Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pancake Day

The magician has gone walking, as he does. Working small magics in small towns, fixing small breaks in the world, nudging everything from walls to sewer pipes back into place. An ugly family fight over whether to repair the fridge or dishwasher is averted when the fridge fixes itself: small things, casting ripples. I am almost certain he does this because he thinks it is what magic should be far, and not to balance the debts accruing against him: the more a magician takes from the world, the more is demanded in return.

Fae do not have this problem. We are the payment of debt: our power is our prison, our will our own jailer. I doubt any magician sees that; I doubt anyone else sees it. It is not something we reveal, certainly not something we talk about. But even fae glamour has hard limits, and the magician has left it to me to deal with the CSIS agents that are hunting me. They know Dana is not really a CSIS agent, they know a fae created her as a body and tricked their entire system into believing I existed.

I was almost destroyed some months ago. My glamour has been healing – I have been healing – since then, but they damage allowed the Canadian government spies to find out who and what I am. At least, that is the narrative I tell myself since I would rather not consider other ones. The downside of a glamour that can make reality shape itself to your will is that it is very hard to lie to yourself. CSIS may have figured out what I was, but to seek to destroy me, to unleash weapons designed to nullify tim in an area: that seems too far a reaction, even for humans.

And so I am sitting in a coffee shop waiting for CSIS agents to find me. They cannot destroy me: they do not have power enough for that, I think, but I have few options to end their feud against me that would not involve killing them all. A fae who runs out of tricks is often little better than the monsters. I get a third coffee, drinking it slowly. I am hoping to bluff them, and failingthat to offer bribes.

The boy who comes into the coffee shop is an unexpected surprise. Jay is perhaps eleven in appearance, from far Outside the universe and looks like a normal blind human child, using his cane to go between tables and then plopping down into the seat across from me with a huge, friendly grin. “Hi!”

“The magician is not here.”

“I know Honcho is all busy, and Charlie is doing stuff with gods she doesn’t need my help with and you have lots of meany bindings converging on you so you’re busy and not busy all at once. So I thought I’d come and say hi.”

“Meany bindings,” I say evenly. Jay can sense and manipulate bindings to a degree that is positively absurd.


“You came to gloat, then?”

“Huh?” Jay sits back at that, blinking. His eyes are filled with broken light under dark glasses and he looks hurt. “I only do that when I beat Charlie in a snowball fight and anyway, did you know there is an IHOP down the road and I like pancakes?”

“I am given to understand that there is little food you do not like.”

“Well, I haven’t found it yet but I’m willing to try and,” he adds, throwing words like exuberant weapons, “you’re not busy and I’m only as busy as a not-busy Jay so I thought pancakes!”

“You wish for me to buy you pancakes.” He beams. I would like to say I am immune to his grin, but I strongly suspect I am not. “And in turn, what will you do for me?”

“I can help make those mean bindings go away,” he says, and for Jay it’s a simple statement of fact.

“Very well.” I stand, and Jay hops to his feet. I hold out a hand and he takes it as I lead him out the door and down the street to the IHOP, Jay asking what pancakes I like best and if I prefer waffles over French toast. I answer absently, having no view one way or the other, find us a table in IHOP and order food.

Jay spends the next hour eating pancakes with syrup. No waffles, no French toast, no sides. Just a happy, sticky mess of pancakes and hot chocolate. Somewhere during that, the knowing that I being hunted is simply gone, as CSIS is no longer interested in seeking me out. The magician could have done this, but not without a heavy cost to himself: no magician lightly twists free will that far and fae cannot do it. We may trick or destroy, but they are not the same things. That this creature can casually do such things with no cost is more than a little terrifying.

“You know that I may not be able to restore your sight.”

“Huh? Oh, this wasn’t about that at all! I don’t want Honcho getting hurt or losing you cuz even magicians shouldn’t be alone and he’s my friend but I think he needs you more than friends?”

“More than friends?”

“Like a friend who isn’t a – like a frienemy,” he says with a huge grin. “I just made that up. Anyway, Honcho is kind of weird right now, and you are all kinds of weird, so!”

“And you are not weird,” I ask despite myself.

“I’m a Jay,” he says as if that explains everything, and finishes off a final plate of pancakes before sitting back with a huge sigh. “And I know you might not be able to fix my sight but you’re going to try, right, and that’s the important part.”

“I am, yes.” I get napkins and insist on cleaning off his face and fingers, mostly because he squirms and grumbles about it all and it somewhat makes up for the cost of the food. We leave the IHOP and Jay thanks me for the food with a hug – not a huge one, but even so – and is simply gone a moment later.

I walk slowly back to the hotel the magician and I are staying at. I suspect the entity named Jay could fix his own vision, but the magician promised to do it so he waits for him to instead. That kind of trust is more than a little terrifying in itself and I begin to wonder how the magician engenders such things in others, but it is not for me to discover. I carry secrets that he must never learn, barriers that would stand between us and true friendship.

But for the first time, I find myself considering how they could be broken down.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Compleat Once Series

I've probably taken the concept as far as I can, so -- 2K seems like a decent end for the project. Herewith are (I believe) all of them.

Once Series

Once upon a time there was a prince rescuing a princess, because it happened that way and no one thought anything more of it.

Once upon a time, there was a monster who died when the world moved on, for Medusa was tricked into taking a selfie.

Once upon a time, a dragon burned down a castle and the king rejoiced because he had insured the castle against dragons.

Once upon a time, there was a witch in the woods who lured two children into her home with a promise of free wi-fi.

Once upon a time, a princess rescued a prince and he refused to marry her (not that she asked) and he sulked about the incident for years.

Once upon a time, there was a grandmother who loved a wolf, a wolf who mourned her death so much he dressed up as her, and a girl who killed the wolf because she was unable to accept a love that didn’t fit into her worldview.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy godmother who cursed a princess to always appear as she was, and no amount of magic or plastic surgery would ever change that.

Once upon a time, there was a stableboy who was secretly a prince -- and no one learned this because the horses were quite unruly and he reasoned that if he could not control a stable of horses he had no right to make a claim for an entire kingdom.

Once upon a time, there was stepmother who was not wicked at all but no one could bring themselves to believe it so: in the end, not even she could, and it went so very bad for everyone.

Once upon a time, there was a good fairy godmother who didn’t grant a single wish and inspired princesses and princes, stableboys and country lasses to improve their own lives instead of waiting for her to come: there are no stories about her.

Once upon a time, there was an evil witch who would curse her enemies with tooth rot and let the dentists take care of the rest of her work for her.

Once upon a time, there was a dragon who let himself be slain by the knight in the sure and certain knowledge that his hoard of gold would devastate the local economy. 

Once upon a time, there was a wolf and three little pigs and they made a reality TV show together and lived happily ever after.

Once upon a time, there was a hero who rescued so many damsels in distress that the kingdom plum ran out of them; in order to keep him occupied, the damsels began capturing each other using elaborate disguises to fool him.

Once upon a time, there was a wooden boy whose nose grew every time he lied and whose penis grew when he told the truth but he never told the truth because the splinters hurt too much.

Once upon a time, there was a prince who was so beautiful that he could only be loved from afar, like how one can love a fire, and he died alone as every suitor felt themselves unworthy. His father the king bitterly remarked once that, had his son been a princess, people would have braved the flames.

Once upon a time, there was a girl that her father brought before the King, claiming she could spin straw into gold. The King just chuckled and the Queen said gently: “We have advisers enough who can do that already, and into other things as well.”

Once upon a time, there was a shoemaker who was murdered by his rivals because he had elves helping him make his shoes and he never paid them a decent wage.

