How I Found My Magic

Reviewed by Liquid Imagination

"I give this young adult story a 9.2 out of a rating between 1-10. A bit of a Harry Potter with a dash of Bridge of Terabithia, it drew me in. Had a nice hook, a mystery twist, another world, and the MC not only changed but discovered his new had adolescent romance, too. This is a possible candidate with a 9.2 rating. We will have to go back and tally up the highest scores to see which stories are selected."

I recently discovered that there are witches and warlocks, augurs and aliens, and all sorts of magical creatures that walk with the masses semi-disguised as normal people. I was nursing a cold that night -- one of the most miserable winter nights imaginable. Stuffed with flu medication, I fell asleep on the couch. Flashing lights abruptly called to me from the living room window. I answered hovering in a state of low consciousness. Eyes wide open but still drifting on the outskirts of dreams, I walked to the front door, opened it, and stood on the threshold of the kind of knowledge that would permanently change my existence.
I was ankle deep in snow by the time I reached the end of my plowed in driveway. I saw the flashing lights of the offending snowplow disappear down the street. My neighborhood, Singer Circle, became a ghost town at night. Everyone hid in their perfect little homes. It was eerily quiet and ghastly cold but for some unknown reason I kept walking.
Dimly lit old-fashioned street lamps dotted the sidewalk. A brilliant moon accompanied the few stars in the sky. I followed it or it followed me, but either way I arrived at an alley. My mother used to tell me, “Don’t walk through alleys,” but I did anyway.
I grew up on Singer Circle and walked the same route many times but never noticed the alley, which was surprisingly close to my house. Standing at the entrance and looking down the passage, I could only see a blanket of heavy fog. There was no fog anywhere else. It was too mysterious to ignore so curiosity got the best of me and I pushed my way through the dense clouds. At first there was nothing to see, other than cold concrete, but as I explored further I began to hear voices.
I was too intrigued to turn back. Perhaps it was the flu medication that dulled my fear instinct. I don’t know, but the little switch that makes people justifiably afraid didn’t turn on. I walked slowly toward the voices until the smoky backdrop came into focus. I should have been horrified, but the sight of four people cooking a naked girl in a gigantic iron pot, over a wood fire, in the middle of a phantom alley, was still unable to flip that switch.
The unfortunate girl in the iron pot was sitting upright with tape over her mouth and her hands tied together. She was rather skinny with straight, long brown hair and a pug nose. The poor thing was beating at thin air with her tied fists but couldn’t seem to get out. She appeared to be held inside the pot by an invisible force. A woman from the group was chanting in a language that I couldn’t identify. I stood there pondering how I could help this fragile creature escape her fate… and then I sneezed. The chanting stopped. All eyes were now on me, but that still wasn’t enough to turn on my fear switch.
All four members of the group surrounded me. There were two women and two men, all dressed in long black coats. Both men were clean-shaven and wore hats. One of the women wore sunglasses and had long black curly hair. The other one had red hair with piercing green eyes. I reached into my pocket for tissue and loudly blew my nose.
Red head spoke, “Are you lost?”
“It’s a beautiful night for a walk. Don’t you think?” I answered.
She looked baffled. “In this abhorrent weather?”
“You’re quite right. It would seem that I have a nasty cold.” I could see over their shoulders. The girl in the pot was making her escape while they were tending to me, so I kept talking. “Are you all new in the neighborhood? I’m Nuno.”
“He’s sleeping,” said the girl with the sunglasses.
“She’s escaped!” Shouted one of the men.
“What do you mean he’s sleeping?” Asked Red.
“I mean he’s sleepwalking and he’s still asleep. That’s why he’s not afraid.”
“Hello! Did you not hear me? The murmur has escaped.”
“Yes,” answered Red “But we have a more pertinent problem at the moment. What do we do with this man?”
“We have no choice but to take him with us,” said the other guy and in an instant I found myself in another place.

“Where am I?” I asked. The question went unanswered. I was sitting on a bench in the middle of a beautiful Japanese garden and I could hear the soft crash of a small waterfall as it emptied into a large pond with the most beautiful koi that I’d ever seen. The air was tinted with the scent of fresh roses and the landscape of trees and bushes was like that of a fine painting. A lovely stone path led to a teahouse that was sitting at the end of a delightful little bridge. Although it was very charming, I couldn’t help thinking what a cruel punishment being stuck inside would be when one could enjoy the immaculate beauty of such a picturesque garden.
The surreal ambiance, however, couldn’t stop me from going into sudden shock after being doused with a bucket of cold water. I was confused, soaked, and a little nervous.
