The scene was almost reminiscent of a nightmare. Walling had shoved him through an open door into a classroom. A dozen strangers stared at him in curiosity. All he needed to make this moment even more awkward was to be standing there in his underwear. A short woman scowled at him – or at least she thought it was at him. He turned around to catch Walling giving her a grin before taking another hit off the e-cig and walking away. The woman headed to the door and promptly slammed it. She turned her attention to Jonathan, “Mr. Fisher – take your seat there. You are late.”
He didn’t know if this was the first class or if he was going to have some sort of catch up. He looked around at the room. Those sitting with him were all of various ages and ethnicity. The girl next to him couldn’t have been more than 15. She had the meekness of a young girl, but the large glasses his slightly predatory eyes as she watched him. They stared at each other for a moment, but it was soon broken, “Mr. Fisher – eyes over here.” He turned his head toward the front and saw the instructor regarding him with a sour face. He signed and turned his head back to the girl to apologize – but the room was empty. The dozen or so people there were gone. It was just him and the instructor. “Wha..where did…”
“Mr. Fisher…do you know how a clock works?” she asked simply.
Her voice snapped the question out of his mouth, and he slightly tilted his head to the side, “Um…yes.”
“Then you understand that in order for time to be displayed properly on the face of a clock. This is based on the precision of the instruments – meaning the gears – to be weighed and measured accordingly.” She took out an elegant pocket watch and flipped it over. He stared at the gears moving inside. Each of them works at their own speed and necessary pace.
She stood in front of his desk looking down, “You know what time it is based on this idea. However, this is under the presumption that time is cycling forward based on these material objects,” she said as she tapped the back of the watch. “Now, let us say you are the craftsman creating the clock – and you decided to make the gears wider or narrower. This will significantly impact the perceived flow of time. An hour is no longer the standard hour. It could be forty five minutes or it could be eighty nine. This is all because the foundation of what is used has been altered.”
She picked up the watch and motioned to the room, “What you are seeing is an exercise in that very concept. When you walked in – you saw 14 students. You even went as far as looking at Chessa. Yet when I drew your attention here to the front – you turned back and noticed that they were gone. In truth they are not. They are all here – except they are here at different cycles of time. This allows me to teach multiple students at various levels of mastery at the same hour without having to alter my day. So in part, I am teaching eight of your classmates in an advanced theory class, yourself in an initiate’s class and the rest at various levels. Some of them can perceive you while you cannot. This is why you are here. My name is Ms. Hilliker and I will be your instructor for Basic Theory.”
When Hilliker had released him from lunch, he realized how hungry he was. The explanation of the Universe, the Light and Dark, power, human emotions was a lot to consume in four hours. At least this is what it said on the wall clock in the hallway. Yet it felt like a few weeks – a sensation of vertigo filled him and began to fall forward only to be abruptly halted by a hand clutching the back of his collar, “I’m hungry slick…time for a taco.”
The blinding light of the sun was replaced a pair of sunglasses put over his eyes. He was sitting in a car with the top down. He looked over and saw Walling grinning as he turned the car on. The seat rumbled and was then followed by the squealing of tires as they shot forward on to the main road. “Magical theory is a bit disorientating at first because you are essentially being drenched in magic. Did you ever remember a time when you suddenly got a stomach ache and you blamed it on the food you were eating? There was a chance that because you were magically sensitive – you actually ran across one of us doing something or had bad fish. The feeling will pass the more you are exposed to it.” Jonathan looked out to the road and felt his stomach begin to lurch as it seemed like they were going well pass a hundred miles an hour while dodging cars on the road. The buildings and the road signs were nothing by blurred images and flashes of odd images and colors as they sped by.
The car then came to a sudden halt – throwing Jonathan forward. If it were not for the seat belt – he would have thought of himself flying through the window – screaming with shards of glass in his face – and heading straight toward a tree at a hundred miles an hour.
His thought train was broken, “However, you would be going less than a hundred miles an hour because of the loss of momentum with going through the glass, as well as what you were wearing. Not to mention – do you realize how bad it would be for me to have to explain the boss why you were taking a dirt nap.” Jonathan looked up – the banner on the front of the gaudy yellow building was sun bleached but he could read something about a two for one special. Walling got out of the car, “Come ‘on Daniel-son – you need to put some chow in your gut before we get to the stuff that will really make you sick.” He grinned and headed inside with Jonathan following.
