Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Airport Adventure

“This was a bad idea,” Charlie mutters. She glances askance at me. “Do you even have a passport?”

“I am the wandering magician.” I shrug.

“Trust me: this is the TSA. That’s not an answer.”

“I have one,” Jay says and pulls his out of thin air. “Oh! And the birth certificate the fae gave me and did you know the one plane outside to our right is secretly a dragon?!”

“No,” Charlie says patiently. She eyes me and mouths, ‘Is it?’

I just smile my second-best magician’s smile and she responds with a middle finger.

Charlie pulls out the tickets, hands them over at the counter. A magician, a god-eater and an eleven year old boy from Outside the universe get on a plane ... Jay wanted to fly, so we’re trying this. If it works. I pull out a passport, because the universe favours magicians and hand it over.

The man at the counter glances at them, at the three of us. “Purpose of visit?”

“We’re having an adventure,” Jay boasts.

The man looks caught off guard, returning Jay’s smile. “I see. No luggage?”

“Nope! Charlie says I can’t count as luggage and be stored in baggage even if that would be an adventure too,” Jay says happily.

Charlie tries not to blush and I fight back a grin as we head in the line for security.

“Honcho?” Jay says. “They’re doing a lot of bindings you know!”

“This is airport security. They tend toward being thorough.”

Charlie goes first, and they pat her down, pause. One of the TSA employees frowns, looking puzzled, but Charlie has a passport and ID the fae made. It gets her through.

Jay runs up, bounces onto the spot he’s asked to stop at, hands over his phone and says they can’t really search him because he’s ‘hugey like a Jay!’ Which is true, but innocent is armour and they laugh see nothing more to what he says. Jay is so good at hiding he’s from outside the universe that he’s let through without even a pat-down and runs over to tell Charlie he was entirely jaysome at this.

One of the TSA employees twitches at that word. I step forward, holding his gaze. There are wards about this place, as there are about all airports. Linking them into a certain space, a certain focus. Using magic here would be unwise, but that’s only part of being a magician. I walk forward, holding the gaze of the other agents.

Charlie clasps a hand over Jay’s mouth and pulls him away as a few other TSA officers converge. No one draws a weapon, but I’m not hiding what I am. Nor the authority that comes with being the wandering magician of an era.

The TSA officer who twitched steps forward. “Use of the word ‘jaysome’ means an in-depth examination and at the least missing a flight,” he says very quietly.

“I imagine so. But do you want to be the one who stops Jay from having an adventure?”

He’s never met Jay, but he’s heard stories. When you’re eleven and can do bindings on levels even magicians barely know exist, a lot of stories spring up. Most of them good, because Jay seeks nothing more than adventures and making friends.

The ones about me are generally something else entirely.

“You’re the wandering magician,” the officer says slowly.

I nod.

“You saved my brother. Niagara Falls, 2011. He still has scars from the waterfall trying to eat him.”

“Wrong place and wrong time. It happens. This isn’t that: Jay wanted to fly on a plane. You have my word that nothing will go wrong.” And it is one of my talents to speak truths that can’t be ignored.

The other officers step back, and I walk through the magician. It doesn’t go off even though my phone is still in my pocket. One TSA agent is staring at my metal belt buckle, but won’t meet my gaze as I’m waved on through. Charlie lets out a breath of relief.

We head toward a plane that isn’t a dragon in disguise and I just hope I can keep Jay from having too many adventures on the flight. Jay dashes on ahead to find food at a restaurant and Charlie looks over at me. The god inside her eyes is quiet, her own power held in check.

“Twenty says Jay has at least five adventures.”

“That’s not even a bet,” I say as we snag Jay before he can order three meals for himself and draw even more attention.

*

We’re allowed to board the plane first, and Charlie tries not to have hysterical laughter at that. Jay is, of course, quite proud of that and begins talking to the airplane once we’re on board. It is rather shocked anyone can speak airplane and wisely does not take Jay up on his offer to give it dinosaur wings.


I hand Charlie forty dollars before she can say a single word.  

On Jaysome Bees

The hive buzzes and buzzles and the bees swarm and dance with bindings. I’m texting Charlie and friends on tumblr and also helping the bees because stinging and dying isn’t fair at all. Only bees are pretty complexicated so I’m figuring out the shape of them and their wishes but it gets weirdy because there’s lots of human bindings that are not about bees and I’m trying to start again when the beekeeper walks up only they aren’t in an outfit at all!

“What are you doing?”

“I’m helping bees make a hive and you’re not wearing a beekeeping outfit you know!”

The beekeeper pauses. “A beekeeping outfit includes a mask so bees do not sting you. It is not, in general, deciding to wear yellow clothing with black stripes.”

“Oh! You’re just wearing a suit though, but I guess the fae like suits?”

The beekeeper stops entirely. “You are Jay, then?”

“Yup!”

“It is rather disconcerting that you see through glamours so easily.”

“Okay. I’ll try to be more concerting next time!”

The beekeeper stares at me in a really Charlie way for a moment. “Ah. Of course. You are, however, not needed here. I am helping the bees.”

“But they die after they sting people and! you’re not helping fix that?!”

The beekeeper takes a few steps back. “No. I invented the stories that bees were dying off in order to get humans more interested in them. It has been an interesting experiment.”

“Huh?”

“More bees die being transported places than from other causes; you won’t see activists protesting at those sites even if they should be. It will not get the coverage they desire, even if in my experience it is the activism that is not seen that matters the most. If your goal is to be seen, then that is the focus rather than actual help.”

“Uhm. I’m not sure I understand why you’d do that?”

“To test bindings.” The fae smiles. “Why else is anything done? Bindings are the shape of things, attempting bindings the wishes that bind the world together. You know this better than most do, I imagine.”

I frown and study the fae for a moment. “So you’re making fake bindings so the bees feel better about themselves?”

“In essence, yes. I am determining how important humans are to other species in terms of attention and inattention. The experiment has been jarred by a few magicians ‘helping’ bees in their cities. Most did not, presumably aware of the truth of the matter. You are another wrinkle in this.”

“So you’re hurting everyone for no reason?”

The fae sighs. “You do not understand –.”

“Maybe not, but I bet Honcho does.” And I do a wishing, which is asking Honcho to be here and he steps out of the air.

The fae looks more scared of Honcho than of me, which is right cuz Honcho is Honcho!

“Wandering magician. This is not –.”

“Jay. Bind the fae.” I do so and Honcho walks about them, and to the bees, and back over. “Bee colonies collapse all the time, in cycles no one understands. Unless there is a fae who is those cycles. You don’t like forever,” Honcho says softly, “but near enough, long enough for a hobby to get – dangerously close to obsession in ways that aren’t good at all. It might be better if you weren’t like that.”

And Honcho smiles. “I think the shape of you should be this,” and the fae is entirely different between moments and very, very shocked.

“What is – what did you –” the fae gets out.

“I taught you a lesson. I don’t expect it to stick,” he says, and gestures for me to follow and we walk away.

Some of the bees sting the fae, and the fae seems shocked it hurts and runs away!

“Honcho?” I ask.

“The fae is learning a lesson, Jay. Like Charlie sometimes wants you to.”

“Wow! That’s a really important lesson, then!”


