June, otter

Hand Writing Challenge for me

 So, I'm going to be trying something a little crazy ie. writing twenty-five sheets of paper by hand, so I don't think I'm going to be posting it here tonight, but I will get it to you tomorrow, or soon, because this might be a three day thing. Yeah.


Brian looked at her intently until Tabitha repeated,

“So? Talk.”

“I want to know how you did it,” he whispered. “And then you weren’t in school yesterday so I couldn’t ask then. But I’ve got to know what you did, Tabitha.”

“Why, exactly?” she inquired as she began stalking toward the library, where she could spend her study period on physics and the Odyssey.

“Because you gave me a second chance,” he whispered. “Look, I went a little crazy and I was going to do something crazy and really, really stupid, but you stopped me and made everyone forget.’

“How do you know that I really did anything at all? What if you just grabbed a water gun by mistake?”

“Because I loaded it myself, and then unloaded it when I put it back in my dad’s gun safe and then when I asked if we could go shooting because I had a bad day at school I reloaded it and shot five rounds out of it, okay? The gun I grabbed was real and it would have done very real damage. So I want to know how it became a water gun for about five minutes.’

“You timed it?” she asked, setting her stuff down on a study table.

“Not exactly,” Bet look, I’ve got to know. Was it magic?”

“You caught me,” she said, pulling out her physics packet and compared it to the Odyssey. She read and took notes faster than she worked out physics problems.

“Well, how did you do it?” he asked.

“Like you said, it was magic,” she replied, turning to the introduction in the book. “Look, Brian, I’m not sure I can explain what happened yesterday either, but why don’t you take you second chance and run with it?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean—I don’t know—your older sister’s a fashion design major, right? Ask her to give you a makeover. Hit the weights so the popular crowd will think twice before picking on you. Stop failing English because you think it’s stupid.”

“But it is stupid,” he retorted.

“You still need it to pass the SAT and write a convincing essay to get into MIT,” she retorted.

“Says the girl who’s reading the Odyssey, and how do you know that you need an essay to get into MIT?”

“You need an essay to get into anywhere,” she retorted. “Are you really that much of a wannabe loner that you can’t just take a friendly suggestion and go with it?” He pulled back almost like she had slapped him.

“Ouch, I thought you of all people would get it.”

“Get what, exactly?” Tabitha asked.

“You honestly don’t think people don’t notice how smart you are? How desperate you are to go to college, because it means you’ll get out of here?” Brian told her. “Even the other geeks notice and think you think you’re too good for them.”

“People are allowed to think what they want to think,” she retorted. “And online you, Brian, I was actually the kid that no one wanted to play with because I never got out of the house long enough because my mom was sick and my dad was working. And then I had Reiss and Chelsea telling everyone just how weird I was because I liked to read. Okay, so I fit into the roll they built for me. I studied a lot and I got ahead in school. But you’ve always had friends, Brian, people who you hung out with and who cared about you. So don’t go telling me you get it.” He leaned back in his chair, and continued to look between her and a bookshelf.

“Well, not anymore…the friends I mean,” he confessed. “They all think I brought the gun to school, but that I chickened out at the last second.” Tabitha huffed and sat back in her own chair.

“Have they told anyone?” she asked. He shrugged.

“No, but they all think I’m a psychopath or something,” Brian said.

“Well, I hate to say it, but I don’t think psychosis goes into remission or anything,” she retorted.

“Oh TV, they talk about how some people have a cooling off period,” he retorted.

“Well, yeah, but that’s after they’ve killed several people.” Tabitha stared down at her book, and realized she was only on the second page. She folded it up and set it on the table, looking back at Brian. “Let me ask you this, how do you know that I was the one who did anything? I might not have been the one who made people forget about time, or changed the gun, or made people think it was all just a joke.”

“Well, I don’t know about forgetting about time, or the joke, but I saw your face,” he said. “When you watched me pull the gun, I kept looking at you. I watched you the entire time I was talking actually. You almost made me want to stop, with how scared you were. But then I kept seeing the others around you and I kept getting angry. And then I just couldn’t hold it in anymore, and it felt like I had to do it. But right before I fired, I saw your face again and I knew you would do something if you could. I thought you might jump in front of the bullet, but then the water came out of the gun and it felt like you had done something. I didn’t know what, but it was you.”

“So you don’t think it could have been anything else?” she asked.

“No.” Tabitha hung her head back, and in one swift motion, brought it back up to stare Brian down.

“I can’t tell you much, only that I’m in some pretty risky business right now.”

“You started a brothel out of your parent’s house?” he asked. At Tabitha’s look he muttered, “I guess you haven’t seen the movie.”

“Look, if I just say I had something to do with it, and tell you to take that and your second chance and run like the wind with it, will you listen to me?” He deflated, his chest and shoulders falling.

“Sure,” he agreed.

“Thank you,” she replied. “Now, I have some work to make up, do you mind?”

“Go ahead.” He pulled out a physics packet, nearly identical to her own, except that many more of the pages had notations scribbled all over them. Brian quieted down as he worked out the last of his problems. As he worked though, he kept sneaking glances at her. Tabitha decided it was all right, so long as she could ignore him enough to actually begin reading.

But the conversation with Brian put her off focus for the rest of the day—especially during physics when he sat right across from her. Tabitha realized, in the middle of physics, it was because she could feel him watching her, which made her wonder who else might be watching her too.

Chapter Six: A Study of Magic in the Dark

Tabitha emailed Weisz during a slow night at the library. Once she had shelved all the books she could find, read even more of the Odyssey, drafted her paper proposal, read her history assignment, outlined a paper, and done as many physics and calculus problems as she could handle in one sitting, she sat down and began to compose a schedule. She when through every day of the week and marked off times that she was indisposed, one way or another.
When she finished, Tabitha saw that there would only be time for her to meet with Weisz, or at least enough time for them to accomplish something, about three or four times a week. She volunteered at the library for four hours after school four times a week, and she had an astronomy class that met once a week, but it did not meet until much later in the evening. Weekends would be free completely, excluding the rare family outing, and would make the best time for magic lessons.

Once she figured all of her time slots into a schedule, she composed a spread sheet outlining everything and then emailed it to Weisz. She then received a quick reply thanking her for her promptness and saying that she would not be required to come to a lesson until Saturday. In the meantime, she should study the book Elba had left for her.
Tabitha stared at the computer screen for quite some time, and began to feel cheated for all the work she had done trying to find as much time as she could for Weisz. After all, he had told her that he wanted her every waking moment studying magic and then he changed his mind so suddenly, it made her head whirl. From what little she knew of Weisz, it did seem strange though.

But she did take the second piece of his email to heart, and tried to attach the first part from there. So after she arrived home and stocked up on all the fruits and vegetables the house had to offer, Tabitha holed herself up in her room, ready to study the book. Unfortunately, it just did not happen.

First, Reiss started up a loud punk rock band, and Tabitha knew that no matter how many times she might ask for him to turn it off or down, he would only turn it up louder. To focus, she put on a set of head phones and played her own music. That presented its own problem, as it just didn’t feel right studying an ancient magical text while she listened to pop music. Then her homework began to glare at her from its pile on her desk. With a sigh, Tabitha concealed the book in her coat, again, and set to work reducing the pile to nothing. She worked through texts, paper drafts, proposals and problem sets. When she stopped working and looked up, it was just passing midnight and she was hungry again.

