Searching For Magic
Chapter 4

Paula hadn't been able to give us much, but she'd given us just enough. As soon as I could, I picked up a road map from a gas station, and I noted where Lake Kimber was. Wherever the school was, it probably wasn't too far away. For the next few weeks I started watching bulletin boards like a hawk, and I even checked the ads in local newspapers. Anytime I found something that seemed possibly likely, I'd call the number or check the address. I worried that the school might no longer exist; it was possible, after all.

The answer finally came from Madame Gabrielle's magazine stand. I often went over to her shop to see if I could find anything relevant (usually buying some small item to avoid looking suspicious), and over the weeks I dropped suggestions that she should branch out in what kind of publications she sold. I think she decided it was a good idea because her selection gradually broadened. The titles weren't necessarily any better, but they were at least different. One day I found that she'd started carrying a local magazine; it was just a cheap black-and-white publication. Inside I found articles on everything from fairy sightings to old folktales people heard from their grandmas. There was an ad section, and in it I found an ad for a Sacred Stones Mystic School that boasted three highly qualified magical teachers. I bought the magazine from Gabrielle, then went home.

At home, I called the number in the magazine. Soon, a voice answered, "Patricia Mitchell, how may I help you?"

"Hi, I'm calling about your Sacred Stones Mystic School," I said. "You're offering classes soon?"

"Yes, we are," she said. "Classes begin in early September. You almost missed the registration deadline."

"Yeah, I just found out about it," I said. "Anyway, I'd like to sign up."

"Okay," she said. "What's your name, sir?"

"Adry Hardouin," I said. "Oh, just making sure, where are you located?"

Patricia Mitchell gave me directions to the address, which I wrote down. It was a place out of town, and when I checked the map, I found that it wasn't even ten miles away from Lake Kimber.

Then we discussed how much the classes cost and what the schedule was. There would be six classes, on Wednesdays and Fridays, and they'd begin at six in the evening and end around seven or so, give or take. The first class was in about two weeks, and all I had to do was wait.

Two weeks passed before long, and on a warm Wednesday evening I drove out to an old farmhouse. The air outside was beginning to cool, and the brisk scent of moisture mingled with grass and other plants filled the air. I could see a couple of other cars already, and as I walked to the house I could hear one pulling into the driveway behind me.

The house itself was brick and painted white, and was in good condition for its age. It wasn't too large; the footprint was small enough that it was obvious the bedrooms were in the attic. I stepped up to the door and tapped the knocker. The door opened just as a couple of other people ran up behind me.

A woman had answered the door; she was middle aged, and stood about 5'7 with brown hair in a pageboy style, and wore jeans and a floral blouse. The kind of person you wouldn't think twice about seeing at the grocery store. She smiled at us. "Well, come on in!" she said. "I'm Patricia. Welcome to the Sacred Stones Mystic School!"

I stepped inside with the others, and looked around. She had a matching wicker furniture set in the living room - even the coffee table was wicker. There was a wooden bookshelf holding dozens of books and assorted knickknacks by the wall to my left. A display easel holding a hand-made presentation poster stood near the left side of the bookshelf, and a small card table stood near the right. The furniture, I noticed, was arranged so that you could easily focus in the direction of the bookshelf. Finally, I could smell coffee and Pine-Sol.

Three others were in the living room already, which made six students in total.

"All right, why don't we introduce ourselves?" Patricia asked. "You all know me; I'm Patricia Mitchell. How about you?" She pointed a pen at a chubby dark-skinned man sitting on the sofa.

He looked up. "My name's Ronnie," he said.

She pointed her pen at a brunette woman whose face reminded me of a perfume ad I'd seen the other day, and nodded toward her.

"Nicole," she said with a wide smile. "Nicole. It's nice to meet you all."

Then she pointed her pen at me. "And you are?"

"Adry," I said.

"Oh, are you from Canada? Or Minnesota?" she asked. "I... think that might be the accent." She looked at me uncertainly.

"France. Long time ago," I said.

"Right," she said. She looked at a heavyset young woman with mousy hair and thick glasses, who was standing back against the wall. "You?"

"Nancy," she said quickly and quietly.

"How about you?" she said, looking at a short, skinny red-haired man who couldn't seem to decide whether he wanted to sit down or not.

"Name's Eddie," he said. "Oh yeah, hey, the ad said there'd be three teachers. What happened to the other two? Did they get baked into gingerbread?"

"They're not teaching tonight's class," she said sharply. "And if you don't plan to take this school seriously, I suggest you leave." She turned to the last student, a curly haired woman who could have passed for Omar's cousin. She was sitting on one of the wicker chairs. "And you?"

"Layla," she said.

"Great!" She smiled at us. "Have a seat," she said, gesturing toward me, Nancy, and Eddie. "And then we'll get started."

We sat down, and Patricia walked over to the bookshelf and picked up a large white candle, and set it down on the card table. "You came here to learn magic," she said, "and magic is what you are going to learn. Not some chinzy stage magician's tricks, but real, true magic. You will discover powers and forces beyond your imagination - and yes, some of them are very dangerous. Magic isn't a toy to be trifled with. Arrogance and hubris will be your downfall."

