Truth Be Told

In Beginnings, Chapter and Verse by Travis Surber0 Comments

WIZARDS! I hate them. Always so smug and condescending like they know some Great Secret denied to the rest of us. Cavorting with daemons and THINGS from the Seeming Nothingness while producing nothing of benefit to their community or society at large. Wasting their lives on frivolous things instead of real work, like golem repair or alchemist. And NONE of them have proper names like Yennifer or Reginald, instead it’s always Sylvandras, or GrymmDark24/7 or this fellow who’s name sounds like a bear caught in a wood-chipper. I know I shouldn’t be surprised as he’s foreign and so few of them or any of the non-human cultures have a REAL alphabet to work with.

He doesn’t even dress like a wizard. No fancy hat, or flowing robe. No twisty glowing staffs like the judges on that one show have for their pets to roost on. Just the smugness. How someone could be smug in this rathole shop in the Brickhaven district is beyond me. None of the shelves stand straight, nothing on them is organized in any way, and it’s all covered in a thick layer of dust.

Well, most of it’s covered in a thick layer of dust. Some of it is spotless, as if the dust refuses to touch it. I try to get a closer look at one of these unbelievably clean objects, but my eyes refuse to bring it into focus. A phlegmy cough from behind draws my attention to Bearchipper as he returns from the back of the shop with a quill as tall as he is. He thrusts it into my hand and gestures for me to follow. I have to take a step back as he turns to avoid the rotating silver ring that hovers behind him. The lettering on it reminds me of a tattoo James Scolfield got during Spring Break years ago. I try to make out what it says but the letters seem to change every time I blink.
Bearchipper snatches an open can of ravioli off the hotplate next to his cot and begins to eat it with his bare hands. The sauce starts coating his matted greying beard and dripping onto the cornflower bathrobe he’s wearing, opened so I can see his filthy underwear and scarred legs.

“We have some time to practice before our guest arrives.” Say the birds on his shoulders, cockatiels I believe, in the voice of my dead aunt Matilda.

“Practice what? I thought you had everything prepared and all I had to do was show up and make the exchange.” I stammer.

The birds stop scavenging in his beard and fix me with that beady, judgmental stare all fowl possess. The one on the right deliberately relieving itself down his back without breaking eye contact. I look away first.
“Communicating. Reality is very different in the place our guest calls home. It’s….”
“The kind of place that to look upon invites madness?” I suggest.

“Yes. Exactly.”

Of course it is. I mean if he said it was all bunnies and topless models then he couldn’t gouge people for more money, could he? We head to the backroom which, unlike the shop, is very clean and well organized. Just through the doorway is his alchemical lab and apparatuses, against the wall to my right an impressive library and reading area, and racks, shelves and cabinets of tools spread across the other two walls. It’s the floor that catches my attention the most though.

Set into the concrete are two metal rings. The larger one is about eight or nine feet across and the smaller one is about four or five feet across. Both are filled with some viscous looking fluid that plays strangely with the light. I approach the larger one. What appeared to be shimmers of light from the door reveal themselves to be ever changing images of different places. I stare out over the Nogostvo mountain range before seeing the sun rise on the sands of an unknown desert, and then find myself staring out into the void of stars that surround our world. As the scenes shift into more and more bizarre vistas I find myself reaching out towards the ring as if to stop it and fully take in the sights beyond, but Bearchipper clears his throat loudly, breaking the spell.

“Please, do not touch. It could cause problems for our guest when he tries to step through.” He gestures at the smaller ring. “This one however you may touch as much as you like. In fact, I insist.”

The smaller ring was filled with a dark oil covered with a slick sheen of colors where the light hits it. Bearchipper took the tip of the quill and dipped it into the oil while muttering something. I check my phone, noting I need to be at work in less than five hours, and start planning out all the meetings and calls I’ll need to make. In a few moments he stands smiles and gestures at the pool. I see a crude clock face and stick figure that seems to flow from the tip of the quill. As I watch the stick figure goes into a badly drawn room with other stick figures. Despite the simplicity of the scene I can recognize my coworkers and understand this is the weekly productivity meeting. The figure, me I suddenly realize, then goes into an office picks up a phone and several other faces appear in quick succession in a square balloon above his head. As the last face fades it goes back to me looking at the clock face.

