A Different Kind of Magic

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - An Unexpected Visit

Submitted: May 16, 2018

Reads: 277

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Submitted: May 16, 2018

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Callum Sheppard was very good at keeping secrets. 

From the first time he sprung his father smoking a cigarette behind the house and promised not to tell, to a recent lunch with a colleague who boozily divulged that she only everslept with married men; Callum’s tight-lipped quality meant that he’d become the go-to if anyone had something juicy they needed to get off their chest. And Callum couldn’t get enough of it.

It’s ironic then, that it was Callum’s inability to keep a particularsecret that eventually lead to his downfall. But in his defense, this wasn’t just any old secret. It was a big secret. A secret so incredible and practically unbelievable that it almost deserves a category of it’s own. So let us instead say that what Callum discovered the day he was sworn-in as the Prime Minister of Australia wasn’t just a secret. 

It was a revelation

On the day in question, Callum awoke in Canberra in a markedly good mood. After a solid forty-eight hours of congratulations, pledges of support and even a direct tweet from Callum’s favorite footballer telling him he’d done a “Good job m8”, he was practically giddy. But none of this was what Callum truly craved. Popularity was a mere side-effect of his new position, one he would happily forego. What Callum really wanted was information. Top Secret files, untold scandals, gossip so illicit even the papers couldn’t print it. Callum had been looking forward to digging up his country’s dirt from the second he’d won the election.

But as the day rolled on and Callum’s patience grew thinner, it became abundantly clear than any such briefing wasn’t going to happen. Instead, he was subjected to a monotonous induction that felt less like a privilege, and more like a University lecture on the origins of tedium. One after the other, beige individuals with precise hair cuts and sunken eyes would make their way into Callum’s office, deliver their obligatory “Well done, Sir”, then go about boring the life out of him with conversations about scheduling, gift declarations, and how he should address the Queen if and when she decided to call. Callum knew that Australia wasn’t thatexiting. But not one UFO? Not one?

His spirits momentarily rose when he heard he’d be receiving a visit from Australia’s Chief Commissioner, a rather cumbersome man who really ought to have had a beard given the breadth of his multiple chins. But even this turned out to be a disappointment. All Callum received were the details of a rather nasty bank robbery that had taken place in Sydney the previous day. Six people had died at the hands of a thief who, from all accounts, was unarmed. But other than confirming that this wasn’t in any way terrorist related, the Chief said nothing that Callum hadn’t already caught on the news.

By 7pm, Callum finally understood why Australia’s seventeenth Prime Minister had drowned himself all those years ago.It wasn’t an accident, he thought to himself. He was just bloody bored.

Feeling more than a little deflated, he rose from his seat and was just about to explore his new liquor cabinet when there was a knock at his door. 

“Come in”, Callum barked, expecting his harangued and exhausted assistant Lottie to come rushing in. But Callum’s door remained tightly closed, and for a moment, he wondered if he’d locked it by accident. He moved towards the front of the room and reached for the handle, when another knock sounded throughout the office. With some surprise, Callum realized that the noise wasn’t coming from the door at all, but from underneath the floorboards. 

Must be contractors in the building, Callum thought. Working on the old wiring

But no sooner had he convinced himself that the now persistent knocking was perfectly normal, than the large burgundy rug that sat before his desk swung up and off the ground like a trapdoor. And though he scarcely believed it, Callum now found himself staring in shock at a seemingly endless set of wooden stairs disappearing into an inky-black tunnel below. 

But how on earth could there be a tunnelbelow his office? He was on the sixth floor! 

Callum began to panic. Was he under attack? Had the building started to collapse? He’d barely begun to reach out for the wall to steady himself when someone began marching up out of the darkness. It was

a woman. A woman with a sharp, angular face, wearing a smartly fitted blue polka-dot dress, and a small auburn hat topped with a single scarlet feather. She calmly stepped up into the office. Her gaze came to rest upon Callum himself, and her hand shot out into the space between them. Kindly, she chose to ignore Callum’s frightened squeak.

