Searching For Magic
Chapter 2

The next incident happened around May. Terry, one of our actresses, had developed a headache so I'd been sent down to the nearest drugstore to get some Aspirin. On the way back I noticed a place with a large purple sign reading PSYCHIC MEDIUM - SPIRITUAL ADVICE AND MYSTICAL GOODS. Beside the door was a sandwich board sign reading AWAKEN YOUR INNER GIFTS TODAY.

I kept it in mind, and when work was over I went back.

When I stepped inside, I almost choked on the scent of too much sandalwood incense. When my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I could see shelves were with candles, packs of incense, and various trinkets. There was also a small magazine stand, but on further inspection I found that it didn't have anything besides a few dodgy tabloids and books on angel encounters, yoga, and other irrelevant topics.

There was also a round card table with a purple cloth draped over it, with an actual crystal ball sitting in a stand. Four chairs surrounded the table.

Then a woman in her forties stepped out from the back room, wearing a beaded shawl. "Well, hello there," she said. "Are you looking for spiritual guidance? Or did you see the sign out front?"

"I saw the sign," I said.

"Yeah? That's good!" she said with a cheerful smile. "I'm Madame Gabrielle, and you are?"

"My name's Adry."

"Nice to meet you, Adry! Are you ready to get started?" Her smile widened to a degree that looked painful to maintain.

"Yeah," I said. "But I'd like to know what this entails."

"Of course," she said. "First we'll do a little reading on you, find out what's inside you and figure out your gifts. Have a seat?" She looked at the table.

So I sat down on one side, and she sat down on the other. "Let me see your hand, please?" she asked.

For a moment I thought she was going to try reading my palm, but when I gave her my hand she took it her manicured fingers and closed her eyes. "Mmm, I sense conflict in your past. Violence," she said. "And death."

This was accurate enough. I felt a small flicker of hope. But just a small one. I'd met many people like this before, and most of them turned out to be frauds. I could tell you of numerous carnival fortunetellers who claimed to come from some ancient magical lineage but were just young women who'd run away from home, or of cunning men whose 'familiar spirits' were no more unearthly than a squirrel inside a basket or something equally ridiculous. But there had been a few that I believed - or at least suspected had real powers time time to time, and I held out hope that maybe this one was for real, too. "Anything else?" I asked.

"Innocents slaughtered," she continued. "There was... a house, a huge, fancy house... old-fashioned... and a powerful master with a dark secret..."

Still accurate. I nodded. "Any specific details?" I asked.

"You were a Confederate soldier. You were told that you could have the hand of the master's daughter in marriage when you came home from the war, but you never made it home."

The flicker of hope was doused, and I leaned back. "I'm sorry, but I was never a Confederate soldier," I said.

"Ah, you're right. I read it wrong. You were a soldier in World War II," she said breezily.

"No, I was not a soldier in World War II."

She frowned at me. "It's a past life. That's why you don't remember. But you definitely were."

I considered my words for a moment. "No," I said. "I know where I was during World War II, and during the Civil War."

She looked at me with disbelief. I could have left right then, but I was on a roll.

"During the Civil War, or at least close to it, I shot flaming arrows at slave catchers. During World War II, I was helping families plant victory gardens."

She looked frustrated, but also determined. "Oh, so you already know your past lives!" she said. She was desperately trying to keep control of a situation that had already slipped from her grasp.

I sighed and stood up. "There's nothing 'past' about it," I said. "I've lived a very long life." I turned around and walked out.

In the middle of September I stopped at a local craft fair, thinking I might pick up a blanket or something for the apartment. I was looking through a pile of knitted hotpads when I saw a young man with a ponytail and a long navy blue coat handing out fliers. Curious, I went over to see what he was advertising. He handed me a pale blue flier that read ORDER OF THE VEILED STAR - SCHOOL OF THE TRANSCENDANT ARTS. "What's this?" I asked.

"We're starting a class to bring people closer to the truth and teach them how to harness the power of the universe," he said.

"So essentially, magic?" I asked hopefully.

"Essentially," he said.

"And how do I know you're the real thing?" I asked. "I've ran into way too many frauds before."

He shrugged. "Guess you'll just have to come and find out," he said. "But I assure you, we're the real thing. Not some wishy-washy hippie-dippy bunch who thinks you can find God by shoving crystals up-"

"Okay, thank you," I interrupted him, and went on my way.

The next weekend I went to the address on their flier. It was an old brick house on a quiet street, not especially large or small. I walked up and knocked with the brass knocker hanging from the wooden door, and waited. Soon the young man I'd met earlier opened it. "Oh hey, it's you again!" he said cheerfully. "Come on in, Mr...?"

"Hardouin," I said. "Adry Hardouin."

"Right. I'm Dennis." He reached out for my hand and I shook it. "Come on in."

"Are you the teacher?" I asked.

"Me? Nah. Well, I assist, but..." He led me into a living room where an older man with frizzy, graying hair and a beard sat on a sofa. He must have been in his forties. He wore what looked like some kind of ceremonial robes, but the general wear on them made me think he thought they were appropriate daywear. "This is the teacher, Master Patrick."

I nodded and held my hand out. "Nice to meet you, sir," I said. "I'm Adry Hardouin."

He shook my hand and smiled. "Nice to meet you," he said. "You're one of our first students, you know that?" he asked.

"I see," I said, and I took a seat down on the chair opposite the sofa he lounged on. "So can you tell me more about what you do, what you believe, how it works?"

"Mmm, all right," he said. He leaned back, as if thinking. "So everything begins just at the moment of creation. There was a divine masculine, and divine feminine. You heard about those?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Not really."

"Well, they came together, and that's how the universe was created. And we echo their divine energies. There's men, who embody the divine masculine, and women, who embody the divine feminine. Am I making sense?"

"In a way," I said. But this made me a little uncomfortable. It felt wrong, like it rubbed wrong way against against the very fabric of my soul. "But also... not really. Personally, I feel like I'm a little of both inside."

"Mmm, everyone has a little of the other," he said, waving a hand lazily. "Yin, yang. Balance. Harmony."

"No, not just one with a little of the other," I said. "I feel like they're both equal."

He frowned and looked at me skeptically. "Yeah, I don't think so. Anyway, we're going to start classes once we get some girls recruited - we were thinking about trying at the local college campus, so if you wanna help with that? We can't do the sacred rituals if we don't have any feminine energy involved, you know what I mean?" He gave me a wink and a sly smile.

At that, I stood up. "You know, I don't think this is the place for me," I said. "Bye."

I left immediately.

After that, I stopped looking for anything to do with magic. I couldn't bring myself to at that point, and besides that, I had plenty to do helping Omar catch rats to put blood in the freezer for the winter.

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