“Not bad,” The bird on the right squawks. “You should be able to communicate with our guest easily enough by the time he arrives. We’ll keep practicing until then.”

“This is how I’m supposed to communicate? It’s a bit crude isn’t it? I mean, image wise it could be better.

“That is why we practice. The oils will respond, through the quill, to your thoughts and intents and translate them for our guest. This simple imagery was captured from stray thoughts as I attuned the oils and quill to your aura, but focused thought and clear intent will produce better results.”

I shake my head in confusion. “Why can’t I just tell him what I want?”

Bearchipper smiles as the birds speak. “For the same reason our guest cannot simply ask you what it is you want. This dimension is vastly different from that one. What would stretch the limits of our sanity and burn our souls is just, eh, business as usual for them. We cannot comprehend, or even bear to listen to, their language without suffering on a spiritual level. And the same holds true of them for us.”

I take a moment to let his words soak in before commenting.

“Hang on, you’re saying that a simple hello from me could drive HIM insane. That’s ludicrous! Some mighty what’s-it from across the Seeming Nothingness that can manipulate our reality like clay is going to be driven crazy by interacting with me? ME?”

Bearchipper lets out a sigh before responding. “Why not? Everyone assumes it’s only a one way street, but our world is as strange and incomprehensible to some of them as theirs is to us. Just because you can manipulate something doesn’t mean you fully comprehend it nor does it mean it’s not affecting you as well.”

I began to wonder if this was such a good idea after all. I quickly squashed that thought before the oil betrayed me and tried concentrating on what I wanted instead. For over an hour I brought images to life in the pool, following Bearchipper’s instructions as best I could. He could manipulate it without a quill, and produced some stunning displays as teaching aids. I struggled to produce images that didn’t look like a five year old drew them. Finally Bearchipper put up a hand, smiled and nodded.

“Enough practice. You don’t want to wear yourself out before….”

He was cut off as the larger pool began to fill rapidly. The oil rising to the lip of the ring and then bowing out as something pressed against it from beneath. Suddenly the tension broke and the oil cascaded down an inhuman form rising out of the blackness. I expected the pool to overflow, but it didn’t lose one drop as the thing invaded our world. This creature from across the gulf of dimensions. This being from a reality none of us could begin to comprehend. This……FISH?

I blinked rapidly and shook my head hoping this was some illusion or hallucination, but nothing changed. Hovering over the large pool, the last streams of oil dripping off it’s scaly body, was a fish. A perch if I’m not mistaken. I mean, yes it was around seven feet tall, and had navy colored bat wings instead of any fins, but it was still a fish. I felt cheated. I wanted fire, and horns or tentacles. A good face upside down on its skull with a mouth full of eyes and eye sockets full of teeth. You know, something impressive that would make people jealous when I told this story. But no, I got a fish.

It seemed to be getting its bearings, which made sense considering how far it had probably traveled. It floated upright as if standing on its back fins and slowly turned around taking in the room, Bearchipper, and myself. I thought it an odd pose to take until it stopped and turned its gaze on me. From that position it displayed its belly to me, so in effect it was looking down at me. Looking down. AT ME?

I couldn’t believe it. I had attended a major university. I had gotten a four year degree in Art History. I had gone to breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the country club for almost a week until I got Dad’s golfing partner to give me a management job. I was Vice-President of Production for the eighth largest manufacturer of plastic cutlery in the world and I had earned it. How dare he! As if being some floaty bat-fish thing was some big whoop.

It extended its belly wing-fin until the tip pouched the smaller pool. It felt for a few seconds as if the ripples in the pool were also flowing through my mind, but the sensation passed quickly. The Fish-Bat seemed unaffected and instantly began filling the pool with a dizzying array of swirls and patterns in every conceivable color under the sun. Simultaneously my head was filled with a prickling sensation as if thousands of baby spiders were crawling inside my skull. After a few agonizing seconds of this assault it stopped, and the pool resolved itself into an image of a person bowing at me. I say person because it was obvious that Bat-Fish wasn’t familiar with the human form. One arm was longer than the other, the legs were on backwards, and despite the presence of cartoonishly sized breasts it was obviously, very obviously, a male.

