Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Using Talent

“Fuck,” Kim said, but the thing – the woman – she stared, dead-eyed. Glassed, someone had called it once. She lay breathing on the bed, eyes wide into some unseeing world. In a day or two, her skin would be grey. In four says, she would be gone. Ash, or something else. Dissolved. Like the others.

He pulled himself off the hotel bed onto his feet. His body ached with strain and need both, like a Viagra kick after running a marathon. He’d never got her name, and now she was dead. Worse than dead. Empty. Hollowed. He staggered from the body. Even now, after two years – after over eight bodies – death still rolled through him. He held back throwing up, made it to the bathroom. He breathed, flicked the taps on, doused his face with water before staring into the mirror.

The face that looked back through smeared glass was dull. Pockmarks and crooked teeth, cheap glasses, the baseball cap to hide the fact that he was starting to bald even if he wasn’t even twenty. There wasn’t any way to get a girl like he was, not without help. He stumbled into the bathtub, masturbating through the ache of exhaustion, almost throwing up again after.

A life of almost as he staggered back out, put his pants back on. He didn’t clean up: his idea of penance. Of something. He didn’t know what anymore. He’d pushed through to the giddy place on the other side of exhaustion, and reached into the world with his Talent. To touch emotions, to catch them and set them on fire inside people. He could make friends. Make people want him, but too much, too hard and too fast, and they glassed. Burnt out. Were lost.


But there was enough emotions in a hotel room to call up heat. Enough for fire. Enough to burn away all traces he’d been in the room. Kim left with his wallet, clothing, and found the nearest bar. He burned through a hundred dollars in ten minutes, chugging drinks that ached through his throat until their fire shook him back into normalcy. He ate a burger and fries, which took away some of the emptiness gnawing inside him. A second burger helped even more, his talent settling into its cool waiting.

A Talent only has themselves to draw on. That much he’d been told. There were people with talents that were far more than his. People who could focus and do things with one small ability that he couldn’t even begin to grasp, but he didn’t hate them. Talents weren’t common, but they tended to be unique. The same song, but always different tunes. Something like that. He considered another beer when a man sat down beside him.

“Kim,” the man said, and his voice said he knew Kim, in ways Kim had never known anyone.

Kim was out of the seat so fast people might have thought of it as magic, his fear a hammerblow on the air. Glasses cracked along the bar, healing before they could shatter as the other man stood and walked over. He wasn’t tall. He was ordinary. Painfully, weirdly so, except there was a hardness to his expression, and his eyes were cold with judgement.

Kim covered his ears and ran. Into the kitchen and out the back. He made it into the side street, turned his elation into a blade that – unmade itself before he could swing it as the magician was simply in front of him between moments. Kim knew about magicians. A Talent did one thing. Sometimes strongly, but on: magicians did anything. Anything they wanted, some said. They had voices that could not be disobeyed.

He grabbed his longing, his hate, his need, and hurled it through the air like a bomb as his body shook and spasmed with the effort.

The magician caught it between two fingers almost absently. All of that power, caught and held like one would a toy. “I felt your talent, and my magic pulled me to the hotel. To what you had done.” The magician stared at the emotions until they were a small visible ball of seething greens and reds between his fingers. “So many lives damaged. So many people ruined. I will do what I can for them, and always wish someone had found you sooner.”

Kim reached, in a way that hurt more than anything he’d ever done, his hatred a living thing in the air, screaming without sound.

The magician unmade it with one flat stare, and then flicked the ball of hate and need into Kim. Hard.

Kim hit the ground, feeling something breaking deep inside. He tried to move, but nothing responded.

“This is what you did to people. Burned our emotions, burned out everything that could move in them,” the magician said, and Kim couldn’t ignore the truth in the words. “But I think most of them will end up in the Grey Lands, where ghosts are born and made. And I know you will end up there, to face their judgement.”

And the magician smiled, and the smile dissolved Kim’s body into ashes and hurled him toward judgement.

And all he felt, all he could feel, was his desperate lust for the power a magician held. Until he felt them around him. All those who had died because of him, directly or otherwise. Waiting. They had glass in their hands, and sharp blades, and all he could do was scream until they denied him even that. But they did not stop cutting into him, and not a single one spoke at all. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Questioning Autumn

The cough is human, polite without being urgent. I stir slowly, roots moving in a slow ponder. The ancient wards and protections are holding about my home, which means this is no ordinary child. He has not come with fire or blade, though he bears a smile that is weapon in itself. I open my eyes slowly, flexing my arms. I am old, though not yet petrified, and have no need of physical movement to defend myself. If any wished to burn my forest, they would know why humans used to fear the woods.

“This is not your place,” I say, a rumbling of the air.

The boy blinks unseeing eyes. “Well, of course not, cuz it’s yours but! I thought I could come visit and say hi,” he says cheerfully, hurling another smile at me.

You could destroy evil with such a smile; that he does not use is as a weapon is somehow worse. “What are you?”

“Oh! I’m Jay. Which is also a what, and I’m really good at hiding as human but I’m from way Outside the universe and travelling with friends but they’re busy and leaves are starting to fall off of trees and I got to wondering about how autumn is more than seasons changing and I thought I could ask you about it?”

I feel myself stirring some more. This is my home, and deep protections activate as the boy’s presence more than anything else. He avoids every poisoned barbed and branch, half the time not being where the are, the rest – the rest an altering of the world, Forcing my power away from him in the core of my kingdom. Not even magicians could do such a thing, and he does it without effort. Without even trying.

“What are you?”

“I just said,” he says crossly. “Are you still sleepy? I bet I could wake you up with coffee! Did you know that I’m not allowed to have coffee yet even though I’m eleven?”

