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"So when two heat engines each with a--"
"There's no magic anywhere!"
Lucy wrapped her hands over her head and let the frizzy tresses tickle inside her elbow pits. The mousey haired human was having trouble but not with the contents of the physics textbook spread out in front of her, rather with what it implied.
"Why do you say that, Lucy?" a bespectacled young man in entirely too formal clothing spoke over his own pile of physics and lecture notes.
"Everything magic has something to do with turning around this entropy thing," Lucy moaned, pointing down at the book perhaps a bit too dramatically. "And they've been telling us for the last three chapters that reversing entropy is 100% impossible."
"What brought up magic? I thought we were studying Phys--"
"Physics, bah." she closed her thick textbook with a thump, "We've been studying it for hours and where has it got us?"
"We're the only ones in this class whose grades aren't hurting. Besides that weird Eugene character."
"I mean, what's the point? Passing this class won't affect the eventual outcome. Microstates are indeterminate, but the macrostate is easily predictable." She stared across almost accusingly at the unexpressive boy, as if daring him ppto respond.
"Butterfly effect," he said. "A microstate can have a large effect in the future, so even the macrostate is not predictable. Look, let's just try to get these equations down..."
"I'm done, Andrew." Lucy said, pushing the bangs out of her eyes and standing up. "I'm just... done." She walked off then perhaps a bit too quickly.
She made it as far as the outside of the building while Andrew sat watching her leave, before her stomach tightened with hunger. "How long were we..." she mused, checking a slim wristwatch and grimacing. "2 hours, great. It's the dinner hour." Lucy turned around and stalked right back into the building she had left from, because in letters above the window it was clearly marked "Cafeteria"
Ten minutes later Lucy and a tray clattered down across from Andrew, the girl sitting resolutely and chewing on her bread roll in silence. "When a particle accelerator..." Andrew started cautiously. Getting no response, he continued, "When a particle accelerator accelerates protons to near light speeds, then collides them together in massive collisions greater than either particle themselves would possess, I can predict what is going to happen. I can tell you what is going to come out, how it will behave, and what will result. I can understand that process if I study enough. If anything could be called magic, that is what I would call magic."
"Mmph," Lucy agreed reluctantly, trying to understand the strange boy across from her, so certain in his direction. "Still it's so esoteric and ...impractical..."
"You're looking for magic, and you're concerned about practicality?"
Lucy laughed and Andrew turned a page in his physics textbook. "I guess you're right," she said spooning at some watery looking peas. "It's just not doing it for me." Andrew just shrugged and continued to read silently.
"And that's why I can't major in Physics anymore Mister Connelly," Lucy concluded to the guidance counselor, she sitting there awkward as always while he relaxed in his recliner hand poised to tap on a computer keyboard. "That was a nice story," he said, "But we're almost out of time here. I'm going to make a recommendation that I think you should seriously consider. Tell me, do you attend church regularly?"
"C-church?" Lucy stammered, "You mean like, Christianity?"
"Oh, you're not a Christian then?"
"No I didn't say... I mean I haven't really done that church thing before."
Mr. Connelly nodded firmly, "This school has had a good Christian foundation for generations. You should try going to the Grace cathedral next Sunday. See if you like it. Philosophy or theology seem a lot different from that hard science you've been chasing, but they're all based on faith really. Give it some thought."
...half a year later...
"Yes, my child?" the pastor intoned in his deep voice that had that day boomed over the congregation. Lucy didn't exactly feel comfortable just walking up to his pulpit after the sermon, but just had to ask this, just this once.
"I don't think God is talking to me."
The dark man was silent for a few moments and then stepped down, leading Lucy along by the shoulder. "Come, sit down. It sounds like you have a lot to talk about."
"God can cause miracles, can't he?" Lucy asked, sitting down in the forward pews.
"He can," the pastor answered, "That does not mean that he always does. Do you need a miracle in your life?"
"Well I don't need nothing special it's just... everything's so ordinary about God. When everyone is praying it's just a bunch of people with their hands together in an empty room. I thought God was supposed to make his presence known or something."
"You mean to say you haven't felt the presence of God?" Pastor Malcom asked kindly, though his eyes betrayed a glimmer of worry when Lucy turned to look up at him. "No, just the other parishioners. Maybe I'm just too new at this..."
"God does not judge on experience alone. Have you wronged Him in any way, or gone against His teachings?"
Lucy chewed on her lower lip, shaking her head. "Not that I can think of. My life's really boring actually, and there are good reasons to stay away from drinking and partying that people do in those fraternities and sororities. People my age are kind of... drunk on freedom. I'm honestly content with being blessed with a quiet living space though. Just something feels missing from that, which is why I came here. But..."
"I won't judge you either," the pastor said, "Your feelings are always a truer path to God than any man could judge."
"I wonder if when everybody prays," Lucy whispered, surprised at a watering in her eyes, "If they aren't just like me. If they aren't just sitting there wondering if everyone else is getting something. What if they're just pretending that miracles are happening but in reality..."