She opened up a pomegranate, sucking out the seeds as she turned her attention back toward where the book lay in her coat, on her bed. Tabitha felt oddly energetic, when she normally would have felt drained after such a feat. It felt almost electric sitting in her chair, wondering just how much more she could take on, because it felt like she could stay up for hours more. She finished the pomegranate and opened up a banana, her eyes still on the book.
It still seemed wrong, somehow, to study the book in her room, where pieces of her nervous energy clung to every surface she could face. But she did not have anywhere else she could go, especially not at this time of night. Then a thought struck her; she could always go up.

The attic was the absolute final resting place of anything that he family no longer used, but did not want to throw out, give away or could not stomach keeping in the garage, which occasionally flooded. (Not to mention, the garage still acted as her father’s work space from time to time, and he liked to keep it free of clutter.) Up against one wall was a square mountain of boxes sorted and stacked according to year or use, There were old Christmas decorations, clothes Carol kept meaning to give away, clothes Chelsea did not have room for in her closet, a few boxes of books, and broken electronics her dad kept meaning to fix.

To the other side was all the old furniture Tabitha’s grandparents left to her mother when they died. Her mother did not have the heart to sell it or give it away, and after she died, her father held on to it to remember her by. On one of the arm chairs, Tabitha laid the book down, along with her journal and went hunting for candles. They had plenty of them as Carol and Chelsea had gone through a candle making phase. Tabitha could not complain about the large box stuffed to the brim with wax towers, though because the attic was not wired for electric lights.

She spread them around, lighting them as she went. When the attic filled with light, nearly as bright as a light bulb, Tabitha settled into the arm chair, opened the book and began to read.

It was a struggle, Tabitha found, to get past the first few pages, as the language presented itself as denser, more complicated English than she had ever read before. Reaching the third page, she began to flip through the book in her frustration. Thankfully, most of the book did not present itself in complicated tones, though some parts were not written in English at all. Tabitha squinted at the strange words and characters and slowly, they began to translate themselves. Though not so quickly that when she reached the most recent section, she could not tell it was in neat, tight French.
Her hand brushed over the page, tracing some of the letters of the neat curves. This had been Elba’s handwriting. The writing of a mentor Tabitha would never know. Suddenly her heart ached, prompting her to move back through the book, watching the language shift more and more into modern English for her to read.

The second time through the book, Tabitha noticed that many sections of the older writing and most especially many including spell work and ritual diagrams were cut from another piece of paper and pasted into the book. Though not all sections had been pasted over from former great magicians, some were rewritten in what Tabitha recognized as Elba’s neat script. Tabitha wondered at it, but knew her wondering would probably be left unfulfilled. When she reached the beginning of the book, she started again, this time the words and concepts clearer.

When she started reading though came an extra point of frustration. Magic—or at least what was described before her—seemed to combine bits and pieces of everything she had ever heard about it, as well as something akin to scientific theory here and there. Then, she read for pages and pages, but not of the writing insofar actually mentioned how to practice magic, simply described the force. That idea frustrated her as it seemed she might not receive any actual instruction from the book. But then, there came one small paragraph about how to focus her energy and draw it out of her, creating magic. She studied the small passage over and over, before she turned the page to find a warning inscribed before a drawing.

“Be warned,” it read, “that this ritual seeks to prolong the life of the one whom it would be used upon as it allows for an instance of great healing. I have seen it used to heal a wound which seemed beyond repair, but in doing so, it also took away such ills which come naturally with age, ills, which should be reversed.”
June, otter

The Next Great Magician part 7

Two things: One, when I am finished, I totally need to reformat this as chapters, and two, because I am writing single spaced in word, this is a b to reformat to something readable here.

 She slid them onto a plate and handed it to her father, who collected his eggs and bacon. At which point, Tabitha’s stomach decided to growl.

“I thought you said you ate,” her dad said.

“I did, eat, that is. I guess I’m just hungry again,” she replied. Tabitha surveyed the fried food and decided to reach for an apple in the hanging fruit basket. “Do we have any water bottles in the house?”
“What? First you can do magic, now you’re on a health kick?” her dad asked.
“The two are not mutually exclusive,” Tabitha replied.
“I hate to say it, Tabby’s right,” Chelsea said over the breakfast table. “I mean, we all need to think about what we eat, right? And dad weren’t you just saying a little while ago that the doctor told you that you needed not to eat so much fattening stuff so that your arteries don’t get clogged?”
“There are worse ways to die,” he remarked.
“Heart attack symptoms can appear for hours before the actual event, and the actual attack can last up to thirty minutes which causes severe pain in the chest, and if you should survive, it sucks,” Tabitha said.
“Thank you Dr. Tabitha,” Carol said. “Look, your father and I both know the risks, and I admit, we could eat a little healthier. But it’s not like we want one of those British ladies from the TV knocking down the door and forcing it down our throats. Okay, girls? Baby steps. Tabitha, eat your apple.” 
After she finished the apple, Tabitha ventured back upstairs to prepare for school. She would have to leave early so that she could get her assignment from the day before. That meant she would be walking to school, as Reiss never went early, unless his life depended on it. Fortunately, it was only about a twenty minute walk, much less than what she did yesterday. She packed her bag with its usual products and then looked at her newer, magical items.
The boots were not a problem; she could wear them and almost look normal. A quick check of the forecast revealed it was not going to get above fifty degrees, and might rain, so she could definitely take her coat as well. As for the book, Weisz had advised her to never leave it alone, which mean it had to come with her. The safest option for that was do leave it in the pocket in the back of her coat. Much to her loathing, Tabitha left the typewriter at home, just to give herself one less temptation.
Tabitha reviewed all assignments which were due for that day, and before the clock could think of striking seven, she set out for school.
Arriving forty minutes before the bell rang in a small town was a little unusual, but the security guards knew her well enough as the mild-mannered sister of Reiss McLane, so they barely shrugged as she walked into the school early. She had not missed her morning classes, so she skipped the visits to her history, computer and calculus teachers, and never felt more grateful to have fourth hour study period. Fifth period was basic art, and the teacher reported that they only had in class work, so she might want to come in during lunch to work on her drawing. Her physics teacher handed her a packet filled will problems, and suggested that she come in during lunch if she needed help. When she reached English was when she ran into trouble.
It turned out that her English teacher, Ms. Grant, had been sick yesterday and today and subbing in was one of the assistant principals. The assistant principal who took care of all of the students from S to Z, meaning he was Tabitha’s assistant principal.
He was sitting at Ms. Grant’s desk looking over a lesson plan when she entered, and noticed her before she could walk right back out.
“Tabitha!” he called. “Came for your assignment?”
“Yes sir,” she replied.
“Good. I thought you might. It will give us a chance to talk about your truancy yesterday and this way you won’t have to be called to the office. Take a seat.” Tabitha felt that her stride became slower and stuck together the closer she got to the room. The feeling of being in trouble was wholly unfamiliar to her as the last time it had happened in school, she punched Sarah Jones after having a rock thrown at her head. Not to mention, she had skipped school for a good reason, she could not exactly tell Mr. White that. “So,” he said, pulling out a chair from one the desks and sitting right in front of her, “do you want to tell me why you skipped school yesterday? Because I think we both know that your parents didn’t pull you out.”
“I…didn’t…feel well,” she said slowly, trying to work out a reasonable excuse.
“If you didn’t feel well, why didn’t you go to the office or the nurse, and ask to be sent home?” he asked. “I’m sure Reiss wouldn’t have minded driving you.”