Once upon a time, there was a fairy godmother who gave each child under her care an Xbox 1, though most of their parents sold it to pay for other things and in at least four cases the children tried to get a PS 4 instead.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who cried wolf but, as the villagers saw no wolf every night the boy cried out, they beat him into silence for his insolence until the night of the full moon when they boy turned into a wolf and killed them.

Once upon a time, there was a noble knight who claimed that a curse had been laid upon him that made him commit acts almost unspeakable at times. His detractors at the royal court pointed put that the curse came into play quite often after he’d been drinking at the taverns.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who was very brave and gathered his courage to hunt monsters, only to find out that sometimes all the bravery and courage in every world that could ever be, and a heart as pure as a child’s, are not enough against teeth and claws.

Once upon a time there was born a human child who was half-vampire and had a boring life in which nothing eventful ever happened at all.

Once upon a time, there was a boy and girl who had many adventures together but didn’t fall in love even once.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to marry a prince and rather than seeking out a local prince to court she lived in the swamps and kissed hundreds of frogs in the off-chance one might eventually become a prince.

Once upon a time, there was a clever girl who defeated a monster with wit and whiles rather than a blade and no one mocked her for it at all.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Bluebeard with a secret room he forbade his wife-to-be to enter. Upon entering it she found his laptop but never guessed his password so they lived together happily ever after.

Once upon a time, there lived a man whose wife had died and left him with two children to feet on his own. He remarried in spite of all the warnings his children told him about how terrible stepmothers were and when she finally killed them for constantly calling her evil and wicked it was something of a relief.

Once upon a time, there was a girl in a castle and she defended the castle against every single enemy that came for it until boys accused her of hacking the tower defence game.

Once upon a time, there was a magic mirror that told everyone how beautiful they were out of kindness, and the war it caused between a queen and her daughter tore a kingdom apart.

Once upon a time there was a king who was almost kind, but almost didn’t count for enough at the end.

Once upon a time, there was a thief who wore a blond wig and went by Goldilocks who stole a porridge recipe from three bears and built a successful franchise restaurant out of it. The bears never found out who had been sleeping in their beds because bear CSI is very poor and they did not have cable with which to view her cookery shows.

Once upon a time there lived a king and queen: after some years of marriage, the queen adopted a puppy but disaster took both rulers before they had a child and, in accordance with ancient law, being adopted by the royal family put you in line for the throne.
King Puppy ruled justly for many years after.

Once upon a time, there lived a witch who could take pain away. But everyone ceased going to her once they learned where the pain went.

Once upon a time, a fairy godmother fell in love with the child they were granting wishes to and waited for any of the wishes to be ‘Stay with me’ or ‘Never leave me even if I grow up’ but that never happened, even though Peter never grew up at all.

Once upon a time, there was a scared little boy with a stuffed bear and he told Mr. Bear all his secrets until he was old and didn’t need a teddy bear anymore. And he never thought about it again until Mr. Bear sold his story to the media in a desperate bid to regain his affections.

Once upon a time there was a comma that did not go to school and bitterly regretted never becoming an Oxford Comma like their younger sibling.

Once upon a time, there was someone wise enough to fall in love with their own shadow and learn things only the darkness can show.

Once upon a time, there was a woodsman who killed a wolf to save a girl in a red hood from being eaten by it (and perhaps rescued a grandmother from inside the wolf but details were sketchy); the woodsman was sent to prison for years for his murder of an endangered animal.

Once upon a time, there was a Dark Wood that was not dark at all but the wizard who ruled it wanted no animals hunted by greedy men and women and so protected it with terrible magics that did not relent even in times of famine. That legend in time turned him into the dark witch of the wood was, he felt, an honour.

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.

Once upon a time there was a very poor kingdom at war whose knights could scarce afford weapons and sometimes barely honour. A child snuck into the lair of a dragon and gifted them with a video game console; once the dragon was engrossed in this, the people plundered the dragons lair and the kingdom grew rich on that bounty while the dragon grew rich on high scores and made new friends. In time the kingdom ended, consumed by its new wealth and the greed of other nations while the dragon had found peace.

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 the pinnacle of beauty. People became very confused when a 79 year old woman with two teeth was considered the most beautiful woman in the kingdom.

Once upon a time, there was a chef who was secretly a necromancer but no one in the palace looked too deeply into his affairs because the food costs in the kitchen were so low even though he served rabbit an awful lot.

Once upon a time there was a knight of the realm who forgot to update the dragon slaying app on his isword.

Once upon a time there lived a king who thought himself wise and studied all the arts of psychology to better understand the mind of the queen he would eventually marry; they aided him not in the end.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom of magical dwarves, enchanted slippers and castles that could cause people to sleep a hundred years, a prince was informed that he could never be a princess.

Once upon a time, there was a male witch who no one believed to be a witch because his face lacked a single hideous wart — he was starting to doubt himself a little until the day he got hemorrhoids.

Once upon a time, there was a very hungry caterpillar who grew up to become a very hungry butterfly – and that, child, is where the first dragon came from.

Once upon a time, there was a story of once upon a time that was terrified to end for it knew that no ending was truly happy and would always leave a sadness in the world after the story was over.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


“If I had kept up with school, I would know a really high number to count up to,” I say carefully. “And I might, just might, have fewer grey hairs.”

Jay considers that gravely. “But,” the creature that look like an eleven year old boy proclaims, “then we wouldn’t be friends!”

“No. We wouldn’t.”

He misses the implications of that entirely, being Jay. “And I can’t see.”

“I know that.”

He sticks his tongue out at my tone. “It means I can’t see your grey hairs so that means you’re still all young and an awesome friend.” And he grins after that, innocent and delighted.

“Tell me, kiddo, did you grin at the cookies?”

Jay scratched his head at that. “Nope! I just made them,” he explains.

“Yes.” I look about the motel suite carefully. The oven isn’t on, the cookies are on plates rather than sheets and the walls are blackened, wood peeling like wallpaper. “Can I ask how?”

“Okay! I made them warm because there is heat everywhere and the oven isn’t connected to the internet so using it would be kinda tough. I’m really good with bindings and chemicals are just bindings, so!”

“And the reason the walls are peeling and smell like chocolate chip cookies?”

“Oooh, that. I think I got the heat from someplace that was pretty weird! But the cookies are really good and nummy!”

“This from someone who ate dirty socks thinking they were a monster.”

“It was only the once,” he pouts.

I sigh, pick up a cookie. Take a bite, then another. And a second cookie before I can stop myself. “They’re good.”

“Uh-huh!” You could bounce a nuclear weapon off his pride.

“Now you get to figure out how to bind the walls back together.” I pause a beat. “I’ll go get milk to go with the cookies.”

I take two cookies with me when I leave, and I am almost certain Jay didn’t bind them to seem delicious even if they aren’t. Almost.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Keeping Time

The downsides to being a magician are varied, and at least some of them come from knowing when not to use magic. I’ve tried to explain that to Dana, but fae are glamour even more than magicians are magic. Often it is not something they do so much as something they are, and her glamour is coming back to her. It’s enough that often she uses it instead of the CSIS agent she has been hiding as in order to solve problems. I don’t know if there really is a CSIS operative named Dana, but given fae glamour it doesn’t matter at all – as far as the world is concerned that is what she is.

CSIS doesn’t agree. Fae glamour is terribly powerful but it isn’t perfect – if the fae were perfect, there would be nothing in the universe beyond them. As such, her existence had triggered some response and the fact that her glamour had been all but shattered by a near-sacrifice at the hands of an ex-magician had no doubt given them information they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Such as her name and what she looked like. Not that she was travelling with the wandering magician, though: I like to think even the agency would have reconsidered their plans given at least some of my reputation. I’ve spent ten long years acquiring it and have the nightmares to show for it sometimes. They sent a dozen shadow-men after her and she unmade them with glamour without even trying, so they sent something from Outside the universe the next morning.