They sate and ate – or rather, Jonathan watched as Walling consumed a large burrito, four tacos and a helping of chips and salsa. He had to force down two of the tacos in order to prevent his stomach from expelling whatever bile was conjured within. Walling kept giving the serving girl cheesy one liners that caused her to roll her eyes in irritation. The waitress’s name was Sarah – or at least according to the worn name badge on her vest. Jonathan wondered how much of Walling’s food hit the floor or worse before making it to his plate. He stayed silent for the most part. When the waitress initially came – she had a look of irritation and for a second – he almost thought he heard her question about his condition and if he was going to be sick. However, her mood changed with each trip and she regarded him with a sympathetic eye. When the check came – Walling left a fifty on the table as well as his phone number. “Rule 16 Fisher – if the food is good – you can always find a way to make service better,” and headed outside – another trail of the bitter mint flowing out of in his mouth. Jonathan felt his stomach slowly righting itself. He gave a small wave of thanks to the waitress and headed out.
“Simply put – all magic is like snow or play-dough if you prefer. It is a raw unformed mass of energy – much like Tee probably taught you. Each other has a certain size gas tank when it comes to carrying around said mass of energy…which is ironic. Get it? Mass – energy, awe come on!” Jonathan just stared at him blankly.
Walling just shook his head and sighed.
“Moving on – Magicians like me and possibly you take said energy and form it into a spell. Much like a recipe, you create a mental image based on the workings of the spell. In the beginning you are going to screw up so that is why they have assigned me to you in hopes that my tactical brilliance will rub off on you in a positive fashion. Any questions” Walling added.
Jonathan thought about a snide remarked but instead decided to play it straight, “Ms. Hilliker said that your power can grow with age – but it’s the same for everyone and not at the same rate. She also said that the more you use it – the greater the potential power. So what if you don’t use it? Do you lose potential or is it always going to be at a specific level for you?”
Walling took a drag and watched Jonathan with a narrowed eye. May be there was potential in this guy, “The honest answer is we don’t know. It falls under the same mystery of genetics – why babies become boy or girls or why some grow a foot taller than both their parents or end up a dwarf. There are just some things that we don’t know. If an Other stops using their magical ability – it doesn’t diminish per se. They would get rusty on elegant spell casting but some things become muscle memory. It’s a matter of getting the muscle working again. So wherever you stopped, you can always find your place back there again and possibly past that. My turn – why do you ask?”
“A lot of what Ms. Hilliker was talking about is potential. Right now Mar…,” he shook his head. He should try using the name they knew her by, “Sorry Savannah – is laid out in the infirmary because of me and Phirun said I may have damaged that potential. I just wanna know how bad I screwed up.”
Walling closed his eyes and leaned about against the car. The smoke drifted out of his mouth as he spoke. “Listen Fisher – I will be honest with you. She took a beating. The other guy used a spell called ‘Red Lotus’. It’s a punishment spell that is normally used by higher level Magicians in order to teach an insubordinate pupil a lesson. He used it in combat which is odd because it is more of a ceremonial spell than anything else. The shield you threw up was strong enough to take the brunt of it but some of the ‘petals’ hit their mark. It will take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to work their way out of her system. Normally the Magician who crafted it is the one who determines the duration. The block you threw altered it. So the positive side is that she will be fine in a couple of months of less. The bad side is any time she tries to use any sort of magic – it will cause her enough pain to make passing a kidney stone more pleasant. When we get done with today – we will check on her. Also – guilt – get it the hell out of your mind. She could have been cursed with a decade of pain, but instead she gets a month or two of bed rest. She should be thanking you for the free vacation time.” He gave his charge a slight smile, “So anymore moving emotional questions?”
Jonathan knew Walling was right. He hated it but he was right. “Yeah, I do have one more – why does Ms. Hilliker hate you?”
The smile on Walling got bigger, “I killed her cat,” he turned and got into the car, “Meter’s running – come on.”
Jonathan tried to fathom the answer as he made his way into the car.