The dignity of fake fighting

42561 is on a tour with Longhorn Wrestling, an outfit run by Chadd 2 Badd working the lucrative Amarillo-Lubbock-Wichita Falls circuit.  I basically invited myself to tag along with her and as soon as I turned up, they put me on the show with her as a team.  Literally tagging along.

I never expected to have any kind of professional pride, but I have to admit that jobbing to whatever strippers Chadd 2 Badd puts on the show against us does gall me.  I’m tempted to shoot on one of these glittery bikini wearers but that would be wrong because it’s not their fault.  They’re just collecting a check. 

So then I think, okay, Chadd 2 Badd is the one I want to take a piece out of, but he’s also just doing what’s going to make him money.  It’s not like he’s making me do this.  So who’s at fault then?  The crowd?  If I take them all out then there’s no money for anyone.  It’s a problem.

I pitched an idea to Chadd 2 Badd where I would “lose it” and pretend to shoot on one of these women and make it seem like I really mess her up, and then do a fake shoot promo about how I was tired of working with their kind and call out Chadd 2 Badd and we could work the old disgruntled wrestler against owner angle, but he wasn’t into it.  I think he’s still pissed at me because I asked why they didn’t hit Oklahoma City in their loop.  How was I supposed to know Texans hate Okies?

42561 doesn’t like to talk about magic.  She doesn’t like to talk about much of anything other than working out and nutrition.  She likes to talk about that way too much.  It’s weird to be on the other side of the equation of the person who doesn’t want to talk.  I tried to ask her about her mom once and being taught magic, and she reacted like I was a dude on the bus who whipped out their cock.

At least I’m not alone though.  I never thought I would want friends.  Certainly I never thought I would need them.  But here we are.

There was a tag team called the Headshrinkers once

I took a PHQ-9 questionnaire online and I got 9 out of 27 which means I am mildly depressed.  Which is good news, I think.  That it’s not higher I mean.  It says it’s not a screening tool for depression though.  So why is out there?   

Kim has a friend who’s become a therapist since retiring from the ring and he specifically tries to help wrestlers.  Wrestlers are all crazy so it probably helps to have someone who knows about that going in trying to help them.  I could probably talk to him for free.  But if therapy works, which I don’t know if it does, you probably have to be honest.   

It’s not like I can say “yeah, I haven’t been sleeping lately but that’s because I keep thinking I’m going to be attacked by a guy with a beetle head and the claws of a praying mantis”.  A social worker told me that I had PTSD once and that was before all this magic shit.   

I wonder if there are enough magic people out there to have developed a support system.  On all the stupid magic shows, there’s a goblin or something that runs a magic shop with wands and shit but you never see any health services for magic users.   

Maybe I should give 42561 a call, it might be nice just to talk to someone else who knows what I’m going through. 

It also would be nice if everyone I ran into that knows about magic didn’t kill themselves, or get murdered because of me, or wasn’t a violent psychopath.   

War & er, well, more War

I heard a wrestler called War Machine (not that one, and not the other one, but the other other one) once talking about how casual sex had lost its luster for him.  He was lamenting that he no longer got much of a thrill from banging some rando after every show.  It was still fun in the moment but ultimately left him feeling empty.

Based on that, I now think that maybe saving the world is like casual sex.  It seemed important at the time, but after the fact it feels hollow.  Maybe it’s more like flossing, something you know you should do but it’s hard to really care about.  

I wonder how many existential moments have happened in a wrestling ring.  I was in there with a woman calling herself Wargasm who not only was stiffing the shit out of me but also has the worst BO I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.  I think there was something wrong with her, I don’t think a healthy person can manufacture a smell like that.  

And I wondered “is this what life is”?

Maybe saving the world is just too big.  I bet when a doctor helps a kid with a broken leg, that feels great.  But saving the entire world?  It’s too much.  It’s like that thing where your neighbor getting mugged freaks you out more than 40,000 people getting killed in a monsoon in Kuala Lumpur.  At some point the scale is just too much for your brain.