I don’t know what it was, but I woke to her flushing what was left of it down a toilet. Which is when they got serious, and serious involved weapons I hadn’t thought anyone actually had – for all sorts of good reasons. The air above the cheap motel room we were staying in shuddered and my magic formed a ward around me without my even asking, yanking power from the world around us. The colours bled out of the room and the walls and ceiling fell apart as the warding consumed them for energy. Magicians don’t do wards like this as a general rule: it damages the fabric of reality if you deliberately wrap it around yourself, and reality isn’t near as tightly woven as people think.

The explosion is black noise, static that makes my eyes throb and sets up unpleasant resonances in my bones.

“Dana, move the humans,” I snarl, and she asks no question at all. Every human in the surrounding area is simply elsewhere, reality redefining itself to fae will. I’m not a fae, but even so. Just so. I snap out half of a name I learned at great cost and the chronobomb that is detonating turns the motel into nothing more than ash and fragments of memory. We aren’t erased from time: I undo that much of the bomb and my magic still holds wards about me as I breathe slowly.

“I need glamour,” I say, not looking in her direction. “Weave reality together.” Dana says nothing: not if this is possible, not how difficult it might be. The bomb was because of her. I’d like to think that’s why, but she probably doesn’t want me to know what she can’t do. I shove the thought aside, breathe in, thread power into my voice.

“Time isn’t a toy to use, the world isn’t something you can casually break and hope it holds together,” I say, and my voice sounds like thunder in my ears, words rolling over each other, hurling into the air. “There are things that should not be done, even if you know how to do them, even if you are them, and you most certainly are not. I most certainly am not. But I am the wandering magician, and I am seriously pissed off.”

No one answers, though I am certain CSIS agents are hearing me.

You will not do this again,” I say, and I make the words a command, bend their will to my own. There will be prices for this, and I will pay dearly, but some things are too important to leave to trust. Such a weapon is one of those.

I let out a breath, and the magic goes away reluctantly, power flowing from me into the world in stabbing aches I don’t try and ignore. I hurt all over, but I have sense enough to get my phone and text Charlie and Jay, informing them I am fine before Jay overreacts.

“Magician,” Dana says, her voice almost diffident.

I look over. Colours have returned to the room, to the world, reality reasserted itself. She looks almost as tired as I feel. “You know why they went that far?”

“No.” She shakes her head. “That a fae could become of them would anger, yes, but to go that far is foolish.”

“You call detonating a bomb to erase time foolish?”

“I am fae; we are beyond such weapons.”

She states it as a fact; I am now a little scared at the diffidence I caught in her tone. “That doesn’t mean they might not try other things; we need to get moving. They are your problem to deal with from now on, not mine.”

“Agreed.” Dana bows and wraps glamour about herself, vanishing from my senses. She has returned the people to the motel, which is at least a relief.

I walk out in search of a vehicle, gently probing my magic as one would a sore tooth. I definitely went too far, let myself get too angry. But that’s something I can deal with later; for now, I head to a coffee shop, order the largest size they have, and sit in a corner, drinking it until my hands stop shaking.

It only takes four hours.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Threat Assessment

There are days that are bad days. Sometimes, when you are a police officer, that can feel like every day. Until the worse ones. The ones where the sheriff calls in sick tend to be among those: she doesn’t do it often, but when she does it often means some shit is coming hard down the fan. You don’t become the sheriff without developing good instincts. Today hers led to calling in sick and leaving me in charge. Which meant that anyone who could leave the station had, under one pretext or another.

Officially, I’m an inspector. Unofficially, the Detective Inspector. Not officially at all, the Spook Inspector. Most every city or county has at least one officer who gets assigned the cases I officially call ‘weird shit’. Here, it’s me. Don’t get me wrong: it pays well and the budget I can draw upon if I need to is staggering in scope – so is the authority I can use if I have to. Flip side is that the world is a lot weirder than anyone believes and part of my job is to hide that from everyone. I deputized Jim Bean some years ago. I get by.

But everyone has heard stories, so they find reasons to not be here. Just in case. The academy-trained kids remain, not having sense to believe even half the stories they hear. If they asked, I’d tell them only a third of the stories are true. And ask them to pick the ones that unsettled them the most. Some would laugh. The wiser ones don’t at all because people come into policing for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s the belief that authority can matter against the dark.

All of which means I’m working on paperwork in my office, which today is mostly typing up lies to explain some missing pets in Alderby and wondering how much the families know. The constables will ask them questions, some family members might be directed to me later. But that’s all later and I’m busy enough thinking up lies that the knock on the door is almost a welcome distraction.

The boy who pushes the door open isn’t. I’d guess him to be ten, maybe eleven. A bit pale but ordinary enough, with a white cane in his right hand and dark glasses over his eyes. There is something wrong with his eyes beyond the blindness: they look like they’re filled with broken lights or falling stars. I don’t reach for my gun: I’m not the sheriff but I have good instincts all my own. “Can I help you?”

“I think so?” he says, quite seriously. “You’re in charge, right?”

“The sheriff isn’t in today, but –.”

“Nope. All the bindings here connect to you,” he says firmly. “And you know I’m not normal, which is all kinds of sad.”


He pouts, and I can’t shake the feeling its genuine. “I’m good at seeming entirely human and now that I can’t see people stare at me all the time and it’s all kinds of weird.”

“All kinds, is it?”

“Well, maybe not all of them. But,” and he flings an exclamation mark after the word, “But but I thought we could ignore all that and be friends or at least you could make some police officers stop being really mean. Because there is a town north of here with an APB, like in the TV shows, for a boy who might be me though they don’t mention I can’t see and it’s all a mistake and I’d like to fix it please?”

I pause. “North Camden. The kid who assaulted a police officer.” Officer Monroe had insisted on an APB, claimed the kid has assaulted him despite having no obvious wounds at all. I’d been meaning to go north and chat with him, but had figured it could wait until tomorrow. But the universe never waits on paperwork: privately, I think it explains a lot of things.

“All right.” I lean back in my chair. “I’m Detective Inspector Noah Arbus. You are?”

“Jay.” The boy enters, closing the door and gets into the seat across from my desk.

“Jay –?”

“Just Jay.”

“So your first name is just?”

He giggles at that. “I should tell people that, but nope!” And he grins.

The grin is human. I mean, it’s not because no one has a grin like that, but it is anyway. If you could bottle that, you’d reduce violent crimes by half. I’d still be together with my partner if I had half his grin. It’s friendly, pure, earneastly innocent in a way that goes beyond easy concepts of innocence.

I remind myself to breathe. “Okay, Jay, tell me what happened?”

“Uhm. Okay, so I sense bindings really well, and good too! And the officer was being really mean to an older kid, like all twisting up bindings with words and trying to push her into saying things that would get her in jail so I said that was all wrong and he was kind of taken aback and I might have used some really strong language!”

“Such as?” I ask.

“I called him a poop head really loudly.”

“You did, did you?”

“Uh-huh. But he was being mean and trying to destroy bindings without any cause and I said that and he drew his gun. I’m pretty tough but I didn’t want him hurting people so I bound his gun and then tried to fix things with a hug, but sometimes hugs don’t fix things and he accused me of assault and I might have thought he was kidding but mean people don’t make real jokes so I made sure the other kid got away safely and then went away but he kind of put a police blockade up and stuff and I don’t want my friends getting into trouble because of me.”

“Hugging someone who doesn’t ask for a hug can be dangerous,” I say, mostly to get a pause in.

“I know all that, but I didn’t want to scare anyone and his bindings were really –.” Jay trails off, biting into his lower lip. “He was looking for an excuse to bind people with his authority, and if he couldn’t find one he was going to make one and that isn’t right at all! So I kind of goofed up and I am sorry for being goofy but! he shouldn’t have done that and Charlie and I would like to not be arrested if that’s okay with you?”

