The Holt Building still looked too new and unreal, like it didn’t belong in the city she’d been born in. At almost a hundred stories tall, it was a monolith of dark glass and steel that cut a gash in the sky like a dagger. There was something unworldly in its fluid design. It made her both filled with awe and a bit uncomfortable.
Security was tighter than most airports. Her bags were searched, her ID was scanned, her background was checked. Her stomach lurched as the elevator sped up fifty some odd floors before hissing to a stop abruptly, there was some internal click in the mechanism under her before the elevator hurled up the next fifty stories even faster. When it reach what felt like it must be the top floor, the door slid open to a single huge room.
The elevator bay was in the center of the circular room and all the walls were made of huge windows that showed a 360 degree view of the entire city; uptown, downtown, rivers to the east and west.
The room held two huge curved conference tables, each black glass like the exterior of the building, but the surfaces winked and flashed with numbers and pictures, like giant computer monitors.
In front of her were three desks, one of them topped with a lazily spinning holographic globe, complete with real time displays of weather pattern and swirling clouds.
At the smallest of the desk sat a twenty-something looking man, handsome in a prettyish way, typing away on a very sleek looking laptop. He looked up and motioned for her to sit in the seat on the other side of his desk.
The fourth floor window of the old apartment on Rivington looked out on a bar, a noodle shop, and a rather weather beaten elementary school. The roof of said noodle shop housed a sort of neon crucifix of two chopsticks forever clamping down on huge strands of metal ramen. Above that monstrosity was a long sliver of silver gray sky and above that vast clouds amassed like an army.
Sparrow felt the storm growing around her. There were static crackles of far away lightning. It was only six in the afternoon and already the sky was dark.
As she leaned on the windowsill, she let her finger absently trace the white wooden frame and its dozens of layers of paint. As she sighed the glass fogged over in a neat circle. Without thinking she drew a symbol in the fading gray moisture on the glass.
It was some little ward of protection. Something in the back of her head told her she might need it. She felt a thimble full of her soul escape her body, feeding the spell. Some vital energy bled from her and although she knew that it would heal, she mourned the loss for a moment before turning to answer the doorbell that was about to ring.
Do you know what they get wrong every time? The fallibility of magic.
From the Brothers Grimm to Stephen King, everyone who pens a tale about magic feels the need to create some palatable metaphor to explains how the mystical arts are some kind of cheat that only seems powerful. These stories explain how spells and conjuring will never really give you what you want, that there are no tricks or shortcuts to success, and how hard work, honesty, and faith are the only ways to true happiness.
What the unenlightened don’t understand is that magic takes an enormous amount of work, plenty of painful honesty, and more faith than most can imagine.
The truth they miss is that magic actually works, and it usually works without caveats. A death spell kills completely and a resurrection spell brings someone back to life; not as a zombie (unless that was the intention) but just as they were. If you give someone a love potion, they will fall in love. Not some fanatical love that will eventually turn on you; not a mindless love that makes someone follow your every command until they starve to death because you didn’t tell them to eat. It will not create a faux love, it will create true love, and that is a very difficult pill for the mortal world to swallow. It shows mortals that life and love are malleable and controllable, just not by them.