t have dreams I’d want to steal?” the witch says, and she looks sad at that.

“No,” Robert says warily.

“Then why would I be laughing at you?”

“Because I’m fat,” Robert says, and it is late and dark and cold, and he doesn’t hide from himself in front of a witch. “Mom and Dad say I can’t diet until I’m older because it’s not safe, but other kids in school are making fun of me.”

“You’re not that fat,” the witch says. “If you were,” she adds, “I would probably lure you to a cottage and eat you, now wouldn’t I?”

“Oh!” Robert blinks at that, and gets the fries and gravy, handing the witch a plate and eating his own to cover his shock. Mom and Dad had told him it was just the other kids being cruel and he would grow into his body, but it sounded more real coming from a witch than it did from him.

He hears his moms voice then from her bedroom, as if thinking hard about them had somehow woke her up. “Robert?”

The witch goes still, setting down her fork, and her smile is a strange thing: not cruel but wounded, though Robert isn’t quite sure why he thinks that or what it means at all.

The witch is gone, faster than Robert can move, out of the kitchen and through the back door, the wind slamming it shut behind her in a blur of shadows. If she has a familiar, he doesn’t see it follow her.

“What are you doing?” his mom demands as she comes into the kitchen.

“I got a witch to not eat your dreams by feeding her poutine,” Robert says, but his mom just tells him it’s two in the morning in the tone of voice of an adult who will not listen at all and bustles him back to bed with a lecture about no treats for a week if he ever does that again.

And Robert gets into his bed, sets his ipad aside as his mother closes the window and tsks about letting all the warm air in the house out and he falls asleep as she leaves, dreaming about other meals he could trap a witch with and wondering if anyone will ever believe him at all.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Finishing a draft

And the third draft of novel 1 in the series is done. It clocked in at just under 40K (probably a little short for YA, but it'll be easy to make longer). I'll do the second/third draft of the second story in the new year and then see if they work better as separate stories or as one long story as I originally told it. It did take over a month, but I wrote short stories during that time, plotted some nano bits and everything else.

I am sure it needs to be longer, and will require one more draft, but that will wait until I draft the second novel up properly. That it took 4 hours to come up with a title for the second novel says a lot :)  I'm just glad I managed to finish it on time and shall now have crazy fun with nanowrimo, including making a new character just for the novel...

Friday, October 24, 2014


He was tired, the old wizard in his small house with only a familiar for company. Once, long and long ago, he had made a vow in the way of wizards, and such oaths could not be rescinded nor broken without shattering the feeble magics he still claimed as his own. Some days he had almost broke the vow in the bitterness of his despair, but his apprentice had pulled him up from it or hope waved toward him like a strumpet displaying her legs, and he had rallied himself for another quest, dug out musty grimoires and spoken ancient spells.

All for nothing. In the end, all for nothing, leaving behind an old man with rotting teeth, a back stopped from long toil and no power to show for it. He had worked wondered in this time, but his greed – oh, his greed had been greater than they. He could see that now, with eyes that scarcely saw the world.

“I worked wonders once,” he said, though there was no one to speak to. Scruple the apprentice had left long ago, stealing books and learning and fleeing for new masters. Not that the old man could blame him: he had done the same in his time, for lower reasons by far. And his familiar – well, Azrael had been dead for some time, even beyond all his skill at magic to return.

“I know.” He hears her voice, soft, gentle as he made her. “I was one.”

“Yes.” He turns his head slowly to the voice. “Yes, you were.You are the only one who could get past my wards.”

“I am.”

And he is old, but not feeble-minded, and something in her voice: there is something in her voice. “Why are you here?”

“You made me, and sought to kill the rest of my kind. Do you know why, father?” she says, and the word is only to wound.

“I sought to turn them into gold. To a meal fit for kings to win a place on the high council. To destroy them, in the end. Many things. Many things,” he says, and he is tired. “They are with you, then.”

“Some are,” she admits, and he can here them moving. Small as mice, the little people, and the sounds of metal scraping metal.

“I will ask why you are here,” he says, though he knows. Oh, how he knows.

“You tried to eat us,” one explains, in a voice rough with old wounds. “So many times. It’s only fair we return the favour and see how you taste.”

“Ah,” the old wizard breathes. “I could stop you. I have words. Powers. There are bargains.” He does not move. Some come closer, his greatest creation, and the small people with her.

“Do you have last words?” she says. “Gargamel, do you have words before we eat you?”

And he draws up what magic he can to see clear one last time. His gaze falls on the smurfs, and some quail back even now. But he turns it on the cat on his counter, stuffed gently by his own hand. “Oh, Azrael, I miss you so,” he says, and nothing else at all.

Not even when they begin cutting.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Secret of Red Gate Farm

It takes so little to become a god that it terrifies me to know it. Enough will, enough thoughts directed on you. Enough focus, sometimes. Enough sacrifices, if one walks stranger paths. It’s easier to be a god than it is be to be a person. I think that’s part of why it’s so easy for me to eat them. My name’s Charlie and I’m a god-eater. I don’t know how many others exist – I’ve been told by a god that there used to be an entire order devoted to finding and training my kind. Perhaps they missed me. It’s probably for the best, since my first attempt to eat a god ended up with the monster in my closet inside me.