I don’t regret saving the world from being taken over by bug monsters.  I’ll save the world every chance I get.  But if that doesn’t make me feel good, what will?  

Is there more to life than saving everything and everyone?  What a fucking question.

Big Damn Hero for Hire

I wonder how many police reports I’m in.  Deceased last seen with unidentified person.  Caucasian female, approximately six feet in height, unflattering mannish build, short blond hair, ratty clothing, scars on face.  Probably in the margins they write “lesbian?”  And in their notepad they write “bangable, but just barely”.   

When I was driving Christie Lane’s Malibu back to the club to get my car, I thought “I’ve never driven in a dead man’s car before”.  I quickly realized that’s not true.  Most of my cars have been over a decade old.  Surely some of the former owners of those cars were dead.  It’s not a sobering thought.  But it’s something.

It’s hard to get worked up about Christie Lane dying in a toilet.  Since he was a serial waitress murderer.  I do feel a little bad.  I was talking to someone and he got up and drowned himself in a toilet to get away from me.  I can’t help but feel somewhat rejected.   

I wish I could have learned how he spotted the bug people.  It didn’t seem to be a spell.  It seemed like something he could just do.  Maybe I’ll give 42561 a call and see if she has any thoughts on that.  Maybe it’s an internalized spell like she does.   

I looked through all of Royale’s notes.  Skimmed them is more honest, there’s a ton of stuff in there.  I didn’t find anything about these insect spirits.  Does that mean these bugs are not the world ending threat they seem to be?  Or does it mean that it’s something new?  Or does it mean it’s just something that Royale never encountered?   Does it mean anything?

If you’re reading this and you don’t think I’m insane, keep an eye out for people getting buggy.  Give me a call if you see anything like that.  

And after I save your town from bug monsters, if you wanted to pay me, that would be cool.

Bright Lights, Bug City Part 8 – Over

Grace and Christie headed to Galesburg on the hunt for the customer service center manager at the middle of this inspect spirit jamboree, but he was long gone.  Along with several other employees who are likely his insect-infected minions.  Did the doctor warn them before Christie magic-mouthed the bug juice out of him?  Or does the “master” insect guy somehow know what happens to his progeny?  Grace and Christie sure as shit don’t have a clue.   

There’s no Denny’s in Galesburg sadly, so Grace couldn’t celebrate in style, but there is a Perkins.  Grace was enjoying her Magnificent Nineteen (that’s when you order a Magnificent Twelve and a Magnificent Seven) while Christie listlessly poked at his phone and drank coffee.  Grace took a big gulp of horrible orange juice and then frowned at Christie. 

“What are you so fucking glum?  We kicked ass.” 

He didn’t look up from his phone “So do you want me to drop you off back in La Fayette?  Shouldn’t take long, it’s less than an hour away.” 

“Why would you do that?  We still need to find the guy, the egg laying queen in this scenario.” 

Christie finally looked up “I thought you said that your finding spell didn’t work.” 

“It didn’t.  I assume any competent wizard can scatter a spell like that.  I’ll keep trying but in the meantime we’ll just look for him the old-fashioned way.  Interview people, ask around, something with credit cards maybe?  Whatever they do in the cop shows.  TARU?  I don’t know what that is but the police are always getting answers from TARU.  Maybe it’s a search engine for criminals.” 

He shook his head tiredly “I can’t fuck around with you on this anymore, I have a show in Milwaukee.  And I need to get home.” 

Grace jabbed at him with her fork for emphasis “You’re the one who told me that this was a matter of world ending stakes.  Are you saying that a hundred buck show in Wisconsin is more important than the entire world?  Wisconsin is part of the world.  Spoiler.” 

He looked around as if someone was coming to help him “I can’t . . . I can’t . . .” he threw his hands up “I have a life!  I have . . . stuff . . . I can’t chase monsters around the country.” 

Grace snorted “Fuck your life buddy.  This is more important than your shitty career and your idiot girlfriend.” 

His face turned hard “Don’t call her an idiot.” 

