Nick The Wizard

by Tristan J Nankervis

It's four in the fucking morning, and I'm cleaning yellow shit off a wall in an ugly, abandoned shack of a house. Yeah, wizardry sure was a great career choice.

"Nick, try gripping the knife with your thumb resting lightly on the handle," says Mr Murfet, looking up from his spellbook.

Gee, thanks. I'm sure it'll lessen the unbearable boredom.

"Right, Murf," I answer.

"That's Mr. Murfet. Cut the attitude. You're here for something important."

Right. It's just a little difficult to see when I'm standing in a room where the wallpaper was considered tacky twenty years ago, the couch is being held together by the stains, and the television looks like it's survived World War II.

God, I hate this bit. See, beyond the understanding of humanity, on dimensions we are too primitive to understand, there lay beings of unimaginable power, who can wipe humanity out with a simple thought and are themselves part of the vast and uncaring cosmos and blah-di-blah-di-fucking-blah. The point is, sometimes they bleed through cracks in reality and leave behind what we wizards call hosaple. Hosaple is kind of like a bridge between the horrible, vast cosmos and here. It's a clear, sticky and viscous substance, like honey. Unlike honey, it stinks like cleaning supplies. You can't breath deep around it, unless you want to be tasting bleach for a week. It usually collects in abandoned houses, factories, schools, basically anywhere really dilapitated and forgotten. If too much collects in one area, abominations far beyond the ken of mortals can be allowed to burst through, and wizards have to either destroy them or send them back to the realm where they belong.

This being completely awesome, naturally we have to try and prevent it. In such a way that I end up covered in crap.

I have to scrape all the hosaple that collected on the wall, and put it in the bucket. Then Murfet, the wizard I'm assigned to, destroys it. We have to do this before the sun rises, because sunlight is what activates the bridge, so to speak. Murfet said that because this hosaple is about three days old, there might be a crowd of abominations behind it, waiting for sunrise. I guess even I don't want to fight half a dozen abominations at once.

"You're still not holding it properly."

"I'm fine like this."

"Your wrist is going to start aching pretty soon."

"Then I'll put up with it."

"Okay, then," Murfet says, sighing. He looks back down at his spellbook.

I grew up in a small town, a few hours outside of the city. My family and I lived in a shack a little less decrepit than this one. Most of my childhood was spent with my nose in a book, reading about the one thing that fascinated me most – by the time I was old enough to read full novels, I was sick of the craphole town I was stuck in. I'd spend hours reading about great illusionists creating wonderful, colourful, shadowy imagery; shifters building massive, impossible towers that can stretch into the stars, using only their minds; healers, um, healing people. I was most enraptured with morphers - so much so that now I'm in training to become one. If I concentrate, I can change my body into something like the abominations that crawl out of the cosmos.

See, that's the trouble with magic. You do it by pulling existence out of the cosmos (Not entirey accurate, but it's the best non-technical word I can think of). You pull too much at a time, you start to pull in abominations. Illusionists are usually okay – even the best of them, people who can make imagery near impossible to tell apart from reality, are only bringing in enough to change a few million air molecules. Shifters are basically making holes in the air, so they have to be careful not to make a hole open long enough that an abomination can crawl through. Healers are changing a physical body, so they need to be very careful not to let the existence overwhelm the person's body, changing them into an abomination. Obviously healers are trained for years and years before they're even allowed to go anywhere near an injured person, so generally you'll only find healers in emergency services or the army, doing first aid, and surgeons almost always do it the old-fashioned way. Morphers are changing huge amounts of their own body. They are the most dangerous, and I think you can see why.

Of course, it's hard to tell when you stink of ammonia and bleach, and your wrist is aching like hell. I look over to Murfet – he's not looking at me, he's reading his book. I adjust my thumb so it's sitting more comfortably. Definitely not going to give him the satisfaction of being right. Even if he is my teacher, and he's supposed to be.

I want to practise my claws. So far it's the only morphing I can do, and it takes me about a minute to get them to a reasonable length. Toby, a friend of mine at school, can morph his entire hands, and I need to beat him at it.

