The Magic Man

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by DotCom, Jun 4, 2014.

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    “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”
    ~ Roald Dahl


    It was the end of her weekend with her father, and twelve-year-old Andi Perez was itching to get back to Perla, Gabi, Vincent, and Miss Rachel.

    Perla and Gabi were easy and obvious choices. The twin four-year-olds were only her half sisters, pudgy little prima donnas who pulled off the biracial thing much better than Andi ever could. But they alone of their eccentric family loved Andi, and she loved them for it.

    Vincent was the pet rabbit they'd gotten for their birthday just a few months ago. Gabi hadn't known her mother long, but she did know it was as close to a family pet as she'd ever get. Besides, sometimes, when the twins were in bed, Andi would sneak into their room and hold Vincent, and he'd wiggle his nose at her, and she'd stifle a laugh and wait until her fell asleep in the crook of her arm and just stare.

    Miss Rachael was the twenty-something legend of their sleepy little Quebec town, an American girl who'd moved to St. Peter's Font three years ago after prematurely ending her career as a Broadway dancer with a mysterious injury she never told anyone about. She'd done well for herself, or at least, that's what the twins' grandparents always said, moving to Quebec, marrying a Canadian Frenchman, and opening up the ballet studio Andi hadn't seen in almost three days now.

    She was on her way to a private lesson with Miss Rachel now -- unless she was pawned off onto one of Rachel's teenage proteges again -- that would last the two hours she'd missed yesterday, and hopefully cover the remaining six hours she'd skipped Thursday and Friday.

    And, if she was lucky, the sun would still be up when she got out. Weekends at her father's were always hectic, to say the least, and if Perla and Gabi wouldn't sit still for her stories, she was fairly confident Win would.
  2. Winchell Herst woke up half an hour after dawn to the sound of his youngest sister Felicitas screaming in the other room. The girl was by far the most consistent alarm clock that had ever passed the door of the Herst household, and very soon one or both of his parents would be up, tending to the girl. Win sat up carefully, looking at his triplet brothers with whom he shared a room. They too were used to Feli’s screams, but they used it as a way of knowing that they still had two more hours of sleep to look forward to. Only Win got up when he woke up. He carefully worked his way out of his small bed and got dressed, before pulling the window open and slipping out into the post-dawn light.

    No one in his family would miss him. Feli was mildly Schizophrenic, and while she could mostly sort through reality once she was awake the nights always tormented her. She got most of his parents’ attention. What little remained was spent keeping his eleven-year-old nightmare triplet brothers Dane, Aaron, and Mathew in line, and making sure that Win’s idiot older brother Grady was not high or drunk before sending him off to school.

    In all that chaos Win, and his two older sisters Stacy and Margot, who were far more interested in making sure they looked perfect and gossiping to cause much trouble most of the time, kind of fell through the cracks. If they stuck around they would get whatever breakfast they could manage to scrounge, but if they didn’t their parents wouldn’t worry if they did even notice.

    At moments like this, Win felt a longing for his oldest brother Eric, the only person who had ever paid any real attention to Win in his twelve year old life. But Eric had left for college when he was eight to get a doctors degree, and still had another four years before he even finished with his schooling. Whether or not his brother would come back after that... no one knew.

    One of the advantages to always being the first one in the house to willingly get up was it meant Win had consistent access to one of the three bikes in the house, when his siblings hadn’t managed to break one of them. His parents had a car, but the only one they would let drive was Stacy, as Margot was too young to have her license, and Grady would get in an accident. Normally his mom and dad took the triplets to school, but after that there was a fight for the remaining bikes. Win was always glad to miss that.

    Most mornings he got breakfast at school, riding in early to the cafeteria and hanging out with the lunch ladies until one of his friends arrived. Some mornings they fed him, some mornings not, but he never asked or whined when they didn’t. If his siblings had taught him anything, it was that whining, while a good way to get attention, was not a good way to actually get what you want.

    But this morning was a little different. His closest friend Andi was coming back into town from her fathers today, and he always made sure he was there to greet her when she arrived, so that they could ride together on the bus. Andi was talkative, and after a weekend of not having anyone to dump her stories into she needed Win, whether she realized it or not.

    Luckily, most of Andi’s stories were actually entertaining,and Wind did not mind listening. If he listened for long enough without interrupting, something he was very good at, when he called in a favor Andi would have no choice but to oblige. It was a nice arrangement, one that worked well for them. Win was not the kind of boy to take advantage of a friend.