Grace gave him a level gaze “If she’s buying your bullshit, she’s an idiot.  We’re talking about the fate of the world here, Christie Lane.  What don’t you understand about that?  Not to mention you’ve murdered at least four women right?  Probably a lot more.  You don’t get to walk away from that.  This isn’t Dexter, champ, there are consequences.  This is your penance.  Save everyone in the world a few more times and we’ll talk.  Maybe God forgives, but I don’t.  Not that I believe in God since that social worker stabbed me when I was a kid.” 

He slumped in the booth “So what?  This is my life now?  Traveling around with you and your abuse?  What about money?” 

“All we need is gas money and a little food.  Do a show here and there, pick up a little cash.  It’s not like we’re going to be on a bug hunt all the time.”  

“Comedy doesn’t work like that.” 

“You can come to wrestling shows with me, be my manager.  Piss people off, you’d be good at that. You have a natural talent for it.  Don’t worry about money, it all works out.”  She plucked at her ripped and bloody eight-dollar Wal-Mart shirt “You ever see me change clothes?  People don’t need ninety-nine percent of the crap they have.  You can get by fine without much.  You’ll learn.  I can tell by your shitty little kid brat expression you’re about to say something about how you don’t want to do this.  Too fucking bad.  This is what it is, just accept it.” 

Christie wrote something down on a napkin and passed it over “Here.” 

Grace picked it up “What’s this?” 

“That’s my girlfriend’s number.  I want you to call her if anything ever happens to me.  I don’t care what you tell her. I just don’t want her to worry.” 

Grace huffed “Don’t be so fucking dramatic.  Nothing will happen to you as long as you’re with me.” 

Grace would have been worried about him ditching her when he went to the bathroom if she didn’t have the keys to the Malibu.  But she did so she wasn’t.  She wasn’t worried when he was in there more than half an hour either.  She figured he was pouting.   When the EMTs came in with a gurney, that’s when she got worried.  She joined the gathering crowd around the bathroom door and asked what was going on.  A trucker with long wild hair around a bald spot and dirty saggy jeans answered. 

“Some guy tried to drown himself in the toilet.” 

“Tried or did?” 

Bright Lights, Bug City Part 7 – Fool me once shame on you, fool me nonce, eh, good for me I guess

Did you know that when Grace is not doing magic stuff she’s a pro wrestler?  She actually does that a lot more than she does magic stuff.  Crazy huh?  It doesn’t pay well but at least it’s really bad for you.   

Wrestlers who are any good develop two very strange skills.  One is selling.  Not like Glengarry Glen Ross ABC selling, but acting like you’re hurt when you aren’t.  They don’t call it acting though, they call it selling.  The flip side of selling is that they also learn how to act like they’re not hurt when they are.  When you’re really hurt you need to act like you’re not.   

The good doctor, or the bug in control of him maybe, was able to fool Grace with his words – it’s not hard to do that, truth be told – but he couldn’t fool her with his body.  As she was “helping” him out of the hospital to meet up with Christie, she realized he was faking being all weak and drained.   And he, or the bug in control of him, was a good faker.  But not good enough to fool her finely honed weird wrestler instincts.   

Grace had asked where they could go for some privacy for the anti-bug magic spectacular.  And if they had gone there, the doctor had another ambush waiting for them – one with shotguns and automatic weapons.  And that probably would have been the end for old Grace.   Magic or not, an ambush and a bullet to the head are hard to defend against.  

But since she was onto him, instead when they reached the car, she got him in a choke hold.  Christie, being pretty frazzled at this point with yet another change in the plan, exclaimed “What are you doing, I thought you said he needed help!” 

Grace grunted as the doctor’s arm turned into a freaky bug-scythe and impaled her through the thigh “I am helping him.” 

Grace wasn’t sure if you could choke out a bug spirit possessed person.  Would the bug spirit keep the body animated even if the host was unconscious?  Turns out no.  Thankfully.  Grace dropped/shoved/threw the old man into the back of Christie’s Malibu and fell/slumped/lurched into the passenger seat herself.

