Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One Night

“I hear a child screaming,” I say and the cold that lies within me does not soften up at all.

“You are fae.” The magician does not turn, the words gentle not to wound. “How can you not hear that often though the worlds and all through time? You are old beyond mortal meaning, power beyond mortal weaving yet it is me you bring these words to, each one leavened as a curse?”

“There are laws and rules that govern.”

“And not a one you’ve shared.” He turns and there are shadows hiding deep within his eyes, his destiny in roots digging deep inside his being but if he knows or feels it he does not give a sign of knowing. “There is one night each year I work no magic of my will, not a single touch of wishing, not a single desire needing; only this, remembering a life so strangely lived.”

“You set aside an evening for regrets after the gloaming?”

“For remembering and reliving and if it is allowed a mourning. I brought down my father for those he had destroyed, because our paths were crossed and none other would raise up power. Because the city was his own and no one else could challenge there. But I wander where I’m needed and I’m not without a will. I burned him into ashes for all he had done, for every life he had destroyed to hide from cost and sacrifice.”

“And you expect the dead to forgive?”

“The dead cannot forgive; all I can do is remember them, for he was not the first I killed. Even innocents have died. I was young but I had power and deeper still my pride. And every lesson that tempered me, that tore away each life –.” He turns away them, swift and sharp, to stare up to the sky. “Magic is the power to make the world a poem, but all it has are dreams, and dreams are made of words. There are limits to our doing and prices for each action and I’ve left behind me ruins I can never make amends for.”

“And you think there is any sword that has uses without a blade?” My voice is low and hard, but he barely knows I’m there. For once I feel so naked, no matter the glamour all fae wear.

“So much more than I have wishing of,” he says soft as he knows. “A blade is made for cutting and a sword is meant for slaying and there’s other shapes to magic and other ways of being. It was a long and ugly knowing and there are ghosts I’ve left behind me and all I can do is move forward and so many times it never is enough, so much I have no telling.”

“The dead are only silent, for every ghost that cries,” I say, because some things must be spoken and he weaves a magic still. A magician is a magic and a magic is a calling and everything in him a seeking though he would deny it still.

“And if I cast the magic down, what would be left of me?” He does not turn at all, the words falling like stones. “If I could be that sort of me to drop this burden on another than every ghost that should haunt me should tear me deep and through. All I can do for all I’ve done is continue on my way and find a way to kindness though justice bars the way.”

And to that I have no speaking, and he turns and studies me.

And his eyes are deep and knowing, and I almost seem a seeing but he lets out a deep sigh and bows his head in shame. “A child is crying, as you say, and there are needs out in the world. Needs deep and wild and hungry loss that matters more than this.” He bows them, the magician as a man, and smiles without power, almost soft in his regard. “You shame me to my duty and pull me from reverie. And I may not thank you but I am certain of what you see.”

He turns and walks away, weaving magic for a child. And I gather up my courage, for magicians won’t see ghosts – too many needs they cannot me and maddened with desire – and I face the ghosts that wait behind him and bar their way a while. One night of peace I give him, and know Jay gave him more, and that was a deep reason why he left that boy behind. And I am fae and ancient, a power deep and wild, and there are no tears with him, not for him and none for me.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dark Shapings

Footsteps stumble-skid around the corner, a huge stagger-run like a broken horse, the man’s breath ugly wheezes as he staggers to a sobbing stop, trying to move forward. Every binding in his body screams in protest, but he’s still trying to move. Some humans can run really fast and far; he’s not one of them. Bindings are breaking in his knees, lungs, feet, muscles, his heart hammering like a broken hummingbirds so badly I’m kind of surprised I can’t actually hear it. He thinks he has nothing left, sees me.

“Kuh – kid? What are you... the-the subway. Closed for repairs. Go,” he gets out, stumbling over.

“I know it’s closed; I was exploring,” I explain, because you have to explain things to humans.

“But – you –.” He’s trying to get his breath back, can’t.

I nudge bindings a little to help, because he sounds kinda scared.

“Go. It – oh,” and he says a rude word Charlie doesn’t want me saying, using a phone-light for a moment. “Jesus Christ. You’re blind?”

“It makes exploring fun! I made friends with a spider a few minutes ago, and –.”

“Kid. Run. Just – please. Something is –.” And he moves, between me and something else. “I’ll try to – to –.” And I have no idea what he is seeing, but his heart does some really mean spasms but I’m all good with bindings so he just stumbles, keeps standing. “I don’t know what you are. I was just – I was going to take pictures. For my blog.”

The voice that speaks is soft, flat. I don’t sense any bindings, don’t sense anything there at all. “I have been waiting in the dark for a long time, Curtis.”

“What?” Curtis says, still in front of me, sounding all kinds of lost.

“You were weak then; you are weak now. Flabby, useless. I died and you did nothing but watch as the cold claimed me.”

“Holly? I couldn’t ... the ice broke under you ... her ... there was no way I could follow,” he whispers. “I was crying on my phone, begging the police to come, anyone.”

“And she died. And I am here.”

“Hello?” I cough pretty loudly for a Jay. “I don’t know who you are, but I know you’re not a ghost cuz you don’t have any bindings to him at all and ghosts kind of run away from me.”

“Even ghosts cast shadows,” the voice whispers.

I scratch my head at that, then poke Curtis with my cane, because canes are made for poking. “So use light.”

“I did. It – she – laughed. I told you to run.”

“If I do, she’s kinda going to eat you and that would be mean plus you all protected me like a boss so you’re not bad at all and ... and I’ve run out of stuff to put after an and, but I think you can go away, shadow-ghosty-thing.”

“I am the darkness the dark fears, I am the spirit where guilt dwells. I am the shame of things in the dark that shadows flinch away from. Whatever you are, I am more than that. Could you see, you would die.”

“Nope. I’m a Jay, and you’re some ghost making yourself more than an echo because of his guilt, I bet, and you’re not the thing the dark is scared of at all.”

“Please; I can’t get away. Run,” Curtis whispers.

“Would you run if you could?” I ask, like Honcho or Charlie would, cutting right through bindings with wordings.

Curtis is silent at that for a moment, then: “No. Holly died, and I couldn’t stop it. It didn’t even – I could have gone to a gym after. Changed. Been – thin, able to – I didn’t. She died, and I didn’t.”

