Sunday, October 30, 2016


Sometimes sadness is such a big ripple that it feels like the entire pond is full of it. I follow it, because adventures are very important and hugging away sadness is an important importance of course!

The ghost is in a real pond, visible to a Jay because I am really good at seeing things, and she is crying. People look about, hearing it without hearing it, and the ghost is a bit older than me – and eleven is old for a Jay – and doing bindings to try and keep people away from the water but each one falls apart.

“Hi?” I say

“Please. No. The water is cold: do not come in,” she says, low and desperate.

“I’m really good at swimming and sometimes don’t even need to swim at all,” I kinda boast a little, and do a sneaky binding to hide from people and walk over across the water to the ghost. Because people sometimes get weirdy when I do that, even if the water is fine with it.

The ghost stares. She has seaweed hair, and cold skin, and looks sad more than like the monster she’s trying to be. “The ocean is always hungry. I drowned here, so I am part of that hunger. A calling. A haunting of this place. I don’t want anyone else to drown.” she whispers.

“Oh. You could go back to the Grey Lands?” I say, because ghosts can.

“They scare me,” she whispers. “The water isn’t right. I don’t feel safe there.”

“And if you remain here then other people aren’t safe, which is a pickle but it’s not because pickles are pretty nummy!”

“What?” she asks.

“There are other places to haunt,” I offer, and hug her really tight and I’m jaysome at hugging and bindings.

“Your shadow is an ocean,” she says in a funny tone, and slips right into it easily.

I’ve never had a ghost haunt me before but I’m pretty big and this way she’ll get to be in an ocean and not risk hurting anyone by mistake at all. Plus I got to make a new friend!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Retirement: a parable

The assignment was simple. There is a wandering magician. He interferes in matters that do not concern magicians. Find him. Kill him.

Working for the Metric Commission meant dealing with problems. I had killed several with magical Talents in my time. And one magician, though she was new to her power and I’d barely escaped with my life even so. This assignment wasn’t like that.

They gave me the aendar, a stone that nullified power. And promises I’d be able to leave if I did this one thing. I said yes. Sometimes that’s all you can do. There were ways to find him, of course but I wasn’t about to try them: magicians have good instincts for traps.

Instead I ended up in the town of Cresthaven. Because it carried a scar in the skin of the world that was opening and the magician would end up here. It was the sort of thing magicians fixed and there were none around here. There were four talents in two surrounding towns: killing them proved surprisingly simple.

That was probably a warning. Only I didn’t think so at the time.

The magician arrived three weeks later. Places feel different once a magician comes to them. Like the calm at the centre of a storm. As if everything was more real, more important. There was a fulcrum here, and everyone knew it without understanding what they knew.

He looked ordinary. That surprised me. He wandered the streets and if I hadn’t been told what was wrong with the town, I’d have never noticed him. But he paid attention to the wound. I followed, waiting until he was done mending it.

He turned to me as I came up behind him. The aendar was cold in my hand and warm as well as though the stone were somehow liquid and solid as once.

“Ah,” he said, and then words in a language I didn’t know. The aendar was in his hand a moment later. The stone purred.

I didn’t move.

“You brought two snipers with you.” He didn’t use power, not in the way magicians can. But he was certain in a way that shook me.

“Three,” I admitted.

“Including you, yes.” He sighed. “If I asked, would you tell me who you worked for?”

“I am trained to resist such things.”

“Mmm. You think that will matter to me, considering you planned to kill me?”

“No. The stone was going to my my method.”

The magician blinked once, studied the stone. “Few can carry an aendar for three weeks without it leaving them. Whatever agency you work with, you know how dangerous a magician can be.”

“In a place of power, yes.”

He smiled, and the smile set me back a step. “I am the wandering magician. Each place I wander to is a place of power for me.”

I fell back another step at the truth behind those words. I swore. I don’t often, but sometimes it’s the only way to voice fear.

“Even if that were not true, you must have known this would not work. Why did you do it?”

I think he threaded power into his voice on a level so subtle I never sensed it; I’d like to think that’s why I answered. “I wish to retire. Almost no one has. I am tired of – the things that have to be done to keep the world safe. Of how much I’ve lost and given up of myself, my own dreams. I wished to be free from those I worked for.”

He laughed. The magician’s laugh shook me with the kindness that lurked under him. “You have an aendar stone: they unmake bindings, and some magics as well. Whatever connected to you to your employers is gone, Aram.”

“And those who came with me?” I asked.

“I have dealt with them.”

I didn’t ask. If I have learned anything, it’s that some things are best left unknown. “And what happens to me?”

“That is up to you. I will let the stone go: no one is meant to hold one, and certainly not for three weeks. You may forget some things you knew, but some of that will be the stones doing on the behest of your former employers I imagine.”

I nodded. I could have asked for his help, but there are some things you don’t do.

“And Aram?”

