A Different Kind of Magic

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

Chapter 2 (v.1) - The Man at the Airport

Submitted: May 20, 2018

Reads: 112

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Submitted: May 20, 2018

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Callum couldn’t sleep that night. He tossed and turned in bed, recounting the dizzying events of that evening. 

Once Sylvia had left his office and his rug had gone back to its regular position, Callum had bolted to his office door, thrust it open, and expected to find a crowd of people scurrying to get in. After all, Sylvia had stayed for at least a couple of hours. Surely everyone must have been wondering what on earth was going on?

But all Callum found was his assistant Lottie sitting at her temporary desk, just as she had been all day. The young woman with large brown eyes and blonde, bouffy hair looked up at her boss and smiled.

“Anything I can help you with, Sir?” she asked, casual as anything. “Mr. Bowen is running a few minutes late. Perhaps I could get you something to eat?”

Callum was confused. 

“How long have I been in there?” he asked. 

Lottie laughed. 

“I know, I know”, she said. “Long day. But we always knew your induction was going to be full on”. 

Callum glanced up at the clock above Lottie’s desk and suddenly understood why she wasn’t in a panic. It was two minutes past seven. Which meant that everything that transpired between he and Sylvia - the secrets, the history, that weird bit about Buggles (or whatever it was Sylvia kept calling him) - all of that had all taken place in the space of two minutes. 

Part of Callum still wanted to believe that this was all some vivid hallucination, or a stress-induced breakdown. But deep down, he knew better. It was true. And somehow this whole time-jumpthing was a part of it, too. He looked over at Lottie, who was still patiently awaiting his response; her eyes flicking to the wet patches below his armpits and his uncharacteristically ruffled hair.

“Are you sure you’re doing OK, Sir?” she pressed.

“Absolutely. Top notch”, Callum said. “Just a bit peckish. Would you mind grabbing me a sandwich?”

Lottie nodded, and rose from her chair. But as she headed off in search of supplies, Callum felt a pang of guilt in his stomach. Lottie had begun working for him at his local office, back when the notion of being Prime Minister was a mere fantasy. Since then, she’d grown to become one of his most trusted allies. However Lottie wouldn’t be able to remain his assistant now that he was Prime Minister. In fact, he’d already been allocated a new P.A, one with far more executive experience. Callum hated the idea of bundling Lottie off to another department. He liked having her around. 

But when Lottie returned with a plate of food purloined from the cavernous kitchens downstairs, he held his tongue. He didn’t tell her she’d been reassigned and he’d be sorry to see her go. Nor did he explain that he’d just been cross-examined by a woman from another world. He simply thanked her, ate, sleepwalked through his remaining meetings and headed home whereupon he threw himself into bed and lay there, sleepless, for what felt like an eternity.

At 5am, the alarm on Callum’s phone jolted him out of his trance. He jumped up and reached for the device, squinting at the unknown number flashing on the screen. 

“Hello?”, he answered blearily.

“Good Morning, Mr. Sheppard”, the voice chimed down the phone. “Sorry to wake you. My name is Drew Therron. I’m your new PA.” 

“Right”, Callum replied, not bothering to hide his lack of enthusiasm. “Is something wrong?”

“There’s been a slight change in plans this morning”, Drew said - the chipper note in his voice giving Callum the shits. “The Minister of Justice needs to see you right away. A car has already been sent.”

Callum got out of bed and headed out into the hall, where he had a better view of the street below. There, harshly intruding upon the stillness and quiet of his sleepy, tree-lined neighborhood was a sleek black Mercedes, it’s headlights on. Two men in dark suits stood outside the vehicle, while in the back seat Callum could distinctly see the outline of someone, most likely this Drew Therron character. 

“Look, my other assistant Lottie usually...”, Callum began, before Drew cut him off. 

“Yes sir, she’s been taken care of. I gave her a quick call late last night and informed her she was no longer required. She completely understood.”

Callum’s stomach dropped. How could he have let her down like this? He should have just told her what was going on. Or at the very least, been there, by her side, when she got the news that after 7 years of loyal and frankly remarkable service, she was being shunted into the oblivion of government beuracracy. There and then, he swore he’d make it up to her. He just hoped that wherever Lottie was right now, she was taking the whole thing well. 

But 30 kilometers away in the nearby Canberra airport, Lottie Turner was not taking the whole thing well. Not one little bit. 

She was making her way trough terminal one, holding back the tears that had dogged her since a cold, clinical voice had called up and informed her that her job was no longer tenable. She’d been instructed to collect her things and fly back to Melbourne first thing in the morning. 

Cursing herself for not carrying tissues, Lottie made her way to the security screening line, hoping she didn’t bump into anyone she knew. But no sooner had she begun unpacking her laptop, when a stranger caught her eye. A tall, outlandish man with a large full beard and a mass of long, auburn hair was clumsily trying to make his way through the metal detector. Each time, the alarms would go off and the security officer would have to ask him to please step back and remove any metallic items he might be carrying. 