“It wasn’t a physical unwellness,” she said. “I just…I needed to get out of the school.”
“Why?” he asked. “You’re such a good kid, Tabitha, I can’t even begin to wonder why you would do something wrong like that. Did someone put you up to it or…what happened that made you feel like you wanted to leave?”
“I felt like I was being watched,” she retorted. “And no offense, Mr. White, but you can’t exactly tell the office every sneaking suspicion you have. That’s what gets kids sent to an institute.”
“You felt like you were being watched in the school?” Mr. White asked. “Watched by whom?”
“I don’t know. I just felt so anxious and at ease, it’s like I had to leave or I was going it…I don’t pass out or freak out on someone, okay? I just needed three periods for my mental health. Considering the fact that I consistently do not need to fill a period and already take two classes at the university, I don’t think this should be that big of a deal.”
“That’s why it is such a big deal, Tabitha,” he said. “Because I don’t want to see such a promising student like you get involved into anything terrible, okay? I’ll let it go this time, but if you ever feel uncomfortable in the school, just come and see me during a passing period and we’ll talk about it, or if you really need to, I’ll let you go home. Just get the absences excused and we won’t have any problems.”
“All right,” she agreed, though the words stuck in her throat, and she felt like a coward for speaking them. What had made it so easy to tell the truth to her family, but then she could not say the exact same thing to a school official? Was another problem being a magician would bring her? Always having to hide certain activities and reasons from people she should have been able to trust?
“Okay, then, your assignment for yesterday was to begin reading Odyssey, introduction and up to page seventy-five. We’ll be discussing it today and class and you need to consider a possible essay topic, and write up a proposal for the end of the week.” He handed her a worn paperback copy of the book, and waited for her to fill out the card in the front. When she handed it back to him, he said, “That’s all for now. You can go and try to catch up on your work.”
She still had almost a half-hour before school began, so she sequestered herself in the library skimming her history book, and taking down notes that would have to be discussed in class. Thankfully, she had a fully written essay done much ahead of time, and she was also ahead in her computer skills class, which meant she would have a second study hall that morning, during which she could work on calculus problems. Her real study hall would be spent getting into her physics packet and reading the first one hundred or so pages of the Odyssey.
“Life could get worse,” she muttered to herself.
“You could have killer magicians after you.” Tabitha jumped and looked to see Weisz sitting across from her.
“Did you have to do that?”
“Have to?” he inquired, a grin spreading across his face. “Not strictly speaking but it was quite amusing, so…In any case, I just came to tell you where I’ve taken up residence and ask when you will be free for your first magic lesson.”
“About that,” she said, making Weisz frown. “Don’t make that face! I was just going to say, I told my family the truth, so I need to discuss curfews with my dad and my stepmom.”
“And how late will that and…advanced placement physics take you?” he asked, reading her packet upside down.
“I’m not sure,” she admitted.
“Tabitha, I loathe to inform you of this, but there are people who will be attempting to kill you,” Weisz replied.
“Well, I hate to tell you this, but my dad will be on that list if I don’t obey his rules,” Tabitha replied. “Look, I know this is not going to be easy for either of us, all right? But I am a good student. I always do my homework when it gets handed to me, and I learn quickly. Don’t worry so much about what you will be able to teach me. It just can’t be tonight.”
“They know where you are Tabitha,” he said.
“Yeah, I know.”
“I don’t think you do.”
“I don’t think you were here yesterday when I skipped school because I could feel them watching me,” she hissed. Weisz eyes grew wide.
“And can you feel them now?”
“Can you?”
“Not necessarily,” he replied, ducking his head to look out a window. “Answer me honestly, do you think you will be able to devote enough of your time to become the Great Magician?”
“I will give you whatever time I have left. Whether or not it will be enough is for you to decide after our first magic lesson.” Weisz stared her down, but then snorted and leaned back in his chair.

“Very well. I trust you’ll be in contact?” He held out a small manila card to her, which had an address, phone number and surprisingly an email and fax.
“Good to know we don’t use pigeons for mail,” she muttered. “And that I can email you my schedule. By the way, my weekends are almost completely open.”
“And in the old days you would have trained from before dawn until well after dusk, every day of the week, no matter how tired you were,” Weisz cheerily informed her. “I begin to think Klaus was right in wanting to keep you hidden away in Germany.”
“Times change,” she retorted.
“And thankfully for you, I change with them.” The bell rang, and Tabitha began stacking her papers and things, sliding them neatly into her bag. “Well, then, I won’t keep you.”
“I wouldn’t let you anyway,” she replied. That actually made Weisz smile.
“So much like Elba. It actually hurts a little. Off to class with you, then, we would not want you to be late, now would we?”
“Actually, I think you might get a little joy out of it,” she replied, and began to walk off. She heard him laugh, but then nothing. When she turned back to check, Weisz was gone.

History went smoothly enough, because the teacher almost never called on her, due to the fact that Tabitha usually had all of the answers. As she predicted, they had not moved on to their next lesson in computer skills, so she used it to do calculus homework. Calculus was all right too, it was only after that Tabitha hit a snag in her day. Brian d’Ambrosio stood next to her locker as she approached.
“Can we talk?” he asked.
“Talk,” she replied.
“No, about the other day, about what you did to the, uh…” he lowered his voice. “Gun.”
June, otter

The Next Great Magician part 6

But, gradually, Tabitha began to set down all that had happened to her over the past day.

“It makes me wonder,” she wrote, “what my life will be life from now on. If I will be constantly scared or anxious or if I will be ready to face these immortality seekers when they come for me. Because the way Klaus and Weisz make it sound these people will come for me.”  Tabitha leaned back in the chair and stared at her words, more wonderings coming to her head.

“Can I trust them?” she thought. “What if I am completely on the wrong side of things? What if these people that they say I need to fight are not so bad after all? What if I can’t be the Great Magician?”

“Tabitha!” Weisz called. Tabitha took her journal from the typewriter, and converted it back into a little brick, because she pushed both back into the pockets of her coat.

“Yes!” she called back, stepping out into the hall. Weisz appeared at the end of the hall, waving at her.

“Come, Inoue is here, and she’s going to take you and I back to your home.” Tabitha followed him down the hall, adjusting her coat as she went to make the typewriter shift against her chest. Weisz let her down into a receiving hall where a Japanese woman stood waiting with Klaus. “Tabitha, this is Inoue Hotaru. She’s the best transporter in the world. Inoue, this is Walls Tabitha, the Great Magician.” Hotaru Inoue bowed to her and Tabitha replied with the same motion, making Inoue give a slight smile.

The woman offered out her hand which Tabitha took, while Weisz accepted her other one.

“Close your eyes and picture your home,” Inoue instructed. Tabitha breathed in and closed her eyes, picturing her home in the suburbs, on the only hill there. She pictured walking up the small slope and arriving at the front door. The drooping red gutters came to mind, that happened during the last hail storm, as well as the white primer around the edges of the garage door because her father had fired the painters doing the job, because he did not like their service, and did not repaint them himself, like he said he would. There were three cars, one each for her father, step-mother, and older step brother. Her step-sister had a scooter, and her younger brother always leaned his bike up against the house instead of putting it in the garage.

A breeze blew across her face, and when Tabitha opened her eyes, she stood in front of her house, the sky still dark.

Chapter Five: At Home and at School

“You did very well,” Inoue said, bowing to her again.

