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September 19, 2022

Dancing On The Edge

By Lydia Manx

The unseen wolf let loose a bone chilling howl that echoed throughout the canyons surrounding my simple home. Nothing answered back at first and then the yips and barks of the local pack of coyotes trying to impress the lone wolf began to tremble in the air. My gut froze and I felt something chase down my spine. A haunting, age old song that made me quiver. There was a forgotten hum of electricity that raced in between the chaparral and dry canyon fissures of layered dusty earth. A rogue dog tried to join in with the gut-wrenching vocalizations of the beasts, but was soon racing back to the houses on the edge of the canyon. Once the sand-colored cur cleared the dry brush there was a commotion below that sounded very vicious and probably very bloody. The unleashed pet turned and looked back from where he'd just been and cowered at the view. Dark yellow urine trickled from the dog's bladder onto the dust and rocks beneath its paws. Tail tucked beneath his thighs, he bolted back towards the road next to the canyon seeking the loving hand of his master. I knew his master, so I found that mildly amusing.

I was intrigued by my nasty neighbor's dog's reaction. Whatever scared that vicious dog had to be something more than just a lone wolf prowling closer. The canyons weren't very safe, and a number of assorted predators stalked the unclaimed bits of land. My neighbor's pit bull mix wasn't some frou-frou pup without a set of teeth but was the chief culprit in various missing cats, rabbits and slow birds signs posted around the neighborhood. I usually avoided the stupid dog myself. Since I didn't think it would be a good idea for me to smack the dog out of the ballpark, and generally I preferred to simply skip interacting with both the dog and the neighbor, I tried to keep my humor in check and figure out what I needed to do to keep this situation under the radar.

Laughing from the relative safety of my bay window, watching the dog bolt towards his home, I casually picked up my wand and drew a summoning circle onto the hallway mirror. Amusement aside, I knew that the dog's behavior wasn't normal -- and possibly supernatural. Given my path, I had to contact someone else to log the complaint, that being part of the proper steps to fix the issue. It took me a minute to decide the correct level of focus. Instinctively, I once I realized that there was something rather nasty afoot in the canyon, I was totally obliged to research the incident, and I had to see if it was of this world or another before finishing out my required report.

The rules dictated I couldn't do this on my own, but needed another of my status level or higher to record my reaction and give theirs. And if I was honest, I was happy to have something to do other than wait for my next ordained assignment. Patience wasn't one of my finer qualities, sadly enough, and I certainly wasn't ready to collapse in front of the brain drain box. TV was definitely the opiate of the masses, I'd found since I had come back home. But I was still restless. So the itchy wanderlust quality of my soul was singing out to be heard.

The circle was air sketched and my words were slowly spoken. The inner glow from the glass was blue-white and soon a face drifted to the surface. I happily saw familiar dark curly hair show up at first, then glowing green eyes with some slight dimples peeking out from his smile. Lenny was wearing the t-shirt I'd bought him for his birthday. He liked old rock 'n roll bands and I scoured online and went physically out to the local shops for names of long past bands or albums. And the current retro trend was making my forays into hardcore rock really ugly. I totally hated competing, but I had some cash so I usually won. The t-shirt of one of the original punk bands -- the Ramones -- was worth all the effort. I had a vague memory of a song or two but didn't have any of their music in my collection, despite his claims they were the original punk rock band. He tugged at the bottom of the shirt a bit and tried to meet my eyes without grinning. It was tough because I knew that our instructors hated all signs of modern society much less radical music. Naturally that was the reason I got him that t-shirt even if I didn't know the lyrics to "Rock 'n Roll High School."

"Master Leonard," I wiped the grin off my face and tried to be solemn.

Even outside the classroom it didn't pay to be overly familiar with one's peers when using the scrying mirror. Scrying mirrors weren't locked down and password protected in any way, which we all knew. We didn't have a clue who was monitoring our spells, or when they'd pop in to see how we were conducting ourselves in the 'real' human-run world. The world that knew nothing of our school, much less our craft, and the headmasters totally aimed at keeping it that way. Ever since those damn Potter books had made our lives that much more attractive to the mortals, we had to keep constant vigil. We weren't accepting applications from any stray humans wandering along and figuring out that we really existed. It was much safer that way we'd figured out.

"Mistress, I see you're looking well. How may I assist you this fine evening?" His face danced in front of the mirror I had enchanted for the 'call'.

That t-shirt was killing me. He knew it and sketched me a quick wink. His electric cat eyes were glowing a muddy green but thankfully there was no cracking of lightning or thunder from afar, so it seemed that our call went unnoticed by the watchers. Lenny could use his eyes to torment or curse I knew, even if the watchers didn't have a clue. I certainly wasn't giving them any ammo to damage him. He was my best friend after all.

