Monday, 21 January 2013

Magic Falls Part Four

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The snow isn't overly heavy, but it does slow my journey down. A tube journey, a train and a bus, until I’m at a familiar block of flats. In the lift on the way up, I regret misleading Nina. She thinks I’m at work, but this is a visit that I have to make, and it would involve too much explaining right now.

When I can explain it to her, I will. I promise that to myself.

I get to a door that I haven’t been to in some time. If I hesitate, I’ll change my mind, so I don’t dare. Trying not to think about what I'm doing, I knock on the door.

"Who is it?" Maria calls from the other side of the door.

"'s Darren," I say.

"Darren?" She says, and opens the door as much as the chain inside will allow. "What are you doing here?"

I wish she could just open the door. It's going to be difficult enough to get her to talk to me without having a door between us.

"I came to talk to you."

"You never come to talk to me. We sometimes talk online. You maybe sometimes walk wistfully in the park and think about calling me and then don't. Why have you come to talk to me?"

"It's about the lottery," I say.

“What does that have to do with me?” She asks.

“The numbers from ‘Lost’ and ‘forty-two forty-two’?” I say. “Who else could it be?”

She closes the door in my face, and I hear a metallic rattling on the other side. A moment later, she opens the door to let me in.

She looks tired and stressed. She doesn’t wear any makeup, and she’s dressed in black jeans and a black hoodie with the logo of an obscure folk-rock band. This means that she hasn’t been out today, which is unusual for her.

I walk behind her as she makes her way towards the kitchen. She doesn't acknowledge me in any other way than to continue talking.

"They're going to burn me at the stake for being a witch. I'm genuinely worried about that."

"They don't do that any more, Maria." I point out. "Nobody would even know how to do it."

"Rubbish. Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. The small, evil little harbingers of death. They'd set the fire while the rest of them just wait and watch."

"So, it was you?"

"Burning me at the stake would be very bad. I'm allergic to fire."

"That's a yes, then?"

"I don't know. I didn't mean to do anything, but that doesn't count for anything when the Judge decides that my sentence should be death by molotov cocktail. Would you like a cup of tea? If I'm going to die, I should at least be caffeinated."

"A cup of tea would be good," I say. "Maria."


"How are you?"

She laughs somewhere between nervousness and hysteria. "I'm genuinely quite frightened, Darren."

"That's why I'm here," I say.

"Does Nina know you're here?"

I wish she hadn't asked that. "No, she doesn't."


Maria writes the horoscope for a number of websites, and at least two popular women's magazines. We were also in a long-term relationship before I met Nina.

We split up for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we were better friends than lovers. Or at least, we would have been if we hadn't been lovers. It was too awkward and too difficult for either of us to overcome to the point necessary to be casual enough to be friends. Instead, we drifted into being acquaintances. Although every now and then we tried.

Nina hates her. I thought they would get on, and introduced them to each other. It didn’t work out.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t stand her,” Nina told me later. “I’m sure she’s nice… well, I’m not, actually. That’s the problem. There’s something about her that makes me think she’s sneering at us behind our backs.”

“She’s not like that,” I told her.

“So when you were with her, she didn’t sneer about people behind their backs to you?”

“No. Well… no. She could be a bit…” I wanted to say ‘bitchy’. “…judgemental, maybe.”

“Well, I don’t want to give her more ammunition to judge me. It’s not that I’m being jealous, and I don’t entirely know why I’m reacting to her like this. But I am. Maybe I am being jealous. I don’t know. But I don’t think I can be around her.”

I hoped she’d come around eventually. “Okay.”

“I’m not stopping you spending time with her. I get why it’s important. I just don’t want to spend years pretending to be friends with her.”

I was a little thrown and upset by this, but I didn’t try too hard to bring her round on it. Things were too awkward with Maria anyway.

At the same time, I thought Nina misjudged her. Sure, Maria could be a bit gossipy at times, but she wasn’t the kind to sneer about people behind their backs.


“How is skinny bitch?” Maria asks, passing me a mug of tea.

“She’s fine.”

“Is she still skinny?” She sits down on a stool.


“I hate her. Luckily, she hates me, so she’ll enjoy seeing me burnt. I am glad I can sacrifice myself for your happiness. This will give me comfort when the smoke is suffocating me and the heat is overwhelming me. At least skinny bitch will be happy and Darren’s life will be easier.”

“They’re not going to burn you.”

“They burn witches. They just keep it quiet.”

“Yes, but you’re a white witch, so you’ll be fine.”

“I am not a white witch, and saying so suggests a level of research that begins and ends with The Wizard of Bloody Oz. There’s no such thing as a White Witch, in the same way that we’re not Devil worshippers, because in witchcraft, there’s no such thing as Hell. It’s a Christian concept that got forced onto paganism, and you’re smiling because you’re mocking me, you unspeakable bastard. I know seven ways to kill you with this teaspoon and none of them involve magic and only three of them aren't excruciatingly painful.”

She stops and then stands up and  turns away from me. I recognise her bursts of energy followed by crashing from our time together. I knew she would do this, which is why I teased her slightly. I needed to ride the wave a little bit so that I could get her to actually talk.


She doesn’t turn around, but says in a small voice “Yes?”

“Are you okay?”

“No, I’m not.”

“What happened with the lottery? How did you do it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know how it happened.” She is agitated.

“Tell me about it, then.”

“I… it started happening a little while ago.”

“Things coming true?”

“Yes,” she says. “I mean, they’re horoscopes. They’re not true. I know they’re not. I write them, and I make them bloody up.” She grasps the counter, and I see her knuckles are pale.

“When did it start?”

“I’m not sure. I just noticed somewhere along the lines that I was hearing about events that I’d predicted. Nothing major, just… a pisces friend getting a new job the day after I had that written down. A Scorpio meeting a new love interest hours after the print run. Nothing major, but it was happening often enough to be noticeable.”

“You started testing it?”

“Just a little,” she said, as her knuckle continued to whiten. “I started putting slightly more specific details in, and I kept finding out about them coming true as well. It bothered me. It wasn’t something I could control.”

“So you thought you’d push it further?”

She turns around and looks at me. “I put something ridiculous in. Douglas Adams and a TV show and the lottery. And it came true too. And now I don’t know what that means, and I’m scared.”

“Where did you publish it?” I ask.

“In one of the magazines. Not the ones with big sales numbers, thankfully. Nobody’s been in touch, which means nobody’s noticed, which doesn’t do huge amounts for my ego, but I think is probably a good thing overall.”

“More than likely. For the time being, you’re going to have to hold off doing anything with it.”

She nods. “I know. I’m not going to say anything controversial. I’m going to try and get paid work doing something else.”

“This is only going to get worse.” I tell her. “I’m sorry for that, but it is.”

“How did you know?”

“I just know that it’s going to get worse. You’re going to have to let other people in, and talk to them.”

“No,” she says. “I didn’t ask you how you know. I asked you how you knew.”

“Knew what?”

“Knew that it was me?” She says.

“I told you. The geek references. It was obvious. It had to be you.”

“No, I mean…” She stops, and looks at me, scared now. “How did you know that what I was writing was coming true?”

"Ah," I say, and I put the empty mug down.

"Darren, really." She says. "How did you know that all this was happening?"

I look at her, and after a moment, I respond.

“That…” I say, “is where it gets complicated.”

Part Five

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