“Yes. Yes, it is,” Honcho says, and makes a door back to the hotel room and we have lunch and then a new adventure!  

Tabop

“Hi! I sensed some broken bindings and –.”

He muffles a scream, a boy not older than a Jay, spins toward me. “Who – what – you can’t be here – is this a trick?” falls out, whisper-quiet in the bedroom. His eyes are wide with terrors.

“Jaysome isn’t a trick and I am pretty good at it!”

“But – my parents – if anyone is over –. I don’t know what you are, but you can’t be here,” and the words are almost magician-like, pleading like a command.

“Huh?”

“I don’t know how you got into my room, but they’ll –.” He stills, fear falling inward. “You have to go.”

A door opens, and it was locked from the other side. A man looms, shadows gathered about him. “Tyler? What is – what in the fuck is this?” and he is only human, but his voice –.

The boy stumbles. He is pale, and brave in terror. “It’s not what it looks like, dad, it’s not –.”

“You are not allowed guests. What if they find out? What if they learn?” is demanded.

Tyler is shaking, and bindings are breaking because of the ones forming.

“You are ten. That is far too old to wet your bed,” the father says, and –.

“Oopses happen you know,” I say, firm as a Jay.

He turns, and his hand is open and solid.

I’m quick like a Jay and tough like a Jay but there are bindings he can do in this room. To hit, to harm. I hit the wall, bounce, stand. He moves in for another blow.

Tyler is in front of me. “I don’t know who this is, or how they got in. I don’t, dad!”

I grab the next blow in bindings before it reaches Tyler, pushing the man back. There is a woman behind him, and Tyler lets out a small wounded sound.

“You’re hurting him, and that’s not jaysome at all!”

They move in. Certain. Sure of their power and control.

I reach into bindings. Touch Tyler’s. I’m not Charlie, to pull out energy. Not Honcho, to see deep into things. But bindings have history, and he’s scared and always scared and hurting and hurt all because he wets a bed. And other things, but I don’t understand them at all cuz there’s nothing jaysome about what they do to their son.

There are other children in the house. Hiding too. Scared.

“Honcho would do terrible things to you,” I say. “And Charlie might do worse. I’m not them. I don’t do human things.”

And I smile, and it’s not a smile a Jay does because there’s too many teeth and they’re sharp and some aren’t teeth at all. There is being a jaysaurus. And then there is being a jaysaurus. And then, too, there is being Jayseltosche. Which is even bigger in all the bad ways of the word.

I reach inside. No binding. Nothing like that, me to me. Hi? Time to wake up, I say. Need you.

And I smile again and it’s not a smile at all and there are bindings breaking and I remake them and twist them into new shapes and I’m breaking the rules Honcho told me about not doing bindings on people but I’m not Jay right now and I don’t care. They twist, and again, and I let go of the smile, and settle back down into Jay.

Even my fingernails hurt a bit.

Tyler is staring at me. Even Honcho has never seen me like that. He’s not afraid. He’s crying, but not afraid, and he knows what I did because I let him sense the bindings.

“Thank you,” he whispers.

The parents have left. To another room, shaken. Broken of their power, for now and ever.

“That was a really bad bindings,” I whisper, and: “There’s others like that, but I don’t know if I can –.” And I don’t because it hurt.

“I’ll be jaysome,” he says and means it and I’m crying and we’re crying and it’s okay.

It shouldn’t be, but it’s okay because he’s tough like a Tyler and a human and his jaysome is a really good one too!

I find Honcho outside. He just looks at me. Hugs me, gently. Offers ice cream, and I know he’s doing lots of helping and fixings too so I eat a lot and Honcho looks at me after.

“That was pretty brave of you, Jay.”

“Nope. I was doing what is right and that’s doing what is right, and –.”

“Jay.”

And he is Honcho and I just nod and follow him outside. I have another good cry at the hotel, and it is a good one and he just holds me and presses a finger to my lips when I try and talk.

“There are hard lessons you’ll have to learn, and one of them – this one – is that there are things that can’t be solved by being jaysome. And no, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But –.”

“You didn’t,” he repeats, and I’m crying again and held again and I don’t understand Tyler’s parents even if I saw every binding they had and Honcho says it’s okay not to, sometimes, that sometimes one can know so much that they can’t be wise and it’s dangerous to learn what you can’t unknown.


And he says lots else I think, but I fall asleep and almost dream.   

Of Broken Mirrors

The bathroom on the fourth floor no longer works, the entire fourth floor of the school having been closed for budget reasons. That doesn’t mean no one has keys, and for two months I’ve had them. Which is one reason why I’m leading the new transfer to the bathroom even if he’s only been here one day. He’s in grade 10; if he was older, I’d wonder if he was a narc. I think it’s because he’s ordinary. He looks so ordinary that it seems odd, especially in high school.

That, and he asked about the stories of the bathroom and if I could show it to him. It’s only been two months, but the stories have spread like wildfires spread. I said yes without thinking. It didn’t even occur for me to ask who he’d spoken with, or find out if one of his parents were on the school board or something like that. Normally I’m more careful. I know I should be, but he asked and we’re at the doorway before I’ve really begun to process it.

“The trick is to turn on the lights, look into the mirror and say ‘Jay’ three times. Like Beetlejuice, and the creature appears and grants wishes,” I say, the spiel easy from my tongue. No one talks about Jeff. Most of the time I don’t even think about what he saw, but the new kid’s eyes are weird. Older than they should be, like he’s seen some shit.

“Perhaps you should say the words.”

“I already have.”

“Ah. When?”

“Two months ago. I was the first who did,” I say without even thinking. “I heard the whisper, spoke the words and met Jay. He helped me. He helps people.” Not Jeff, but I manage not to say that out loud. Maybe some people just can’t be helped.

The bathroom smells bad. Two months since anyone cleaned it properly, but that’s part of the thrill, of feeling like you’re in a horror game. The new kid looks at the door, then at me. “Then you’d best follow.”

And those words. He speaks them like them an adult does, with this – this weight and I find myself following without thinking. He opens the door even though I haven’t unlocked it yet, flicks the lights on.

Some of Jeff’s blood was never cleaned up. He ignores that, staring at the cracked mirror above the sink for a moment before he turns to me. “I’m going to need you to call him, Donna.”

He seems taller, now. His gaze holds mine, not letting me go.

“You’re not a student, are you?” He says nothing to that, but his voice is like Jay’s. There is power to it. A force more than him, demanding I act. “Jay. Jay. Jay,” I say, louder each time, more defiant with each breath.

The cracked mirror spills out a thick blue fog that swirls and then shivers in the air. “Donna. I need others,” Jay’s voice whispers, only this time it is sharper. Uglier.

The student coughs, only he’s taller than I am now. In his mid-twenties, but still ordinary and unremarkable.

Jay screams, the sound ugly and nasty and hungry and moves. The fog has teeth now. Claws. Something too much and not enough like eyes.

It quivers in the air as the man holds up a hand. “Your first problem was Donna, I think. She wanted to know secrets: it let her pierce the glamour I’d asked a fae for, but it also meant she’d know what you were in time. The second was using Jay’s name. Clever, but eventually Jay would find out. I’m not sure I want to think too hard about what Jay wold do once he found out you might hurt the name Jay, or the status of jaysome. Which means I came instead when the rumour reached my ears. Superstition is powerful, but one doesn’t toy with magics that old without a very good reason.”

