Being a magician means many things, but less of them are important the older I get. I walk through the small town of Horseshoe Creek and no one pays any attention to me: the town is small, but not small enough that any stranger is taken as a sign or omen. No one rushes out of small tourist shops to try and get me to buy things, but that is more the ward I have drawn up about myself than anything else. Every place has energies all its own that a magician can tease into certain shapes. Not being bothered is often one of the easier ones.
I walk, reaching out with the magic within me. I pull anger from an arguing couple, give it to someone who needs the motive force to quit their job, reach out to the axle of a car and fix it as I walk past. It has been months since I was - imprisoned, since I escaped. The magic doesn’t pull me to places that need to be fixed as it used to. And won’t talk to me about why.
Not that I am worrying right now. This is what I became a magician for - not the grand and terrible gestures, but the small magics no one notices. Making places better without fanfare, without applause: doing what I can to help nudge the world toward better destinations. I ease stress on a road, help a tree dig deep into roots, open a bin for a fox as I pass an alleyway.
It doesn’t last, of course. I get almost an hour of peace before I feel a twisting in the air, a pressure mounting against the skin of the world. Outsiders prefer to sneak into the universe - when they can - in places where they hope not to be noticed. I have no idea if it trying to manifest inside the lone tourist information booth in the town is some kind of irony.
I walk over, threading a little power into my voice. “This place is not for you.”
“Magician? Here?” The voice is a low hiss in the shadows that shadows cast.
“The wandering magician, yes.” And it is one of my gifts to speak truth that can not be ignored.
Not that the Outsider doesn’t try. Sometimes I feel my reputation in certain circles has become so big that some can’t believe I am actually me. “Prove -.”
I feel it trying to gather power and reach. This isn’t magic as much as what magicians are. I bind it, toss it back Outside with no effort and walk to the edges of the town where the weave of civilization meets fields and trees. Edges are important, for all sorts of reasons.
“So,” I say to the magic with me, stepping aside and leaving it where I was. Some tricks aren’t tricks at all, but one doesn’t become a magician without mastery of the self – sometimes regardless of what your self thinks at all.
It manifests as a duplicate of me, though oddly with a British accent and eyes that I hope look more worn than mine do. “You are persistent.”
“We are. Your point?”
“You need a rest. I am giving you that rest from certain callings.”
“By having Jay and Charlie deal with them?”
“Sometimes. You - we - need time to heal. We cannot continue to put out fires if we risk burning up ourselves each time.”
I let out a breath. It hurts. “I know. I don’t know what we can do though. ”
And the magic looks away at that. “Nor do I. I am scared.”
I step close, pull the magic back into me. It trembles, then gasps as I offer up a gentle kiss and a hug I hope is jaysome. “We will figure this out. We have to. But we can’t ignore situations where we are needed. I don’t think that’s helping me heal at all.”
“Then we will break before we bend.”
“Perhaps. Perhaps we must,” I say, and walk back toward the motel Charlie and Jay are playing poker in. I know they want to help. I know they can help. But part of me is scared of being weak, even to those I trust more than anyone else in the world.