"...there is no God" the pastor finished for her. "Really??" she squeaked, looking up again with a surprised look on her face that he would say such a thing. "No not really," the pastor laughed, "But that is what you were going to say."
"yeah..." Lucy looked down again, crossing her toes over each other.
"When I pray," Pastor Malcom started quietly, "It can be the most profound experience of my life. That's how I talk to God, receive His Spirit and Love. Sometimes it's just people in a room, but God is in all things, and when God comes to visit there is no denying His Truth. But Lucy, I want to tell you something..."
He shook his head, "God came to visit at least 3 times this past month. We are a pious congregation, and have much to contribute to His plan. You're telling me you haven't felt His presence at all these past Sundays you have come here?"
"Maybe I've sinned in some way..." she said quietly, cowed by the pastor's powerful voice even in its restrained state.
"And you think an angry god would be a less powerful presence than a happy one? Lucy, I want you to know you're always welcome here, but I think your answers lie elsewhere. I don't know why you do not feel God's presence, but it cannot help you to come here every Sunday until you figure that out."
"And that's why I cannot major in Theology, MIster Connelly," Lucy snapped rather irritably. A year and a half wasted so far, and her college fund wouldn't hold out for another 4. He didn't seem phased at her irritation though, and pulled up her record on the computer. "Before you go," he said, "It sounds like your problem is not in what you study, but that something is stopping you from enjoying your life as you study. This is off the record, but, you might feel better if you stayed with physics but took some time to enjoy yourself, make some friends, join some clubs..."
"I think we're done here," Lucy sighed, gathering up her bag.
"Hold on let's make you another 15 minute appointment so you can tell me if you found anything," he tapped out some more keys and added, "I'm free about 2 weeks from now, on the 18th.
"Wow," said Lucy, "When the receptionists do it it's a 3 week wait between 15 minute appointments!"
She headed down the long cement walkway past the crowds of other students going to and fro, feeling very alienated at this time. "What am I gonna choose for classes?" she thought to herself, hands in pockets, hunched over at the weight of her backpack full of Thoreau and Kant. "Just general ed stuff? I've got to figure something out." She didn't have any ideas once she got back to the dormitory, flopping down on her bed with a class schedule opened. Her straight haired roommate was off at some Biology lecture right now, later on to pull apart strange ugly amphibians preserved in a poisonous sauce. DEFinitely not the major for her. "Why do you have to pick a major anyway?" Lucy grumbled, knowing full well that nobody ever got a degree in "Nothing special."
She was flipping idly through the pages of classes marked "Sociology" when she paused on the entry after it. "The History of Sorcery... hah. That's almost as silly as that Transcendental Meditation class they're running for three years straight. Couldn't hurt to check out I guess." Then she flipped away from Sociology and started going over the English courses dully, her fate as a nameless woman behind some desk in a corporate bank seeming more and more etched in stone with every passing second.
Two days later Lucy, Accounting Major Extraordinaire went skipping off to her economics classes determined to make a million bucks appear out of numbers alone. Trudging heavily out of said economics classes, she debated the wisdom of putting both of them back to back. "Still... I have most of the math covered with my old major. Guess it's time for the elective then. Gymnastics had always been a favorite of hers, when it involved floor work at least. She was a good build for the bars, but never quite got the hang of them, ha ha. After that Lucy had a lunch hour, but munching on a cheese roll she remembered that that sorcery history class would be about now. "Can't have lunch and attend it at the same time," she mused, putting the roll in a napkin and standing up, "Might as well check it out though. Maybe I can add..."
Not sure what she was expecting, Lucy was nevertheless disappointed when it turned out to be in a fluorescent lit classroom with fake plastic wood desks. Empty ones at that. The only person in the classroom was the teacher packing his stuff into a box, a plain looking man in a shirt and tie with short cropped hair. A history teacher. Of course. Sighing at her own silly hopes, Lucy started to pull her head out of the door and walk away. "Wait--please." the man said, standing up. Caught, Lucy blushed horribly opening the door and walking in trying to pretend that she had meant to all along.
"Are you here for the History of Sorcery?" he asked in a dejected sort of tone. "I was thinking of adding..." Lucy said, "I don't really know what this class is about though. It's not on the major requirements for Theology."
"Quite the opposite in fact," the man exclaimed, lifting a finger. He let his hand drop then, "But I'm afraid you'll have to wait until next semester. Not enough people signed up, so the class is going to close..."
Lucy shook her head looking down, "Sorry about that. I guess since it's not a major requirement, how many students did you get this year?"
"Besides you? And hey, it is a major requirement! You wouldn't know it though, since this school hasn't graduated anyone with that degree in a decade. Things were different at Penn State I can tell you."
"What major?" Lucy asked curiously, "It doesn't appear in the schedule?"
"You ask two questions in a row," he tsked, "People only do that when they're hiding from answer to the first."
"I'm not hiding, I'm just curious!" Lucy said defensively.
"Curious about sorcery?"
Ok that hit close to home. Feeling almost guilty Lucy nodded, "This is just like, a history class about the witch trials or something, right?"
