Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Body

I find her in the cemetery crying beside her gravestone: there are few things that can complicate a life more than resurrection does. She looks normal enough, even to a magician if they look too closely. Perhaps a little pale, but it’s not as if she’s going to be eating the living. Few things work like they do in stories: I sometimes think it would be kinder if it did.

“Nora Baker.”

She spins. Not a ghost, but dead enough to see deeper than humans do. “Are you an angel?”

But perhaps not as deep as she should. “I am the wandering magician of this era. Someone brought you back?”

Nora nods. She is young, perhaps fifteen all told, and I feel no hunger inside her.

That is bad, though I try to hide it. “Do you know who would want to bring you back?”

“No. No, it’s not – it’s not possible,” she says.

“I imagine you can see ghosts now: they tend to be imprints left behind, like your shadow taking on a life all its own. Someone like you is like a wrecking ball, imprinted so hard into the world that your body is restored. There is nothing in that grave anymore.”

“I’m haunting myself?”

“No. You were recalled to life. It is not a thing magicians do, for many reasons. The cost is far higher than even love is willing to pay, but madness is something else entirely. It is the main reason few magicians dare fall in love, for fear of the madness that might follow. Or at least will not give themselves up wholly to love even when they do,” I say, threading power into my voice, letting the words wash over her in a soothing. “You must know who cared for you enough to do this?”

“No. My parents love me, but this transgresses – they would not do this, not sell their souls for me.”

“Someone did, and I doubt it was you. May I?”

She nods, not sure what she is agreeing to, but I reach out with the magic and feel the edges of her, touching what lies within. A face appears. A boy her own age. Not warded, because he doesn’t know enough to do that. I pull light and air together until an image form the light of the moon and stars. The boy is taller than Nora, with long hair trying to cover up an acne-scarred face, shoulders hunched against the world. The image fades, as if his desire to not be seen even extends to this moment.

“That – that’s ac- Tony tee – Tony Brown,” Nora says, looking shocked. “I don’t think he’s ever talked to me once.”

“But you know him?”

She hesitates, then nods. “This is magic, making him appear?”

“An image only, but it will help to find him. I imagine you desire answers?”

“But you know what he did?” she says, and it is only just a question.

“I have suspicions. I imagine you wish to know the truth, and that he should as well.”

“I couldn’t go home. I wanted to, but everyone knows I died. The had the funeral three days ago, and this town is not that large in ways that matter. I have spent the last six hours hiding, wandering, not understanding. I can enter churches, I don’t have demonic urges. I haven’t eaten a single brain.”

“I know. The conversation would be far different if you had.”

Nora pulls back at something in my voice. “I should be?”

“Not brains, no, but there are many reasons the dead aren’t brought back. Tell me about you and Tony.”

“There’s nothing to tell. I knew him, everyone knows of him, but that’s not like being his friend. I wasn’t a cheerleader, nothing like that. I don’t even get good grades, I haven’t even had a proper boyfriend yet!”

I decline to point out that she’s only fifteen, if only because such things probably don’t apply to the undead.

“Tell me about Tony himself, then?” I ask when Nora adds nothing else about her. Almost no one sees themselves properly from the outside, even after they’d died.

“I don’t think I’ve ever talked to him. He’s Acne Anthony, Tony Teeth: those are what everyone calls him. You saw the acne. He has the kind of buck teeth everyone makes jokes about, that he’ll never see a beaver because he is one. People said things like that,” Nora says.

“Did you?” I ask; I don’t need to thread power into it. Lying comes less easily to the dead than it does to the living, at least for a time.

“I – no. I have an uncle who was a volunteer firefighter until he was badly burned. People made so many jokes, so I guess I learned not to say such things about people?”

“You were never mean to him.”

“But that – that’s not reason enough to bring me back from the dead!”

“How does your uncle react when people do him the kindness of treating him like he’s everyone else?”

Nora is silent at that. “I didn’t even think,” she says finally. “I didn’t even think that all. I was texting on my phone, crossing a road, not thinking then either. And now I am – what I am, magician?”

“Only Tony can answer that,” I say and she just nods and walks. Starting to see her life from the outside, learning that she is probably not the monster she always thought she was. I almost envy her that luxury, since it is one magicians almost never have.

