18
Jan
10

Spazmatic Magic

Hello, and welcome back again.  An especially big hi and hello to all the new readers who’ve come here over the last week or two from HorrorNews and Rhiannon Frater’s blog.  I hope everyone has been enjoying all the AS stories that have been appearing here, and from what feedback I’ve gotten, people are enjoying it [a side note: please don’t be afraid to leave feedback!]  So with the blog starting to reach a bigger audience, I have this announcement to make:

I’m going to stop putting stories on here.

“Wait, what?” I hear you say.  (Or at least I think I hear you say it.  That might just be the voices again).  “Why would you stop putting stories on the blog, especially since you just got done saying how good things are going?”  Well, really, this blog wasn’t intended to last forever.  I thought it would be cool to write a bunch of extra stories in the AS universe as a way to promote my novel The Apocalypse Shift, and then Dr. Pus from Library of Horror accepted the stories as a collection.  I wrote enough to fill out the collection, but I didn’t want to continue doing this forever.  I wanted to go on to other things. 

But that doesn’t mean this is ending just now.  I still have a month worth of stories to put here on the blog.  After that, weekly updates to this blog will continue.

“Wait, what?” I hear you say again (damned voices.)  “You just said that you were going to stop doing the blog.”

No, I didn’t.  I said I was going to stop, at least for now, doing stories on the blog.  So if I’m not going to be posting stories on my Apocalypse Shift fiction blog, then what am I going to be posting here?

Hmmmmmmm.

In a related matter, if you hadn’t yet, this would be a really good time to buy The Apocalypse Shift from Amazon.  No, really.  Really REALLY.  You should read it before the last story appears here.  You might regret it if you don’t.

So, on to this week’s story.  Thank you for reading!

Derek J. Goodman

Spazmatic Magic

     The Z-Wash Coin Laundry was otherwise empty, so Jackie took off her shirt, decided to take a picture of herself like that with her camera phone, put on another random shirt from her basket, and took another picture, this time with her tongue sticking out while she gave herself bunny ears.  She’d forgotten to bring a book with her and for some reason she couldn’t access Facebook from her phone just now, so she had a lot of time on her hands while she waited for the last of her laundry to dry.  She sat on the folding table for several moments, singing loudly and badly to herself, then jumped back down and started to walk around washers for no particular reason. 

     The apartment building Jackie had lived in for the last couple weeks had its own set of washers and dryers, but all the other students had apparently had the same urge for non-stinky clothes at the same time as her, so she hadn’t been able to get to them all day.  She needed clean clothes for tomorrow, since she thought maybe she might actually attend class for a change, and this place was the only laundromat within walking distance.  When she’d asked around about it people had told her that she probably shouldn’t go here, that it would be much safer if she didn’t leave the building at night, but she hadn’t paid any attention to that.  She wasn’t afraid of anything the neighborhood of the Hill had to throw at her, no matter what strange stories she heard from the other students.  She could defend herself from anyone that might come after her.  If someone attacked, she could just use that jar of pickles she had in her purse.  Several people had seemed weirded out when she said she kept a jar of pickles on her at all times, which of course was exactly the reason she needed to carry them.  But she figured, too, that a pickle jar smashed against a potential rapist’s face would be a pretty good deterrent.

     She was kind of surprised the laundromat had been empty the entire time she’d been in here.  The sign out front said it was open twenty-four hours, but she still thought people would be more likely to come earlier rather than later.  There wasn’t even an attendant or anything to watch over the place.  That didn’t seem professional.  What was to prevent her from just picking up a washer and walking out the door with it?  Other than the fact that a washer weighed a ton, of course.

     After making three and a half circuits around the washers (the half being the point at the end where she had gotten bored with going around and had just crawled over the top of them to get back where she had begun), she went back to her laundry basket and set it on the folding table.  Folding!  That was something she could do.  She didn’t think she had folded anything for a while.  She grabbed three shirts and started folding them together, decided that wasn’t quite how it was supposed to go, then tried folding just one shirt.  She didn’t really like that either, too boring, so she compromised and began folding all her shirts together in groups of two.