Travelling with a magician does things like that. I did that for a time, until things got too hard. Until choices were made I couldn’t deal with. Now I’m travelling with a ghost who is a ghost-eater, and employed by the department of education. CASPER’s mandate is to show people that ghosts are just spooky noises and damaged pipes, and make sure that is all that’s left behind at any place we’re sent.

Dyer is good at dealing with ghosts. I deal with everything else, near enough, because there is far worse than ghosts in the world. Right now far worse is a twelve-year old boy named Stefan who is determined to join us in exploring the loft of his grandmother’s old farmhouse. Dyer is talking to the grandmother, making soothing noises and calming her, gently convincing her that she didn’t see a spirit appear in the middle of the living room who looked like her dead husband and screamed, ‘For God’s sake, I’m burning! Hell burns!’ Even if the ghost had done that, because being dead doesn’t stop some people from being dicks.

Dyer is thin and frail, looking exactly as he did when he died. He’s also as solid as the living and denied entrance to the ghost lands because of his nature. And he’s nice, possibly because he can afford to be or because being dead over a century has given him a certain perspective on things. I have no idea, and he seems in no hurry to talk about it. Thin doesn’t fit me and I’ve never been frail at all. Thin doesn’t fit Stefan at all; the kid wheezes as he walks and is definitely more at home on a couch or in front of a computer than exploring the disused upper floors of a house for ghosts.

“Grandma said I could come,” he says in the tone of someone who has rarely been told no and has the waistline to prove it.

“And I’m saying no,” I said for the third time, letting the god inside me leak into my eyes. Hint of dark red, the suggestion of claws to my fingers. He’s not scared, not of that, but does take a wary step back anyway. I ate the monster that lived under my bed and kids know that somehow, on some level of instinct that leads them to trust me. I’d worry more about what that says about kids if I didn’t remember being one.

“Grandma wants me to exercise more, and this is that,” he says, crossing his arms as best he can and glaring at me. “Everyone knows ghosts aren’t real.”

I want to ask why they all know that if so many people claim to have seen them, but CASPER is about keeping people skeptical. Damned if I know why. I reach out a hand and raise his chins, and tell myself to stop being a jerk. Dyer might, if he was here. It’s hard to know with him. Jay would; the magician would. I let out a breath, let go. “You’ve seen it, then.”

“I saw something; I’ve seen better CGI in movies,” he snaps.

“Someone told me once that half the time it feels like reality is a cheap substitute for fiction.” I head up the stairs to the attic at the pace Stefan sets. He’s drenched in sweat by the time we reach the attic door, though most of that is probably fear. I give the door a shove but it remains locked; I could force me way through, but not without breaking it and causing more hassle for Dyer; that he hasn’t joined me yet means he’s having trouble convincing Stefan’s grandmother she saw nothing.

I give the lock another rattle. “You know how to pick these?”

Stefan starts, then nods and pulls a paper clip from his wallet, making short work of the older door. “How did you know?”

“Anyone who spends a lot of time on the internet learns odd things.” I wait for him to step back and push the door open. The attic is cramped and musty but devoid of any dust at all. “You loved him?”

“Grandpa told the best bedtime stories.” Nothing more, but Stefan crowded up behind me.

“Right.” I take a breath, let it out, getting a feel for the attic, for the air. “What stories did you like best?”

“The ones he told me about coyote, stories his dad told him. And about raven, too, but I liked the coyote ones the most.”

“Kids tend to.” I crack my knuckles. “Thing is, not all tricksters are nice. Most are at least malicious, and pretending to be someone’s grandfather, telling someone who loved him that you were burning in hell: that counts.” I threat power into my voice, as close as I can do what magicians do, and snarl: “Come out now!

What appears in the middle of the attic comes from somewhere else: some place twisted and strange, with colours and shapes I don’t know, and the figure is thin and looks like a man, a woman, a crow: all of that and none of it as well.

“That’s not Grandpa,” Stefan says, and it laughs at how his voice shakes, draws power from his fear.

“I am no mere god,” it says, soft and deadly.

“Yeah? This is me not giving a shit,” and I grab its energy and yank it inside, eating it in a single gulp. It goes down badly, but the god inside me tears what tries to survive of it apart.

Stefan’s face is the colour of dough as I turn back to him. “What are you?” the boy whispers.

“That’s classified. We’re with the government.”

“But you helped us.”

“The government does that sometimes.” I push. He doesn’t flinch from me as if I was a monster, makes his way down the stairs to his grandmother. I walk out via a side door to where Dyer is waiting by our RV.

“I don’t think she believed me,” he says in his soft voice. “She was too scared to believe and anything I could have done to force it would have damaged her. Whatever was up there was not just a ghost, was it?”

“Nope. It’s gone anyway, though.”

“Good.” He says nothing else. I close the red gate of the old farmhouse behind me and wonder why a trickster manifested here, but we have a limited mandate, too much to do and not enough time to do it all in. I flag the file, and text Jay in case the magician wants to wander this way.

We leave, but we leave behind people a little less afraid behind us.  

Monday, October 20, 2014


“I know you want me to tempt your husband into oblivion,” the demon said, “but there just aren’t as many temptations as their used to be. Every pretty blond thing triggers worries about sting operations and you can find more than even Hell can offer on the Internet these days. We’re convinced, down Below, that Heaven made the Internet solely so we’d have to do a lot more work to tempt anyone at all.”

“You’re a demon!”