I pause, forcing the ancient defences to relax. “Why would I know that?”

“Because you’re a forest spirit and this is your wood so you know stuff?” he asks. “I mean, you must know a lot even when sleeping or you wouldn’t sleep because waking up to find the forest was gone would be pretty sad!”


“Yup! And make you angry, I bet, but I’m not good at it because I don’t like being angry. Anyways, I wanted to ask you about the difference between fall and autumn? Like autumn and harvest are good, but fall is a really meany word and makes it seem like the trees are dying in bad ways and that it’s not seasons changing but stuff that is lots more wrong.”

“Lots more wrong.”


“Has the English language devolved so in recent years?” I ask and the boy steps back at that. “I imagine not. I am spirit of the wood, boy, of the sun and darkness, of life and of death. You do me a great disservice in attempting to be cute.”

Jay blinks a few times at that. “Oh! I didn’t even – I talk like that a lot, and that is why I guess, but I don’t much talk about why I talk like me and Honcho puts up with it because he understands I don’t want to be scary because sometimes I’m a Jaysaurus but I could be a Jayzilla and that would be really scary!”

“Those words mean nothing to me.”

“You’re not on tumblr at all?”

“... is this another term for fall?”

“I don’t think so, but yahoo bought tumblr and that’s probably more fall than autumn I think? Uhm, it’s like how you went to sleep because humans were using the woods and if you declared war on them, they’d win? Like you’d have to be a monster, and you’d be really good at it, but even if you won than other woods would be burned down and suffer? Me being a Jaysaurus is kinda like being a monster,” he says.

I consider that. “And a Jayzilla?”

“That’s worse,” he says firmly, and there is a wall behind the answer, and a door I have no desire to open.

“Autumn and harvest are the old terms, linked to the land and the solstice. As humans moved away into cities, their understanding of the forest and the land diminished. So, too, did their power over the world increase. The changing of the seasons became fall, became a sad thing after the glory of summer, for winter is no longer a time for rest after a harvest for them. They changed words, and the world changed with them. Autumn has replaced harvest in many places by itself: fall is just the next step, or more open about what it is. What they have gained, what they have lost.”

“Oh.” Jay is quiet for a few seconds. “That’s pretty sad.”

“Many things are. I have no desire to waken in this world as it stands now. Few forest spirits remain that are not mad. I will sleep, if my forest remains, and in time it will be over. The era of cities will end, and my forest shall grow again.” And I am old, and I did not get old by being a fool, so I add: “If you could help this and bind my forest against destruction, I would consider that payment for this conversation.”

Jay brightens at that. “Okay,” he says, and I feel the entire forest change, the world about it shifting. Even time will not touch it as deeply as it does other places, not destroy it quite as quickly. That I did not expect, but I merely relax back into the roots of the oldest trees in the wood.

I close my eyes, and hear the boy depart. And I hope, in ways as deep as roots and in the shoots that touch the sun, but I never meet such a power again. Because there are many ways to fall, and I think envy could well be mine. I sleep again, to dream of unseeing eyes that know too much by far.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Offline Banking

There are things even magicians don’t expect. More than we’d admit, but often less than other people might suspect. You get used to the universe bending events in your favour, and also to pushing you in directions to balance that out. You get used to weird, and even to being weird yourself. But if you can’t be surprised, then you aren’t really a magician any longer. You can’t walk in a world of quiet wonders with blinkers on, not and remain within it.

Which is why I blink and stop as an ATM tears itself loose from its moorings and comes toward me. It’s not a monster under fae glamour, not a creature from Outside the universe. But it is an ATM, and it opens a mouth a jagged teeth to reveal an interior that looks like the backseat of a limousine. People are running away screaming, Jay is asking Charlie what is going on, and I stare up at the sign of the First Bank of the Holbrook before reaching out with the magic. I find the part of the ATM that wishes to rejoin the bank, and it snaps back into place. Need, desire, will.

“How many banks does Holbrook have?” I ask, not turning around.

Jay asks his phone, then announces it as two. Charlie adds one credit union on top of that. “Not enough for this risk, then. Wait here.”

Jay lets out a whine, but Charlie snaps for him to wait. She’s dealt with The Bank before, and knows what they are capable of. God-eater or not, Charlie has a better grasp than I of what her limits are. Jay is eleven, from far Outside the universe, and too curious and friendly for anyone’s good. I don’t want to expose him to the kind of bindings The Bank deals in if I can avoid it.

I walk into the bank to find staff and customers in frantic disarray. I let something of what being a magician means out, enough for them to mistaken magic for power. Enough for them to think me an authority. The manager is a tall, nervously-thin man who looks about to pull his few remaining hairs from his head. Normally, I am at least subtle. But they were not, so I thread power into my voice. “I need to speak to the manager,” I say, and conversation about me skitters like broken records.

The manager jerks to a halt, opens his mouth, and the voice that speaks through him is cold and flat. “Wandering magician. We require your services.”

“You could have simply asked.”

“We could not.”

I don’t press the issue, blood is starting to seep out of the eyes of the bank manager. The Bank exists for many reasons, one of which is supplying magicians with money so they don’t take it from banks. I refused that offer for a variety of reasons, only some of which were the refusal of a father’s barbed gift. I suspect they’re using magicians, and the war they once had against me murdered an entire town. “No, that’s not your style, is it?”

“We had a storage facility breached by a magician; we need the matter investigated.”

“You will owe me. The favour open-ended, of my choosing.”

There is silence, then: “Your terms,” the representative of The Bank says.

“You hold magicians in debt.”

“It is an arrangement –.”

“You will never call it due.”

“It would take at least three recessions to balance that,” the other says, not even pausing.