I sent back an image of myself bowing in respect and watched the pool bring forth an image of me presenting a box to the disproportioned man. I glanced over at Bearchipper as he produced a hammered brass cube containing all my body hair, two cups of used kitty litter, menstrual blood from an unmarried Aelfe, and three iron rings. Bat-Fish extended a wing-fin (fing?) and took it from his shaking hands. One eye focused on the box while the other continued staring at me. After a few tense seconds that eye rolled back to look at me and the figure in the pool broke into a horrible looking grin. I saw the disproportioned man vomit several images in rapid succession, gold, another figure, a house, some weird car/boat hybrid, and a lightning bolt. My crude figure went to each one, picking it up and examining it before moving on to the next one. After a couple of passes I understood what was happening.

I thought of my job and co-workers and the pool showed me conducting a meeting in the conference room. A bubble came out of my mouth and showed orders coming in, productive workers, happy customers, and management dancing around piles of cash. Then the bubble burst and it showed a pile of order forms, empty shelves in the warehouse, workers standing around, and angry customers shouting at me. It then shifted to me making a bet with my friend, and watching my team lose horribly. Finally it shifted to me and my family as I talked about the great vacation we were going on, and then the storms, food poisoning, and crushing disappointment we got instead. That was my story. No matter what I said or promised, I was always wrong. It never worked out and I was fast becoming an embarrassment to my family and a joke at work.

I didn’t understand it. I was a very intelligent man with a keen sense of management. When our home office cut our orders in half because we were working sixty hour weeks and were “overbooked” I led the initiative to cut half our workforce. I mean if we are only going to be getting half the work, we only need half the workers. I cut our payroll overhead by fifty percent with one brilliant decision. Yet somehow we’re back to sixty hour weeks again and home office is screaming at us to hire more workers. I heroically headed off that as well pointing out that temps could do the jobs. We don’t have to pay them as much, and still save even more because we don’t have to provide benefits. Yet, that went wrong as our production plummeted while we trained them, and quality suffered leading to a dramatic increase in customer complaints and a drop in sales. Somehow, some of my co-workers want to blame all that on me as well, but my cleverness has still seen our operating costs plummet by almost a million dollars a year.
At home it’s not much better. I very calmly and succinctly explained to my wife that magic was completely unnecessary in the modern world. It had never or would ever produce anything of benefit or use to me or anyone I knew. She calmly finished taking the tincture that prevents her seizures and informed me I would sleep on the couch that night. I still don’t know what she was upset about, but I’m putting an end to it. From this day forth the world will see my insightful intelligence for what it is and forever more question how they could have been so wrong about me.

I replay the same series of images with a slight twist. The orders are filled ahead of time and under budget, my team wins in a blowout, and the vacation is more epic than any blockbuster film. The images fade to be replaced with my smiling reflection and Bearchipper’s grimace. Bat-Fish immediately sends a series of images that show his figure giving my figure a lightning bolt and my figure swallowing it. He then produces a door and behind it I see the car/boat vehicle. My little man however guesses it to be gold, as the door opens the vehicle morphs into a pile of gold. I immediately seize control of the scene and make my guy do a happy little dance. I’m beaming like a bride on her wedding day as I look across at Bearchipper. He just stares into the pool dead eyed with obvious jealousy at my unbelievable savvy.

Bat-Fish withdraws it’s fing from the pool and begins to wave complicated patterns. Bearchipper slaps his hands over his ears and turns wide eyed towards me while mouthing something. I take the hint and as the first syllable escapes from Bat-Fish’s piscine lips I drop the quill and cover my own ears. As the spell engulfs me it becomes difficult to keep them plugged as the energy causes my muscles to spasm and nearly makes me fall into the pool. Then it’s over, and with a final sweep of limbs Bat-Fish descends into the large pool taking the brass box with him. As soon as he’s gone Bearchipper strides over and grabs a handful of my shirt.

“You said you wanted to have a better life! To be more respected by friends, family, and co-workers for your accomplishments and abilities! Do you have any idea what you have done here?” The birds scream simultaneously as he shakes me.

“I’ve done just that! “I yell as I slap his hands away. “No matter what I’ve said or done up to this point in my life I’ve been wrong. I’m a laughingstock at work. I’m a joke in my own home, but it ends today. I have made it so I can never be wrong again.”