He sounds a little close to Honcho, on bad days. I don’t like people being that, because the world does lots of hurts without people hurting themselves even more, so I move past Curtis and he’s really big and slow and I’m a Jay so I walk ahead and grin up at the voice. “Hi!”

The air gets pretty cold, even for under the ground.

“You’re really confusled because you’re not Holly, and kind of a shadow of some ghost long gone, and Curtis is sad for all sorts of reasons but I don’t think I care because you would have hurt him more and that’s not nice so you’re going to go away and you’re doing it now.”

The shadow-thing I can’t sense just laughs, definitely all around me, and Curtis is all kinds of hurt, thinking it’s just like his friend he couldn’t save, as if people are meant for that. “You’re a shadow,” I say, all quiet and not-Jay, softer than whispers speak. “And you’re confused, because the dark isn’t scared of you.”

And I offer up a grin I’ve never even shown honcho, and the shadows are running away and they pull the ghost-thing apart entirely with them since it’s no longer cold and I turn and walk back to Curtis. “It’s all okay now!”

“What did – what are you?”

“I’m Jay. Which is kind of a what, too, and I was all exploring and making friends, cuz those are good bindings and I sort of scared the shadow away cuz I’m the shape the things in the dark are scared of!”

“They are?”


“That must be hard for you,” he says, softly in turn.

I blink at that, because humans are sometimes all kinds of surprises. “A little, but mostly I don’t do scary things because then I’d be scary and that’s not fun. Taking pictures is fun for you, right?”

“Not right now.”

“Okay! So we can go back up and have lunch because it’s definitely a food time and I like making friends and I eat a lot for a Jay!”

“You want me to buy you lunch?”


He is quiet, then we walk all the way back up to the surface, and I talk the entire way for him because he’s still a bit scared and I probably make him less scared or at least baffled instead and then we eat lunch and I point out lunches are friendship-bindings and totally challenge him to the buffet and I even almost lose, but it’s okay because he’s feeling all better and okay and his shadow is totally fine as well by the time we leave and I tell him it’s okay to be him, because you have to tell humans that a lot sometimes, and then kind of arrange to meet Charlie since more friends are always good!

Charlie is all kinds of surprised and I think Curtis is almost scared because his shadow gets kind of funny but I make faces at it until things are okay. And that’s totally an adventure too!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

(for a future scene)

“Where have you been?” His voice is a whip, is a crushing, but under the anger a fear that takes my breath away. Who am I, that I should know this?

A week ago, I would have said: “Out,” made reference to the bottles beside his chair. Now I say nothing, every word feeling like it’s too much.

“Kate Emilia –,” he begins into my silence.

“Dad. Don’t. I can take care of myself. You don’t have to be scared for me every time I’m out late.”

He rocks back a step, eyes narrowing. “That’s what you think this is about?”

He doesn’t know. I almost laugh, choke it back. “Underneath, yes.” I don’t say I’m not mom, that I’m not going to leave. I reach for my own anger, can’t find it. I know him too deeply, hearing what he is saying and the words under that.

You can’t hate someone who loves you. Not when you know what drives them.

“I don’t want this.” The words slip out. “I haven’t –. It’s not –.” The magician said I wouldn’t have magic, not unless I found his name, not unless I spoke it. But this seeing, this knowing, this peeling back: this I seem to have no matter what. I’ve been marked and I don’t know how to undo it. It’s too much I don’t have words for, not ones that wouldn’t hurt or confuse.

“Kate?” The anger is gone, Dad fear-cold sober. “What is it? Drugs? Boys? Girls?”

“Nothing. Nothing like that. I promise.”

He stares at me for a moment that stretches almost to breaking, then: “There is pizza in the fridge.”

I nod, head into the kitchen. He’s trusting me, and somehow it’s that which threatens tears. I take a deep breath, another, a third. I don’t cry. I don’t cry. I don’t cry.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

In which the magician tries out jobs…

“What is that sound?”

“You can hear it? Most new employees can’t –.”

“It sounds like someone who is very old. Screaming.”

“It is the Employee of the Year. It is the same one every year, without end. I don’t think anyone remembers their name anymore. Or what they did to get this – honour.”


“That is the security office. You don’t want to go in there. The door is never locked. The walls, they are made from the skin of would-be shoplifters. Word gets around. Upper Management likes paying little for security so they never ask questions. Not the ones that matter.”


“I don’t think,” I say carefully, “that this is a safe place to work if the employees need to don hazmat suits before entering the walk-in cooler.”


“I have heard stories, about people with eyes like yours. Knowing eyes, hunted eyes that see too much. But we have magic here as well.”

“You do?”

“We serve food to counters in under three minutes, and yet we can advertise ourselves as a restaurant. If that is not magic, what do you call it?”


“You want me to be a cook? I don’t even know what a sous chef is.”

“It is not a problem. You take the packages, put them on the plate, microwave it.”

“And the head chef does what?”

“Arranges it.”


i stare at the building, and I walk away. There are jobs no one should apply for, professions no one should touch. I have learned to count the monstrosity that is Insurance under that rubric.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


People say that everything is connected, but they don’t think about it. Not really. If it’s all connected, a part of everything else – a whole, a wholeness – then everything that ever is, was, the could-be sand the will-bes and the never-weres: it’s all one single moment connected together. Like a spider’s web with more dimensions than we can think, or fewer than we like to think about. I don’t say that to people who tell me that, because there is a truth to it. A poet’s truth, even if it’s not a real one. It’s true in the way that anything is true, if looked at from the right angle. If we don’t look at it too hard.

That’s on my phone. Seriously. Fake diary entries, one a day. In case I become famous, or I’m never famous but die in some memorable way, marry someone famous: in case I ever become someone. ‘Diaries of Kate’, and they’d pick the best entries and make a book out of them. There’s nothing real in them. I don’t trust diaries. The moment lies to us. We’re always writing for an audience, even if it’s just ourselves. I don’t write poems. I never have. But I like to re-read my diary entires each week, try and figure out what I was thinking last week.