I wondered if she thought that all of us were arrogant and hubristic. I glanced around. Ronnie was frowning. Nancy was shrinking back into her chair. Nicole was leaning forward with an almost adoring expression on her face. Eddie was rolling his eyes, and Layla was just listening.

"However, if you are patient and diligent, you can harness these powers for yourself - for whatever purposes you see fit," she said. "Let me demonstrate." She walked behind the card table where she set the candle. "Come over here and watch." She held her hands out. "I don't have any matches, lighters, anything."

We stood up and walked over to the table. Patricia held her hands out over the candle. In a few seconds I saw the wax at the base of the wick beginning to melt. Then the tip of the wick glowed orange, and a second later it ignited into flame.

Ronnie startled and Eddie jumped back. Nancy blinked like she couldn't believe what she'd seen, and Nicole was looking at Patricia's face as if expecting answers. Layla's hand hovered toward the candle.

"How did that work?" Layla asked, eyes still on the candle.

"By the power of the subtle, mystical energies that permeate the universe," Patricia said. "It's mind over matter." She looked at us. "Have any of you heard of an aura?"

"I have!" Nicole said. "It's the natural mystical field produced by the human body. Some people can see them."

"That's right!" Patricia said. "And your aura can be weak, strong, healthy, or sick. Having a strong, healthy aura is part of what lets you perform powerful magic. Now, you know what it takes to make a strong, healthy, body, right? You exercise and eat well. It's similar for your aura. You need to exercise your mystical skills, and avoid psychic pollutants."

"What's a psychic pollutant?" Nicole asked.

"Negative energies," Patricia said. "You'll find them on people who are negative or pessimistic, or in neighborhoods high in crime. That's why it's important to stay away from that - or if you can't, cleanse yourself afterward."

"Right," Nicole said with a nod.

Ronnie looked extremely skeptical.

"All right - we'll get into that more, but there's some other things I need to talk about first," Patricia said. "Please go sit down, all of you."

We went back to our seats. Patricia blew out the candle.

"One of the most important things to understand is how critical it is to keep your work a secret," Patricia said. "Does anyone know why that might be?"

"Because the good and gentle God-fearing citizens of this town won't abide it?" I asked.

Ronnie snickered.

Patricia nodded. "That's one reason," she said. "People fear what they don't understand, and you never know when there's somebody who might do something violent."

"Couldn't we just turn them into frogs?" Nicole asked.

"That's really advanced magic," she said. "It's not like you snap your fingers and suddenly they're a frog. Anyway, another reason you should keep quiet is because other people's psychic energies can interfere with your magic if they know what you're doing. While you're pouring your belief into your magic, their unbelief is spilling in, diluting it. And people thinking you're a fraud doesn't really help your social prospects."

"What about... those other people, with actual powers?" I asked. "People accept that just fine."

"Because for some reason, people are perfectly willing to accept a 'scientific' explanation like a bolt of lightning giving people powers, but the minute you bring up magic they start looking for any other explanation," Patricia said. She looked at us to make sure we were paying attention, then gestured to the poster on the easel. "Now, here's how magic works."

The poster showed an outline of the human body with an oval drawn around it. Inside the body, lines were drawn running down the limbs and through the torso, which I took to be blood vessels.

"This is the human nervous system," Patricia said, gesturing at the fanning lines. "When you want to move your body, your brain sends electrical impulses through your nerves that makes your muscles move. Now imagine - what if you could send those impulses out into the universe, to make the fabric of reality move and shift however you want?"

I thought this over for a moment. "Does this mean sorcerers are more powerful in the winter?" I asked.

Patricia looked at me in confusion. "Why?"

"Because that's when there's more static electricity."

Patricia blinked in silence. Nancy barked a laugh before burying her face in her hands.

"No, that's not how it works," Patricia said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Just isn't," she said. She cleared her throat. "So when I light the candle, I focus on sending these impulses out through my fingers and turning them into heat." She reached her hand over to the candle's wick and hovered her fingers over it, and in seconds it lit up again. "And I do want to stress focus here," she said. "It's important that you keep your mind clear of distractions, or your magic might not turn out how you wanted. And that's why today, we're going to focus on meditation."

It was fairly standard meditation practice. We were instructed to sit down and take deep breaths, clear our minds, and all that stuff. It lasted probably about fifteen minutes or so; then she rang a soft bell. "All right, that's good for now," she said. "You should try to do this every day, for at least ten or fifteen minutes."

"If the wife'll give me that long," Eddie said.

Ronnie snorted. "Could always try it on the bus or the train."

"You think so? Kinda noisy, don't ya think?"

"I dunno, I find it pretty easy to relax on a ride."

Patricia cleared her throat. "All right, so - that's our lesson for today. Remember, magic is energy, and you can control it with your mind. You should try to keep your aura clean, and you should meditate every day. And don't just go around telling everybody you meet that you practice magic. Thanks for coming, and I hope to see you all again on Friday!"

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