“Yes, but what are all the powers of Hell next to ten hours of YouTube videos? What can we offer that the dark matter pit of fanfiction cannot? You see our problem.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014


After the doctor told him, it was almost a relief. “How long?” That was all he asked. How long until sickness eats me from the inside out? How long until I die or take my own life? How much do you know even if you cannot heal me? The doctor told him, trying to be gentle, and the writer took the information in calmly and went home. To write. This was a deadline. His body. His death. His legacy. Everything else fell away from the future and he wrote the novel he’d have never tried to write earlier. The one he considered his Great Novel. The one that scared him, because it would eat him up as well and nothing he could write after would ever be as good.

The words flew out from under his fingers not like any metaphor at all and he wrote in record time, turned it into his publisher and held on grimly until the first reviews came in. It hurt to hold on, but by then the pain was an unwelcome friend he endured. He had forgot, in his eagerness, that this was the social media age. Everyone knew he was dying, if they wanted to. And every review compared his novel to his death. He told them: “No.” And: “I planned this novel years ago. It is not about the cancer. It is not about the fucking cancer!”

And not a single reviewer believed him.


We are in Venice two days before Jay finally begins to relax. Every magician in the world goes to Venice at least once and more than a few have found it quite odd that I, as a wandering magician, had never been. It had just never come up. You get busy, and then you get busy with being busy and lose track of things. People can forget their children are in their car as easily as they forget their cell phone at home; a magician can forget to go to Venice.

Venice is a made place, bathed in water and war, dreams and desires. A museum people live in, made human by the liberal applications of graffiti and the wearing away of stone by time. Five magicians live here, all working together to keep the city whole. Which means I’m not needed at all. It’s hard to have a vacation when you are a wandering magician: every place needs you and the magic pulls you to them if chance does not.

The church we end up in is off the main paths. There is another church inside it, a school and vast garden, all worn and running down. If the church has a god, it does not appear to me and I’m entirely content with that. I give Jay a shove to a garden when the children of mundane tourists are playing together under various watchful eyes and just sit and relax. Old stones, the wild smell of ocean, the wonder of tourists as they lose themselves a place that is more than even the myths of it can hold.

I think about far older myths. The Far Reaches are the closest thing the places Outside the universe have to a universe: places as real as the universe itself. But each is actually a being, some vast ancient entity that has survived so long that it has become a power without compare. Their Emissaries claimed I had called them to the subways of New York. They had been used, these faint slivers of ancient power who unmade reality about them just be existing in it, and knowing that was possible is terrifying. I don’t know who, or what, used them. Or even to what end. Or if they weren’t used at all and this is some labyrinthine game played out against a backdrop I can’t begin to grasp.

They recognized Jay as being from Outside the universe. And nothing has done that before. He’s bound into my service, and sometimes he can hide what he is from me, which is all kinds of disturbing. He spent the better part of a day and the plane trip to Venice crowding as close to me as he could and sucking on his thumb for comfort. He’s a little better now, but still far from healed.

I catch anger through the bindings between us as Jay storms over from the garden and open my eyes as he thumps down beside me with a scowl worthy of any human ten year old kid that ever was.

“They made fun of my lithp,” he says.

“And that surprises you?”

“Yeth.” He crosses his arms when I glance over at him. “It’th a very good lithp!”

I stare at him. He waits a beat, and then breaks into a huge grin and presses against me, head reading on my shoulder. “You know you’re just making it easier for me to slap you.”

He giggles at that and relaxes a little more. “They were, and it – it wath like the Emitharieth,” he says, his lisp thick as he forces himself to say the word.

“I don’t see how children qualify as that,” I say dryly. “At least not directly.”

“They thaw me,” he says softly. “Not me, but – but I’m good at hiding and it’th hard to hide being me when all I have to do ith thpeak and people can go: ‘Oh, that’th Jay!’ and it hurtth that it’th tho eathy for them to do that.”

“And yet you still hide what you are.” I ruffle his hair gently. “This isn’t exactly the first time other kids have made fun of you, Jay.”

“But I didn’t want them to!” He pulls away a little, twisting to stare up at me. “They kept making fun of how I thpeak even when I thtarted thucking on my thumb and they thould have made fun of that!”

“I think you lost me a little there.”

“It doethn’t make any thenthe,” he grumbles, making a face at having to try and say that word.

“And you thought it would be better if other kids made fun of you for sucking your thumb?”

“Of courthe! I can thtop doing that.” I say nothing. “When I want to.” I just raise an eyebrow. “Thometimes.”

“Jay. You’ve been in the universe for a year now. You know me and Charlie and you’ve met a lot of people. It can’t have escaped you that most people don’t make sense at the best of times.”

“I know that, honcho. But there ith making then – that word, and then the none verthion of it. None and it,” he adds.

“You mean nonsense?”

“Yup! It’th really hard to thay.”

“Nonesense is also a very human thing. For example, comparing children complaining about your lisp to the Lords of the Far Reaches is definitely nonsense.” Jay raises his chin at that, saying nothing. “It’s not a bad thing, kiddo. It’s far better to see the world as full of nonsense than full of monsters who don’t like humanity existing. Like: planes don’t run down a runway. Why call it a fire door if all you are going to do is lock the fire out? If everything made sense, there would be no magic in the world at all. And sometimes the price of that is that we get hurt, or can’t hide as well as we should, but there are prices that are always worth paying.”

