Mesmerism

I’ve been trying to find proof for years. Fates alive, how long has it been since the first time I heard that word: magic? Maybe it was when those so-called conjurers came through Nocton on the night train. I remember seeing the flashfires from my family’s bedroom window, back when we all lived just above the shop. I awoke to what I thought was lightning, illuminating the whole attic sleeping area—the beds and sleeping forms of my mother, father, twin sister, grandpa, aunt, uncle, other uncle, and my fat bird in his cage, his saucer-eyes reflecting orange light. Orange—not white. It wasn’t lightning. Besides, it was the middle of winter, and it had been snowing drily all evening.

The room popped from black to near-blinding orange again and again, as though I were blinking, but my eyes were wide open. No one else was awake except Bub, my bird, and me. I heard the muffled gasp of a crowd and in my near-sleeping state I thought it was a dragon sucking in a breath, ready to blow another blast of flame at my family. It’s funny—I was still thinking that when I got up to patter, barefoot and freezing in the winter night, over to the window. Even then my curiosity overwhelmed my fear of danger.

The frost of the window obscured any detail, but between the snow-peaked thatched rooftops of neighbouring shops I could see the source of the flashes—bright whizzing sparks of flame looping and figure-eighting in the distance. Not a dragon, then—but what? I heard a shriek from the direction of the lights and decided to be a gallant hero and save the day. I remember that. I wanted to be a hero.

I’m rambling—fates, I know it—but it was my first real taste of magic outside of storybooks or theatre plays. Or so I thought. I can’t believe I’ve gone from that pyjama-clad little knight with a fat bird on my shoulder in lieu of a steed or at least a dog (Pa never let me get a dog) to a scholar of real magic.

Of course I had time to let Bub out of his cage but not enough to seek out my boots before bouncing down the stairs, past the shop counters that I could barely see overtop of, and through the front door—ignoring the bell I was chiming by doing so—and following the ghostly orange that painted the black sky. If my feet were cold on the floorboards of the attic, they were made numb by the snow-dusted cobble roads I sped down, fast enough to make an irritated Bub dig his talons into my shoulder. I should have been thankful that he wasn’t adventurous enough to take off on his own.

Before the siege, Nocton was always a city of festivals, but this was no festival. For one, it was wintertime, and for another, Left Town where my family lived was a district of mercantile and freight—there were few taverns and no festival squares to speak of. We had to deal with the noise of steam trains and horse-drawn wagons instead, since our shop was near Left Station where goods were routinely funneled in from Avernus and Blue Rock. Occasionally, train cars held passengers—usually snake oil salesmen and other such one-or-two-person “businesses.” This time, the leftbound train brought The Conjurers Three.

I followed the drizzling snow that seemed to ignite from the distant glow. Other men and women of the city were headed in the same direction, necks stretched and heads stiff looking for the source of the commotion. I rushed past the lot of them, skirting through alleyways and hopping momentarily along boardwalks before rushing across streets, dodging carriages and horses and foot traffic on my way. Bub held fast to my shoulder, flapping his white wings nervously, slapping my ear to inform me of his frustration, but I could hear more shouts and gasps and couldn’t stop now…

 


 

 

Day 243’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Scholar of magic,” “Fat bird,” and, “Pajamas.”

I’ll unashamedly make this a two-parter.

– H.

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