“And if it’s not?”

“Uhm.” The kid scratches his head and blinks. “I’d like you to to arrest us, because you’re a lot nicer? But Charlie would call Honcho and he’s a magician and we kind of have tons of friends so we’d get out without problems and it might look really bad for you and I don’t want that.”

“Do you want officer Monroe punished, then?”

“Nope. I did a really good binding on him so everything is okay!”

“A good binding.” I consider reach for the battle in the bottom drawer of my desk to deal with the thoughts ‘a good binding’ raises, but something in his face stops me.

“Not that kind,” Jay says, hurt. “You know how some people never change? Well, he won’t. He gets to be himself until he’s dead but also to know that and not be able to hide from himself at all. So he might be less of a monster and not hurt many people and that’s pretty important because being yourself is a lot bigger than most humans think.”

“Might,” I repeat.

Jay squirms in the chair. “Well, I figure you’ll help with that since I kind of told you about him and if I bound him to make him better I’d be hurting him a lot and Charlie and Honcho might get cross with me and it’s all pretty confusing.”

“I imagine so.” I sit back. “I’ll deal with it. And in turn you and Charlie will head elsewhere, okay, so I don’t have any more problems to deal with.” I decide part of that is definitely not asking what this Charlie might be.

“But I’m a Jay, not a problem,” he says hotly. I say nothing. “Well, unless you have a microwave sometimes but I’m getting better at not making them explode.”

He grins, and I can’t help but return it. I stand. “All right. Consider it taken care of, but next time I expect you to think before you act.”

“Okay! I can try that,” he says. “Only I didn’t think before I said okay, and thinking before I think has to be as important too, right?”

“You can work on it?” I offer.

“Thanks!” He offers up another huge grin and bounces to his feet. “I won’t confuse people when I leave, okay?”

I have time to nod before Jay vanishes from sight. He doesn’t open the door when he leaves. I go back to my paperwork, feeling strangely relaxed. The rest of the day involves some bickering between officers and dealing with fallout from other cases but I manage it well enough and make it home without incident. For the first night in a goodly while, I don’t need a drink.

I have a feeling I won’t be needing one for a long time unless I want one.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Morning Talks

Morning Talk (I)

The coffee shop I have left Jay in isn’t much to speak of, but they make a good hot chocolate and he’s quite happy to drink that while I go for a walk. At least, that is as much as I tell him I’m doing but it’s always hard to know how much he knows beyond that: when you see the world in terms of bindings, sometimes things make a different kind of sense than they do to humans. That’s what I tell myself when the kid does really odd things like being convinced that exploding a microwave is a valid alarm clock.

I know the wandering magician spends little time on the intenet, but someday I really need to sit him down and discuss my theory that Jay’s entire existence is built on trolling us.

I walk down a couple of side streets in another small city of too many small cities in as many days and make a phone call. No one answers the call, but I am used to that. I let it ring four times, hang up and spend a few minutes window-shopping, which here means mostly studying the works of various local graffiti artists. The man who steps out of a shop doorway to walk beside me is thin and tall, with cool eyes, severe clothing and a face made to be ignored in a crowd. I’ve got used to spotting the forms fae take when they use glamour to appear human, which means some day soon I’m likely to run into a fae who doesn’t bother with their usual glamours of being dull and boring.

Fae glamour, as Jay explains it, are bindings that trick reality itself into believing them. If magic is like a cheat code for the universe, then what I do as a god-eater is probably code debugging; the fae are more akin to a massive overhaul of coding every time they act. Which might be why they delegate some of their bureaucratic work of checking in on various Outsiders and monsters who have made arrangements with the fae to people like me. Also because they are far, far behind in doing this job as I understand it – many of them simply didn’t believe that any creature would try and get out of the deals made with the fae. To be fair, in at least 80% of the cases they’ve been right.

“God eater.” The fae nods briskly as he falls into step, mirroring my pace perfectly. “You have news about the djinn we asked you to look into?”

“Mmm. She was doing the whole ‘answer wishes but be an utter dick about it’ method of being a genie, which I’ve never understood. If I was trapped inside a container for years I’d want people to let me out, not to realize I was probably going to screw them over and close it up again.”

“Most humans do not do so,” the fae says almost dryly. “They know the story, but they think themselves to be the exception to it.”

“Point.” I keep walking, moving further away from Jay to be on the safe side. “We ended up putting the vessel into a trash compactor and Jay bound her into it; turns out a pissed off genie let loose is too damn big for a god eater to eat, at least not fast enough to have stopped her from doing some serious damage. We dealt with it, yes, but we’re going to need an increase in the pay you are offering to do such things.”

“Most would ask the fae for payment in things other than coin.”

“And we all know where that leads.”

“Yes. Yes, you do.”

I pause, wondering if fae started up the myth of fairy gold and the like just to avoid paying gold, but just say: “I can’t keep risking Jay being hurt like this. I am supposed to be looking after him and two days ago he was eaten by an ogre – who spat him out, but even so. At some point we are going to run into something Jay and I can’t handle. If the wandering magician were here, he could probably step in: but he’s not and I don’t have illusions about what I am capable of if Jay can’t bind a threat.”

“You wish to need less assignments from us so that the Outsider is in less danger?”

“Put bluntly, yes. If that doesn’t work, different assignments. Please.”

The fae is quiet for almost a minute. Considering options, communing with other fae? I’ve no idea, but it finally nods slowly. “You are aware that they are few things in this world that can truly harm the creature you call Jay, yes?”

I bite back a reply that won’t win me friends at the best of times. “Jay is blind thanks to a situation involving a former magician murdering your kind for power. That is more than enough of ‘very few things’ for anyone’s lifetime, don’t you think?”

“Perhaps so.” The fae offers up a thin smile. “We accept this agreement.”

“Just like that?”


I nod. I’m pretty sure this is somehow a trap, but the last thing I want is for Jay to get hurt on my watch. And I’m tired, so tired of having to use him to fix situations I can’t, for throwing him into danger he doesn’t even consider getting offended over. I can’t call the kid a friend and keep using him. And so I shake the fae’s hand and walk back toward the coffee shop.

I can’t shake the feeling the fae is smiling behind me. I resist the urge to turn around, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll lose my temper and find out if I can eat one of the fae. It hasn’t come to that yet and for all our sakes I’m hoping it never does.

Morning Talk (II)

Charlie has gone walking, all hiding things from me but given all the fun we’ve had lately I figure she might be calling Honcho – and maybe to complain about the fun, but I’m not sure. I could be sure, but I’m pretty certain Charlie wouldn’t like that so I just tap out a query on my tablet and wait because I’m a lot better at waiting than Charlie.

There is murmuring near the door, different than the staff complaining about Charlie leaving me alone in their coffee shop and I’m trying to be good so I haven’t told them that just because I can’t see doesn’t mean I can’t hear. Or just loudly telling them I’m going to be some kind of problem – even if Charlie probably would laugh at the idea of me not being a problem some days. The whispers of people are disbelief and awe a little and whoever is coming in has the kind of bindings that fae do, all deep and foggy at the same time.

The fae comes over and sits across from me. “You rang?” The voice is female, soft and amused.

“Yup! I wanted to have a whole conversation in private, but people are staring at us.”

“Well, my glamour is perhaps as young as you. Pale skin, red hair in a spiked mohawk and bright blue eyes. I am worth staring at,” the fae says as a statement of fact, and their hand is over mine, the squeeze light before they let go. There is no binding at all in the touch. “Now people will think we’re dating.”

I cock my head to the side, because there is a binding lurking under the words. “You want to date me?”