"This class is a dialectic review of the practices of ancient pagan cultures of eastern European--"
"Yeah, thought so," she said walking stiffly out of the room. "Hey wait," the boring looking professor said, taking a step after her. Lucy turned with a dull look in her eyes. "Did you want to talk with a sorcerer?" he asked.
"...they don't exist."
"What? They most certainly do. Where did you hear that?"
Lucy shook her head, "They can't exist, because there's no magic."
"So uh... why are you looking for one?"
Something made Lucy want to bolt at this very second, but the teacher seemed so normal, so mundane she just couldn't see anything dangerous about him. "Okay," she said unhelpfully, "Where can I talk with a sorcerer?"
"Well this isn't the best place for them, if you didn't notice not many people are interested in this subject anymore. Some people have no appreciation for niche culture, I tell you. But there is one I know of, not listed of course."
"The yellow pages don't allow sorcery in their book, plus it's a good way to get the authorities hot on your tail."
"She doesn't have a business license that's all," the teacher was scribbling on a scrap of paper now, handing it out to her. "Here, go to this address and say Barry Flandwater sent you."
"She knows you?"
"Ha ha, well let's just say I'd like her to remember my name once and a while."
Lucy pulled out a little scheduler and wrote his name down in it, along with the address. "...sure, I'll do so." Then she looked at her little watch exclaiming "Oh shoot, lunch is--!" running out of the classroom door this time while tearing the cheese roll out of her napkin to wolf it down.
That weekend Lucy was out of class early and frustrated with the dreariness of her life. The trees and the buildings all seemed unwelcome to her, everything she had tried just seemed closed and unforgiving. "Is it just too much to ask?" she wondered, sitting on the steps of her residence hall. "There's so much here to be happy with, but how can I go without the one thing I want?" Sighing, her eyes downcast as she stared at her plain looking brown shoes, "Do I even know what I want? Magic..."
Standing up and taking a few steps down the walkway, Lucy took a look back at her dormitory, feeling naked outside without a bag to carry anything in. She didn't expect to need it though, just to make this one trip. Patting her jean pocket, she made sure that the paper with the address was in it. Looking back it was almost like she was looking back over her old life, about to advance into something new. Turning forward though, it looked exactly the same as when she'd looked behind, nothing new at all. Shrugging, she started walking again, muttering to herself, "Third time's the charm, heh."
The address in question was on one of the business roads in town, the town being strictly divided into business and residential area properties. The property looked like a residence though, an old sagging house that had probably been built before the zoning restrictions were even imposed. No law against having a normal house in the business section, but it usually got bought and replaced with some faceless fast food chain with public restrooms or a tall glassy office building.
It was white with blue trim. Had a front porch, some wind chimes hanging from the eaves, and a wooden sign out posted in the lawn. "Psychic - Palm Reading - Tarot". "I had to have passed by this a million times," Lucy mused, tossing a wisp of her brown hair over her shoulder again. Darn stuff took forever to grow out. "I wonder why I've never seen it before..."
Feeling a bit nervous about just walking up to somebody's house, Lucy knocked on the door. There was some commotion from the inside and an elderly woman walked up pulling open the door with a hand that bore entirely too much costume jewelry, squinting at Lucy through the screen. "I fortold you were coming!" she announced in a rather deep gravelly voice. "The spirits fortold it would be 10 minutes from now however. If you will wait, I have a client I must attend to."
Lucy nodded dumbly, waiting at the porch as the lady walked back into the house, talking in low tones deep inside. A thinnish looking man in a business suit came out looking a little dazed. He topped his hat to Lucy, walking over to the nearby liquor store where apparantly his car was parked. "Come in, child!" she heard out of the corner of her ear, turning back to see the old lady there holding open the screen. "I am Madame Zaza, and I am pleased to be of service to one so young as yourself."
"Most of your uh... clients are older than me?" Lucy said, stepping over the threshold into the musty smelling house. Zaza nodded, and turning led her to the living room where there was a couch and some chairs set up. Lucy couldn't help but glance nervously at the sign that said "Palm reading $10 Tarot spread $20" "Sit down, please" Zaza gestured. Lucy sat down sideways on the couch. "I see a troubled little thing has come into my home today."
"Would I have come here if I wasn't?" Lucy quipped nervously.
"You sat on the couch," Zaza explained, "Those who come to me confident about their lives sit in the chairs. Those who come to me with trouble in their hearts sit on the couch." Zaza sat in a chair herself, putting her wisened old hands on the armrests. "You have come to me for advice, I take it?"
"Are you a, um... a sorcerer?" Lucy asked, not really sure how one would bring that up without being terribly blunt. Lucy didn't even really know what a sorcerer was, exactly. Maybe she should have taken that class...
Zaza pursed her lips, answering with the question, "Now, who told you that?"
"Oh! Uh, hold on," Lucy said, reaching into her pocket and pulling out the scrap of paper. "B-Barry Flandwater said to tell you that he sent me."
Zaza laughed then, "That old coot! I haven't heard of him in a year and a day!"
