joshwriting: (Default)
It's A Wonderful Marit

Once upon a time, there was a marit (a kind of djinn) named Ginny. She lived in Manhattan with her partner, Mirabel, but that is a story for another time. Today, she was wandering downtown to pick up a gift for her great-granddaughter when she noticed a distraught man who was sitting on the ground and rubbing a lamp with all his energy and concentration.

It wasn’t even one of those lamps like you would see in Aladdin. It was a small oil lamp for a table or camping out, but quite obviously the man was rubbing it with a purpose. Her curiosity piqued, she stepped right in front of him, towering over him and his lamp.

“Did you have any particular wishes in mind that I might be able to help you with?” she inquired.

Of course, he was stunned, because while he had been desperately rubbing the lamp, he did not expect to actually have anything happen.

He stammered a bit before managing to get his question out, but manage he did. “Are you a genie? Really?”

Ginny paused prior to responding, but finally said “Let’s assume for the moment that I am a genie, ok? Let’s try to work through what you need so badly that you would rub a camping lamp hoping for one!”

He nodded tentatively.

“Great. First thing – I am not dressed for sitting on the ground at the moment. Do you mind if we find a place to sit and chat? Perhaps some tea or other drink? And what should I call you?”

“I’m George. And yeah, I’m probably a bit dehydrated on top of everything.” He stood up and the two started walking down 5th Ave.

“How about there?” she suggested, pointing to a fenced in seating area.

“But it’s fu-“ A couple of men stood up abruptly to leave. “Okay, there.”

The hostess seated them and as soon as they placed their orders, Ginny directed him to tell her everything.

“I’m the president of a small credit union. Today one of my employees was taking a deposit down to where we keep our reserves and somehow between taking it from our counting room and the entrance to the other bank, it disappeared.

He searched high and low before finally – two hours later – telling me what had happened. I’ve been trying to figure it out, now, too. And I was supposed to be going on a trip with my wife and now I can’t do that until this problem is fixed.”

She raised her eyebrow. “Employee?”

“Well, it’s my uncle William.”

She shook her head. “I have to ask this. I’m sorry. What’s your last name, George?”

He hung his head. “I know. I know. It’s too absurd for words. I blame my mother, who thought it would be sweet. But yes, my last name is Bailey. And yes, my uncle is known as Billy.”

“You do remember that we are assuming I am a genie, right? Not an angel?!”

“I had no idea how one would summon an angel! And I’m not exactly religious. So…”

She laughed, gently. “It’s okay. Let’s try going back to the beginning. Mind if I join you to talk to your uncle?”

“I can’t very well tell him that I got a genie to help me! Or an angel, I suppose. So, how do I explain you?”

“Tell him I’m a private detective.”

“Wait – you’re a private detective?”

“No – we’re just going to act as if I am for the time being, okay? If you vouch for me to him, he will believe you – I assume you have a reputation of never lying?”

He blushed, but he also nodded.

The credit union proved to be only a couple blocks away and Uncle Billy was waiting there, pacing back and forth and ringing his hat in his hands repeatedly.

They took seats in the small conference room, with George explaining that she was a private detective and was there to help. Billy accepted it without a second thought.

Ginny pulled out a pad and pen and started with basics: Who, what, when, where, how, and why.

Who? Billy. The employees. Finally, George.
What? $50,000
When? Left the counting room at 9:15am. Got to the bank at 9:37am. Got back to the counting room at 10:52. Talked to all the employees. Told George at 11:15.
Where? Not yet determined, but almost certainly between those locations.
How? Not yet determined.
Why? Not yet determined.

“George, how long is the walk from here to the bank?”

“Ten minutes for me. Fifteen minutes for Billy, usually.”

“Okay. So, I know what happened, because it has to be what happened.”

Two incredulous faces pinned her with their eyes. “What?!” “HOW!?”

“Billy, before you left the building, did you have a conversation with somebody or more likely an argument?”

“I did! I forgot – but yes, we had a brief spat as I was about to go outside.”

“Do you know his name and where I could find him?”

“Yes – he’s been a nuisance to me for years, but he keeps some money here all the time and gives us a hard time for how we conduct our business.”

“Let me guess. He runs another bank?”

“No, that’s not it. He runs a ceramics shop and he makes things out of clay. He’s just a few doors down. Part of why he uses us is he can roll himself –”

“—here in his wheelchair. Got it. Gentlemen, I saw the shop when George and I were on our way here. I will be right back.”

Ginny walked over to the ceramics shop, where the proprietor was sitting at a low desk, painstakingly detailing a ewer. She identified herself, showed him her private detective’s ID, and he interrupted.

“Is this about the money! Thank god! I had no idea what to do with it when I got back here and found I had $50,000 that wasn’t mine. I don’t think I have any mob people among my clients, but you never know.” He rolled over to his file cabinet, unlocked it, and pulled out a satchel. “Would you please return it to its owner? I would be incredibly grateful.”

“It would be my pleasure. Can we give you a small reward of some sort?”