“Should I not?” the fae asks, and I can feel the wicked smile that sets whispers into deep murmurs among the people here.

“Fae don’t do that. You don’t let yourselves fall into traps like relationships.” I pause, and reach out with my senses, pressing me wider into the world. The fae recoils a moment in shock, but it’s enough for me to be really sure it is a fae. “And if you are, that means you’re all broken.”

“Broken.” The fae’s voice is low and ugly.

“Well, other fae would say that! I wouldn’t because I’m all kinds of cute so wanting to date me just makes sense,” I say, because I am quite a smart Jay. “But I kind of don’t want a date right now. Charlie just wants more money when we help your kind I think, but I’d like to get favours too!”

“Favours to what end?”

“I don’t know yet.” And I don’t, but it feels important to have them. “Charlie could get hurt and there’s some hurts bindings can’t fix. Things like that, maybe. I could do favours for you,” I offer.

“No.” The fae almost shouts the word, and there is fear under it but I’m pretty sure they don’t know about me and microwaves at all. Plus it was only six of them.

“Favours are bindings; I’m good for bindings,” I say a bit crossly.

“We know.” The fae is no longer smiling and has moved back; we’re definitely not dating anymore. “We see deeper than magicians and wider than gods, Outsider. There are those who among our kind who think we should have no relations with you at all.”

“That’s pretty mean.” I pout, to make sure the fae knows they are being mean. “I haven’t even told Honcho what you are or nothing!”

“You think you know what we are?”

“Hello? I’m a Jay,” I say, which doesn’t make them not-scared at all, so I tell them what I know after, quiet and simple because Jay Facts can be like weapons too.

The silence that follows that is like a Charlie-silence when I do something bad. “We see.” The fae stands. “We will consider this matter and get back to you.”

And there are other fae staring out of this one, and they are really old and definitely don’t want dates at all in ever. “Okay,” I say, pretending I haven’t sensed them all and I get another hot chocolate when they leave and get extra marshmallows by asking really nicely. And I drink it all up and get two more because they are nice and warm and I’m a few kinds of scared because I’m maybe keeping secrets from Honcho and Charlie and it might be because the fae would have to kill them if I told them what I know but I don’t like doing it at all.

The fae text back the word yes. And nothing else. I hear a fire engine across the road, but I’m almost really sure it’s not my fault!

Sunday, February 15, 2015



I dig through the cupboard of the kitchen of the house we ‘acquired’. Hiding from the police takes some work, more than it does in movies and TV shows. “Jay?”

“You’re looking for food in cupboards but I kind of got you a LOT of chocolate,” he says.

I turn, and the kitchen table is filled with chocolates. Bars, collections, boxes. “You bought all that?”

“I didn’t want you to be sad,” he says, as if that explains everything.

“Not getting into altercations with the police might make me less sad as well,” I say as patiently as I can. From what Jay said a ‘really meany’ police officer had been threatening another kid and since Jay can sense bindings with inhuman skill I don’t disagree the kid was probably in danger and Jay did save their life. By assaulting a police office with hugs and getting shot at. That he’s tough and faster than humans means he got away. That we’re hiding in a house two towns away means he wasn’t as good at it as he thought.

“I didn’t mean to,” the kid pouts, and I sigh.

“I know that, Jay. You ‘don’t mean to’ a lot of things. And this is a lot of chocolate, even for you.”
He squirms. Jay’s eyes are broken things hidden behind dark glasses, but he’s holding his cane a bit too tightly, not quite looking in my direction, teeth gnawing a little on his lower lip.

“Kiddo. Talk.”

Jay gapes that I saw through him so easily; it would be funny on other days. “Okay, and maybe I promised someone a story about indulgence on tumblr and I might have forgot because I was trying to learn about Valentine’s Day and then we’ve been busy doing favours for the fae and the police stuff happened and how they’ll need to be indulgent to me because I’m all late with the story and sad about that and I was hoping we could eat lots of chocolate because that is totally an indulgence right?!”

Jay’s grin is huge and hopeful. I shake my head a little. “Wait, both of us eating all this?”

“Well, of course. I said you were my valentine Charlie and! I am clearly yours.”

I blink. “Why?”

“Because you totally put up with me when things get weird and bad and I screw stuff up and I don’t think most humans would. So! that means I’m your valentine, right?”

“Jay.” I take a deep breath, and grin. “I’m not putting up with you. I’m tolerating you, and you have to do more than just tolerate someone to be their valentine.”

“Oh!” He senses the grin and returns it. “We could start by eating lots of chocolate!”

“We could. Would it help if I said this is definitely an indulgence?”

“It would a lot!” He moves in a blur, hugging me tight.

I return the hug, pressing a finger to his lips before he can speak. “It’s okay. I said it was going to be okay, didn’t I?”

Jay nods, then grabs chocolates off the table and hands them to me.

I stare at the groaning table, then sit and begin eating as he opens up others and eats them as well. I’m almost hoping the police find us now, if only for the headlines that might result.

Friday, February 13, 2015


"Charlie, I totally should get a date on Valentine’s Day," Jay shouts as he barrels into hotel room, barely avoiding tripping over our bags on the floor.

He grins, bouncing from foot to foot as I stare at him. “A date. With something human?”

"I dunno. But! there is this saying that love is blind and and and I am blind so that means I should get a date."

"That isn’t quite how it works, kiddo."

"Oh. But — but I might have looked into getting chocolates already!"

"No flowers?"

"I think you’d like chocolates more."

I blink. “Jay, I am almost ten years older than you, you are not human and eleven —.”

He scowls behind his shades. “I know all that but I kind of want to give you a gift and were friends and! you are totally my best friend and sometimes friends need more that just hugs, even if they are Jay hugs.”

"Jay. I don’t ever need more than that from you."

"Uhm. You might?"

"I might." I close my eyes. "What happened?"

"I might have kinda yelled at a really mean police officer who tried to shoot me and all ran away."

"A police officer tried to shoot you."

"I’m fine though and —."

"Pack. Now. This is going to be more than chocolates."

"Okay," he says. "But —."


"I was going to get you the chocolates before all this, Charlie!"

I let out a breath and walk over, giving Jay a hug. “I know. It’ll be okay.”

"But —."

"You’re a Jaysaurus so it will be fine."

He grins hugely and goes back to packing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Long Distance

Fact: it is 3:33 a.m. 
Fact: knowing that the Internet is a living creature and not something from Outside the universe makes me trust it even less.
Fact: I don’t trust cell phones for many reasons; their internet connection is only part of that.

My cell phone is ringing, though I never turn it on. I’m used to that: anyone who truly needs to reach a wandering magician will get through to me, and Jay tends to call me regardless of whether I actually have a phone or not. Having a phone ring inside your head and then an eleven year old kid who isn’t human happily telling you about his day means I tend to keep it near me now. This time it reaches a sixth ring without going to the machine, dialling from a 1-877 number. I stare at the phone, which at least rings a little softer. I am almost tempted to take it into the second bedroom of the house that decided to let a magician stay in it, but siccing Dana on a solicitor would be rather cruel – and not just because she is a fae.

I pick the phone up on the eighth ring. “Hello?”

“Oh, hello! This is Carol, calling to see if you have considered a free trial of –.”

“How did you get this number?”

“Sir, please calm down. May I remind you that this call may be recorded for quality–.”

“This phone is warded.” I thread power into my voice. “How did you get this number?”

“I – I – I need to get my manager,” she whispers.

I blink, staring down at the phone. It tries to play hold music, then settles on silence. I have no idea what she was even trying to sell, or even who she is working for. Magic answers need as much as desire, and I use the pause and then hold back a gasp with an effort. Dana is a focus, but only one of many. So many people in the world, anger at solicitors a haze of terrible desire, the rage so potent that I acted without thought.