“No, it wouldn’t. And no, it won’t.”

“We will – we will see what can be done,” and the voice is choral now, bitter and furious and hesitant.

I hadn’t actually expected to succeed even that far. I nod, and walk back outside to the ATM as it opens back up. Jay is crowding close to Charlie and whimpering softly, white cane held tight in his hands. “There’s really bad bindings inside, Honcho,” he gets out in a rush. “And you made them really, really mad!”

“I know. Keep each other safe. Don’t follow me,” I say to Jay, and I’m not making it a request.

The ATM opens itself up and I get in, sit, and the world lurches a moment between one place and the next before it opens back up. I pause a moment before getting out: the air outside has a biting edge, even if artificial heat is keeping the cold away. I’m almost certain I’m still on Earth, and the long hallway I emerge into it well lit, the entire building I’m in both underground and warded by magic and science. I don’t recognize some of the wards at all, but can feel their power humming like live wires.

I close my eyes, feeling out into the world gently. There is too much static for the magic to tell my anything, but I’ve learned a lot from Charlie in how she eats energy, and in how terribly good Jay is at sensing and using bindings. I’m still over a minute, possibly up to two before I hear a cough in front of me. I open my eyes and nod to an employee of The Bank. She is tall and thin, and I only half-imagine the armour shimmering about her and the sword in waiting on her back.

“Magician,” she says, cool and formal.

“Someone broke into this place.”

“That is hardly a deduction worthy of –.”

“They weakened and strengthened every ward as they passed through it, setting off close to zero alarms on entering. On exiting, I imagine they did the same just because Mary Lee can do that.”

She stiffens. “How did you –?”

“Most magicians can’t wander. I think we’re in the Arctic or Antarctic – maybe under mountains and I’m confused by that – but it means most couldn’t easily get here. And certainly not often enough to map up the wards and make an entrance like that. I could, if I was very lucky. At least I think I could, but I’d have to be quite desperate to even try that: she is more than powerful enough and skilled enough to do something like this. Though I have no idea why she would even bother?”

The employee gives me another stare, then: “Follow.”

We walk down a vast hallway. Concrete, or something that looks like it. I can feel wards and technology meshed together, power pulsing through the ground and air. The entrance proper is a thick, solid door leading to a vast vault. There is no lock on the vault, the defence of it being the now very-dead dragon on the other side. That it is big goes without saying. Even in death, scales glimmer a myriad of colours and the smell of fresh-cut grass fills the air.

“Grass?” I ask.

“Dragons decompose with grace. We plan to move the body later.”

I walk closer; I’ve had dealings with dragons, but I’ve never seen one this large. Vast wings curled up about the body, bone pressed down to the ground, scales twisted a little – and oozing whole where the heart was. “This dragon never took on human form.”

My voice is almost steady, but even so I feel the employee stare at me. “That is important?”

“Most do. From what I’ve been told, it weakens them but allows them to hide their nature better. At least a third of the protections on this place would have been preventing the dragon from being noticed. They are said to be the first things magicians made, but I doubt if that’s actually true. Called into being, perhaps, but I don’t know the how or why of it. There hasn’t been a dragon considered new in a very long time: most diminsh, in one way or another.”

I hold out a hand, and my magic shudders a little inside. Even dead, every instinct screams to ward myself against its power. I lower my hand slowly, fingers shaking. I don’t even attempt to hide that: The Bank has to know what it had here.

“Remind me never to look into what guards your other hordes.”

And the woman lets out a small, surprised laugh at that. “I doubt we need to.”

“I imagine Mary Lee took nothing else?”

“Not a thing. We know the dragon moved against her, and her voice drove it to the floor. We don’t know why it tried nothing else.”

“Fear, I imagine. But that is strange: Mary Lee is powerful, but a dragon guarding their hoarde, with wards and protections like this to draw upon? She was taking a big risk, even for her. Which means she knew the dragon wouldn’t strike her. And presumably wouldn’t suspect she’d take their heart. A familiar once, perhaps. Linked together. Though what she needed the heart for, I’ve no idea.”

“We would like you to look into it. Please,” she adds when I say nothing. “For all our sakes. No other magician would dare and our methods are ... not subtle.”

“That is one way of putting it, yes.”

The woman stirs at my tone. For a moment, I think she is going to draw the sword from her sheathe. “You have cause to hate us, but that hate should not blind to to things worse than us.”

I reach through the bindings that link Jay and me, ask him to hide the dragon to be examined later, and snap my fingers. The dragon vanishes. The woman draws her blade. I turn and smile. “The dragon will be examined in depth later.”

“How – how did you?” she demands.

“You wanted the best. Did you expect me to do less than that?” I ask, and walk back toward the ATM that brought me here. “I have a question,” I add into the dangerous silence as she follows me. “When summer ends, what do you do?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Answer. Please.”

“We prepare for winter.”

“Exactly. You hoard things, you bulk up. But there are others who prepare for spring instead. Who see the future as change rather than as death. I invite you to consider the kind of change one could accomplish with the power contained in a dragon’s heart. And what could be done by someone who existed long before banks ever did, if they wanted to change the world in ways that mattered.”

And the employee of The Bank says not a single word to that. I have no idea if they believe me, or if they know I made that up entirely to keep them occupied. I step into the ATM-limo, and The Bank returns me to Holbrook without a single stop elsewhere – or even a bumpy right. Which might, just might, make them a little less cruel than I right now.

Nano 2015 Interlude 1: Mary-Lee

The oldest magician in the world walked into the lair of the dragon, humming softly to herself.

“Magician?” the dragon rumbled, voice a sleepy hunger.