The thing I thought was a spirit writhes and screams, held in the air.

“You stole energy, will, power. And one of them saw you too closely, so you broke them.”

“Jeff.” My voice isn’t steady at all.

“I have power, magician,” the thing hisses in a voice like breaking glass.

“Yes, but it is all stolen. Mine is not.” And this man – this magician – squeezes one hand, and the creature is gone. The world ripples weirdly, and its gone. He presses one hand ot the air before turning to me. “My apologies for the deception. I doubted it would have manifested had it known the wandering magician was here.”

“What – what was – is. Oh, God, Jeff –.”

Donna.” My name contains echoes I have never heard, and I fall silent in a strange wonder at the future it promises in possibilities. “The entity used you: that’s what creatures like that do. It helped you, and you thought it was helping others. I’ll have Jay – the real one, that is – help this Jeff, and see about helping others it might have hurt.”

“What do I do?” I whisper.

He smiles, and the smile is surprisingly gentle given what his voice can do. “Make sure this room isn’t used. Guard it, and pass the guarding onto others. Other entities could use this place, could build on the superstition to try and find a way into the world. Your task is to stop that from happening.”

I nod. I have something to do. Something to fix. “What if I need help?”

And he tells me a cell phone number, and pulls me back into the world I know. “Call that number; someone will answer. Let them know you want to speak to the wandering magician.”

I nod. He turns, he walks outside. I check my phone, and find the number is already in my contacts. Under Jay.


I have no idea what this Jay really is. I hope I never need to find out.  

Following Jay’s Footsteps

There are journeys that are impossible. This is why we take them.

I walk through a door that doesn’t exist, feeling it close behind me. The ground is soft under bare feet, though I came here wearing shoes. My phone isn’t in my pocket at all, and my wallet is missing all its change. It’s summer. Green trees, a bright sun, but the sky is a thousand shades of blue and the forest about me moves away, or is gone. There is warm stone under my feet, though it feels cold as well. About me is a caldera of white stone, looking as though it is made from marble.

I am the wandering magician, but there is nothing here of wandering. Nothing my magic can made a ward from. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. “Hello.”

What are you?

The voice is cold, despite the heat of summer. A voice of judgement without mercy and honour devoid of kindness. A fae voice, though deeper and less wild than any fae I’ve known before. “The wandering magician of this era. The one who was prisoned under the first tree. I walk with Jayseltosche, and Charlie. You are the Summer Court. A place of judgement for the fae, to the fae A glamour so deep and potent almost no fae likely believe you exist.”

You should not know this.

“I don’t know the fae well, for all that I am. I know of the fortresses the fae stand guard at to protect the universe, and the works they do in some worlds. I always wondered why we had myths of seelie and unseelie courts when nothing of the fae linked into that. I imagine judgement is made just because they don’t have a notion of being judged to twist their actions and motives.”

You presume much, mortal. Were this the Winter Court, you would be dead already.

I snort. “I have no idea how often fae get judged, or on what, or to what end: but I doubt you’re that stupid.”

Stupid.

The word is strange. Not flat, not cold. Not even bemused. I doubt anyone has spoken to the Court like this in a long time, if ever.

“To judge the fae and be hidden from them requires a great deal of power. I won’t deny you have that, but the fae tend to be powerful only in dangerous ways. Those with depth enough to perceive Jay and survive – all too many of you only consider his capacity for destruction. He could unmake the universe, yes, but that’s not a singular power, not even a unique one that other powers aren’t capable of as well. And yet powers like yourself fixate on that: you look at what he can unmake, the things he can unbind and sever: but that’s nothing next to jaysome.

“Inside the universe or Outside, these are truths we all know. One of them is that there are no happy ending. Some argue there are no endings to try and hide from that. But you know better. So do I. Jay does not. He could make happy endings that nothing can stand against. That is the core of everyone I do: to make sure he understands endings and accepts them.

“I have some power as a magician. You have some as the Summer Court. How often is your will denied in you place of power?”

Never.

I don’t point out Jay’s arrival and departure were that. “Imagine that you are Jay. Imagine that your place of power was everywhere.” The court goes still and silent. “Everything I am teaching Jay is about how to let things go. I don’t pretend to be good at it. I don’t even pretend it’s going to work. But there will come a time when he has to learn that lesson. You don’t want to make that time be right now.”

You journeyed this far from the realms you know to threaten me?

“No. I’m stating a fact. A fact isn’t a threat unless you make it so. That, and I wanted to see what Jay had met and be certain he wasn’t confused. Or had created you.”

The silence that follows that statement contains my death as a promise barely held in check.

“Jay finds adventures. They also find him. It’s part of being eleven and from far Outside the universe. Also of jaysome. I’m pretty sure you existed before Jay visited you, but I felt it best to make sure.”

You will leave.

I don’t press my luck. I reach for Jay, since we’re linked together, and he makes a door that I step through. He asks if I had a good adventure and then begins telling me all about new friends he made on tumblr. I listen, head to the small bar fridge the hotel suite has, pour myself a drink. I have no idea what to make of this, so I wait, then once Jay runs down I tell him I lost my phone and he can go buy me a new phone.

He grins hugely at that and vanishes to have another adventure.


I wonder if the Winter Court will try and find me, and if Spring and Autumn have courts as well. I pour myself another drink. And I wait.  

The Wind Talker

I make friends when walking down a street, because a Jay is pretty good at that and I talk with lots of things. And some of them are pretty surprised a Jay can talk to them – sometimes even that they can talk! – but my new friend isn’t at all.

“I have an uncle who is a tornado.”

“Oh?”

“Everyone talks about him. Not just other winds. The waves. Storms.” The zephyr let’s out a sigh smaller than it is. “Even the earth knows his name.”

“Oooh! So you’re all kinds of sad-face about being a gentle breeze?!”

“Yes. I’ve felt you change winds. Move storms. Make things – more. Bigger. Terrifying!” Each word a gust, and after the zephyr barely manages a whisper: “Change me. Help me.”

“Jaysome is jaysome; it doesn’t have to be like that you know!” I stop walking so it isn’t tired when following a Jay. No one else is about. “Honcho knows that change isn’t always a helping. Sometimes help is learning to be you, not wanting to be other things. It’s a happiness if no one knows your name like they know tornadoes and typhoons and lots of other things starting with t I bet!”

“But I’m so small.”

“Uh-huh. And they were too once. They grew, and you can too: but you don’t have to grow the way they did. You can be big and not be feared!”

The breeze quivers when I’m firm like a Jay, but keeps on going too!

“But you are big. You are Jay, of the bindings, and the wind that howls between the worlds knows your name.”

“Well, I am jaysome. But that’s me being me and making friends and doing loads of helpings. Being big is more this -.”

And I reach, for a moment. Down inside, but also sideways and upside-ahead as well. It’s not waking up. (it hurts.) It’s not – it –

rememory
stirring-undone
being-wholeness
input-GIGO-output
darkness-light
flight

I let go. Push it away, and back, and far to the edges of jaysome. I think I almost don’t manage it, but I’m not sure because it’s the biggest binding I’ve ever done! I’m sweating and I have a headache, which is pretty new and my head doesn’t want to stop aching.