If your client would care to place an order or two, that would be lovely. Beyond that, really – I didn’t do anything.”

“Sure – I will pass the order along shortly. Thanks I think I know just the thing.” She grinned.

She made her way back to the credit union and was let into the conference room. She dropped the satchel on the table.

“He didn’t know where it came from and was horrified when he discovered it. He asked me to please return it to its owners, asking only for an order or two as a reward of any sort. Billy? You are off the hook!”

Billy coughed and then laughed and finally got himself together and left Ginny and George together.

“Really,” George asked, “How did you figure out where it was and why did it have to be there?”
“But George Bailey! Of course it had to be with the Potter!”

He collapsed, laughing til he cried. After a few minutes, he managed to thank her a few times. Then, “So, are all my wishes done?”

Her turn to laugh, if not quite that hard. “Do remember, that all we did was assume I was a genie, George. The only magic I used on this was analysis. Well, that and remembering the movie. But do me a favor? Is your mother still alive?”


“Ask her if she ever annoyed a genie or made a silly wish, would you? Way too many coincidences in this one!” With that, she took her leave, stopping only to place an order for herself with the potter.

With a bounce in her step – not exactly an unusual thing for her – she looked forward to telling her partner, “I got to pretend to be a genie today!”
joshwriting: (Default)
NOTE: This is the 2nd chapter. The first chapter can be found here.

Starting Therapy

Sarai smiled every time she thought about the group’s name: Mining Minds for Mending Minds. They usually just called themselves 4M.

As a young counselor, she really appreciated getting to participate in the collegial process of batting around one another’s difficult cases to try to find fresh approaches to them. Mostly she tended to remain quiet, mostly listening as she was unsure that she had much to offer them, at least not yet. She’d been told this was a pretty common approach to the first year or so in the group, for which she was grateful.

Tonight had been fairly slow until Dr. Netsuke presented his case:
Read more )
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Two women walked along a rutted road between a couple villages, Mirabel and Jinny. Their destination was not particularly important to them on this occasion, so there was neither hurry nor purpose in their steps. They seemed as if they were almost yoked together as a team, so in step was their progress. But one of them was quite focused on the world around them, while the other seemed distracted. Mirabel is a human, while her companion is a marit – a kind of djinn. The story of their meeting is told elsewhere.

This is an approximation of Jinny’s thoughts:
They’d been trying to understand the world of humans for a long time – for about as long as humans had been stumbling around in the forests and streams and meadows and mountains. Dryads, naiads, sylphs… it didn’t matter which of the fey folks to whom you spoke, the eventually the question came up: how is it that humans use reason rather than intuition?

You knew what you were supposed to do and when and how you were supposed to do it when the circumstance came up. None of this careful planning, measuring, calculating stuff of which the humans seemed so fond – or without which the humans seemed so lost! Sometimes they would hide one of their tools just to watch them as they at first floundered, but then found other ways to recreate the kind of measuring device they’d planned on using to start with. It could delay them hours or even days to be so deprived and their initial reactions were often so flailing that it was hard to stay out of their way, but ultimately most of them could discover another means to their ends.

Jinny had wondered this, if not so clearly, for several hundred years before she become friends with Mirabel. Friends! Just thinking the word brought a broad grin to the marit’s face and a bounce to her step – not that her step needed much bounce the bulk of the time, as floating was easier when they were alone.

“What mischief are you up to this time, Jinny?” The voice conveyed a tone of mild annoyance, but Jinny knew better. She laughed. Of course she knew better! Mirabel’s wish to be understood had been open-ended, if not consciously so. "I wish you could understand my point of view!" And so she did and so she does.

“I? Whatever would give you the idea that I am up to mischief?”

“That smile always means mischief. Do you deny it?”

“No, no. You have a good point. Do you wish that I not give away my mischievous intentions so readily?”

It was Mirabel’s turn to laugh. “I’m pretty sure that we have settled that whole wishing thing once and for all already – but even if we hadn’t, this would not be the sort of thing to spend… to waste a wish upon. Besides, if you don’t give me broad hints like that, this relationship would be far too imbalanced.

“So? What mischief?!” She plopped herself down under a tree by the side of the road they were traveling along and Jinny joined her.

“This time around, I am thinking of the entire world of magic critters. … Oh, right – we haven’t talked about those before, have we? I’m sorry! Would you prefer the slow or… okay, the hard and fast version it is.

“You know how you spent your entire life until meeting me knowing that there was no such thing as magic?”

Cautiously, Mirabel mumbled agreement.

“Well… it’s like this: You were not only wrong about magic on a small level, but on a large level. About 80% of what humans have believed about magic creatures is simply true. Flying horses; unicorns, dragons of all sizes and colors and abilities; living beings who are connected to the waters, mountains, trees, etc. – all of them are real. About the only thing we have not found are humans who can do magic themselves.”

Mirabel’s eyes bulged. This was a bit much for her to swallow quickly and easily, no matter how practical she was – or because she was so practical, perhaps.

“Wait. All of them? Really?”