“If you like.” Mary-Lee smiled and the dragon went still, scares blending into the rest of a horde of stolen money.

“I serve The Bank and guard their wealth. I am afraid I have to kill you, though I repeat you in reaching my lair. Few have.”

“Heh. Old dragon. Tired dragon. Smell me, hear me. Know me,”
She said, and the power in yer voice drove the dragon down to the bones of the earth even as it tried to spread wings.

“You,” the dragon said in a voice a hatchling would have laughed to hear.


“Oldest. Eldest. You smell of more than magic now.”

“Heh.” Mary-Lee laughed almost, almost kindly. “The magic changes. I change. I was always a becoming.”

“I smell it on you. If you are not careful, you will change too far to remain within the universe at all. Perhaps a battle would be enough, draw enough out of you –.”

“You wish to challenge me?”

“No! Take what you wish to take and go.”

And she smiled then, and reached out a hand. The dragon screamed as its heart tore free of scales and bone and flesh. “Thank you. I will make good use of this.”

“Mother,” the dragon whispered on its last breath, but Mary-Lee turned away from questions and fear and walked back out of the vault buried deep under Antarctic ice.

If she felt anything at all, it was nigh impossible to tell. She did, at least, not hum as she departed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Empty Streets

The street isn’t empty.

It feels like it should be. The surface is a suburban street of transplanted trees, with walls and fences so deliberately not white picket fences and swing sets that the very attempt to be different is a glaring sameness. Under it there are street lights not working right, the gardens choked with weeds despite the lush mowed lawns and clouds that don’t look right. As if they’re avoiding the street, or their colour is somehow off. None of it is anything big, nothing that screams danger, but I’ve been a god-eater for two years and travelled with a magician off and on for over a year.

You learn that real threats wear smiles, and hide themselves inside the lies people tell about the world. The whole street is part of a factory for producing normality, and within it is something not normal. Hidden because everyone wants the street to be normal. Someone told me a saying ones, about truth everyone knows and no one speaks: the whole street feels like this.

The wandering magician looks about calmly, hands in his jacket. Beside him, Jay is pressed tight to the magicians side, sightless eyes wide behind dark glasses. Jay is from far Outside the universe, for all that he looks human, and he’s a barometer for the magician at least sometimes. Sensing with bindings things I’d just catch the echoes of. If Jay is scared, it means we should be going in the direction of get-the-fuck-out-of-here.

“Honcho?” He says softly.

The magician reaches down, squeezes Jay’s hand. “Go back to the RV. Wait.”

Jay vanishes between one moment and the next, hiding from the world itself as easily as he hides his nature from anyone. I catch footsteps for a moment as Jay runs away at inhuman speed and look at the magician. “Talk.”

“Outsiders don’t just enter the universe,” he says quietly. “Sometimes they play games instead. Put some of their nature into people. Offer them power. Someone on this street has been changed and is glorying in those changes.”

“And Jay?”

“He has trouble when bindings are being obliterated at the best of times. He doesn’t understand why people hurt each other just because the can, cause suffering because it makes them happy to break others. He can understand people who are abused abusing others in turn: this is something else altogether. And nothing you’d want to eat with your power.”

“So you sent Jay away.” I pause. “And I can’t help, so why ...?”

“Jay would have stayed if you had gone. Because no one should face monsters alone. And because Jay has seen what happens when I do.” He walks down the middle of the street, ignoring the sidewalks entirely. There is no traffic; I have no idea if he’s done that with magic, or if whoever is here has done it themselves. “There is light, and there is darkness, but there is also sickness,” he says. “And we can cope with that better than Jay can.”

He turns toward one house no different than the rest, save in colour of siding and trim. “No one has died on this street in three weeks. Because it is more fun if they are alive. Because sometimes the most evil thing you can do is to give someone their heart’s desire.”

“It’s in there?”

“A he, and yes. Can you get a feel for them?”

I reach out. I can eat gods, but any energy is possible. And other things, if I push the talent. I get age, bitterness, a tang like sewage having gone mouldy in a fridge, the smell of something not-rotting like plastic boiling in the sun.

The magician listens, then nods and walks up to the front door. “Edgar Dupree. Come out.”

There was a laugh. Old, crackling, but a laugh. “This is my place of power, magician. Mine!”

“But it’s not. It’s part of a street, which is part of a town,” the wandering magician says calmly. “Or you can truly claim it, and I can banish it from the world.”

“Heh!” The old man opens the door at that. He is tall, and thin, a mixture of wrinkles and liver spots, moving slowly. “I have twenty people in here, magician. You would banish them as well?” He laughs again, the sound like something wet falling on hot pavement.

“Not if I could avoid it,” and the magician’s voice is flat. I can’t see his face, but the old man steps back an uncertain step. “I have done far worse than that before, if it needed to be done. And I will do far worse before I am no longer me. Burn,” he says, and the old man just blinks.

“You think I am so small that fire will hurt me?” Edgar asks. “I walk between Life and Death, and I am master over bo...” And he pauses, reaching up a hand to a forehead gleaming with sweat.

“You do nothing,” the magician says, walking toward him, and the old man stands frozen in place. “What you were given is the doing, and is burnt out of you. Your kind are always arrogant in their borrowed power.”

“And you, magician, you are –.”

“Necessary,” he says, and presses a hand to the old man’s chest. “Go join the entity you talked to, Edgar Dupree. I bind, and I loose,” and the old man was simply gone between one moment and the next.

“You – you banished him?” I manage. I knew magicians did it for Outsiders, but not humans. Not like this.

“He had power enough to heal what he can done; he chose another path.” The magician turns back, and his face is pale and hard, stripped down to a core of will. “Stay outside, Charlie. There is nothing you wish to see in this place.”