I look over to Murfet again. He's still reading. I keep scraping with my right hand, and put my left hand under my jacket. I concentrate, and mutter the spell.

mummaneltoromashimmilellayyo -

I feel the tips of my fingers warm. They harden, feeling more like stone than skin. My nails grow, slowly at first, millimetre by millimetre, but I concentrate harder, speak faster, my fingers heat up, I feel the cells, the atoms, the particles in my fingers rub against each other, I speak faster, harder, my fingers burn, I can feel it concentrate grow faster harder burn -

A hand slaps across the back of my head. My fingernails retreat into themselves, my skin softens. I turn, rubbing the back of my head.

"Ow!"

"What have I told you about practising?!" growls Murfet.

"I was just doing claws! I was fine!"

"You were yelling so loudly I think you woke the neighbours," says Murfet, seething.

"I was?"

"Yep. Put your hand over your heart."

I do.

"Jesus, it's like I just ran a marathon!"

"Exactly. I don't want you to have a heart attack, or worse, while I'm on a job with you."

I smirk, and rub my fingers through my sweat-drenched hair. "You'd rather I die on someone else's watch?"

Murfet smiles and rolls his eyes. He turns his attention back to his book. I return to scraping the wall.

It takes me an hour, but I do it. Every last drop of the hosaple has been collected in the bucket, and the knife I used has been thrown in with it, just to be safe. Murfet nods approvingly, and puts his hands over the bucket. He begins murmering the spell he's been checking the past hour, the one that destroys the hosaple.

moameliminolemillimisam -

Sunlight pours through the window.

assamilli – Oh shit!

A hand bursts through the hosaple. The bucket smashes apart, and a crusty, ugly thing sits in its place. It looks like a person wrapped in volcanic rock – skin black as night, deep pits up and down its body. Its hands are a twisted parody of the concept, fingers fused together in horrible claws. There are twisting, turning horns growing out of its arms and legs. It turns and looks at me, eyes like smouldering embers embedded in its face.

It howls, a piercing high-pitched noise, and runs straight at me. Panicking, I jump out of the way, but it simply grabs onto my arm and swings me around, throwing me into the wall. Everything goes black for a second. Everything blurs into focus. I wish it hadn't.

It's looking at me. It's frowning at me. It's absolutely certain that I should not exist, and it's going to work to remove me from existence.

Oh God, I'm going to die!

Then I see him. Mr. Murfet. He's standing a little behind the abomination. He's frowning. He's muttering something. He's changing. His skin is becoming encrusted, like a diamond shaped into a man. Icy horns grow out of his arms and legs, and his face looks paved over with the stuff. All this happens in the blink of an eye. He charges at the abomination, knocking it off its feet. He's taken it by surprise, and it howls in shock. I try to stand quickly, but my legs nearly collapse under me, and everything starts spinning. The abomination grabs Murfet by the waist, and throws him into the wall. Murfet gets up quickly, as if he'd merely tripped, and snarls.

"Nick! Grab the hosaple and throw it against the wall!"

"Okay!"

Responding was a mistake. The abomination remembers I'm there, and charges at me. I'm thrown to the ground, and it starts tearing at my skin and clothes. It rips off a chunk of my torso, blood splattering everywhere. I scream in pain. I thrash uselessly at the abomination, scratching my hands on the cold, dead skin.

Suddenly, it's not on me anymore. I breathe deeply. It hurts a lot.

"Nick! Throw the hosaple on the wall!" Murfet has the abomination in a hold.

Ignoring the pain and running on the command I've been given, I scramble to my feet and run to the hosaple. I collect a big handful of it, and throw it against the wall. I grab another handful and do it again.

"That's enough!" yells Murfet, and he picks up the abomination by the throat and throws it into the hosaple. It simply falls through like it's been thrown into a pool, howling all the way.

Murfet screams the spell, his palms pointed the hosaple, and a beam of the diamond-like encrustment comes out of his hands, turning all the hosaple to the same substance.

When he's done, he collapses, the encrustment retreating into his body. Very quickly, he's back to being the same old Murfet, exactly the same as he always was. He breathes deeply, letting his breath come back to normal. He turns to me.

"Are you alright?"

I look down at myself. My t-shirt is in tatters, but I'm not as badly wounded as I thought. I mean, I'll probably have to get stitches for that big gash, but I think I'll be fine.

"Yeah."

"Exciting, wasn't it?"
"Not what I expected."

"No."

"When are we going to do it again?"

Murfet smiles.