I wrap wards about us to make us unseen as we walk. Nora moves quickly after some gasps as staring into people’s homes. Starting to see more about people she knew than the living ever wish to, and remains human enough to both want to know more and to fear what might come of that.

The home of Tony Brown is dark. No lights on, no TV, no cars in the driveway. No wards, no ghosts, no power. I walk up to the front door, which opens without my touching it. Nora makes a startled sound at that small magic, and I close my eyes a moment. It would be funny if the sadness underneath wasn’t rising up. There is no power here, the house almost devoid of furniture, and we find Tony Brown upstairs in a largely empty bedroom. There are tacks on the walls where posters used to be, a power bar where a computer once was and shelves empty of books.

“Nora?” he whispers, sensing her without knowing how.

“What have you done to me?” she asks, the words coming out close to a scream.

I step in beside after her as the boy’s face crumples, wrapping bindings about her so we won’t attack him. “Tony Brown. Tell her,” I say, and there is nothing in him to stand against the command of a magician.

He jerks his head up. For a moment, he tries to resist as if he can hide from the truth even now. “I love you,” he says to Nora. “I kept wanting to ask, but I knew you’d say no. That kindness only went so far, and then you died and I couldn’t help – I couldn’t help but wonder what if, what if, and what if? It burned in me like an obsession, like how much I wanted to see the new Star Wars movies, only bigger even than that.

“I looked online. In places where I shouldn’t, and I did what I had to,” he says, his voice raw.

Nora steps forward, gently pushing long hair out of Tony’s face. His acne is bad, even worse than the imagie suggested, bucktoothed yellowed teeth trying to hide behind thin lips. He gulps loudly, his face naked terror and yearning both.

“She needs to know what you did to bring her back,” I say, cutting through the moment before it can be more.

Emotions spasm across the boy’s face, but he does speak: “Sacrifice. Everything I owned, my friends – online only, but without a computer they are lost,” he says.

“You didn’t use magic on yourself?” she asks.

“I know that doesn’t end well in any story,” he says simply.

“Tell her the rest of the sacrifice,” I say softly.

“I had to sacrifice everything that meant anything, for it to work.”

Nora goes still, drawing back from him. “Where are your parents and sister, Tony?”

“They – they were – it costs, to bring the dead back,” he says. “I love you. Love is worth … isn’t it?”

She says nothing at all, then turns to me. Her anger is cold and ugly. “You knew? You brought me here and you knew!”

“To bring the dead back has a cost; I didn’t know what it was in his case, Nora. Nor what you would consider acceptable.”

“You thought –.”

“The dead are not the living,” I say flatly.

“What do you know,” she demands, and power begins to rise as a coldness from places the living aren’t meant to tread. Light burns about her in an unnatural calling.

Tony whimpers; I’m not sure Nora notices.

“I am a magician.” I smile, and her power shatters against me. No power, just the force of memory in the smile. “And I know more of death than you, and more of the sleep that does not end than you can grasp.”

“I –.” She draws back. “I don’t want that. Not this, and not that. Please?”

“I don’t know how to undo it,” Tony whispers.

“We do terrible things for love that we would do for no other cause,” I offer quietly. “And there is more that you can do.”

Tony closes his eyes, then straightens and looks at Nora. “I release you from love, from the bonds I made and the crime I did. My life holds you, my – my life releases you.”

And he closes his eyes again, and falls back onto his bed in silence.

Nora doesn’t move, even as power shimmers about her. He murdered his family for her, and that’s shaken her deeper than she can easily understand. The body dissolves, the spell unmade by Tony’s death and two ghosts face each other in what comes afterward.

“You may meet in the Grey Lands,” I say, “But not until after prices are paid.”

Tony nods to that, and vanishes as hands and fingers swirl around him.

“His family,” I say to Nora, who hovers in the air.

“What happens now?” she whispers.

“That is up to you,” and I turn and walk away.

“Magician? Why did you do this?” she demands, meaning so many things.

“Because sometimes the only way forward is through the fire and out the other side,” I say, and I’m not talking to the ghost at all as I leave the home. It begins to burn behind me, and I am almost certain that’s not my doing.