“Pretty much. The places that it breaks down are when your stories talk about half-human, half-animal combinations. No mermaids, no centaurs, etc. Some of the multi-animal ones are a bit far-fetched even for magic, too, though we love to read about them and consider how they might come into being. We even know a couple ways, but none has been tried yet. Not really our kind of curiosity.”

“How do you figure such things out?”

“There are two different things that go into that question. Your implication is one of a deductive process. We don’t do that. When we consider how they might come into being, it is more a wondering if there is a natural process that might occur which would produce such an outcome. This is purely conjecture, as our reasoning is not well suited to… well, reasoning!

“If instead, we wonder how we might create such a thing, for those of us who can, we just know. And for those of us who can’t, well, we know that just as surely. It’s really an all or nothing kind of deal.”

“Hmm… give me a minute to process. And do we have any food left in our bags?” Jinny opened up a sack and pulled out a pair of sandwiches and a bottle to share, with a wink to Mirabel’s raised eyebrow.

“Bought them two towns ago.”

“Of course... So, there is the question, I suppose. You don’t seem to have any difficulty reasoning whatsoever, Jinny! What gives?”

“It’s all your fault, you know. Once you wished for me to understand your point of view, I had to reason whether I could or not! Your highly structured rational considerations required me to almost reconstruct my mind (without my actively doing anything, you understand) to be able to fit your wish. I am pretty sure I am the first reasoning magic user in living memory and quite possibly far longer. I can deduce. I can induce. There is really only one skill that I am pretty sure you have that I have not yet grasped, largely because you apparently have not needed it.”

“I’ll bite – what would that be?”

“Scientific/mathematical thinking. I feel them at the borders of your ideas, but you have not actively engaged in them so they are still veiled to me.”

Mirabel giggled. “And there is that deductive reasoning you were just talking about! You felt something and analyzed both what it was and why it was, but have not yet got a way to conquer it.”

“And that brings us back full circle to my mischievous thought! How might I introduce deductive reasoning or even mathematical reasoning to a people who do not naturally do such things? And in contrast with my general magical intuition, I have neither an instant answer nor a conviction that such a thing is beyond me. This suggests that while there may be a solution, it is not a magic-based response to the problem.

“By the way, have I told you what a grand time I am having being able to work through all this this way? It’s so much fun!” The two of them fell together laughing joyfully.

Wiping a few tears away, Mirabel replied “Oh, once or twice, perhaps. About as often, I guess, as I have told you how glad I am to have you in my life, even if you did come from a lamp!” It was said with a big smile. “So, let’s explore how you might go about this mischief, even if you decide not to do it.”

The two finished their meal and resumed their journey.

They banged ideas around for a while. As they talked, it became clearer to Mirabel that even with her reasoning ability Jinny had no real notion of how her population had gotten to be who they were, what the process might have been. To Mirabel, though, it seemed sort of obvious once the question was examined – it was organic. There was no planned progression, just a set of steps that happened and were then done. No conscious intention to expand locales or cross rivers until a need came upon them. So, the very idea of intentionally introducing a skill to the fey was beyond them!

As ever, with Mirabel’s thoughts came Jinny’s comprehension. (“And was that convenient!” thought Mirabel.) “So, if we introduce something that is at the very beginning of the idea of reasoning, that might allow it over time to develop into full deductive and inductive thought!” Jinny did a little jig in the road.

“Jinny – this is your starting point for them.”

And Mirabel drew in the dirt of the road

1 + 1 = 2
joshwriting: (Default)
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Sherene Raisbeck.

Maternity Ward

The King paced back and forth. And forth and back. The Queen, for all that she was ostensibly otherwise occupied cried out “Would you stop that incessant motion from one side to the other? It’s driving me right up the turret!”

Out of consideration for his wife, the King left the room to find somebody else to bother. The wizard seemed like a good choice. “What are you doing to protect my child?! I’ve heard those terrible stories about wicked witches and cranky fairies who cast spells and curses upon the new born, dooming them to an early death or at least far more difficulty in life than any little one should have to face. What are you doing?!”

The wizard cowered a bit at the King’s vehemence, though she was not normally a coward. She raised a somewhat uneven finger and shared her thoughts. “The good fey and I have been concerned about this ever since the Queen’s pregnancy became known to us. We searched the world over for how best to protect her. Surprisingly enough, it was in the realms that think of themselves as without magic that we found the answer to our mystery. Wander with me over to the nursery.”

As they went up the stairs to the chamber adjoining the royal suite, the King continued to fret at the Wizard, but she was very patient with him – she knew the histories even better than he and she could not deny that he had cause for concern. Hundreds of proto-princesses and proto-princes had been the victims of malicious magical mayhem. Still, she was quite proud of their discovery and pleased with their implementation of it.

She opened the door to the nursery and handed the King a rock. “Go ahead, throw it in.” He did, but no sooner had it gotten to the doorway but it rebounded and hit the King.

“Sorry, your Highness – I forgot about that aspect. Anybody who tries to assault this room, your wife, or your child will have that effort rebound upon them immediately! That applies to physical harm or magical or even emotional! We’ve put the same safeguard on the royal carriage and the royal pram.