I close my eyes for a moment, whisper words of focus, and ward myself against my own magic. It is about as uncomfortable as it sounds, but it makes some distance, clears my thoughts a little.

“This is Skip, manager for Hidalgo Holdings Ltd,” a man’s voice says. “How can I help you?”

“I doubt you can.” I keep my voice as even as I can. “Even my mother cannot call my phone if I don’t desire it: what are you selling?”

“We sell subscriptions to various magazines, free trials that –.”

“What are you selling?” I ask again, and this time let a little of the magic into my voice.

“I – information. Information about you. What magazines you want to buy are passed on to our suppliers, along with your line as an active line with a receptive caller, our call list bought by other companies from us in a – I’m not supposed to be telling you this, sir.”

“I imagine not. I would like to speak to Carol again. Please.”

The please has a power all its own, which is good because I don’t trust myself to use more of my magic. Not given what it is saturated with at the moment. “H-hello,” she says, her voice cracking a little.

“I did not mean to scare you or to wound.” It is a gift as much as curse to speak truths that cannot be ignored.

“Well, it happens often enough,” she says, her laugh weak and fragile.

“Yes. Yes, it does,” I whisper, and I can feel the anger building in the magic, pressing against me inside and out. “Mere understanding will not destroy this anger, Carol. Where would you desire hate, if you could?”

“Lawyers,” she says, and there is anger in her own voice, and old hurt under it. I don’t get her story. I can’t do that and hold this anger back, not right now.

I thank her and hang up, putting the phone back. “Not all lawyers are terrible, as not all politicians are monsters,” I say quietly to what waits in the world around me. “But there are monsters worthy of your fear, monsters that deserve the kind of rage that could tear worlds apart. In time, I will need this anger. For now, I would like to place it somewhere where it can do no harm at all. For your sakes as much as my own.”

I gather the anger with my magic, pull all the hate inside. I’m not enough to hold it all without being consumed; I am not sure even the fae are. So I close my eyes and place it the only place I can think of, and far away Jay stirs slightly and goes back to sleep, unaware of what I have placed inside him for future need.

I left him and Charlie with a promise not to use him, and I am already breaking it. Knowing he will forgive me does not make it better at all. I close my eyes, fall back asleep, and welcome the ugly dreams that will result from my failure.

So, so very much not canon :)

"Oh, man! He looks really sad inside and out!"

Reynard Fox spun to face the doorway, a deep growl filling the room. Boy didn’t stir from his sleep on the cot.

The boy standing in the doorway looked human: young, with the white cane of the blind and a huge innocent grin that put even Boy’s to shame. “Hi!”

"This is not your place," the fox said, and his voice was low and hard, full of more than teeth.

"But he’s really sad and I totally have hugs to give!"

"Hugs," the fox said, as though he had misheard words though Reynard Fox has never done so.

"Yup! My name is Jay and —."

"You have other names as well."

"Well, I am a Jaysaurus and also Jaysome!"

"You do not belong here."

"But he is really sad-face and I’m all kinds of good at hugging! Please?"

The fox sighed. “You’re not going to go away, are you?”

"I’m really good at not going away."

"I shall endeavour to pretend that made sense." The fox stepped aside to let Jay hug the sleeping form of Boy. Boy whimpered in pain, almost waking as Jay sprang back in shock.

"He is still sad?" Jay demanded.

"You are, perhaps, kin to the Wasting. All you did was wound him."

Boy blinked. “You knew I’d hurt him?!” His eyes narrowed behind dark glasses. “You are not a very nice fox.”

"I am what I must be. As you may someday be what you must as well." Reynard Fox smiled, a barring of teeth. "You will go now."

"You made me hurt your friend," Jay said, and his voice contained harmonics nothing human could hear.

"Consider it a lesson cheaply given."

"Fine. But you do mean tricks and I don’t like you so you are never coming to my home!"

Jay vanished and Reynard Fox stretched slowly, then paused, shocked enough to speak aloud. “He barred me from an entire universe? What kind of creature can —.”

"Mr. Fox?" Boy said sleepily.

"It is nothing. Rest."

And Boy fell back into sleep without any nightmares at all for the rest of the night. The fox did not sleep at all.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Charlie post on tumblr..

Things we did today.
  • had breakfast (pancakes at a waffle house)
  • Chatted with a lonely ghost in a park, which Jay able to get close and not destroy the ghost. For which he was terribly proud of himself since we still have no idea why ghosts are exorcised just by Jay walking through them.
  • Had a snowball fight, which Jay let me win. I pointed that out, he claimed he hadn't, I said I had seen him drop a snowball at which point he flung himself into my for a hug and cried without tears at trying to lie even if it would make me feel better.
  • I dumped a snowball down his coat in response. he spent a good half hour sulking at my 'cheating'.
  • Found a rabbit that had died in a trap. I broke the trap open (eating the state of it being locked) and Jay tried to somehow bind the rabbit back into life, but it doesn't seem possible. I stopped him from trying a third time and used my nature to call up the god of rabbits, who agreed to restore the rabbit to life in exchange for a future favour -- from Jay. He, of course, said yes.
  • (I'm trying not to think too hard about what the god of rabbit could want; gods can restore the dead, but the cost is an astronomical amount of their power -- to say nothing of the continued cost in keeping the miracle active. Jay, as always, trusts too damn easily.)
  • We had lunch as fast food while driving to another town. I checked Jay's tumblr twice for him to make sure everything was OK. I am definitely not going to try this method again, but I think I got through to him about pushing bindings too far on others. Always hard to know how much of this is Jay understanding things vs. not wanting to make his friend (me) mad with him.
  • Got a message from a fae about some rogue gremlins who were hiding in an autobody shop doing anti-gremlin acts. Keep machines live past their prime, keep them working when they're broken. Break entropy enough in an area and they'd tear open a hole in the universe and let something from Outside in past the usual safeguards and protections (which include immigration policies, I've been told.) We dealt with them easily enough, though I have no idea what their end goal was.
  • Pizza for supper, I read Jay part of a book and he listened to the radio after.
  • A good day, all told.
- Charlie

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Meeting Friends

This is Charlie. I keep a diary, sometimes just to remind myself that my life really is as weird as I think it is. I saw that Jay posted his view of an encounter a couple of days ago, so I thought I’d add mine. Jay still doesn’t know what we really ran into, or why it shocked me as much as it did. I haven’t called the magician to ask him about this, mostly because I think I won’t like his response. Right. Here begins the entry; I try to write them in present tense even though I’m writing after it happens, since that helps me recall everything better. Personal choice. Deal with it.


Almost two feet of snow have been dumped on the town we’re in, but it’s not actually cold. Dress warmly and keep away from the more bitter winds and you’re mostly fine. Nothing has turned to slush, there are kids with the second of a probably few days off school having snowball fights and building snowmen and we’re still in that part of small-town American where parents actually let their kids play outside.

It’s a lot rarer to find than you’d think, and probably would be almost unheard of if most people knew the kinds of entities humanity shares the world with. The kid beside me being one: Jay looks to be eleven, but is from far Outside the universe. He senses everything in terms of bindings, at levels even magicians consider impossible to detect but to Jay it’s as easy as breathing. Also as easy is hiding his nature so he appears to be a normal human kid despite being quite tough. That he is unable to see for the foreseeable future (owing to being used to stop something really nasty from happening) hasn’t phased him in the slightest. Which probably says all you need to know about him.

“Charlie,” he says, not quite bouncing through snow over to me from across the road. He’s using his white cane because humans would pay too attention to him otherwise, and dark glasses because his eyes are full of falling stars and fractured light – which would cause people do more than just stare at him. He offers up a huge, happy grin that is entirely Jay and also sets my Jay-sense to tingling.