“... that is very big,” the zephyr says in a voice so small I almost don’t hear it.

“Uh-huh! There are lots of kinds of big, and some bigs even a Jay doesn’t want to be. Being small is better since it’s hard to big like a storm and not hurt and have people scared of you!”

“Thank you,” the breeze says, and goes off to be a breeze and nothing like a storm at all!

I head back to the hotel and hope Honcho can help with my headache.


The Yarrowing

The monster did not have a cave
The monster never, ever waved:
Only claws that rend and tear
Bloodied fur, this hungry lair!

The magician wandered inside
Without even a Jay by his side!
“All this death, the grim release -
There are options more than these.”

The monster growled and bared a tooth
The magician hit it with the roof.
“I don’t fear you, thus I defang.”
“Die!,” the monster lunged, harangued.

“Look at the damage humans have done;
All you do nothing next to the ozone.
You aren’t scary when next to me
All you do is kill, and never softly.”

“I am a monster,” the monster said.
“Yes, but one day you’ll be dead.
And no one will be left to remember you -
True fear is that which outlives you.”

The monster thought that over
And with a shiver did discover
The magician spoke only truth
The world itself a bitter proof.

“Leave your cave behind you;
A new destiny will find you.”
And the monster walked outside
And met a Jay who did not hide!

“Hi, Monster friend, a new face
Lets you be monstrously acesome!”
And where the monster had been
A flower gleamed unlike a grin.

“Ah, Jay?” the magician asked,
Cuz this wasn’t a jaysome task.
“What kind of binding was this
If the monster can’t even hiss?”

“Yarrow is poisonous a little bit,
I’s kinda not a monster I admit
But I had a prompting to win
And this is now a shoo-in!”

The magician spoke no words
Wise in the ways of the absurd
The monster was left to flower
As its only source of power

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Mountain

There is a monster in the mountain. Everyone knows this who knows anything at all in the village. Sometimes the monster speaks, and the world shudders. Rarely, the monster screams and the stars themselves take new shapes. The village survives, though no one in it knows why. Sometimes kings come, and armies that fly with steel that sings, but the monster merely looks and they are unravelled and unmade.

The stranger came to the village in a year worse than others. Most crops had failed, and the stranger walked and listened to stories. He carried something within him that drew stories from others. After, he nodded and walked toward the mountain.

The locals have no records of what happened next.

*

“Jay.”

The monster emerges from the cave. He is twelve. He looks human, even now. “That is not my name.”

“Devourerer. Entropos. The Walking Emptiness. Those are the names I hear, when I ask of you.”

“My name is Jayseltosche.” the monster hisses.

“You are not worthy of it.”

The monster raises a hand, then slowly lowers it. He swears in a language extinct for many years.

“You can try again, but you have to know it won’t work. My skill in this is far more than your own. And know this as well: if we fight, the village at the base of the mountains will be gone.”

“It is under my protection,” the monster says, voice not at all empty.

“There has not been a child born to the village in five years. Every year since you arrived, their crops have lessened with each year that passed.”

“Don’t you dare talk to me like that!”

“In a tone of truth? I will if that is what I have to say. This place did not ask for your protection. Not to be some sort of point you could make to yourself.”

The monster stiffens, says nothing.

“We could fight. You can’t win, but we could fight. At the least, the local galaxy would not survive the result.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because you can’t keep hiding. You have to move, to be in order that you may become.”

“And if I do not?”

The stranger sighs. “I can force your hand, monster.”

“You are not that much older than me.”

“No, no I am not. But I was you once. And I am older, and I can be nastier than you’ve ever dreamt of being.”

The monster laughs. The sound is harsh, wild and fractured. Had any birds in the world survived his gaze to the sky, the laugh would have killed them all. There are no insects left, after the laugh. “Try me. Older me, older Jay who isn’t any more jaysome than I. Try!”

The stranger sighs. “You should know what springs forth when I try.”

The monster hurls power then. The mountain screams, unmade and remade between moments. The village rocks visibly like a drop of rain in a wild ocean. The villages cry out, huddling together as if their fur can somehow warm them against a cold that knows nothing of kindness.

The stranger does not move. His voice carries, because he is fifteen and remembers being twelve. Because he is older in so many ways than his younger self. But even so, he almost hesitates before he speaks: “He knows. He sees, he watches, and he knows.”

The monster turns a colour even ghosts cannot manage. He flinches visibly, and only terrified madness stares from his eyes. He vanishes.

“Well. At least he’s left the mountain.” The stranger sighs, begins restoring bindings to the world. “Sometimes, just sometimes, I almost wish I couldn’t move through time.”

No one responds, and the stranger seems to be alone.

*

This is probably for the best.

Wishes Unasked For

I kept your secrets to the grave. I don’t see how you could expect more from me. What are secrets, after we are dead? What import is all the worries of life when we have let go? I am dead, as you are, and yet the exorcist came with questions. And with power.

Perhaps nothing is truly dead. Perhaps nothing is wholly final even after memory is lost. Being a ghost is almost proof of this.

It is a strange thing, to be dead and yet know fear. But a god burned in her eyes almost like your gaze and enochian rolled from her tongue in practised cadences. She could have unmade me with or without it, but did nothing save present credentials, ask questions without forcing answers. A sword kept sheathed. I know enough of power to understand how rare that gift is.

She asked why I wasn’t in the Grey Lands. Spoke of them easily, her eyes stubborn with knowledge. And so I told her. About you. About us. About what bound me to this place.

The exorcist smiled after. You used to hurt me with smiles; hers hurt me not at all though I can see the scar it left in you. “The wandering magician can deal with this, if that is your wish.” She spoke the words with terrible gentleness. And showed me some of what the magician could do, which was far greater than what Charlie might do.

“No.” I don’t know if I said that for you, or for me. I still have no idea. I think there are punishments too great for any crime. I wonder if I should wish I thought otherwise.

The exorcist nodded. “Very well,” Charlie said without judgement. And then she bound you. To my will. To my wishes. I haven’t hurt you yet. I could. I can. I have power over you, thanks to what she did. I did not ask for it, but she could – she had to act. The living must and I could not deny her that.

I’d like to think some part of me wanted you to be hurt. That I was not that far lost. I do not know. I am not afraid of you now. It is strange to say that. To see that. I could destroy you, but you helped to make me who I am. I cannot hate you for that and not hate myself as well. It is a truth the living do not often understand.

I am leaving now. I have left you a way out as well from this place. If you can find it. You will need to grow a conscience first. I am not certain if you can survive that, not and be you.

I do not know what I think of this.


Good bye. I say this for the first time. I think it will be the final one as well.  

Censuring: a warning

Home is still. Not frozen, merely still. Every moment a silence, every ripple flowing back into quiet. I heard a bell ring out only once in all the times I have been here. There is a lake made out of the sky, and everything is translucent casting reflections of neverwere. It is the closest thing to a home I have, and I am never more afraid than when I am here. Outside, I am a Power. Outside, I am feared and respected. Here, I am barely Moshe. It takes everything I have to hold my beauty together. The one thing that is me, the one thing that defined me long before I was claimed by this place.

My beauty is not stripped away. I do not know if this is a kindness. Awareness shivers through me, studies. Pushes and pulls. I have no secrets, not here, and never from this place.

