Escape from Magic

The Statue of Wizardry stood watch over the bustling metropolis of New York. On those rare days when the skies were clear and the mana smog wasn’t so thick and it hadn’t rained the night before, Booker Darrow could look out the window of his apartment and see the three-hundred foot copper Merlin out there on Wizardry Island overlooking New York Harbor, grimoire in tow and burning wand raised high. The hotel next to the apartment blocked most of the view, but it was still a damn fine sight–for anyone other than Booker, anyway.

As often as he found himself gazing out the window only to have his eyes drawn by that oversized symbol of everything he wasn’t, he found his thoughts would always turn sour as a result, and today was no exception. He cast his gaze down on the busy streets below, luminescent crystals and wisps zipping by, occasional flashes of magical lights joining them for an instant before vanishing. He could see glowing runic words blinking across buildings advertising weight-loss potions or grimoires that can connect to other grimoires or the latest magic pocket mirror or alcoholic elixirs that promise you won’t be hungover the next day.

Magic was everywhere. Except for Booker Darrow’s apartment. It was his haven, his Fortress of Solitude, a hiding place where he could run away from the magic of the modern world that refused to accommodate a disabled person such as himself.

Because even though the modern world ran on magic, Booker was incapable of making anything magical happen at all. Only in his dreams. While most of humanity made use of their magic toys and potions, Booker hid himself away in his fictional worlds. He wrote about machines doing the work that magic would do–machines he could build and operate without magic. Flying machines, for example, that used wings and fire power to stay in the air. Booker always wanted to fly.

And so he wrote about his dream worlds, a craft of pure creation. Dreaming of a world without magic and writing it down was, ironically, the closest thing to performing magic he would achieve.

 


 

 

Day 361’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Magical realism,” “The hermit,” and, “The storyteller.”

FOUR.

– H.

The Blind Leading

Most lightbringers could see in any form of light–they could stare directly at the sun for hours with no ill effects. To control light meant mastery of it, including how much of it the eye took in. Lightbringers were only blind in darkness.

Except for Albert the Blind. A born lightbringer, and born blind, Albert had no concept of light or dark the way most people did. He felt light as warmth, darkness as a cold touch. Light was sound, dark was silence. He could feel the shape of the light, and could sense its absence. And so, while lightbringers and darkseekers blind one another with their opposing element, Albert engaged in battle with no weakness of vision–despite his lack thereof.

The others in the Lighthouse felt protective of Albert, even though he trained many of them. They put themselves in front of any battle, with Albert behind them, shielded from danger. But when the rest of the lightbringers marched on the Nighthouse, Albert was the only one left behind. The protected.

But when no one came back, Albert had to venture to the Nighthouse to save them. And unlike the others, the darkness wouldn’t affect him there.

 

 


 

 

 

Day 360’s three random writing prompt categories were, “The Lighthouse and the Nighthouse,” “The very last,” and, “The tower.”

FIVE.

– H.

Smash and Grab

Gary from next door got a new car, a real midlife crisis-mobile. This lengthy hotrod red number. Even my wife drooled. Goddamned eyesore, I thought. Lower middle-class house in a lower middle-class suburban neighbourhood, and then there’s this fucking million dollar sports car convertible in a cracked driveway. It was incongruous is what it was.

We never had a lot of problems with thieves in this part of town, so there wasn’t much to worry about. Even still, Gary had a big garage. There was no reason to keep the car in the driveway except to flash it around. Made my Ford look like shit.

Coming home from work one day I took a glance inside the window. Leather seats, a better computer on the dashboard than I had in my house… And a couple bucks worth of change sitting in one of the cupholders. I wondered.

In the morning, I woke up to Gary’s outraged scream. I threw on a housecoat and went outside in a hurry, my wife close behind.

Gary was frantically checking the inside of his car, his legs sticking out the doors.

“What’s up, Gary?” I asked.

“Some sonofabitch smashed my window!” came Gary’s voice from inside the car. “Goddamn! This is a brand new car!”

As though we didn’t know that. “Well it’s not stolen at least,” I said. “Missing anything?”

“Bit of change,” Gary muttered as he slid back out of the car. “Damn, this car cost me a fortune, Dave, and some sonofabitch just smashed it for a couple a bucks. Goddamn…”

“Some real bastards around here,” I said. “Might be best to keep her in the garage, you figure?”

“Never woulda thought this kinda thing would happen here…”

“Better safe than sorry.”