“We set it on the Queen as soon as we had it figured out, then on the room. It’s designed to extend immediately to the infant upon birth.” (She carefully did not give away the gender of the child, as the King and Queen had given strict orders that they were not to be told!)
As the two of them wandered back downstairs where the Queen was in labor, the King asked out of idle curiosity, “Do you have a name for this amazing spell?”

“Yes, your Highness. We call it the Maternity Ward.”
joshwriting: (Default)
It seemed to Sam that everything that happened in her life could have come from one of the books she had read as a child. It was not so much that everything was overly simple or moralistic, the way so many children's books are, but rather that the world around her seemed thoroughly mysterious - things happened for no apparent reason, with no apparent cause, and with no obvious response. She could control only her own responses to the neverending series of accidents and adventures that life seemed intent upon serving her.

The current situation, if anything, exacerbated that feeling. She'd gotten on the bus to go to work, as she had each morning since the last "thrilling adventure" with her car and the black ice. The bus was safer, after all, right? Yet, here she was having had her bus siezed, not by terrorists but by pirates! Whatever were pirates doing in the middle of Chattanooga, let alone "capturing" a bus and claiming it as treasure?

They were pirates, though, no matter how unlikely it seemed. They dressed the part, though their language was not quite the stereotypical bit of "Arrrh, matey" that she might have anticipated, had anticipating anything seemed reasonable to do. Salty, yes. They swore plenty, especially when the chest they pulled out from under one of the bus seats failed to have in it the gold they expected.

Gold? Why would anybody expect to find a chest of gold on a city bus heading downtown, or headed anywhere for that matter.

"Lassie, you would not have happened to see somebody open the chest from under this seat this mornin', would ye have?"

"Um... no? I mean, I haven't exactly been watching, but I'd like to think I would have noticed something as unlikely as that."

"Perhaps not so unlikely as you might think, but that's of no matter now. We'll have to be takin' you back to the island with us."

"Island? What island? And... and I have to get to work!"

With that the leader of the pirates gave a great guffaw. He gestured toward her and a pair of his men seized her arms and hustled her off the bus and onto one of the duck boats that had surrounded the bus. She'd never gotten around to riding one of the boats, but this was not exactly what she'd expected whenever she thought about such a ride!

A couple hours later, she was sitting, stunned, on an island in the middle of the Tennessee River, surrounded by men and boys, laughing and singing, despite the ill-timed raid on the bus's chest. Every time she could interrupt their revelry enough to ask them what was happening, all she got back was laughter. It was quite maddening, all in all! She was unharmed, except for missing work and possibly getting fired as a result - and even that she was not sure counted as harm, as she had been feeling more than a bit worn and bored by work. But the feeling of 'out of control' was perhaps greater than ever.

A voice over her shoulder whispered "Isn't this the best yet?!" She looked behind her, but couldn't figure out where the voice came from. And, on reflection, it was not quite a whisper, but more like the full speech of somebody who just wasn't very loud."

"Who's there? And what do you mean?"

A small giggle followed, then a pop.

A bellow from in front of her: "Let's make her walk the plank!" They started chanting, "Walk the plank! Walk the plank! Walk the plank! Walk the plank! Walk the plank! Walk the plank!" There were about 15 of them, ranging from 12 to somewhere nearly triple her own age of 25, bouncing and hooting and shouting. "Walk the plank!"

This did not sound to her like a good idea at all. "But I don't want to walk the plank! Really!" Nothing she heard in response suggested that she'd gotten through any more this time than the last 10 times she had tried to talk with them. If it weren't so nerve-wracking, she supposed, it might even be tedious, but nerve-wracking it was.

The men blind-folded her and took her for a walk. It seemed about 5 minutes or 2 hours or just a moment, all at once. One of them told her to step up. When she just stopped, she was lifted onto what felt under her feet like a flexible piece of wood, just wide enough for her to stand on. "Walk the plank!" came the cheer, and again, "Walk the plank!"

She felt a poke and moved hesitantly forward. More pokes, more steps. The men went silent, which told her she must be at the end of the plank. It was as if they were all holding their breaths at the same time. She felt like doing the same. Another poke, not quite enough to knock her off, just make her wobble a bit. "Go ahead, lassie - might as well get it over with!"

She leapt.


and landed about 6 inches below her starting point. A great roar came from the group, first of approval and then mirth.

"Isn't this just the best?" came the quiet voice, again.

The leader of the pirates took her blindfold off. "Howdy do, lassie! I'm called Fred the Blue, on account a' my bushy red beard. These here are my men. We want to thank you for being such a good sport. We'll drop you back in the city, now."

An hour later, she was outside her workplace, though her head was still spinning. When she wandered in, her boss brought her into his office where he explained that her tardiness was just not acceptable.

"But I was kidnapped! Didn't you hear about the duckboat pirates and my bus?"

"Oh, yes, we heard. Really, Samantha. If you wanted out of the job, you did not need to go to such elaborate lengths. A simple resignation would have been quite enough."