Bearchipper shakes his head and rubs his eyes. I turn away and start to leave but he places a hand on my shoulder to stop me. In his other hand he holds a coin, a quarter daler, and shows me the hoof print on one side and the snawfus head on the other. He then throws it towards the ceiling while the birds tell me to call it. I pick heads, and we both watch the coin land flat with the head staring up at us. We repeat this three more times before I stop him.

“Yes, I get it. Whatever I say the coin is going to land on, it lands on. I can’t be wrong. That’s the deal, now I have to go. Thank you for your help.”

“One more toss, but not heads or tails. Instead say the first thing that pops in your head. Do this and you can go.”
I stop in the doorway leading out of the workroom. Bearchipper stands there holding the coin and one finger up. He quickly throws it upward and I try to track it’s silvery arc. As it falls I cry out, “On the edge with my butt on the face.”

A dull thump follows. Not the ringing tone of a coin rolling on its edge or spinning on the floor like every other toss produced, but a flat thump. Bearchipper steps back to give me an unobstructed view of the quarter perfectly balanced on its thin edge with my pasty cheeks mooning me in miniature. He walks over to me as I gape at the coin, and places a comforting hand on my shoulder.

“You are infallible. Whatever you say comes true, even if reality itself must be rewritten to make it so. The trouble you could cause yourself is….” He waves his hands futilely. “nearly infinite and incomprehensible. Now do you see why I reacted so?”

“To myself? Don’t you mean to the world?”

He considers this for a second before shaking his head. “No, our friend wasn’t that powerful. I mean, he was no god, so unless you’re involved in something potentially world changing then it should just affect you and those in contact with you. And probably anyone in earshot. ”

“In other words be careful what I say, and to whom, or it could cause serious trouble? My friend you worry too much about that. I’ve had sensitivity training with HR. I’m all about watching what I say.”

I leave before he can say anything else. I’ve got less than 3 hours before I go to work and I’m dragging. I start pulling up places that are open this late on the GPS when it hits me. I’m infallible. I can do this if I just phrase it right. I jot a few phrases down in my phone until I’ve got what I consider the perfect one. I take a deep breath. Exhale. Then with my clearest, most authoritative voice speak the sentence.
“I’m not tired and sleepy at all.”

And suddenly I’m not. I’m almost alarmingly awake and feel like I’ve downed several cups of coffee in a row. I leave Brickhaven and head towards my home in the Maerapeldre district to get a quick shower and shave. I’m ten minutes from my house when some jackass in a rusted out sedan with expensive wheels pulls out in front of me. I slam on the brakes and just barely avoid rear ending him. I jam down the horn and yell a colorful stream of invectives at him. I end it with, “Next time, just hit me !”

As soon as the words leave my mouth I panic. What have I done? Am I now destined for a car accident? When will it happen? Is he going to circle back and ram me, or is it going to be at some other time and place at some point in the future? Can I change all that by saying something different now? I decide to try it out.

“I mean, pay more attention to where you’re going so you won’t get into an accident with anyone. Especially me. Just be careful out there.”

By this point cars are backed up behind me and honking so I wave them past and start on my way again. The whole rest of the way I’m on high alert triple checking every intersection and side street for some four-wheeled steel specter of doom. By the time I pull into the driveway my hands are cramping and my shoulders aching from the death grip I’ve had on the steering wheel. I sprint for the front door, conscious of the fact I said hit me not hit my car, and head straight to the master bath.

I shower and shave in record time before heading to the bedroom. My wife is just starting to stir under the squealing beep of her alarm as I pull my new suit out of the closet. Custom tailored espresso poplin fabric, with a chartreuse Tonigan silk tie and gold cufflinks with an ebony inlay of my initials. It’s the kind of suit you get married in or get buried in and cost me more than I’ll ever tell my wife, but perfect for commanding long overdue respect. As I make the final adjustments to my tie my wife comes out of the bathroom and gives me a critical look over.

“You’re going in?”

“Yes. I need to finalize my end of the deal, and don’t trust Margie to get it all done by herself.” I turn and give her a reassuring grin. She rolls her eyes and comes over to retie my tie.

“I’m surprised you’re even awake. What time did you come home last night?”

“Just got in and showered.” I hold up a hand to cut her off before she responds. “I got one of those Pep-Em’s potions and drank it before I came home. I’m good for a few more hours before I crash.” I wince at the word crash and my wife quickly pulls her hands back.

