The human mind has a real hard on for patterns. It’s been “proven” many a time given the chance your mind will find patterns where none exist. Why does this happen? Maybe because it offers an illusion of control and understanding. That illusion is helpful because most people don’t handle it well when confronted with the notion that the universe is random and nothing you do effects the outcome of your life much. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
This could explain why over the millennia that human people have been practicing magic you’ll find that those practitioners will things like they’ve mastered “all five schools of magic” or that they’ve passed through “the seventh gateway” or unlocked “the third circle” or some other thing involving numbers or levels or something. It’s a good thing they’re all dead and can’t read this because magic doesn’t work like that. Or rather it did for them, but only because they decided it did.
Magic has existed since the dawn of time. It is present in every person and everything. Magic connects us all together. This is starting to sound like the Force from Star Wars, but my point is that all the time magic people have spent trying to categorize magic and study it and understand it has been utterly wasted. There are only schools of magic if you decide to think about it that way. There are only circles of magic if you believe in them.
Let’s take Stella for example, RIP Stella. She called herself a necromancer, she would have referred to necromancy as her tradition of magic. Necromancy was taught to her by her mother who learned it from her mother and so on all the way back to the American Civil War and Jedidiah Crane making it all up with ideas he tortured and stole from slaves. Did he invent necromancy? Yes but also no. He invented the way that Stella and her mother work magic. But people have been using magic to do stuff with dead bodies since caveman times, which they would also call necromancy.
Except that it isn’t because necromancy doesn’t exist. Maybe this is a better example, think about a baby that grew up to be a doctor. Ending up as a doctor doesn’t mean you go “ah, this is how life works babies turn into doctors” it’s only how it works if you choose to do it that way. That baby could have done or been anything, the fact that it ended up as a doctor doesn’t mean anything other than that it chose to do the things that result in being a doctor.
And here’s the funny thing, the wizards or mages or witches or whatever you want to call magic people, the ones who really get into and know their shit, they know this. They know that chanting in Latin or waving a wand or dancing under the moonlight only makes magic happen because they’ve convinced themselves that it does. They know that a “true” mage would be one that could just make stuff happen because they wanted to, without so much as an I Dream of Genie headbutt or Bewitched nose twerk.
They know it, the only catch is that no one has ever managed to pull it off. Magic is too hard to learn without crutches and once you get up to speed enough to understand that your crutches are well, crutches, you’re too dependent on them to stop using them. It’s a realization that’s driven more than one person insane.
What does this have to do with anything? I’m getting there. Dale is not a power user of magic (or anything else) he only knows a couple spells. Which isn’t too shabby honestly since 99.99999999999999999% of people in the world today and that have ever lived knew zero spells. He knows how to detect magic, he knows how to create a “spidey-sense” of when someone wants to kick him in the dick (although he would be fine just to assume that’s always true) he knows how to remote view, he knows how to make drugs even more awesome, and he knows how to mess with people’s minds.
Right now though the only one of these things he can actually pull off is the last one, because he doesn’t have much energy because he sucks at magic and he doesn’t have his black magic buddies around and a bunch of weird robes and candles and some poor junkie to abuse. But why can he do the mind one without much magic left in him? Because black magic is “good” at mind fuckery magic and since that’s this “tradition” he call pull that one off even when he’s in a state of low power suckitude.
But that’s what I was saying before, it’s not true, it’s only true because he thinks it is. Black magic is not good at anything. Black magic does not exist. The black magic tradition is “good” at mindfucking people because that’s what they spend their time doing, it’s like saying that people who pursue the basketball tradition are good at basketball. It’s meaningless.
Okay, fine I guess but what does this have to do with the story? Nothing specifically but I thought it was interesting.
Dale finds himself in a dilly of a pickle. Instead of going to the hospital after shooting himself in the foot like a dolt, he used his black magic Jedi mind tricks to get EMT and paramedic to swing around, grab Cassie, and take him to his 600 square foot non-tiny home a few miles away. A tiny home is under 600 square feet as Dale is quick to point out. It wouldn’t be a bad little place for a single bro if the yard wasn’t completely overgrown. There’s a bush on the left side of the front door that’s taken over the whole front, you can’t even use that door anymore.
Dale had just enough magic left in him to send the ambulance crew on their way and not erase their memories so much (that’s very hard) but encourage them not to remember what just happened (which is easier).
Several problems comprise this pickle. First, his foot is killing him on account of he shot himself in it like a dolt. Second, Cassie is being intransigent even though he has a gun. Which isn’t fair. When he has magic available it never worked very well on her. And he tried to magic her into doing all kinds of stuff, believe me he tried. Third, he’s not sure that he can pull this off without calling for back-up, and he really doesn’t want to do that because he’s a low man on the totem pole in the black magic gang and the whole reason he’s doing this is to move UP the ranks not DOWN. And he already had to call in favors to get Andrea under control. If he has to get more help from Skiffle or Marci or Sloppy Moses he’s going to end up with less status! Completely opposite his intentions.
Speaking of the doughnut shop gang, that’s problem number four – they couldn’t even hang onto Andrea! That scarface broad just waltzed in there and breezed back out with her and it sounds like they didn’t do shit about it. Which brings up problem number five. Andrea isn’t responding to his many texts and calls. How’s he supposed to threaten her into trading Cassie for the ring if she won’t answer the phone? And then there’s problem six, the tall chick with the scars was with Huddie. Fucking Huddie!
Dale’s best friend in the asshole club, Kibble, was killed by Huddie, and he’s not the only one. UBM sends people to kill Huddie when he doesn’t trust them or doesn’t like them or just because he’s bored or because he’s high and thinks it’s funny. Because they don’t come back. Why is Huddie involved in Dale’s business all of a sudden?
And seventh of all, his foot hurts so bad it’s on the list twice! He told Cassie to help him bandage it but she won’t. Even though he has a gun! So instead he’s sitting in an old office chair just bleeding all over his carpet gritting his teeth and thinking about taking some oxy while Cassie sits on his couch and gives him dirty looks even though he’s the one with the gun and she should be afraid of him. Dale hates it when women aren’t afraid him. Especially Cassie.
Dale’s mind is going a mile a minute, which is actually not incredibly fast now that I think about it, but it’s going nowhere. How is he supposed to ransom Cassie if Andrea won’t answer? And if he can’t do that what should he do?
He doesn’t need to worry though because a moment later Grace busts through his backdoor, the one with the gravel path to the unattached garage, and she doesn’t look scared of him at all. Is that dramatic irony? How should I know, what am I, a writer?