She did not remember going home. She must have, because certainly she was home now, and talking on the phone.

"Yes, Sam, we were greatly impressed with your application. And our recruiting manager said the job interview went extremely well. So, welcome aboard! Adventure Publishing is excited to have you as the new lead for our children's book division."

"Wait, what?" Interview? Recruiting manager? Who?"

"Fred Bluebeard, our lead recruiter - he said he met with you this morning."

("Isn't this amazing!")

She twirled fast enough to see the pop this time. "Come back here!"

The voice on the phone asked her to clarify, but she distantly said "Thank you, I am looking forward to it," and hung up. "Come back here!" she demanded.

Another pop and a pixie appeared, fluttering its wings.

"What is going on here? What was this morning all about?! And what do you mean by "the best yet?"

"When you were 5, you were lonely and bored and miserable and a few of us took pity on you and came to play. And you begged us to never let you get that bored again. We agreed and have been playing with you ever since - but only when you seem particularly at risk of deep boredom. Then we disappear, taking the immediate memory of our presence because that seems to make it harder for anything else to be as much fun.

"We make sure though that a part of you knows we are real."

"And this morning?"

"You told us how much you have dreamt of this sort of job - we just got you the interview (and then livened it up slightly). But the job is real and now it's really yours. This is the best yet!"

Suddenly, a string of memories became clearer to her and she understood anew the reason her life often felt the way it did. And she laughed and gently hugged the pixie.

"Thank you, friend."
joshwriting: (Default)
Once upon a time… once upon a time. Just once?

How do you cope with a life that magic has touched then left? It wasn’t even his story! Despite that, the change in perspective was amazing and horrifying. It’s not as if he had ever believed in or seen magic, before – he had a hard enough time believing in it when it happened in front of him! But there it was and now nothing was the same.

The sky was gray. Not… gray gray. It was blue enough, he supposed, but… just not vivid. It was as if the sky had gone through the laundry a few times too many, but he had never noticed it until somebody came by with a brand new sky for him to see. Except, it wasn’t something wrong with the old sky – it hadn’t changed. This was the sky he had lived with for forty years, every day and every season. He just saw it differently now, after his experience.
He dragged himself through his days, barely managing to get up but having a hard time falling asleep. A colorless life seemed purposeless to him, but it was the only life he had. Friends commented upon it and tried to shake him out of his mood, but he was having none of it. He tried to explain to them what was going on, but they hadn’t seen what he had seen and did not – could not – believe him.

In the face of their disbelief, he started to pull back from those relationships, too. He learned not to share the experience with anybody, no matter how much they assured him they would not judge. Sometimes they laughed outright. Sometimes they had the grace to hold it in – but it was still obvious that they were holding it in. And sometimes they did not seem to want to laugh at all; they just pitied him. It was probably the pity, more than anything, that made him stop sharing.

So, he bottled it up and trudged along.
He wasn’t suicidal, though he would not have minded the confidence to feel that way. Unfortunately (from his perspective), he had no reason to believe that death would not be just that much worse. Whereas before he had had no notion of how washed out the world’s colors were, now he could all too well imagine its being worse. At times, it seemed, he could not stop himself from doing just that. With a humorless smile on his face, he hummed “all the world is sad and dreary, everywhere I roam…”

Therapists. God save him from therapists. If there is a God, which he supposed there might be, once magic was real. Or any number of them… maybe instead of trying to find a therapist who did not want to lock him up immediately, “as a danger to himself or others” (they explained), he should try religion! A small bit of hope made its way into his heart, despite his best efforts.
And was dashed.

God save him from priests. And shamans. And gurus. And… anybody smacking of spiritual higher beings! They all were possibly worse than the therapists!

Of course, they had no answers. None of them. Despite his hope, this was not a huge shock. That was just not the problem. But they had no answers! Not for him, not for themselves. They did not dismiss his tale, they embraced it. His sincerity convinced them that he had had a more other-worldly or spiritual or magical experience than the lot of them had had in their lives – and they wanted to follow him and worship him. Too much. Beyond too much.
Drugs. Psychedelic drugs. Mushrooms, peyote, acid, whatever. Something, anything to put color back into his life and world! And they helped, some, but not enough. It wasn’t the same. It felt different.
He got a call from one of the therapists – one who had listened politely and with a somewhat less judgmental air than most:

“I cannot say that I believe you, but it is clear that you believe you – and other than that singular, deeply held sincere belief, you don’t feel crazy to me. You don’t feel off. So, I’ve heard about something that would ordinarily sound totally bizarre, but which may just be the thing for you.

It’s a group that is forming for support for people with stories like yours. Yes, you heard me right – stories like yours! It’s to treat what the group leader calls “Post-Wonder Stress Disorder” or PWSD.”

He listened to the words, to the description, and played with the notion on his tongue. Post-Wonder Stress Disorder. He couldn’t even fathom how such an idea would come into being, let alone become a therapy group – but the concept resonated, so he took down the contact information.