There’s a two day gap two weeks ago. I’m trying not to think about that. That’s all I’ve been doing all week, if I’m being honest. I’m half-thinking of doing that, of leaving gaps when important things happens, so readers could piece truth together out of lies. I’m trying to pretend anything Important like that might happen again, wishing it won’t. It’s why I hear them. Two kids, grade five, six, somewhere like that. Boys, whispering to each other in the park, shoving each other in a contest of dares.

“You.” “No, you.” “I said you first.” “You go under the bridge!” “Not gonna: I said you go!” in a frenzy of whispers, a fury of shoves. The larger boy is barely being moved by the shoves, not shoving too hard at his friend. Keeping a balance, forcing nothing.

A fury of shoves. That’s almost a poem. I think we’re all almost poets, and I almost pull up notes and begin new entries. Almost. But they both look off, their movements skittish, unsure. Scared. I put my phone away and walk over. I know scared. I’ve been scared. Scared is when you need someone else.

“Hey.” They both turn and stare. I’m only fifteen, and not tall for my age, but I’m taller than they are. “What’s wrong with the bridge?” I ask.

They fall silent. The one boy scuffs the muddy gravel path with a boot, looks up. “They say there’s a troll living under it.”

“And he eats people,” the larger boy adds in a stage whisper.

Two weeks ago, I would have said it was a homeless person. A week ago, I would have been too scared to think straight. I want to walk away, to point out I’ve been under that bridge many times and it has no trolls at all. To figure they’re just telling jokes, to hear only the surface of things. But if the magician hadn’t paid attention, I’d be worse than dead. He said magic wasn’t about rights, but about duties, obligations, responsibilities. And I said I didn’t want that, and I didn’t. But when the world upends itself, you don’t forget.

You don’t forget, and you can’t ignore. And if you don’t want to spend your life hiding from every shadow-shape, you have to act. Sometimes. Somehow. “Shit,” I say softly. “Right. Stay here.”

They both blink. The scuffy one looks at the larger one. They look back at me and say nothing. I don’t know what to make of that. I don’t know anything anymore.

I walk down the narrow asphalt path, telling myself the park is quiet solely because parents have been scared into not bringing their kids to parks these days. Not everything is weird. Not everything has to have undertones of weird. I repeat that to myself as if mantras have real power. Dad used to do consult for management at companies, before. I think the drinking helped him cope, until it didn’t. I’d tell my friends Dad collected empty glass bottles, because it sounded better than drunkard ever did. They don’t come over often anymore.

It’s an old hurt and a new one, one never gone away. The remember distracts me, helps me keep calm as I walk, reminding myself the world is mostly normal. Dad drinks because of mom and his job and himself: there’s nothing weird about it. People do horrible things all the time, and they do beautiful things as well, and sometimes it’s the same force driving both. Nonsense thoughts, run-on ideas because the mantras aren’t working. The bridge towers, rising over the park. They say there used to be a river, and the bridge was kept even after the river was dammed, the riverbed turned into a winding path through a park. Dead stone to remember live water. The bridge is narrow brick and old stone, devoid of any graffiti at all.

I never considered that odd before. I take a deep breath, walk down into the dark, almost use the flashlight on my phone. “Hello?” My voice isn’t the magicians. There is no power in it, no power in me. I just speak, listen, feeling silly as the silence stretches around me. I turn and look back; the boys haven’t come closer, have even moved away a little. I laugh then, feeling silly, and turn back to walk through the tunnel.

Solid to liquid to solid. My breath is sharp, cold in the air as the side of the bridge moves, flows, reforms into a vast hugeness. The troll towers over me, skin the colour of bridge and earth and the yawning dark. It fits under the bridge but its presence doesn’t, presses down like an avalanche riding a mountain. Teeth the colour of decaying bricks are bared and I fall back one step, another. Somehow not a third.

“You did not see me the last time you passed this way,” the troll says, the rumbling voice deep and soft.

“I imagine most people don’t?” I get out. My voice isn’t steady, but I do manage words.

“You would be surprised. A feeling of being watched, the momentary certainty that a shadow is something else: more sense me than do not, though seldom clearly. Few see me as I am.”

“I have seen shadows that were something else,” I say.

“And that makes you wish to see more, to continue to pull back the skin of the world?”

I don’t even need to think about that. “No.”

“And yet, here you are.”

I have seen impossibilities, am speaking with a monster under a bridge, but all I can do is look away from the compassion in its eyes.

“I harm none who do not invite harm,” the troll continues. “I scare those who would desecrate this place, harm those who would hurt others in the imagined safety of shadows. Few remember what they see, few believe the stories of my kind and bridges. Few have eyes that are a wanting.”

“I didn’t want to see you; I didn’t think you were real.” I look back; the troll has not moved. “What do I tell those kids?”

“That the darkness is not safe. That nowhere is truly safe,” and with that it is simply part of the wall again, folding and falling inward.

I think the boy’s both know that by now, without anyone having to tell them. I continue, walking through the rest of the small tunnel. The park is still quiet but everything seems normal, the kind of normal that doesn’t have actual trolls on bridges.

I walk back through, to tell the two kids that it is okay, and I find myself wishing I could be brave enough to make comments about billy goats, or at least ask where that myth had begun. I tell the boys that it is safe and they don’t ask questions, not even make jokes, just head down the path and under the bridge. Trusting me, though I don’t know why. I saw a troll. I should be sitting, shaking, but all I can think about it how alone it must be, and how sad it would be to be a troll that almost no one can see.

I walk home slowly, trying to think of what kind of gifts I could bring a troll, what kind of friendship I could offer it. I’ve changed. I’m changing. I’ve been marked. But I’m not a magician, not anything like that magician was. I can take a step and not walk down that path. I tell myself that the whole way I walk home. I’m making friends with someone who is lonely. I’m not doing magic. I’m not a magician. And I forget, not thinking it through, that friendship can be a kind of magic as well.

I write no diary entry for today.

It is another three days before I begin to understand what that means.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Drunk Talking

There are four cans on the bar, each as empty as a dream. No one is sitting near him, even the bartender only approaching to dart in with another drink before hurrying to other customers as quickly as she can. They don't know. They're not looking. No one sees the fifth can of cheap beer open without the magician touching it. He drinks alcohol, not looking at me, and everyone in the room keeps a distance. Nothing has happened, no, but sometimes people have better instincts than they credit themselves with.