     That ended up leaving her with one t-shirt left over by itself, so just so it wouldn’t feel left out, she decided it needed some extra special attention by itself and ripped the tag out from the back of its collar.

     Her phone immediately started to ring, the sound of a cuckoo clock.  She waited until the fifth cuckoo and answered it.

     “Jaydubb’s International House of Awesome,” she said.  “Jaydubb speaking.  Will this be pick up or delivery?”

     There was a moment of quiet on the other end as though the other person didn’t know what to say (which was a common response when she answered the phone), then a deep, crackly voice hissed at her.  “Five hours.”

     Jackie wasn’t used to being confused.  Usually, if she was doing her job, it was everyone around her that ended up puzzled.  “Um, hey there.”

     Again there was a confused pause.  “Hey,” the voice said.  “Five hours.”

     “Five hours to what?”

     “Five hours until you die.”

     Jackie blinked.  “Why the hell would I die in five hours?”

     “You violated the rules.  The laws of nature.  You have offended all of order and chaos throughout the universe.”

     “Really?  That’s cool.  But how did I do that?”

     The voice sounded thoroughly baffled when it spoke again.  Maybe it wasn’t used to people asking so many questions.  From the sound of it, Jackie would guess some people might find the voice scary.  She just found it to be an interesting way to pass the time.

     “You did what you should not,” it said.  “You just did exactly what the tag said not to.”

     “The tag?”  Jackie looked down at the ripped-out shirt tag still in her hand.  “I didn’t machine wash warm?”

     “You ripped it off the shirt!” the voice said.  It sounded exasperated now.  “It clearly says do not remove tag from shirt.  You violated one of the ancient laws of the cosmos!”

     “Oh, okay,” Jackie said.  And she hung up.

     She started to put her phone in her pocket when it rang again.  “Senor Jaydubb’s Fantastic Funk Factory.”

     “Five hours!”

     She hung up again.

     Jackie finished folding the shirt, then sat down in the nearest chair for a rare moment of introspection.  That phone call had been weird.  Normally she just went with the flow with weird stuff, but that had been weirder than usual.  That had been horror movie weird.  And she knew that a smart person couldn’t just ignore horror movie weird. 

     She had been warned that something like this might happen, too.  As much as she didn’t want to ask for help, she supposed that was the only good idea at the moment.

     Jackie pulled the phone out of her pocket again and scrolled through her contacts to the Ws.  After three rings, someone picked up on the other line.

     “Hi, Aunt Wylma?  Remember when you said I should call you if anything strange happened?”

*    *    *

     Wylma twisted the damp rag she’d been using to wipe down the bar in her hands.  The Snake’s Sanctum was slow tonight, as it usually was for a Monday, but there were still too many people in here for her liking.  If Jackie was going to be here soon, Wylma wasn’t sure she wanted the girl to see the crowd Wylma usually served.

     There were only five customers in the bar at the moment, but not all of them could technically be considered humans.  Three of them, two men and a woman, were dressed in white lab coats covered in black leather jackets.  The other two were a chimpanzee that had been implanted with the brain of a Hell’s Angel and a shiny silver robot that had been programmed to only speak in Steppenwolf lyrics.

     Wylma tossed the rag down on the bar.  “Okay, everyone.  Sorry to do this to you, but I’ve got to close down the bar early.”

     The three biker mad scientists mumbled to themselves but started for the door.  The chimpanzee didn’t seem too pleased, though.  “Hey bitch, I ain’t got my drunk on enough yet!”

     Wylma would have whispered some nasty spell at the primate, but thankfully she didn’t need to.  Instead the robot smacked the chimp upside the back of his head.  “Getcher motor running,” the robot said.

     “Hey,” the chimp said.  “Since when did you become the boss a’ me?”

     The robot smacked him again.  “Head out on the highway.”