    This morning, however, he was strongly considering pulling one of his rarely used favors. The morning was crisp, cool, and golden; one of the most beautiful mornings he had seen in months. The pale blue sky lightly dusted with clouds promised that the rest of the day would be equally as beautiful.

    That weekend, the triplets had gotten into another one of their fights, but at the same time Stacy and Margot had gotten into a big argument, and Grady had come home with another black eye. His parents had lost it, and Win had been caught in the crossfire. Even though he had been sitting quietly in his room, working his way slowly through his English book.

    He hadn’t finished his reading that weekend, or any of his other homework, for that matter. His teachers were marginally forgiving, but right now he just couldn’t deal with it. Not when the day promised to be so perfect. He would take one day, just to live it up for a little while. When he got back, he would be able to behave himself again.

    He pulled up outside of Andi’s grandparents house, hopped off of his bike, and ran up to the front porch. He sat down on the porch swing, and sat quietly, waiting for Andi to come out. She always knew he was here, and she only kept him waiting when she was in a bad mood.
  3. Going back and forth between her father's trailer in Southtown and her grandparents' duplex in St. Peters was always a little bit like time travel for Andi. Usually, in the most basic of ways. VCRs to DVD players, burners to iPads, beepers to cellphones. Everything child-proofed, soft-lit, feng shui'd to hell. Inner city living to a suburban paradise, where the neighborhood watch was comprised mostly of unemployed, seniors who served on local nonprofit boards and kept an eye out more for insidious paint jobs than actual crime.

    But sometimes, she could swear she could actually feel herself moving between time. Granted, it was a three hour trip between the two places, which were really only about an hour and a half apart. But between walking from public transportation A to Citibus B, everyone always rounded up, and no one ever wanted to drive her. Andi didn't mind. It was a good time to decompress, and watch urban grays fade to wintersoft green.

    Still. How else did she describe the night-to-day feeling she got when she finally emerged on the other side of the tunnel? Like the could feel the physical weight of a bone-deep darkness lifting from her shoulders.

    Andi wasn't in a bad mood that morning. She'd been sure to stretch and practice all weekend, perfecting her grand jete before class last night. And then, twenty minutes in, she'd gotten a charlie horse so bad, Miss Rachel sent her home with a sniff and order to 'eat more bananas'. But she'd gotten home early enough to watch a movie with the twins before bed, and it was hard for her to wake up upset about anything. She stepped out the door with both shoes untied, a sweatshirt thrown over her shoulder, her backpack hanging open, her gym bag zipped and ready to go -- alone among those things that needed to be prepared before she left for school.

    "Hey, Win," she said around a mouthful of apple, tossing him a second from their half empty fruit bowl in the kitchen. "Got the bike this morning? Nice."

    She stooped to tie her shoes and then shoved her lunch down further in her backpack before zipping it up. She had an extra sandwich for Win in case he didn't get anything -- it happened more often than Marie, the twins' grandmother, liked, but she suspected that was more because she just didn't like sharing their whole grain bread with anyone, Andi included.

    Win, to his eternal credit, waited until they were on the porch and down the drive, Andi guiding her bike with one hand, and eating her apple with the other, before asking:

    "Wanna take a day off school?" No minced words, no needless explanation. He might have decided to go on with anyone else, but where Win was good at listening, Andi reigned at blind trust.

    "Sure. Where to?"

    "Doesn't matter. Not school."

    Andi grinned, brown eyes shining in the scant light of an early morning. "I've got an idea. C'mon. Oh! And remind me to tell you about how my dad's new girlfriend used her bra to fix the screen door."
  4. By this point in their friendship, Win and Andi had become experts at dual-riding a bike. It wasn't the most comfortable thing to be perched on the handlebars or resting off-kilter on the rack over the back wheel, but most of the time it beat walking. Luckily, most of the time they had two bikes, and they could focus on things other than making sure that the bike stayed perfectly upright. It left them both free to watch the slow tumble of the clouds across the sky, or watch one of the last of the autumn leaves spiral down through the air on a gust of wind.