“Fae.” He doesn't look back, lends the word ugly undertones I thought we'd moved beyond.

“I have a name.”

He looks back, and for a moment there is something harsh and cold in his face that pushes me back a step, the edges of a knowing, the hints of hidden truths. “So you do,” he says, and has another gulp of beer. “Pick a poison. I'm paying.”

“You should not be doing this. You are hurting Jay,” I add, softer still.

“That is all I do. The truth of it, be all, end all, that.” He gulps half the beer in one go, fingers and voice a study in calm. “That he allows it, the theft of his power, of use his nature: it doesn't change the facts.”

I sit down beside him, ordering nothing. “Jay is not human.”

“Neither are you. Would you like it if I used you,” he says, and magic burns in the back of his voice, power humming in the air.

“I am fae. We are beyond your magic.”

“Magic.” The bartender brings another beer, as though called by the word. Again, it opens without being touched. “Heh. You ever wonder why that is, fae? Magic is the universe responding to having to die, the fight against it. The refusal. To bind, to banish creatures from Outside, to refute them, deny them entrance into the Universe. Magic is about where we draw the line, how far the universe will let it self be pushed around. So I wonder why fae are beyond that, if they are within the universe. Glamour on yourselves is the easy answer. Tell a lie often enough and it can become true. Say you’re Dana often enough, and how much of you is fae, how much a woman named Dana? Wear clothing long enough and you never take it off.

“Being a magician isn’t a choice,” he continues, but he is drinking his beer slower, staring at some outward demons rather than inward ones. “You don’t decide to be one; you don’t stop being one, even if you throw the magic away. Her name was Kate, the girl pulled half-Outside the universe. She wasn’t a magician yet, but she always was one. I gave her a choice, and she didn’t choose magic, so I sealed the knowing inside her. It’ll come out, in its own time. We all want too deeply for it not to come out. Everyone wants power, expecting to choose their own destiny if they have enough.

“I could have used her magic and forced a way out of that place, but not without damaging the universe around it. Damned things inside that place didn’t even know what they were, never mind what they wanted Kate for. Binding them with Jay’s name was my best option. Jay would agree, if he’d been there. He wasn’t. I didn’t ask. I merely used his name, did a terrible binding, freed the girl and we left. She’ll be fine, until she has to be more than that. Until she can’t hide anymore. And Jay would want that. It was the best binding, the best choice. I saved Kate, I saved myself, I hurt Jay.”

“If you had not saved yourself, you would have hurt him more.” I offer the truth up as gently as I can.

He turns his head slowly and meets my gaze. I am fae, and we are old, and I am old and terrible in my nature, but even so it is an effort to meet what I see in his face. There is nothing so dangerous as a magician without masks. I think someone told me that, once. “It was the best choice to make,” he says in that same terrible, gentle calm. “I did the right thing, Dana, for all the right reasons, and I hate myself for that more than you can dare to know.”

“You are hurting Jay more, with this,” I say, and my voice is barely calm at all.

“There’s nothing I can do except hurt him. Nothing at all.” He gulps back the last of the beer with a shudder. “Magic answers need. Magic responds to desire, is the poem the world becomes when it has to be and all I have and all I am can’t manage to not hurt him. Jay is bound to me, and I cannot break those bindings – I doubt he would even let them break – and I am not strong enough to hurt him and not hurt myself as well. I’m not that good at being a bastard, not that good at being a monster at all.”

“None of us are,” I say, and his name after that. “We are all echoes, even fae, of so much more than we can ever dare to be.”

“Jay isn’t. And every time I use him, every moment I hurt him, I pull him one step closer toward learning that. Everyone thinks they know what he is, and they are so wrong, so very wrong.”

“And you do not think the same is true of yourself?” I ask.

The magician blinks, and for a moment I catch that hint, something more than an echo. For a moment I think he might know his own destiny, but the moment is gone as he stands, swaying. He could remove the drink from himself with magic in a hundred ways; he uses none of them and walks outside. I pay for the beer and follow after a time.

He is back in the motel room, sleeping. There is an old oak tree near the motel, and he poured everything that was breaking into it. I shudder slightly as I pass the tree, feeling things taking root under it. I want to say something to the tree, to him, to the world, and I cannot find anything in me at all. The magician speaks and calls himself a coward, but I keep silent, and my silence is a deeper cowardice than any he may ever know.

“You poor, poor man,” I whisper softly as he sleeps. “Jay burns like a nova and you forget you are a sun. You have your own destiny, and you walk toward it with every step you try to save Jay from his own.” And I hold back other words, and I do not tell him I am sorry, and I do not tell him my name before I was Dana, and I wonder if I hate him, and I walk outside.

I remember when he burned me to death.

I remember when the magician killed me.

And I wonder if there can be any forgiveness, on any side of the grave.

Friday, April 10, 2015

(the next day)

“Jay.” He doesn’t look over, burrowing his head deep under the covers. I don’t try to pull them off. I just stand, waiting.

“Kiddo. It is past noon.”


I sit down beside him. “You know, sometimes it’s hard to be anyone. Me, you, even Honcho. Sometimes it’s hard for someone to be themselves. Sometimes to be anyone at all.”

Jay makes a soft, sniffling noise. He can’t cry since he lost his sight, but right now I think he wants to. I reach over, ruffling his hair gently, and he makes a loud keening sound and is pressed against me a moment later, his body shuddering violently against mine. I hug him as tight as I can as he lets out the sound over and over again. Glass cracks in the window of the hotel room and he stops, panting for breath.

“Hey,” I whisper. Jay looks up, unseeing eyes full of shattered light. “Feeling better?”

He shakes his head.

“Crying louder might help, but I bet you’d really break the windows then. And my ears.” He blinks, not moving. “But then I wouldn’t have to hear you crying, so I’d win.”

Jay giggles at that and relaxes a little. “It hurts.”

“I know. Every time the magician uses you like that, he blames himself. Hurts himself. He can’t help it.”

“But I don’t blame him!”

“He still blames himself. Sometimes, you can be Jaysome and still do stupid things.”



“Thanks. For, for lots of things and – and being Charliesome!”

“I wasn’t before?”