     Finally the chimp relented and they all left, leaving Wylma alone to turn off the “Open” sign.  Maybe that had been unnecessary given the circumstances, but she still felt better knowing that she would do this without anyone else around as a distraction.  Wylma’s sister had always done everything in her power to keep Jackie away from Wylma, but Wylma had known this day would come.  Part of that had been because Jackie had seemed different ever since she’d been a baby.  Another part had been because, two weeks ago, a glass of beer had told Wylma about tonight.

     Wylma grabbed the nearest semi-clean glass and did a few esoteric hand gestures over it while muttering a simple rhyme.  There was a popping noise as the glass filled with a scotch and soda, although mostly soda.  She wanted to calm her nerves for this, not get drunk.  She also had an unfortunate tendency to give every drink she magiced into existence a lemony flavor, and it would have been a crime to ruin good scotch like that.

     She wondered idly as she drank just how much Jackie really knew about any of this, but she supposed the answer was likely “not much.”  Jackie had always seemed off in her own world, and although she was smart, it was still hard to tell how much she actually paid attention to anything.  Corinne, Jackie’s mother and Wylma’s sister, thought she knew a lot about Wylma’s lifestyle and had forbidden Jackie to ever be a part of it, but Wylma had always thought Jackie would come to her.  The fact that Jackie had chosen to go to a college right on the edge of the Hill, the center of Wylma’s strange world, had only been a confirmation of that.

     Wylma’s niece was about to become a part of this world, one way or another.  But if Jackie approached this the same way she approached everything else, then Wylma didn’t think this would be easy.  Wylma said a few more incantations and made a bottle of aspirin appear on the bar.  It would probably taste like lemons, too, but Wylma would need them anyway.

     Wylma saw Jackie approaching through the window, but Jackie didn’t look too terribly concerned about her situation.  Jackie had explained what had happened over the phone, or had at least tried to in her typical no-attention-span way, and Wylma would have thought that the girl would at least be a little scared.  Instead Jackie looked like she didn’t have a care in the world.  She was much more intent on balancing her full laundry basket on top of her head. 

     Jackie looked genuinely pleased to be here as she opened the door and walked in.  Her curly blonde hair was streaked with purple this week, which clashed completely with her bright yellow t-shirt and flannel pajama pants.  Just the mere sight of the girl was already threatening to give Wylma a headache.

     Wylma popped a few of the aspirin as a preemptive measure.

     “Aunt Wylma!” Jackie said a weirdly macho voice as she set her laundry basket on the nearest table before bounding over to the bar to give Wylma a hug.  Despite the situation, Wylma threw her arms wide and grasped her niece from across the bar.  Even though Corrine had done her best to keep the two of them apart over the years, there was no doubt that they were related.  Wylma noticed that Jackie had at some point drawn smiley faces and rainbows all over her arms in pen, creating an almost mirror image of the cheery Disney tattoos that adorned Wylma’s own arms. 

     “Honey, it’s so good to see you!” Wylma said.  “What have you been up to?”

     “Having my life threatened by a mysterious all crackly voice.  It was awesome.  How about you?”

     Wylma nodded, trying not to show any exasperation.  She knew that others considered her exuberant, but she had nothing on this girl.  Jackie’s personality might make some of what Wylma had to show her a little tougher than usual. 

     “Okay, honey,” Wylma said.  “Tell me exactly what…”

     “Jaydubb.”

     “What?” Wylma asked.

     “Call me Jaydubb.”

     “Why?”

     “Why not?  Hey, I totally got to show you what I can do.”  Before Wylma could say anything more, Jackie reached over the bar and grabbed three salt and pepper shakers.  She started to juggle them, spraying salt and pepper everywhere, but she dropped one after only a few seconds.

     “Just wait, I can do this,” Jackie said as she bent down to grab the lost salt shaker.

     “Jackie, honey…”

     “Jaydubb.”

     “Jaydubb, whatever, you need to focus.  Your life may actually be in serious danger.”

     Jackie gave the shakers a few more throws, then caught them all out of the air, slammed them down on the bar, and plopped onto a bar stool.  “And I’m listening.”

     “Jack… uh, Jaydubb, I don’t think you really understand what’s happening.”