    Andi started talking almost as soon as they were out of sight of her house, starting in with the story of the bra, but quickly migrating on to other topics as soon as that story did not provide enough satisfaction. By this point in their friendship the other thing Win had gotten really, really good at was multitasking. It takes a certain level of skill to be able to ride a bike down the street while not knowing exactly where he was going, as Andi was prone to get so wrapped up in one of her stories that she would forget a turn until it was right on top of them, pay close enough attention to his friend's story so that if she needed a reply he would be able to offer one that would meet to her satisfaction (an endeavor that had gotten more and more tricky as Win had proved himself repeatedly to be one of the best listeners that Andi knew), and also still take some pleasure in the day that was passing by. A good part of it was simply making sure to simplify every task as much as possible, so that it only required about a third of his attention. Slowing down the bikes so that turns came up slowly, while still making sure to go fast enough that they didn't start to wobble, subtly directing Andi onto stories that had a predictable set of circumstances and a guessable outcome, so that if he did miss something it would be easy enough to fill in the blanks, and noticing only the most spectacular aspects of their surroundings.

    Of course, his attempts were both helped and hindered by Andi's knowledge that he did all of these things. Most of the time, as long as she was talking, she was happy. She didn't really need complicated stories, or his perfectly strict attention. But sometimes she pulled a stunt on him, just to remind him that she could. Turning her bike briefly to the side so that out of the corner of his eye he thought she was turning, and therefore running him into the curb, was a perfect example. Of course, the best times were when her attempts to regain his attention backfired on her. One time, she had completed a story, but left out the key piece. When he did not comment on the lack of sense to the story, she pulled the missing piece, in an attempt to prove he wasn't listening. To her, albeit brief, frustration, he had fit the missing piece into the story perfectly.

    By the time her monologue slowed down they were drawing close to the edge of the city, where a channel came in off of the Hudson Bay. Back when the city was first being founded the governor had set this stretch of waterfront aside as a sanctuary for a rare species of native duck, and despite the displeasure of every apartment construction company who came through here and saw the riverside as perfect development property, the designation had stuck through the years. It was a favorite haunt of... well, anyone in the city who wanted a little bit of peace and quiet. It was a massive stretch of densely forested land, and had acted as a temptation to them more than once. "Are you finally going to tell me where we are going?" he asked, pedaling a little bit harder to pull his bike up slightly ahead of hers.

    "You remember that island we saw, in the middle of the channel? Cameron Greaves was going on and on about how his older brother's girlfriend's cousin's something saw a sailboat wreck there."

    "And you believe him?"

    "Not really. But we should still be the first to check it out."

    Both kids were perfectly willing to ignore the fact that doing anything in this stretch of the river, be it fishing, swimming, or even throwing pebbles, was strictly forbidden by the regulations of the sanctuary. It made the story, if anything, all the more believable, because no one other than a couple of curious pre-teens would be willing to break the regulations to go follow such a wild rumor. It meant, if they did find anything, they would be able to keep it all to themselves.

    "Any plans for how we get across the river to the island?" Win finally asked as they pulled up at the edge of the forest, dropping their bikes onto the grass.

    "Nope. Hopefully we will find something."
  5. As many ways as Win and Andi were alike, they were far many more -- as was the case with most children of the opposite sex entering puberty together -- that set them apart. Chief among which was Win's ability to multitask, and Andi's almost subsequent inability.

    Together, their friendship was a strong one, having built early on working from each other's weaknesses. Win had always been more reliable, more detail oriented, where Andi's occasional lazer focus meant even learning to weave together the stories of her supposed incarceration with her father while riding a bike had been trying. And now, having exhausted her stories, she paced the riverbank, chewing her lip absently, as she tried to find a way across.

    She wasn't overly concerned about getting caught. Both she and Win were good enough kids in a small enough town that even if they were caught hunting those oh-so-special ducks, they'd receive nothing more than a public scolding and a few hours' worth of picking up trash on a Saturday morning. Her first thought, then, was that they swim, but it was getting later in the year, and colder, and wet clothes would be hard to hide.

    She was just wondering how long it would take to put together a half decent raft when the wind suddenly gusted hard enough to pull her hood off her brown curls. She turned, squinting into the wind as if looking for a culprit, something she wouldn't understand until much later, and heard a faint crackling under the sound of the wind.

    It took another long moment for her to realize a narrow channel of ice was forming in the water, crystal clear and sturdy against the current. She blinked once, disbelieving. The Hudson almost froze over, rarely this early, and virtually never just along one narrow strip of water.

    Suddenly, Andi was wondering whether the boat that had crashed on the island was a sailboat at all.

    "Win, check it out," she said, breathless with wonder as she pointed down their narrow bridge of ice. It was still growing, stretching out toward the island at the center of the river. "Gimme a rock."

    He complied, quiet as usual, watching the ice floe with a mingled expression of disbelief and excitement. He dropped a pebble in her hand without looking at her.

