Prompt Short Story: Anomaly (Interviews with a Sorcerer #10)

10 – Interviews With A Sorcerer – Anomaly

CWs: mentions of abuse, but nothing specific. Murder of people and animals alluded to.

Well, here we are. I was asked to give you 10 answers – 10 stories – that you could use to introduce sorcerers to the normie world. I presume other supernaturals have been doing something similar, so you must have quite the collection by now.

Have you been putting them out each time? Or saving them into one volume? I don’t know how the human race takes in this sort of information anymore, or how it’s shared.

But however it’s being done, this is my last one. After this, I can live in peace. I’m as far from the new civilisations as I could get, and anyone coming near, well, I have magic that keeps me hidden.

How all this is received…I admit I am curious, but not curious enough. I’m old and tired, and I want to die in peace.

So this is my last. And you’ve said storyteller’s choice! So let me tell you the most horrifying and ridiculous story I have. One where, if I hadn’t been there myself, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Even other supernaturals look at me like I just started hopping in circles going “Goo-goo gah?” at the sky.

On the other hand, who doesn’t love a horrifying and ridiculous story?

Besides. You wondered about that last bit of my last story. What crime is so bad that the doer is shunned even by the guy who visits serial killers to try and help rehabilitate them.

The world of the supernatural is fucked up. You know that by now. Our laws and expectations are very different from yours, but some things run true whoever you are. I’m sure at many points in human history there have been acts so outlandish, so terrible, that nobody had even thought to make a law against them. This is the story of the time I walked blindly into one of those.

OK, so, you know how our magic works, right? We grab strings, make them into shapes, tell them what to do. You know the drill. What you don’t know, because it’s so rare – was rare centuries before the Fall was even thought of – is that there was other magic. That which came Before.

The history here is pretty…well it’s mostly guesswork and assumption based on cave drawings and ancient stories written down a few millennia after they were first shared, that sort of thing. I’m not a student of it, I just know what I’ve been told, and there were a lot of details that didn’t survive; a lot of connections students of this history have made based on what little they had. So, some of this is going to be patchy, and those are going to be the most believable bits.

But here’s the Before history as I’ve picked it up, over the years.

We think that, long before we developed the urge to have language and use it to keep records, there were people who had a much wilder form of magic. It’s gotten tamed, over the millennia, honed and controlled, and that wild magic… Well the story I told you last time, about Mill. That was wild magic. The grief pushed him to a place we try so very hard not to go, because wild magic is, to we who learned to carefully pick and shape every string, uncontrollable.

But way back before any of us can really properly imagine, there was wild magic. Those who could use it might be revered as gods or hunted like animals, depending on whatever such things depend on, but they had incalculable power over the very literal fabric of the universe. So chasing them down was a really bad idea. And worshipping them was a slightly less bad idea.

So, these wild magic users, they often left behind them weird shifts in the fabric of the universe, because they did such weird shit with it, and it was pretty violently done. Over time, most of these could heal themselves, but some couldn’t, for whatever reason.

Wherever there was a remaining shift in the fabric, there’d be anomalies associated with them. There used to be a lot who could deal with them, but they became an increasingly low number over time, as they lessened in number, as the training was especially difficult and dangerous. It would take a very patient and trained pair – each watching out for the safety of the other – to carefully detangle whatever was going on and set right whatever strings could be fixed, or excise portions and help the universe rebuild them.

The things these anomalies could do…they might speed or slow time, change your hair colour, explode you into a soggy mess, disappear you either in part or completely, random things like that. The best guess is that they continued on trying to do whatever the original wild magic was, with varying levels of success.

OK, so that’s about the best I’ve got for all the history. Onto the story.

About 80 years ago, I hooked up with another sorcerer. Unusual for me, since the first incident in the Secret City, but she charmed me into bed, and I decided to stick around for a while.