"So you'll help me?"
Zaza shook her head, "I did not say that just yet. I meant that literally, one year and one day. Such an interval has vast portent to it, especially considering..." trailing off she looked sharply at Lucy, "What do you know of sorcery?"
"I don't know much," Lucy admitted, "As far as I can tell it's things like voodoo dolls and animal totems, and reading bones, and rubbish like that."
"Rubbish?" the old lady raised her voice as if offended. Lucy looked up worriedly, but her eyes got thoughtful then. "Not...rubbish, persay. It's the early attempts of man to understand how his universe worked, the first blind gropings around in the dark, before we had science."
"Well first off voodoo is West African, far separated from anything I would ever have learned. I see you did not take mister Flandwater's class?" A bit embarassed now, Lucy shook her head looking down. "Why did you not take his class?" Zaza added, waiting for Lucy to stop and think again.
"It might be fun to learn," she mumbled, "I'm just not confident it will help me find what it is I want."
"Do you know what you want, child?"
Lucy blushed at that, but the fluttering doubt in her chest was pushed aside by a sudden flare of frustrated bravery. "Magic," she answered looking up. "I want magic."
"You know what I'm going to ask you now," Zaza said in a grave voice.
Lucy nodded slightly, "I know I need to explain... what's magic anyway. It's like... like, balance, like hope, but not exactly that. Every..." her eyes clouded and she looked down again, "Every breath I take seems to be hurting someone else. We humans are destroying our planet and there's no way to stop it. But it's not even the humans that are the problem. All we are looking for is food, water, shelter, the acceptance of friends, comforts of family. Most humans are miserable, always trying to succeed, but only ending up destroying. They're caught along with the rest of us... bears and wolves kill to eat, scavengers destroy bodies to survive, even plants only exist because the sun is slowly sacrificing itself, pouring all that sunlight onto our planet here."
"That's why... I was studying physics a year ago, you know. That's why I studied it, because I wanted to find a way to make things fair, some secret energy source, or something..." Lucy looked up again tears in her eyes, "Even the sugar in cookies! I can't bake cookies anymore, because the sugar came from such a horrible place! I don't think there's any way out now. The most advanced top special scientists in the world can't fix it..."
"And surely," Zaza concluded for Lucy who wiped her sleeve across her eyes, "You could not possibly be greater than they. Your knowledge is not enough."
"That's why I was studying," said Lucy with a sigh, "But I wasn't getting anywhere, and I didn't see how studying the same thing they did would get me to a different... result. I'm not even half as smart as the top scientists are."
Madame Zaza leaned back, clasping her fingers together. A canny glint was in her eye when she added, "I think you should tell me more about yourself. Your life and your habits, if you look at them you may be able to find what is wrong."
Lucy gulped, "I have to let you know I didn't bring any money--"
"Oh don't worry!" the madame cooed, "I have a feeling we can solve it this very day, and if not we can talk about payment on your second visit. I'm sure I'll be able to find something you can use as payment."
Lucy didn't like the direction this conversation was going, but the old lady didn't seem to be stopping her so she went on. Talking about her life and her problems as a child, her ambivalence and constant struggle with school, the strange relief she felt when away from her family, independant for the first time..."
"Sometimes, sometimes when I look in the mirror, it just doesn't look right. I look fine I mean, but what I see just isn't me. It's someone else standing there looking in the mirror..." Lucy went on and on.
It was halfway through the afternoon when Zaza's incessant and provoking questions were answered, and she smiled over her clasped hands. It wasn't a delighted smile though, more of a triumphant one. "Your life," she drawled, "Your life seems to be quite the curse, does it not?"
"No life is precious!" Lucy protested automatically, then chewed on her finger, "I mean, nothing has ever really gone wrong in my life, it's just..."
"A curse," Zaza repeated. "And a terrible one at that. A wrong that you cannot right, that you cannot even see. You are blind to your own hardships."
"So what are you saying," retorted Lucy agitatedly, "Kill myself?"
"In a manner of speaking," Zaza affirmed. Lucy stood up then stiffly and started to walk toward the door. "We're done here. This was a waste of time."
"Lucy, wait!" Zaza called out, standing in a rush of cloth and tassels.
"You're just trying to get me to jump in front of a train!" Lucy yelled at her, "You were my last hope and you're just a manipulative old hag trying to hurt people!"
"Lucy stop, a train probably wouldn't even work! Please, just listen--" but all Zaza had to speak with now was the slamming of a front door.
Smoke and Mirrors
Lucy ran home that afternoon. She didn't have a home to run to. Just ran through those strange streets and into that strange dormitory, ignoring the strange people on the strange floor she lived, and cried her eyes out on that strange bed that didn't even seem to be her own. Maybe Zaza was right, Lucy thought, maybe there is nothing better to do than just kill myself. It was at that point Lucy realized, "I...never told Madame Zaza my name."
