Hey Kev. How was your holiday?
Well enough. How was yours?
It was good. Lucia is MIA so it was just me & Larry.
You invited him to stay in with you? That was nice of you.
Yeah, I don't think he had anyone to spend the day with.
That is the unfortunate truth of many of the orphans. They either have no family or the family they do have has disowned them.
What did you get into over the holiday? I imagine you usually spent it with your mom...
Yeah, mom loved the holidays. She always went all out. It was hard not to have her with us this year.
Yeah. The first year without my parents was hard.
Your parents were good people. I'm sorry about what happened.
I miss them.
I think we will always miss them.
Even if life goes on, even if things get better, even if we get everything we've ever wanted.
I think so, too.
I guess... I'm not just here to ask you about your holiday.
I need to ask you a favor.
Larry said that before your mother died, he was looking for someone.
Yeah, that was her name. An old classmate of his?
She was another student of my mother's.
Larry wanted to know if he could look through your house for some of her personal effects.
I already looked through her records and she didn't have much. But I may have something that may be able to help him. It's at the Magicademy.
It's an affectionate term for my mother's house that her students came up with.
I think Larry used that term before.
I wasn't sure.
My mother's house isn't too far from yours. Larry will know where it is. I'll meet you there at four this afternoon.
Sounds good. See you then.
The day passes quietly and without event. At about three in the afternoon, the pair lock up the mansion and prepare to make the voyage across Astoria on foot.
The walk is wordless, heavy with expectation. There is a chill in the air but it is not unpleasant; cold becoming more typical as the summer fades away into memory.
CASSANDRA shoves her hands into the pockets of a bright down jacket. She catches up to the man walking ahead of her, eager to fill the journey with some kind of camaraderie. Her tone is jovial, an attempt to disarm the latent tension.
SO HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU GOT ADOPTED?
DID YOU LIVE –
[interj.] I LIVED IN AN ORPHANAGE UPSTATE.
Sometimes CASSANDRA is surprised at the candor with which LARRY spoke of the past. He always seemed at once offended and desperate to share his pain.
I HATED IT THERE.
I HAD NO IDEA THAT I WAS MAGICAL UNTIL THE MATRON RESCUED ME.
I WAS HEAVILY MEDICATED.
THEY WERE MEDICATING YOU? FOR WHAT?
MY MOOD SWINGS.
THEY INTERPRETED IT AS A BIPOLAR DISORDER.
LITTLE DID I KNOW THE MEDICINE WAS SUPPRESSING MY ABILITY TO EXPRESS MY TALENT. NOT THAT I COULD HAVE DONE ANYTHING ANYWAY.
BUT THE MATRON LIBERATED ME FROM THAT RIGHT QUICK.
BUT I WAS NEVER AS STRONG AS MY CLASSMATES. I BLAME IT ON WHAT THEY DID TO ME.
LARRY… I’M SO SORRY.
WELL, IT’S NOT OKAY, IT NEVER WILL BE, BUT IT’S IN THE PAST AND IT’S NOTHING YOU HAVE TO FEEL SORRY FOR.
STILL… THAT’S AWFUL.
A weakened mage would always be more powerful than a Mortal, but it doesn’t change CASSANDRA’s genuine regret for her friend.
FOR EVERY KID THE MATRON WAS ABLE TO SAVE, THERE ARE MORE THAT WILL LANGUISH AND FADE AWAY.
THERE’S NO TELLING HOW MANY PEOPLE LAY UNDISCOVERED OUT THERE, THINKING THEMSELVES UNLUCKY OR CURSED OR SOME OTHER NONSENSE.
HOW DID THE MATRON FIND YOU?
I DON’T KNOW. SHE NEVER TOLD ME.
NEVER TOLD ANYONE, I DON’T THINK.
ALL OF US WERE RESCUED FROM ALL OVER THE PLACE.
MAYBE SHE HAS SOME KIND OF SPECIALIZED SCRYING MAGIC BUT AS FAR AS I KNOW, THAT ONLY WORKS IF YOU KNOW THE PERSON. I HAD NEVER MET HER BEFORE THE DAY SHE CAME TO ADOPT ME.
CASSANDRA smiles; the expression can be heard in her voice. It’s hard for her to imagine the life that LARRY describes, but she tries.
THAT MUST HAVE BEEN A WONDERFUL DAY.
IT WAS, AND IT WASN’T.
I WAS SCARED SHITLESS.
AND I WAS MORE THAN A LITTLE BIT ANGRY THAT SOME OLD WOMAN WAS ADOPTING ME AND NOT THE BEAUTIFUL YOUNG COUPLE I’D ALWAYS HOPED FOR.