“You drew on my power near the anomaly.”

They aren’t words. They’re reality, each one inside my mind without a need for speech or even thought. I whimper, unable not to at the force of the concepts bearing down upon me. Anomaly means the space the inhabitants call the universe.

“The wandering magician was being foolish. I returned him to his place. He was seeking –.”

Stillness runs through me. For a moment even the Far Realm I am in, the entity I serve. For a moment it isn’t, and then I am again. Me again. Here again.

“I apologize.” The voice of the Realm is different. Subtler. Less terrible by a small degree.

“Apologize?”

“I unmade you for a moment. You are restored.”

I say nothing as loudly as I can even as my body starts shaking. The Realm waits, and waits again. Nothing so small as judgement regards me. “This is the seat of your power. The place of you. You do not make mistakes here?”

“Nothing is beyond error.”

I wrap my arms about myself. “The wandering magician is – I am concerned. About him, for him. Jaysel –.”

“Not that whole name. Not here.”

The words are flat, without anything behind them. “Jay is only a part of this,” I whisper.

“To you, perhaps. But not to others.”

“I do not understand. He has no desire to leave the universe.”

“The desire is rooted in fear. There are motives stronger than fear.”

“There are. The wandering magician will not stop his questioning. I have no answers to give him, not in this. There are things I am forbidden to know?”

“Explain me, Walker.”

“I am a Walker of the Far Realms. Of your Realm. You are – we don’t use names. The Stillness Between Falling. That is my term, because rain does not fit you. Others Realms have other names. Functions? This is something far beyond me. Each Walker is chosen, but you also have Aspects. Part of you that can – act, when you need to. Mostly you watch each other. I do not pretend to understand.”

“The anomaly has Powers within it. Time. Space. Justice. Ideas given form. Form defines function. The Far Realms are a means to an end. Others are not as safe. Not all are Realms who could become; some cannot become. It is a danger to draw their attention.”

“Like a fire calling a moth.” I feel regard turn inward.

“Yes. If the moth could consume the light.”

I stare. Jay’s progenitor could devour a –. I cut the thought off, as if the thought could make it happen. “And Jay?”

“We do not know. It is thought: the next stage in the – evolution you would deem a war between us all. Or an end game. We do not know.”

“And I have Jay pissed off at me.”

I didn’t know the Far Realm could laugh. The sound is still stillness, but somehow it ripples as well. “Yes. Your survival is useful in how others perceive my strength. There will be no punishment, but do not draw upon Me again without asking.”

The words are not a command. I have no idea what to make of this. I say I will try not to, and then am back where I was in a wild spot in Outside, negotiating the end to a conflict as only I can.

I am so distracted I almost forget to seduce my target.


I am scared to go back to the universe. I fear I will have no choice.  

A Ruthless Curse

There are things that never happen in our family. In others, yes. On the news, naturally. But until now, our family had been apart from tawdry displays. We come from old money. Old money does not demean, does not debase. It does not strike.

I raise my hand to the welt on the left side of my face. Stare at Father.

He does not lower his hand. There is a look on his face I’ve never seen. In others dealing with him, yes. In boardrooms, at private meetings. I’ve seen the fear others have of him, and even of myself. Until today I’d never seen my father afraid. He says something I lost in my shock.

“Emma.” His voice yanks me, cold and hard and furious. “What did you do last week?”

“Nothing. Nothing unusual. I swear it,” I manage. Father paces his second study. Angry, afraid. Like something in a cage. His size, his muscles, the presence of him all seems different as I step back. Beside me, Kev is rubbing his face in turn. He’s not Father; his size doesn’t include trips to the gym. You’d think him soft, if you didn’t look into his eyes. I take after mom. We keep quiet, try not to be seen. Do the work that doesn’t need a public face or the power that comes with a family that can trace it’s wealth back over six centuries.

Father turns to Kev. “One of you did something. Something unusual. Stupid. Small.”

Kev stirs. “I hit an old man. He was small, in my way going through Grant Gate Park. Is that the kind of small you mean?” he demands, his voice biting.

Father turns. “Describe him.”

Kev is taken aback for a second. “Old. Thin. Green and black clothing, balding. Red hair, I think?”

Father swears. Loudly, commonly, vulgarly. For the first time, it looks like Kev understands something is badly wrong. Father turns to the doorway and bellows. Mother enters. She is calm to his fear. Steady and grim. “I called in favours.” Mother’s face is thin and hard. “I had to go through the Bank.”

“Banks do what you –,” Kev begins.

“Shut up.” Father doesn’t move, but Kev falls silent. “He hurt one. Insulted honour, this close to St. Patrick’s Day.”

“One what?” I ask.

“A leprechaun.”

I’m too shocked to say anything. Kev laughs, but only the once before Father backhands him right to the ground. I didn’t know Father even knew how to backhand someone. We’re old money, and that means you don’t do such things. You simply don’t.

Kev gets up slowly. His eyes are wide, chins wobbling. “Explain?”

“We have wealth, but there are other wealths. Other powers. The world is large. There are rituals. Initiations. We were going to induct Emma into them this year. You, I was not certain about.”

Kev doesn’t move. I wonder if I’m the only one who sees the killing look he gives Father. “Not certain?”

“There are many kinds of strength. Restraint is not yours, in certain matters.” The words are flat, inarguable. “The Bank is the bank that runs all other banks. Our account has been in good standing since the Bank existed. It is not. The stock of every company we are part of has tanked in the last week.”

“Pissing off a leprechaun does that.” The voice in the doorway is mild, and the man who enters younger than Kev and I. He looks ordinary, but Father actually bows to him. I didn’t think Father knew how to bow. Mom does as well, formally thanking him.

The ordinary-seeming man smiles slightly. “You don’t need to bow. The Bank and I have been at odd for some time.”

“We heard about Raven’s Bluff.” Father hesitates. “We could rebuild the town, ensure such a thing never happens again.”

“It won’t, but the offer is accepted.” The man turns to Kev. “Leprechauns control currency, which includes stocks and markets. There aren’t many of them, but anger one and an entire nation can have a Great Depression. Focused, they can take down any company, any family, and wealth. Me? Normally I wouldn’t care, but if your family falls it means a lot of other people lose lives and livelihoods of their own. You’ll need to make a formal apology.”

“He was in my way,” Kev says. “All this silly –.”

“Lives will be lost if your family falls.” The stranger doesn’t raise his voice, but it contains echoes. Edges even Father’s cannot hold. Kev whimpers, unable to break the gaze trained on him. “You can help stop this from happening.”

“He doesn’t know.” Father’s voice is almost soft.

“He should have.” The stranger turns, and Father actually steps back.

“I know. I’m sorry.” I gasp. I didn’t think Father knew that word, not like other people do. “I can pay you,” father adds. “Wards, protections: you name your price.”

“You don’t want to know my price.”

“Magician. Please.”

The magician shakes his head. “There isn’t a ward or protection that can stop a leprechaun one has insulted. Slow it down for a time, yes, but not stop it.”

“You could stop it.”

“Oh, if I had to. There are few things I can’t do, if I really need to do them. For those, I have allies. But this is your error: that of your family, your son, the choices you all made. Which means it’s up to you to fix it.”

“And if we don’t?” Mother asks.