“Thank you,” Tabitha replied bowing back. Inoue smiled and turned back to Weisz saying,
“I must go, but you know how to reach me.”
“Of course, thank you,” Weisz said. Inoue disappeared, though not through a puff of smoke or some other trick, which Tabitha had been expecting. She simply was not there one moment, when she had been the moment before. “Do you want me to go in with you?” Weisz asked.
“That’ll go over well,” Tabitha remarked, turning to look at her house.
“You have so little faith in your family,” Weisz said.
“They don’t have much faith in me either, or a lot of understanding for that matter.”
“Magical children are never very well understood,” Weisz said. “But that is not say many parents have not tried.”
“What did you parents say when they found out that you were a magician?” Tabitha asked. Weisz flushed. “They never knew did they?”
“They were Orthodox Jews,” Weisz said. “I wasn’t sure how to explain to them that I would far out live them and make magic happen. Is your family particularly religious?”
“They’re orthodox something,” Tabitha replied. “I’m just not sure it relates to religion. I’d better go. It’s already…” Tabitha flicked open her watch pendant. “It’s five in the morning. My dad’ll be getting up soon.”
“I won’t keep you then, but I will be in contact soon,” Weisz promised. “We will need to work out times for you to study with me and of course, I will be watching over you.” Tabitha waved to him as she walked up the steps of her drive to her front door, quietly punching in the code on the lock, unlocking the door to enter the house. She quietly pushed the door into its frame, releasing the handle only then for a quiet click.
The house was the one she had grown up in, and it had been around since the thirties or forties, or maybe earlier. After her mother died her father renovated it as a grieving process; by the time he was finished with it a year later, it had all new insulation, a central heating and cooling system, modern appliances, and everything else he could think of to make it better. The grieving had evidently worked so well, that by the end of that same year; he also had a new girlfriend, Carol, who would eventually become her step mother.
Tabitha had hoped and prayed that Carol and her father would not last as a couple, and then her father won nearly half a million dollars playing the lottery. It was not as much as he could have won, but combined with a great house that had a ton of bedrooms, her father’s steady job, and the money left over from her mother’s life insurance policy, her dad had probably seemed worth any problems they might have had in their relationship. They got married soon after the lotto draw.
Her younger sister, Hope, had actually been too young to remember much of their mother, but Tabitha did. For some reason, Carol never made that great of an impression on Tabitha as a mother. She felt more like an aunt over staying her welcome, but Tabitha listened to, respected and obeyed her as much as she could. Carol was helpful in some cases, sometimes a bridge between her and her father. But Carol sensed their tense relationship and out of her own two kids, Hope, and Mikey who came shortly after the marriage, Tabitha tended to come last in Carol’s books.
Tabitha went to the kitchen, first thing. Despite all the water Klaus had made her drink, Tabitha still felt a little parched and dehydrated. While she was drinking her water, her father appeared on the stairs, slowly descending, leaning on the railing as he did.
The very first thing he did, which was the first thing he did every morning, was walk to the sliding glass door that led out to a patio and smoked a cigarette. Normally, he went all the way out as so he would not get smoke on the dining room walls, which had been repainted a few times already. But today, he leaned against the sliding glass door and looked at her as she drank down a second glass of water. Tabitha looked back, wondering what he might just say. When she went to get her third glass of water, he asked,
“Where were you, last night?” Tabitha set the glass on the counter and leveled a look at her father.

“Do you want the honest to God truth, Dad?”
“Lay it on me,” he replied.
“France, and then Germany,” Tabitha replied.
“And how exactly did you get to France and then Germany, and have time to come back here?” her father asked.
“Magic,” she said. “I’m a magician, and I traveled through a magical pawn shop to France and met other magicians who told me that I’m not something called the Great Magician because the last Great Magician died the other day. I went to her wake and paid my respects. Then I passed out because I was doing magic on an empty stomach so some of the older magicians took me to the Black Forest. And then they made me breakfast.”
“That’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard,” Carol said, hurrying into the kitchen in only a robe to start the coffee pot.
“Bigger than, ‘No, Mom, I don’t know how the pot got under my mattress?’” Tabitha asked.
“It was one of his friends that did that, and you know it,” Carol retorted. “Tabby, why do you have to be like this so early in the morning?”
“It’s one of the only times of day you guys will actually talk to me instead of telling me not to sass you,” Tabitha replied. Her dad grunted, but  it sounded suspiciously like a laugh. 
“So, you gonna do some magic for us, or something?” he asked.
“I can’t, I just found out about it yesterday,” Tabitha said. “The guys said that I should tell you the truth about all of it. I wasn’t going to, but something possessed me, so there it is. Speaking of which, I have to take magic lessons to protect great secrets and prevent people from making themselves immortal. So that means you’ll probably be seeing less of me, around the evenings and such.”
“You could just say that you have another class that you want to go to, or heaven forbid, you want to go out with some friends,” Carol retorted.
“But I am the friendless freak who studies too much, remember?” Carol, who had been digging in the fridge, leaned up at the same time as her father who had been bending to put out his cigarette.
“You heard that, the other night?” her dad asked.
“Even with the insulation, the walls aren’t that thick,” Tabitha replied, drinking down her water. “And you guys wonder why Reiss and I don’t get along.”
“It’s ‘cause your stuck up,” Reiss replied wandering into the kitchen. Tabitha knew he wanted to say something other than stuck up, but would not in front of their parents. “But Dad, she’s got one thing right, the walls are still kind of paper thin.”
“Ain’t anything we can really do about it. Tabby, are really serious about this magic stuff?” he asked. “’Cause if you are, I just gotta say that lying about where you were last night won’t help you. If you were out with a guy or decided to go to a rock concert or whatever, that’s fine, I can get over that. But if you are shitting me, young lady, and it comes out in the end, you are not going to like the consequences.”
“Dad I promise, I’m not shitting you,” she replied.
“Okay, sure, then we’ll need to talk about this later and new curfew rules if you’re going to be out doing magic.” Tabitha blinked. “And you want to make some breakfast for everyone, since you’ve already eaten? I’ve got to go take a shower.”
“Ah, sure,” Tabitha replied, watching him walk back upstairs.
“Where did you get those clothes?” Carol asked. “You don’t own anything like that.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been through your closet, young lady,” Carol retorted.
“Looking for what? Extra homework?” Tabitha asked. “I’m gonna go change, then I’ll get started on breakfast.” As she moved toward the stairs, she passed Chelsea her step sister who stopped and stared.
“Where did you get that? It’s nice.” Even still half asleep, Chelsea still made it sound like an insult that Tabitha was actually wearing something nice.
“From a magical pawn shop, and well, a dress shop in France.” Chelsea blinked awake, wondering what sort of opportunity she had missed.
When she returned downstairs to cook breakfast, Reiss was sitting on the kitchen counter eating directly out of a cereal box, while Chelsea dug into a grapefruit and Carol nursed an early morning migraine and her second cup of coffee. Tabitha only shook her head at the scene and began to fry up some breakfast for her family. When her father returned back downstairs, it was a quarter to six and she had just finished cooking his eggs over medium.
June, otter

The Next Great Magician part 5

 Weisz held on to her as the world went dark.

Chapter Four: In Klaus’ Kitchen

Tabitha woke, shooting up into bed the moment she remembered what had happened. She was still dressed in her frock and leggings, but her coat hung over a chair nearby and her boots at its feet. A window to the left of the bed she lay in indicated that the sun shone brightly outside.

How long had she slept?

Tabitha grabbed her bag, and slipped on her coat and her boots. How on earth was she going to get out of this place? And back home? Was she still even in Rennes at all? She slipped out of the bedroom, and began walking down a corridor, only to have Weisz bump into her when she tried to turn a corner. She jumped again.

“Calm down, duckling,” he said. “You’re at Klaus’ home just outside of the Black Forest.”

“In Germany?” she asked.

“Yes, of course. You passed out because you’ve used magic, very powerful magic, twice in two days, not to mention your intuition was running high due to the immortality seekers, you went through a magical pawn shop and you were automatically translating other languages, or at least French. It’s not a wonder you were exhausted.”