Lucy had never skipped school before. It seemed almost liberating for her to do, if she wasn't so worked up about the events of the past days. She looked over to her roommate's side of the dormitory room, with its little bookcase full of famous works by historic leaders and ancient kings. Then she looked at the clock again. 10:30. Still time to get to her criminal psychology class. What that had to do with theology, well the counseling aspects... but Lucy didn't really know why she did anything anymore.
"Stupid fortune teller, getting my hopes up..." the nondescript girl gripped a large rabbit plushie closer to her, her face clouded with anger, but her eyelids twitching slightly, thoughts going at a mile a minute. She rolled on her side, taking a look at one half curled hand that lay idly before her. She could hardly even see it though, everything even her own hand all seemed like just one big meaningless blur. None of the answers were out there, no matter where she searched, and she knew if she went back to the fortune lady, she'd only end up looking stupid, getting hurt or worse. She knew her answers couldn't possibly lie there.
She knew she wasn't going to be able to relax until she did it.
The ennui seemed to almost hold her down as Lucy slumped up from her bed, sliding on some socks and the modest looking brown dress she'd changed to on her way out of the shower last night. It wasn't her most distinctive clothing, but she didn't really want to stand out. She gulped, standing tall before the door, a bit too tall for most boys' liking, though that had never been a big concern for her before. Her heart was welling up in some kind of shame, for having to do crazy things like this just because she couldn't find why the sane things were any better or less pointless. But the lady had said... had known something... with a final shake of her head, Lucy pulled open the door and walked outside.
11:15 in the morning was not the spookiest of times to be approaching a sorcerer's lair. The pastel blue trim on the eaves didn't make it any more intimidating. Still, when Lucy reached the door she didn't want to knock. She reached up her hand, the other one shouldering that bag she always dragged around, but her hand dropped back down. Turning darkly, she was about to step off when the door swung open, and Madame Zaza was there, her face peering urgently out with glittering eyes.
"Get in," the lady urged, fighting the screen door open almost frantically, looking at Lucy with not just fearful, but intense eyes. The eyes of a visionary, or a fanatic. "Get in, hurry!" Lucy stepped forward, grabbed by the lady's clawlike hand and dragged inside. Lucy was both worried and relieved, as the lady's grip was far too frail to hurt or trap her, but maybe she had a gun? Why was she so scared? If anything, Madame Zaza looked twice as old as the day Lucy had seen her before, harried beyond the ghost of a doubt.
When Lucy was in, she squinted at the darkness. The windows had been thickly shaded, and Zaza quickly closed the door, then oddly stuffed socks in the space underneath. There was nothing in here but candles lighting the darkness. Lucy had never been scared of the dark, but she wondered why all the lights were off.
"I'm so glad you came," Zaza said in a relieved and somehow cheerful tone, helping her through the dark to the comfortable room that they had sat in before. "If we are going to do this, if we are then you must know... so much you must know..." Lucy was really getting caught up in it, with the dancing shadows all around the dark room, which should have been flooded with the light of day. Madame Zaza sat there in the chair mumbling, as if to speak with some ethereal spirits. Lucy knew it was all just pretend but--
"No more!" Zaza shouted suddenly, pointing right between Lucy's eyes. "No more of that, or it'll be the end of us both!"
"No more of what?" Lucy asked confusedly.
"You must know," Zaza went on insistently, "That in helping you, I am risking everything. If you back down now... I need to know you are willing to do this."
"Your curse it... can only be broken by death." Lucy wanted to say something, but bit her lower lip. Was this going to be her murder after all? "I am going to give you a tincture," Zaza intoned, as if it were already fact, "A carefully brewed decoction of what they call nightshade...deadly nightshade. There is a small chance it will kill you... but I'm sure you were already thinking that. If it makes you feel better I have already used it on myself and ...survived. If it works, if there is any hope for us at all, you will almost die. That should weaken the curse enough for me to break it. I warn you though, it will not be pleasant. But in your sacrifice, you will save your world."
"Please... I can't..." Lucy begged, clutching the arms of the chair, desperate to say yes. She longed now more than ever for what she had always wanted but never known, to save the world from the terrors she saw in it, anything would be worth that. But it was poison... "You're crazy," she shook her head, "I want to help you so bad, but... there's nothing to show me it would help, no evidence at all. It's just a dark room on a sunny day in the..." Lucy stopped talking almost alarmed as every word she said seemed to make the old lady sink lower into her chair, hunching as though being crushed by a great weight. Wearily, Madame Zaza raised her head, and her eyes looked tired, so tired...
"You are right, dear little thing," Zaza said to her. "You have to see this, and everything will work out all right. It has to, oh it has to." She raised up her hand, her shaking arthritic hand, and spread the palm wide. The darkness seemed to press in on them then, almost urgently, as if something were compressing it from outside. Lucy leaned forward as Madame Zaza sat there quivering, palm upward. And then in the air above her palm Lucy thought she saw something flutter, no flicker. Light bloomed from absolutely nothing, a gleaming star floating there above the woman's palm.
Then the light abruptly died and wind seemed to come from nowhere, making the candles themselves dance crazily. Lucy half stood from her chair, as a crazy howling seemed to swirl around and she couldn't tell where it was coming from. "What--?"
