Thursday, January 5, 2012

Prompt: One

She had one dollar in her worn, tattered pocket.

It was raining - a cold, December morning, the sort that gave them all a bad name. It was yet cold enough to freeze the droplets into crystalline flakes that would dance in the air and flutter lightly to the ground. Instead, fat, angry drops plummeted to the ground, exploding as they hit unyielding concrete.

She’d found the dollar in puddle, up against a cracked, dirty curb. The fingers on her gloves were already torn and her fingertips numb, so they didn’t sting when she reached into the icy water for it. Proud of her catch, she’d held it close to her chest and sighed, a small smile working its way across her haggard face. The lines in her face were those of a much older woman - her 15 years were multiplied over and over again on her weary countenance. But this dollar shed a few years as her eyes brightened and her chapped pink lips turned up at the corners for the first time in weeks.

One dollar wouldn’t get her a place to sleep tonight, or shoes without holes in them, or a dry coat. It wouldn’t solve any of her problems - but it would buy her a hot sandwich to get through one more day.

Or, it could buy that same warm sandwich for her young brother, huddled a block over, too cold to move, but so very, very hungry.

Prompt: Not my idea of a good time, but....

Using magic in front of others isn't really my idea of a good time, but sometimes, your options are limited. This was one such circumstance. I found myself cornered, in mortal danger, and armed only with my fledgling complement of supernatural abilities. In case that wasn't enough, I was also at my mundane day-job in a squat little office building, surrounded by not only MY supervisors, but THEIR supervisors who had chosen today to grace us with their lofty presence. Clearly, whatever powers I may have garnered over the course of my study, "manipulation of fate" was not one of them.

At this point, I essentially had two options. The first was spectacularly unappealing - death. The second was only marginally more tolerable - use the full power I was capable of wielding to banish the opposing spirit, theoretically epically destroying him in the process, but, at the same time, blatantly exposing my predilection to the preternatural to a bunch of terrified businessmen in overpriced power suits who had a lot more control over my future endeavors that I seemed to have at the current moment. Since accepting Option A meant forgoing any change of HAVING any future at all, ruined or otherwise, I took a deep breath, cracked my knuckles as noisily as possibly, and stepped over of the cubicle in which I'd been cowering in my indecision. To the unbridled astonishment of my Armani-clad on-lookers, I spread out my arms, focused my mind, and began to drain excess energy from the surrounding environment. The was so afire with tension - fear, confusion, helplessness - that its electrifying tingle was tangible even to those without any enhances sensitivities. It wasn't difficult to harness its power and it flew into my fingertips in glowing veins of raw energy, lighting up the room with a brilliant aura, and ensuring I was the exact center of everyone's attention.

You know those dreams where you're at school and everyone is starting at you and suddenly you realize it's because you are clad solely in Care Bears underwear? Suddenly you feel alone, exposed, and completely vulnerable. Using magic in a public arena is kind of like that - except, exponentially worse. No one else can help you because they don't have the ability - the success of your conflict rides uniquely on your shoulders. You've revealed you not only BELIEVE in the supernatural world, but believe in it so thoroughly you sought out training as a practitioner. You'd think the blaring physical evidence presented to them would convince you witnesses you were in the right, but a surprisingly percentage of observers will still regard you as a crazy loon with an especially convincing stage act. You are vulnerable, not only to mortal judgment and consequence, but also literally, physically vulnerable, as using magic requires a shift in focus from shielding to invoking and from defensive awareness to offensive action. Your defenses are stripped to nil as you advance, and there is little time to brace for retaliation.

I didn't spare a glance behind me at my unwilling audience - I didn't have the attention to waste, and I didn't want to see their horrified expressions. I could feel their eyes drilling into my back; I knew their fear was redirected at me. I was now an "unknown." People I saw every day, who I knew and cared for, didn't know who or what I was anymore. They didn't know which side in this stand-off was "good" or "evil," but, either way, I had irrevocably outed myself as "otherworldly." I was no longer one of them, and I couldn't be trusted. I'd made myself an outsider.

Now that nothing would ever be the same, I had to at least ensure the sacrifice of my "normal" life was worthwhile. I felt myself begin to levitate, ever so slightly, as the fire crackled within me. If I didn't act soon, I'd be overcome and lose control, and then I'd be useless. I took a deep breath, drew back my arms, and channeled my focus. I was shaking with the intensity of what I was about to do as the electricity arced between my quivering hands. I chanted quietly to myself, closed my eyes, reached out, and attacked.