The office, when he called it, sounded like a hundred other therapists’ offices. “Please come in early to fill out your medical history and our questionnaire.” “No, I’m sorry, the group leader can’t come to the phone, but she will give you all the time you need in group.” “No, we don’t take insurance, but we promise that our sliding scale will be able to accommodate your need for therapy combined with your ability to pay.” Still, none of it was thoroughly off-putting. The employee who answered the phone seemed competent enough and not at all bizarrely out there; just matter-of-fact in going about business.
He came a bit early on the night of the first group meeting. He wanted to get the lay of the land, check out the space if possible, and maybe suss out the kinds of folks with whom he would be sharing the evening. The building and waiting room were non-descript. He was slightly taken aback to find another person waiting when he walked in, but supposed the person might have the same anxiety about it that he had.

The waiting room was also bigger than he expected, with a dozen seats in it, which filled up over the next 45 minutes leading up to the start time. The other members seemed pretty average in appearance – but, he supposed, so did he. Several times, he almost said something, but was too nervous. On the other hand, he thought he’d noticed others with the same impulse. The door opened, and they straggled in.
Apart from the group leader’s introduction, things started slowly. For all that she explained that each of them had had what seemed like an inexplicable event in their lives that had devestated their views of reality, he felt a reluctance to share his story one more time. And he couldn’t help himself – when he heard the first of the others’ stories, it was incredible! It couldn’t possibly be true, could it? But how could he, of all people, judge somebody for a bizarre story?

The first speaker shared: “I drive a cab, usually on the hotel circuit near the Park. One night, I’m on a fare, not far behind one of the Park’s horse-drawn buggies. It pulled over abruptly and the carriage shrunk and turned into a pumpkin! And the horses disappeared!

The man went on to share what he’d tried to do immediately and then in the weeks after the incident. It was totally different from his experience – yet, the reactions to the event, both on the spot and after it, were so familiar that he could have used the same words to describe his own sentiments. He listened as a few others spoke up, the same sorts of tales presented of impossible sights followed by nearly complete shutdown and detachment from their world.
Frogs and beasts turning into humans, a talking bird, a statue getting off its pedestal, and several other wonderments poured out. As each member of the group took the floor, he unwound, bit by bit. The acceptance of the others when his turn came gave him his first feeling of connection since the event. It didn’t solve the grayness problem, but it gave him reason to come back next week. It was a start.
The last of the clients had left the group therapy room, about 30 minutes after the session was formally over. They were a jaded and anxious lot; their trust would be hard to win quickly. But tonight’s session went pretty well. It was a start.

With a wave of her wand, the therapist was gone.
joshwriting: (Default)
It was all well and good to go flitting about and casting spells, but nobody seemed to appreciate the prep work that went into the daily routine of magic and granting wishes and the like. She loved Mal and did everything she could to make him happy, within the limits of her charge, but there were times when his needs exceeded her ability to anticipate them.

This was one of those times.

Somehow, Mal had gotten himself locked up. "Something I said" was all the explanation she'd been able to coax out of him, but he looked pretty embarrassed and miserable down in the cell. (Why did every castle seem to come with a dank prison?) When she asked if she should get him out, he shook his head and advised her not to.

Nixie frowned. "What can I do, then? What do you need?"

"I need a string. After that, maybe I will be able to leave. Maybe"

She'd disappeared and reappeared with a ball of twine. He shook his head, and before he could say more, she'd vanished again. When next she arrived in his cell, carrying several kinds of string, he stopped her, and showed her what he needed.

Off she went to the barn yard. His instructions had been clear - and what he demanded of her here was beyond her ability to manage. She cursed and returned, dismayed, to the cell. "All of the animals are hale and hearty," she reported.

He, too, cursed. Then he thought for a bit, and sent her to the laundry. She looked about and poked and prodded. With a big smile, or at least as big a smile as her size would permit, she tossed some of her fairy dust, grabbed her prize, and hastened back to Mal. He took it from her, twisted and turned it, and tied a couple knots in it.

She was startled by a loud noise behind her - the guard, demanding to know if Mal had changed his mind! When Mal said he had, the guard opened the door and none-to-gently helped Mal upstairs.

The ruling noble (not that she could remember which title went with which castles) looked down at her friend. "So! Now you are willing? I knew a bit of time in the cell would change your mind." He turned to the guard. "Put him in the next room. He knows what to do." She followed them.

A few minutes later, from the next room, came music - alternately soothing and inspirational. The noble smiled vacuously. The guard returned.

"Mal, do we have to stay any more?"

He continued to play, but talked softly. "I don't know if I am going to be permitted to leave just yet."

"If we left, where could we go to be safe?"

Mal gave brief consideration. "We just need to get into the next duchy - across the river. But I don't think there's a bridge or a boat nearby."

Nixie giggled. "If you are ready to go, I think we'll be fine. Just keep playing." She blew some fairy dust on his fingers. "Now step away. Even as his fingers worked as if to play, the music continued without interruption.

Out the window they went, and over to the river, which was too strong for him to swim across.