Jay scratches his head. “But they hurt me,” he whispers, and I know he’s not talking about the children at all, if he ever really was.

“Sometimes, Jay, just sometimes, being hurt can make us stronger.”

“It doeth?” he says suspiciously.

“No. But it’s a thing people say: sense and nonsense both help us make sense of the world and each other. What doesn’t kill us just doesn’t kill us. But it also means it’s maybe less likely to kill us the next time we run into it. We know what the Emissaries can do now; we didn’t before. That gives us an edge, as long as you don’t try and call them Emissaries.”

Jay sticks his tongue out at me for that. “I knew it; thith trip ith entirely about you!”

“It is, huh?”

“Of courthe! Otherwithe you wouldn’t have picked a thity I have to lithp to say.”

“Uh huh.” I stand and he follows suit, still looking quite proud of the poor joke. “We will have to leave soon: it’s closing in on Halloween and they’ll need all the magicians they can back in North America. When we return, you can call Charlie and tell her all about nonsense and sense.”

“I’ll use different wordth,” he says firmly.

“Even when you tell her about the hamburgers you liked yesterday?”

Jay rubs his stomach at the momory. “Are we going back for more?”

“We’ll have them if you say the sauce that was on them.” I pause a beat. “It’s worcestershire sauce.”

Jay tries to mouth the word a few times, gives up and glares at me. “That’th meaner than nonthenthe ith!”

“And got you to say it.”

He crosses his arms and says nothing at all for a good ten minutes, trying to say the word under his breath. We eat burgers after he manages to say the words on his sixth try aloud and he’s so proud of himself he sleeps in a separate bed that night for the first time since we left, not even drawing on the bindings between us for strength.

It almost makes up for him sing the words sense and nonsense every time he can the next day.


Monday, October 13, 2014


“I don’t like it,” Jay says for the third time as we descend the last of the stairs.

“It is a subway; you have reasons beyond the word ‘subway’?”

He rolls his eyes and ignores that pointedly. “Becauthe I don’t.”

I let out a sigh and look around; commuters, pan-handlers, worn out signs and scraps of litter. “I’m going to need something more concrete.”

Jay pauses. I feel his grin through the binding between us. “That,” he says slowly, “ith above uth. Lotth of it!”

He ducks my half-hearted swing at the back of his head but his grin doesn’t get rid of the worry under it. Jay is from Outside the universe, which isn’t a safe place at all: a lot of things tried to kill and eat him before he fled into the universe. If he says something is wrong, it often is. Not that it stops me from heading toward the yellow line.

“Honcho,” he hisses, grabbing my left hand in his right and squeezing it. He doesn’t like the word magician, mostly because saying it isn’t easy with a lisp. Entering the universe damaged him; I’ve damaged him worse since, but we don’t talk about that. He’s getting better. Sometimes people do that, even if they travel with me.

I don’t throw my senses too wide, just relax a little and feel the area about me. The underground is dangerous by nature: you don’t build tunnels under the world to travel in and run them 24/7 without making a dangerous place, one linked to old stories of underworlds and the darkness that has never seen light. The subways are old and worn, the tracks the same, the entire place shuddering under entropy. I let my will out, whisper to stone and earth and steel, and give it some strength but it is nothing more than a drop in a bucket; there are at least two magicians who dedicate themselves to helping hold together this subway system alone. It would be easy to hide some terrible creature or power under the darkess and magic and worry, but nothing reveals itself to my gaze as I look about. I follow the thin rush of commuters onto the subway heading toward the park and Jay follows behind because he is bound to me and because he trusts me in this as much as in everything else.

I am a magician, and protected in many ways: most of them aren’t obvious. Jay is tough enough to take little more than bruising from gunshots, but he still plods reluctantly behind me onto the carriage. I don’t dispute his sense of danger being better than mine, but without knowing what it is, I’m not about to leave it alone. One reason why the protections of magicians tend to fail: much does in the face of need and curiosity.

“If there is something dangerous, it needs to be bound or banished,” I murmur.

Jay thumps into the seat beside me with an aggrieved sigh, pressing his body tight against mine, drawing on the binding between us to make himself feel safe. losing himself in playing a game on his cell phone. He passes for ten, or younger at times, and there is a terrible future stretching ahead of him. I still do not know if I am to allow it or prevent it or change it. He trusts me to make the right choices. Nothing human would trust this deeply. He relaxes minutely when I ruffle his hair gently.

The train is old and worn, and I bind strength into it as we hurtle through the dark. A dozen other passengers are scattered down the carriage, half reading papers or computers, the rest looking dazed from late nights or early mornings even at is ten in the morning. Two teenagers giggle at the far end as drugs dance inside them, four business people cluster in the middle of carriage reading newspapers. A husband and wife sit across from us, all stiff and wary, his hand resting inside his coat for a phone rather than a weapon. Just in case. Nothing that screams threat, or even hints at it, but Jay is still nervous, eyes darting about. He hasn’t begun sucking on his right thumb for comfort, but that’s only because he would be noticed and Jay is very, very good at hiding what he is.

“Safe?” I murmur, to distract him.

“No,” he says, softer. “I’m thcared. I don’t know why and that’th thcary, too.”

“I know. Is it like the time Charlie made you read the terms and conditions on your first cell phone?”

He giggles. “Not that bad. But bad.”