“Then I do. Your family falls, and those who might have feel with them. Everyone underneath: they survive and thrive. There are bindings that can arrange that, but the results of them would be – problematic. Quite likely it would involve your family being excised from history.”

“Magicians can’t do that,” Father says, and he almost sounds like himself.

The magician snorts. Nothing else. He doesn’t grow, his shadow doesn’t change, but a moment later I can’t shake the feeling he’s the only real person in the room. “Jeremy Dupree.” He says Father’s name like it doesn’t matter, as if the Family does not matter. “I am the wandering magician. Your son risks ruining thousands of lives: all the companies your family is part, every worker, entire businesses. I won’t let that happen.”

And he won’t. We all know it as surely as we know anything else.

“I could. If Kev won’t, I will,” I get out.

“This is nonsense! We’re too big to fail,” Kev snarls. “Father, you are –.”

The air opens up. The magician reaches up, as if peeling back the world, and an older man steps through. Green coat. Black jeans. Balding red hair: you wouldn’t pay attention to him, let alone give him the time of day as he limps through some other space to this one.

“I’m sorry. On behalf of my brother,” I say.

The old man stares at me. His eyes are green, bright despite the lines and wear etched into his face. He turns to the magician. “You got a Dupree to apologize and mean it without using Jay at all.”

“I did.” The magician doesn’t move. I have no idea what this Jay is, but I’m pretty certain I don’t want to know.

The old man snaps his fingers. There is an actual rainbow between them, and his teeth glitter gold for a moment. “Done. The curse is lifted. But it will return if they bring harm to those below them.”

The magician nods and walks out the door. Mother steps aside without even thinking. Deferring, as she doesn’t even to Father. Father pulls out his phone, looks at it. Makes a sound.

“All that, because my son pushed you?”

“All that, for many other reasons.” And the old man – the leprechaun – vanishes into thin air.

*

We never speak about that day. It doesn’t come up, but two weeks later is when Kev begins losing his hair. He spends most of his inheritance trying to stop that, despite knowing the family name will pass through me. This isn’t discussed either. I watch my brother fall apart, and my parents never notice. I get to meet other magicians in different cities. Other things as well. Our wealth is a hoard dragons fight over. Even for our Family, that takes some getting used to.

I spot the old man two months after that. I’m not looking for him: I just pay more attention to the world than I did before. He isn’t balding anymore: his hair is bright red, and he looks at least a decade younger.

“Emma Dupree.” He nods.

I nod back. I’d like to say something about my brother, but I think he knows everything already. “What happens now?”

“How do you mean?”

“Our family line has to continue, but through me. It means I have to marry, and we haven’t recovered from what you did to us. Do I call you Rumpelstiltskin?”

He laughs. The laugh is soft, and he bows to me. “Some have. I have been called many names. The marriage will be arranged with one of my children: what comes of it it will be up to the both of you.”

I wonder if all this was somehow for our Family, and for his own as well. I can’t bring myself to ask. I arrange for a meeting with Mother’s calm and head back home.

There is a rainbow in the sky over the house. I’m pretty certain it’s a warning as much as an omen. I wish I was brave enough not to care, or even to walk away.


But I’m not. If I’m lucky, it’s in other ways than these.  

A New Joy

The Xolt war machine isn’t a machine, as other civilizations understand it. The Warmaker is too vast, blotting out the sky like a dark sun come to roost on a planet. Alien energy weapons harvested from a thousand worlds carve into another conquest with their power. A hundred machines made to plunder dig deep into the crust of the world. It sings as it works, the song a grinding of metals and sundered dreams woven together. It is said that the Xolt tried to destroy it once, even to turn it off, and they failed.

Not that the Warmaker turned on them. It has simply moved on and forgot them. Left them to the mercies of their own victims, though it’s doubtful that was intended. The Warmaker needs energy to survive, and all it knows is hunger. I’ve gathered the last of the Fleet: everything we could beg, find, steal. It was on Hospitalia IV, last and most protected of all the hospital worlds. That meant nothing. We all knew people who had been saved that, and more who had peace in their final days.

“Captain. Ma’am.” I turn to Ensign Charlie. I have no idea if that’s their real name or not. “Camera system, ma’am.”

I walk over. Every camera has been trained onto one street. I want to ask about the misuse of resources, but the Warmaker has stopped. The entire thing. No weapons are firing, no energies burning or discharging. It looked smaller, held in place, but somehow more menacing. “Transit. Myself, Squad A. Now.”

The transit system is as unpleasant as ever, but we are on the world a moment later. The others have weapons, ready and primed for any foe. 12 people in the Squad, some of the deadliest fighters in the Fleet. I have no weapon save words.

I can’t find a single one.

A young man stands in front of the entire Warmaker. He is fifteen, a speck before it’s vastness, but somehow his voice carries. “I saw you pass through the Regi Nebula. Darkness and death and wild energies of life and chaos. And I thought: ‘I should tell Logan about this.’ That is what I thought. So I came here. Where I met him last. Where he died. And you came here, because the universe works like that sometimes. I’ve been away from this part of the universe for a while. I was a pirate, and then other things in different places far from here. Trying to see nothing familiar. To be away from faces I might know. It takes work sometimes to not be known, to hide from a universe that knows too many stories about you

“Hiding never took work when I was younger. It was what I was, but every story, every legend, every time I act chipped away at that talent over time. And often all I can do is act. I should have been aware of you sooner. But I’ve been – moping, you might call it, if a Warmaker can mope. Kept waiting for one of Logan’s jokes, for a smile, a shared – and he is gone, and there are none.”

He closes one hand. The boy – creature – closes a hand, and the Warmaker shrinks down. Squeezes down, impossibly small, and crushed. There is an explosion. Many of them, somehow contained by the same gesture. He is not hurt. He does not even look tired, at least not of that. There is no sign of the Warmaker at all. As if it has been crushed below the subatomic with that simple gesture.

I walk forward. I manage the steps on my third try. He turns. He looks fifteen still, and sad, but his smile is real and wan. “Sorry.”

“Sorry?” I get out.

“I should have sensed it years ago and dealt with it. I was – doing other things. Evading memories. Not being jaysome.”

I stare. There are stories, but they are only stories. “You’re Jay? That Jay?”

He looks almost bashful when he nods.

“What about the people?” That’s Rusk, behind me, demanding. “The Warmaker killed thousands here!”

“And will kill no more.”

“You have power!”

“I do. I do have power. Logan once accused me of evading responsibility, but it’s never that at all. I’m not a god, not like you want, not with everything you’d give that name, Rusk Orisha. Any god worthy of the name gives up that power or runs away, you understand? Because if they do not, the people they ‘help’ will only remain children and never grow. I lost a friend I cared about deeply. If I was the kind of Power you wish me to be, he would be here today. He is not. Logan died.”

His voice does not crack on that word. He is old beyond easy understanding, a Power beyond any reckoning. I move forward, almost beside him. “Can we help you?”

He blinks. He laughs: small, soft, delighted and surprised. “I think you just did. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be like that.”

“You should. Joy is important,” I say softly.

He draws back. Something about him closes off. Rusk tenses.

“Hiding from joy is – dangerous, for you and for others. A friend died. A close friend, I believe, but that does not mean you have to deny yourself joy. Or their memory. Or the places you once knew. It can’t mean that.”