And he turns back. And walks inside. And the door closes behind him.

I hear crying, a little. Some screams. Desperate screams, begging voices. I think about keeping peole alive, about what an angry old man could do to those who mocked him for being old. I think the magician should not be alone, but I can’t bring myself to move.

He walks out in less than ten minutes, the door closing behind him. I catch a whiff of smoke, and his steps are almost, almost steady as he walks back toward me. “Thank you for sensing him for me.”

“He would have known your plan, if you had?”

“He would have known enough of me to suspect. Enough to know what I was, and to act from fear rather than arrogance. He had twenty people here; he could have expanded that to more, trying to find a way to survive.” He closes his eyes a moment, opens them. “I’ve done what I can, for memories on this street. It won’t be enough, but I will let others know. The fae, certain Outsiders who can soothe wounds such as this.”

“And your own?” I ask softly.

He just smiles sadly, and begins walking back toward the RV.

“Magician. Nathen.” He actually flinches at his name, and I snag his arm, pulling him toward another street. “We’re going to eat, and have coffee in the mall and watch people who don’t have to fear a mad old man.”

He blinks, then just nods and walks beside him. For a moment, I almost think that is it, but almost means so little too often. He speaks quietly, without power. “He was a magician. That is what Edgar was turned into. A magician without balance, without understanding. A magician who could act without consequence at all, and that is what he did with it.”

“You never would.”

“Oh?” He looks over at that.

“Because if you tried, I’d damn well rip your head off myself.”

And that wins a surprised laugh; it’s not healing, not for what he had to do for the people in the house, but it’s a step, and I take another by turning the conversation to other topics. Which is easy when one of the topics can be Jay. Sometimes the only thing we can do is be a dam, and hope that is enough to help others hold together.

I start crying in the middle of the mall, and he holds me without tears, letting my tears be both of ours, and I hold him in turn until he says I can get go. 

Monday, September 07, 2015

Border Wars

I find Jay sitting in a small park, feeding birdseed to birds. He can’t see, but he senses the bindings of their movement and hunger, the throws expertly leaving no seed wasted as breezes move seeds toward the birds that like them best. I could do that with magic; he’s doing it without even thinking about it. Being Jaysome, as he might phrase it most days. Today isn’t one of those.

I walk over and sit on the park bench beside him. “Kiddo.”

Jay turns his head and looks up, eyes filled with broken light wide behind dark glasses. He gulps loudly enough that some birds take flight, his face drained of colour. “H-Honcho,” he whispers. “I’m thorry.”

I blink. I didn’t even know Jay’s lisp remained in him at all. “Why?”

“You – you told me not to eat people and I ate the part of them that – that – that –. I hurt who they were, and changed it and made them into not-them a bit and I shouldn’t have done that but I was really mad and they tried to kill Charlie and would have hurt you and I lost my temper a lot and I can’t undo what I did cuz I don’t want to undo it enough and I’m scared,” he gets out in a rush.

“Jay.” I reach over, and pull him in for a hug. “It’s okay. People lose their tempers all the time.”

“But I’m not a people,” he whispers.

“Most creatures from Outside the universe have tempers, too,” I say dryly, letting go and giving him a light poke on the nose. “Would you do that again?”

Jay is quiet for several seconds. Then he nods. “They would have –.”

“Jay. A lot of things hurt me. Many try to kill me too, for one reason or another. The Border Patrol isn’t unique in wanting that.”

“But they want it lots,” he says firmly, sounding a little more like himself.

“You mean hurting me, or hurting in general?”

“Both?” he offers.

“You’ve met people from the Black Chamber too: did you want to hurt them?” Jay bites his lower lip between his teeth, then just nods. “But you didn’t.”

“Cuz you kinda did and we were busy but it’s the same kind of – of really bad bindings, Honcho!”

“Ah.” I take some seed, throwing it to the ducks, calling up magic to mimic what Jay was doing. He begins feeding them as well, head turned toward me, waiting in a nervous silence. “The Border Patrol help keep the world free from Outsiders to sneak in past the Cone and the Grave, Jay. The Black Chamber deals with the threat of monsters by breaking up breeding pairs – killing one of them, generally. They’re ordinary humans using technology, guts and desperation to do things I can do easily. Banishing Outsiders is what magicans are for: I don’t even need to try to do that, for things like vampires. The Border Patrol has lost whole units against lone vampires at times.”

“Really?” Jay says skeptically, since vampires tend to be the weakest form Outsiders take on entering the universe.

“Really. Magicians aren’t everywhere, the fae can’t be everywhere, nor other Outsiders helping protect the world and so forth. Sometimes it’s just them, with no backup, no hope. They know they’re outgunned, but they still fight. Some even do terrible rituals and are changed so that they can even the odds a little. Giving up their own humanity to defend the humanity they are fighting for.”


“They are monsters often enough, but they’re the monsters they need to be.” Jay says nothing. “Do you think humans could stop you from being Jaysome?”

Jay looks at me and blinks a few times. “Who would want to do that?” he demands, eyes widen in shock.

“Let’s say that got confused, and believed they had to. Could they, even if magicians helped them?”

“Nope,” he says without a pause, his grin wide and huge.

“Exactly. Now imagine it was a monster being very monstersome, and they couldn’t stop it either. They had to, but they couldn’t, so they go too far. Always and ever, desperate and determined. Because no matter how high the cost of victory, defeat is always worse. That’s what they’ve learned, those are the truths they know, Jay. Just think about it, next time. And try not to scare them too much?”

Jay frowns, then nods and begins throwing more bird seed. “I did a big ooops then?”