But I don’t think almost is enough.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jay Hooks

The window opens silently without being touched. Given that the fourth hotel windows aren’t even meant to open, this is mildly impressive. I’m on my fourth cup of coffee to keep away at ungodly’o’clock in the morning as Jay slips in the window. He’s dressed entirely in black like a ninja would be, only his black seems to blend into the darkness and light both, the effect mildly disconcerting as the window closes behind him and he seems to fade in and out of view. He is holding what looks to be a grappling hook and vanishes as the window closes.

I cough. Not loudly, but I do cough.

Jay spins, eyes wide, the clothing fading into view as a drab black. “Charlie?”

“Jay. It isn’t even four in the morning. What are you doing?”

“I was out flying,” he says. “Like a jayboss does!”

“Wearing black?”

“Uhm. Uhm. Yes?” he says hopefully.

“And with a grappling hook in your right hand?”

“I hid it somewhere else, so you can’t get me with that,” Jay says proudly.

I wait. It takes a few seconds before his eyes widen. I missed Jay being able to see, if only for the addition it has to the look of panic in the kid’s face.

“I mean that I might have hidden it if I had one, but I don’t.”

“Hidden what?” I ask, unable to help myself.

“The – uhm. Something that –.” Jay bites into his lower lip. “You know!”


“That I’m secretly BatJay!” He glares accusingly up at me with all the force one can muster at eleven, even if he’s not really eleven or human at all.

“Jay. You told me and the wandering magician about it. And posted it on your tumblr, which I do read.”

“But –. But –.”

“You’re jaysome, so how could I not read it?”

“But superheroes have secret identities,” he wails.

I fight back a grin. “You could have thought about that before telling us.”

“I was really new to it, and – and you know I’m SuperJay too and could figure out I’m SuperJaysome as well,” he says with a pout, looking like he’s about to cry.

I reach over, and grab him into a hug. “It’s okay, Jay. It’s not like we’re going to tell anyone.”

“But it was one of my secrets,” he says as he bursts into tears against me.

I pause. ‘One of’ sets off alarm bells in my head, but now isn’t the time. “It can still be a secret even if it’s shared, Jay. I was trying to make a joke about it, not hurt you.”

“Honest?” he sniffs, looking up at me.

“Honest, with extra bindings on top,” I say, which wins a giggle. “What adventures did BatJay have?”

“Well, I –.”

“He. Or you might accidentally tell someone, remember?”

“Oh! Right, so BatJay was busy flying and helped save a bird from flying into a plane that wasn’t using lights and the plane landed in the water outside the town and there were people on boards who weren’t jaysome and they had boxes that were filled with really icky bindings. So BatJay took care of them just like a jayboss would only as a batboss and he used the grappling hook to bounce some of them off the plane,” he says with a huge grin.

“Grappling hooks do that?”

“They do in Just Cause, and it gave me lots of ideas!”

“Okay. Anything else?”

“BatJay took their money and did a sneak-giving to some homeless people and then came back here and met me and you kinda know the rest?”

“All right. You want to get some more sleep then?”

“Okay,” Jay says, and bounces off to the one motel bed.

I don’t even try to sleep after three cups of coffee. I poke the internet for information to find out what Just Cause even is and how grappling hooks factor in. I then spend over an hour in horrified silence. A video game where the goal is destroying structures and hurting people with grappling hooks and it had given Jay ‘ideas’. I wait up for the morning paper, and turn the tv on to local news as soon as I can.

The wandering magician wakes at the latter, asking if anything is wrong.

I say I have no idea yet, show him footage of the game and explain.

The lead story involved some probably drug dealers who were found unconscious on a beach with drugs on them and no sign of their craft anywhere.

I tell the wandering magician it’s up to him to find out what Jay did with an entire float plane. He pours himself coffee, asks for the crossword puzzle in the paper and we do our best not to think too hard about it as Jay sleeps.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

prompt: the letter o

“Why?” Oh, they asked that as they died.

 "So you wonder about that now, do you? So long, with top billing, with all the fame. You die, and only I am brave enough to seek vengeance. I could not escape you, but now you cannot escape me…“

O leaned down, bending over the corpses of E and I.

 "E-I-E-I-O,” O growled. “Always the important letters, the ones everyone remembered. But it started with me, with the O in Old MacDonald. Old And oinks and moos and honks were mine! But everyone just remembered you."