“I could tell him everything I want to,” and there is nothing in Jay’s voice save truth. “Time doesn’t bind me like it does others. I could go back, see him before – but there are things I don’t dare to do.” He turns to Rusk. “It is not hard, you understand, to bring the dead to life. Technologies do it often: pressure here, movement there. Elecricity and drugs. But when I bring the dead back, I do it from deeper places. They are gone, you understand, and to bring them back I would have to make the dead forget they had died, and then to make everyone else forget that as well. To change bindings on such a scale is not something I should do.”

He does not say it is something he cannot do. Rusk blinks, then nods and steps back. It’s the first time I’ve seen Rusk back down from anything, and he once faced a Hingari in single combat. Everyone else in Squad A is silent. No hands are on weapons. Some things you can’t face with weapons. Not even with words.

“Thank you,” I say. “You stopped the Warmaker. I don’t think we could have, not without too many more dying.” I take a deep breath. A captain bears responsibilities. “I am not your friend. But if you need someone to speak with, as if they were your friend, I could do that. Listen. Talk. It would not be the same – nothing could! - but joy is better than pain. We have tears, and then laughter, and we can transform our pain. If we can, can’t you?”

“Sometimes I feel it is all I should do.” He smiles, gently, and is gone a moment later. But the smile lingers behind. No one from Squad A touches a weapon as we do a scan of the planet. I’m not sure anyone of them will again. All I can hope is that Jay finds someone else to tell stories to before they can consume him.

*

It is four weeks before Rusk comes into my quarters. He looks dazed, eyes wide and scared. “Jay visited me last night. I thought he’d come to you.”

“He told you a story?”

“About an adventure.” And the last word has meanings I can’t parse. Rusk shares nothing.

“Thank you for letting me know.”

He nods. “Captain? Why me?”

“I have no idea. I’m not sure an entity like Jay is meant to be understood, Rusk.”

“Or we understand him far too well,” Rusk whispers, and I think I wasn’t meant to hear the words. He departs.

I have no idea if Jay will ever visit me. I don’t know what to make of that. I make a note of ‘jaysome’ in Rusk’s file, knowing Central will know what it means. I pour myself a drink.


I pretend I am not waiting for Jay.  

The Bluff

The wind picks up and I wrap the cold about myself. The sky is a Rorschach blot of clouds: I make the ward from that as well. Wind and darkness, silence and sound and through it all the voice calling me to this place. There is a youth standing on a bluff overlooking the sea. To the west a wall covered in flowers and vines. Behind me is the door I walked out of. Chipped-paint, the faded blue of a sky that never was and it wants only to creak and moan in the wind, calling out to the world for a new lock so that it can be a door again.

I close it gently, bind it firmly and walk toward the bluff. The young man stands, staring out at the storm, rigid against the wind and cold. He is staring down at the waves crashing into the beach and his body trembles with unrealized purpose.

“Hello.” I keep my tone soft, thread no power into nor under the words. I am a good enough magician that often I can seem like I’m not one at all.

He spins. He is young and quick with it, the knife in his right hand long and jagged with purpose. He holds it with learned skill, the tightness of the knuckles about the blade almost matching the tightness in his face. Shock gives way to fury, for anger is often just a suit of clothing fear puts on. “Back off! I can kill you before I kill myself!”

“I imagine you could, perhaps. But I’m not here because of you.”

He doesn’t understand; it’s hardly a surprise. The thrown knife almost is.

I wrap the wards about it gently, slow the blade, catch the tip of it between two fingers. The blade doesn’t want to cut me, and that’s need enough to fuel so small a magic. I hand it back before he can react.

He takes it, stumbles back. Moves out of his own narrative. “How –? What –?”

“It’s a trick. Many things are.”

He takes a few steps back, this time on purpose. “I made up my mind. You’re not going to stop me.”

“Juan. Many people kill themselves. I have power, yes, but not the power to make such choices for you. That’s not what power is for.”

“I never told you my name.”

“I’m the wandering magician of this era; figuring out people’s names is another trick.” I hold his gaze. “Some things are not tricks, however.

He jerks back with a gasp at the truth under the words.

I smile, hoping to lessen it a little. I’m not Jay, but my kinder smiles aren’t too bad even if I am far better at smiles that aren’t kind at all. “You plan to leap from the bluff after cutting your wrists, yes?”

He nods.

“The knife you stole from your uncle doesn’t want to do that, has no wish to be part of this. It is a tool made for cutting and has no desire to be a weapon.” I hold out my right hand. “If you don’t mind?”

“You want the knife?” He stares at me. He’s far enough outside his own story to begin seeing me: to know the storm isn’t touching me, and that I’m not afraid of him at all. He hands it over, steps back quickly to the bluff.

“Thank you.” I hold out the knife, and it wishes to be home and so it’s a simple matter to bend space for it. Simple but tiring and I turn back toward the house after it vanishes. The broken door opens, the interior showing the hotel room I am staying at over twenty minutes from this place.

“You could stop me.” It’s not a question. Juan’s voice cracks.

“Once. Perhaps. But to prevent it again, or forever, would mean you would no longer be you, Juan. If you wish to live, the choice and reasons must be yours alone. Yours the meaning, and yours the will and understanding of your worth. Anything I could do would only damage that.”

And I walk into the hotel room and close the door, leaving him alone on the bluff. Jay is busy out having adventures with Charlie, which is something of a relief as this isn’t the sort of thing one explains at all. I make myself a drink – tea, with mint in it – and turn the TV on. Sometimes nothing is the hardest thing to do at all.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

General Apology :)

I've neglected this blog longer than I thought I had in general (The facebook status updates file (which I spent the better part of the day getting up to date in itself) was 23K worth of words. Dumped.

So apologies for that insane spam :)

Have over 30 stories in the magician series to post, but I'll spread them out over the next week.


Facebook Status Updates: August 2017

August 2017

Angie dreamed gelato dreams, her only cohesive memory of a five month whirlwind tour of Europe.

The dog walking service printed ads claiming they were a god walking service by mistake.
It did not prevent them from getting clients.

I handed the god what change I could spare. “For a meal.”
I’m always hungry.”
Your kind always are. But there was only so much we could feed you.”
What will you be without us?”
We don’t know yet. It will be interesting to see what we can become without guilt imprisoning us.”
There is more to us than that,” the god said, but even he did not believe.

I asked Jay about times he’d been hurt because power doesn’t prevent you from being hurt. It might give more options in how you deal and respond to it. He told me about losing his sight. About this Honcho leaving him. How do you not have PTSD, I wondered. Hah. You don’t have that, not when you are the trauma. Not that he’d ever see that. Not that he’d ever understand that.”

All Mr. Pickles knows is that something weird has happened here, and Oscars Bend is outside his territory as a magician. So that leaves us to find out what it is and deal with it. Somehow. And we’re going into it blind.”
The other two both nod. I wonder if this is a test, or if Mr. Pickles hates us. It’s hard to tell with cats normally, and when the cat is a magician it’s probably impossible.

The psychic war was simple: one attack, and every spy in the nation forgot every secret password they knew.