“Good evening, Mr. Sheppard”, said the woman, a polite smile spreading across her face. “My name is Sylvia Haining. May I begin by congratulating you on your appointment as Prime Minster? I can’t say I voted. But if I had, it would have been for you.” 

Callum was dumbstruck. But despite his utter bafflement, he couldn’t fight his instinctivr compulsion towards basic manners. He took Sylvia’s hand in his and shook it back. 

“Err… Thank you very much, Mrs…”

“Ms. Haining”, Sylvia corrected, swinging Callum’s hand up and down like a child imitating an adult. “And before you ask, no, I’m afraid I don’t have an appointment. But something rather pressing has come up. Would you mind taking a seat, Mr. Sheppard? This could take a while.”

Callum was now shaking with adrenaline, a trait he’d long sought to suppress. But he was also beginning to regain some level of cohesive thought. A woman, one he’d never met before, had just appeared in his office from underneath the ground. She’d broken in, without an appointment, and for all Callum knew could be highly dangerous. But something told him this woman wasn’t here to do any harm. He glanced at his sturdy leather chair, and was about to comply with her request. But then he remembered that he was the Prime Minister, dammit, and he didn’t have to take orders from anyone, so he decided to remain standing by the door.

“What could take a while, Ms. Haining?” he demanded. “What the bloody hell is going on?”

Sylvia appeared unaffected by Callum’s rising temper. Given manner in which his predecessors had conducted themselves, she actually thought he was handling the situation rather well. Regardless, she didn’t have time for any messing around. So ignoring protocol, Sylvia cut straight to it. 

“Something has happened, Mr. Sheppard”, she said, the smile well and truly vanished from her face. “Something… bad.”

Callum’s ears pricked. He’d seen this look before. It was that glorious look everyone wore right before they were about to tell him something big. Really big. It was the look Sylvia now had plastered all over her face. So for the first time since his office had been invaded, Callum began to feel at ease. This was territory he knew well.

“Go on”, he said, his voice settling back to it’s regular pitch. 

“Where to begin”, Sylvia muttered, almost to herself. 

“The start always suits me best”, Callum answered back, sounding calmer already. 

“Very well, Mr. Sheppard.” Sylvia took a deep breath, and began. “Over the past two weeks, we’ve been tracking a highly dangerous individual who appears to be on a random and destructive murdering spree. We know he’s killed five of ours so far. Maybe more. But he’s also taken out twelve of your citizens. His motives are not entirely clear to my people just yet. But we do know he’s becoming stronger by the day.”

Your people?” Callum asked. “Who are your people?”

Sylvia blinked and politely cleared her throat. 

“Mr. Sheppard” she said. “I am a representative from the Australian Federation of Magic.” 

Sylvia then paused, waiting for the all-familiar laughter that generally accompanied this sort of declaration. It didn’t come. 

“Did you hear me, Mr. Sheppard?” she asked, wondering if maybe he’d gone into some sort of shock. But Callum simply nodded. Sylvia had no choice but to delicately carry on. 

“I know this must sound most peculiar, and I assure you we had no intention of dumping all of this on you, especially not on your first day. But this situation isn’t only dire; it’s unique. We don’t believe the man in question is a wizard. Which means he’s one of yours.”

Callum sighed, slumping back against the wall. Great, he thought.Just great. Clearly, this woman was in on some big joke. Perhaps it was a weird Prime Ministerial hazing routine? Or maybe the opposition was trying to undermine him right from the get-go? But either way, he was disappointed. For a second, he really thought he was in for something good. 

Callum sauntered over to the staircase and bent down to observe it closer. 

“And how have you done this, then?” he asked. “Is it screens? Mirrors? I can tell you now I don’t approve of government spending being wasted on pranks…”

“Sir, I promise you this isn’t a prank”, Sylvia interjected, impatience threatening to sully her cool exterior. “After all… You haveseen this before.” 

Callum paused and Sylvia continued, cautiously. “When you were seven, you saw a woman in the vacant block next to your house picking apricots from the very top of the tree, without having to reach up and take them. Isn’t that right?”