     “So what is happening?  Seriously, those phone calls were freaky.  When I looked at the caller ID, it said the caller was ‘From Hell.’  I totally got a call from a Johnny Depp movie!”

     “Well yes, you… wait, huh?  No.  Okay, hold on.  What I mean is…”

     For the first time since she had entered the bar, Jackie’s voice took on a serious tone.  “You’re a witch, aren’t you?”

     “Why would you say that?”

     “Mom always said things about you.  Mostly I didn’t understand what she was talking about.  But I kind of figured it out.”

     “Actually, no.  I’m not a witch.  I’m a sorceress.  There’s a difference.”

     “And this neighborhood, you live here because it’s… different?  That much I figured out all by my lonesome.”

     “Yes, it is different.  There are things here, lots of scary things.  And from what you told me, it sounds like one of those things has got it in for you now.”

     “But I didn’t do anything, not really.  It was just a stupid clothing tag.”

     “There are rules around here, and you’ve got to be careful about them.  Sometimes the rules are good, like carrying religious jewelry around with you in case you need to ward something off.  Or sometimes the rules are weird and stupid, like not feeding certain creatures after midnight.”

     Jackie’s eyes went wide.  “Ooooh.  So that’s why that weird little cat-dog thing turned into a cocoon when I gave it a candy bar.”

     “You did what?”  Wylma waved a dismissive hand in the air.  “You know what?  Forget about it.  We’ll deal with that later.  For now we have to worry about whatever this thing is that says it wants to kill you.”

     Jackie picked up the shakers and began to juggle them again.

     “Jackie, pay attention!”

     “I’m listening.  And can I call you Shaker from now on?”

     “Why the hell would you call me that?”

     “Because you have salt and pepper shakers in your bar.”

     Wylma picked up the aspirin bottle and held it against her chest, wishing she knew some sort of tranquilizer spell.  She actually knew several, but none she thought were safe enough for her own flesh and blood.

     “So yes, Jackie.  I’m a sorceress, and this neighborhood is very different.  That’s why you’re here, I think.”

     “I thought I was here because of crackly-phone-voice-guy.”

     “Not here specifically at the bar.  Here on the Hill.  Jackie… Jackie, for the love of Cthulhu…”  Wylma snatched the nearest shaker out of the air, causing Jackie to drop the other two.  “Jackie, I think forces have conspired to bring you here for the same reason I ended up here.  I think you’re special.”

     “That’s what my mom always tells me, but I think she means special ed.”

     “Well that’s not what I mean, and I think you know it.  Just focus for a second and tell me: you feel something inside you, don’t you?”

     Jackie leaned on the bar but wouldn’t meet Wylma’s eyes.  “Maybe.  I don’t know.  I used to think everyone felt it.  Just… energy.  Lots and lots of energy.”

     Wylma took Jackie’s hand.  “Hon, I’ve been watching you ever since you were a little girl, even when your mom thought she was keeping me away from you.  And I have to tell you, after all this time, I really think you’ve got a gift for magic.  I think you may be a 37.65.”

     “What the heck is that supposed to mean?”

     “If you really want to save your life right now, and be able to save it again in the future, then you’ll have to learn what it means.  And you’ve got just over four hours to do it.”

*    *    *

     Aunt Wylma had a back office in her bar, but there wasn’t any desk or filing cabinets or anything like Jackie would have expected.  Instead it was bare, except for a circle etched into the floor, pictures of Winnie the Pooh and various Disney princesses pasted on the walls, and a folding table holding something that looked suspiciously like a chemistry set.

     “Is that for you to mix magic potions and stuff?” Jackie asked.

     Wylma blushed.  “Um, yeah.  Something like that.”  Jackie knew she was lying, but she wasn’t interested enough right now to push the subject.  She was excited by what her aunt had just told her, yet she wasn’t completely surprised.  She had always thought there was something more exciting and interesting about herself that the rest of the world wouldn’t acknowledge, and now she had found out she was right.

     “So does this mean I’m going to become a sorceress, too?” Jackie asked.

     “Well, not exactly.”