Danni was younger than me by a few decades, but that’s not really an issue in our culture. We live so long that being around the same age is less unusual than being in a relationship with another sorcerer to begin with! Human issues of being in different life stages are still there, but because they’re so stretched out, if we can handle being with another sorcerer then we can handle that. She worked as a nurse, using subtle healing magic to help people recover. The little I know of that, I learned from her.

Her background was…well it was fucking awful, to be frank. I’m not gonna go into it except for what I specifically need.

As a kid, when her magic showed up it was in the ability to heal life, even that which had already passed. She used it on plants, mostly, but when her Gramps, whom she loved dearly and spent most of her time with, died, I figure you can get what she did in her grief without too much trouble.

She was taken out to the desert and abandoned.

Then she was found by some traffickers and sold.

Then, after another incident, she was found by a sorcerer and their mate, a werewolf. They took her in and raised her, trained her themselves. No school, though. Which meant she didn’t get all of the training they drill and brand and hammer into us. The morality of magic. The ethics of being more highly powered than others. All of the things that we learn to help temper our egos and worst impulses. And her magic was never trained to be as tightly controlled as it needed to be.

That’s not to say they didn’t try – she certainly knew her ethical code, but without the drilling, it was…flexible. She had a normie’s attitude to ethics, and a sorcerer’s ability to shape the world as she wished. It was a bad combination, and somehow, somewhere, it was going to bite someone in the ass.

And as it happened, I got to be around for it. Lucky me, right?

We’d known each other for a couple of weeks, and I’d sometimes stay at hers after we met up, and she’d sometimes go to the flat I was renting. I preferred my place, really. It was a little bland – no personal touches in a temporary rental – but her place was doing a good job of falling down. She’d moved in there just a couple of years prior, after some incident or other had chased her from the place she’d grown up. I never got the full details on that, but I also never quite believed her protestations of being entirely innocent. That should have sent me packing, to be honest, but she was so obviously broken, I wanted to help fix her. I wanted to see if that ethical flexibility could be made a bit sturdier, and I felt a little bit duty-bound to try my best.

The things that happened to her after the traffickers took her were atrocious, and the adoptive parents didn’t or couldn’t help with that trauma. She had regular nightmares. Proper night terrors. Flashbacks. Triggers around a whole lot of things. She could barely exist in the world.

I met her at a hardware store. I was grabbing some bits I needed for the flat. She was grabbing some bits she needed to do some major remodelling. I crashed into her trolley with mine, because I was paying more attention to the shelves than ahead of me. I apologised, she apologised, we spotted each other’s magical aura, and we introduced ourselves. That evening, she took me out on a walk to introduce me to the city. We ended up in her bed, and that was that.

I figured, as I wasn’t doing much else, that I could help with the remodelling. It’d been years since anyone had lived there, and the last owners had been elderly so a lot of problems had built up, not been dealt with, then just left, leaving this old house in disrepair, while the place sat on the books of some estate agent who never expected to actually sell it. 

It was a huge house, and she was using the downstairs study – what she was planning to make into a study – as a bedroom because the stairs were so rotten she’d had to pull the whole framework down. She asked me not to touch that section, so I left the tarp over it and helped with what I could. Fortunately, being a sorcerer does make DIY easier! You have no idea how many tradesmen have magic – often it never came to the surface, they just have a way with some things. Like the plumber who’s the only one who can fix that dodgy boiler. Or the mechanic who can tell what’s wrong with your car with barely a glance, and fix it within the hour every time. There’s a lot of professions, trade and otherwise, where near-sorcerers find their niche, without their sleeping magic ever blossoming.

Anyway, we fixed up the kitchen and it became routine for me to go there a couple of times a week and cook. Danni could cook too, but I enjoyed it much more, and I really enjoyed watching her eat and appreciate what I’d made. Plus, I could do it without magic, which seemed to have some extra appeal. I think she liked having one thing that was just untouched by it, you know?

Sometimes she’d disappear for a while – a few days, maybe a week – and I’d get on with a job somewhere, but I’d come back to that flat, either knowing she was home or knowing she would be soon. And we went on like that for half a year or so.