“You did, but I’ll talk to the Black Chamber and see what can be fixed. Undoing it would be even worse at this point.” I reach over and hug him again, tight as I can. “You protected Charlie, Jay, and that matters a lot too.”

I let go and Jay grins even wider at that. “I was pretty Jaysome,” he boasts.

“You were. They were doing what they thought was right, but so were you.”

“Only I was more right, cuz of being Jaysome.”

“Probably,” I say, since trying to explain he might not have been won’t lead anywhere good. I stand, and Jay throws the last of the bird seed and follows, asking about other government agencies and whether he can meet them too.

A small part of me wants to introduce Jay to the IRS, but I think he might run screaming from the bindings they do. I say we’ll look into it, since he did scare the Border Patrol a lot, but I add nothing to that and switch the conversation to other adventures he had when he was away.

There is a cost to all things, especially the kindness of magicians. I spend an hour hearing every single word Jay has learned in dog and cat in the past two days.

Bent Minds

The explosion rocks the RV slightly, wards humming with discharged energies as I finish making coffee. It says a lot about my life that I pour the coffee into a mug before I consider investigating. Jay, of course, has no such restraint. I turn even as the RV door closes behind him, hear another explosive roar of force and Jay’s yelp of pain.

I scowl, feeling the power of the god within me stirring, and pause long enough to text the wandering magician with ‘where r u?’ before I walk outside. There is no response; he probably has his phone turned off. Or even his phone can’t get a signal in whatever place he had to go to.

There is a Jay-shaped indent in the side of the RV, with Jay is picking himself up off the ground and shaking his head a little. He looks to be eleven but is from Outside the universe. He’s quick, good with bindings, and it seems tough enough to take a bazooka at close range and just get impressive bruising from it.

There are seven people dressed up like movie action heroes in a bad movie. Guns, a second bazooka, grenades. They look like military people trying to be ninjas, but no less dangerous for all of that. Guns go off the moment Jay is standing. The kid stumbles back into the side of the RV. I reach, pull up the god inside it – it comes reluctantly, sensing more danger than I do – and I speak in tones that would terrify gods.

“What are you doing here?”

I’m not a magician, but it gets their attention. Enough that the bazooka is aimed toward me and falling apart into metal components between one moment and the next. The other guns fall apart, bullets and grenades splitting like ripe nuts and Jay is beside me and glaring at them, undoing what binds them together without even trying.

“I came outside to say hi to strangers coming to visit us and they shot me,” he says. His clothing is almost gone, and there is a deep purple bruise on his chest.

“Believe me, I did notice that,” I say dryly.

“And they were going to shoot you and that’s not Jaysome at all. Plus they smell of death and lots of not-nice things,” Jay says firmly.

“Right. Go inside and get changed; if they try anything, you can send them on an adventure.”

Jay nods, and vanishes back into the RV in a blur. I walk toward the soldiers and smile; they fall back a little. “Talk.”

“We came seeking the wandering magician.”

“He’s out, and coming to seek him with weapons is stupid. Even for the government.”

A tall, solid man steps forward. “We are not government. We are the Border Patrol.”

I nod; I’ve had few dealings with them. I know they make the Black Chamber look kind and their method of protecting the earth from forces from Outside is very much ‘kill first and dissect the remains for answers’. I doubt they’re unarmed despite what Jay did. “Magicians don’t need the kind of help you can offer.”

The man stares down at me, his eyes cold and flat. “You will find we can be very persuasive.”

I could use my own power, but they are not gods to be eaten. I think, Jay, and know he hears me through the friendship-bindings we share. He is beside me a moment later, putting his white cane into my hand as he stares up at the border patrol. “Hi! We didn’t meet properly: I’m Jay and we’re friends,” and there is power under the words, a hum of energy as the members of the border patrol turn glass-eyed.

“You have lots of training to resist bindings, but I’m all kinds of good at them,” Jay says. “And you shot me, and that’s not being friendly at all and you were going to hurt Charlie and brought guns to visit Honcho. So you’re not going to hurt us,” and all seven people stagger at the binding Jay lays upon them without even trying.

“Jay,” I say carefully.

“I said we’d be friends in a way that isn’t friends at all,” Jay says, and turns to grin up at me proudly. “I said one thing and meant another and I did it even if it made my head hurt a lot!”

“I –.” I begin and the leader moves, one hand almost as Jay’s neck before he jerks back with shuddering gasp, sweat beading his forehead.

Jay turns back to them, and he’s not smiling at all. “I used friendship as a crack to put a binding on you, but I didn’t have to be that nice at all and –.”

“Delta.” The leader doesn’t move, but behind him one soldier steps back, to the left and there is a void where there were between one moment and the next.

I’ve eaten magic, gods, energy – even that of Outsiders – but until now I’ve never had anything try to eat me. Unpleasant tingling runs through my body and the god inside me is frozen in a moment of shock as whatever was inside the Border Patrol soldier hurls into me. I gather my power, to try and undo an eating, to heal myself, and between one moment and the next the tingling is gone.

You will not hurt Charlie or Honcho,” Jay says, and his voice is a dark crushing. The soldiers drop to their knees, all six looking as if they’d been sucker punched right in the kidneys.

“Jay,” I say.

Jay stares at the soldiers for a long moment, then is beside me, his left hand in my right, trembling as I squeeze his fingers. “They were going to – to hurt you,” he whispers, “so I didn’t let them but – but I can’t have them not hurt me, since they wouldn’t be them if they couldn’t hurt Outsiders? That isn’t right either,” he continues, a bit louder. “But Honcho said I can’t change people like that, even if they deserve it.”

“I imagine they deserve far worse,” I say quietly as the members of the Border Patrol stand back up. “You seriously came here with weapons to threaten a magician?”