     “A witch then?  I’m not going to turn all green and warty, am I?”

     “Only certain kinds of witches are green, but no.  You’re not a witch either, really.”

     “So if I’m supposed to use magic but I’m not going to be a witch or a sorceress, then what am I going to be?”

     Wylma smiled.  “You, hon, are going to be a complete and total Spaz.”

     Jackie gave two thumbs up, even though she didn’t have the slightest clue what that meant.

     Wylma looked at the circle on the floor and paced around it as she talked.  “You see, when people talk about magic, they act like there’s only one kind.  But there are many different systems of magic, each one operating under its own rules.  In fact, there are 107.314 kinds that I’m aware of.”

     “How do you get the .314?”

     “Some magic counts for extra, while some don’t equal a whole system.  I guess you could just say that some magic thinks it’s better than other magic.  Some of these magic systems don’t work on the Hill, while a few others only work on the Hill.  It’s all really confusing.”

     “Actually, I don’t think that’s confusing at all.”

     “Really?”

     “No, not really.  I don’t have the slightest clue about anything you’re saying.  So why is the Hill so different to begin with?”

     “Wish I could tell you, hon.  I’ve been trying to figure that out for myself for years.  Every time I ask the beer and the peanuts about it, all they show me is some sort of bird and something that looks like a lizard.”

     Jackie thought about asking how beer and peanuts would know anything, then realized it actually made perfect sense to her.

     “So what kind of magic do you use, Shaker?” Jackie asked.

     “Please don’t call me that.  The kind I can tap into is Metatrastic Magnastimous Magic of Miidoon.  Most people just call it Strange Magic.  It comes from symbols and words arranged in a focusing manner.”

     “I hope that’s not what you think I can do, because I don’t think I can do anything I can’t spell.”

     Wylma moved Jackie to the center of the circle before making a few complicated hand gestures at the floor.  “No, like I said.  You couldn’t be a plain old sorceress.  You’re not a person that could be confined to all the rigid rituals it would require.  You’re a chaotic person.  You thrive on weirdness and anything outside the normal.  Am I right?”

     Jackie responded by pulling a live bullfrog out of her pocket.  “Oh hey, I forgot I had him in there.  Except I must have really forgotten.  I don’t remember putting him in my pocket in the first place.”

     Wylma laughed.  “Jackie, you probably didn’t, although I won’t say it’s not a possibility.  The circle you’re in is part of my own magical system.  It’s supposed to be a way I can protect myself from outside forces when working a particularly complicated spell.  But it’s also keeping any magical energy you give off from getting out.  As long as you stay within that circle, you’re energy will be amplified and will have… well, odd effects.”

     Jackie burped.  It tasted like lawn gnomes.  She wasn’t entirely sure how she knew that.

     “You called me a Spaz,” Jackie said.

     “My own word for it, since there really isn’t a word for what you are.  The magic system you seem to be able to use is sometimes called Spazmatic Magic, or just magic system 37.65.”

     Jackie thought she could feel a difference in the air around her as she stood in the circle.  She rarely drank coffee, since when she did it gave her an excess of energy capable even of annoying herself.  But when she did, this was what it felt like.  There was a tingling feeling on her skin, and she felt jittery.  She jumped up and down in place a few times, but stopped when the floor began to buckle under her and send her higher like a trampoline.

     “Whoa, that’s freaky awesome,” Jackie said.

     Aunt Wylma sighed and put a hand to her temple.  “Please don’t do that.  You see, there are people who can use the same energy as you, but they rarely do.  Know why?”

     “Because my brain feels funny?  I mean, even funnier than normal.”

     “Pretty much,” Wylma said.  “You see, when I call Spazmatic Magic a system, that’s not completely true.  On the scale of magic systems, it only really counts as one third of a system.”

     “But I thought it was number 37.65.  Isn’t that, like, two thirds or something?”

     “Well, yeah, but there’s this really pretentious system right before it on the scale, Awesome Hermetical Magic of Awesomeness, that thinks it should count for one and a third systems.  But that’s beside the point.  Spazmatic Magic doesn’t really have rules.  It’s basically a semi-controlled chaos.  You’ve had it ruling you your whole life without even knowing it.  But actually turning it into something you can use?  That’s difficult.”