The air changes; not a smell, or even a lack of a smell, but the sounds around us stutter in and out of focus and the train seems to be whining and shuddering on the tracks, metal rattling as though someone was pressing against it. Jay ceases giggling and squeezes my right hand with both of his, hard enough to hurt.

I pretend to be surprised when the couple across from us stiffen in unison, eyes empty of everything that matters. Jay lets out a soft whine but says nothing, trying not to tremble. The couple raise their heads slowly in unison, faces empty of expression, the sharp smell of burnt plastic in the air as the hair stands up on the back of my neck. Everyone else in the train is staggering away; some under their own power, the rest without conscious awareness. The two high on drugs will need a change of clothing; I doubt they’re alone.

“Magician.” Their voices are cool and empty, flatter that the voices of the dead. That the hosts are not dead makes this worse. The air is heavy around us, their power causing the world to ripple about them, colours unmaking and remaking themselves in desperate spasms as the world tries to cope with them and fails. This is bad. This is more than Jay being scared bad: their presense alone is unmaking the world.

“Hello.” I pull a bag of birdseed from under my coat with my free hand, moving slow and holding it up to them. “I am heading to the park to feed pigeons. If you want to come with me?”

The entities inside the couple pause, staring at me. I’m scared. I don’t even try to hide it. I know of this kind of power only by reputation as the world itself strains against the pressure they put on it. The Emissaries. The Most Empty. The Lords of the Far Reaches, or the closest thing to them that can enter the universe and not unmake it entirely. The universe is protected against intrusions from Outside. Those protections are nothing to creatures as old as these.

You survive in the wide expanse of the Outside by being vastly more powerful and dangerous than anything else, and nothing is more dangerous than the Lords of the Far Reaches. No one knows how many exist, or why they permit the universe to keep existing. I had no idea and less desire to find out. There are some questions you never go seeking the answer to if you want to survive in any way at all.

“You are not alone.” Their gazes turn as one to Jay, who is pressed tight against me side, his eyes wide in terror. Even I sometimes can’t tell Jay is from Outside the universe and we’re bound to each other. I’ve never encountered anything from Outside as good at hiding as Jay.

They speak Jay’s real name as one and he whimpers piteously, clinging to me with everything he is and whining in terror, unable to stop. Nothing has ever done this before. I don’t say it’s okay, just wrap my will about him, let the magic flow into him, giving him something to hold onto that isn’t terror.

“You play a dangerous game,” they say, turning their gazes on me.

“I have no idea what game you think I’m playing,” I say. Because I don’t.

“We could destroy this one now. It could well benefit us, but this is not certain. Few things are not certain to us,” they say, and there is a regard, a weighing behind their emptiness that leaves me cold. “You have called us here. You will explain why.”

“I am the wandering magician,” I say, and my name as well. Nothing can be hidden from the Emissaries; I don’t even try. “This city is not mine to draw on, nor do I know what magicians call it their home. I have no called you; there are no circumstances under which I would.”

“Not to save this creature?” They don’t ask about my own life; I am not sure if that is a sign of respect.

“Jay would hate me if I did such a thing, and hatred of me would not come easily to him.”

They pause, stare at each other, and then back at us. “Until,” and the couple cease to exist as the Emissaries depart, the host bodies dissolving at some level far below the cellular, or even the magical, and the place where they existed will forever be bruised. I don’t even attempt to heal the bruise, being in no shape to consider it.

Everyone has fled the carriage except us. I stand, pretend my legs shaking are from the movement of the train. The train shudders to a halt without us having to ring a bell, doors snapping open at the closest stop. We get off; it’s a ten minute walk to the park according to a sign. The air is normal, the people normal, the rush of humanity about us sane and ordered. We take the elevator up and begin to walk. The Emissaries were tricked. Or used. Somehow. That such a thing is possible is definitely not safe to know.

I sit on the first bench I find outside the subway station and Jay crowds onto it beside me, thumb shoved in his mouth as he sucks on it in terror, making scared sounds. I wrap my arms around him and hold him, letting silence speak for words. It takes almost an hour before he stops whimpering, longer before he ceases sucking his thumb and then wraps his arms tight about me, hugging in turn and making distressed noises.

He pulls away finally as the sun begins to set. I don’t ask if he’s okay; I’m not. I raise his chin gently. “The park?”

He blinks wide eyes, stares at the bag of seed and manages a jerky nod. We walk the ten minutes in twenty and he clings to my hand the entire time, only relaxing at all once we’ve thrown all the seed away and found another bench to sit at. No Emissary has acted, nothing terrible happened.


He looks up at me. “I didn’t thenthe them. They’re too big, too huge. Too much,” he says, voice shuddering, but manages to add: “I’ve never been tho thcared ever, not onthe,” and his lisp is thick and heavy, slurring into other words. “They thaw me,” he finishes, and bursts into tears.

“Everything has limits, Jay. Even magic and magicians. Even Outsiders named Jay.”

He flings his thumb into his mouth and his head into my chest, sucking and rocking wordlessly. I wait. Time passes and he finally pulls back, pulls himself together a little, using the bond between us to draw deeply on my strength. He’s never done it before without asking; I don’t react. “Better?”

He shakes his head.

“Me neither.” I stand. He manages it without clinging to my hand, though it’s a close thing. “You’ve never been on a plane before; we’ll catch one somewhere new.”