Callum’s head jerked backwards, as if the memory had jumped out of nothingness and smacked him right in the face. Sylvia wasright. 

“The fruit was flying, wasn’t it, Mr. Sheppard? Straight from the top of the tree and into her basket. And then…”

“…Then I made a noise, and she saw me.” Callum could recount the story like it was yesterday. “I asked her what she was doing, and she said it was magic. And that I didn’t have to be scared.”

Sylvia took a step towards Callum, whose shoulders had visibly slackened. 

“How could you know about that?” he asked her.

“Mr. Sheppard, that was a woman called Agnes Jamison. She informed the authorities later on that afternoon that you’d seen her, and the incident was documented. We kept an eye on you for a while to make sure you weren’t distressed, or inclined to tell anyone.”

Callum, however, still wasn’t buying it. “You could have spoken to my neighbours! Or maybe I mentioned it in an interview at some point!”

Sylvia’s patience finally broke. She rolled up her sleeves and pulled out her wand. Then, over the next thirty-eight minutes, she set about convincing Callum that as unbelievable as it may sound, witches and wizards had existed in his country since the beginning of mankind itself. Callum yelled, panicked, and on three separate occasions attempted to break out of the room. But by the end of a particularly elaborate display that saw Callum’s chair literally sprinting around his office, he finally relented. He had no choice but to take Sylvia’s word for it.

“Let’s just say I believe you…” he said from his spot underneath his desk. “What does any of this have to do with me?”

“Quite a bit, actually”, Sylvia shot back, pleased that “Phase one – fostering trust”was now well and truly done with. “For a start, you’re not the only non-magical person that knows about us. Kings, Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers have known about the magical community for centuries. It’s a matter of common courtesy, you see.”

Callum didn’t interject, but he hadn’t found any of his meeting with Sylvia to be particularly courteous, thus far.

“But in recent years”, Sylvia continued, “We’ve upped the level of communication a little. You see, in the late twentieth century, a powerful dark wizard rose to prominence. He wreaked havoc not only on our community, but on innocent victims from the non-magical community too. To this day, it’s still impossible to confirm exactly how many lives were lost as a result of his reign. You might recall some of the incidents yourself?” 

“What sort of incidents?”, Callum ventured.

“Do you remember the Liverpool Massacres of ’78?”

Of course he did. Everyone did. Over the course of two days, an entire city’s population of homeless people vanished. Law enforcement speculated that a mass murderer had orchestrated the massacre. But no legitimate suspects were ever identified, let alone arrested.

“That was…?”

“Magic, yes”, Sylvia answered. “Very dark magic, to be more specific.”

“But why?”, Callum pressed. 

“The wizard I mentioned? He needed the bodies of the dead to create an army. He didn’t think anyone would miss a bunch of vagrants. ”

Callum could only stare. 

“Anyway”, Sylvia went on, attempting to shift the black mood that had settled in the room. “That’s not the point I’m trying to make. It wasn’t too long after he was destroyed that a young academic within our community suggested that a more comprehensive channel of dialogue should be established. Her parents were non-magical too, you see, so she had a soft spot for your type to begin with. So it was agreed that in order to give non-magical people enough time to protect themselves against dire magical events, they would require daily updates.”

Callum scoffed. 

“So you’re going to rip up my floor every day?”, he asked. 

“Not at all, Sir. From this point onwards, we’ll predominantly be working with a liaison. Someone you deem suitable for the role. You’ll only see me in cases of emergencies.”

“Right”, said Callum, slowly getting his head around the situation. “Emergencies such as these murders?”

Sylvia nodded. “Precisely, Sir.”

Callum sighed, resigning himself to the fact that he wasn’t about to wake up from this bad dream any time soon. He crawled out from under his desk, making sure to avoid the still-gaping hole in his floor, and got back to his feet. 

“Well then, Ms. Haining,” he said. “Let’s get started.”


© Copyright 2019 C. Lamarck. All rights reserved.

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