3 a.m. Texts and Early Class

Since moving to the group home Joe had gotten used to being woken up in the middle of the night. On Sunday Lacey had decided that 5 a.m. was the perfect time to make everyone breakfast, and Joe had taken his half of a dry, burnt pancake and gone immediately back to bed. On Wednesday his roommate had sat up and started screaming, and Joe had nudged him out of whatever dream he was having and gone immediately back to sleep. On Friday it had been him waking up screaming, he took a few deep breaths, tried in vain to remember what had been so terrifying, and gone slowly back to sleep.

He tried his best, then, not to be annoyed when Della texted him at three on Monday morning only to tell him “DUDE SHE CAN LIFT ME!!!!” For a moment the desire for sleep fought the desire to figure out what the hell she was going on about now.

He texted her back, “What”

“SONIA BRIDAL CARRIED ME! FUCK!”  Joe mentally composed a few texts in return. “Weren’t you breaking up” or “Yea she’s a cheerleader its what she does” But he would see her in home room in a few hours, so he rolled over and immediately went back to sleep.

Joe was taking a nap in the back row of the empty classroom when Della charged in and dropped her backpack in the seat in front of him. He barely had a chance to raise his head before she started talking, “I have no idea what I’m going to do?”

“Does this have to do with you texting me about marriage at the ass crack of dawn?” He said with one eye open.

“She can pick me up, Joe,” She whispered, as much as Della ever whispered, “I was joking about not wanting to get my shoes dirty and she just picks me up and carries me around this puddle.”

Her hands grasped the metal bar that connected the seat to the desk, she was almost on tiptoe as she looked at him expectantly. Joe stretched out his arms, then winced at the pop in his back as he straightened up.

“So you can’t break up with her because she can pick you up?”

“Okay, it sounds stupid but…” Della sank down into her seat, squishing her backpack before jumping back up, laughing in a little squeak. “It’s like every time I think this is it. Today I’m going to break it off she literally sweeps me off my feet like some fucking fairytale and I really don’t want to.” She threw the backpack to the floor and took its place.

“Della, I don’t know what you should do, but you need to choose,”

“I know, I know. I have! I know I have to dump her, I just really don’t want to.”

“Do you have to? You say you can’t keep a secret, but you’ve been with her for a month.”

“And I’m about to explode! If I didn’t have you to talk to I would have…” Footsteps cut her off as another student entered the room, shuffling into a seat by the door.

“Anyway, that’s enough about my problems. Thanks for listening, I know I’ve been sounding like a broken record,” She shrugged.

“Hey, no problem. You’ve always been cool with me,” Joseph shrugged back, thinking about last week, when Della had spent nearly an hour sitting with him as he lay dizzy and weeping in the diner’s parking lot. Humming what might have been a spell and might have just been an old, soothing song.

(Note: I spent way too long thinking about how to make those texts realistically misspelled before I remembered that these two have smartphones. I think Della might always write in ALL CAPS.)

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When We Made Monsters – An Introduction

When We Made Monsters is my obligatory, self-indulgent, novel-type project. It’s a fantasy story that takes place in the suburbs about growing up sheltered, working too hard, keeping secrets, and destroying the laws of nature.

The Setting: St. Martin’s was built as your average middle-class housing development, but the first families hadn’t had the chance to unpack when the ghosts started moving in. The developers had a meeting and called in some exorcists, some being an insufficient amount, they called in some more. Eventually they were providing discounted housing to anyone who could chant a few lines and draw a few signs. Following the exorcists, who have never been able to turn down a good spell, were the magicians.

Cut to today. While spellery and witchcraft is distrusted in most of middle-America it’s found a comfortable haven in St. Martin’s.

Characters:

Max: From a family of doctor’s, though his dad is the first one to have a PhD. He’s bright, finicky, slightly asocial and obsessed with immortality. 15, lives with his parents in a house that seems to change by magic, though it’s really just his mom getting bored with the decorating.

Joseph: Recently discovered he’s a powerful empath. He’s the envy of other St. Martin’s students for having natural ability, but since he doesn’t know how to do anything it seems like an empty gift. Cheerful, friendly, and ill-equipped to talk about his feelings or anyone else’s. He lives in a group home for kids from out of town that need the unique facilities and resources provided in St. Martin’s.

Della: A seventeen-year-old hailing from a long line of magicians. She is apprenticing to her mother, who has focused their family’s brand of magic, which once focused on weaponry, to augment electronics. While you’ll have to go somewhere else to expand your computer’s memory or fix your cracked iphone head to Della’s if you you want a phone that’s resistant to water lightning strikes or is able to tell you when suspicious people or wolves are close. Della and Joseph became fast friends due to similar personalities (their both loud and direct) and their shared love of soccer and cheap vodka. She is almost incapable of being dishonest, which makes both Max (who is working on borderline illegal experiments) and her closeted girlfriend very nervous.

Things from St. Martin’s: Hacking the Universe

Hacking the Universe: Magic in the Digital Age was first published in 2009 and is considered the book about Modern Magic, it is also one of the few widely released books on magic. It contains theories that relate spell casting to computer code and possible new ways to link spells together, cast from great distances, or set up spells to run long after the caster has left. The view of magic as a set of systems to be discovered, rather than a tradition that can only be learned from studying the past, did not begin with Hacking the Universe, though it may have increased this view’s popularity. 