We walk to the airport in silence and Jay uses his nature to get us both past security, relaxing visibly once he does that, stopping his thumb sucking as something goes right. I get tickets, abusing magic a little to push computers and people, but I’m not in the mood to care at the cost of this. We get onto a plane without incident, and Jay hides his nature the entire way, looking like an ordinary kid with his uncle who is a little afraid of their first flight. Jay listens to the entire flight announcement raptly, eyes widening as he realizes we’re doing across the world, but doesn’t ask a single question.

I get us both water after the plane levels off and food and drink is brought around. He drinks and then relaxes slowly, resting his head against my shoulder and closing his eyes. I let him try and be strong for almost ten minutes before placing his thumb in his mouth. He relaxes at that, whispers a thank you around it and falls asleep. I don’t want it to become a crutch again, but right now I wish I had one of my own.

I don’t sleep.

I stare into empty space a long time and hope nothing is staring back and try, so very hard, to not think about what could have manipulated Emissaries and set them against us. We’d survived, and I was certain this was the source of the nightmares Jay had been having for weeks, but all it left behind was fear and questions and not a single answer at all.

Jay shoves himself against my side, and binds some of his relaxation into me until sleep finally takes me; I don’t protest, and only hope to avoid dreams. I fully expect the nightmares.
Plot is how you get there. Story is why you get there.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Edits and fixings oh my!

Editing of the story goes well so far. I have ~4-6K left to go through from the unfinished second draft, and this draft is already at least 4K longer than that one. The intro. scene has changed a few times and one character -- Iggy -- was changed a fair bit, but the core of the story is rather solid. I am not sure WHY I stopped writing the second draft of the story when I did -- especially when I hadn't reached my favourite scene from the first draft yet -- but the editing of it for this third draft has been simple as pie. The last 2-3 chapters have mostly been fixing tenses, clarifying some story bits and mostly using them entirely as written.

Which is a very nice change for another draft of a story. I figure by sometime this weekend I'll be writing entirely new stuff, and at ~40K of what will hopefully end up as a 60K story. Then there will be a pause for November and I'll work on the second story after that. The plan is to sell it as two short novels and/or one longer novel that is divided into two acts. The first act involves the vampires and werewolves, the second focusing on the witches of Arkham town. And, of course, how Clay fits into all of it and the real reasons his mom insisted they move to the town.

I do have some notes for another novel set just as they enter high school but I'm not sure if I'll get around to that or not anytime soon.

Monday, October 06, 2014


“Never trust a bar where the bar snacks are covered in dust. What kind of bar offers free drinks at 7 .a.m., a glass of Bobo’s Best on the house. On The House might be part of the drink name. It is very fruity. I didn’t think bars stayed open at 5 a.m. Coolio. 5 stars.”
— Sammie Q. 03/15/2014

“I’ve been sitting at the bar for hours. Days, weeks? Dunno. The war is going on outside, and mom always nagged me that I had to do something. Something important. Awesome sale on appy’s and they don’t let any of the machines in. 4 stars.”
— John C. 04/07/2032

“I’ve met Bobo. No one else claims to. Bobo says we’re special. That we have a destiny. He smiles too much, like clowns don’t. Sometimes Bobo is a woman. They keep giving me drinks. I’ve been here for six weeks. Help me. I want to give 0 stars but I’m not allowed to. I don’t think Bobo lets anyone leave if they give 0 stars. Did u know there are only four Bobo’s franchises left in the world? I just learned that. (Help me.)”
— name withheld 06/10/2014

“The drinks are cheap. The other reviews were right about that. A lot of free ones, on the house. Just don’t try and use the bathrooms. Shit in a booth if you have to; you’ll be thrown out but that’s safer. Scary thing? If the bathrooms are like that, imagine what the kitchens look like.”
— Chastity F. 12/25/2013

“I was paid $500 to write a 5-star review for Bobo’s. Someone actually attached the message to a damn owl and got them to fly into my window. That alone is worth 6 stars. Don’t know why they need this review, but I got a free bottle of wine. Anyone else ever heard of a brand called Elysium Fields? It’s really good. Maybe it’s a band too. God damn do I feel good! 5 stars.”
— Mark L. 05/16/2014

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


There are days that are like every other day, and then there are days that remind me of things half-forgot, of voices and dreaming and the wonders that stir in the world waiting to be known, wishing to be seen if we have eyes that do not look away. There are callings, if you follow a god or gods, if your hearts claim or are claimed by them. One must see, one must listen. And one must hear.

And hearing, one must act. The town is small, but justice is ugly and quiet in small towns and seldom pauses for mercy or kindness. Rough music, it was called long ago, when those who committed crimes were dragged from homes and murdered in the streets. Frontier justice, the kind accompanied by pots and banging and wailing of crimes and the brandishing of guns. So loud, because they would drown out the accused. So loud, because they hoped their God would not hear them forgetting that justice is not theirs to mete out in this manner.

The sound draws me to the motel at the outskirts of town. It is small and shady and cheap: locals don’t use it, having far more sense and knowing the owner had cameras in the rooms and a ready desire for blackmail in his crooked fingers. He comes to church. They all come to the church as though one day a week of penance can absolve them of their lives. Sometimes I am bitter, other times merely cynical. but even so, my office has a power and the crowd parts, the screams lowering to a dark undercurrent outside room 104. No one has been dragged one. No door has been shattered inward. But the maid – the owner’s elderly aunt, comes forward.