“How long was I asleep?”

“About fourteen hours. Klaus has just finished breakfast if you would like to eat something. You probably should. You have not had anything since your dinner yesterday and—”

“I was passed out when I would normally have dinner,” Tabitha told him. “But if you mean the noon meal, I didn’t have that either. I wasn’t hungry, so I gave it to Tiberius as a trade.” Weisz scowled.

“That scoundrel! He’s been around long enough to know what missing a meal will do to a young magician. Come on, then, we must get some food into you.”

“What exactly does missing a meal do to a young magician?” asked Tabitha as she followed along after Weisz.

“Well, duckling, magic is like any other energy you produce—kinetic energy for instance—you must have fuel for that energy. If you go for a five mile run without enough fuel in your body, you collapse.” As he talked Weisz led her down a set of stairs into a large foyer, and then into another hallway to a panel in the wall. He released a latch and opened the panel into reveal a kitchen. Klaus stood before a stove, pulling eggs from a boiling pot.

“Good morning!” he greeted when he saw them. “And how is our duckling feeling this morning? Hungry no doubt?”

“Now that you mention it,” she replied. Klaus motioned toward a set of chairs at a counter, and Tabitha took a seat next to Weisz. “You both can call me Tabitha, by the way. There’s no need for animal nick names.”
“Well, up until now, Tabitha, we did not know your name,” Klaus reasoned, setting two poached eggs before her in a small bowl. “By the way, if you have a love of fried things, I would advise you stop eating them.”
“Not a particular love,” she said, digging into the white of the egg. Klaus continued to lay things out before her—cold cuts of ham, turkey, chicken, some cuts of fish, grainy rolls, all colors of fruits but many green vegetables.
“Eat something of everything,” Klaus told her. “And before I forget…” He then set a large glass of water in front of her. “Drink that down as well.”
“You have an accent,” Tabitha noticed. “Did you have that last night?’
“Well, not really. Last night I was speaking French to you, and this morning I am speaking English,” Klaus said.
“It’s like I said, duckling, you were automatically translating everything you heard,” Weisz said, cutting up fruits and taking them out of their skins, always leaving half before her. Before she knew it, Tabitha was inundated with pomegranate seeds, orange slices, apple quarters, a peach half, a plum half, half of a banana and more. Klaus also served up green beans, snap peas, spinach and kale, as well as one serving of each meat.
“And you both expect me to eat all of that?” she asked.
“Some of everything,” Klaus told her. “It will help you regain your strength.”

“I’m not sure I’ve got the time. I really need to get home. I was out all night, and I have only some idea of how angry my dad and step-mom are going to be.”
“To take a trip across the water is not a simple thing,” Klaus said. “Only those who concentrate on developing such a skill will be able to take us so far, and one is being looked for. We will take you home when we are able, Tabitha I promise. In the meantime, break your fast.” Tabitha dug into her eggs once again, and once she started eating, she found it rather easy to continue. 
“Now you have the book in a safe place, right?” Weisz asked. “I won’t ask you to produce it for me. Really, it’s only for the Great Magician, or the Great Magician’s apprentice to see. I just want to know that it’s safe. You didn’t leave it back home did you?”
“No,” Tabitha replied. “It’s safe. What was that you mentioned last night about you teaching me?”
“Well, normally one Great Magician will teach the next,” Weisz said. “But Elba asked me to teach you in the event of her untimely demise. She taught me a great many things, so I suppose it’s really rather fitting. But you must also study the book.”
“Will I still be able to go to school?” Tabitha asked. “I realize that becoming the Great Wizard is important, but I would rather not neglect my other education.”
“I don’t see why it would be impossible to work around,” Klaus said. “Do you, Weisz?”
“No. You attend a secondary school?”
“Well, and I take some classes at the university,” she said. “Some are online, but some I do in person. I only have one night class once a week, though so I should be able to work with you after three most days. But what about my parents? What do I tell them?”
“The truth,” Klaus said.
“That’s funny,” Tabitha said, taking a bite of avocado over a piece of salmon. When she swallowed she asked, “What do I really tell them?”
“Why can you not say you are getting magic lessons for a very important cause?” Weisz asked.
“Weisz, how old are you?” she asked.
“One hundred thirty-seven,” Weisz replied.
“And if you told your parents one hundred twenty-two years ago that you were getting magic lessons for a good cause, what might their reaction have been?” Tabitha asked.
“But that was a century and a quarter ago!” Weisz exclaimed. “Surely they cannot be that close minded to these ideals.”
“You need to get out more often,” Tabitha suggested.
“For now, Tabitha, say nothing too particular,” Klaus said. “If you truly fear retribution from your parents, when you attend lessons with Weisz, tell them that you are going to class or you are working a job. Both are technically true.” Hearing the word job made Tabitha wince.
“That reminds me—I volunteer four times a week at the library. We’ll need to work around that as well.”
“You certain demand not uproot your life,” Weisz observed. “Are you that afraid of change?”
“Well, it certainly would not be good if someone noticed something off about my routine,” Tabitha said. “My parents I might be able to fool with something, but my co-workers won’t be so easily taken. They have my schedule pretty well memorized. Plus what about these immortality seekers we’ve all be so concerned about? Won’t they notice something if I change my routine too radically? I mean, going missing yesterday can be explained with the arrival of the book. They could think I went someone where to study it for a time. But if they notice my magic lessons with Weisz, and they will be watching me, if yesterday is any indication, it would be best to maintain a routine, so they do not think anything too suspicious.”
“Most unfortunately, you have a point,” Weisz said. “It would be best if they did not notice you so much. After all, you barely know anything about magic, so it would not be a good thing if they caught you.”
“Agreed,” Klaus said. “It is not to my favoring, but it is a sound idea.”
“What would be to your favoring?” Tabitha asked.

“That you stay here, let us teach you magic,” Klaus said. “But the world no longer works that way. People would notice you were missing and send out word. It would reach us even here in the Black Forest if they were to suspect.”
“It might not for some time,” Tabitha said. “Even so, I’m not sure I would want to go missing from my family. They may not understand me at times, and they might have some cruel things to say about me being a magician, but they are still my family, and I know they love me.”
“We won’t pull you away, Tabitha,” Weisz said. “But it is imperative that I be able to teach you.”
“I know,” Tabitha replied. “I’m not sure I understand all of it, but I know that this is my duty or destiny—in any case I do have to do it. I almost…I almost feel it. Like how some people say they can feel the rain coming in their bones. I can feel this.”
“That is good,” Klaus remarked.
“Is it?” Tabitha asked.
“Yes; it means Elba definitely chose the right person.” Klaus smiled at her, and nudged the food closer. “Keep eating.”