Hacking the Universe was initially self-published by its anonymous author, the limited copies passed from magician to magician. It gained the notice of general audiences after it was picked up by a major publisher. While magicians were interested in theory and potentially more efficient spells there was a minor media outcry that this tome could be heralding a new Age of Magic. This outcry ended when people tried reading the book and found that, for the most part, it was excessively boring. 

It is still popular with magicians as a clearly written introduction to magical theory with a few philosophical tidbits thrown in.

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(The cover of the original, 2009 edition.)

(Photo credit.)

Things from St. Martin’s: The Man With the Dark Shadow

The Man With the Dark Shadow is a series of noir detective novels written in the 1980’s and set in the 1930’s. It stars Mike Gambol, a predictably gritty, disillusioned, middle-aged private detective with a knack for getting involved in what he calls “bad hoodoo”. Despite pitting Gambol, who refused any sort of spell, against magician after magician, and getting a fair number of facts wrong, it has remained popular among the magical set. Part of this comes from being one of the few works of popular fiction to include positive (if slightly stereotypical) portrayals of magicians. These include the motherly Lady Beauchene, who introduces the title mid-way through the first novel, and is a constant source of advice for Gambol as he comes up against powers far beyond his knowledge. There is also the duo of Kitty and Foxy, a performing duo of illusionists who are later revealed to be lovers. The fifth book, Reynard’s Return, centers around Foxy’s kidnapping by a cult who takes her stage name a little too literally. Kitty assists Gambol heavily in this case, eventually cracking the code which leads to her girlfriend’s rescue.

While the plots are dated all twenty books in the series have remained in print partially due to nostalgia value and partially for containing a diverse cast of enjoyable and flawed characters. Depictions of Kitty, Foxy, Lady Beauchene, and Mister Shakes (a mysterious man, always dressed to the nines, who appeared as a deus ex machina on multiple occasions) are common in the homes and businesses of magicians. In areas where magic is less acceptable these depictions sometimes act as markers for safe meeting places.

Mental Health, Witchcraft, and You (Part 2)

(Part 1)

“So, I’m a witch?” Joe stumbled over the words. The psychiatrist was silent for a moment, her face strained. Joe felt the tension in his gut grow.

“Some people would call you that, but you don’t have to. Most spell-workers would call you a conductor, or gifted, though I know this doesn’t feel much like a gift right now.”

“Eh, not so much,” He let out a strained smile.

“And it shouldn’t. This is something that’s disrupting your life, but I believe if we get you in the right program you’ll be able to learn not only to live with this, but to control it as well.”

“So what, exactly is this?” Joe asked, waving his hand near his had.

“Sorry, I got ahead of myself for a moment. Your conductivity is manifesting as hyper-empathy,” Joe stared at her, bewildered, and she started again, “The magic going through you is interacting with something in your body, likely your brain, and that creates a sort of natural spell. That spell is causing you to experience the feelings of those around you as your own. Does that make sense?”

“Hyper-empathy…”

An hour later the psychiatrist left the office and walked directly to the lobby where his parents were waiting, Joe trailed behind her.

They went through pamphlets and questionnaires, finally settling on the only program in the same state, a small group-home connected with a public high school. The school, a pamphlet with poorly spaced texts boxes explained, was surrounded by a gate which caused magic to flow around it, meaning that Joe would be able to go to class without being distracted by everyone’s emotions.

“I’ve referred students in similar situations here before, they say their life very similar to when they lived at home. You can also go home at any time, of course,” She said, “One even ended up staying in St. Martin’s.”

“How far is it?”

“Is this necessary?”

“When can I move in?”

Mental Health, Witchcraft, and You

“How long have you been suffering with this?” The psychiatrist was the third one Joseph had seen that month. The first had made him angry, a warm knot in the pit of his stomach that would not go away until they were driving away. The second had been calm, almost serene. Joseph thought how he never had met someone who was actually serene before. She had referred them to this doctor, a middle aged woman with bifocals and long, curly brown hair barely contained by pony-tail holder. They were sitting in opposite corners of the office and sometimes had to raise their voices a bit to be heard at the other end of the room. She said the distance might make him feel more comfortable.

“Well it’s not like I’m really suffering,” Joe looked at the painting on the wall and wished it was of something more than geometric shapes, something he could concentrate on. “I just wish I knew what was happening.”

“And how would you describe what’s happening?”

“When I’m around a bunch of people I feel really weird, like I’m going through a whole bunch of emotions and I can’t focus on anything.” He said, too fast, no emphasis, she would be able to tell he had rehearsed it. “If it’s only one or a few people it’s not so bad, but I think I’m feeling what they’re feeling, if that’s a thing?”

“It is.” Joe stopped tracing triangles with his eyes and looked at her, “It’s fairly common in people who are highly conductive, do you know what that means?” Joe shook his head.

“Conductive people channel magic through their bodies naturally, most don’t notice if they don’t perform spells, but others experience things like what’s happening to you.”

“So I’m a witch?”