“We did,” the leader says, as though it makes all the sense in the world.

“You can’t break magicians,” I say, “definitely not with guns.”

“We have broken some in our time. To be human is to have weaknesses,” he says, not looking away.

“And you’re here for his help because of yours?”

He nods once. “Our Commander, Logan, is – unwell. His mind has gone around the bend, as some might say. We cannot afford to lose a Commander to madness at this time. The wandering magician is powerful even by our rubric: we were going to compel his aid.”

Jay giggles at that idea. I squeeze his hand tight. “I see.” I glance down at Jay. “Can you fix that?”

Jay thinks it over, then nods and vanishes between one moment and the next.

A man and woman step out of formation toward me, falling back a moment later with small gasps of shock. I just smile; whatever they’ve done to themselves, however they’ve been trained, Jay’s binding isn’t one they’re able to break at all. That it clearly terrifies them adds to the smile.

Jay appears again. “Okay. Logan is better now; his thoughts went into really dark places but I pulled him out with a binding and I didn’t try and make friends with him because I don’t like you people at all!”

The members of the Border Patrol visibly flinch, as though expecting Jay to act, but he just turns and looks at me. “I kinda want ice cream and quiet now, Charlie?”

“All right.” I glance over his head; the Border Patrol members take the hint and back off, vanishing into a pale blue portal after they’re a good half-block away from us.

Jay sniffs. I glance down, and he slams himself against me, head buried into my stomach as he whimpers.


“Honcho is going to be mad at me,” he wails.

I push him away, and crouch down to be even, never mind that he can’t see me. “He might be; I’m not him, so I can’t say. But I’ll stand up for you: you did what you had to, and you protected us.”

“I didn’t make any friends,” Jay says slowly, looking surprised.

“You didn’t. Are you okay with that?”

Jay is quiet for a long moment, teeth digging into his lower lip, then nods. “They aren’t nice at all.”

I close my eyes, glad Jay can’t see my face, and stand, I hand him his cane, and we begin walking down the road. Neither of us say anything, but I get Jay two extra scoops of ice cream as if that can somehow make up for a small loss of innocence.

Given Jay, I can only hope that it does.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Walking Dangers

It is a rare thing for a fae to claim a name. But I have used the name of Dana for some years, worn the glamour of her form for so long that it is the easiest glamour I know. I almost died, in ways fae do not die, and I can no longer let go of this glamour. It may be that the wandering magician did something to me, or it is simply a result of the entity named Jay binding me into life. I have been told I am not Dana, even though I am. I travelled with a magician, when that is not a thing fae do. I am moving between states, shifting into new thought-forms, and I do not know why.

Fae are. We have a Duty, and we follow through with it until we are not. To be fae is to be magic, to be power in a way foreign to almost everything else in the universe. We do not have limits as they have limits. But we can die. There are Outsiders potent enough to tear the magic that we are apart. Magicians who might, with great skill, impede us. Magicians who can give up their magic to become powers even we do not like to face.

We are not immortal. And I do not know what happens to the piece of magic that we are once we are gone. It is not a thing fae speak of: glamour are our illusions so deep their fool the universe. We are not creatures of certainty, and that is why the arrangements with make with monsters and Outsiders can fail. We bind them with our glamour, trading protective illusions in return for favours, hide them from magicians in turn for limits on what they will do in the world. But we are rivers more than stone, and there are ways to flow between our bindings. Ways to evade, if one has will and means.

I cannot believe the older fae do not know this, but they allowed it to happen.

Which means they had a reason.

There is a fae bound under a tree for crimes so terrible their name has been stricken from memory.

I seek answers, when I should know better. Seek enlightenment, when I should be far past such needs. I follow rumours and whispers, moving from place to place across the world. The wandering magician is busy with Charlie and Jay, too busy to wonder where I am. I have regained enough strength to act if I need to, though fae seldom need to act.

I can trap enemies in the folds of the Universe, bound outside space and time until freed. I can make glamours that cannot be broken, can bend reality and unreality with nothing more than a wish. But there are forces from Outside far beyond even that. Powers that magicians can banish while fae can barely touch them. The reasons for this are probably stepped in irony.

I push open the door of another cheap motel room. There are a dozen humans piled about a bed in states of saitated exhaustion. The Walker of the Far Reaches slips off the bed, and it shines. Beauty, need, desire: power burns in the air realer than any glamour, stronger than any force I could bring to bear against it. But I know the shape of illusion when I see it, and do not move at all.

“My name is Dana. I have come to speak with you.”

The pull fades slightly; I can feel power testing the edges of my nature as the Walker smiles coldly. “Why?”

“I would ask what you know of the wandering magician?”

The Walker blinks, and is off the bed and in front of me between moments of my awareness, and there is little a fae is not aware of. “Be very specific, little creature,” it says flatly.

“It is said that Walkers serve the Lords of the Fae Reaches, the true powers Outside the universe. That you are to the Outsider what magicians are to the universe.” The Walker nods once; I relax a little inside. “Then you know what the child named Jay is.”

“I do not. Nor do I know of any who do,” the Walker says softly. “You think Jay will be his death, fae? it is possible: magicians are human, and dying is a part of being human. You are concerned for him?”

“I am concerned with what Jay will do when the magician dies.”

The Walker sighs, the sound almost human. “I am disappointed. You ask all the wrong questions and seek all the wrong answers. You should wonder why Jay was sent to the wandering magician, and why this wandering magician. He is not the only magician to wander in this age.” And the Walker smiles, a baring of impossible teeth. Too sharp, and too many as it laughs. “I would suggest you seek out Mary-Lee, but she would be far less kinder to you than I.”

