20 Dec 2019

Digital Magic - Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Lance and I leave the Steacie Building and head towards the Rideau River.  With the weather turning cold, few people spend time out here, and few buildings have windows facing it.  By going under the railway bridge, we're even out of sight from the O-Train passing.  Besides, the campus is closed while they try to get the heat back.  It's chilly.  The spray from the river doesn't soak through my jacket, but it also hits my hands and face.  I try not to shiver.

First thing Lance shows me is his grafitti removing trick.  I watch closely as he performs his magic.  Both hands up, hands touching, and a phrase.  Did he really just say, "Marks away, paint job stay"?  I give him a disbelieving stare.

"What?" he asks.

"That's a magical incantation?"

He shrugs.  "You were expecting me to say it in Latin?"

"I was expecting something more . . . more . . .."  I roll my hands as I try to find the right word.


"Yes."  I force my hands to stop moving.  I can be a spaz later.  "What sort of spell is that?"

Lance points at now clean part of the bridge.  "It worked, didn't it?"

"But . . . but that's not how it works."

"So, you're familiar with spell casting now?"

I shake my head.  "This isn't what I was expecting, that's all."

"The secret to casting spells is to find what works for you.  I like using gestures and saying a line or two to help me focus.  It might not work for you."

"It might not work for me anyway."

"What colour is your mouse again?"  His smirk is annoying.

"Fine," I huff.  "It will work for me, whether I want it to or not."

"Which is something we want to avoid, having you cast spells when you don't intend to."  He stands beside me.  "Okay, do what I do."  He puts his hands back over his head, arms straight.  I mimic his stance.  "Focus on the tagger's mark."  I stare at the ugly lash of white and green.  "Now say the words."

"You're joking."

"Say them," he insists.

I roll my eyes, then return my attention on the tag.  "Marks away, paint job stay."  Imagine my lack of surprise when the grafitti remains.  "Well?"

Lance takes a closer examination of the tag.  "I really hope that you just didn't wipe out the entire year's marks for some class."

I smack him on the arm.  "Not funny and not helping."

"That should have worked.  You did something similar in the game.  I saw the begger."

"Want me to find some homeless guy and pimp his clothes?"

Lance mulls over the idea.  "No, no, not necessary."  He thinks a little more.  "Okay, maybe a lesson in metaphors will help."

"I know what a metaphor is.  English was mandatory in high school."

"This is slightly different than an high school essay."  He leans against a bridge support.  "Every one who knows how to cast spells finds a way that works in their world view.  I see using magic like painting on a huge canvas.  Speaking in rhyme is optional."

"Thank God for small favours."

"What we need to do is find the right metaphor for you."

"Oh, is that all?"  A gust of wind splashes a spray from the river into my face.  I wipe the water away.

"Easier than it sounds, right?"  Lance pushes away from the support.  "That's what the game is for, to find metaphors."

"Wait, what?"  I process that little tidbit.  "You wrote Valor Quest to find wizards?"

"Well, not me.  The design team did, with input from several mages in the area."

I furror my brow.  "When were you going to tell players this?"

"Jacqueline, we're trying to keep it a secret.  Magic and society haven't gotten along for several centuries.  Witch burnings aren't fun for the people being burned.  There are still places in the world where being a mage is a crime punishable by death.  Thus, the game."

I nod.  "I get it.  You create the game, watch for people turning wheatfields blue, and invite them to test a new peripheral.  Clever.  What if you're wrong?"

"That's why we're still in beta.  You're the first we've found with potential, really."

"Lucky me," I mutter.  "Then how do you – ah!"  My cell phone vibrates in my pocket.  "Damnit!"  I pull the device out and answer the call.  "Yes?"

Trish's voice answers, "Jackie, you better be in trouble or I am going to find you and kick your ass."

I cover the receiver.  "Roommate," I explain to Lance.  Removing my hand from the mouthpiece, I say, "Hi, Trish."  I try to make my voice as contrite as possible.

"Where are you?"

Using a meeker voice, I answer, "At Carleton."

"Well, thank you for calling me and letting me know you're safe!"  I have to hold the phone away from my ear.  Lance is amused.  Probably because he knows he doesn't have to deal with Trish when she's upset.  "You tell me to sit here and wait while you tear out and then you have the nerve to not be in trouble after making me worry."

"Trish," I start.

"No, Jackie.  You've been acting strange since the weekend.  I figured it was stress or something from school.  Then you say that you're being stalked.  Now you're at Carleton doing who knows what.  If you're at Oliver's, I'm going to go there and kick your ass!"

Right now, I wish I was in the campus bar away from the cold spray from the river.  "I'm not at Ollie's, Trish.  I'll explain, but not on the phone, okay?"

"You're safe?"

I glance over at Lance.  Am I safe around him?  He hasn't done anything to me except tell me that the world is not what I thought it was.  "I'm safe."

There's a pause at Trish's end.  "You better be.  And you better be telling me what's going on when I meet you at Ollie's.  You owe me a drink for getting me worked up over nothing."

"Give me thirty minutes and I'll see you there."  I could use a cold beer about now, too.

"Bye."  Trish hangs up.

I fold the phone and put in into my pocket.  For a moment, I consider turning it off, but I leave it on for now.  I look over at Lance.  "Sorry about that.  My fault, too."

He waves off my apology.  "Don't worry about.  Where were we?"

"Metaphors, Valor Quest, and me being your first find."

"Right, yes.  And you were worried that you aren't what we're looking for."

"I wouldn't use the word worried."

"Okay, concerned.  However, I fall back on my argument of, 'What colour is your mouse?'"

I close my eyes.  "Got me there.  Still, I don't know how I did that.  The only thing I was trying to turn purple was a patch of wheat so I could get Jacinda back to the inn."

"So, try doing that again."  Lance points at the tagger's mark.

I shrug.  Turning to face the grafitti on the bridge again, I try to remember how I got the colour menu on my computer.  With Lance urging me on, I start making the same hand gestures as before.  In the game, I'd get a menu popping up.  Here, I don't, as I expected.  Still, if I am a wizard, then I should at least try to erase the grafitti.  I close my eyes and picture the menu I'm expecting in my head.  The colour graph stands out.  I move the selector to make the bridge section a uniform shade of rust.

Lance applauds.  "That's it!"

I open my eyes.  The grafitti is gone and that section is solid rust.  I reach out and scrape my nail against the metal.  Flakes from the section fall off.  "Oops."

"I've got it."  Lance makes a sweep with his right arm.  The rust area peels a little in places, revealing more solid metal underneath.  "That should do it."

"Now what?"

"That's up to you."  Lance wraps his arm around my shoulder and leads me back towards the chemistry building.  "Do you want to learn more?"

That's one hell of a question.  "Can I think about it?"

"Definitely."  He pulls his wallet out of his pocket.  After a quick search, he hands me a business card.  "Call me and let me know what you decide."

"I will."  I slip out of his loose hold.  Spinning around to face him again, I try to smile at him.  "Thanks for coming out.  It's nice to know I'm not completely out of my mind."

Lance returns to his car.  I start my trek to the Unicentre and Oliver's.  A drink with Trish may not be my foremost thought, but it might be the best thing for me right now.  At least it'll give me time to process what Lance told me and what I've done.  Me, a mage.  Ludicrous.  Impossible.  Insane.

I look back at the bridge.

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