“Wake up, Nuno!” said Red. I remembered her from the alley.
“I am awake, Red,” I answered completely annoyed.
“Douse him again,” she said and before I could protest my body had to endure another bucket of cold water.
“I said I’m awake!” I yelled.
“That was for calling me Red. My name is Sara and they are my associates.” She gestured to her crew.
“How do you do?” My reply was deeply rooted in the conditioning of good parenting. The words departed my mouth automatically, but I really didn’t care how she was.
“What do you remember?” was her answer. Apparently, she didn’t care how I was either.
“Everything. I just don’t remember how I got here. Where are we?”
“Tell me exactly what you remember.”
“I’m a sleepwalker, but I always remember where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I usually walk back to my bed. I remember the alley. I remember the girl in the pot and I remember all of you.” As I was talking I suddenly became afraid, but I didn’t dare move a muscle.
“Do you know who we are?”
“No. Can you please tell me where I am now?” She walked a few steps away to consult with her colleagues.
“Maybe it would be better if you see for yourself. Walk to the teahouse and look out of the window.”
Her answer put alligators in my tummy. She could have said, you’re on the south end of Singer Circle or given me some obscure address, but she didn’t. She obviously thought that I wouldn’t have believed her if she had simply told me. I slowly walked over the bridge to the teahouse. I looked out of the window and became so breathlessly afraid that I ran.
The garden was much bigger than it looked. They let me run for miles before I was held by an invisible lasso and levitated back to the bench. I fought as hard as I could to break free but whatever held me had the strength of ten powerful men.
“Calm down,” said Sara “We are friends.”
“We’re in space,” I gasped. I was everything but calm.
“Welcome to my ship. I’m Orgado,” said one of the men. He took off his hat to reveal his antennae and I realized that my childhood imagery of what little green men looked like weren’t so far from the truth. I screamed like a five-year-old girl.
Sara patted my shoulder, “The first encounter is always the scariest. We are quite nice once you get to know us.”
“Are you comfortable, Nuno? Sometimes I don’t know the strength of my own magic,” said the other man. He waved his hand and the lasso’s hold became weaker, but still strong enough to keep me captive. When he removed his hat, his hair and beard quickly grew into a full bushy mane that would have made any warlock proud. “I’m Juro,” he bowed his head ever so slightly.
“Oh, you poor dear. You’re still soaking wet. How rude of me.” Sara touched the middle of my forehead with her finger and my clothes dried immediately.
“You are far away from home, Nuno, but you are closer than you think,” said the girl with the sunglasses. She looked at Sara and Sara nodded her head. She slowly removed her sunglasses to let me see her iris-less eyes. Even with such odd eyes, she was easily more beautiful than the garden.
“Can you see me?” I asked thinking that she was blind.
“I’m an augur. I not only can see you, handsome Nuno, I can see your past, your present, and your future. My name is Lisa.” She also bowed her head ever so slightly. With all the trauma of the night’s events, I still had room to feel sufficiently flattered and was overwhelmingly giddy with a newfound crush.
I became relaxed and Juro released the lasso. “So, you weren’t cooking the girl in the pot?”
“I was indeed cooking her, but I was cooking her good,” answered Sara.
“You mean you were trying to make her into a good person?”
“Yes. We’ve killed her once before but, somehow, she came back. Darlene is what we call a murmur. She whispers bad thoughts into people’s ears and makes them do unspeakable horrors. She’s responsible for many wars, countless deaths, and this pesky wart on my skin.” The wart slid from her shoulder, up her neck and face, and sat on her nose. “I’ve tried everything to get rid of it with no avail, so I’ve named it Ota. It’s a mischievous little wart.”
“So you weren’t trying to eat her?”
“I have eaten many things that a human might find disgusting, but I would never eat anything as vile as Darlene.” She was quite offended by the thought.
“I apologize for my ignorance.” I could see that I had inadvertently wounded her.
“All is forgiven,” she said graciously “but now we must figure out how to recapture Darlene.”
“Let me help you,” I offered. Darlene had escaped because of me and I wanted to rectify that mistake, but I hand an ulterior motive for wanting to help. I was quite smitten with Lisa and would have done just about anything to be in her presence for a little while longer, even if it was only for one more minute.
The decision to let me help was unanimous. Orgado transported us back to the alley where Sara kept her pot. She sang an unearthly melody over a pot of water and we could see Darlene hiding in a dark place. Lisa looked at the murmur with her gifted eyes.
“She wants her next victim to be you, Nuno.”