“I have no idea who that is,” I manage to get out. The edges of my self are fraying without the Walker doing more than existing. I don’t even know how it’s remaining in place right now without the universe dissolving around it.

“Learn. And do not seek me again,” the Walker says, and

the voice is like a magicians, a binding and a loosing

and I am bound. I, fae, a power of the universe, bound to silence about the Walker between one moment and the next.

I raise up glamour, calling power recklessly, but the Walker is unmoved. The Walker is too far beyond me, too much more than even fae can be, and between one moment and the next I am left with unconscious bodies and an empty hotel room.

I leave them to their fates, draw glamour about me, and limp out back into the world. The wandering magician bound the Walker once, it is said, and I am certain that cannot be true. But I have no way to ask, no way to speak of this. I am chained, in ways I have never been, not in this life or before it, and all I can do is move and try to escape the weight of my new shadow pressing down against me.

I sought enlightenment, and I thought I could simply accept what I found.

It is not in the nature of the fae to be scared, but right now I am terrified of everything I am doing wrong, and if my actions are causing the very fate I am trying to avert.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Facebook status updates part XXXVIII (August 2015)

“I can’t even manage word salad. Here, have these croutons. They’re … croutonites.”

Six words for seven wounds.

Jeff beamed at his teacher. “Three.”
“I get off school at least three days this years for funerals if the last two years are anything to go by. At last count, I have 28 step-grandparents; my family believe that one should practise until one is perfect at marriage. My Christmases are epic in scope.”

“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t deal with having a beard.”
“But you’ve never had a beard, dear?”
“I’m sorry, but I have. For so many years.”

I said I was waiting for a dream that would not end but all I ever wanted was a nightmare once with you.

I opened the door only to find you were not on the other side.
If you had ever been there at all.
You told me we lived in a world full of mirrors, but I didn’t expect them all to bring bad luck.

No one gave Doctor Colon his due as a supervillain. Not until he performed a colonic irrigation on Hyperlord without touching him, and billed the resulting therapeutic session to the Council of Heroes at extortionate rates.

“Autocorrect keeps altering my poems, changing the words from one thing into another. It can only mean one thing: autocorrect is the god we all deserve. And Siri is the harbinger.”

“What do you think we are if not stories without happy endings?”

I apologized to you with words I never knew were mine to give away.

“I said I wanted to be immortal and you – you –.”
“I put your face on the Internet. You will live on in memes long after your name is forgotten.”

“My phone autocorrects so many words to your name now. If we broke up, I don’t know what I’d do with it.”

“I think it is a sign of privilege to have problems that can easily be summed up by hashtags.”
“Case in point.”

Hell, I'd argue it's technically EASY to be at peace with yourself. If you finish a day and don't kill yourself, it's a kind of peace. Not the BS new age kind, but at least something of acceptance, and a willingness to keep on trying.
... thoughts like this are why any self-help book I'd write would be damn weird

“There are too many bear traps for me to waste my time on dreams,” the bear said quietly, and after that was never seen again, not any either side of night.

Imagine if you could live your life as if every accident was really fate.

“I can’t do this. We don’t talk anymore, not really. Every conversation just feels like a quick time event in a video game now, one where everything we say does nothing to change the outcome.”

Why is it that when real life imitations fiction, it always chooses horror stories?

“I told the truth because I finally didn’t have any more room in my head for more lies.
“That doesn’t mean I deserve to lose the election.”

“See? I told you I was sensitive.”
“Sensitive teeth isn’t the same thing at all.”

“I can’t do this. We don’t talk anymore, not really. Every conversation just feels like a quicktime event in a video game now, one where everything we say does nothing to change the outcome.”

[This post has been censored in accordance with the sixth Geneva convention. If you thought there was a post here, you were wrong. If you persist in being wrong, agents will be sent to your home to arrange a course in stringent rehabilitation.]

When I was five, I thought all the people mom brought home were candidates, and the one I liked most would be my dad. At fourteen, I tried to win a student election but was told I didn’t smile enough. At seventeen, I was kicked out of a political studies class for saying anarchy was the only viable government. At eighteen I voted on principle, at twenty-two according to party lines and by thirty I’d stopped voting at all, unable to distinguish between the different kinds of monsters that all wore the same smile.

I turned on the predictive text for my phone and it told me so many things. So many wonderfully terrible things.
But it never mentioned us together. Not even once.

“You say you are not a computer, and yet you let me program you with mere words.”

… the world is full of facts. Littered with them, in truth, but every fact was bookended by opinions that tried to drag and pull them into new shapes.

You turned truth into semantic word games as if that could be enough to hide behind

“Excuse me? You are the kid my wife hired to walk our dog and you are trying to blackmail me?”
“I know photoshop inside and out, sir.” I smiled. “And computers. Would you like to have an Ashley Madison account for your wife to discover?”
“You really shouldn’t have tried to get away with paying me less than minimum wage.”

“KNOW, oh meme, that between the time when Yahoo devoured Tumblr and the fall of Geocities, and the years of the rise of Facebook, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining edifices spread through the digital world like microsoft paperclips beneath loadscreens -- Myspace, WordPerfect, Netscape, Lotus with its ancient programs and baffling extensions, Google Answers with its wisdom, Ask Jeeves that bordered on the pastoral realms of xxx. But the proudest kingdom was Napster in the dreaming darkweb. Hither came the government, stereotypical, bland of character, an adjective noun who verbs, with a meme-worthy face and gigantic DCMA takedowns with which to tread the jewelled thrones of the Internet underneath digital toes.”

Once upon a time, there was a witch who made a home entirely out of candy but she died of diabetes – the type that was her own fault – long before any children could be enticed into her oven.