They talked for another half hour as Tabitha ate more food than she probably ever had in one sitting. When she finished her water, though, Klaus gave her a delicious cup of hot chocolate, with a touch of mint. He said that it would help her digest, but Tabitha was just glad for the sweet treat. When breakfast was finished, Weisz and Klaus dismissed her, saying that they needed to wait on transportation a bit, and she needed to digest her meal.
“If you do before she gets here, we’ll start your first magic lesson,” Weisz promised. While she was digesting, though, Tabitha explored Klaus’ home a bit as Weisz and Klaus talked elsewhere. Eventually she found what she guessed must have been a drawing or sitting room when Klaus had used the house more. She moved back musty curtains to receive a cloud of dust in her face and a load of sunshine. It must have been past nine now which meant that it was close to four in the morning at home. Tabitha hoped they could get her home within the next few hours, and that her parents would not be too disappointed that she did not get home last night.
Tabitha sat down at one of the tables and pulled out her journal. When she reached for though, her hand brushed past the typewriter, and so she pulled it out, converting it to its regular size on the table.
“If only you could type on my journal without having to rip out the pages,” she said, converting it to the small size which would type on one of her journal pages if she ripped it out. Running her hand along the opposite side, she found another series of buttons. Pressing the one closest to the front of the typewriter, she found that the typewriter expanded in width, but now also had a set of braces to hold something up against the back of it, one on each side of the typewriter. It is the right size for her journal, so she fits it into the slots, and hits a key.
It ends up placing a random h on a page she’s already written on, though thankfully not over any actual writing. She fiddles with the type writer, trying to manually make it move so that it will type on the right page, and littering the left page with random letters as she goes. Finally, she gets something on the top right, and begins typing as fast as she can on the typewriter. The pressure under the keys feels different from that of a computer keyboard.
June, otter

Totally just broke the project vow...but,

 I am dog tired. I know I could have written earlier today, but first I made potato salad and then I had to read a book that needs to go back to the library tomorrow. Then it was time for dinner, then I did a little writing and then we went to a fire works display. So here's a bit from the Next Great Magician and something from an essay story i might do for inkpop.

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June, otter

The Next Great Magician part 3

 Tabitha eyed them for a moment, fearing that they might develop a mouth and eat her, but then reseated herself in the chair and pulled them on. The boots fit her perfectly, the soles soft and flexible, so much so she thought she might be able to run in them. She had only bartered for two things, and since she had them now, she turned to get her back, so that she could find her way to the front of the shop.
When she did, Tabitha saw that the typewriter had moved from one end of the table to the other. Tiberius words came back to her, that she found the shop because she needed something from it. Tabitha did not know why she would need a typewriter, though this one was quite nice, and appeared to be made of brass. She ran her fingers along the edges and found that there were several buttons along the lower side of it. Curious, she pressed one.

The typewriter, which had been a full size a moment ago, shrunk down to the width of perhaps five inches wide at its paper slot. She pressed another button and it grew to a width of fourteen inches wide. A small dial, she found toward the back, adjusted the size of the type. She flicked the button closest to the front of the typewriter, and it shark, folding itself up into a brass box, about eight inches long, four inches wide and two inches thick. Tabitha picked it up and turned it over in her hand, and still held it when she grabbed her bag and the box, walking the same way Tiberius had moment ago.

She walked for a time, but quickly found a front desk with a register and Tiberius behind it. Tiberius was chewing rather slowly as she approached; with some hesitancy, he swallowed.

“Did you find what you need?” he asked.

“Yes, but I found three things,” she replied, “and I only bartered for two.”

“Well, you’ll need the coat—it’ll keep you warm or cool, no matter where you go, and the boots will travel far and you’ll never get blisters. As for the brick, I’m not sure what you’ll need that for.”

“It’s a typewriter,” she said. “Here, watch.” Tabitha pressed the button closest to the front but nothing happened, so she reached for the button between five and fourteen inches and a regular sized typewriter folded itself out of the brass brick.

“Say! It’s like that new movement, oh what’s it called—”

“Steampunk?” Tabitha guessed.

“Yes that’s…!” Tiberius trailed off and scowled darkly. “Take it then, it’s yours.”

“I don’t understand,” she replied, pressing the button to turn it into a brick again. As she slipped the surprisingly light brick into a pocket at her breast, Tabitha added, “Why are you just letting me have it?”

“I’m not. I asked for information and you gave it. I have to repay you with something.” Tabitha smiled at him.
“Well, here,” she said, reaching into her bag. “If you liked the salad, you’ll like this.” She held up and orange, sweet roll to him, but he just scowled again.
“And what do you want for that?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she replied. “It’s a gift, not a barter.” His face softened, and he muttered at her,
“Too good, Tabitha Walls, you are far too good.” He paused and stared at her for a minute and then said, “Wait here a moment.”
Tabitha obliged him, and when he returned, he was holding a jewelry case. He opened it and pulled out a silver pendant and held it out to her. “Here, a gift for you. I don’t know why, but you’ll need it one day.”
Tabitha accepted it, and pulled the long chain over her head, letting the pendant fall down on her chest. The designs were of silver filigree, but had a moon stone in the middle. On the side, there was a fine gear, with a small nob on the top that looked familiar. Tabitha pressed into the knob, and the pendant opened to reveal a watch face.
“That’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. In addition to the time, told in twenty-four hour intervals, there was also a small moon in the shape of a crescent, a thermometer and barometer.
“It was Elba’s,” Tiberius revealed. “She bartered it for some very precious information. Nearly killed her to let it go. I think you should have something of hers, to keep her close to your heart and remind you just what she did to get you that book you carry.” Tabitha almost asked what Elba had done, but then she remembered the woman’s letter. She closed the fob watch’s cover, and slid off the coat. Removing the book from its box, she slid the large volume into a pocket on the back of the coat. She felt better having it touch her back, so that she would know it was there. From her bag, she removed her wallet and slid it into another pocket, followed by various pens and pencils.
She slipped the coat back on, grabbing her bag, just in case she might need it, and turned back to Tiberius.
“Where is the way out?” He pointed at a door way, which had appeared by the front desk. “But that’s not the way I came in.”
“You came in through the back door, girly,” he told her. “That’s the proper way out.”
“Oh, okay,” she replied, going for the door.
“Oy, wait a moment, you’re just going to leave that box with me? You can do that!” he said.

“And my shoes,” she added. “I left them in the stacks. Let’s just say you’ll owe me three.”
“Finding my shop is a once in a life time opportunity,” he retorted. “Either take what you want now, or you will never get it!” Tabitha smiled.
“How many times did Elba find this shop?” Tiberius sputtered a little before he pointed toward the door,
“Out, missy, before you cause me any more headaches.” Tabitha smiled a little wider before she walked out the door.

Chapter Three: At a Wake in Rennes

The sun was much further west when she exited the shop, but that was not the only odd things she observed. When she turned to look back at Tiberius’ shop, it was gone. That did not surprise her much, but the location did. Tabitha knew every square inch of her town, because it was small enough that she had walked every inch by the time she was nine. She never before had seen a shop called Marianne’s Dresses.
Today had been odd, Tabitha admitted to herself, and she did not know much about magic, but she could not believe that she was in a completely different city. “I’m going to have to get used to this, aren’t I?” she asked herself. With a new resolve, Tabitha entered the dress shop.
“Yes, how may I help you?” asked a woman sorting through her racks.
“I’m sorry, I’m a bit lost, I was wondering if you could tell me where I am?”

“Tourist?” asked the woman. This time, when she spoke, Tabitha recognized an accent. French, maybe? She hoped she was not in New York, she would never find her way around.

“Yeah, I guess you could say that.”

“Your French is very good,” said the woman. “I’ll tell you what, you buy something from me, and I’ll give you directions to anywhere you want to go.”

“I’m not sure I have enough on my card to buy any this nice,” Tabitha said, fingering the price tag on a dress, still trying to work out the comment about her French.

“Well, I only take cash, so you can check at the cash machine down the street,” said the woman. “Make a left as you come out of the shop, and it’s squeezed between the bakery and chocolate shop.” Tabitha nodded and left the shop. She found the ATM easily enough and first checked the card her father had given her. It only had fifteen dollars on it, which meant that her step-brother or sister had taken it out and used it. Tabitha rolled her eyes, and pulled a card from a secret space in her wallet, that was tied to an account her family did not know she had. She withdrew three hundred dollars (which was actually euros), promising herself that she would make up the amount later when she was not in a strange city.