I wouldn’t say we were in love, but I cared for her a lot. She was someone that needed taking care of, and feeling that all put upon me was crushing at times. Those times she disappeared were my recuperation. I could leave, do something else, and come back feeling more refreshed to carry on.

The thing is, she was underdeveloped in a lot of ways. Emotionally stunted, lacking control over herself. For a sorcerer, that’s a really bad thing. More than once, even in those first few weeks, I had to pull her back from whatever brink she was at, as the house or my flat started to try and rattle itself apart. Unfocused wild magic is the most dangerous thing I can think of. It would happen very occasionally to a young sorcerer, usually hitting their teens. When you can’t control it, and have no way to direct it, the only outcome is destruction, and it’ll happily take you with it along with anything else nearby. The only solution I know when it goes out of control, is to take away what it feeds on. So I’d have to enclose her in a magic-free cage and wait it out. Not as easy as it sounds, I promise you!

I could have stayed gone, I suppose, on one of the occasions she went walkabout. I almost did a number of times. But I was worried what would happen if I wasn’t there to hold her together. The fact that this somehow hadn’t been an issue before crossed my mind, but I had no answer for it, so I pushed it away. Something, some instinct I couldn’t name, told me to stay, so I stayed, and I waited.

During one of those wild magic episodes, the tarp over the torn down stairs ripped away, and I saw what was behind it.

She’d done a great job of concealing it. Only the tiniest bit of my subconscious had sensed it – and it was this which told me to stay and wait.

She had a wild magic anomaly, right where the cupboard under the stairs used to be.

All I could do right then was wait until she had returned from the latest episode. Then, I asked.

She said she’d felt it when she came to view the house and, although at the time she didn’t know what it did, she bought the place anyway so she could find out.

Her affinity with wild magic was higher than most of us, thanks to her lack of proper training, so her response to it was different. Where I’d have shut the place down with a magic shield and guarded it until people could arrive to take over and get it repaired, she basically poked it with a stick until it showed her what it could do.

None of this up to here is bad. It maybe sounds a little silly, but no more than most of my stories do to normies, I’m sure. But this anomaly was the remnant of some sort of time spell. After some false starts, Danni had figured out that it could be used to move herself through time.

Time travel? Yeah, I know, but the combination of the anomaly and Danni’s half-trained, half-wild magical affinities, were just the right key to the lock.

The sorcerers that can repair these anomalies, they train to control a small amount of wild magic. Danni had just enough training to be dangerous, and not enough to be controlled. Add to that all of her trauma, and here was an opportunity for her to do something.

If you know about how the brain processes trauma this makes some sense. Because a traumatised brain doesn’t make sense. It will make connections another brain wouldn’t even think about. And to Danni, a way to push herself back through time meant a way to do something about all the people who had caused that trauma.

Time travel doesn’t really work how you people think it does. To be fair, it doesn’t work how most of us think it does either. It’s something we can’t do with our controlled magic, and only Danni’s unique combination of control, wild magic, and trauma, allowed her to do it.

But one of the things that we are taught, is that no matter what happens, some things are so monstrous that they should never even cross our minds.

Danni didn’t have that.

It meant nothing to her, to travel back to the times when she was being mistreated and misused, follow back the thread to a time just before the abuser was born, and simply…remove all trace of their family from existence.

The answer to my question of how she had lived all these years with the wild magic regularly going critical inside her was suddenly simple: it didn’t do that before she started this revenge project.

You see, history changed, those people, and all the things they would do, people they’d affect, kids they’d have, this all stopped existing. But it was like using a knife to cut up a jigsaw puzzle – you can take away that specific part, but all of the surrounding picture remains.

Human brains have ways of dealing with that. Some bad dreams, some feelings like you’re meant to be somewhere you’re not, know someone you don’t, deja vu. It notices, but it protects itself. It files it away in a box, writes DO NOT OPEN on the side, and that’s it. Done.

Sorcerer’s minds don’t get to do that.