"Drink this!" Zaza was suddenly in her face, with of all things a graduated cylinder. Lucy couldn't tell the color of the liquid inside. "Hurry!" Zaza shouted, "It's the Hounds, they saw me do it! If you fail now, they will come, they will get you" The old lady was standing now, having pushed Lucy back into her chair, Zaza looking wildly this way and that, as though she could detect where the crazy wailing bays were coming from. "They will get me" Zaza went on, seemingly lost in her own world not even aware of Lucy any more. "You will wake and never remember me at all, they will take away all I am, all I was, and all that will be. She didn't take the potion, oh she didn't take the potion..."
Lucy tipped the lid of the graduated cylinder and a pleasantly sweet liquid filled her mouth. She swallowed hurriedly, closing her eyes as even the wind seemed to be howling now. She couldn't even hear Madame Zaza anymore, but that had been magic! And now it was too late, and they were going to take it all away from her. Curling in a ball on the chair Lucy felt like it was a chair floating in black nothingness. But she drank the poison gladly. Better to die than lose the memory of that impossible light. But wasn't death losing all memory anyway? Oh it has to...
Lucy wasn't sure how much time had passed before she opened her eyes. The room looked quite dissheveled, with a corner of the curtains blown aside and sunlight streaming in. She didn't see anyone around, as if Madame Zaza had vanished into thin air. Had everyone outside vanished too? Lucy got up to check, but her vision swam and her legs felt uncertain. "It has to be the... gods why did I drink that," Lucy moaned, trying to think of what she could do to save herself from this folly. maybe charcoal, but no fireplace, but the candles maybe?
Sweeping aside a burnt out candle clumsily, Lucy picked at the lumps of melted wax, suddenly fascinated with their horrifying texture. It was like black mountains were falling on her fingers with every touch. She couldn't think why this would help the poison anymore, but maybe the telephone... Lucy remembered something about a telephone. A telephone could save her. Crawling over to it, her limbs were shaking and hesistant to respond, feeling like she was operating an automaton. It was screaming at her, not ringing, but telling her "Lucy! You should not be awake! You should not be moving! What are you doing Lucy!"
The echoes in her head seemed to spill out as rainbows trailing from her fingers as her hands flapped uselessly in the air. She was floating though, and there were clouds rushing by her, or maybe it was furniture, but it seemed like the cloudiest clouds she had ever seen. Something cried out in her head, like there were little birds in there, like a nest of birds all getting killed by the poison. The poor baby birds she had to save them! She struggled mightily, but for some reason her body wouldn't move anymore. As her vision faded to black she realized in a moment of clarity that someone had grabbed her under the arms and dragged her back to the chair.
Lucy couldn't fight her way out of unconsciousness for a long time. She clung to the thought that she could beat the poison somehow, unable to even remember Zaza's cautions to her earlier. Every time her vision seemed to swim into view it was like she was 100 years tired though, and dragged clawing back down into dreamless torpor. She couldn't tell what was happening, couldn't even remember what had happened the last time she woke up, but at last either the poison, or her own desperation seemed to give way somewhat. She stayed awake a few long seconds, enough to see hunched over a quaint little desk the back of Madame Zaza. Something about that made Lucy feel dreadfully relieved, though she couldn't remember why. It was enough that this time her slide into sleep was not achingly painful like a knife wound.
Lucy awoke slowly. Her head felt muzzy and thick. Everything was calm and quiet, and dark...behind her closed eyes. Whatever that fortune teller had fed her no longer seemed to be in her system anymore. That awful burning sensation in her head was left with only an uneasy peace. She opened her eyes carefully to find the cheery light of an old fashioned gas lantern, but something was wrong... why was the lamp towering far above her head?
She propped up on one plump arm--wait that didn't feel quite right either. Lucy's breath was coming faster and faster as she realized something was very, very wrong about this situation. And there she saw it. Across from her what was hunched in a chair stood and loomed over her. Loomed. The fortune teller was a giant monster framed in the lamplight with terrible twisted claws wringing together triumphantly and bearing a maniacal gleam in plate sized eyes glittering in the lamplight.
"Good grief," the old woman said a few moments later, covering her very slightly pointed ears with her gnarled hands. "Can that girl scream any higher?"
"...Yes. Yes, she can."
Lucy reared up in a complete blind panic trying to run away, but only ended up falling painfully on her back. She screamed again upon seeing her rather broad forearms both evenly covered in soft lavender fur. She screamed again, struggling up and clutching at her mid-section, broad and barrellike, and all her skin was covered in the same colored fur pulling loosely off her body.
She looked up at the giant again, and screamed stumbling back awkwardly, and falling behind the back of the dresser drawers on which she'd awoken. The shock of landing painfully wedged in the darkness was enough to stop her screaming.
As Lucy lay there pushed up against the wall, the gap between the dresser and the wall seemed miles overhead. A voice came from over the top of the dresser far above.
"Are you done screaming yet?"