    "No, bigger. It's a bridge, right? So we need to test it."

    "Test it with what?"

    "I dunno. A rock? A big rock. of the bikes?"

    "And what if it doesn't hold?"

    Andi shrugged. "Then we're out a bike."

    "Yeah, right, I'm sure no one will notice when I come back short one of three working bikes we have left."

    Andi looked at him, her hair blowing around her face. The wind was still strong. She hadn't noticed it didn't touch the tips of any of the trees around them.

    "Okay, so fine." She moved to the edge of the river and looked down. "If it breaks, don't come after me," she said casually. And then she jumped.
  6. “Holy shit.” Win was not unfamiliar with swear words. If anything, it was the exact opposite. His parents tried their best to keep their mouths clean when there were still toddlers in the house, but it had been almost six years since the last toddler. And Grady had never tried to keep his tongue in check. If anything, he had flaunted his swear words as soon as he had learned them, grating his tongue constantly against the inside of Win’s head. No, swear words had lost most of their attraction to Win. He associated them with drunkenness and stupidity, when used without real meaning. But there were times when swear words felt ultimately necessary, when they truly became the only words capable of describing a certain situation.

    He had been certain when Andi jumped that she was going to break through whatever illusion was holding that ice in place and go crashing into the cold river water. He was absolutely certain. And, despite her words, if she didn't get out of the water immediately, he was certainly going in after her. If she was going to insist on swimming to that island, he was too.

    But, by all the impossibilities, the ice held. Andi stood there for a moment, before a wild grin split over her face. She danced slightly on the ice, and it didn’t seem to sway or buckle under her feet. And then she was gone, racing towards the island.

    “Andi, wait!” Win called after her. Even though he had seen it support her, he still somehow didn’t believe that this could possibly exist. Win edged out carefully onto the ice, testing it carefully before fully trusting his weight to the impromptu bridge. He bent down, and dropped his hand into the water, wanting to see the two inch ice that had miraculously formed to keep them afloat on the water. His fingers dropped carefully into the water, before immediately curling around the bottom of the ice. It couldn’t be even half a centimeter thick. It was far more like they were walking on the top of the water than true ice.

    “Andi,” he called again, only to see that his friend was already most of the way across the strange bridge. Win took a deep breath that caught briefly in the back of his throat, before shoving all of his fears away. He couldn’t leave her on that island all alone.

    Win barely caught up to her by the end of the bridge, but he was more than glad to jump across the last foot or so and land on the solid soil of the island. He let out a small, relieved breath, but Andi was already moving away again, and Win had no choice but to follow her.

    He was the first to notice as the plants began to change. At first it was everything he expected of a small Canadian island in late Autumn. Pine trees and bare branches. But the flower was completely unexpected. It was bright yellow and practically seemed to glow with both light and life. Win came to a halt, and he had the sense to reach out and catch Andi before she could barrel on ahead without him.

    “There is something... strange about this,” was all he could say. It was the understatement of the year, but there were no better words for it at the moment. Beyond the next few trees was another flower, this one the palest blue, but with the same glow surrounding it. There were vines growing up the trees, a rich, deep greed foreign to the cold weather. And the further in he looked, the more beautiful and alive the island seemed to become.
  7. Andi rolled her eyes at his words, shoving her friend aside without taking her eyes off the spread of green before them. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks red with cold. A chronic daydreamer, Andi was sure she'd reached paradise.

    "Yeah, I know," she said sarcastically, starting forward and trusting Win to follow. "I don't see that stupid boat anywhere."

    Truthfully, Andi had lost all hope of finding a boat the minute she landed on ice born of nothing and didn't crash through to the river bank again. There was undoubtedly something on the island. She could feel that in the air, an electric crackle that made goosebumps break out on her arms. But it wasn't a boat. It was bigger and better than a boat. More dangerous, too. And that only made her laugh all the harder.

    "C'mon," she said, reaching behind her and tugging Win with her as she broke out in a run. Their bikes back on the bank had been forgotten. The boat had been forgotten. She no longer had a plan, or even an idea of what she wanted to find. No, whatever it was that had led them here wanted them here; why else would the bridge have been built? Running wouldn't make her miss anything. She'd only get to her goal twice as fast.

    She didn't know what she was looking for, and yet she found it a few minutes later, just a short ways into the woods, her dark hair catching leaves as it spun out behind her, her purple not-quite Chuck Taylors quiet on the mud under her feet. She'd already tripped and fallen twice, uncaring, though she knew she'd catch hell from the twins' grandmother when she got home for tearing her nice 'school pants', whatever that meant.