Christie leapt into the driver’s seat trying to staunch the copiously bleeding wound in her gnarled leg with crumped and soiled Burger King bags “Jesus, heal yourself, you’re getting blood all over my car!” 

Grace tried to take a deep breath but was having trouble pulling in air so it sounded more like a reverse hiccup “I can’t heal myself, Gary, because I’m running low on magic over here.” 

“Who the fuck is Gary?!  I’m Christie Lane, damn it!” 

Grace laughed hysterically “All the boys love Christie Lane.” 

Christie scowled so hard his face almost slid off “What are you talking about!?  What are you ever talking about?! 

Grace waved her hand tiredly “Just drive to someplace secluded, somewhere where no one will you see you making out with an unconscious old man.” 

Someplace secluded was a tourist trap-type scenic bluff overlooking the city lights at night.  It was called Holding Hands Peak in the fifties, then Make-out Point for many years, then Third Base Cliff for a while, in the 80s it was briefly known as Murder Point, some folks called it the Bone Zone after that, then it was called No Seriously Three People Got Murdered Up There for a couple years, before finally settling into its current nickname of “that place where people illegally dump trash”.   

Grace had just enough magic to keep herself from bleeding to death on the way.  Not healing so much as just slowing down the inevitable.  Once they rolled to a stop, Christie saw she was as pale as the whitened teeth of a smarmy car salesman.   

“Are you fucking dying?!” 

Grace couldn’t open her eyes “Yes.  Give me the old man.” 

“What do you mean, give him to you?” 

Grace wanted to shout but barely managed a loud whisper “Put his hand in my hand.  I’ve never done this before so if it doesn’t work and I die, I just want you to know that you’re a horrible person and I hope you get rectal cancer.” 

Christie slapped the limp hand of the unconscious man into Grace’s barely livelier hand.  No one ever wants to do magic with Grace.  Which is a shame because she’s actually really good at communal spellcasting.  Royale and Obalyuane both trained her that way and despite her lack of magic friends, she’s got a real knack for it.  Taking the magic from someone rather than having them give it to you isn’t the same, but it’s close enough.  Bleeding to death is a good motivator.   

Grace pulled magic energy from the doctor.  It was like nothing she had ever felt before.  It was like an enema of ice-cold water.  It was like suddenly being able to feel your organs – and knowing that some of them don’t like you.  It was something alien and vast and ugly.   

But it did the trick.  She was able to heal her leg.  And she was able to pass through enough energy to Christie for him to work his magic and remove the spiritual bug infestation from the doctor.  Grace was sitting in the car, exhausted and slick with sweat and Christie was puking noisily into the bushes when the doctor came around in the back seat and sat up.   

“Where am I?” 

“The sign says Snell Scenic Overlook. I mostly see bags of garbage.  Doesn’t seem very scenic.” 

Bright Lights, Bug City – Part 6

The plan was simple.  That’s good right?  The beauty of a good plan is its simplicity. Once a plan gets too complex, everything can go wrong.  Christie would distract the people at the nurse’s station.  Grace would levitate up to the third-floor window, go in, and grab the doctor.  Simple.   

Unfortunately, this simple plan had several fatal flaws.  Grace was assuming that because he talks for a living and consistently cheats on his wife with moderately attractive women, that Christie would be good at vamping.  He is not.  She was also assuming that besides the doctor, the only other people in the building were the people at the nurse’s station.  They weren’t.  And most critically of all, she was assuming that the light on in the third-floor window meant the doctor was there.  He wasn’t.   

The good news is that the plan never got off the ground because Grace didn’t have enough magic left to levitate more than a fake-o David Blaine level off the ground, let alone reach the third floor of a children’s hospital.  Thinking quickly, Grace started looking for a fuse box of some kind intent on hitting it with her malfunction spell.  She didn’t because she remembered that it was a children’s hospital and shutting off the power was probably not a good idea. 

Her next idea was to use her smoke spell to make it look like the hospital was on fire so they would have to evacuate.  But then she didn’t do that either because she realized that evacuating a children’s hospital was probably even worse for the patients than the power going off.   

