My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Ten

Zoë walked around the lobby of the school. It was early, and only a few people were around. They weren’t magicians, but they still seemed not to see Zoë, or perhaps they were just ignoring her. A college student, one of the formals, pointed out the mural on one of the walls to a younger sibling. The mural showed the city from the sky, but it had apparently been painted by someone who was a bad cartographer with a good imagination. It didn’t matter anyway, because nobody paid that much attention to it except Zoë, who was the kind of girl who would notice if a Pepsi machine held Coke products, or if the patterns on someone’s socks didn’t match.

The two boys who were hanging around the mural, for lack of anything better to do, didn’t seem to be terribly shocked when one of the buildings in the mural suddenly caught fire.

Zoë was. She watched in disturbed but intrigued horror as the paint of the mural changed. The orange paint blew on with a nonexistent wind, spreading in all directions and leaving a trail of charred remains. Zoë saw the ripple of flames spread like a drop in a puddle, going just as fast. She finally managed to tear her eyes away from the picture only to look out the window and see the mural as true: the whole area alight with flames.

This has got to be a dream, she thought. Still… dreams do come true.

But Zoë couldn’t do anything. There were people around. She shouldn’t do magic.

She glanced back at the boys near the mural. They kept looking at it, pointing out their favorite locations in a sort of clumsy, befuddled way, trying to make sense of the “impressionistic” map.

They’re oblivious, Zoë thought. If that’s magic and they can’t see it… I have to do something about this city, dream or not. I can’t risk anything here. Not with magic.

She remembered Jen’s warning: don’t do magic without Professor Wyrnen around. It occurred to Zoë that she now had a goal in mind, though: she had to save the city. A goal could  bind her magic to one use, couldn’t it? Might she be able to stop the magic once it was done? There was only one way to find out.

This city is really lucky that I’m as foolish as I am, Zoë thought, scowling. She realized that she didn’t have a wand or a rod or… anything. She felt like she needed to have something in her hand to… do something.

She took a newspaper from a table and rolled it up. It felt unnaturally out of place. She put it back down, feeling like she needed it, and picked it up again. Neither felt right. Zoë tried again with a magazine, but that didn’t work, either.

It needs to be… materialized. Tangible. No, that’s not the word. There needs to be a word for this. It needs… a doorway into existence. Through an item?

Experimenting with several other items, Zoë found that nothing available to her that would fit the hole in the spell. Not even the rocks. The town’s situation, however, was getting urgent. She’d have to deal with the hole as she went, which wasn’t a very appealing option.

“Now how do I work around that?” she muttered. She tried to remember the last time she saw someone do magic. She couldn’t bring anything to mind. Trial and error—it would have to be.

“Stop the fire?” she said cautiously. Nothing happened to the landscape, but the words echoed in Zoë’s own head, taking rhythm. She tried hard to ignore them. Her effort had seemed… one-sided. The words were in her world, whether it was a dream or reality, but they weren’t in the world of magic—wherever that was.

Zoë knelt on a chair facing the big window that looked out. At least nobody could see her face, which was a mask of frustration as she drummed her fingers on the back of the chair. She wasn’t sure what else to do. Annoyingly, a cartoon theme song popped into her head and stuck there.

My dreams shouldn’t be so sadistic, Zoë thought. The real world is bad enough.

Over the repetitive hum of the cartoon song, Zoë remembered her third-grade teacher commenting on her vocabulary after she’d accused her group-work partners of being too raucous for any work to get done.

“Stop the pigeon… stop the pigeon…” Zoë muttered. Something occurred to her. “Stop the fire… stop the fire…” she offered, in the same irritating melody. Zoë watched as the fires lowered and smoke rose more as they were put out.

“Okay, then,” she said to herself. “Off they go. Now my job is to sit here and be weirded out until I wake up, I guess.”

So she did.

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 9th, 2011 at 7:23 pm and is filed under Zoe. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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