    It didn't seem to matter as she came upon a small clearing in the woods that seemed to glow with warmth despite the day. Panting, she turned back to Win and grinned wickedly.

    "What do you think it does?" she asked.

    "How do you know it does anything?"

    In a tone that would have been frustration in anyone else, she said, "Win, look!" and gestured to the forest around him. There was nothing particularly exciting about it; nothing to note off hand save for a beauty mostly untouched by man. But Win was stupid. He could feel it. He had to.

    Without waiting for an answer, she stepped forward into the perfect ring of light.

    At once, a bouquet of pink flowers spring up around her shoes, small white butterflies shooting into the air around her like confetti.

    And Andi...Andi stepped back at once, frowning.

    "Why pink?"
  8. Neither of the two enthusiastic children knew it, but there was someone who was watching them from the moment they stood on the far bank of the river, staring towards an island. Through it all there was someone staring back at them. This someone was the one who purposefully created the ice bridge, inviting the children across. And this someone was also the one who had caused the area around him to burst into such enthusiastic life. Life spilled from him like water from a spigot, and anything that stayed near him for too long began to absorb it, and burst into riotous and unexpected color.

    The strange man shadowed them all the way from the bridge towards the center of the island, his long blonde hair floating loosely around his head as though it was filled with static electricity. His clothes were simple and cheap, a variety very similar to those that Win's own parents wore. But his face seemed to glow with the same enthusiasm that caused the flowers to bloom so brightly, and the sun to stream in a halo through the trees.

    While the two children hesitated briefly, the man moved on ahead of them, settling next to a tree. It seemed to curl around him, creating a comfortable resting space that somewhat resembled a chair, but mostly just looked like those cheap basket chairs that some children got, but never actually sat in.

    Andi's comment managed to illicit a laugh from him, and as he leaned forward the tree moved as well to accommodate his new position. The higher branches reached down, almost as though they longed to be closer to him.

    “Why not pink?” he responded as the two children whirled to face him, eyes wide with surprise and excitement. “Does it offend your sensibilities?”
  9. Andi had never once in her life been called rude or shy -- well, rude, perhaps, but never intentionally so -- but even she fell silent as she paused to take in the sight of the man before her. She knew at once it was he who had called them to this place, who had built the bridge and crafted careful butterfly confetti. She knew likewise that while he could harm them, he probably would not, as it seemed both odd and rather psychotic to invite a pair of children to an island only to torture them. There were many she knew, mostly adults, who would say any man who would lure a pair of children anywhere was not one to be trusted, but though this man reeked of many things, none of them immediately implied perversion or danger. Rather, he seemed to exude life and a brightness that went almost beyond Andi's understanding.

    So, she merely blinked for a moment, taking in his strange guise, before wrinkling her nose as she tried to come up with an answer that was both honest (she was not a liar by nature, but she was especially careful to be truthful here) and efficient.

    "I don't think I have very many sensibilities to offend," she said after a while, glancing at Win, as she often did, to check whether she should be more cautious. And then, as she always did, ignoring the implicit advice. "I just don't like pink." She looked at the man, then back behind her, then at Win again before settling on the stranger at last.

    "But you made those flowers, didn't you?" she asked eagerly, brown eyes shining. "You could make more, right? Could you make blue ones? Or gold? Or glitter?"

    And, as always, it was Win with the more insightful questions. It was simple, not so much a breathless wish, like Andi, but a calm, if expectant question. An earnest query that spoke of the boy already understanding far more than even he knew.

    "Or could you make something else completely?"
  10. “No pink, then.” The magic man’s smile was soft, sweet, and ever growing as he listened to the two children before him. They were so very much children, both in actions and attitude, and that was precisely what made them so beautiful. More and more, he was glad that they were the ones who had found their way to this island, and had been the first to come across the bridge. The contrast between them was as stunning as a sunset against a blue ocean, or a snow covered peak rising up behind a mountain lake.

    Behind the two children the flowers seemed to shiver. A deep blue rushed out from their center, veined through with the purest shade of gold. From nowhere in the middle of the air, glitter began to fall, making them perfectly radiant in the bright light that fell down through the trees. It was irrelevant that they would have to turn around to notice it at the moment. In many ways, the magic man didn’t even notice their change himself, except for the fact that he now knew that was what Andi looked for.