The problem was, there seemed to be quite a few. 

Over the man’s heavy black boots, scrappy brown pants, and white tailored shirt he wore a long brown coat with a seemingly endless array of pockets. Each time he stepped back through the metal detectors, he’d dig his hands deep inside of them, retrieving everything from a stream of foreign coins, to two (yes two!) umbrellas and what looked like an odd collection of clock parts.

It was after the man’s fourth attempt at getting through, that the woman standing behind Lottie felt compelled to interject. 

“I’m sorry”, she said in a clipped tone, “But I’m going to miss my plane. Can we hurry this up?”

Behind her, a man in a sharp suit pipped up as well.

“She’s right, mate. Back of the line!”

“This won’t take a moment”, the security officer said, while the bearded man continued rifling through his pockets. “While you wait, please make sure any spray-on deodorants have been removed from your carry on and…”

“All I’ve got is a computer!” the suited-man yelled. “Just let me through!” 

Lottie was beginning to feel flustered. She detested confrontation, and given the already fragile state of her emotions that morning, she wished she could simply disappear. But looking back at the bearded fellow, Lottie couldn’t help wondering if he’d ever even flown before. There was something about him that didn’t seem appropriate for your average, modern-day flyer; as if he found the whole thing highly entertaining. 

Suddenly, the bearded man’s face changed. His eyes snapped up as if he’d seen a ghost, and while the security officer was still focused on calming the irate commuters, he lunged at the orange tub where all his belongings now sat, and began thrusting them back into his pockets. Startled by the strange behavior, the officer yanked the tub back from the bearded man’s grasp.

“Oi!", he bellowed. "Settle down!” 

But his demands fell on deaf ears. The bearded man reached inside his jacket yet again, and retrieved something long from one of the inside pockets. The security officer flinched backwards. 

“Stop!”, he yelled.

The bearded man raised the object above his head and… 

Lottie awoke on one of the chairs outside of her plane’s gate and panicked. Her eyes snapped up to the departure screen. Had she missed her flight? Fortunately, the answer was no. Her plane wasn’t boarding for another twenty minutes. But that certainly didn’t put her at ease. How had she managed to fall asleep like that? And how, for that matter, had she made her way to the right gate? She couldn’t even remember getting through security! 

She blinked a few times, trying to shift the thick fog that had settled in her head. Fatigue was one thing, but Lottie felt as if her entire body was bruised and weary. She got up and headed towards the women’s bathrooms to splash some water on her face. 

Canberra Airport was still relatively quiet, with any early morning commuters tucked discreatly behind newspapers or iPads. But as Lottie walked, she couldn’t help but feel there was something off. There was a darkness about the place. She made her way into the ladies bathroom, where the light seemed even more muted, and headed to the mirrors. 

Lottie wasn’t impressed with the drawn face staring back at her. Her hair seemed even bigger than usual this morning, with most of the volume leaning precariously to the left. Her eyes were puffy from the night’s sustained blubbering, and the two smile lines on her forehead seemed even more exaggerated under the poor light. 

She fished a concealer out of her handbag and began attempting to rectify the disaster staring back at her. But after a minute or so of largely unsuccessful damage control, Lottie realized that the cubicle behind her was occupied. Not only that, strange, strangled noises were coming from within the stall. Lottie froze.

“Err, hello?” she said. “Are you alright in there?” 

The noises stopped, but there was no reply.

“OK, sorry! I was just…um… checking”, said Lottie, tingling with discomfort. She hastily packed up her make-up, and was just about to bolt when the woman in the cubicle burst out from the small space. Lottie gasped.

Something was very wrong. 

The woman looked to be in her forties, with long black hair and a sleek figure. But Lottie barely noticed any of this. Instead, she was looking at the woman’s face, which was erupting in red blistering sores as if her skin was bubbling off her very skull. 

Lottie panicked. “Do you need me to call an ambulance?” she asked. “I’ll go get someone to help…”

But the woman raised a finger at Lottie, pinning her in place. “NO!” she rasped.

Lottie persevered. “Are you allergic to something? Or have you taken something, maybe? I think I have… panadol? Look, I really think I should get you some help.”

“Don’t get anyone!” the woman screamed.

But even as she spoke, Lottie could see the mottled rash moving down the woman’s neck, while on her face, small patches of skin had turned an ashen grey as if she were burning from the inside. 

It was then that the bathroom door swung open, and an older lady clutching a mop and bucket walked in on the pair. She paused, assessed the scene in front of her, then screamed. Several things happened in quick succession. 

The cleaning lady turned to run, but she didn’t get far. The woman with the burns reached behind her and drew out a long, thin object from the back of her skirt. She pointed it in the direction of the fleeing woman and yelled something. A burst of crackling energy exploded across the room, catching the cleaning woman in the side and slamming her against the bathroom wall. She fell to the floor and didn’t move. 