"And all you could think,” O crowed as the letters burned, “was to ask me why I was doing this, when that contains not a real vowel at all!"

And so O left the scene of the crime, never wondering why U, with only two utterances in the song, had not joined in the seeking of vengeance.

But U and Y had plans of their own… and the less said of I the better.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

war gnomes

I do a good shaking, because sometimes humans like to sleep way too much – probably cuz they have dreams. “Honcho?”

He wakes quickly, in the way of magicians, already dressed except for shoes even if it is three in the morning. “Jay?”

I feel him reach out, with magic and senses, the wards he put on the hotel room humming as he touches their bindings. He sits up, gets the shoes, grabs his coats. “What is it?”

I’m already dressed and hurry to the door, opening it and waiting as patient as a Jay. So I’m kinda bouncing from foot to foot.

“Jay,” he says once we’re in the hallway, closing the door behind him. “Is Charlie needed?”
“Nope! And I think it’s always safer to let Charlie sleep.”

“And that is why you woke her at 4 a.m. yesterday to help you invent verbs for Jayism as a language?” he asks because magicians are really good at not forgetting.

“Oh, that was different. I bet Charlie was totally bored of sleep after a whole six hours!”

Honcho says nothing to that, probably because he’s all impressed by my logic and we take the stairs down the three flights and leave the hotel.

“Okay, so I was practising flying a bit more because gravity is a binding I can have lots of fun with and I sensed some weird bindings on the ground in a garden – they weren’t broken, but they’re the kind of bindings that want to break other bindings? I landed, and listened a bit and came to get you because people listen to magicians more than a Jay and I’m all from Outside the universe so sometimes I don’t understand things?”

“Only sometimes?” he says, and I’m pretty impressed Honcho can do a joking when he’s only half-awake and without coffee.

“Uh-huh. Anyway, it’s some garden gnomes and they’re sounding really ... not mean, or meany, but – worse? Like trolls of garden gnomes were bigger, only trolls aren’t often mean because they don’t need to be?”

“What were they talking about?”


“With who?” he asks, not even breaking strike as we walk.

“Lots of human teenagers have been destroying them, thinking they’re just like normal stone garden gnomes when really sunlight turns them into stone and they’re really angry and want revege and have stone weapons and can sneak into homes and stuff and it would be a lot of bad bindings.”

“I imagine so.”

But Honcho doesn’t pull up a single ward against stone, doesn’t draw on the world for protections against gnomes as we walk. Maybe trusting I’ll be really good with bindings, but I’m not sure at all. I lead him to the garden and we just walks in after opening the gate. It’s really large, all ornate pools and gardens and trees and filled with gnomes. They’re all small and stone and angry, like pebbles grinding together in the darkness. There are sharp weapons, and their anger is like sharp stones cutting into feet.

“Magician,” rumbles among them, sounding like something ugly in the dark.

“Yes.” Honcho doesn’t put power into his voice like he can with magic. “You do know most humans don’t even know your kind exist. Most don’t even know magicians are real or that their world is more than advertised.”

“We will make them know,” one says, stepping forward, and she is really tall, almost reaching my knee.

“And then what?” Honcho’s voice is soft, the gnomes straining in to hear. “You murder them in their beds with your sharp stone blades, and you think humans will let it go? Every stone gnome in the city will be destroyed within a week. And they it will spread, because you’re seeking revenge. They will be driven by hate. Hatred that you’ve shaken them from comfort. Hatred that you’re action is to strike first and speak later. Fear that you’re as human as they are, in all the wrong ways.”

“What would you suggest we do, magician?”

“Decide what you really want, and seek for that. If you don’t want to be harmed, hide so the humans cannot find you in the mornings. Seek specific ones one – those with talents, the few psychics. Reveal yourselves in small numbers, let stories spread Let them tell stories with no substance, to make people scared of hurting garden gnomes. They’ll make curses up you can give small substance to, tell stories that will change the way they think about you. It’s one solution; there are others, but that could be the easiest.”

“You want us to hide, with your magic and –.”

“I want you to survive,” Honcho says. “And the humans as well. The real magic in this is to make everyone win, and it doesn’t take a magician to do that.”

“We are not cowards, magician.”