    What he did do was lift a hand, fist closed, before letting his fingers gently uncurl. A small pile of glitter sat in his palm, every color of the rainbow except, very carefully, pink. He blew across it, lifting it gently into the air in iridescent swirls. Another breath and the glitter jumped away and swirled around Andi, settling like a butterfly kiss on her clothes and hair. Like the flowers, the effect was subtle. It wasn’t tawdry, but instead made her look like a fairy, practically glowing with the same energy that filled the rest of this strange island grove.

    Satisfied that Andi would be at least briefly distracted by her glitter aura, the man turned his attention to Win.

    “What about you?” he said softly. Behind him, the tree he was sitting on was continuing to shift gently. It was not a vulgar change, rather a gentle response to the presence of the man who sat on it. The color was slowly bleaching from the trunk, turning pure white. The leaves, on the other hand, seemed to absorb the color of the sun, becoming a rich and bright shade of yellow. Small buds were forming, and when they finally burst open, they were the richest shade of emerald.
  11. Indeed, Andi was hardly aware of anything going on around her, even of Win, as she stared down at herself, brown eyes wide with wonder, though not surprise. Andi was the sort who would stubbornly believe in Santa Claus for as long as she could, despite -- and even in spite, if such a thing could be said -- of the evidence presented her. Simply because of the innocence, joy, and sheer absurdity the man in red represented. She would not have been able to put those words to it, or at least, she wouldn't have cared to, the way Win might have, if he'd had the words to do so. She would understand as she grew older that her greatest fear was stagnancy, that her nightmares were neither black nor white, but all in shades of unremarkable gray.

    Win was, in that way, and many others, her opposite, and while he noted with no small amount of appreciation what the strange man had done for his friend, he was careful not to let his attention stray like Andi's did as she giggled, spinning in a circle to throw colored motes of light into the forest. He watched the man not quite like a predator watching prey, but as if he could dissect him with his gaze, a look that sought to arrange a puzzle from myriad pieces he could hardly even see.

    Of course, Win was many things, chief among them the sort of observant that came with being so often ignored. But he was still a child in the presence of the magic he had and would be told, in words and otherwise, did not, and could not exist.

    And he was not without vices of his own.

    "What about me?" he asked aloud, though it was not a challenge, but a genuine question. What did he want? He wasn't expecting a display of authenticity. He was not the type to need one, or at least not after what he had already been shown. But neither was he about to waste his proverbial wish, if that's what this was.

    A new bike, he almost said, then stopped glancing at Andi, who was now crouched in the center of the mini meadow patch, running her hand over flowers as her hair glittered in the light. He paused, reconsidered. What would Andi do?

    "I want to speak to animals," he said abruptly. "Can you do that?"
  12. The strange man tilted his head to the side, almost dog-like, and his flowing blonde hair gathered together briefly into a river of hair, before scattering back out again. It did not take him very long to make his decision, if indeed that was what he was doing. Less than a second after his question, Win was greeted by another indulgent smile.

    “It...could be done,” the magic man replied. Somehow, the slow manner in which he said the words did not give the impression of a reluctance to give Win such a gift, but was rather as though the words were far important to rush, and must be said slowly for the gift to obtain its true significance. “Come here.”

    Win stepped forward, ahead of Andi, leaving her crouched among the flowers as he walked to the strange man. He had to consciously decide not to hesitate, not to wonder what exactly the man was going to do. But once he made the decision he moved forward eagerly.

    The man stood up, the tree moving back to its natural shape as soon as the man parted company from it. He met Win a few feet in front of the tree, and gently guided the boy so that he was standing with his back towards the man. He then placed both of his hands lightly on the boy’s shoulders.

    Despite the fact that the hands were barely a feather’s touch on his shoulders, there was something immeasurably heavy about them. It was as if, through those hands, Win was being connected to the rest of the world. His feet spread deep into the ground, far out under the bay, and his head reached far up into the sky. Unknown to him, his hair stood on end, and while the effect was not as noticeable on his short hair, Andi, who glanced up from her own gift, curious as to what exactly was going on, could not help but notice it.

    The magic man’s eyes fluttered closed, and Win’s eyes silently followed suit only a moment later. For a moment he could hear nothing except the rush of the river passing by, the sound of the wind through the trees, and the bass beat of his own heart, but slowly new sounds began to emerge. His eyes flew open in surprise.

    He had expected to hear words from the animals, and for them to understand his words. He had possessed no other notion of what the language of animals could be. But, at that moment, he understood. Animals did not speak in words because they had no need of words. Their communication was far more basic, far more intrinsic to their very nature, than any form of speaking humans possessed.