A bit more fairy dust and a two bits of wood grew - one flat and the other long and thin. Mal stepped onto it, with Nixie on his shoulder, and he poled them across, surely if not swiftly. As soon as they were safely on shore, the wood returned to being a piece of bark and a twig.

"I didn't know you could do all that," exclaimed he.

With another big grin, she replied.

"Well, I am a Harper's Fairy."
joshwriting: (Default)
Once upon a time, there was a very unhappy young woman named Mirabel, who was trapped in a very difficult living situation. She had two major personality components that were regularly at war in her worldview. She was a student of philosophy with an abiding interest in ethics, and, at heart, very much a romantic. She would find herself imagining a prince rescuing her from her overbearing siblings and helping her to save her poor father who was trapped. Then she would chastise herself for even thinking of taking advantage of the poor prince that way, when he couldn't possibly know her well enough to love her, nor the obligations that rescuing her father would entail.

Still, she was prone to talking to the birds outside her window, to singing to the mice and cats in the house, and to wishing, idly, to herself, that things might be different. Of course, she knew there was no such thing as magic, and this soothed her self-torture about romantic notions. After all, there was no harm to be had in wishing if there were no way for wishes to come true!

So it was that she was very startled one night when an elegant young woman appeared abruptly in her room, just after she had sent her wishes to get away off to the moon, or wherever unanswered wishes might go.

"Who are you?" As soon as she said it, she mentally kicked herself. She did that a lot. "Oh, don't tell me, you're my fairy godmother." And she sighed.

"Close enough,' said the woman. "I'm a marit, a kind of djinn; you rubbed my lamp tonight while you were cleaning the basement for the 4th time this week. Normally, my lamp is out of reach, but one of your sisters moved a box. You can call me Jinny, if you want"

"Oh. Hmm... Why did you wait so long to appear, then?"

"We're not permitted to let anybody but the person whose wishes we are granting see or hear us. I waited until everybody was asleep."

"I see. Well, it doesn't matter anyway. No wishes for me. It would be wrong. It's wrong even to present me with the option."

"Huh?" The marit sat down in a desk chair, quite perplexed."

"It's wrong. Power corrupts. Wishes are a form of almost pure power, with immense ability to either corrupt or destroy lives. I may be a romantic, but I am *not* an idiot! I've read all the stories and tales and fantasies. I know that inevitably I will screw up, even if I manage to avoid sausage nose or the myriad maladies that befall some wishers.

"Even if I wish to get free of my familial obligations, somehow, all I am doing is forcing things on them as they have on me - and my actions are not justified by theirs. And I know well that any personal profit I seek to gain will come from another, often someone I love. So, I will pass on the wishes, thank you."

Jinny just stared at her.

"Don't you get it? You're not wanted here. Go away."

"Is that a wish?" There was a slightly hopeful tone in Jinny's voice.

"No." There was a coldness in Mirabel's voice that dashed any hope that the spirit might have had.

"But what about your wishes? Can't I do *anything* for you?" It was almost a whine.

In exasperation, Mirabel spoke sharply. "I wish you could understand my point of view!"

A big smile crossed the marit's face. "That's one!" Then the smile disappeared. "Oh," was all she said.

Mirabel started cursing. While it was not her normal mode of discourse, she showed amazing affinity for it, having picked up a lot of juicy expressions from her sisters. It was obvious that her anger was self-targeted, not at Jinny at all.

Hesitantly, Jinny spoke up. "It's clear that you cannot just wish for me to lose the ability to understand, because while giving the understanding to me clearly violated my person - I hadn't given you permission, but neither did I understand enough to have been able to give informed consent - clearly to remove my understanding would be to take away knowledge - both an abuse of power in and of itself, and wrong as a destruction of knowledge in the universe. Boy, you are clearly in one stuck place!"

As she talked, Jinny became more confident.

"You're considering just making me return to the lamp, but are unsure of the consequences of that. Let me assure you that there are none for you - but I know now that this is not enough for you. So, yes, if I go back with ungranted wishes, I will suffer pain every moment from return to my bottle until such time as I finally grant the remaining wish or wishes.

"On the other hand, you are still left with what to do with me, what to do about your sisters, and most especially, to you, about your father."

Mirabel jumped up. "Wait. How do you know about my father? I never said anything about him!"

The spirit grinned. "You wished for me to understand your perspective - you didn't specify this argument. But, fortunately, you didn't insist that I *agree* with your perspective! As it happens, I disagree with pretty much all of your conclusions but one.

"You are bound here to service with your sisters because you cannot see a way to leave that won't also abandon your father, which you will not do. And you do not have the resources alone to take him away from this place.

"You've imagined a prince coming, but didn't actually have any interest in a prince at all - even your dreams won't work.

"And to top it off, now you are stuck with an overly analytical djinn."

Mirabel just nodded, disconsolately.

Jinny continued. "Let's start it in reverse. Yes, you are indeed stuck with one overly analytical djinn. *That* means that you are no longer alone, unless you want to be. Further, your djinn is very capable of helping you to muster the resources when you leave here to take care of yourself and your father, if you let her. Your next wish, then, is to assure yourself that this is what I WANT to do, rather than my doing it out of any obligation.