"Leonard, there is a situation that may need your wisdom. Can you join me outside?" He nodded.

Lenny was well aware we could easily be monitored and tended to try to push the envelope whenever he had a chance. I was just glad he'd answered my scrying with his clothes on for a change. He loved showing up half naked -- I was assuming since he never walked off while talking -- I thought it was best not to enquire too closely.

"Ten minutes from now?" He asked but the twinkle in his eyes told me he'd possibly beat me to the canyon. Lenny lived a few houses over from me. We could've used the landline phones but practicing our basic skills was important. Magic had a memory and if you stopped pushing and learning it tended to fall off when it was most needed. Knowing a bit of magic, we both tried to color inside the lines whenever possible.

Before I left the house I grabbed a non-ceremonial dagger. I stowed it in the sheath at the small of my back. I had to love the leather sheaths I had made to fit me, so I never had to worry about pulling out my weapons and getting caught up in the webbing of some ill-constructed piece. It had proverbially saved my bacon more than once during the past few years being who I was. That said, my wand was automatically slipped into the space between my rib cage and my bra -- no sheath needed other than what nature had provided. Warlocks hated that we could use our cleavage this way but I figured it was there for a reason. I didn't bend easily when my staff was stored there. After many years of practice I'd learned that was the best place to put my wand. I'd concluded from trial and error that the wand's ready accessibility was more important than my flexibility needed for me to touch my toes Besides I'd figured out over the years I rarely needed to touch my toes when fighting.

Heading out the door I nearly went back inside at the first taste of the aromatic night air. Right away I could smell the bitter scent of wayward skunk and dry chaparral when I opened the door. The wave of heat that blew in was strong and nasty and it was nearly midnight. Thankfully soot and ash wasn't in the wind yet. It was just a matter of time and an idiot with a match bored by life before that occurred. Slowly walking across the hot asphalt towards the canyon I shuddered. It wasn't going to be pretty at all. I certainly didn't need to cast any exotic spell, read tea leaves in the dark or even scry on some graveyard bones to know that.

The malodorous miasma of a skunk's scent mingled with the dry brush from the canyon. I cast a quick masking spell before I hit the end of my walk. I didn't need to suck in a lungful of those odors. Lenny reached my side before I hit the other side of the street next to the canyon. Thankfully he left his cape at home; he didn't get the idea of incognito very well some days, but his tan London Fog coat worked nearly as well. He did have a good sense of stage presence. If he hadn't had any true magical talents he would've made a great stage magician in Las Vegas or on a cruise ship.

"What's up, sugar?" He couldn't help himself. He'd try to screw anyone who stayed still too long. Knowing better, I never stopped moving. Lenny wasn't bad, just really horny. Because I liked him and didn't want to screw up that friendship, I ignored his attempts at romance. He really didn't have a clue how to woo a gal so most of humanity was safe.

"Dark magic possibly chasing down the canyons." Those words tempted him more than flirting. That was the hook. Hell, he was mine for the taking I well knew.

"Did you call the headmasters?" He tried to keep a straight face. It didn't work.

"Why would I? It's my backyard. Right? Besides the Miller pit bull mutt ran from the edge of the canyon. It has to be human related." I nearly sounded convincing. I well knew from the shadows running across my spine that it wasn't human related, but I figured I would try.

"Like I care? Onward, my dear!" Lenny was a good sport. Dancing to the edge he grinned. "What do we have to lose?"

I didn't answer.

We headed into the canyon barely moon lit. I resisted snapping out a light spell and Lenny just bopped behind me. The coyotes in the distance had begun to call out. Goosebumps ran over my skin and I was skittish.

The bodies below us weren't human.

The ever after had invaded humanity. The world would never be the same if we didn't clear up this mess.

A voice shouted at us.

"Hey, what are you doing up there?"

Stressfully I looked to Lenny.

"What do you want to do?" I asked softly.

"Let's go see who this is." He offered while jumping down into the canyon.

The aged man heading towards us wasn't otherly but human. I pulled out my wand and kept it behind my back. No need to zap him if he was persuadable.

"Oh, you are that lady who lives up there," he gestured with his walking stick. I looked at the light of intelligence in his eyes and knew we weren't going to be able to simply talk him into leaving the nest of bodies. After all, seeing Chimeras slain in all their glory wasn't something easily dismissed in the human realm.

"Sure am. Aren't you Jared?" He nodded and I zapped him with my wand. I began the incantation for memory loss. Lenny watched and began to make the Chimera corpses disappear. We knew that the planes were leaking and as basic apprentices, we needed to duck and cover. The worlds were colliding. No matter what our masters wanted.

Sighing I kept enchanting the area. Of course, it had to be in my neighborhood. Fireworks were launched from the local fairgrounds lighting up our spells making me edgy. It was going to be interesting dancing on the edge of humanity.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-07-14
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