“Nope,” he says, but grins hugely and hugs me, only shaking a little bit.

“I see. Well, you need to get up and have lunch and,” I add sternly, “since you slept the whole morning away, this means we have to have a really big adventure this afternoon.”

Jay nods quite seriously to that and is out of the bed and throwing on clothing in a blur. I let out a sigh of relief I hope he doesn’t hear and put my coat on, opening the door.

A hotel employee is standing in the hallway. “We had a report about broken glass?”

“I had a cry but I’m all better now,” Jay says and offers up a huge grin that leaves the man in a dazed silence as we depart.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Walking Home

You can say words that have no meaning, say them so often that they aren’t prayer, aren’t blessing, aren’t even a curse. Just words, over and over as a talisman, and all you can do is lie and hope they can be more than that.

“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” she whispered as she ran, skidding around the corner. Two blocks. It was two blocks to home, but it was too far, the world – home – nothing fit anymore. Nothing felt right, fit together. She’d turned a corner, and another, and nothing felt right again. No one should turn a corner and have the sky and streets empty around them.

Sixteen, she thought, I’m not even sixteen, but the words meant nothing at all.

They were hungry, edges without form, shapes without definition, hungry and behind her and they – they – her steps flattered as her thoughts skittered, fled from a knowing. She stumbled, raised her head, and almost ran into a man standing in front of her. It was six in the evening, it was midnight, it was three in the morning all at once and there was only her, and shadows, and streetlights that flickered with stuttering black fire.

Ordinary. That was Kate’s first thought. That he was ordinary. Normal. Jeans. t-shirt. Shoes. A plain face. He looked like you could drop him into an office and never see him again. He looked like he fit into the world, but he was casting no shadow and his eyes, his eyes, his eyes. She drew back, not meaning to. His eyes weren’t boring. They were gentle and hard, warn and cold, and the smile he offered her felt like sunlight descending into a nightmare.

“You – you’re alone?” Kate had no idea why she asked that, had no idea how she was sounding calm, but he was solid, real.

“I’m never alone,” he said. “That gift is never one I’ve carried. You should not be here, you know.”

“I don’t know where here is,” she said, and fear cracked through the words, shuddered through her body.

“Sideways. Sometimes we step sideways from the world, never meaning to at all.” He stared over her head. “Some never find their way back, some never wish to. It is an easy thing to be lost, and easier to be afraid. They know this.”

Kate spun, and there were – she had no words. They were slivers, cuts, slices in the air that moved, shapes that were tall, thin, not human at all. Like tears in pages, if the world was a book, only not like that at all.

“She is not yours to take.” The man didn’t move, but the things stopped. Somehow, they stopped, twisted in the air. They had colours, then, that she’d never seen before and knew she never would again.

“We all blunder into stories that are not our own.” The man stepped up beside her. “How do you know you have not stumbled into mine?” he said, and the tears, the shadows, the things, jerked and moved backwards.

There was a sound. Like paper rustling at the edge of hearing, smoke made by something other than fire.

The man let out a sigh. “No. It is not your right to take her; has it been so long since a magician found this place that you think it is so simple, that you can tear a person from the world and claim them as your own?” He paused, then let out a humourless laugh. “No, my kind do not have rights either. We have responsibilities, obligations, duties. But rights? Never that. She called, and I have answered, and you will let her go.” The words were simple, a statement of fact.

Kate had no idea why, but she thought the shadows – the rents in this world without stars or moon – were laughing. She saw more, at the edge of vision, moving around them. “They are behind us.”

The stranger didn’t move, but a rent was in the world beside them, something ugly and hungry twisting toward flesh, only to veer away at the last moment as though stung. “You prevent travel from this place,” he said softly, and was somehow taller a moment later. Each of the streetlights burned white-hot, lights blazed from every empty building around them. Rents followed, the creatures moving, tearing into their own world, houses ripped apart to fall to the ground like cheap paintings, as though even the ground under them was just painted on nothingness.

There was no light, not even the black fire of street lamps, and Kate could not see her home at all.
“My house. It. Everything,” Kate got out.

“You would have run inside, thinking yourself free, and been open to them, to their power. They have never had a prisoner, never had someone fall into your world before. I imagine we confuse them as much as they do us.”

“Do we? Really?”

“If it helps you to think so.” He raised his voice, staring out at the things. “Do you ever know why you keep her here, what you mean to do with her?”

The tear-shapes surrounded them, folding into each other, bruises on the darkness, twistings that hurt to see. Kate flinched back, covering her eyes from a feeling of pressure, but the man didn’t move at all.

“How –.” she whispered.

“Magic,” he said, as quietly. “I could teach you, if you wished. Your potential opened this door to another place, Kate. Why did you not want to go home?”

And Kate, who hadn’t told anyone that she was avoiding being home (who hadn’t even told herself, not until this moment), spoke her secrets without even intending to. About her dad losing his job. That he would be drinking. That she’d seen her uncle Gareth in his face. That Gareth had scared her one night, with stories about the kind of man he was. Truths no child should be witness to, epigraphs to his life before he took his own.

“I didn’t tell you my name,” she said when her voice was wholly her own.

“Magic,” he said, and somehow it sounded like the word was trying to be an apology this time.

“You made me –.”

“I asked; a part of you needed to answer.”

“I don’t want that. That kind of – responsibility,” she whispered.

The rents were closer, pressing, a world of things wanting form held at bay by nothing more than this stranger standing beside her.

“She has decided not to be a magician,” the magician said, and his voice held nothing in it she recognized. “We will leave this place.”

The nothings moved in closer. They almost had voices now.

“I could take her magic for my own, force a way from this place.” The magician laughed, the sound eerily casual. “But then you would be able to leave as well, and that I will not permit. You know of our world: you are finding voices, can touch the edges of true things. Know this, then. I am the wandering magician of the world known as Earth by some, the world you tried to shape in this place. Fae will come find me, and they can unmake all you are before you can do anything at all.”

Kate was certain she heard laughter now. Certain it didn’t sound human, but that the unnoise was that.