    Underneath the ground, the ants hummed as they worked, their vibrating rhythm a constant testament to the pleasure of being able to work for their queen. He joined into their rhythm unconsciously, and for a moment he understood them, and they understood him. A bird fluttered overhead, knowing nothing but its own goal, and the simple satisfaction of moving through the air as only it was capable of doing.

    “Is this how you hear the world?” Win asked softly, his voice filled with awe.


    “Then how?”

    There was a brief moment of silence, strange and foreign in a world so constantly used to the movement of the universe, and then Win began to hear the heart of the world. The plants chanted a pulse of life and growing, known to every living thing in the universe. It beat within his own body, within Andi’s body, and within the Magic Man he heard something unlike anything else that existed in the world. And, beneath that basic song of life, there was something else. It wasn’t hearing so much as it was feeling, a vibration within his very core that spoke of a sound far, far, far too low for even him to hear now. It was the sound of the earth itself, holding together and creating everything into it as it hurtled through the vast infinity of space. The wind, the river, even the vast dome of the sky, they beat within him in a flow that he had always subconsciously felt, but never understood. It was like waking up, and realizing that your dream had only been the faintest touch of the true majesty of reality.

    He could bare it for only a moment, the weight of the whole world within him at once, before he fainted. Only the the magic man kept him from hitting the ground at once. He hung, suspended limply only an inch above the ground. Slowly the earth moved up, shaping itself so that it cradled his body as gently as a mother’s arms.

    There was a single tear rolling its way down his cheek, and it sparkled in the sunlight. When he awoke, the world to which he had just been introduced would be silent to him once more. But he would never forget that moment, as long as he lived.
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  13. Andi felt a sensation pass over her she couldn't explain, though if she could, she might have called it a mini thunderstorm. It swept over her, quick and loud and warm as rain in the summer, and when it was gone, she imagined she could still feel it clinging to her skin, both dewey and ethereal, and just enough to draw her attention away from herself and the flowers.

    When she turned around, Win was sleeping, something that might have concerned anyone else, but Andi just studied her friend, and then the Magic Man, her head tilted to the side much the way his had been just moments before.

    "You showed him something big," she said evenly. When she'd formed the sentence in her mind, it had been a question, but it became a statement, not judging or accusing, simply being, as it left her lips.

    The man smiled and shrugged massive shoulders. "In a way, I suppose. Didn't I do the same for you?"

    Andi grinned wryly and shrugged herself. "You showed me what I asked for," she said. "Thanks, by the way. But I knew what you showed Win would be different, because Win is different." She paused to considered this, then went on, chewing her bottom lip every few seconds, as if deep in thought.

    "I'm different, too. We both are, or we wouldn't be here, I guess. But Win is more different. He's not like the other kids." She stood, walked a few steps, and crouched again, smoothing an unruly lock of hair from her sleeping friend's face with mingled reverence and amusement.

    "He's smart. Smarter than me. Sometimes, it takes people a long time to figure that out, because I'm louder. I don't know if he even knows yet." She looked back up at the man again, squinting through the halo of light behind his head.

    "I think I should maybe try to take him home, 'cept he's too big to carry, and I can't take him and both bikes. Do you think we could stay here until after school is s'posed to be over?"
  14. "I would welcome that," he replied, hair briefly falling lower around his head as he looked at the two children. There was a moment of silence, before a small mound began to grow in the center of the clearing. It broke open moments later, and the two bikes emerged from the earth, untouched by a trace of dirt or water. They floated through the air slightly, before settling back against a tree. One pedal spun lazily, almost as though it was happy to be in this new location.

    Through that, the eyes of the Magic Man never left the two children resting so peacefully in his clearing. He was, perhaps, conscious of the movement of the bikes, but it was like rubbing the palm of your hand with your thumb, or tucking a strand of hair behind your ear. It was just something that was done without intent.

    It did not take Win very long to wake up. Even though he had experienced something far beyond the comprehension of any other person on the world, his sleep had been deep, peaceful, and healing as any night in bed. He stirred faintly, the earth moving to accommodate his form, before he sat up, his hair all over the place despite Andi's brief ministrations. For a moment he looked around, almost as though he was missing something, before his yes settled on Andi. He smiled slightly, orienting himself in the world by the presence of the friend. She grinned back widely, but Win's attention was already moving on. He looked at the life glowing around the clearing, before meeting eyes with the blue-eyed Magic Man.

