Unemployed Magicians

Zacharius Forlien Asterielle, Zack to his allies, sat at a long wooden table. It was smooth, in parts, and rough in others. On the benches that sat under it there were marks that had been made by the scrapes of shields and knives. Occasionally there was a black patch, a burn mark. He was a slender man, and squished between a burly male and a hairy woman who had a twirly moustache.

“What you down about?” the hairy woman asked  Zack as a Guardian with metal arms and legs clanked behind the two of them. The hubbub of voices and the cheers of a celebration filled the silence when there was no reply. “Come on, what you down about?” she pressed.

“Well, it’s this news.” He banged a paper that was in front of him. It was turned to the sixth page, dense symbols and text filled each column. “I mean, I’m having a crisis.”

“Not an existential one, I hope.”

“Am I not supposed to have a metaphysical conflict?” Zack snapped, turning to face the woman. His small eyes had opened wide, revealing grey eyes. “I’m a multi-dimensional being and I’m not supposed to have an existential crisis?”

“Multi-dimensional this, multi-dimensional that — no wonder why people hate Gamics.”

“Why do you even care? Just a moment, do I even know you? What’s your name?”

“Samantha,” she brushed her moustache down. “I solve mysteries. With my axe.” She dropped the aforementioned weapon on the table, making a loud thud sound that caused two diners to inch away from them. “Think of me as an adventurer of the mind.”

“Samantha,” Zack mumbled. “Am I one of your lucky…suspects?”

“This is more pro-bono. I see someone a little down, think I’ll strike up a conversation. Maybe solve their woes before I start work for my client.”

Pushing the paper further forward, and into a man’s plate of food, Zack leaned back. “I’m a Dthead.”

“Should that bother me?”

“I summon portals, control people through their blood. Or something.  I don’t know. Seemed like magic to me.”

“Sure. I don’t know how dimension-hopping works, but I assume  it involves a little bit of the sprinkle dust.”

“Exactly. Look, I carry a knife.” He put it on the table next to her axe. “I wear organic clothes made by hand.” Zack pulled at his hemp shirt and silk pants. “I mumble words and steal people’s life energy.”

“Is that the fashion around here? Mystilvern strikes me as a little odd.” Samantha pulled at her brown hair and then removed some rheum from under her eyes. “Plus, I’m not here to listen to your woes, only solve them. Can we hurry this along?”

“I thought I was a character in a fantasy novel. Things that can’t be explained happen because… well … they can’t. They just happen. In some distant, unknown world, one with a strange name. I thought the whole genre was about that. Maybe a little bit of science thrown in for good measure.”

“Doesn’t seem so bad. I can think of worse things. Did you know that whole cultures were relabelled with different names because of white men?”

“That’s not the point,” Zack snapped, banging is pale hand on the table. “If I’m not a magician, if I’m not a Gamic who can conjure things from thin air in a fantasy world, then where do I belong?”

“Paranormal?”

“Do you see a werewolf anywhere? A vampire?”

“What about…noir?”

“Oh, so the detective solves the crime by reading other people’s thoughts? Two whole pages. Not even flash fiction.”

“Perhaps…” Samantha leaned forward, her large frame casting a long shadow over the table. She massaged her fat nose. “I see your problem. You can’t just waltz into another genre and start shooting fire bolts.”

“Buddy-cop action would never be the same. People wouldn’t know what to do.”

“Chaos.”

“Am I supposed to pack up my skills and go like a whimper into the darkening sky?”

“Who’s telling you this?”

Zack turned his face away from Samantha and patted the newspaper. “A columnist. He’s saying that magic portals don’t count as fantasy.”

The detective picked up the newspaper and started to read it. “You’re a braver person than I am, getting through this.”

“I felt compelled.”

The sounds from the other parts of the room filled the emptiness of conversation between the two of them as Samantha worked her way through the article. She folded it up at the end. “Don’t know what to say, can you still conjure magic?”

“Pretty much.”

“Make…people die after swallowing their blood?”

“In the right circumstances.”

“Sounds like fantasy. I’d keep going. After all, everyone’s got an opinion.”

“But…but…but…”

She patted down her moustache.  “You seem like a nice person, but this is pro-bono. I don’t guarantee results.” Samantha stood up, grabbed her axe and banged Zack on the back. “Hope you get over that crisis.”

“Maybe I’ll cast a few more spells tomorrow, see how I go.”

“And if that doesn’t work, you can always call it radiation and head off into the desert. I mean, science explains everything, right?”

“Appreciate it,” Zack said as Samantha walked away. He picked up the paper, sighed and started reading the article again.

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