“Too tight?”

“No, No, No. It’s the suit. First time wearing it, and all. I’ve got to go, but we’ll celebrate tonight.” I give her a quick slap on the bottom and head for the door.”And if you play your cards right I might let you seduce me. “That brings a smile to her face and I have to dodge a wet towel as I close the bedroom door. Another sprint for my car, and I’m soon deep in the stop-and-go morning commute.

I have time to stop and grab a quick to-go order at a local diner. I’m fidgeting because my suit doesn’t seem to be fitting as well as it did. When he girl ringing me up, an Aelf with a nose ring and multicolored hair, gives me the total, I wisecrack “Sure it’s not free?”

“No. It’s not.” She responds flatly.

I pay her and head to the car where I spend a couple of minutes tugging and pulling on the suit to try and get more comfortable. It doesn’t work. As I eat I try to figure out what happened in there. I’m supposed to be infallible. So why did I have to pay for my breakfast? I bet that Bearchipper scammed me. He’s a wizard after all, and illusion and artifice is second nature to those types. I bet he even rigged the coin toss. There’s only one way to be sure. I’ll need to test it myself, and I see the perfect opportunity.

“I see a way to avoid all this traffic and get to work on time.” I say very calmly.

Suddenly I spy a side road that will be easy for me to go down. I make the turn into a neighborhood I don’t recognize and feel immediately lost. I keep driving anyway and notice another road to my left. I turn onto it without hesitation. Soon I find myself pulling up to the security gate at work ten minutes earlier than usual. That’s when I realize I don’t have my employee I.D. on me. I start fumbling in my wallet and pull out a fuel rewards card.

“This will work.” I mumble as I pass it in front of the sensor.

Sure enough the door clicks and I’m inside just like that. I’m making my way to my office when Margie, my Dwarven assistant, comes out of the break room with a sheaf of papers and a cup of coffee. I hold my hand out with a welcoming smile and find it filled with the papers. Margie takes a long sip from the mug and starts for the elevator.

“I’ve never seen you so happy to do the quarterly reports. You’re not drunk again are you?”

“No! I am not drunk, and I wasn’t drunk that time either! I was having a bad reaction to an elixir my doctor prescribed for my cold.” I push the elevator button. “You want to do the quarterly reports for me?”

Margie fixes me with a disapproving stare and rubs her curly beard before replying. “No. I have a ton of work to do myself, and besides you’ve never trained me to do the quarterlies so it’s all on you.”

I’m dumbfounded. For the second time today my ability has failed me. How? Is it something to do with race? Margie’s a Dwarf and the cashier was an Aelfe, but no, it’s got to be something else. Something simple I’m overlooking or not doing right. What is wrong with this suit? Maybe I needed to stay at Bearchipper’s shop a little while longer and learned the limits. I should probably swing by there after work and see if he’ll help. Or should I? As we step into the elevator I think of the obvious solution.

“I know the rules that govern my power, and its limits.” I whisper.

Margie turns towards me. “What?”

“Nothing, just trying to remember something.”

And there it is, branded into my brain as clear and easy to remember as my middle name or my wife’s birthday.

1. Anything I say will be absolutely true from the earliest moment it can be true.

2.If I leave any room for doubt in my statement, or ask a question the power will fail.

3. I cannot contradict myself.

As we exit the elevator I thrust the quarterly reports back into Margie’s hands and inform her that she is going to do them this time. She starts to protest but I cut her off with a simple hand wave. I then give her my biggest, friendliest business grin and inform her that she can do this and I know she will do it perfectly. I then head into my office to begin my real work.

I check my e-mails and get any that seem important out of the way before beginning to draft my idea for turning the company around. Knowing my power’s specifications I carefully evaluate every word and turn of phrase and root out anything that I consider vague or open to reinterpretation. I nearly blow it all when I catch myself muttering under my breath during one review. It takes me the better part of an hour and over a dozen drafts, but I finally have an ironclad and airtight speech to boost our production.

I pick up the phone, adjust my jacket, and start to key in the code for the P.A. system and stop. A momentary wave of panic comes over me as I remember the security precautions against magical interference. The building is littered with counter-wards, detection runes, and even a Watchmage to keep this sort of thing from happening. The simple act of using magic to boost our efficiency and production would lead to my immediate termination at best, and depending on how the authorities interpreted it some serious jail time. Damn labor laws. What good are they if they prevent people from making money? How can I get around them?