     “But I can do it, right?  I can learn to use it before that whatever phone creepy thing comes for me?”  Jackie whistled for no good reason other than it seemed like the thing to do at the moment.  As soon as the note left her mouth, it turned to raspberry jelly and spewed all over Wylma.

     “At this point?” Wylma said as she wiped jelly from her eye.  “I really don’t know.”

*    *    *

     Wylma loved Jackie.  Really she did.  She’d been adorable as a child while Wylma had watched from afar, and she had shown so much promise as she had grown.  And once Wylma had begun to suspect what kind of magic was Jackie’s calling, she’d done everything she could to prepare the girl to use it.

     But right now she felt a terrible urge to run screaming and leave Jackie to her fate.  The girl had zero attention span, and this form of magic, if it could really be called a form at all, was completely unpredictable.  Just how was she supposed to teach the rules to something that didn’t have any rules to begin with?

     They’d practiced in the bar’s back room for several hours, but Wylma only had limited success.  She’d tried to get Jackie to do basic spells, things that should have been child’s play in Wylma’s own form of magic, but every attempt had been messy at best and disastrous at worst.  Wylma had tried to get Jackie to levitate a couple spatulas from the grill, but Jackie had instead turned them into two doughnuts and a woodpecker.  The woodpecker was now somewhere in the bar drilling holes in the wall, but Wylma hadn’t had time to look for it because she’d instead been trying to put out the fires Jackie had started when she’d tried to turn the doughnuts back. 

     The only thing Wylma had been successful in teaching Jackie was how to access her spastic energy without the amplification of the circle, although she wasn’t sure anymore if that was really a success.  That only meant Jackie’s chaotic form of magic was now loosed on the world.

     The time for practicing was over now, though.  If Jackie couldn’t use her abilities in any meaningful way, then that only meant Wylma would have to be the one to protect her.  The best way to do that would be to go back to where this had all started, hopefully to confront whatever force it was that had threatened Jackie’s life.  They walked back to the Z-Wash as quickly as they could, a journey that all by itself hurt Wylma’s head.  Jackie had someone found a way to move while standing still yet stay in one place while walking, and every time Wylma looked over and saw the girl delighting in this, Wylma felt the urge to go back to the bar and get her aspirin again.

     “Hey, Aunt Wylma,” Jackie said as she stood in one place at a speed Wylma could barely keep up with.  “I think I figured something out.”

     Wylma allowed herself a moment of hope.  “Oh?  What’s that?”

     “Knock, knock,” Jackie said, and a hole opened up in front of Wylma.  She had to pinwheel her arms desperately to keep from falling in.

     “Jackie, gods damn it!”

     “Oops, sorry.  That wasn’t what I expected to happen.  Which is exactly what I expected to happen.”

     “Damn it, I really hate this,” Wylma said as she carefully moved around the hole.  It looked deep, and if she strained she thought she could hear people speaking in Mandarin from the bottom.

     “Hate what?” Jackie asked.

     “Spazmatic Magic is just… well, it’s just not a very good form of magic.  It would have been easier if your calling had been voodoo or thaumaturgy or Rowlingian or something like that.”

     “Hey, what do you mean it’s not very good?  I’m thinking it’s pretty effing cool.”

     “Did you really just say ‘effing?'”

     “You know, Mom always talked crap about you because you were different,” Jackie said.  Suddenly her standing in place really did become standing in place, and she had to start walking to catch up with Wylma.  “So why would you think it’s okay to talk crap because I’m different?”

     “Honey, I’m not talking crap about you,” Wylma said.  “I’m just saying…”  She wasn’t sure what she was saying.  She just didn’t like the randomness of Jackie’s magic.  She much preferred when things fit into easy categories.  Sure, there were other people like Corrine who used those categories as an excuse to say they were right and everyone else was a freak, but…

     But nothing, Wylma realized.  That was kind of what she had just been doing with Jackie just now.