"Help..." she croaked weakly. Her voice didn't even sound the same. Not the same at all.
That giant hand reached down and plucked Lucy up with surprising ease, setting the girl, what was left of her at least, gently back on the dresser.
"You've finally awakened!" the giant old fortune teller lady pronounced to an extremely flustered Lucy, who was struggling to stand again. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions."
"What the Hell?" Lucy exclaimed bitterly at the fortune teller, then on noticing a tail behind her she grabbed it, waving it demonstratively. "What the Hell!"
"I have had nothing to do with Hell for at least 300 years my dear." The fortune teller answered unhelpfully.
"Why am I a purple..."
"Why am I a purple gerbil??" Lucy half shrieked again.
That seemed to take the fortune teller aback. Madame Zaza's lips pursed, but then her eyes lit up again and she offered slowly, "That is a very interesting question."
When the hyperventilating gerbil offered no response, Zaza continued.
"I have given you this form for a very special task," Zasa said with a widening smile. "I aided you in your time of need, and now I ask that you repay me in turn."
"Thi-this isn't exactly the payment I was expecting!" Lucy said, still tugging at her fur incredulously. Zaza laughed at that crossing her arms.
"When dealing with witches, you should learn well not to expect!"
Lucy tried to find some retort, but she just couldn't think straight trying to deal with the utter senselessness of this situation. Finally she choked out, "What am I supposed to do now??"
"Save the world!" came the immediate response.
Lucy sputtered, "But... but... what?"
"There is a terrible evil we face," Zaza said gesturing broadly. "You did not know of it, because you were under its spell. There is only one child who holds the key to its destruction, but she is under grave danger. There are forces at work who would stop at nothing to destroy her."
"This is insane," Lucy moaned, holding her head. "Why me? Why are you doing all this? How am I even going to find her?"
Zaza chewed her lip as she heard the girl already giving in, perhaps this would work well after all. "I can take you to her," she stated, "But that is the absolute limit of what I can do." Zaza held out her hands at Lucy, "Let me show you something."
Reluctantly, Lucy allowed herself to be picked up again, feeling uncomfortably small flanked on either side by the woman's huge fingers.
Taking her over by the window, Zaza pulled up the shutters, making Lucy squint for a moment in the sudden sunlight. Lucy saw...nothing special. The street outside the little fortune telling shop was the same as ever. Not a soul was on the streets on foot in the middle of the day, and cars regularly flowed along it from stop light to stop light.
Then there was a shuddering sound, and the street seemed to drop away from her vantage point there at the window. All the cars came to an immediate halt, one even rear ending another. As Lucy watched, the street now far below the window, she saw one man climb out of his car, staring incredulously up at her even as she stared incredulously down. That was the last thing Lucy could see before the house began to move.
There was no shaking or jarring . It was almost like watching a moving picture scroll by. But Lucy had the undeniable sense that they were moving, faster and faster.
"Your house is moving!" Lucy shouted at Madame Zaza.
"Did you see?" Zaza crowed back, "Did you see the looks on their faces?" The fortune teller turned witch seemed delighted beyond compare. "That right there was the beginning of the end!"
She walked away from Lucy perched trembling on the window sill, hurrying over to a chest of drawers, rifling through it and pulling out a book quickly. Something clicked in the walls, and their direction changed. "Hold onto your horses dear, we're going to Philadelphia!"
The rumbling noises of the moving house continued for a while, then Zaza added "It might take a while."
"Come into the kitchen! We can have some tea and cookies while we wait."
Lucy leaned over the edge of the windowsill, her whiskers twitching uncertainly. Madame Zaza continued on into the other room though, where a bright light soon illuminated in from the doorway.
"How am I supposed to get down from here?" Lucy shouted across the room as much as her small voice could carry. "Don't tell me the wings on your back are merely decorative," came the madame's reply, "Come on!"
Lucy asked to the empty room, feeling even smaller now than she had felt on waking. Looking over her flatteringly purple shoulder, Lucy saw her wings. She could only see one of them, and the bright daylight streaming through the window prevented any reflections. But she could clearly see something was there.
They spread as she looked back. She could feel them spread. And as they did she felt them catch hold of something, as if she had wrapped her hands securely around the handle bars of a bicycle. What she could see didn't look like a wing, more like the delicate petals of a flower, almost having no substance to them at all.
"I guess I am a..." she trailed off. The wings folded and expanded, even fluttered. It was easy to control! Too easy.
Lucy's rather round posterior wiggled over the edge of the window sill, slipping over until she was barely hanging on by her claws. She let go, falling quickly to the floor with a thump. It didn't even wind her, oddly. She tried to walk forward, but ended up falling forward onto her hands. Her remarkably large feet seemed to both want to move at the same time. Her awkward attempts quickly revealed that her feet were good at propelling her forwards, onto her hands...paws, whatever. She proceeded like this in small hops, growing more confident of her movements as she did so. Lucy didn't want to think how ridiculous she looked right now, but she wasn't about to try the ...other option. It was just too much.