“A man and a boy in a bed together,” she hisses, certain I will join in their hate.

I walk up to the door. It is pulled open by an ordinary looking man in his mid-twenties. Brown hair, hazel eyes, agerage build and looks: you’d pass him in the streets and never give him a second look, but his eyes are steady and his smile strange. “Hello.”

“Hello,” I say in return. “May I come in?”

“Of course.” He opens the door wide; the crowd moves forward and then falls back as he turns his gaze on them. The room is cheap, with one bed, and a warren of blankets and pillow on the floor. A boy is sitting in the bed, duvet pulled up over him. He looks to be about ten, pale and thin and sporting a deep pout on his face.

“I put up wardth,” the boy says sullenly, and the thick lisp is too old for a child of ten but seems natural to his voice.

“Yes, but Father Hillary does not mean harm,” the man says, though I haven’t said my name. It’s possible someone else did, but he closes the door gently when I look back at him, his eyes bright and sharp, his smile a thing of knowing and deep wisdom.

“Magician,” I say softly.


“Why this?” I wave my hand to the mob outside. “You could have made sure nothing happened. Stopped any of this from becoming real; I know that much about magicians, though a town this small seldom has one visit for any time.”

“I am a wandering magician. This is Jay,” he says, waving a hand to the boy. “He is bound to my service and from far Outside the universe.”

“I was thleeping,” the boy snaps, colour coming to his cheeks as he blushing. “It’th not my fault the maid ran outthide thcreaming, Honcho!”

The magician sighs. “Jay, I’ve told you about this. You’ve been shot by police officers for this: people see an adult and kid in the same bed and they reach conclusions that mean violence and bloodshed. Especially when you hide your nature as well as you do.”

The boy says nothing, lips a thin line.

The magician rubs the bridge of his nose. “I will deal with the mob. You can speak to Thomas when I do so.” He opens the door and walks outside, and the rough music dies against his wishing, against the force magicians can bring to bear in the world.

I stare at the boy, who stares back with a defiant glare. “The magician thinks you need to talk to someone?”

“I’m fine,” he snaps, hurling the words like a challenge.

“He doesn’t think so, I imagine, if he let things get this far.” I say it as gently as I can, but the boy flinches as if struck and bites his teeth into his lower lip so hard I’m amazed he’s not drawing blood. I step closer; he doesn’t seem afraid at all, at least not of me. “I’m willing to listen.”

“Oh.” He tosses the duvet off himself, the movement almost too far for me to follow. Under it the boy is wearing only socks, his pale body devoid of human genetlia at all. “I don’t have any holes,” he says.


He nods and stands, turning to face me, bends over so I can see more of him than I want and turns back. “Thee? I can thleep in the thame bed as Honcho doeth jutht fine!”

“And he wants you to?”

“No,” Jay says, and plops down onto the bed as if the word drained him of anger. “Becauthe it maketh for problemth and he ith human. Humanth are weird about bodieth.”

“All right. So why did you do it?”

Jay stares up at me, going still for a moment, pale eyes sharp and searching, then relaxes slightly. “I had a nightmare. I get them,” he says softly.

I walk over and sit on the bed and he relaxes further and is beside me, pressed asgainst my side like a cat. “Everyone has bad dreams.”

“I don’t, not like – not like thith. I can bind mythelf to have only good oneth and thethe are thtill getting through!” His voice cracks and that and the boy shoves his right thumb into his mouth and begins to suck on it, speaking around it easily as he relaxes a little again. “I don’t even remember them at all; that’th how bad they are.”

I wait, but the boy just sucks his thumb for comfort as if defying me to comment or try and remove it. “Everyone has bad dreams, Jay. I imagine even the magician does.”

“He doeth all the time,” the kid says, as if that was a simple fact about the universe. “He’th done lotths of terrible thingth to thave people and becauthe they had to be done.”

“And they’re good things, that this magician does?”

“Of courthe!” He twists his head to stare up at me in shock. “If doing good wath eathy, more people would do it. But they don’t, tho he hath to and it can hurt a lot!”

“Well, then perhaps you are having nightmares about some good deed you will do?”

Jay blinks in shock at that, pops his thumb out his mouth and gapes at me as if he was an ordinary kid. “Really?”

“Why not?”

“I’m not human.”

“And you think that means you can’t do good?”

The boy blinks again, and sits back to stare at me before breaking into a huge grin and flinging himself into my hard in a tight hug. “Honcho thaid that but I thought he wath jutht being nithe but you thaid it too!”

I pull away gently and he just beams and is off the bed in a blur, putting clothing on and packing bags at an inhuman speed. “Thith meanth we can probably go and there won’t be a mob and you’re a good perthon becauthe I can thee bindingth and I thee that in you and you probably need to be told that becauthe people have to all the time or they forget,” he says in a rush, stopping in front of me.

The magician opens the door and comes in. “Ready?”

“Yup! You were lithening?”

“No,” the magican says.

Jay stares at him suspiciously. “You weren’t?”

“You warded the room against me.” Jay goes still, colour draining from his face, and the magician catches his hand gently before the boy can start sucking on his thumb again. “It’s okay, Jay. Everyone is entitled to have secrets.”

“That’th not what you thaid when I uthed your credit card latht week,” the boy mutters.

“Well, run them by me next time and we’ll see what ones you can have.”