"And finally, Mirabel, I think you'll find that the two of us can have a lot more fun together than you were ever going to have with some stale old prince!"

And so they did.
joshwriting: (Default)
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived with her grandmother in a cabin on the edge of the forest. It was, in the way of these things, a magic forest, though to the little girl, whose name was Ellie, it did not seem so magical as the things that went on there were the things that had always gone on there. It was not so much that they were boring, because they weren't, but neither were they exciting just because they were magic. Some things happened that were exciting, some things happened that were not so exciting. And that was the way things were.

One day, a bear spirit popped up beside her, and called to her.

This was not yet all that exciting. It had happened in the past and, she supposed, would happen in the future. Still and again, it was not the usual sort of thing that happened to her, either, so her interest was definitely piqued.

"Hello there, bear! What is your name?"

"My name is Kip, Ellie, and I would like to ask a favor of you."

"Well... you can ask, I suppose. What sort of favor?"

"My mistress is very sad and I have been unable to console her. She has lost a friend and feels ever so alone. She wants so very much to have another girl to talk to, instead of just a silly bear like me!"

Ellie was a little surprised. None of the bear spirits she had ever talked to before had ever referred to themselves as having a mistress, at least not that she could recall. And who would be the mistress of a bear spirit, anyway?

"Is it far away? I'd have to pack and tell grandma and everything."

It was the bear's turn to be a little surprised. "Pack? I hadn't really thought about that. Hmm... it is fairly far, but I really don't know that you will need to pack. Still, I suppose it won't hurt. Is your grandmother home?"

"Oh yes!" And with that, Ellie ran to the house to tell her grandmother that she was going off with a bear spirit. Now this could be exciting!

"Grandma, Grandma! A bear spirit wants to take me to meet his mistress! His name is Kip and he says it's far away, but she's sad. Can I go, please, please?"

Her grandmother, whose name was Elizabeth, made motions with her hands as if to suggest settling down. "Patience, patience, my girl. Who wants you to go where to do what with whom?"

More slowly, Ellie launched into what little she knew. When she finished, Grandmother turned a steely eye on the bear. "Well, young Kip, what do you have to say about this? Does your mistress even know you are here? And... hadn't you best explain to Ellie exactly what you are asking of her? It hardly seems fair for her to go without knowing. I know that's been your types' way for as long as you have been around, but in this part of the forest, we do things a bit differently."

"I'm sorry, you are very right. I forgot my manners in my haste." He turned to Ellie. "If you like my mistress, and, more to the point, if she likes you, it might be a good long while before you come back here for any length of time."

"What?! You want me to abandon my grandmother and my home, without even knowing where I am going? I'm not some spirit with no attachments, you know!"

Kip looked over at Elizabeth and she back at him. "It's no good your looking at me, Kip. You're the one who raised the issue, you are the one responsible for the telling," said Elizabeth.

A little nervously, Kip explained. "Well, Ellie... you do have attachments, but as it turns out, you are a spirit, just like I am. Umm... okay, not just like I am, because you are not a bear and I am. But other than that, we are very similar. Where we are going, I am a little stuffed Teddy Bear."

Ellie's eyes had grown wider and wider as the bear continued. Where to start? She thought to herself, I'm not a spirit! I'm a little girl. And I have been, all my life!" Then she paused, as she thought about what she had just said. "Am I the spirit of a little girl, then?"

"Actually, you are the spirit of a little girl doll, but one whose age seems about the same as my mistress's age. And no, Elizabeth," turning to the woman, "My mistress is not expecting Ellie, but she really needs her."

"Then I shall go!" declared Ellie. "And it shall be a grand adventure." She hugged her grandmother, with a couple of tears and some exchanged love and reassurance that her grandmother would keep in touch with her. Ellie looked at Kip.

"Where do we go? What do I do?"

"Just relax and hold my paw." Even as the bear spoke, Ellie saw the room around them fade away. For a while, she saw nothing, and then a room appeared, very different from the cabin she had just been in. She was on a giant bed, and staring up at a very large, but obviously little girl.

"I don't want a new doll! I want my friend back! Bring her back, bring her back, bring her back!" And she flung the new doll as hard as she could away from her.

Ellie screamed - and realized she had no voice - as she flew through the air and bounced, shaken, off the wall and onto the floor. No sooner had she landed than the girl's voice cried out.

"Oh no! What have I done? I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry! Are you all right?" And she picked up Ellie and cradled her in her arms. "I'm Michelle. I'm not usually that mean, and I am really sorry, but I will tell you all about it. What's your name?"

Michelle cocked her head as if she could hear the doll, and Ellie shouted her name as loudly as she could. In her head, Kip's voice came to her "You don't have to yell! She would hear your name if you whispered it."

"You're name is... Ellie! pronounced Michelle, as if reaching a momentous decision. "This is Kip. He's my bear! We're going to all be great friends!"

And that was the way things were.


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