She was pacing around uncertainly and whispering “fuck, fuck, fuck” to herself when a dude propped open a door to smoke, looked at her as if to say “You need in?” and then waved her through when she nodded.  Once inside, her finding spell led her to the morgue.   

Grace stopped for a second and thought “Jesus Christ, children’s hospitals have morgues.”  Of course they do, but it’s not something you think about.   

In the morgue, she found him.  He’s one of those old guys that looks old because of his long white hair.  If he colored his hair or just cut it shorter, you wouldn’t think of him as an old guy, you’d think he was in pretty good shape for an old-ER fellow.  He was crouched down in the corner and he was crying.  

That threw Grace off her game.  That’s not what you expect when you corner the evil bug necromancer. 

He looked at her piteously and begged for her help.  He said that he could only fight off the control of the inspect spirit for a few minutes at a time.  He asked her to kill him before it took over again and he hurt anyone else.   

Grace said that she had a better way.  She could help him, or her friend could anyway.  She was flummoxed but she managed to grasp onto that thread.  She could save him with Christie’s help.  She helped him up and texted Christie to meet her outside.   

Grace thinks she’s paranoid.  And she is in some ways.  But she’s a sucker for helping people. 

Bright Lights, Bug City – Part 5

Grace isn’t a good singer.  But she’s not a comically bad singer despite the jokes.  She’s just not good.

What she lacks in ability, she makes up for with enthusiasm.  She had the window down on Christie’s battered Malibu as they meandered through the northwest central Illinois night.  She had her arm out the window, one of those deep arms out the window where you have your armpit wedged against the door and your head could loll out into the window at any moment.  She was singing, loudly, in the darkness. 

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I think I’m turning into a bug. 
I see double what I see I think I’m turning into a bug. 
I ain’t got no self-esteem; I think I’m turning into a bug. 
Bet you 50 dollars — I’m a man, I’m a scholar And I turned into a bug. 
Mama-like-a-daddy-like-a-baby-like-a-baby Like I turned into a bug. 
Yeah, yeah! 
He is Franz Kaf-ka!  Franz Kaf-ka!” 

Christie looked glanced over at her “What in god’s name are you doing?” 

Grace flopped back against the seat “Centering.  Using a mundane activity to quiet the mind and block out distractions.  It’s only the fucking foundation of fucking magic man, you should know this.  I’ve never tried singing before, it works pretty well.” 

Christie scowled “That is not singing by any definition.” 

Grace nodded “Yeah, I’m not a great singer.  But hey, at least I’m not a murderer like you huh?” She grabbed him in an awkward half-hug and tousled his hair like a sitcom dad from the 50’s “Come ‘ere you little murderer you!  You little murderin’ son of a gun you!” 

Christie warded her off with his free arm “Get off me, I’m driving!  What is wrong with you?  Are you high?” 

Grace sat back against the seat and closed her eyes for a long moment “Maybe.  I’ve heard other people talk about magic like it’s a drug.  I’ve never done that much magic in that short amount of a time before.  I feel . . . . fuzzy.  I feel drunk kinda . . . kind of.  So maybe.  My heart is racing like I just ate an entire sleeve of Oreos.  Maybe I’m having a cardiac infarction.” 

“Is that possible?” 

Grace shrugged “Sure, why not, it’s magic, anything’s possible right?  Can’t this thing go any faster?  We need to catch up to this guy before he sets another trap for us.” 

It couldn’t.  Not much faster anyway.  Over an hour later, they drove into Rock Island and shortly thereafter into the parking lot of OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois.  There weren’t many other cars in the lot at 4 AM but one of them in the staff area was their target’s Palisade.   

Grace looked around “Well, according to my spell he’s in there.” 

Christie frowned “Why would he be in a children’s hospital?” 

“Probably because he knows we’re after him and he wants to be some place where we can’t just grab him.  He’s probably in there right now organizing his bug-men and zombies to attack us.  Interesting that he’s a doctor, the other bug mage I encountered was a plastic surgeon.  Have most of the people you’ve dealt with been in the medical community?  Is that part of it?” 