Suddenly it hits me and I can’t help giggling at how simple it is. I am infallible after all so I just have to phrase it right. I take a couple of moments and in a clear distinct voice say,” This will be undetected by any security measures or precautions that are in place in this facility that would prevent my ability from working.”
The beep of the P.A. draws everyone’s attention as I begin my speech. I take my time, carefully enunciating every word, and not deviating from the script for even a single syllable. I can’t stop myself from grinning like an idiot as I think of all the problems my genius is going to solve in the next few minutes. It goes like this.

“Attention Associates. I would like to have a few moments of your time this morning.I know we have been working long hours and extra days these past few weeks in an effort to meet our orders and I want to take a moment to thank you all for the sacrifices you’ve made for the company and our customers. Give yourselves a big round of applause.” I pause and silently count to ten to allow them to do this. “But today that all changes. Today, we start making our quotas in a standard eight hour day. Today, we start shipping ahead of schedule. We have the people. We have the will. We have the experience. We will work at one hundred and ten percent and pull our fair share without complaint until it is done. I believe we can do this. I know we can do this. Thank you.”

As soon as the words leave my mouth I feel invigorated. I open my e-mails again and begin tackling them with a brutal efficiency. Within an hour I’ve cleared my inbox and started on the piles of paperwork crowding my desk. I hardly have time to notice my suit bunching up on me. Soon I’m assaulted by a rumbling in my stomach and a fullness in my bladder so I know break is getting close. I chance a quick glance at the clock and discover I somehow worked through my break without noticing. No problem, I’ll just grab a quick snack and a little bathroom trip and be right back to prepare for the conference call with Home Office later. I try to stand up and discover I can’t. My hands keep dancing across the keyboard and signing papers without pause. No matter how I try I can’t stop working, and I seem to be picking up speed.

I panic. Somehow I screwed up the speech, but I don’t see how I could have. I reviewed everything twice, and stopped myself from muttering before I said anything damaging. I need to pull up the last draft and re-read it to fix this, but I can’t. I can’t do anything except work. My body will not respond to any command not work related. It’s beginning to take a toll as my stomach growls in protest, and my bladder begins to bloat, and my fingers and arms start to tense and ache from endless typing and writing. I have to undo this and I am afraid I’m left with only one option.

Surprisingly my body responds as I pick up the phone, key in a command and speak, “ Margie, are you through with those quarterly reports yet?”

“Just about, I was doing a final read-through to make sure I hadn’t missed anything then I’ll get them to you to sign. If that’s OK.”

I assure her its fine and go back to finalizing my presentation for the meeting. Sweat blurs my vision as I fight a losing battle against my bladder, hampered by cramping fingers and an ill fitting designer suit. Surely it’ll let me stop after this. I won’t soil myself in the name of efficiency and productivity will I?

Margie’s entrance answers that question with a brutal finality. The stench is evident as soon as the door opens and only worsens as she crosses the room and drops the reports on my desk. Her face and beard are damp with tears and her eyes are the dead stare of a woman who’s given up fighting. She reminds me of my meeting asks if I need anything and waits patiently for a response. I try to say something to her. I want to apologize, to beg for forgiveness, to scream in frustration, or just confess but all I manage is a curt, “Thanks, I’ll let you know if I need something else.”

She nods, turns with a squelching noise, and walks to the door with fresh tears streaming down her face. I’m left alone with my shame and embarrassment, knowing I’ve hurt someone I considered a friend. I’m left to ponder how I came to this point and how to fix it. More importantly I’m left to wonder if I should attempt to clean the carpet or just replace it. I’m not allowed to stew for long though as my body stands, gathers the materials for the presentation, and heads out to Conference Room 3, The Spork, for this teleconference.

