- Thanks to everyone who voted for the The Beginners Guide.
- As your reward here’s Cells. It’s a humorous short story I wrote a while back for a fiction group that focuses on stories where humanity is something other than The Mario of the galaxy. Oh, and the story is longer than two sentences long. Scroll past the ad there to click to the next section. I thought it was puncier with each “entry” on its own page. I’ll acknowledge the possibility that it’s just annoying.
- Starter Serials had some site instability lately. I won’t get into details, but the admins had to revert to their last backup. That was done on Aug 24th. If something vanished or changed that’s probably why.
- Should you encounter instability while trying to read this story remember, I have a mirror for it at wattpad.
It was impressive, in the relative dimness of the lobby the amber magic drew swoops of color in the air that looked like a photograph taken of moving lights in the dark. When Kyle finished the words that magic vanished and a cold blue light filled his hands. It was just in time. The bear reached the first floor, and jumped down the short flight of stairs to stand just five feet away from Kyle. It let out a low growl that bypassed any logical part of Kyle’s brain and hit instincts written in the deep past which all screamed “run!”
Kyle managed to ignore that, though it was a closer thing than he would have admitted. Instead, he thrust his glowing hands forward. The spell responded to the final part of its trigger by lancing out in two bright blue beams and hitting the bear right on its muzzle. Ice washed away from him forming a coating across the bear’s entire head, chest, and forelegs as though it had stood still while a good 5 inches of freezing rain fell. Since this was FX magic, the ice was neither as cold, nor as strong as it should have been, but it looked good.
The bear played its part. It stood up on its hind paws. The motion shattered the ice and scattered it in a great cloud of glittering shards. Then it tossed its head back and roared. The sound was deafening in the enclosed space. Kyle took an involuntary double step backwards, this time not managing to catch his instincts in time. In fact, he didn’t even realize what had happened until his shoulders bumped against the elevator doors. Ivan was a way better actor as a bear.
Ivan lunged forward with a surprisingly fast move. Kyle would have been taken out right there, which would have screwed up their plans, had the ice spell not also coated some of the floor. As it was, the bear’s short jump carried it halfway to Kyle, then it hit the ice patch and skidded. That gave Kyle just enough time to move out of the way. At some point the elevator had arrived. Thus the whole move turned into a bit of slapstick comedy as the bear stumbled into the elevator, and Kyle lurched away without much more finesse. The door closed shutting Ivan in the elevator.
Kyle stood wondering what the heck he should do, and thinking they should have choreographed the fight. In retrospect, that was obvious.
His problem was solved when the elevator opened and bear came charging out at him. This time the massive animal managed to leap the patch of slippery ice. Kyle tried to dodge again, but this time he wasn’t fast enough, and the bear caught him head on; literally. Its giant skull plowed into Kyle just a hair below his center of mass and the beast lifted the young mage up like he weighed nothing sending him flying backwards through the air.
The lobby of the building, reasonably enough, had a reception desk. It was a big affair, more like a long low wall near the east side of the room. With their turning and dancing, Kyle had managed to get his back to it and the bear had been running toward it when when he’d charged. Kyle landed on top of that, and then rolled over it.
Miraculously, he wasn’t hurt. Kyle could easily have broken his neck with that little stunt, and he hoped Ivan had noticed. The other man needed to tone it down. That was another reason movie fights were choreographed.
Kyle was a little annoyed at Ivan by that point. Knocking him over the desk had probably been an accident, but the guy should know to be more careful when he was being a giant bear. That motivated Kyle to begin twitching his fingers through the signs for “air”. Unlike “fire” and “ice” this spell mostly did what it looked like: when cast it sent a thick column of air rushing away from the caster in whatever direction he chose. The intensity could be controlled by the amount of magic put into it, but it wasn’t just a special effect. Sudden wind really wasn’t that dangerous.
Kyle popped up from behind the reception desk and thrust both hands at the bear completing the trigger for the spell. He threw a bunch of energy into it, and the strength of the wind that rushed away from Kyle surprised him. It hit the grizzly’s front, pushed all his hair flat, and made his lips flap slightly in the wind. Kyle had to suppress a snicker, the overall impression was similar to a dog with its head out the window of a moving car.
Probably the bear wouldn’t have gone anywhere if they’d been outside. Inside, however, on a slick tile floor its paw pads couldn’t get much traction and its claws were useless. It slid across the floor until it was held in a corner by the stream of air.
The bear really seemed angry at that. It bellowed and roared some more, and scrabbled against the tile hard enough to make a little progress forward, then lost its hold on whatever title it had grabbed and slid back again.
The wind was getting hard to hold, but Kyle was starting to think he shouldn’t let it go. What if Ivan had forgotten this was all intended to be an act and was really fighting? Kyle held the wind on him and really looked at the transformed man getting more scared as he did so. Obviously, the bear didn’t have the same facial expressions as a human, but there was nothing on that face to suggest it was anything other than dead serious.
The bear’s mouth was wide. Its teeth were well displayed. Slobber dripped past those teeth, and a low rumble escaped its throat almost constantly. Worse than that, the animal was no longer acting like it was being driven by a human intelligence. It could have pulled itself toward Kyle by grabbing the grout lines with its claws, but it made no move to do that beyond when it managed to catch something at random.
Kyle began to feel truly worried. Charles had known Ivan and trusted him enough to bring him in on the plan because they’d worked together in the past. Ivan, like many people who knew one powerful spell, found his magic somewhat addictive. It was, he said, very nice to be a bear. His mind changed along with his body. He didn’t totally lose his human intelligence, but he did lose a lot of human thought habits. When he was a bear he quit caring about time, and the future, and all the little nicknacks of modern life. That, in combination with being the biggest scariest thing in the forest, was something Ivan found very relaxing.
Unfortunately, he also lost a lot of his human value system. He didn’t become a ravenous killer or anything. He just didn’t think about the future, and he sort of stopped recognizing humans as “like me”. Because of that, a few years back, he’d been hanging out in his house as a bear, someone had come to the door selling newspapers, and he’d given them a swat to make them go away.
The newspaper seller hadn’t been hurt all that badly, but assault with magic was the equivalent of assault with a deadly weapon to the legal system. The ensuing legal mess had ended in a suspended sentence, and mandatory participation in a program Charles ran for people with magical problems. It would have been more than a suspended sentence if Charles hadn’t stepped in.
Kyle wondered if time and plans had gotten away from Ivan again.