He shook his head “I don’t think so, but I didn’t ask them for their resume.” 

“How did you track the infection back to the source normally?” 

“Uh . . .” 

“I’m going to assume that means you didn’t.  You’re a shit bug hunter, you know that?” 

Christie looked like he wanted to mouth off/and or punch her but he wisely did neither “What are we going to do?” 

Grace tipped her head towards the building “We’re going to run into a children’s hospital and grab him.” 

Bright Lights, Big City – Part 4

Once Grace had broken the ritual magic that held their attackers and then healed them, it was time to debrief.  The three of them worked at a customer service center in Galesburg.  All they knew for sure was that they had been asked to work a later shift than usual and when they got there, their boss told them they may have been exposed to some kind of cleaning chemical the janitorial staff used that was potentially dangerous and they needed to go get checked out.   

The bossman, being a nice guy, took them to a clinic himself and then things go wiggy.  Their memories of what they had been doing as zombies were fuzzy.  They said it was like they were dreaming – strange images and snippets that were hard to remember.   And you thought your boss was a dick. 

They all said that he seemed like a nice old man until he took them to have their free will ripped away with black magic.  That soured them on him.  They couldn’t agree on if his first name was Chester or Arthur, but they knew his last name was Larochelle – because it was on the door of his office.   

They had a lot of questions.  Grace did her best to answer them but essentially she gave the same response many times in different wording “Magic is real. If you can forget that, maybe you can live life without going insane. If not, you should probably try some kind of therapy”.  When they asked her why this happened she said “Well, your boss is infested with a monster that has no physical form that looks kind of like an insect and I guess he needed you guys as helpers because, you see, he’s trying to turn everyone in the world into bug-monsters.” 

It’s a tough pill to swallow.  She gave them all her number if they ever wanted to talk, while admitting that “I’m shit at talking to people”.  She’s learned from experience that none of them will ever call.  No one ever does. 

The Town Car was too wrecked to drive, but they were able to push the Spark back out into the parking lot and get it running.  The three former zombies got in and drove away and that was that.  Christie and Grace watched the taillights disappear, leaning against his more than a little worse for wear Malibu. 

Grace kicked at the old bucket “We probably should have made sure this was going to run before we let them strand us here.” 

“What do you think is going to happen to them?” 

Grace looked off in the direction their car had disappeared “How has your life been going since you learned about magic?” 

Christie spat on the ground “It’s been a fucking nightmare.” 

“Well there you go.” 

“What are we going to do now?” 

“What we’re going to do is cast a finding spell on Franz Kafka and follow him so you can tongue-kiss the bad juju out of him.” 

Christie’s face fell “Franz?  Is he German?  Is this guy a fucking Nazi!?” 

Grace was mildly amused “Would you be more afraid of a Nazi than an insect spirit possessed necromancer?” 

His face was pale as milk “I’m sure as fuck more afraid of a NAZI insect spirit possessed necromancer.” 

“He’s probably not a Nazi, I was just saying, you know, Franz Kafka, the Metamorphosis – guy turns into a roach?” 

Christie had a desperate look in his eyes “What the fuck are you talking about?!” 

Grace shook her head “Forget about it.  Tell me this, do you have to suck on the mouth or would any other hole work as well?” 

He glared at her “You’re a foul woman, you know that?” 

“I meant like the ear or something, you’re the one with your fucking mind in the gutter.  Now come over here, I need your help with this spell.” 

His eyebrows shot up “What do you need my help for?” He gestured “Look what you did here.” 

“Exactly, I just did a fuckton of magic, Gary. I’m about out of juice, I need your help.” 

“Gary?  Who the fuck is Gary?” 

Grace shook her head quickly “Never mind, slip of the tongue.  You remind me of someone I traveled with for a while.  Kind of similar circumstances.” 

“And how did things work out with Gary?” 

Grace was silent for a long moment “Bad.” 

Bright Lights, Bug City – An interlude to explain why my main character is awesome (I’m a good writer!)