“Geez, you might be right.”

That’s right, asshole. Put your dick back in your pants.

“Dave,” said my wife, grabbing my swollen hand, “what happened to your hand?”

Gary looked at it, then at me.

 

 


 

 

 

Day 359’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Cups and coins,” “A brand new car!” and, “Overcompensation.”

Six more days, y’all.

– H.

Take Your Time

“Do I really need to do this?” Jamison asked when the doctor handed him a cup.

“Do you not have to go?” the doctor asked like she was genuinely curious.

“I do,” said Jameson after some consideration, “but this whole enterprise seems unnecessary.”

The doctor waved her blue-gloved hand. “The restroom is over there. Please collect the sample mid-stream.” Then she busied herself with some equipment.

Jamison was looking for a debate, but no one was interested. The decision was made, the votes were cast. Most of them, Jamison suspected, jokingly or in protest, but you couldn’t go back on democracy, so the new institution was cemented. He entered the little bathroom and did his business, catching the cup partway into the stream when it was good and going. He flushed the remainder, twisted the lid on the sample, and left.

A nurse appeared and took the sample without a word. Everyone was so busy, constantly glancing at wristwatches. There was a clock on the wall–all three hands pointed straight to the roof and didn’t move. The doctor explained that the clocks would set for Jamison once his results came in. Until then, all the clocks were wrong. Everyone else saw a different time based on their biological clocks. 7am was whatever time they generally woke at, 10pm was whatever time they tended to go to bed. Sometimes 7am was when the sun was highest in the sky, and 10pm was when it was just beginning to rise.

People were too confused by changing time zones, and a universal time was confusing for its own reasons, and besides that not everyone operated on the same schedule. Morning people and night owls lived very differently, for example, and people started seeing that as unfair, forcing the population into 9-5 jobs no matter what their biological preferences. Nowadays, everyone was special, and no one liked to be judged for living a little differently. To discriminate was to be discriminated against.

The hands of the clock began to move. Jamison thought it was time for lunch, so they stayed mostly the same location, but the second hand started ticking. Not a second at a time, though. A tick every few seconds. Jamison lived his life on his own schedule, taking his time to do things right. There was no rush. Even the clocks didn’t rush. He crossed the street to a sandwich shop and ate thoughtfully, chewing his food throughout the lunch hour one slow bite at a time.

Outside, the sun rose and arched and sank, and nobody cared.

 

 


 

 

 

Day 358’s three random writing prompt categories were, “All the clocks are wrong,” “Urine in a cup,” and, “Judgement.”

Seven more days.

– H.

The Soaring Land

Sometimes there was a lot of sky between flying islands. Captain Razo Corbeau and his crew wore a lot of hats; sometimes they were pathfinders, sometimes they were scouts, sometimes they were treasure hunters, and sometimes they were privateers. Unless they were caught–in which case, they were pirates. Officially.

Their current mission required them to seek a sky-level island that was growing in distance from where it was last spotted. Most islands rotated with the Earth, whether in the sea or in the sky, except for one: the Soaring Land. The Terran Republic thought it might hold a special form of blue matter, or that the island caused the bloom to react aberrantly. Either way, it was worth studying, but the island had since flown well out of Allied territory.

The Revenant was a fast skyship, and her neutral flag kept her from being targeted by enemies of the Allies, but once she got past the fringe islands, there was little to find but open sea and sky.

Supplies ran short. The crew conserved water, but much of the food spoiled. Since they couldn’t afford to lower to sea level and take the time to fish, they shot many manner of bird and sky life out of the air. Their hunting birds fetched the felled prey, bringing them to the Revenant before being lost in the sea. But there wasn’t enough variety in sky life to stave off an imbalanced nutrition. Scurvy would soon follow. And the water supplies were running low.

They flew for days without sight of a single island. They collected rainwater from storms, but ate nothing but meat.Birds became scarce, since there was no land. Only wildlife that could both swim and fly could be found, and then only when such creatures surfaced for air.

At last the Soaring Land came into view. The crew rejoiced. But even though they could see it, that didn’t mean they were close. The island was still moving away from them. It would be some time before they could catch up to it. They feared they would die within sight of their salvation.

 


 

 

Day 357’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Sky pirates,” “For the sake of it,” and, “Death.”

Eight more days.

– H.