The kitchen seemed unusually yellow in color, with accents of a sort of cornflower blue. Lucy gulped as she hopped past some wooden brown cabinets, that looked so huge she would barely be able to reach the knob by stretching. Zaza was humming as she set down cups and filled them with a steaming brew. There was a chair for Lucy, but as soon as she hopped up on it, it was clear that nothing was going to show over the edge of the table besides the tuft of her tail. Grunting in disgust, she hopped one more time up onto the table itself. There she was faced with a teacup the size of a small barrel. She made an attempt to sip from it, but Madame Zaza tsked and extended one bony finger towards the cup, saying "That won't do."
She tapped the teacup and before Lucy's eyes it shrank to the size of a... well a teacup. Gerbil sized though.
"Was that..." Lisa stared at the teacup in disbelief.
"Magic? Yes." Zaza offered conversationally, "Oh now don't look at me like that. I'm not so potent to do that with but a flick of my finger." She gestured broadly at the cup, adopting the tone of a stage performer, "YOu just witnessed my Amazing Adjustable Tea Set."
Lisa picked up the teacup, quite light in her hands, and took a careful sip. It tasted like roses. "It still needs a bit of a tap to get started now and again," Zaza said, muttering in an unsatisfied way "Still needs work."
"How does it work?" Lucy asked, looking at the swirled blue designs on the ordinary looking ceramic.
"Trade secret, my dear," Zaza winked, holding out a tray. "Cookie?"
"Tell me about yourself," Zaza prompted the gerbil seated on her table.
"What do you mean?" Lucy asked, in the middle of working on a football sized cookie.
"There's only so much one can glean from bone readings," Zaza said crypticaly, "What is your family like?"
"There's my mother and father," Lucy started hesitantly, "They're nice enough people I suppose. They mean well and all, putting me through school."
"What about your grandparents?"
Lucy thought for a moment, then laughed, "They live in another state, on my mother's side at least. I only visited when I was really young, so don't remember it."
"Fascinating," Zaza nodded, rubbing at her chin. "And you were studying? At school?"
Lucy blushed at that (somehow) "I haven't really...decided on a major yet. I've been kind of bad about it." She looked down at her feet, where somehow the tail had gotten between them at some point, twitching lightly with her thoughts. "I guess I can't go to school anymore," she remarked somewhat wistfully.
"You don't seem too disappointed about that."
Lucy shrugged, "You said it youreslf, save the world! Not like I could say no to that. You need my help and it wouldn't be right for me to help you in turn." She rubbed the back of her head grinning sheepishly, "Even if I don't exactly know exactly what it is I'm paying for."
"Were you doing well at this school?" Zaza asked, Lucy frowned, leaning on her cookie, "I just don't think school is right for me, you know? Nothing studying really did it for me, and everyone else just seemed to fit in better. They 'got' something that I never managed to find."
Lucy reached for her tea again, but jumped at the sight of her beautifully lavender colored forearm.
"You'll get used to it," Zaza said in an oddly consoling way.
"What am I going to do?" Lucy asked, feeling surprisingly close to tears all of a sudden. "How can I live like this?"
"I think most of your questions will be answered when you find the girl."
"And then what?"
"Oh, I had almost forgotten!" Zaza exclamed, jumping up spryly and hurrying over to a cabinet marked "Spices." She opened and reached inside, rummaging until she pulled forth... what looked like an ornamental knife. She hurried back to the table, pressing its handle into Lisa's paws. Lisa took it carefully, looking at the gems embedded in the handle. They seemed to sing to Lisa; it really was quite entrancing, like they were saying something to her, but she couldn't quite make out the words so she had to listen closer.
"Her powers have not yet awakened," Zaza said, snapping Lucy out of her trance. "That will help her protect--help protect her from the forces of evil." Zaza leaned forward adding urgently, "I need you to stay by her side. Keep her safe."
"Why can't you keep her safe?" Lucy declared, almost knocking her cookie off the table. "Why do this to me when you could just go... go in your magic--house and save her!"
"Save her?" Zaza laughed bitterly, "I can't even go near her!" She paused then, and added "I'm sorry. My powers are too limited. I cannot help her directly. Only you can save her."
"What do you mean?" Lucy asked tilting her head slightly.
"You have a very special power," Zaza said, her voice prophetic in its tone, "One that will--"
She was interrupted by what looked like a haphazard mobile composed of bits of colorful wood and bells. It jangled from the ceiling and hung there in front of the Madame's nose. Zaza grabbed it and peered intently at the thing.
"A storm?" she uttered suddenly, "That's odd." The fortune teller tugged the thing, and it clattered back up into a hatch in the ceiling leaving not a mark. Then she stood up, once again beckoning Lucy to follow her to the room they came in from. "Come with me. Quickly!"
Lucy wasn't about to move quickly at this point, but there wasn't far to go and soon she'd caught up with the witch, carrying the knife along with. Something told Lucy something very bad would happen if she got separated from it.
The window where the street had been before was now speeding past PHILADELPHIA IS ON TEH EAST COAST NOT THE MIDWEST FFFFFFFFFF