Honcho blinks. Nothing more. He doesn’t use magic, not even that I sense and I’m very good with bindings, but the cold anger in his voice is something else entirely. “It takes true bravery to seek peace. It is a lesson everyone forgets, and the one that must always, always be learned. You have jails, for those who break your laws?”

The gnome nods, looking wary.

“Arrest every voice that cries out for war, and perhaps you could find a way to peace.” He lets out a breath, the anger gone elsewhere. “I can work some small wards to help you; Jay here can help with bindings, but magic is only a band-aid. The solution will need to be something else.”

“You have power, and you ask us to seek other means?”
“There are many kinds of power. Restraint is among the most impressive; if you don’t think I’m doing that now, you know nothing about a wandering magician.”

The gnomes go still. There are whispers. Stories. They begin to back away, the bindings fragmentting apart.

“Stories,” Honcho says. “You can use that to change how we think. It won’t be easy. I’d never say that, but in the long run it might work.”

“You will help us, then?” The gnome asks, then she pauses. “Never mind. I think you did.”

They share a smile then, and Honcho nods and heads back out the gate. I follow in silence.

“We’ll need to do a binding to stop humans from hurting them, lasting at least a month,” Honcho says, not looking over at me.

“But you said –.”

“They make need help if they are to hold the course. We’ll work something out that helps them as best we can, kiddo.”

“And they won’t ever know?”

“It will be for the best if they don’t.” He reaches over, ruffling my hair. “You were right to wake me for this. Now, I’m going back to bed and you’re going to pretend to sleep for at least two hours.”

“Oh.” I let out a hugey sigh but follow. Sometimes Honcho thanks me in really weird ways, but he doesn’t say a single word when we get back and I sneak my phone under my bed to play games in the darkness. And sometimes Honcho is sharp enough to pretend not to see me being a Jay at all!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sweltering Stars: the cast

This is a sci-fi novel being written pretty much for the sheer fun of it. It’s sci-fi horror (the horror stuff showing it’s first glimpses about the 5K mark) exploring transhumanism, the far (very far) future and essentially what happens when the hubris of a humanity that has spread out among six galaxies realizes it means nothing when the stars turn right and the Great Old Ones come out to play.


Kaden: An archaeologist, Kaden is an explorer of the past who finds ways to interface with ancient technologies using modified old tech, techtweaks (sometimes alien in nature) and modern technology designed to break, scan and hack ancient systems. Nominally the leader of the expedition to the space station Nanospark VI, he knows the least about what is going on and nothing about the true nature of the universe, though he carries one alien item on him he’s hiding from everyone else, and it may be both their salvation and destruction.
He was pretty much based on how difficult it would be to get technology in the future to interface with ‘modern’ technology now, so in the future you’d need people who specialized in such things.

Lillias: a very, very well-trained security officer who is actually a cyborg (this is only technical: nothing of her is human, her memories implanted into a mechanical body - it actually makes her the most transhuman of the characters in that sense), she has done everything from bounty hunting to bodyguarding and running entire planetary security systems. If she has a flaw, it’s thinking that she is actually better than she is and being a bit too reliant on her various offensive and defensive systems and scans.
She is terrified of true darkness, though no one remembers why.

Otli: a flowing liquid entity with a human mind Otli is basically a sentient puddle that explores places and is close to unkillable (since it can switch between states of matter at need), Otli has run into one of the Great Race of Yith and barely survived the experience, its memories of the event being very, very vague. Otli definitely appears to be the most transhuman of the characters and is quite happy to use that in order to be underestimated or ignored.
It is well aware that they’re meant to all die at the station - Otli is often sent into situations to explore by the Charter where only it survives to report back - but is quite up front about this and rather puzzled as to why the Charter organization would sent along assets as valuable as Lillias and Kaden if they were meant to not survive this exploration.

Other people will show up eventually. This far all the main case have secrets - from each other and themselves - and no idea what their real mission is, or if they’re intended to survive it or not.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Yup Still alive!

Hoy. Heading toward the third act (I think). Charlie just discovered that the reason secret Canadian government agents have been trying to kill her and Jay since they came into Canada was for budget reasons.

It turns out that keeping an eye on the wandering magician and friends was using up too much of their operational budget, and executing them is far cheaper. Hence the attempted murde