The lady smiled when she saw her return, and gestured to the clothes. “Pick out what you like. I might even be able to fit it for you, if you’re quick. I have to close up shop soon.”

Tabitha riffled through the racks, looking for something both cheap and in her size, and soon had to choose between a green and a black dress. “You have a black dress at home?” asked the woman.

“No,” Tabitha replied.

“Then take the black. Every woman needs one.” Tabitha tried on the dress to make sure it fit, and the woman found that she could do no adjustments.

“Is there any way to let the hem down?” Tabitha asked.

“I have some cheap leggings,” the woman replied. She fetched a pair for Tabitha, and then insisted she wear it out. “No man will be able to resist you tonight, and you will get a lot of free drinks.” Tabitha decided not to mention she was only fifteen. In the end, she decided to pay the woman the odd one-hundred fifty euros she owed her, and declared it the less satisfying bargaining experience of the day.

The woman did not have a cash register, so she had to draw everything up by hand and count out Tabitha’s change. While she was, Tabitha looked around the shop, and found her eyes landing on a newspaper. A name on the page caught her eye, and she asked,

“Can I look at this?”

“Mm, yes, I am finished with it,” the woman replied. “Oh, by the way, where will you want your directions to?”

“Could you tell me how to get here?” she asked pointing to the address in the paper under Elba Mullins’ name.

“Why on earth would you want to go to a wake? You’re not strange, are you?”

“No, I just know the woman who died,” she insisted. “But I didn’t know until now that they were holding the wake.”

“Well, then aren’t you glad you bought the black one?” the woman asked. “I’ll write it down for you.” Directions and change in hand, and her clothes resting in her bag, Tabitha marched out onto the streets determined. She walked and walked, until finally after the sun had gone down, she found the place where the wake was being held.

“Would you like to buy some flowers for your dear departed one?” asked a vendor near the shop. Tabitha figured it would only be polite, and picked out a small bouquet of white lilies. “Ah, yes, the death flowers, good choice.” She paid the man his euros and entered the small building.

There was a crowd of people who were scattered about a number of rooms. Tabitha drew into one though where she saw a table of flowers around a picture, which no doubt depicted Elba Mullins.

Tabitha laid down the flowers, and simply stared at the picture for some time. This was all that was left of the woman who had wished her well. Who probably would have been her mentor and taught her all about magic, had the circumstances been different. She was a pretty woman, taunt red curls with just a few streaks of silver running through them, brown eyes like oak and a nice face. It was the sort of face  Tabitha remembered her mother having.

“I wish I could have known you too,” she whispered.

Weisz was considered young for a wizard. He was only one hundred thirty-seven, so some though this made him immature. Weisz believed for the most part that he simply enjoyed life, and saw no reason not to act like it. But right now, Claus believed he was being at least a little childish, due to his sulking on top of a cabinet in the corner of the wake room.

“She wouldn’t want this you know,” Claus told him.

“No, she was so at peace with it, she walked right up to them and practically said, ‘Kill me,’” Weisz snarled. “She was my best friend. The only one who took me seriously at times. I was with her the day before she died, and I can’t believe she’s the first one in almost one hundred years the immortality seekers had to go and kill.”

“All of that is true, but she would also knock you off of the cabinet for sulking as you are,” Claus said.

“I know,” Weisz grumbled. “I just don’t want to admit it. Even though I came to Rennes as fast as I could, she was still gone when I got here. And now I have to be the one to teach the girl child she chose. I’m not sure if I can do it, Claus. I’m not much of a teacher.”

“You’ll learn,” Claus said. “And the Great Magician never just has one teacher. Should you not be with this girl child now? Teaching her and protecting her.”

“She’s all right,” Weisz said. “I put some spells on her before I left her school yesterday. An alarm will go off if she’s hurt at all. And besides, she’s in—” The words Weisz were about to speak died on his lips, as he raised a finger to point across the room. “There, she right there!” Though he spoke in exclamation, his voice dropped down to a whisper as he pointed out a dark haired girl wearing a black frock and grey coat.

“How did she get to Rennes?” Claus asked.

“I suppose we’ll just have to ask,” Weisz replied.
June, otter

The Next Great Magician

Prologue: Atop A Roof during a School Shooting

Elba Mullins sat at the edge of the roof of what appeared to be the music building of a small high school. Below her, a boy waved a gun around threatening to shoot everyone around him. Resting her chin in her hand, then her elbow on her knee, Elba watched the situation unfold. True, she could have stepped in, and stopped the boy. No doubt, it would have been easier for her than any other security officer (all of whom were currently investigating another claim somewhere else in the school). But Elba had been given very specific information, and so she waited and she watched.

“Is he really going to shoot all of those kids?” Without looking, Elba knocked Weisz in the knee. “Ow!” the younger magician cried. “Why on earth did you have to do that?”

“I am concentrating very hard to watch this scene, Weisz,” she replied. “You’re only making it more difficult. Sit down and be quiet.” The younger magician obeyed.

The scene below involved a mass of high school students paused in the school courtyard as the young man waved his gun around ranting about injustice and amoral society practice. He reminded Elba of the young men at the university from when she was younger, and he it appeared he chose much the same path. But she was not looking much at the young man with the gun. No, most of her attention was on the girl with the dark hair, who sat at the ground looking very much paralyzed but staring directly at the young man’s gun. She happened to be the reason why Elba was here to watch.

A few minutes earlier, before the boy had pulled his gun, the girl had been shoved by a brute of a young man, and she and her books were tossed all across the pavement of the courtyard. The girl had scowled at him, but had only gone to collect her things when the gun had been pulled. But Elba had felt it then as she felt it now. She felt the girl’s heart race, and she felt the gift rising out of her.

The boy finished ranting, aiming his gun at the very same brute as earlier, and fired. All that came out though was water. The entire population of the school yard unfroze from their terror, except the girl, and laughed

“Is this what you do in your spare time?” Weisz asked. “Go around and stop random high school students from taking their rage out on their fellow man?”

“I was not the one who did that,” Elba said. “She did.” Weisz squinted at the girl, who still sat on the pavement, her heart racing, her chest rising and falling in uneven rhythm, as all of the other students began to move around her.

“She…the girl…did that?” Weisz asked. “On pure instinct.”

“I don’t believe it’s the first time either,” Elba said.

“But a novice can only do so much,” Weisz reasoned. “That was quite serious magic!”

“The girl has a good harness of her emotions,” Elba explained, standing up, using her walking stick to assist her. “I want you to help her, show her some of the ways. I garner she will pick much of the rest up on her own.”

“Why can’t you teach her?” Weisz asked. “After all, I’m not even one-hundred yet, surely someone more experienced would be better for the task and after all you are…you. And a better teacher than I will ever be.”

“Weisz have you ever heard the story of a man who saw Death in his home town? He told his friend about it and decided to flee to Damascus or another city very far away. Later the same friend saw Death, and asked, ‘Have you come to take me?’ and Death replies, ‘No, I’m just passing through on the way to the Damascus.’”

“…I don’t think it was Damascus,” Weisz replied.

“I’m not arguing fact, I’m arguing sentiment. Have you heard it?”

“Well yes,” Weisz replied. “What about it?”

“I’ve decided not to run to Damascus,” Elba replied, leaning on her stick. Weisz blinked for a moment, taking the parallel in.

“You…you actually talked to Death?”

“She’s quite a pleasant person when you get to know her.”

“You’ve talked to Death more than once? And you didn’t think to haggle for more time?”