No one died.  Which is pretty remarkable.  The guy that Grace smashed into through the windshield would definitely have died if left there without treatment.  And the guy she kicked in the chest was in pretty bad shape too, but the third fellow would have staggered to another hospital, one that’s operational, and pulled through.  Most likely.  Barring the kind of thing that would get someone sued for malpractice.   

Before Grace healed the wounds of the zombies, Christie tried to do his part.  His spell to remove the insect spiritual pollution didn’t work on zombieness.  Any experienced practitioner would have known that it wouldn’t work, you can’t treat a disease with a medication designed for a different infection, after all.   He actually has to put his mouth on theirs to suck out the bad magic like reverse mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  It’s pretty gross.   

Grace didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to hurt his confidence even further (even though he’s a murderer and deserves to be treated shabbily) but internally she was amazed (and more than a little judgey) about how little Christie knows about his own magic.   

The funny thing is that she does the same thing herself, only in reverse.  Because of her lack of training, Grace doesn’t realize how amazing some of the things she manages are.  When Christie failed, Grace thought back to what Stella had told her about making zombies and then figured out how to unravel that curse from first principals right there on the spot.  In her head, she was cursing herself for not already knowing how to do it.  She thinks she’s the worst mage in the world.  Any experienced mage witnessing what she did would have had their jaw on the floor.  It’s the equivalent of someone performing an appendectomy on the fly after only having a class in basic first aid. 

Remember that kid in your class who was good at every sport?  They were the quarterback on the football team, hit homeruns like nothing, had a rocket for an arm, played point on the basketball team, ran a charity marathon without training (coming in first) and even did all that track shit no one cares about.  That kid is what they call a natural athlete.  Which isn’t to say they were better than everyone else in the world, as that person found out to their dismay later on, they weren’t the best, they just had a knack for sports.  If they tried, they had a good chance at doing well at any sport they turned their hand to. 

That’s what Grace is when it comes to magic.  Royale tried to tell her this when he was training her, but he died before he could make her believe it.  She just thinks he was being encouraging.  Grace feels like she struggles mightily with magic, she feels that she’s miles behind where she should be, worries that she’s a failure, but the truth is she’s accomplished more in a few years than most people would in several lifetimes.   

Think back to all the other magic people that Grace has met, excluding the assholes that were trying to (or did) gaslight her, what has been their universal reaction?  “How did you do that?!”  Grace assumes they’re shocked just because she’s doing magic out in the open, or that she does it a different way.  And there is some of that, but what’s going on is more akin to when people watch one of those little kid chess masters.  They can’t wrap their minds around it.  How DOES she do that?  Notice, whenever anyone teaches her a spell she picks it up, but whenever she tries to reciprocate and teach them something she knows, they don’t even try.  Why is that?  Because they know they won’t be able to do it.  It would take them weeks to learn that spell, if they could ever do it at all.   

A wise man once said that experience is the biggest roadblock to innovation and creativity.  It’s feels kinda patronizing to say that Grace succeeds in some things because she doesn’t know enough to know that she shouldn’t be able to do it, but there’s some truth to it.   Because the dirty little secret of magic is that it’s all made up.  The spells and the rituals and the chanting and the symbols – those are just ways to focus the mind, to turn your will into changing the world.  You don’t really need them.  It’s like the placebo effect, it works because you think it works.  Grace has an instinctual grasp of the way magic flows and how to make it work for her.  It’s a good thing she’s on our side because she could do some terrible things if she put her mind to it. 

Some people would say that Grace is very powerful.  That’s not accurate.  If you want to power stack rank the magic people in the world, she’s not an all-star.  What sets her apart is her ability to learn and figure things out on her own.  Any mage worth their salt could come up with a way to break a zombie curse, but it would take them months and a variety of focus materials to do it, not to mention trial and error.  They couldn’t do it in fifteen minutes in a dark parking lot by saying “I think it works like this” and then feeling their way through it.   

What Grace can do is like playing by ear, except without hearing the song she’s going to play.