I am halfway across the street but turn at the hate barbed into the word. The woman coming across the street is perhaps a year or two younger than I.
“That park bench you were sitting on was peeling and it isn’t anymore. You walked by potted plants and they stirred up from the drought.”
I keep walking; she crosses the road after, grabbing my left wrist in her right hand. “I know what you are,” she says, and there is nothing kind in her voice at all.
I merely raise one eyebrow and she lets go of my wrist as if stung. Most of the time, magic is quiet things, small changes almost no one notices in the world. It helps that people tend not to pay attention to such things. This woman is, though I am not sure she is seeing what others would.
“My sister is dying,” she says. “You will fix that.”
I let a whisper of my magic out, need meeting desire, meshing into will. A reaching, and a knowing. “Two doors down, the house with the blue shingles on the roof: a man is dying of cancer, begging for death from his wife. An ex-nurse, she knows so much she doesn’t dare to use, and her pain could be greater than his own.” I pause a beat, and continue. “Across the road, at the junction, an old dog is dying – loved, but in pain, and there is a family wishing that they could have just one more day without the dog in pain, one last memory for their son to have that isn’t his first brutal grasping of death. There are also, within this same street, two potential heart attacks and one car that, unless the breaks are talked to, is probably going to cause an accident within the next week.”
The woman steps back, fury and shame filling the air between us at all I leave unsaid. It is one of my gifts to speak truths that cannot be dismissed. It is not, always, a weapon. Enough so that I say nothing else, and wait.
“So, what, you just sit in some armchair, watch the world go by and the sun set in –.”
“The sun is always setting; it is also being born again. An old man who runs a bookstore told me a truth as deep as his magic goes, that the sun shines because it will go out. Knowing there is darkness is the reason for light, I think. And if magic could take away sorrow, it would not be magic at all. I can ease pain, yes. I can bend the world in small ways. But that is all any magician does, no matter how great and powerful our magics seem to be.”
“How do I become one?” she demands then, nd her anger gives a power to her voice. The resolve in her gaze remains unbroken. Never broken, not by something so small as the truth.
I look away first. “You have to want it more than anything else. And know how much you will pay, both for the magic and the cost of being a magician.”
“I would pay anything,” she says then, and I feel the world change with the force of her declaration.
I turn back, and the woman falls away with a sharp cry at whatever she sees in my face. “Then you have,” I say, with all the gentleness I can muster. “You choose to pay any price to become a magician, Brenda Klein, and you are paying the price for it now.”
Her eyes widen in horror as she realizes what anything means, and just how far it goes. “No. No, no, no.”
I walk away then and there is nothing in her to stop me. But perhaps enough to stop herself, perhaps enough to let go of the magic, to understand that power is not always power. And that sometimes all you can do is watch the sun set, hope it will rise, and know how painful freedom can be.