People talk about dawn and dusk as though they were times of power. They wax lyrical over the gloaming and daybreak but there is no time that doesn’t have power, no moment that doesn’t carry meaning. You can find meaning in anything if you look hard enough, and power too if you desire it deeply. Eleven o’clock in the morning is a good as time as any other and I’m finishing removing rust from the underbelly of a car when I hear a cough behind me. The owner of the car is occupied inside with a phone call, and it is easy in the morning to make wards in the morning so that I am not noticed by other people.
But no magic is perfect or it would be something other than magic. I turn and find myself staring at a tired-looking woman in her early twenties who studies me frankly from dark eyes that don’t blink enough. “Can I help you?”
“I do not think so. You are the wandering magician? This town has no magician,” she adds quickly. “It is too small and had one been born I would have felt it or been told by others. But there is a magician who wanders the small places with no magicians to call their own, and I am assuming you are that one?”
“I am, yes.”
The Outsider nods. I have no idea how far Outside the universe she is from, nor what her real form is. I could find out; I don’t press the issue. She licks her lips. “There are stories about you. The Grand Canyon. Angels and demons in the state of Washington. The fae,” added even softer. “And that you travel with power as well.”
“You are removing rust from my neighbour’s car?” she asks.
“The events – the stories – are things I do. Who I am is this. Wandering, offering small helpings. Little miracles and quiet magics.”
She stares. “You do not lie, but you are more than that.”
“I am when I have to be. Are you?”
“No.” She shakes her head. “I am a graduate of the Deep School and forbidden to be more. I work as a waitress, to better fit in with humanity. I am not sure if this is a punishment or not, however,” she admits.
“How long have you been a waitress?”
“There are other worlds you could pick,” I say dryly.
“I would be penalized for leaving this one, questioned and judged both. But it is hard to serve when too often service is taken as other things.”
I nod. I’ve never worked in a restaurant, but I’ve eaten in enough. “You wish for aid?”
She looks startled. “No. That would be noticed.”
I smile, reach through the bindings I have with Jay, and the Outsider blinks as bindings flicker about them and vanish a moment later. “That should make people be a little more jaysome too you.”
“Jay made the bindings.”
“I cannot sense them at all, even though they have become part of me.” The Outsider shivers slightly. “I rather wished those stories about you were not true.”
“Jay can be scary even though he never intends to be.”
“I always intend to be scary when I am.” I smile, to blunt the truth, and the Outsider walks away as I finish removing rust from the car, walking down the street and touching the world with power.A ladder straightens here, an argument shifts into other directions there. Small magics, but I live for the days when I never have to do anything else. When it is just me and those who need help, when almost none of them will sense my coming or going.