“Weisz, you don’t get more time. When she says you have to go, you have to go. She did me a solid, since I’ve brought people in for her in the past and told me I had a week, so I better find the one who was going to follow me.”

“And how long ago was this?” Weisz asked.
“Oh, I’ve decided not to tell you,” Elba retorted. “After all, I wouldn’t want you risking your immortal soul. Or mine for that matter. Especially not mine. And especially since you will be looking after that young woman right there, because she will have quite a few people coming after her very soon.”

“Why can’t…” The question died on Weisz tongue. Elba only smiled at him. “You knew you would get me to do something in the end, didn’t you?”
“I wouldn’t say I for saw it, but yes, I was quite certain.”
“Where will you go then?” Weisz asked.
“Where do you think, Weisz? I’m going home, and I’ll have one last cup of tea with Death, and then, I’ll be gone.”
“Now you just sound like a children’s movie. She couldn’t at least tell you how it would happen?”
“She’s an angel. They enjoy being mysterious.” Weisz grumbled.
“You’ve set everything up, I truth.”
“More than you could imagine. Just watch her Weisz, make sure they don’t hurt her or convince her to live forever. That’s all I can ask.” Weisz’ shoulder drooped.
“All right,” he agreed.
A bell rang in the courtyard bellow, and the students, who had only gone inside a moment ago, ran back out for their cars and buses. The only one who had not moved was the girl. She had stacked her books, but still remained seated on the pavement, just looking at her hands.  “How long did you let that boy rant?” 
But Elba did not answer. She was gone.

Chapter One: In a Library Stall

School had ended oddly enough the day before. But a lot of odd things happened to Tabitha Walls, so she left after a five minute period that her teacher did not object to and took the long way home to think about things. She knew that the gun Brian d’Ambrosio held in his hand had been a real gun. She knew because she watched him load it before he fired. Well, before he began his very long rant. If she had not been scared out of her minds, she might have thought to time it, because it did seem to go on for some time.
The odd thing was, aside from the gun turning into the water gun at the last second, Brian did seem to rant for a really long time. In fact, it seemed almost like time had stopped. Tabitha had even heard the bell for class to start, which everyone ignored. And none of the teachers seemed the least bit suspicious that half the school had not shown up for class. Neither the security guards, nor the on campus police offer showed up, for that matter. And Brian just went on, ranting about the popular kids. At one point Tabitha had stopped being afraid and started wonder where he got the lung capacity.
But then he cocked the gun and started to wrap up his speech and Tabitha thought, “Don’t let it kill anyone.” And like that, it was a water gun. Only Brian looked as shock as she was that it was a water gun, everyone else just laughed. Then she just kind of sat there as everyone when to class for five minutes and then went home for the day.
Tabitha reasoned with herself that the gun had been a water gun all along…but she had seen him load it.
“There’s only one possible explanation,” she told herself. “I’m crazy.”
“It’s not the first time this has happened, though,” said a small part of her.
“Yeah, and that makes me even crazier.”
She did not bring up the day to her father and step-mother, just did her homework and her online class that went toward her associates degree that the school was paying for. She wrote in her journal and then went to bed.
The next day, Tabitha felt completely on edge from the moment she woke up. It led to mistakes like including her journal in her back pack, instead of her history notebook. She did not notice until first period AP History, when she went to retrieve it for notes, but had only the notebook and a few other binders awaiting her. She had to take notes in her English binder, least her fine leather bound journal get stolen and passed around the class. Nothing shook the feeling though, and she kept spacing out during her classes.

She almost caught the brunt of her teacher’s wrath for such a thing in AP Calculus, when the loud speaker announced,
“Will Tabitha Walls please come to the office? Tabitha Walls to the office, please?”
“All right, Tabitha you’re free to go,” the calculus teacher told her. Tabitha packed her bag and made for the door. When she arrived in the office, she was met with the front desk lady’s glare.
“Young lady, the school is not a post office,” the front desk lady told her from behind her fifties, wing glasses.
“I know?” Tabitha inquired.
“The next time you have an urgent package, you can have it sent home, and wait the five hours you’ll take to get there,” said the front desk lady, jerking her head toward the large package resting on the front desk.
“Ma’am I didn’t have a package sent here,” Tabitha replied, furrowing her eyebrows, in hopes that it would make her look quizzical enough that the front desk lady would let her off the hook. The front desk lady matched her furrow with the raising of an eye brow.
“But you are Tabitha Walls?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“You are a sophomore?”
“Yes ma’am.” The front desk lady frowned.
“Well, then, perhaps you should write back to whomever sent you that package and ask them to please not send you mail at school anymore.”
“I’ll do that,” Tabitha agreed. “May I take it?”
“It’s yours. If I opened it, it would be a federal crime. Mail tampering is a very serious thing, young lady.” Tabitha took the package. But she did not feel like going back to math class. In fact, she felt like getting out of school all together. Something in her gut, the thing that was putting her on edge was telling her to cut and run as fast as she could.
So for once in her life, Tabitha listened to her gut, and cut class.
She did not have a car—she was only fifteen, and for that matter did not have a license to drive—but the town was small enough and the walk to the library would not be so long.
The library sat a block away from the University and served as both the town and the University library. It was Tabitha’s favorite place in town. Next year, when she turned sixteen, the librarians had promised her a job for all her hard volunteer work that she did. Truth be told, one of the main reasons why Tabitha liked the library, and why she volunteered so much, was because everywhere else she went, someone always had something to say about her. The librarians said things to her,
“Tabitha, could you re-shelve that cart for us? Tab, could you man the front desk? Tab, would you mind cleaning up the kid’s section? Good work, Tabitha, you always do such a good job.”
Everyone else said things like,
“That Tabitha girl is a strange one. Tabitha is never going to get a boyfriend with the way she acts, and dresses, and looks. Who’s Tabitha Walls?”
Tabitha much preferred being spoken to, rather than about.
Nancy, the library’s own front desk lady, raised her eye when she saw Tabitha walk through the door.
“I didn’t think school got out until at least three-thirty.”
“Please don’t tell, Nancy?” Tabitha asked. “I just needed a mental health day.”
“All right, but only because you’ve never skipped in your life. Personally, I think you need to be a little more bad on occasion.” Nancy smiled brightly at her, and Tabitha returned the smile, only with less force. She moved toward the stair well and raced to the top level of the library. It always held the least amount of noise, and on this Tuesday afternoon it was particularly abandoned. Tabitha loved it, and went straight for her usual library stall.
She set the package down gently on the stall table, and closed the door behind her. Once seated, Tabitha ripped into the sides of the package covering, not wanting to rip the beautiful cursive on the front, which would allow her to write back to her mysterious benefactor. Beneath the brown paper wrapping, she found a polished wooden box that looked far too undamaged for suffering the postal services. Around the middle of the box though, Tabitha felt the slightest of crack. When she managed to get her fingers into it, she lifted up and found the most beautiful leather bound book she had ever seen.

Her fingers slid over the designs imprinted into the leather work, and it felt like they moved under her fingers. Tabitha lifted it out of the box, discovering a folded slip of parchment underneath.
June, otter


 Inspired by watching Cirque de Soleil

Here's a summary: Before Ziggy was a ranger, before he worked for the Cartels, he lived and worked in a circus. In fact, he was born into circus life and always loved it. He gave it up to protect his family from the cartels, and then the Venjix up rising happened, leaving Ziggy no way back to his family. But once he escapes the cartels and returns to become a ranger, Ziggy begins practicing his circus arts again. The group discovers this when Ziggy rescues a small boy from grinders atop high scaffolding.

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