THE TEACHER LOOKED AT her list and called the name of the next girl. The girl, upon hearing her name called, rose from her chair to stand before the class. She took a deep breath, then smiled nervously at the others.

The teacher, who sat behind the piano, began to play the introduction to a slow and sad song. When it came time for the girl to sing, she took a deep breath, then opened her mouth. The room filled with her beautiful voice.

When the song was finished, even the boys were silent, listening to the girl sing. She smiled again and pushed a piece of her brown hair behind her ear, then returned to her seat while the teacher called the name of the next girl on her list.

This girl, whose name was Macy, was flat and sang through her nose, and the boy who sat to the right of the girl started making dirty comments. The girl who sat to her left told her she'd done a really good job. The girl smiled again, when she smiled, it kept her from feeling nervous.

"I hope I get a good part," she confessed as Macy finished her song and sat down. Having reached the end of her list, the teacher called a boy to come stand for a class, and the tryouts continued.

THE ROOM LOOKED LIKE some sort of mixture between a Victorian era sitting room and a modern living room. Giant windows faced the rocky scenery outdoors, and velvet curtains covered them.

Everything in the room was a deep magenta, and all the dark colors made a person think of fine wines. The sofa in the middle of the room and the desk in the corner gave it a sense of elegance.

In contrast, a stereo sat in the corner, covered in dust. As there were no outlets in the room, the cord was spread around the speakers in an impossible tangle. A giant television set stood against the wall. An outlet had been built in to the wall for the sole purpose of giving the television a source of power.

A man who looked to be about twenty years of age stood in the middle of the room. He held a remote control in his hand, and was glaring at the political analysts on television, who were predicting who would win the next election in a state the man had never heard of.

The doorbell, yet another modern innovation that had been added to the man's house, rang. The man hurried to the door and answered it. The first thing he asked was, "How do you turn this ridiculous thing off?"

The man who had just arrived smiled. "So I see that you were watching TV," he said. "I told you it could be very entertaining. What program did you watch, personally, I enjoy movies."

"Very funny, Isiat," said the first man. He waved the remote control in front of his friend's face and said, "Somebody left this thing laying on my couch, and I sat on it, and the stupid machine turned itself on."

"Why, Melor, you aren't implying that I would try to trick you into actually enjoying your gift, are you?" Isiat asked. "True, I am terribly hurt that you don't enjoy all this technology I'm giving you, but you don't think I'd be so blatantly disrespectful as to leave this remote control in a place where I was sure you'd end up using it, do you?"

"Just show me how to turn the thing off," Melor said, leading Isiat into his sitting room. Isiat was one of those people who always seemed to be ready for the next new fad. He liked to think that by bringing technology into the world of Pritcut, he could convince its inhabitants to return to their original homes.

Centuries ago, many people had believed in such "crazy" ideas as witchcraft and wizardry. It hadn't been uncommon to hear of people being run out of town because of wild witchcraft accusations, or for mobs of people to turn on their friends and neighbors because they believed them to practice dark arts.

The witches and wizards of the world had decided, in the year 1500, to leave the world and create their own. A great spell had been cast, and they'd created Pritcut. To be quite honest, Pritcut wasn't really its own world. It was actually a part of the Himalayas, which separated India from China. Pritcut was hidden by magic, however, and no person who didn't practice magic could find it.

There was no law that prevented wizards and witches from interacting with the outside world, but it wasn't generally done. Early in Pritcutian history, it hadn't been done because of fear, and now there was no contact because the world had changed so much, and Pritcutans didn't understand the outside world.

Well, Isiat did. He was thrilled by the technological innovations in the outside world, and he always bought new gadgets when he could find them. Usually, he also ended up buying things for Melor, who didn't particularly want them, but couldn't talk Isiat out of buying them.

"You should take better care of this stuff!" Isiat exclaimed when he entered Melor's sitting room. He rushed to the dusty stereo, and began to brush away the grime. "This isn't good for it," he complained.

"You're the one who bought it," Melor said while Isiat began to vigorously clean the stereo with his shirtsleeve. "I told you I probably wouldn't do anything with it. Now, come on and tell me how to turn this thing off."

Isiat reluctantly left the stereo and showed Melor how to turn the television off for the eighth time since he'd given it to him. "If you weren't so stubborn, you'd probably like TV," Isiat said. "You can learn a lot about the outside world."

"If you weren't so stubborn, you wouldn't try to make me watch TV, and there wouldn't be a problem," Melor countered.

"Well, you'll be happy to know that I'm over TV," Isiat said. "I've got a new gift for you."

"Please, nothing else," Melor complained, but Isiat clapped his hands, and a new device appeared on his tidy desk. It seemed like some sort of mixture of plastic and glass. It had a screen, like the television, but it was deeper and colorful. It was green, and looked cheap compared to the room's d├ęcor.

This device had all sorts of things attached to it with cords. There was a piece of flat plastic with buttons labeled as letters and numbers, and a piece of machinery that was about the shape and size of a book that didn't appear to have any openings other than a slot at the end, and on a cord t here was an odd oval with two buttons on it.

"What is this monstrosity?" Melor demanded, seeing that when the thing had appeared, it had come with an electric outlet in the wall, and that it was plugged in.

"This is called a computer," said Isiat. "Most non magical people use it to talk to friends and to find information. Here, let me turn it on for you."

"I don't want you to turn it on," Melor complained. He and Isiat had this conversation every time he brought something new. "I have all the information I need in my books, and if I ever need to get in touch with you, I can contact you magically, or just wait for you to come over. You do visit every day."

"Oh, that reminds me," Isiat said. "My sister is coming over with me tomorrow, do you mind?"

"Brydje?" Melor whined. "She isn't going to try to predict my future again, is she?"

"I'll try to remind her that you don't like having your future predicted, but if she decides she wants to foresee something, I can't really stop her," Isiat said. "Now, stop complaining and let me show you how to use the computer. If you cooperate, I'll see what I can do about Brydje."

Melor made a face, but let Isiat show him the new contraption. He was sure he wouldn't use it ever, so he didn't pay very close attention. Unlike Isiat, he didn't like change.