Danni’s revenge was tearing apart her mind. Two sets of memories were fighting for survival – the one she knew she’d lived, and the one this new timeline said she’d lived. The more revenge she got, the more unstable she became.

And there was me, stuck in the middle trying to figure out what the fuck to do about it.

But what could I do? I couldn’t let her keep doing that. Yes, those abusive assholes deserved to die, but taking innocents along with it? Changing the history of the world for revenge? By the time I’d processed everything she was saying, I couldn’t even look at her.

We’re taught – or, we’re meant to be taught – that messing with the human world, their history, their memories, anything like that, is the greatest abuse of power we can do. Anything beyond ensuring they don’t remember magic or werewolves or whatever – which is for their safety and ours – is the highest level of forbidden. And only specially trained law are meant to do even that. Sure, we might bend that law a little to save them some work, but we never, ever go beyond it.

We never, ever shatter it like she did.

I told her this. Told her she was hurting innocent people. Told her if she wanted to go kill those abusers now, in this moment, that I’d gladly help. But changing history, killing people who had never harmed her – or preventing them from even existing – was something I couldn’t let her keep doing.

I tried to explain, tried to talk to the person I cared about, someone who could never do such a thing if she knew the true consequences, but she turned into…well, she turned into the person who could do such a thing and relish the consequences. She didn’t care about the innocent people, she said. Nobody was innocent, and once she was done she planned to do something to destroy the entire plague of humans. She described the people, adults and children that would never be born. The ones she’d killed in their beds. She’d even taken out their pets.

It struck me that she sounded like a cartoon villain, and I couldn’t get that particular image out of my head. I think she wanted that, maybe? I don’t know. But everything about her, even this version, was so purposeful.

I couldn’t believe how easily I’d been fooled. That niggling bit of my subconscious that I’d kept sitting on, just burst into the front of my mind in full glory, and not even her wild magic could get past the shield I flung up around her. I think, in fact, that might be the only time I ever touched wild magic myself. I pulled strings and flung them into shape. They shouldn’t have held, without me able to exert control over them, but they did. And she battered at the sides until she burned herself out, and collapsed into a bundle.

I called the law, explained everything. Explained it again. Then a third time.

Then I sat and I waited.

Every so often she would raise her head and talk to me. She’d tell me how she was going to destroy my parents, maybe even my grandparents, just to be sure I could never be born. That I was now one of her abusers. That every second of our time together was just her using me to keep her episodes under control.

The person I knew vanished in a heartbeat, the second she knew she’d lost me. The only thing left was a woman so haunted by her terrible past, that she was willing to take the whole world with her in order to get revenge. And, perhaps, in order to destroy herself.

By the time the law came I was more drained than I’d ever been in my life. I had no magic, no emotions, I could barely even stand. That shield, string bonded with wild magic, it was badly done – unintentional as it was – and it drew on me in order to keep going.

They took her away, placing a sleep spell on her when she continued raving. I staggered over to the living room and slept in the bed we’d shared, guarding the anomaly until a team came to fix it. Actually I slept through half of it – some guard, right? But when I woke, they were well on the way to repairing it. I made us all a good dinner; they’d earned it, for sure. Then, I locked the door, posted the key through the letterbox, and left.

The next day I was gone. Let my landlord know the flat was empty so they could find a new tenant, gathered what I could shove in the car, and I was dust. I never went there again.

Some nights, I lie awake wondering what I could have done differently. But when I call up who she was when the mask dropped, I know there was nothing. She was a monster. Oh, she was made into one, for sure, very few are born with that in them. But she became, in some ways, as much of a monster than the people that turned her into one. And she used me to do it.

So. Wherever the Secret City is now. Wherever that prison is. I hope she’s still rotting there. She used me, to kill innocents. I have no place for her in my heart, or my head.

And that’s it. My last story. Thanks for listening, it’s actually been more enjoyable than I expected. I hope it helps you and us work together to make this new world a better place, one where people can really live, instead of just survive.

Take care of yourself, Alison. Avay out. Heh.

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