    In that moment something like a silent conversation seemed to pass between them. In the eyes of the Magic Man Win saw a loneliness as foreign as the world the Magic Man knew. To win, who lived in a house with so many people it was possible to be both the center of attention and completely ignored at the same time, the Magic Man's loneliness seemed like an alien emotion, brought from another planet. But, as connected to everything around him as the Magic Man could be, his world was completely isolated.

    Win stood up slowly, using Andi's shoulder to lift himself to his feet. He paused for a moment, rubbing a hand across his face, before walking to the Magic Man. There was a moment of hesitation, before Win wrapped his hands around the man's waist and hugged him tightly. It was as high as he could reach, but it was warm and comfortable all the same.

    "Thank you," he said quietly. "I'm sorry."

    The Magic Man nodded, his hand coming down to rest on Win's shoulders, and squeezed gently. Win let go a moment later, and turned his attention back to Andi. He had completed his moment, had received his gift, and Win was satisfied. It was once more time for his more outgoing friend to lead them int adventure.
  15. Andi didn't really understand the exchange that went on between the strange man and her best friend, but she was used to that. Win was forever seeing things she wasn't, hearing things she couldn't, grasping things she was years from being able to understand. There were times it annoyed her, entire days went by where she swore he was making things up. But when she finally saw them, too, she was always just impressed, and grateful. It was like having a friend who could see in the dark.

    She stood back as Win went forward, a rare occurrence, though one that came about naturally enough. But she didn't look away as he embraced the Magic Man, having no idea whether or not staring was rude, and not particularly caring. Win was used to her, and the Magic Man did not appear to wont for privacy, exactly, though he was certainly secluded enough. In her mind, Andi figured if he didn't want company, or not the lingering kind, he needn't have given them their strange wishes. Or their bikes.

    Still crouched in her field of flowers, Andi only smiled vaguely as she pulled her backpack from her shoulders and began to dig through it. After everything she'd just seen, plastic cheese and ham on stale wheat seemed like especially meager fare, but then she wasn't really hungry, anyway. She pulled out the brown paper bag, sighed at it when it didn't become a tropical bird in her hands, and dropped it to dimple the resplendent greenery under her feet.

    The idea sprang from nowhere, though Andi thought maybe she could have tracked it, if she thought hard -- feet, shoes, pointe shoes, ballet, learning, teaching -- and she bounded up again, backpack forgotten.

    Her words were simple, for once. There was no need for explanation or beautification. The answer, she thought, was a simple yes or no. She wasn't yet sure of which she wished for.

    "Can you teach us?" she said abruptly, gaze flicking briefly, almost questioning, to Win before she looked back at the Magic Man. "Win and me. Can you show us what you did? And...and how?"
  16. Win had joined Andi as she sat down, but when his friend jumped back to her feet he remained in the grass, fingers lightly playing with the green strands. But his eyes locked onto the Magic Man as certain as Andi’s own, and although he was much more quiet about it he was just as desperate to hear the answer as his friend. There was no child who didn’t dream of magic, and the excitement and honor it would bring him in the constant battle for child dominance. He felt just the faintest touch of fear, a concern built upon the knowledge of how the magic man perceived the world, but it was quickly dismissed in a wave of growing excitement.

    The Magic Man’s face was impossible to read. His face was still and inscrutable, almost as though he had forgotten how to show emotion. Eventually he walked over to the two children, and joined them in the grass. For a further moment Andi remained standing, the excitement within her keeping her from doing anything as banal as sitting, but when the grass began to tug gently on her legs she succumbed to the Magic Man’s request and sat down again.

    “I can show you what I did,” he said,a taste of hesitation in his voice. “But anyone can show you anything. Showing and teaching are very different matters.” He paused, and both children remained silent, waiting for the answer to their question.

    “I’ve never tried to explain it to someone before. I don’t even know if I can. It is like trying to teach someone how to jump. I can show you as many times as you like, but if you can’t do it... you can’t do it.” Around them, the grass tilted, almost as though it was ashamed. The blade that was between Win’s fingers suddenly writhed, escaping his grasp.

    “So...” Win said hesitantly, his, albeit practical, dreams slowly falling away from around him, “We can’t learn how to do what you do?”

    “I don’t know.”

    There was a moment of silence, and Win’s eyes fell away. But, as ever, the silence was broken by Andi. “But that wasn’t a no, right? We could learn. You just don’t know whether or not it would work.”


    “Alright,” the girl agreed, jumping back to her feet. “We will never know if we don’t try.”
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