“You do not fear them? Truly?” The magican’s voice was soft, but Kate was sure the question was answered, because he could ask questions one had to answer. “Very well.” And then the magician spoke a single word. It was a name. Kate was sure of that much, and that it began with a J, and had syllables, and he said it so very soft, and the rents did not move at all. Lost all colour, became merely odd lines drawn in the air as though frozen, though Kate couldn’t shake the knowing that it was more than being frozen.

“I bind you with that name,” the magician said, and his voice was low and hard, and for the first time Kate was certain she heard anger in it. “You will not leave, not move, not even should the universe end around you. And it will, have no doubt about that, and that even such an ending will not free you.”

He did not take Kate’s hand, but they were in the street a moment later. The real street, a block from her home, in a world of stars and skies and people, as though she’d had only to blink and the world to reappear. He looked the same, the magician, ordinary and plain, though his eyes were tired and he looked older than she thought he was.

“I have taken the magic from you as per your desire,” he said. “Should you ever want it again, you need only ask.”

“I don’t know your name,” she said.

He smiled a kindness, and something of what the other place had been, had done, fell away from her. “If you need to, you will know my name. Until then, I will put your magic somewhere safe.”

“Where?” she asked, not thinking.

“Inside your heart. Hearts do not break as easily as many believe they do.” And he turned away, before she could think to ask about his, before she could ask anything at all, and Kate was alone, standing on a street, huddling under a lamp.

Magic. Responsibility. She shuddered, and began the short walk home, and this time it didn’t feel as long as it had when she left the gym. Not long a walk at all.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Chocolate Eggs

Someone once told me that no day is a loss if you learn something new. I’m wondering if it works the other way too: at which point do you learn so much that the day counts as a loss again. (I’m also realizing, far too late, why the magician tried to make sure Jay didn’t learn much about human holidays.) For example: you could wake up at seven in the morning, surprised that Jay didn’t wake you earlier and find out he is pretending to sleep.

You could go out of your room, considering checking the hotel buffet breakfast only to find there is a giant uproar over the fact that, last night, all the water in the hotel pool was turned into chocolate. Which is apparently breathable, edible, and functions a lot like water. Except being chocolate.

You could learn that the night manager is in his office, whispering the words: “giant s’more” over and over in a tone of private horror.

You could go back upstairs and find out your friend is all awake and has chocolate easter eggs on the table: a dozen of them, each as large as a child’s fist. And they weren’t there in the few minutes you took to leave and return.

I stare down into Jay’s grin, and tell him about the pool, and ask if he can fix it. He scratches his head at that. “But don’t humans like chocolate better than water? There’s lots of commercials on the TV about chocolate, but none about water when I listen to them.”

“Sometimes, some things are so important that we don’t need commercials for them.”

And that seems to make sense to Jay, since he dashes out of the hotel room faster than anything human can move and is back less than a minute later, declaring it is sorted and no one saw him and that he thinks chocolate tastes really pretty good. I say nothing, mostly because Jay seems convinced that if I don’t blame him, I don’t actually know he did it. Sometimes you’d think he really was an ordinary kid.

I’m drinking my first cup of coffee, which is partly why I’m not up to asking a creature from Outside the universe how he would manipulate bindings to turn a hotel swimming pool into a giant s’more. And definitely nowhere near asking why. Jay isn’t human: he doesn’t do things for human reasons most of the time, or takes human reasons into places I’d never consider. Like I said: some days I learn far too many things I never wanted to know.

I might be human, but I’m a god-eater with a god inside me. And I’ve travelled with Jay for some time, off and on, so I have good instincts. At least about some things. At least some of the time. “Jay?”

“Yup!” He bounces in front of me and grins, huge and happy.

“The table. Explain.”

Jay points his white cane at the table, practically vibrating with joy, “I got easter eggs! And not from rabbits, because real rabbits don’t make those. I checked.”

I decide not to ask how he checked. Some conversations you just don’t want to have. “Where did you get the eggs?”

“I went looking.”


“I’m not sure. Sideways from here? Maybe a little Outside the universe? It’s hard to be sure since I can’t see and was going by bindings and bindings feel weird in lots of places, but they are chocolate eggs.”

For almost five seconds, I consider explaining the other meanings of easter, then decide there is no way that could end well at all. “They are rather large.”

“Hello? Chocolate.”

I stare at the closest egg, and then lower my voice. “Listen.”

Jay pauses. Under dark glasses, eyes filled with broken things widen a little. “Cracking?”

“Hatching. Easter eggs are not meant to hatch.”


“Put them back where you found them. Please,” I add, not wanting to hurt his feelings, and during the last word one egg splits open.

Whatever is inside it looks like a shadow turned inside-out and made into a modern art exhibit. It hurts to look at, and I can’t shake the feeling it has teeth and claws where I can’t see them. There are tentacles hurling out of the egg. Small, but many, and they are definitely hungry.

I say several rude words Jay is definitely going to ask about later and the god inside me slides up and over me. Under-the-bed scraping claws, fur as dark as the darkest part of a child’s closet and eyes that burn like angry stars. The god is strength, speed, power: it doesn’t phase whatever is inside the eggs at all. I yell as Jay to send them back, cutting through tentacles, certain that they’re nothing a god-eater can eat.

The eggs are gone between moments; Jay flickers, reappears beside me in under thirty seconds. His glasses are a little askew, his hair a mess, and he has a bruise on the side of face. Jay is inhumanly tough; he can be hit by cars and not have a visible bruise on his skin at times. He stands, swaying a little, not moving.

I walk over to the one bed and sit. “Kiddo.”

He walks over unsteadily, and sits on the bed beside me, not protesting when I touch his cheek gently, and then just wrap my arms around him.

“It wath scary,” he whispers finally.

I start; I haven’t heard Jay lisp in months. Losing his vision somehow got rid of the lisp, though I’m not sure even the magician understands how. It surfaced a little for two months when he was scared. Apparently it still can. I file that away under ‘reasons to begin running away’ the next time I heard him lisp again. “What was?”

“The egg place. It was almost outside the universe,” he whispers, trembling a little in my grip. “And they tricked me and it was a trap and they were going to eat the room and make a huge door for something big and mean to enter the world and eat the whole world and I didn’t even know because I was trying to find eggs for you fast like a Jay and I screwed up bad and it could have been worse and last night I –.”

I press a finger to his lips. “You were asleep last night.”

“But I –.”