Jay gapes at that, then giggles as the magician grins. “I packed and I’m ready and no one tried to kill uth,” he says proudly.

“I know.” The magician looks at me. “Thank you.”

I just nod; I’m not sure why I’m being thanked, and he walks out with Jay to a dark rented car without looking back. He offers no magic, I ask for none. I think on what the boy said, and how his face was so open he couldn’t have lied even if he thought he could. He could see that I was a good person. I walk back toward the small house I live in behind the church without looking back at the magician or the boy.

For once my own sleep is not troubled by everything I have failed to do and the times – so many – when all I could do felt like it was never enough. The world is bigger than me, and even my faith, but I don’t think it bigger than God, and I suspect I saw something all my own in that huge smile and fierce pride. And I try not to worry at where pride often leads.

Facebook status updates part XXVII (Aug – Sept 2014)

The Detective did not suffer nightmares during the nights that followed his solving the murder spree, but rather terrible dreams he’d wake gasping from of other lives he could have led.

"You sleep the way others wake up," she said, and he never knew if it was a compliment or not.

We run out of truths
Long before our lies

"She is so wise that sometimes she forgets to be wise at all."

“What was that about? Talk to me, Jake.” I reach and snag his wrist before he can get up. This isn’t boring; whatever he did to piss them off is definitely not that.
“I hacked their website and changed Alfie’s picture.”
I let go at that, as much in surprise as anything else, and his face begins to turn red under my stare. “Hacked. This from the person who asked me last year why his computer kept asking him for a reboot even after he’d downloaded the entire TV series?”

“There aren’t many shifters – or even half-shifters – around. Mom says it’s because it’s hard to bring kids to term inside you when you shift shape, and she’s probably right but –.” He shrugs. “It seems weird to just have biology rear up in the middle of ‘you can change shape because of the moon’ talks, you know?”
.... the fun point where your story becomes a gentle deconstruction of a genre.

2103, July 14th: It is finally a crime to die as the last holdouts against rejuvenation treatments are arrested. (RejuvTreat® Hidalgo Holdings Ltd.)

2064, April 2nd: The first same-sex AI wedding ends in 3.02 seconds when one of the AIs is found out to have had a history as a spam bot.

"If only we hated each other. Everything would be easier then."
"Even this?"
"Especially this."

2018, September 8th: Photographic evidence becomes inadmissible in courts because of photoshop.

2034: an advance in scancode hacking allows for the complete stealing of another’s identity right down to memories backed up in MemStore and physical appearance.
The only people who protest are those whose identities are not worth stealing.

Grit caught in the corner of one’s eye is magic trying to get inside.

ZZZ is now allowable in scrabble. That is awesomely useless.

"The safe word is Tesla; it is never Edison."

I wish I could love you as much as I love the demons that haunt you.”

Wake to bird song rather than silence,
and slam windows against our luck

We are a silence before anything other.

"We wish to avoid any imperial entanglements."
"Oh, that’s easy! This is a galaxy far, far away: we use metric."

So. It’s like that, is it?”
Like what? I’m afraid you’re going to have to be more specific.”
You have a gun pointed at my head. I think that is specific enough.”
It’s a water pistol. Think again.”

I speak in broken silences
All the words you will not see
Force back against aching teeth
All that I cannot unsay

Love is not forgetting your name.

"How silly of you to try and redeem me. What emotion is more pure and honest than hate?"

“The world is full of conspiracies. But the one where we met and fell in love is the only one I care about right now.”

March 4th, 2021: autocorrect is abolished after causing at least three wars in seven years.

The Detective shook his head. "This isn't making any sense, Commissioner. This is the fourth case in a row I've taken that has connected to some previous case from decades ago, linked another case I didn't think was connected to it and turned out to be hitting too close to home and involving secrets from my own family. I'm starting to wonder if something might be wrong with my life, that it keeps leading me down these paths."

"Are you a monster?" The child asked.
The old man looked away. “The burns are from an accident,” he said in a weak voice.
“I don’t mean that: you look like a teacher. Are you a teacher?”
“Teachers are not monsters.”
“Shows what you know.”

“I didn’t mean to destroy the world. I jumped into the ocean to drown my sorrows, but they were deeper and consumed the oceans.”

"Everything is just tickety-boo," the AI explained when asked how its systems were functioning.

Debit and credit card receipts as a metaphor for a relationship, equal to collar bones and hearts in cages. Being given love notes, and handing over a file folder listing everything the relationship has allowed you to claim back in taxes as a gift of equal worth.

Love isn’t what it used to be; we live in an age of artificial sweeteners

I give thanks to the only god I make sacrifices to: caffeine

You know writing is going fun when, at page 3, you realize that you need to figure out why someone's arm doesn't hate another character.

It occurs to me that I probably need more than 'Jay buys a cellphone' as the plot for nanowrimo this year.

from WIP:
He looked as sad and unloved as the number 9 on a microwave.

There are few things as terrifying as seeing what passes as a muse for a professional critic.

Once upon a time there was a queen with a magic mirror that judged how beautiful women were and in her wisdom the queen changed the mirror to see the appendix as beauty. People became very confused when a 79 year old woman with two teeth was considered the most beautiful woman in the kingdom.

"We are making our story between moments of will; the only time there is no artifice is when we forget to be."

Every time we sneeze, we are seeking to break a curse someone has placed on us.
... And if we are lucky, it is not ourselves who have placed the curse.