I paused, half-turned away. I’d never told him my name, but he was the wandering magician.

“If you try and kill anyone else with a Talent in your life, you will answer to me.”

I said nothing; I continued turning and walked away. Sometimes there are no other options. Survival has a cost, and I accepted the cost of my own.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

On Spirit Animals

I don’t pray. Not as a rule, it’s just something I don’t do.

Every prayer I ever had was beaten out of by my father’s hands, my mother’s indifference. I’ve been told that we have to save ourselves, when I bring it up, but it doesn’t work like that. We save each other: and not a single prayer to any god makes one bit of difference in that. No god is ever going to save you: they’re too busy passing around the popcorn and gloating in our tears. Want to know why there is suffering in the world? I figure it’s because it’s what give them their power.

Otherwise, if any god was real, they’d do things now, not just in dusty books that mean less than nothing. Sorry. I’m just trying to explain, so that it makes sense. There have been worse parents than mine. Ones who were never home, or ones kids prayed – having nothing else to hope for – that they’d never be home. I’ll just say my day was a mean son of a bitch even before he got a beer in him and mom was on so many drugs to deal with everything that she did nothing at all. She was about as empty as you could get and still walk around calling yourself human. I bet the pharmacist got a crap ton of pens for all the drugs he put her on.

I was on a few, because of school. ‘Problem child’ as if that didn’t mean problem parents. Mom took some of mine, or dad did to sell them. I never found out who, but I was shaking, strung out. Uncle Tony had killed himself. He wasn’t a good uncle, I think, but he wasn’t bad either. In my books then that made him almost a saint. He didn’t drink, but the doctors said there was something in his brain. Parasite that made him just walk out into traffic one day and not stop, something like that out of a bad horror film.

And I was seeing things. People talk about spirit animals, but it’s more spirit forms. What’s important to people, what resonates with them. For dad it was beer, for mom the pills. I had a cockroach. I knew that because cockroaches are afraid of people and I never saw it. Never saw anything that could help me. Sometimes, when I saw them, the spirit animals warned me just before dad would swing a fist. I learned to read them as well as him. Wasn’t even sure they were real.

Honestly, I’m still not. No one had a wolf I ever saw, or a crow. TV characters, family members: whatever someones drug is, that was their spirit animal. Could have been me just projecting, or whatever the term is. The bad day wasn’t bad, not worse than any other. Maybe that’s what it was. Words I didn’t escape, a bruise to hide at school. Sometimes all you try to do is escape when you know you can’t and it eats at you. Like animals gnawing off their feet in traps.

I felt like that. I didn’t pray. To this day, I’ll swear I didn’t, but there was a kid in my room. Between one moment and the next. He was eleven. I remember that. I think if I ever get Alzheimer’s like a blessing, I’ll still remember him being eleven.

“Hi. I’m Jay,” he said, and he grinned. No one ever grinned at me like that. Not my mom when I was born, not any lover I’ve ever had. No one has, before or since. It hurt like nothing else too.

I might have screamed, because he had one hand on my mouth, worried. For me. He was worried for him, not of anything else. I knew that too.

“I didn’t mean to surprise you,” he said. “But you were sad-face and I thought I could maybe help?”

“My spirit animal is a cockroach and it hurts.” Of everything I could have said, could have asked, could have wondered, somehow that fell out of my mouth. These days, even on bad days like nothing I imagined as a kid, I’ll remember that moment and have to laugh.

The boy took it in stride as if it made all the sense in the world. “That’s not very jaysome,” he said, and – I can’t tell you what that means. I mean, it’s a word, but it meant – it helped, is all I’m saying. Somehow the word helped.

He offered to be my totem, entirely serious, and boasted he would probably be the best spirit animal ever. I said yes, trying to cover for my stupid statement, still thinking it so stupid but dad heard things, came in.

Demanded to know what another kid was doing in my room, said he wasn’t going to be having – well, no need to repeat. I try to forget it. The kid turned, stared up my father. And dad fell back. Fell away, looking scared. Whatever jaysome was to me, it had other edges I never got to see.

He left. Dad left. I’d like to say he never hit me again, or that he changed, but I’d be lying. The kid looked back at me and let out a huge sigh. “I’d like to do a helping, but then you’d be changed and you wouldn’t be you and that would be really wrong.”

And he meant it, as he meant everything else I said. So I’ve tried to be me ever since that day, even if it hurts. I haven’t seen the kid again. I left home as soon as I could, two years later. I don’t talk to my parents anymore, though sometimes I don’t think I ever did. I don’t pray. Never do. But now, some days, I think I understand a little better the people who do.

Huh? No, I haven’t seen any kind of spirit animal in years. I figure it was just the withdrawal and some of the drugs making me loopy, that’s all. It happens. I got better. I think the kid maybe helped with that too, but I’ll never know. It’s probably better that way. Definitely safer. Because whatever Jay was, safe wasn’t part of it at all.