“But I wasn’t,” he wails, and babbles something about an adventure, the pool, and lost pets, too fast for me to follow, the words spilling out like blood from a wound.

“Hey. Hey,” I say, a bit sharper as he begins another round of apologies. “It’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes, Jay. If we fix them, then they’re lessons we learn from so we might not do them again.”

“But –.”

“You’re going to claim I never make mistakes?” Jay giggles at that, relaxing a little. “Even the magician does: we’re human, so it’s part of being human. You’re not human, but that doesn’t mean you don’t make any mistakes either, kiddo.”

“But it was a really huge big goof,” he whispers.

If he is calling it really big, I’m not sure I want to know what could have happened. “Then it was also a really big lesson, and you won’t do it again.”

He relaxes at that, mumbles an okay and passes out dead asleep moments later. I remove him from my lap and gently tuck him into the bed, and then grab my purse and head out the door.

It’s Easter Sunday, and I need to find some chocolate eggs for Jay. And call the magician. And make sure the hotel night manager is sane. But the first thing I do is find the nearest part, sit in a bench and just stare off into space and have a very quiet, private moment of terror. Whatever almost happened, whatever Jay almost did – it was bad, and I think – no, I am certain that I don’t want to know more details about it. Lessons. Learning. Loss. I think about that as I walk through the quiet streets of the town we’re in and wonder what I’ll be able to do when Jay finally makes a goof too big for me to deal with.

And I begin considering holidays to come, and how best to make sure Jay avoids learning too much about them. Because I’m starting to thin that mother’s day and Jay would be a really, really bad combination of events. And I think about easter, and how the world could have been eaten by things inside eggs, and I think about all the times luck saves us, and all the second chances we are given. I find myself smiling an echo of Jay’s smile as I walk, for no reason at all.

Friday, April 03, 2015

River Spirit

She is still screaming when I find her, eyes half-baked with broken things.

There are streams that are not rivers, brooks that are unworthy of their name. There are places in the world where water inverts, where a river that had been wide turns width into depth. Places where bodies can never be found, where voices can scream and almost be unheard.

I don’t know her name. I make it a point to never learn the names of ghosts. I just stand at the edge of the river, letting my magic burn bright in the air. Things seen and unseen circle it, circle me, but I ignore them all as she rising up from the water, pale as a dead shade of blue, and those eyes. Those eyes, in a face lined with horror. It drives the other presences away, which is seldom a good sign.

“Magician?” she says, and her voice sounds almost human, the wildness of the river reduced to a trickle of a roar. Almost safe. Almost sane.

“I am that, yes.”

The ghost moves closer, feet not touching the water. She is clothed in rags and seaweeds. “I cannot find him,” she whispers.


“My son. He fell into the river. I went looking. I’ve been looking for so long.”

“I heard that in your scream.”

“I was crying.”

I don’t correct her. I walk closer and she is between me and the river, her eyes a wildness again. “The river cannot take me,” I say softly.

“It will try. No matter the agreements you’ve made, the pacts you have sworn to. It will find a way to claim you here. There,” her hand stabs downstream, fingers that are almost all bone shaking. “The river is wide; here it narrows, hides. Disguises.”

“I know; it’s compared to the Strid, a rather famous one in England. But some people survive swimming Bolsen’s Creek, so there are fewer signs. Fewer warnings that are not stories. If just one person survives the swim, the creek gives everyone else a terrible hope.”

“I had no hope. I saw him go under.” A hitch, the ghost flickers. “I jumped. I thought to save him.”

I consider options, and thread a hint of power into my voice. There is power to be found in this place for any magician to use, but none of it is pleasant. All of it is tainted. “When did it happen?” I ask, in words that cannot be ignored.

“He fell in march.” The ghost moves back over the water with each word, as if jerked back, pulled.

“And you?”

“June,” she whispers, shuddering all over.

I wrap moonlight into the ghost, holding it above the water. “You saw him go under, and you were too scared to jump then. We all make mistakes, or we would not be human.”

“I should have saved him!” Her voice is a wild screaming beating on the air.

“You did not. Perhaps even could not. The river holds secrets well, and spirits as deep as it can. It is hungry, as all rivers hunger. That you can pull yourself free says much about your strength. But you are not driving people from the river,” I add, as gently as I can. “Your fear is pulling them here, your need drawing them to do what you never could. People are seeing a child, and they are leaping in.”

“No.” I say nothing. “No!” Her scream drives into me, pulling at me, tearing at the fabric between the grey lands of the dead and the tenuous ones of the living. But I did not lie, not about any of this. I will die by water in time, but not here. Not now. The ocean may have claimed my death, but many other things have claim to my life at present. Anchors against the river.

The ghost shudders, her scream turning wordless, her face a mask of raw emotion. Unable to find her son, she blamed the only person she could. Herself. She haunts herself, and that is her power in this place.

“The river claims enough without you adding more,” I say, and the ghost shudders. “I do not know if your son’s spirit is claimed deep below the waves. But I can release some of your guilt, perhaps enough for you to reach him.”

“You cannot – you cannot –.”

I reach out, with a hand and magic both, touching the essence of the ghost and pulling gently. The guilt falls upon me like a shroud, pulling me toward the river with its desperate power. I force it back, change the shape of it, and let it loose back into the world. Turning it into a conscience for those who thought they’d successfully butchered their own. It takes only a moment between breaths, but I am shaking afterwards, drained almost beyond telling by the effort.

“Magician,” the ghost says, and there is something like wonder in her voice.

“I have done what I can. I can make the opening, but I cannot be the door you pass through.”

The ghost steps into herself, and then under the water. There are no screams, just a desperate silence.

I have no idea if she will find her son. If his spirit is trapped by the river. If the river will ever let them meet or let them go. There are limits to magic. But even so, I crouch down by the river. Not close, not too close. “Here me,” I say, and don’t try and hide my power at all. “I am friends with a fae, Bolsen’s Creek, and she could unmake you in a moment if I asked it. I know others who could force you, who could bind even your wild power to their ends. I would rather not have to do this.”