Storm Racer

My mom owned a mobile home, and she always drove so far beneath the speed limit the only thing we could do was sleep, or else we’d get mad at her for driving so slow.

“I’m winning the race against all the other homes,” she’d say, cackling to herself. We never laughed back.

Then one day a storm rolled in—black skies, thunder and lightning, funnel clouds, the works. Rain and hail pelted the top of the camper and my brother and sister and I thought we were doomed. It was the first time our mother drove fast.

“Slow down!” we said. We could barely see out the window; the wiper was whooshing back and forth but making no headway against the elements. But we could see the speedometer climb, and feel the momentum of the camper as it picked up speed.

Then, miraculously, the rain and hail and darkness went away. The sun came out. The clouds were white instead of black. Looking out the window behind us, we saw the storm cloud, like space opened up and reached into the Earth. We were outrunning it.

We never complained about her speed again.

 

 


 

 

Day 356’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Mom in a street race,” “A mobile home,” and, “The calm before the storm.”

Nine more days!

– H.

Judgemental

I reached the end of my life and it was time for my performance review.

“Robert MacMillan,” said the Judge. “Made it to 98. Not bad. You clearly took care of yourself.”

“Thanks,” I said.

The Judge waved it off. “I’m only here for facts. I looked in on you from time to time–I’m assigned to a million mortals at once, so you’ll forgive me if I skipped a phew phases of your life.”

“That’s quite all right,” I said, trying to remain polite. They really streamlined this whole review process in the last few generations. Too many mortals to keep track of, I guessed.

“Used to be a hundred, if you can believe it,” said the Judge.

“I’m sorry?”

“The amount of mortals I Judged at a time. You lot breed like mad. Soon I was watching a thousand, then ten thousand, and now look where we are… Well don’t worry. My review will remain fair. I’ve gotten quite good at my job.”

“Okay.”

“Rather ruthless this time, don’t you think?”

“How do you mean?”

“Your previous lives were never so selfish. The latest run turned you into a greedy, miserly fellow. Everything and everyone had a price for you, didn’t it?”

“I did the best with what the Wheel gave me,” I said stiffly. I was always irritated by the Judge’s, well, judgemental attitude. It wasn’t as though I was allowed to remember my past lives. How was one supposed to do better if one had no chance of learning from one’s mistakes? The whole system made no sense to me. Every time a life ended and I came back here, I always cringed at the choices I made in my latest lifetime. I should have known better. But I wasn’t allowed.

I refrained from complaining. The Wheel of Fortune was supposed to be random, but I had a feeling the Judge had a good handle on how to influence it.

“You made a lot of money, that’s for sure,” the Judge went on.

He scratched his chin, trying to remember my life. It must have been hard to differentiate between a million different people. Did he never get them mixed up?

“Some philanthropy for good measure,” he said. “When you’ve got the money, you can afford it. Looks like it always got you favours though. Tsk tsk.”

I was fuming, my teeth clicking together behind pursed lips as I worked my jaw.

“Altogether, not wholly impressive, but you did well with your finances and your health, so that earns a star at least. I’d say three in total. Eh, two and a half.”

What? He couldn’t just lower it! “You said three,” I said.

“My Judgement is two and a half stars,” said the Judge. “You cannot haggle with me, though I’m sure that’s your inclination.”

Bastard.

“One of your lowest scores yet. Do try to step things up in this next life.”

“You know,” I said, keeping the rage from my voice as best I could, “I’m not going to remember that you told me this.”

“You will soon enough.”

“Not during my lifetime.”

“No. Spin the Wheel, please.”

“You want me to spin it?”

“New policy. There was some concern over Judges affecting the turn of the wheel. Other Judges, of course. I was always impartial…”

Bullshit. But even though he didn’t turn the Wheel, he still Judged me. And antagonizing him would get me no closer to Paradise.

I turned the Wheel. It had several Wheels inside it, for different categories such as race, place of birth, sex, orientation, and so forth. Apparently I was going to be a gay Samoan man in the Northwest Territories this time.

“Good luck,” said the Judge. “Try to be less of a bastard in this life. I’ll be watching.”

That was it. I opened my mouth to call him the bastard he was, but all that came out was a baby’s wail as a doctor placed me into my new mother’s arms.

 

 


 

 

Day 355’s three random writing prompt categories were, “A bad review,” “Wheel of fortune,” and, “Everything is for sale.”

Ten more days, you guys. TEN MORE DAYS. 

– H.