At the same time, the bathroom door flew open yet again, and the tall bearded man Lottie had seen in the security line ran in. Apparently unfazed by the chaos that greeted him, he pulled out his own weapon and pointed it directly at the attacker. Lottie felt as if she was witnessing some kind of stand-off. 

“Marlowe! Put the wand down!” the man barked. But she remained frozen in place, knuckles white around her weapon.

His eyes still fixed on Marlowe, the man leant down and placed his fingers on the neck of the motionless cleaning lady, checking for a pulse. He sighed and stood back up. 

“On behalf of the Australian Federation of Magic", he said. "I’m placing you under arrest for murder.”

Evidently, Marlowe had no intention of acquiescing. She lunged, grabbed hold of Lottie and thrust her forward, using her as a human shield. Lottie looked down at the arm now clamped around her throat, and saw up close the ravaging blisters, which were advancing like a series of scarlet vines up a wall. Instinctively, Lottie attempted to throw Marlowe off, but this was  answered with a sharp, piercing pain that shot through her body. It was like she’d been electrocuted. In shock and struggling to breathe, Lottie froze, and the man properly noticed her for the first time since he'd rushed in. 

“You again?”, he queried, but there was clearly no time for further explanation. “Let her go!” he demanded. “There’s no need to drag anyone else into this!”

“Why?” Marlowe snapped, her nails digging into Lottie's neck. “So you can wipe my memory and go back to treating me like an idiot? Like you treat everyone else?”

“We're way beyond that and you know it!" the man shot back. "You want to live like us? Then you can face our justice too!”

Marlowe scoffed. “How about instead of that, you back out of here and I consider letting this one go?”

The man hesitated. As if to emphasize her point, Marlowe sent another painful jolt into the small of Lottie’s back. 

Lottie screamed as her knees began to buckle. Never in her life had someone intentionally hurt her and Lottie found this whole nightmare to be so terrifying, so confronting, that she was struggling to even think. 

But she wasn’t going to be walked over. Lottie made eye contact with the man, who upon reading her intent, drew his arm back at the ready. Then, with incredible force, Lottie drove her elbow into Marlowe’s stomach, and using every ouch of strength she had, flung the woman forwards and sent her crashing into a nearby sink. The man’s arm shot out, sending another arc of energy flying expertly towards Marlowe and striking her full-on. For a moment, he looked satisfied. But then a terrible humming noise began filling the bathroom, while a sickly orange light oozed from the angry marks on Marlowe’s body. She began convulsing violently until, with a terrible bang and a surge of light, her body ruptured. Hot ash rained down on Lottie and the bearded stranger.

Lottie was shaking, her ears ringing. The ash was everywhere. In her hair, on her clothes, coating the inside of her mouth. But she was under no delusions as to what she’s just seen. It was magic. And that thing that the man was carrying? It was a wand. Suddenly, everything felt as if it were way too much for Lottie and the room began to spin. 

“Are you alright?” the man asked. “Lottie?”

He rushed over and began assessing her, a look of intense concern on his face. Just like Lottie, he too was covered in ash. 

“Lottie?!”, he yelled. This time, she looked up. 

“How do you know my name?” she demanded. “Who are you?”

“I’m Faolan”, he replied. “Are you OK?”

“There’s stuff up my nose”, Lottie responded, truthfully. 

“OK. Well, we can fix that later. But are you hurt?” 

Lottie thought about this for a second. Her back was aching, and her throat felt bruised where this Marlowe woman had been gripping onto her. She could tell she wasn’t seriously injured, but that wasn’t the issue occupying her mind. A person had literally just exploded. That man blew her up. And Lottie was suddenly plunged back into the wretched grips of fear. 

“Stay away from me!” she yelled.

Visibly upset, Faolan gently lowered his hands to his sides. 

"It's OK", he placated. But Lottie wasn't convinced. 

“Drop the… thing!” she demanded, pointing at his wand. Faolan ignored her request. 

“Lottie, it’s OK”, he said. “I’m not going to hurt you”.

“Why did you blow that lady up?” she asked, beginning to sound a little hysterical. 

“I didn’t! That wasn’t meant to happen, I swear! I was just trying to disarm her.”

Lottie’s breathing had become increasingly shallow, and the cold sweat now coating her forehead had mixed with the ash to give her a distinctly gluggy appearance. Faolan half expected her to pass out any second. 

“Just let me do one thing”, he said, his wand hand twitching, “And this will all be better”. 

But Lottie suddenly figured out why time had disappeared earlier that morning. She put her hands in front of her face, and scurried backwards till she was flush against the wall.

“Please”, she said. “Don’t.”

“I’m not going to hurt you”, Faolan insisted. 

“I know", Lottie cried. "But please don’t erase my memory!”

 


© Copyright 2019 C. Lamarck. All rights reserved.

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