The huger the grin, the more dangerous the fallout might be. “Kiddo.”

“I’ve been making secret friends today,” he says proudly.

“With rocks or snow?” I try, because one never knows with Jay. He once spent an afternoon making friends with every atom inside a piece of lego.

“Nope, people. The human kind.” And he moves, quicker than humans can – his other trick – and then grins even wider up at me, radiating pride. If Geiger counters for pride existed, Jay would make them explode. Not that his pride was for him, mostly for what he did for others and to help them. “Your left pocket,” he says when I don’t move, poking it with his cane and practically dancing from foot to foot.

I reach in cautiously, expecting to find a snowball, gremlin, or some small animal Jay has decided should be kept warm. Instead I pull out two new twenty dollar bills. I look at them, then down at Jay. “Can I ask where you got this money?”

“I did a favour for the fae last night when you were sleeping and they paid me in cash and I’m all using it to make friends!”

“You don’t make friends with money, Jay.”

“I know that, Charlie. I mean that I make them all happy and they never know it was me because I’m totally a Jay-boss!”

“Reverse pickpocketing.”

“I listened to videos on YouTube and they were helpful so I get to pass that on and help people. It doesn’t take much money to make a person a little happy; sometimes it’s even better thana hug, which is pretty weird.”

“Well, it is better than other things you could be doing,” I say, and he just sticks his tongue out at me at that, then reaches up with his right mitten and grabs my hand, tugging me toward the proper downtown core of the town and telling me he also made a new friend and then about the eight people he’s all helped this morning. It occurs to me that he did the reverse pickpocketing while wearing the mittens, but I decide not to wonder too deeply about that.

I’ve spent my morning migrating gods to new businesses from old or failing ones and generally put the word out that there is a god-eater active in the world again and gods wishing to abuse their powers had best not do so. It’s been pretty easy work: most gods are small and most of those are wise enough not to attract untoward attention. Mostly because powerful gods tend to cannibalize smaller ones. I don’t really know that much about gods: magicians have few dealing with them save to destroy them if they need to, though Jay claims that the gods are part of a network of energy holding the bedrock of the world together.

All I know is gods make themselves when needed, adding energy and strength to a business, home, whatever the location is. As that expands, the power of the god can well, but most gods can only expand so far and few can move from their place of birth without a god-eater helping them. I destroy dangerous gods, I help the others migrate. It’s a learning curve all around, since most gods aren’t that old and no one seems to know what really happened to the order that used to train god-eaters.

I’m busy thinking about such things as Jay drags me to the back alley behind the downtown McDonalds. “I made a new friend, who is all surprised I saw him because humans can’t see him!”

“You can’t see,” I say dryly.

“Well, yes, but I all noticed weird bindings and it’s a new friend,” he says as if that makes it all okay. I refrain from pointing out that Jay would probably react the same if he ran into Cthulhu. Mostly because I don’t want to learn that Lovecraft wasn’t making shit up. He continues to pull incessantly, holding my hand tightly and we move past the dumpster.

The creature behind the dumpster is almost as big as it the dumpster, all dark brown fur, a long trunk, wide eyes. No ears, a pointed tail. I say several words they probably wouldn’t even air on Sesame Street Uncut. “Snuffleupagus?”

“You know him?” Jay asks excitedly. “I know he’s big, but he told me he doesn’t want to eat people at all!”

“Humans do not see me.” The voice is deep and gravelly, not like on the TV.

“Jay isn’t human. He’s helping me see you,” I say, and my voice is almost even, definitely from shock. “Jay, is Mister – is he an Outsider?”

“Nope! Nor a monster,” Jay adds. “He is really cuddly though! He feels like warm laundry.”

“Of course you hugged him.” I rub the bridge of my nose. “Ah. What do you want?” I ask it. Thinking of the creature as an it helps.


Or it did for a few seconds. “What?”

“Birds taste very good. Feathers. Bones. Muscle.” It smiles, and the teeth are many but not as sharp as I was imagining. “I clean the feathers off with my snout, snuffle them up and eat the rest. There are not many birds in the winter.”

“No, no there aren’t. You can read, yes?”

“A is for...”

“Right Okay,” I cut it off, certain I don’t want to hear this creatures alphabet song. “There is restaurant down the street, KFC. Kentucky Fried Chicken makes chicken. You could sneak in there and eat chicken as long as you don’t eat too much. Or perhaps just all the chicken people throw away into the dumpster?”

“I can do a binding for that,” Jay says, and the creature goes still a moment, and then inclines its head in a nod to Jay.

I have far too many questions. I’m not about to ask any of them. I just smile at it and pull Jay away, and head back toward the hotel. “Jay. You’re sure that wasn’t a creature from Outside the universe?”

“Yup. You knew him, so he is a friend?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know what I know.” I let go of Jay’s hand and just walk. Part of me wants to know if he has run into creatures like this before, or to ask if he can find out what they really are. The rest of me decides it might be best if I left some things as mysteries. If only for my sanity.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Snow Trouble

“We have a problem.”

I glance up from the map I’m browsing, letting my magic feel out places where a magician might be needed. The map is too full for my liking. “This town is under four feet of snow that is refusing to listen to my suggestions that it might consider melting faster and we’re going to have to be very creative to help people from starving to death in their homes soon and you are saying we have a problem.”

“Yes,” Dana says simply.

I’m starting to suspect that the fae are immune to sarcasm. “Explain?”

“You have had dealings with bigfoot before.”

“Not many, but yes. I once hunted one who had gone mad through Yellowstone. As I understand it they mostly keep to themselves.”

“Normally, yes. But this has been a cold winter, with little food. They can change under such conditions.”

“And become mass murderers?”

“Yeti, yes.”

I wonder if this is how Charlie feels when she is talking to me all the time. “There are fewer Yeti sightings –.”

“There are none; they leave no survivors. A bigfoot can turn into one due to temperature and shortage of other animals for food – in which case it throws caution to the wind and goes after humans, magician.”

I fold the map up properly, a talent owing as much to my magic as anything else. “They kill deer and bear mostly, if I recall correctly. Why should killing humans change their nature?”

“They see humans as almost civilized. It would be like humans being forced to kill their cats, dogs: their pets, and how it would break them psychologically. Most recover, but some never do and convince themselves that humans are the best and only source of food. It never ends well,” the fae says, since she has very much mastered the art of understatement.

I sigh and walk over to the door, giving it a shove; the snow on the other side of the cabin Dana and I are squatting in doesn’t move, doesn’t even want to. Snow listens, as it turns out: global warming means the death of true winter, and it is holding onto this storm for as long as it can. I’d find it funny if it was funny at all, but it does mean I can use magic in other ways. I touch the world and the door becomes a doorway to the world on top of the snow.

Dana follows me silently; she doesn’t sink into the snow at all. I have no idea if that is fae glamour or that nature doesn’t much care for the fae. I don’t because the snow knows if I do sink into the snow I’ll have reason to melt it away with easy magics. Most of the homes the locals know are inhabited at least have doorways freed, crude paths made through the snow that are one-vehicle wide. A lot of people have moved into the local hotel, bringing gas for the generator and food.

It has been two days of deep snows. No one is worried yet, but they are getting there. There is only so much food and no one expects everyone to be rational about this – which, perhaps, is part of the problem. I wrap sunlight on snow about me as a form of invisibility; Dana uses a glamour and is gone from even my senses, so I just settle on walking the edges of the town, turning the anger of people into more heat in fires and furnaces. Helping hold things together as best I can.

The weak howl of a wolf cub pulls me the west end of the town, though not in time to stop the bigfoot from butchering it: head torn off, body ripped open and gutted. The cub had been running, but not fast enough in the end for her to escape. The bigfoot has pale fur: not yet snow-coloured, still with faint traces of brown. The overall result is an eight foot tall monster that looks like a walking pee stain in snow; I decide to keep that observation entirely to myself.