     “I’m sorry,” Wylma said.  “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

     “That’s okay,” Jackie said.  The laundry mat was only about a block away now, and she sped up as they approached.  “You can totally make it up to me by letting me show you just how spazzy I can be all over what ghost-monster-demon thing is after me.  I’ll just get my spaz on all over it.  Oh, hey, that sounded dirty.  Ew, Aunt Wylma, get your mind out of the gutter.”

     Jackie ran into the laundromat, and Wylma, shaking her head, followed.

*    *    *

     Aw hell yeah.  Jackie could do this.  She totally could.  Now if she could just figure out what “this” was supposed to be.

     She jumped through the laundromat’s door and screamed “ha!” while striking a ninja pose.  There didn’t appear to be anyone in the place, which seemed like a waste of a perfectly good ninja pose, but Aunt Wylma came in a few seconds later to see it, so Jackie supposed it wasn’t wasted after all. 

     “Jackie, I don’t think that’s going to do anything,” Wylma said.  Jackie just answered with another soft “ha!”  Aunt Wylma may know magic, but she had admitted straight up that she didn’t know anything Jackie’s magic.  Of course, Jackie didn’t know anything about her magic either, which was exactly why she knew a ninja pose would be useful.

     She could feel a strange buzzing sensation coming from somewhere in the building now.  Maybe it had been there before, but she hadn’t been letting herself sense it.  Or, more likely, she’d been trying too hard to sense something different in the world, and that was exactly why it hadn’t been working.  In just a few hours of talking with Aunt Wylma, despite Wylma’s belief that those hours had been wasted, Jackie had come to understand the key principle in who she was and what she could do.  And that understanding was simply that she could never understand anything.

     “How much more time do we have before the five hours are up?” Wylma asked.

     Jackie’s phone rang.  She answered it.

     “Eight minutes, forty-three seconds,” the crackly voice said, then hung up.

     “Well, at least this thing, whatever it is, is accommodating,” Wylma said. 

     “Do you think it actually comes from here in the laundromat?” Jackie asked.

     “I guess,” Wylma said.  “It certainly didn’t respond to us talking about it while we were at the bar or on the streets.”

     “So we can probably talk to it,” Jackie said.  “You can come out early,” she said to the room.  “Really.  If you’re gonna kill me you might as well get it over with.”

     “Jackie,” Wylma said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.  We should take the remaining minutes to prepare and…”

     The phone rang again.  Jackie answered.

     “Stop that,” the voice said.

     “Stop what?” she asked.

     “Talking to me.  I’m just supposed to be a scary voice until the moment I come out to kill you.  I can’t exactly be scary if you keep talking to me.  That’s how the rules work.”  The voice hung up.

     “Oh, quit being such a damp blanket,” Jackie said to the room.  “I want to talk to you.  Hey, you know what?  I should go get some cards and we can totally play Go Fish!”

     The phone rang.  Jackie answered.

     “I’m warning you, you little bitch.”

     “Hey, did you know I can juggle?” Jackie said.  “I’m super good at it.”

     “That’s it.  I don’t care if it’s against the rules, I coming for you now just to shut you up.”  The line went dead, and the cell phone sparked.

     “Aw man, now that thing totally owes me a phone,” Jackie said.  “But it should be here any second now.”

     “Ooh, I really don’t think this is a good idea,” Wylma said.  Before she could even finish the sentence, though, every washer and dryer in the laundry mat turned itself on at once.

     “That’s usually not a good sign.  I’ve got to put up a protection spell or something,” Wylma said.  She stepped ahead of Jackie and made some gestures in the air with her hands while she chanted.  “By the secret sacred shells of Shellaculon, by the…”

     “No,” Jackie said.  “I actually know exactly what I need to do.”

     “You do?”

     “Nope, not a clue.  But don’t you see?  That’s exactly how it works.” 

