The Magic Box

I came out of a bad dream this morning.  I was back at my last job, which started about a year ago at this time, I could hear the person I reported to at that position talking to another programmer about how a certain process wasn’t mapped out, and “they”–as in the company “they”–needed to get on this right away, because time is money, you know?  My dream self knew this was bullshit,  because I’d mapped said process out and I had the note to prove it.  So I spent a considerable amount of time tracking this fool down to show him that I had already done the work, and the program with whom he’d conferred was telling him lies if he said there wasn’t anything down on paper.

The comeback from this conversation is that while I’d done this, true, it wasn’t what he wanted, which didn’t seem surprising, because this asshole was the sort of person who’d tell you what he wanted, then change what he wanted based upon–I don’t know, maybe the wind had changed direction.  When I woke up I was pissed, because this dream summed up my time at that last position:  people would tell me what they wanted, they’d wait for me to do it, then tell me that wasn’t what they wanted, this was what they wanted and why couldn’t I see that?

The only good thing to come out of that dream was when I went through my notes I discovered a ton of outlines I’d made for stories.  I felt rather proud about that part.  The rest, though, I could have taken a flame thrower to and laughed the entire time.

Working there was like being in a box, and no one likes being inside a box, except maybe a cat:  they love boxes.  Creative people want out of boxes:  they want to move, to grow, to expand their horizons.  They become unhappy if they are kept confined and unable to express themselves.  And most of all, they want a certain modicum of success.  What is the point of doing all this if there isn’t some kind of payoff in the end?  If nothing else, give us a “Well done” pat on the back when it’s all over.

You know who else is kind of in a box?  The kids in my story!  See how I did that?  Smooth, huh?

It’s magical lab time, and all the students in my spells class have a sealed box before them with an object inside.  I’ll let Miss Wednesday explain:


(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Once everyone was inside and seated Wednesday began speaking. “What we are going to do today is a simply exercise that will allow you to work your will. You’ll see that each of you has a small box with a object inside. The boxes are locked onto the table surface so they can’t move, and they can’t be opened. The tables have also been calibrated so they are level. The object inside cannot roll on its own, so there is no fear that it’ll move on its own.

“What you have to do is simple: you will use magic to move it from one end of the box to the other. You will visualize the object moving, you will pull out energy to power you spell, and you will combine the two with your will to complete the task.” Wednesday giggled. “Yeah, I know: I make it sound easy. So let me break it down for you.

“The visualization part is easy. I can bet that every one of you can imagine the thing inside your box moving from one side to the other. You can imagine that over and over. Simple, yeah?

“Pulling the energy in from mysticspace—that’s a little trickier. We know you can do it, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Some of you have done something that made The Foundation believe you have it in you to be a will worker. The thing is, you likely have no idea what it is you did, so you’re completely unaware of how to do it again.

“Mysticspace . . .” Wednesday spread here arms wide and slowly turn. “It’s all around us. It’s everywhere. You don’t know it, but you’re accessing it right now, because it partially powers your aura. But that’s something even Normals do, so it’s not really magic; real magic would be controlling your aura.

“To pull in that energy—you can feel yourself doing it.” She paused for a moment, thinking about when she performed her first spells. “It’s like you’re reaching into a dark space where you can’t see what you’re looking for, but you can feel everything. Getting a grip on mysticspace makes your fingertips tingle and the hair on the back of your neck stand up for a bit. You’ll actually know you have it, because it’ll feel solid, it’ll feel like a tangible object.

“Then come the combining of your visions with the energy you’ve tapped—that is the tricky part. You’re basically trying to bring together the right amount of power with the correct visualization—which is sort of like trying to make a cake for the first time without knowing how much of each ingredient you should us. Sometimes you’ll use too little energy and nothing happens, other times you’ll use too much and blow everything to hell.” Wednesday allowed the mummer to die down before going on. “And then there’s time times when you just don’t quite have a good image in your mind . . .

“And then there’s the cases where you’re just not able to use your willpower to bend ol’ reality the way you’d like. Some people have the ability to visualize and tap into the power, but they lack the will necessary to slap reality around—instead, it’s the one doing the slapping. When you get Blowback, you’ll know: it hurts. Trust me—” She nodded with extreme seriousness. “I know.”

Wednesday waved her right hand in the air and all three video monitors came on. “I’m tracking each student, and the boxes are monitors to see how well you do. Right now you’re all in the red because your object hasn’t moved. The boxes are thirty centimeters long—that’s about a foot for you Americans still not hip to metric—” Lisa huffed as this was something that didn’t bother her in the least, while Emmalynne appeared embarrassed. “—and the monitoring is divided into thirds, or ten centimeters each.

“If you find it impossible to move your object out of the first third of the box, the monitor under your name up here remains red. If you move it more than ten centimeters but fewer then twenty, then your monitor turns yellow. And should you get it into the final third of the box, you get a green. And should you smack the object against the far end—” Wednesday pointed at one of the monitors and a random name began to flash. “Then we see your name in lights and you can sit out the rest of the class in the library while enjoying punch and cake—”

Kerry’s eyes lit up. “Really?”

“Yes, Kerry—” Wednesday winked at him. “The cake is not a lie.” She clapped her hands together. “Okay, lets everyone get relaxed and in the proper frame of mind. Limber up, settle down, and start getting your mojo workin’.” She looked about the room with a smile on her face. “You can start any time from . . . Now.”

Yes, I made a bad Portal joke.  GLaDOS can come after me if she wants.

Almost fifteen hundred words were added to the story, and I’ve up the target goal to ninety thousand words.  When I hit that, it’ll be the largest novel I’ve written since the first I started all those years ago.  I see this scene finishing in another thousand words, and maybe the next will end up about that much as well.  Then a little astronomy and then to the next day, and Formulistic Magic, and a meeting with one half of the most cantankerous couple on the campus.  Really, though, she’s a pussy cat.

Sure, she’s killed a few people, but her partner’s killed a lot more.