“Magician,” it growls. “This is not your affair.”

“That is true, but you are hardly going to stop at a wolf cub, are you?”

“I am hunger; hunger is primal, and your magic cannot touch that.”

Magic occupies a hazy place between need and want, between desire and force. It does not mean I can’t act, merely that the action will demand a price down the road that I will not be able to avoid paying. And some prices have proved far too dear over the years. I smile, and the bigfoot hesitates at the boundaries of the town over what it sees in my smile.

“How long have you chased the wolf cub when you could have found easier food elsewhere?” I ask, having no need to put power into my words; it is a gift and curse both to be able to speak and compel truth that cannot be ignored.

“Some hours,” it admits. “The cub was practise for other game.”

“She was so tired I barely heard her howl for help, and her spirit has gone from this place as wolves well understand the cycle of being and of eating. But even so, this was not hunger. This was murder, and I am not about to let it stand.”

The bigfoot is on top of the snow in moments, hurling toward me in a blur of teeth and claws.

“Dana?” I don’t move, but the bigfoot slams into snow and sinks deep to my left, having been tricked by glamour.

Dana speaks words I don’t know and the bigfoot shudders at them as she opens a door to some other place. The fae castles, I assume, and judgement.”


“I am busy, magician.”

“How long as it been since it snowed at the castles?”

Dana pauses, then is visible beside me, her smile slow and appreciative. “A long time.”

The bigfoot is pulled through to the other side and we spend two hours after speaking to the storm, which slowly shifts course and power to blow snow somewhere almost outside the universe.

“I did not know you were going to use yourself as bait,” Dana says as we finish sending the snow that would have gone to another place.

“Bigfoot are fast and this one knew too much about magic for my liking. I am glad you realized what I was doing.”

“Who says I did?” But the fae smiles slightly as we head back toward the cabin we’re staying in.

I consider texts I’ve got from Jay and crouch, making a snowball and throwing it. It passes through Dana and hits merely snow; I barely have time to dive to the left as two snowballs sail through the air where I had been standing.

We throw snow with power and skill, dodging and weaving along snowbanks and the rooftops of homes, and I have imagine that the spirit of a wolf cub is bounding along beside us and would have loved to play if the world had not been other than it is.  

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Boy & Fox: Scene 1.

Perhaps all anyone needed to know about Oak Shade Street was that the city had cut down every oak tree on it over a decade ago. The street was the usual near-downtown litter of apartment buildings designed by paint-by-numbers systems in a fight to see which one could be the drabbest along with two-decade old homes that apartment developers circled hungrily. Not every yard was unkempt but that was pretty much the way to bet. The street ended at Oak Park which boasted a small copse of birch trees that local lore called a corpse of trees. At least three bodies had been buried in it in a single decade. though people always claimed it was more even as they fought attempts to have it bulldozed down.

The street had lost their oak trees, but were determined to lose nothing else.

The playground was a rusted out shell no one has used since a pedophile moved into the neighbourhood – even if it had been a couple of neighbourhoods away, never proved and the bearded man had left after having his house spray-painted twice. Some stories claimed he moved to a bigger city and became a department store Santa Claus, but that is hardly a surprise. It is the nature of stories to grow with the telling, and like rivers stories tend to grow crooked and follow the path of least resistance. Everyone knew the park was a bad place and no one had to say why any longer.

The park the street had fought for sat empty, and the local animals migrated to it but even they stayed away from the birch trees. People who took notice of that – and there are people who notice many things, even if they do not realize they noticed them – assumed the stories they had been told were right and thought no more about it. And so the park was half-buried in fall leaves when the boy came walking out of it. The boy was bare foot and devoid of hair, his eyebrows pale suggestions, hints more than facts and he wore jeans and a t-shirt that laundromats had long ago turned a dull grey.

There was no dirt on him nor his clothing and he walked slowly, testing each step with a foot as if expecting the leaves to conceal more than earth beneath. He crouched down slowly at the edge of the trees and ran his fingers through the leaves as gingerly as one might prod broken glass and let out small, hoarse gasp of surprise when his hand came away unwounded. Something crossed his face that was far too wary to be hope and the boy stood again, turning slowly back to face the trees as though pulled by some force.

“You can remain in the world.” The voice was assured and calm, but the boy still spun about to face it, his unmarked hands raised protectively in front of himself. The speaker was a fox, though to say that says nothing at all. The fox was as red as any fox that had ever been, the fur on his feet darker than shadows. His chest was snow-white and his tail was the envy of all other foxes, and many other animals as well.

“Oh,” the boy said hoarsely, and whatever caution he carried with him was lost. The boy’s eyes widened slowly: they were the pale green of things seeping from wounds, eyes which seemed bruised, felt hollow, looked empty until he took in the fox. “Oh,” he said again, and the fox seemed to accept such statements as only his due.

The boy crouched, held out a hand toward the fox but pulled it back slower and just stared in soft silence until the fox began to feel almost uneasy; there are many things that foxes will accept, perhaps a great deal more than people do, but worship is seldom one of them. “I am called Reynard Fox,” the fox said with a smile that was all sharp teeth.

The boy said nothing.

“You may have heard of me?” the fox said.

“No? I don’t –.” The boy bit into his lower lip, slow panic building in his face.

“I trust you have a name then, boy?” Reynard Fox said.

The boy gulped, steadied himself a little. “Boy.” The word seemed to push back panic and he repeated it again in his hoarse voice.

“That is your name,” the fox enquired after a short pause, though it was well within his nature to inquire as well.

“Yes.” Boy smiled then, and the smile transformed his face; even the fox drew back from the gentleness behind it. “I was in the woods,” Boy continued, and cleared his throat, though it remained no less hoarse, “but not those woods.”

“I know; have a care, Boy. To speak of it gives it power,” the fox said. And then, because he was a fox and it may well have been true: “To not speak of it gives it more power still.”

“Oh.” Boy scratched his scalp with his left hand, pulled it away and ran both hands over his head slowly, as if it belonged to a stranger. He stared down at his hands, flexing them slowly. “Hands should have lines on them. Fingertips have whorls. Mine don’t?”

“One does not leave the Wasting and not leave some things behind,” Reynard Fox said, and the gentleness in his voice was as close as he could come to the kindness of Boy’s smile.

Boy licked his lips. “Wasting,” came out in a soft whisper, as though he was tasting it on his tongue. “I ran. I ran so far the world changed. Then I ran further still and I don’t know how. I don’t know if I ran. I don’t know if I walked. I don’t how how I made it back,” he added, softer still.

The fox merely sat, bushy tail twitching gently.

“Help?” Boy asked.

“I am Reynard Fox; it is not a safe thing to ask me for help.”

“Anything is-is better than the Wasting,” Boy got out, words falling into each other. He said nothing else, wasn’t capable of articulating more.

“There are worse things than the Wasting,” the fox said, but so soft that it is possible Boy never heard; even hearing, he would not have believed. The fox stood then, teeth and eyes bared in a smile. “Come.”

Boy trembled all over; the woods, what was beyond them – something other tugged at him, but the fox was real and kind – sharp-toothed, but Boy took that for an honest kindness. And he stood in turn. And walked one step. And then another. And each that followed was easier as they walked away from the birch trees of Oak Shade Park.

Boy came to a halt in the small parking lot at the edge of park, toes trying to dig into asphalt. “This isn’t the Wasting. This isn’t a trick,” he breathed.

“How do you know?” the fox asked, with nothing cruel behind it.

“The Wasting paves nothing over,” Boy said, and even Reynard Fox said nothing more to that.