     Wylma stepped back, obviously not happy about this and probably not understanding.  By not understanding, however, maybe she was finally beginning to understand.  If you understood Spazmatic Magic, you didn’t understand it at all.  But if you didn’t get it, then you got it perfectly.  This wasn’t some magic system like all the others that operated on strict rules.  This was magic in its purest form, all the chaos in between the arbitrary rules. 

     And Jackie was nothing if not chaotic.

     All the machines in the laundromat came to a stop except for one.  A dryer directly across from where Jackie stood continued to go even as its door clicked and slowly swung open.  Something black and hazy swirled inside it.  The haze coalesced into something more tangible, and a hand reached through and went down to support itself on the ground.  Except it wasn’t a hand, exactly.  It was a mitten, and it was attached to the end of a sweatshirt that had faded from too many washings.  A second hand came out to join the first on the floor, except this one was a threadbare glove.

     “Oh, hey,” Wylma said.  “This is a new one, even for the Hill.”

     The thing was made entirely out of old clothes.  Its legs were a pair of jeans with several holes in them, showing a complete lack of flesh underneath.  Its feet, when they came out, were a pair of mismatched socks.  But the most interesting feature of all was its head.  Jackie couldn’t see a face of any kind, but it did have long black hair covering where the face would be.  As it finished crawling out of the dryer, though, Jackie realized the hair was actually thousands of long strands of thread.

     “Is that supposed to be scary?” Jackie asked.

     “Its hair is in its face,” Wylma said.  “That’s always scary.”

     “But it doesn’t have a face,” Jackie said.  “And it’s made of old clothes.  Sorry, not impressed.”

     In a flash of inhuman motion, the clothes-creature skittered across the floor on all fours and stopped just in front of Jackie.

     “Okay, maybe a little impressed,” she said.

     “Jackie, if there’s something you think you can do,” Wylma said, “I really suggest doing it now.”

     “Okay.  Wanna see me moonwalk?” Jackie asked the clothes.

     “No, damn it,” the clothes hissed.  It sounded like multiple fabrics brushing against each other.  “No more games.  You violated the rules of this sacred place…”

     “It’s a laundromat,” Jackie said.

     “It is sacred to my kind!  You violated the rules!”

     “I’m not exactly a rules kind of person,” Jackie said.  With that, she grabbed the mitten and glove, pulled them away from the rest of the clothes-creature, and started to juggle them.

     “Stop that!  How am I supposed to strangle you to death without my hands?”

     “Kind of the point.”

     “This is very rude,” the clothes-creature said.  It took several steps backward, but Jackie stepped on its foot and it fell backward.

     “Do you get it now, Aunt Wylma?” Jackie said.  She dropped the glove and mitten.  Before either of them could hit the ground they transformed.  The mitten became a swarm of moths that instantly attacked the clothes-creature, causing the thing to release its closest approximation to a scream.  The glove turned into a Mr. Potato Head.  When it hit the ground, the parts spread all over the floor and proceeded to do absolutely nothing.

     “Nope,” Wylma said.  “I have to say, I am now more confused than ever.”

     The clothes-creature tried to move back towards the washer, but the moths had already eaten several large ragged holes in it.  The threads were falling off its “head” in massive clumps, and its scream was beginning to peter out.  It stayed in a vaguely human shape for only a few seconds more before it finally collapsed.  The moths flew off, most of them vanishing as they flew, while a few others turned into Legos and joined the Mr. Potato Head parts on the floor.  For a moment the clothes twitched, looking like they were about to get back up.  Jackie moonwalked just to make sure, and they went still.

     “I did it,” Jackie said.  “I really did it!”

     “Yeah, um, I guess you did,” Wylma said.  “I can’t say I have the slightest clue how, though.”

     “You could just say that I did it by being me,” Jackie said.

     Wylma smiled.  “I could, but that would mean I would have to figure out just what you are.”

     “You said it yourself, Shaker,” Jackie said.  “I am a complete and total Spaz.”  And she celebrated by running a lap around the washers.

(c) 2010 Derek Goodman

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3 Responses to “Spazmatic Magic”


  1. 1 Jackie
    January 18, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Totally Spaztastic! Although, why did you write laundry mat instead of laundromat???


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