BUT THEN SHE TOOK ME TO THE CITY AND I SAW THE LIGHTS AT NIGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME AND I WAS MESMERIZED.
I NEVER WANTED TO GO BACK.
SHE TOOK ME BACK TO THE MAGICADEMY AND SHE SHOWED ME TO MY BUNK.
I DIDN’T SLEEP AT ALL.
I JUST LISTENED TO THE SOUNDS OF THE OTHER KIDS SNORING AND WONDERED WHAT MY LIFE WAS GOING TO BE.
WHEN THE NEXT DAY CAME, SHE TOOK ME INTO HER OFFICE AND BROUGHT OUT A PILE OF MANILLA ENVELOPES.
SHE SAID TO ME:
“THIS IS YOUR FILE, LAWRENCE. IT’S EVERYTHING THE MORTALS KNOW ABOUT YOU. AND IT’S ALL HORSESHIT.”
IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST TIMES I’D HEARD AN ADULT CURSE LIKE THAT. SHE SAID:
“IT’S ALL HORSESHIT. BUT I WANT YOU TO READ IT WITH ME BEFORE WE BURN IT.”
IT WAS MY MEDICAL AND BEHAVIORAL RECORDS, MOSTLY.
I WANTED TO KNOW IF IT HAD ANYTHING ABOUT MY MOM AND DAD.
LARRY pauses; CASSANDRA tries to absorb all that he’s said. They keep walking.
NOTHING THEY HADN’T ALREADY TOLD ME.
MY PARENTS DIED IN A CAR CRASH.
THEY WERE UNABLE TO IDENTIFY THE BODIES; THEY SUSPECTED THEY WERE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.
THE POLICE BROUGHT ME TO THE ORPHANAGE AND THERE I STAYED.
NO ONE EVER CLAIMED ME.
IT WAS THAT DAY I SAW MY FIRST WORKING OF MAGIC.
AFTER WE WENT THROUGH MY FILE FOR –
IT SEEMED LIKE HOURS –
SHE SAID THAT IF I DIDN’T WANT TO KEEP THE PAPERS MYSELF, SHE INTENDED TO DESTROY THEM.
SHE EXPLAINED TO ME THAT SHE DIDN’T KEEP SUCH “INFERNAL THINGS” AS PAPER SHREDDERS TO DO SUCH TASKS, NOR DID SHE EMPLOY THE RESOURCES OF AN OUTSIDE AGENCY.
“DO YOU KNOW HOW ELSE ONE MAY DESTROY A TALE OF LIES?”
I WASN’T SURE, SO I ASKED IF SHE WERE GOING TO SET A FIRE.
“I COULD,” SHE SAID. “BUT I HAVE A BETTER WAY.”
AND SHE CAST IN FRONT OF ME MY FIRST SPELL.
SHE TOOK A TRASH BIN NEAR HER AND MOVED IT IN FRONT OF HER. THEN SHE HELD UP A PACKET OF THE PAPERS.
AND THE PAPER FADED TO A SORT OF AMBER, BROWNISH AMBER, BEFORE CRUMBLING TO PIECES AND FALLING INTO THE GARBAGE.
SHE HADN’T SET FIRE TO THE PAPER; SHE’D AGED IT.
SHE’D TAKEN TIME IN THE PALM OF HER HANDS AND AGED THE PAPER.
SHE PROCEDED TO DO THIS OVER AND OVER AGAIN TO EVERY PIECE OF PAPER IN THE FILES.
I WAS SPEECHLESS.
CASSANDRA looks about herself in anxiety, trying to ensure that none are listening.
WOW… I HAD NO IDEA MAGIC COULD DO THAT.
IT’S A DIFFICULT SPELL ON THE BEST OF DAYS.
AND IT’S MUCH EASIER ON NON-LIVING THINGS.
THE MORE COMPLICATED THE OBJECT, THE MORE DIFFICULT THE INCANTATION.
PAPER IS ABOUT AS EASY AS IT GETS.
‘BUT STILL’ IS RIGHT.
I WAS INCREDULOUS.
SHE SAID TO ME, AFTER A TIME:
“YOU’LL BE ABLE TO DO THIS YOURSELF, LAWRENCE.”
I CORRECTED HER, AND SAID I PREFERRED TO GO BY ‘LARRY’.
SHE SAID, “WELL, YOU’RE A WIZARD, LARRY. THEY’VE DAMN NEAR MEDICATED THE PASSION RIGHT OUT OF YOU BUT IN TIME IT’LL COME BACK.”
“YOU’RE A WIZARD.”
“EVEN IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IT YET, YOU WILL.”
