27. Fail-Deadly

“Why do we always do that? Why do we keep referring to a drop of water in a desert? I know you taught me, but it’s something that everyone is saying, it’s been said all over, and I don’t know why it keeps coming up. What’s so important about deserts, mum?”

“I don’t much care, Enk,”

“Hank,”

“Enk, but I would like if you two can leave the house without having a collapse.”

Enk sat down on the edge of the counter, his hands on his head. “Things… things happened in deserts, mum. Things that matter to magic itself.”

Innogen sat on the back of the sofa, her head tilted to the side. Ponytail bobbed as she folded her arms underneath her breasts, trying to ignore her aunt’s pointed comment. “Enk, you fainted talking to crabs.”

“No, I…”

Enk sat back.

How was he going to explain this?

A memory, when drawn from the mind, was a rolling mass of electrochemical signals working in parallel to create images, sounds, illusions of experience that rattled away inside the mind. Perhaps the words, the thoughts that come with those memories are the same, the narrative we provide our own lives, though, chances are, they aren’t. They’re something we fit on them later to think that we’re more ordered, more sensible than they are.

If two strings are tuned to the same frequency, plucking one plucks the other, without any content. The vibration travels, touches the string, and pushes it; so to with these resonant thoughts. Magic works similarly; an idea can be pressed into that force, which in turn propogates it, sustains it, and echoes it for many, many generations hence. It may move its space, but not lose its place.

It just needs someone tuned right.

“I’m seeing memories.” he said, waving his hands. “Memories of like, Bible figures. Moses and his kids, uh, Samson’s wife, this… like, crazy Batman dude with a chain, and … I think a crab.”

“A crab?” said his mother.

“Just bear with me, okay? The crab was the one that…” he shook his head, straightening it. He sat up straight, adjusting his vest, feeling his phone in his pocket, comfortingly. The girl in the penguin cardigan had apparently, put her number in it. That was… something nice. “… The crab remembers fighting its king, and-”

“Crabs have kings?” Innogen asked, her tone of voice curious.

“Last week you put a lightning bolt through a window at school, Jen,” he shot back. “This is probably not too weird by comparison.”

“Okay! Okay.”

“The crab was sad, and dying. It was remembering fighting its king, which was a betrayal, or something. It was all Jaime Lannister, I think. Anyway, he… she? I don’t even know. The thing is, they were fighting over something. The king had gone mad, and was using his magic to… like… a laser…”

A hand on his shoulder.

“Just… take your time, Enk.”

So much of the conversation, so many moments of pause. Everyone was moving in this sort of Ray Harryhausen slow-motion, held still as they thought about just what they were going to say, what they were going to hear. That feeling, that fear, that Enk was going nuts, in a world that was going very, very nuts.

This wasn’t how Magic was meant to work. When you lived your whole life doing hedge tricks, knowing that you may, one day, start a fire without a match, or maybe flip a coin ten times in a row with the value you wanted, you didn’t expect this. You didn’t expect your son to have visions, you didn’t expect your niece to throw bolts of lightning. It wasn’t ever meant to be something of this scale.

Innogen was lucky. She was too young, brash, and proud to feel any of that fear. The way the world turned, that was an adult fear. Innogen was wondering about the wide open expanses of the world that were forming before her. This was an era where school didn’t lead to college didn’t lead to a job didn’t lead to being pressured at thirty to marry. This was a world where she could draw a sword from the sky and conquer, say, Quebec.

Enk, however, was all in the mind of this one deep mystery. Each word came very carefully, as if he was afraid that he was building an idea out into the world where it would snap, and he could fall into the depths of lunacy.

“They were at war, using magic. They were wiping themselves out, they were destroying their civilisation. And it was a war like ours – like the Cold War, where any minute now, someone would push a button and end it all. And that meant that they had to build things for that situation. They built things that would win the war after the war. They built things to destroy what they had in case someone sought to take it. They wanted to win, so much more than they wanted to survive.”

He swallowed, rubbing his neck.

“And that thing in the ocean is one of the things they built. I think if it’s given enough time, it’s going to destroy all the magic again – just to make sure that there’s nothing left.” He managed, huffing a breath and rubbing his neck with his other hand. “… I think.”

“Good.” His mother said.

“What?!” blurted Enk, not realising that he had blurted in the same time and same tone as his cousin.

“Good! Magic’s … it’s making the world crazy! Have you looked out there? It’s a shooting gallery going on out there!”

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