“Okay, let’s play along,” said Sara. “We’ll give her Nuno.”
“What?” I protested.
“You can’t catch a fish without bait,” said Juro.
“We’ll make it into a pajama party.” Orgado tried to make me feel better.
“Sounds fun.” What else could I say?
My unusual friends were quite comfortable at my home. Orgado opened the fridge and helped himself to a tub of butter.
“Where do you keep the spoons?” He asked casually.
“Over there.” I said pointing to the silverware drawer. “You’re going to eat a tub of butter with a spoon?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Would you like some?”
“Nah, I’m good.”
He sat at the kitchen table like a little boy eating ice cream. Every time he ate a spoonful of butter his antennae swung back and forth with glee.
Lisa planted herself in front of the television and seemed really interested in the commercials. She smiled profusely during a toothpaste commercial, showing her perfect white teeth, and flung her long black hair quite seductively during a shampoo commercial. I was quite entranced and had to force myself to stop staring at her.
Sara went to the bathroom and raided my medicine cabinet for things she could use in her next brewing spell. She came out of the bathroom all excited.
“Would you mind if I take these things?” She asked. She was holding a half empty jar of eye drops, my hairbrush, and a small bottle of cologne. I was too scared to ask why she needed them.
“Yeah, sure.”
“Oh, you found something to help with our plan,” commented Juro.
“What exactly is our plan?” I inquired.
“We let the murmur have you,” he answered.
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”
“Papperlapapp,” Sara interjected and shoved me aside. She opened the bottle of cologne, poured some eye drops into it, and then added a single strand of hair from my brush. She whispered a spell and then sprinkled it over my couch. After a few minutes nothing happened, then Juro said, “Appear!” He blew at the couch and slowly a presence emerged from absolutely nothing. It was lying down and when it fully transformed into a tangible entity it had my face.
“Oh wow!” I exclaimed.
“Don’t worry, it just looks alive. It will disappear by morning,” explained Sara.
“Now what do we do?” I asked.
“We hide ourselves and wait,” answered Juro.
“Where do we hide?” asked Orgado.
“In that jar,” Juro pointed to an empty flower vase on the coffee table. I don’t even remember hearing a spell. The next thing I knew I was part of a colorful bouquet of tulips. Juro was red, Sara was purple, Lisa was orange, Orgado was yellow, and I was white.
“This is weird,” I said. I was surprised to hear my own voice as a flower.
“If you think this is weird, wait till I show you my home world,” Orgado made fun of me.
“Shh, now we wait in silence,” scolded Juro.
The murmur arrived in the middle of the night. She looked nothing like the girl who was in the pot. She looked nothing like a girl. It was a lanky creature with boney arms and legs. It had an ugly long face with empty black eyes and was completely bald with lumps on its scalp. It slithered to the couch where my double laid.
“The witch and warlock, augur and alien must die,” Darlene whispered into the double’s ear.
“Hhuh,” I involuntarily gasped at the sheer ugliness of the villain. It heard me and walked stealthily toward the vase. With its hideous hands it reached out and picked up the orange tulip. The spell was broken. We were all standing in the living room and Darlene had Lisa by the throat. She threatened to slice her throat open with her razor-blade-like fingernails.
“Watch as your friend dies,” she hissed.
I had to save Lisa because it was my fault. I needed to save her because she was my friend and it was this very moment that I was sure that I was in love with her. I felt strange. I was not afraid or burning with rage. A light ignited within me and grew into an incandescent flame of the purest form of love. Lisa was too far away for me to quickly rescue her so I touched Orgado, who was standing next to me. He felt the surge of power enter his body and immediately touched Sara. Sara touched Juro and Juro touched Lisa, who automatically transferred the energy to Darlene. Darlene let Lisa go at once. The murmur was unable to withstand that amount of love and her soul was turned inside out. She died and took her wart, Ota, with her. Her body gently laid on my living room floor.
“She’s not coming back this time,” commented Sara.
“How did I do that?” I finally asked.
“Have you ever wondered why monsters only come out at night?” asked Sara.
“It’s because we’re afraid. Humans are the biggest monsters of them all. A human who finds his magic could easily destroy the world. Luckily most humans never find a reason to look for the magic hidden within. It’s a rare thing, Nuno. You are now more powerful than all of us put together.”
It was a lot to take in all at once. To my new friends I was the scariest of them all, but I would always bestow that title to the beautiful lady who controls my heart.
Lisa ran to me and gave me a big hug for saving her life. To thank me she showed me my future. She showed me our future. And it was happy.