Oscars Bend had been a semi-permanent logging camp for Hoster Logging for almost thirty years. When the company folded, the town remained: a crossroads dreaming of other things, a sadness etched into the world. Four homes, a motel, a small store, all off any major road. Only a drunk satnav got you here but somehow it felt like it would be more sad if everything was gone. People had remained, despite everything. I wasn’t sure if that was admirable or not, but I was sure I had no basis for judgement. Every house was run-down. Even the shadows seemed made of different shades.
You can’t have horror here, because there was nothing left to be taken away. And yet despite the thought, here we were.

You said there was a way through pain to the other side, held up the knife in one hand, three puppies in the other, the grimoire in your lap.
Only three?” I asked, thinking you were making some meta joke.
You haven’t spoke to me in weeks.
It took me days to realize just how hard it would be to easily hold three puppies in a single hand.

The secret Joe never told anyone was that his computer had the best antivirus software on the market. Every virus it acquired was a result of Joe having unprotected sex. He didn’t understand it, but he was more than foolish enough to consider it a blessing.
Until a Trojan virus got through the software and infected him in turn.

You can’t arrest me! I said I wanted protein. Not that I was - wait, how does pro teen count as being pro pedophiles in the first place?”

Merry me,” I said and I laughed and I laughed.

He wept as the aliens probed him, kinder than any human had ever been.

I made a joke. You called it a wound as though that was not the same thing entirely.

You told me you were from the future. And I could do was weep in joy that there was one at all, no matter that you’d come back in time to kill me.

The press rated Amy as barely average as a serial killer. Incensed, she hunted down the journalist who made the original claim and in the resulting confusion of torture she ended up to calling herself the Litotes Killer.
She quit even being a serial killer due to the resulting social media backlash and being turned into a meme. Twice.

I was so tired of being called a monster, but not tired enough to cease being one.

You told me relationships had best before dates and I laughed thinking you were making a joke. But then you went off.

If Uri Geller can bend metal with his mind, is it just spoons? If not, what happens when you try and stab him?

I ignored the call to adventure in favour of the call to nap.
I am pretty sure that means I’m not a hero.

We’re going to be sued if we film a wheelchair ramp.” Wilbur rubs the bridge of his nose. “I’m starting to wonder about this town. If the Outsider active around here has infected them somehow, or if it even needs to.”
It’s not that bad,” Noah offers softly. We both look over. “They probably all have guns here, and no one has tried to kill us yet?”
Yet,” I repeat.
The woman who saw my talent was terrified. The man who opened the door to his home was waiting for someone, and angry and scared at the same time.” Noah shrugs. “There might be weirdness going on here that’s just a small town of twenty people?”
That is about the size of a classroom. And they are pretty weird.” No one has come out of the largest house yet, so I nod to the oldest house in Oscar’s Bend. “Now to door number three. It can’t be any worse than the last two.”
Do the two of you want to tempt fate?” Wilbur demands. I think he’s joking, but I’m not certain.

Everyone told me that you were a flawed diamond. But the jeweller called you worthless.

The other side of the road is like a different town. Both homes are neater, despite one being a frankenhome affair. There are no fences in Oscars Bend but there are empty lots between the homes that used to have houses. Past the frankenhome is the one local store that, from here, looks to be in decent shape as well. There are tracks in Rivercomb, even if our town hasn’t seen a train in years, and even now you can divide the town up by them in certain ways.
That you can do the same for a town with four homes in it is almost depressing.

That playlist you gave me didn’t include a single love song?”
Why did you think none of those songs were about love?”
I don’t know; I did think it was odd?”
I thought it might be better if we made our own with the music of flesh and bone, the music of sound and touch. There is a music in your eyes that no song can ever match.”
Oh!”

Worst case scenario would get us famous. There’s nothing in the world that would make fame worth its cost.”

I thought you were wise enough to avoid making waves until you were certain you could swim.”

I wanted to be a poet, but every door I opened was a sadness eventually a sameness. The world is littered with enough darkness without assholes like me trying to make it pretty. Unable to find another topic within it out, I settled for silence.
Some days it fits me too well.

Some people had bonsai plants. Not Tom. Tom had a bonsai life.

I said I had a talent for pain. That’s not just feeling when people are in pain,or pains they’ve experienced.” Mark doubles over, unable to even scream. “It means I can cause pain. Especially when I’m in a bad mood.” I pause as he struggles to breathe. “I’m not even there yet.”
Anya,” Wilbur says behind me, his presence even larger than he is.
I let my talent relax; Mark McTavish staggers and throws up violently to my left. He shaking and can’t seem to stop. I should probably feel bad for doing this. I don’t.

Co-worker (to manager): You know me: I'm always the first one to laugh at myself!
Me: Actually, that's not true.

During an online discussion where I argued that Shakespeare can be problematic for his era since he can overshadow many other contemporary writers, etc. who lose out on readers and exposure, I explained how Shakespeare is Buffy, and without Buffy you’d still have an entirely watchable show.
I am perhaps too proud of this terrible analogy :)

He could have had a gun,” Noah says. “He will next time?”
Because I used a talent.”
I don’t think so? You hurt his pride?”
I look over at Noah. “You think Mark might try and shoot me not because I did weird shit, but because I hurt his pride?”
You act like it’s not all some people have,” he says, soft as usual, but meets my gaze directly.
Aram teach you that?”
No.” The no is quiet; I let it be final and just walk.

I don’t know what’s going on, but everything is wrong,” she says, filling the silence with a stumble of words.

Every story about fairies gives them wings as if we could hobble them as we do angels.

The Homeopath turned out be be one of the least effective superheroes

Prompt: An intergalactic outlaw is finally captured and sent into exile in one of the most hostile regions of the galaxy. Years later, a ship on patrol crash lands there and finds the outlaw still alive.
He’s not only still alive, he’s the president.”

Honesty should be a tax on politicians.

Seeker After Truth accepts the gold. “We are mostly scholars, dealers in knowledge. I am more a warrior than most of my fellows, by inclination as well as need, Sometimes knowledge needs the sword as much as the pen, though we pretend otherwise.”

The lucky are worked to the bone. The rest have souls slough off, clothed against nakedness with eyes burning with a futility their masters mistake for energy.

Prompt: The cookbook contained no recipes
Cooking the cookbook in a broth produces a new taste that improves the taste and smell of any food.
Except ice cream. No one knows why.

Once upon a time there was a monster who was just a monster, without any tragic backstory at all.

I can’t shake the feeling we’re missing something, mostly because we’ve been here for several hours and nothing has tried to kill us yet.”

Too often I pretend to be asleep when you call.

Co-worker: *watches me put on the third band aid* “You must lead a charmed life to still be alive after all these years.”

Will you need gloves? The till has a lot of metal in it.”
No.”
I stare at him. “Are you miserly with words on purpose? Metal hurts the fae.”
Gloves draw attention. To be noticed would hurt more. For the humans.”

Sometimes all the magic in the world can just hold a scream into a whisper.

I am afraid not,” the spy said gently. “I flirt, yes, but I will not seduce. There are skills one must never use, precisely because one is so very adept at them. There are lines one should never cross, not even for your country and the safety of the world.”

Prompt: A group of adventurers attempt to plunder a tomb where a bored lich has gotten creative with his horde of skeletons.
“…. The Skeletal Centipede.”
None of us are going to make our Will Saves, are we?”