“IN TIME, YOU WILL.”
At the MAGICADEMY, KEVIN is sitting on the stoop reading a small book. The front bears no image nor brightly printed title; it’s an antique hardback book. A persistent breeze blows his red-orange hair over his skull.
CASSANDRA. LARRY. IT’S GOOD TO SEE YOU.
The two say their greetings. KEVIN uses a key on a large keyring to let them into the house.
Diplomatically, CASSANDRA tries to melt the icy feeling in the air.
DID YOU DRIVE FROM ALL THE WAY OUT EAST?
YEAH, I DID. BUT IT’S NO WORRY.
EVER SINCE I FOUND OUT YOU WERE LOOKING FOR HERMIONE, I’VE THOUGHT PERHAPS I MIGHT BE ABLE TO HELP.
The inside of the building is dark and somewhat musty.
LARRY mutters to CASSANDRA.
[quietly] Oh, okay.
KEVIN silently sets the candles alight.
Y’KNOW, I HAD THOUGHT THAT MAYBE YOUR GOOD FRIEND CEDRIC MIGHT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HELP US…
KEVIN’s silence does not bode well for LARRY’s suggestion. He speaks without turning back to face the others.
I… I DON’T THINK CEDRIC WILL –
[interj.] NO, I DIDN’T THINK SO.
IN HIS DEFENSE, IT’S BEEN MANY YEARS.
LIFE FOR EVERYONE HAS CHANGED A LOT.
LARRY pauses, darkly.
THEN MAYBE HE COULD GET OVER HIMSELF.
IF HE’S SO PISSED OFF ABOUT HIS LOT, COULDN’T HE TAKE THE CURE?
CASSANDRA’s eyes open wide and she gets a sideways glance at KEVIN. She had to admit, she was curious about whatever this ‘cure’ was, and how it was able to free someone from the clutches of vampirism.
But KEVIN’s face is unyielding.
IT WAS THE COUNT VLADISLAUS STRAUD WHO WAS ABLE TO CURE ME.
I DO NOT THINK IT IS SOMETHING HE IS ABLE, OR WILLING, TO GIVE WITHOUT DISCRETION.
SO HE’S UNWILLING TO RID THE WORLD OF THE CURSE.
I SUPPOSE HE IS.
An awkward silence hangs between the three.
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR IS IN MY OLD ROOM, UPSTAIRS.
KEVIN grasps a candelabrum, now magically lit.
CASSANDRA, LARRY follow him up the staircase.
DID I MEET HIM?
HE HAS PALE HAIR, PALE EYES.
CASSANDRA looks around in the dim light. The space is crammed full of books and baubles and what was once a spacious home induces some claustrophobia.
What was it like, to have no mother and no father; to live with an elderly witch who could turn paper to dust with a bit of coarse Latin?
HE DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING.
They turn the corner and continue down a narrow hallway.
[quietly] You met Cedric?
[quietly] I guess so.
KEVIN ignores their attempt at an aside.
IF YOU’LL EXCUSE THE EXPRESSION,
LARRY AND CEDRIC HAVE SOME BAD BLOOD BETWEEN.
TRUTH BE TOLD, I ALWAYS THOUGHT HE WAS AN ASSHOLE.
THIS IS MY ROOM. I HAVE SOME OF MY OLD BOOKS IN HERE.
The door, strangely, has two mismatched locks on it. It’s a messy job, almost certainly done by an amateur.
HERMIONE WAS A LITTLE BIT OLDER THAN ME. ONE YEAR, FOR CHRISTMAS, SHE GAVE ME A GIFT.
SHE WROTE A SHORT NOTE WITH IT, UNFORTUNATELY I DON’T HAVE THAT ANYMORE; THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN OF GREAT HELP TO YOUR QUEST. BUT I STILL HAVE THE BOOKS.
IT WAS A BUNDLE OF A FEW COMIC BOOKS.
I READ THEM OVER AND OVER AGAIN, COVER TO COVER.
IT WAS A THOUGHTFUL GIFT.
Inlaid on the walls are generous bookshelves. They are deep enough as to remove square footage from the already small room. KEVIN sorts through the tomes.
I’M SURE THEY’RE UP HERE SOMEWHERE.
I’VE TAKEN SOME OF THE BOOKS OUT, BUT I THOUGHT I LEFT THEM…
AHA! HERE THEY ARE.
KEVIN slides off the shelf a few stapled comic books, slightly smaller than the voluminous books surrounding them.
He passes them over to CASSANDRA for inspection.
IS THIS… NIHONGO?
KEVIN chuckles a little.
YEAH, IT IS.