Margie doesn’t even glance my way as I head stiff legged down the hall, sweat running into my eyes from the stress of a bladder close to bursting, and enter the room. The reek of a dozen adults sitting in their own waste is enough to gag a troll. I barely stifle my gag reflex as the miasma engulfs me completely and soaks itself into my stupid itchy suit. The Teleseer from I.T. was finishing up the spells to link the mirrors as I took my spot. Usually the room was full of buzzing conversation and rustling papers but today there was nothing but silence as we waited like condemned prisoners. In short order the meeting begins and introductions are made. I kick off our side’s presentation and somehow despite the excruciating pain from my abdomen don’t even stutter as I walk the parent company through our last quarter performance and next quarter projections. Other than the copious amounts of sweat coating every inch of me I think I pull it off without a hitch. Almost.

I’m in the home stretch of the presentation when I finally lose the battle with my bladder. I burst forth like a fire hose, soaking through my underwear and pants in an instant. I don’t stop there though, oh no, my bladder continues to empty like the mighty Ahligeri river flowing down my legs and over my shoes until I stand in a filthy puddle before my co-workers and my bosses.

Our division president loses it, ordering me out of the meeting and to go clean myself up. I obey without question, wondering how to use my ability to fix this, and spend the next half-hour in the men’s room trying to clean myself. As I head back to my office I see Joanne from H.R. and the Watchmage waiting for me. They both look as bad as I do after the events of this morning, and I know of only one reason they would be here. I warmly greet them both and invite them into my office. Joanne explains that Home Office grilled them all about what was going on after my spectacle in the teleconference. They suspect magical interference, and believe it’s related to the speech I gave this morning.

“In short, did you willingly and/or knowingly violate the Magical Enhancement rules of this company and find a way to circumvent the protections and precautions in place to prevent such a circumstance?”

I take my time to consider my response, looking for a way out, and seize upon it.

“Joanne, I just took an opportunity to help this company by reading a motivational speech to the employees this morning. It’s not my fault if they choose to work through breaks and soil themselves because of it. If it was up to me they would follow every rule, and law, in place to ensure safety, and productivity is met. You can’t blame this on me. It’s just a coincidence.”

She exchanges a glance with the Watchmage before leaning forward and lowering her voice. “It’s not just your job at stake here. This affected every one of our workers. Robbing an individual of free will is a felony, and a case of this magnitude could see the one responsible shipped off for the rest of their life. If you did this or know who did, you need to tell us so we can help you. Do you understand?”

“Joanne, I just tried to boost everyone’s spirit. I mean are you suggesting I have some magic power I’m not telling you about? Cause I don’t!”

As soon as I say the words I realize my mistake. I freeze in horror and barely notice the device the Watchmage pulls out of his pocket to show Joanne. I don’t need to know what it is as the look she gives me lets me know my services are no longer required here.

The next few minutes are a blur as I’m escorted out of the building, informed my personal belongings will be mailed to me with my last check, and I will be hearing from their lawyers. I manage to yell an apology at Margie as I pass, but she won’t even look in my direction. As I walk to my car I curse my stupidity and wonder if I truly have lost all my power. I reach into a damp pocket and pull out a quarter and toss it high in the air. At the top of its arc I yell “heads.” and promptly watch it land and bounce under the car. As I retrieve it I discover it has indeed landed on heads and fill my heart fill with hope again.

And that’s when the car hit me.

I lay in the hospital with legs, one arm, three ribs and seven fingers broken as well as a concussion and multiple contusions. My wife sits by my bedside with a police officer. He is there to inform me about the accident. According to the man who ran me over he didn’t know me and had never encountered me before to his knowledge. He said he had nearly caused an accident that morning, but suddenly found himself being more aware of his surroundings afterward. He said that he had been running errands when he spotted me in the parking lot and was overcome with a fierce desire to hit me with his car. He tried to stop himself, but could only watch in horror as he drove over a median, jumped the curb, plowed through a fence and ran me down while I was crawling on the ground. The officer says the man tested positive for Magical Coercion and wonders if it was related to the incident at my former workplace. With a friendly smile he assures me they’ll get to the bottom of this and whoever’s responsible will pay. I manage a weak smile and say thanks as he leaves.

My wife leaves shortly thereafter to pick up our son. Alone in the room I try my powers again by stating my injuries aren’t as bad as they appeared and I’ll go home soon. The doctor enters shortly thereafter and explains that I’m in horrible shape and looking at months of recovery and multiple surgeries to repair the damage to my legs. He tells me they’ll do everything they can to help me and asks if I have any other concerns.
“Yeah, why don’t I feel tired at all?”

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