Nothing in the river responds. But I think, for a moment, that I hear two cries of something that could be joy sounding far, far under the water. But I cannot be sure. I stand, slow and tired, and walk back to the motel Dana and I are staying in. I think about the dead. I think about he living. And I think it is a very good thing that magicians do not become ghosts when we die.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Facebook status updates part XXXIII (March 2015)

“Your god is too small,” they said. “Making a god is a laudable goal for an arts project, but regulations stipulate that the god must be larger than six picometres for the judging panel to adequately assess it.”

She waited at the bus stop more eagerly for the bus than she’d ever had for him. That was almost when she knew.

You know how sometimes you can hear better if you close your eyes? Sometimes I think I can see you better when I close my eyes as well.

The wizard could name all six of the lesser ethereal planes of power, knew the names and ward-signs of all the 7000 demons of the fourth order of the sixth circle of the Outer Walls but he was disturbed each year to realize he couldn’t remember the birthday or anniversary of his wife. Once, he did examinations to see if she was truly human and not a trap set for him by some terrible enemy: she merely laughed when she found out, and said that it was simply part of being a man. But even so, the wizard wondered and could never quite bring himself to trust.

"I don’t need to be rich. Or even famous. All I would like, I think, are just some cheat codes. Not many, but a few to work in the real world and not just in video games. I’d like to be able to skip Mondays as though they were cut scenes."

"You don’t understand," he wept. "It was about the shoes. It was the shoes all along! Did no one notice the shoes?!"

“I have five perfect coffee cups in a set of six. The sixth has a small imperfection in the handle that my thumb presses against; I only use the sixth cup. The others sit unused, rendered boring by their perfection. I trust this explains many things about why I find you so attractive?”

'The file has been changed since it was opened for editing. Saving your version of the document will overwrite changes made by others'
The NSA is, clearly, altering files on my computer. Again.

“I tried so hard to save the world. So hard. It seems these days,” she said softly, “that the world wanted other things than being saved.”

I am trying to hold my life together like a child’s bear stuffed with drugs trying to sneak past customs.

If love hurts so good
What, pray tell, hurts bad?

"But it was only a joke. It was just a joke," he tweeted even as the bombs began to fall.

Life goals:
I am going to reinvent myself as an app.

What if every Jesus or Mary seen in toast is actually them trying to manifest in order to be in selfies?

"Dear, I am afraid that the company can fire you."
"But – but I’m too big to fail."
"That only applies to corporations, not to their employees."

"Since when," he asks with uncompromising gentleness, "do you take destruction as the only solution to a problem?"

Tell me lies, you whispered in the bedroom, trying out something read in a newsstand magazine. So I said I could remember your birthday, our anniversary, that the late night at the office last week had been merely work. You cancelled your subscription to Chatelaine the next morning.

I'd be as useful at giving pep talks as a six-pack-a-day smoker would be going into a school telling people how to quit smoking.

I found the muse in the bar, drunk on cheap wine and cheaper beer. “Everyone thinks all the muses are female,” he whispered, hiccuping around another gulp of drink. “No one expects me to inspire them: the only work I get is on romance novel covers.”
You’re telling me no stories have been inspired by a male muse?”
He shook his head, and I accepted the bottle offered and got very drunk indeed.

The job interview turned out to be quite simple.
“To your right, you will find a piece of paper with today’s horoscope on it. Using your star sign, explain why you are the individual best suited for this job.”

Every time I see you I am tripping over shoelaces I thought were tied.

Heh.” The sound was almost a laugh. “Forgetting is important: if we didn’t forget, we would be unable to forgive.”

This is an iPoem; it was
Not made by an Android

"Sometimes I think genius demands an even higher price than it knows."
"Sir, that may be true but poutine and asparagus beer is not going to catch on."
"But Franklin is our prize research —."
"Not even with the hollandaise infusion, sir."

"Publish or perish. The words are all that hold them back. They are hungry," she whispered, "so very, very hungry."
"They are your audience, not zombies," her agent said with a laugh that he did not, on reflection, entirely believe himself.

“I wish I could find out a way to run out of things to hate.” And he stared down at his hands, and said nothing else at all.

I told you that I was busy pretending to be me. And you just smiled like you understood which me I meant.

"I don’t think most people know what to do when confronted by tears not caused by an obvious wound, or people wouldn’t be told crying is weak when it can sometimes be the strongest thing you can do."

"I’ve just — I’ve never thought about another guy like that. Girls, sometimes, sure —.” His laugh was a bit shaky. “It seems silly to be worried about, given everything, but I got to worrying about what he might like, and hurting him, and what might happen. He’s clingy and crowds, but given what’s happened to him before he met us, I don’t know how much of that is just him needing friends so badly that it comes off as maybe being more than that?”.
He offered another shaky laugh, his smile a twisting of lips. “I’m kind of worried about getting into a romantic relationship with anyone; not being in one is complicated enough right now.”

"The surest way to destroy truth is to frame it as madness."

"I have power, such power in me, and I threw everything I had at it, and I lost. I barely escaped with my life, and I was running away, tearing holes in the world as I fled. I don’t want — I don’t want to die like that. With all this — all of it — not being for anything, with all I’ve been and done meaning nothing.
"And I think that means I need to get stronger. Bigger. More … I don’t know. I have so much power, and I find I need so much more. I’m kind of scared of what I might turn into, I think. Scared of me. I think - I think we’re only scared of us, maybe, in the end?”

"There are many reasons I’m divorcing you, but the chief one is this: you’ve stopped reblogging me on tumblr."

I offered you pieces of my madness in diary format, and something of it said myspace rather than facebook even if we never talked about why.

It was a joyous day at the store when the pest control people removed all the customers.

"Sometimes I lose sight of the important things in my long unlife, for immortality weighs heavily on both the body and the mind." The vampire let out a deep sigh. "But then I butcher another young girl full of dreams, hopes, and aspirations and suddenly everything it all right in the world."

"You don't have to be in a sleeping bag in a gutter to be invisible," Bess said to Boy, "not if you know what you're doing. It's like getting a seat to yourself on the bus. You smile, make eye contact, pat the seat. Most of the magic I know is tricks like that, magics so old most of it is probably not even magic anymore. Kind of like sex," she added, just to see him blush.

“Just because someone is weak doesn’t mean they’re evil.”

I bet 99% of you won't!
(because posts like this are an act of bullying, that's why)