// CEDRIC’S APARTMENT //
In a small apartment in the Hudson River Valley slumbers the young man Cedric. It is an uneasy sleep, just barely punctuated by the knowledge that his window has shattered and left glass scattered about the chilly linoleum floor.
But nothing seems troublesome enough to rouse him from this exhaustion.
He relocated here a few years ago in an effort to keep some ties with the Magicademy. The modest studio is located a couple counties north of Queens, allowing him some semblance of privacy that was not afforded to him by the Magicademy orphans. From time to time he took the train into the city to, at his leisure, listen to the Matron’s lectures or practice incantations. He also worked as a personal trainer to earn some spare coin, but those hours did not form the better parts of his days.
Cedric had spent too much of his young life surrounded by fellow children. His family, now estranged, had sent the precocious child to military school. To their begrudging surprise, he’d used his chutzpah to thrive, albeit through gritted teeth. Never would any of those assholes see him fail.
Surviving school against all odds was just one of many contradictions he bore. Though he looked the part of a socialite, his inner life was one that craved solitude. No prototypical jock, he liked books not magazines, he liked exercise not sports, and he liked whittling. None of these activities were particularly improved by the presence of yelping younglings.
Today, evening has turned to night. Cricket song teases at the edges of the broken window. Cedric can still not be disturbed from his slumber.
He is lurking at the edges of a dream, thinking back to his first time working what Myrtle had called “magic”.
But his thought is interrupted by the voice of one of his drill instructors.
…Cards… Cards… Cards…
Where is his deck of cards?
If only it lay within his palm…
But Cedric says nothing, only hearing the command impassively.
Where is that deck of cards? The windowsill?
He should count again to make sure there are fifty-two.
THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE.
…Okay: fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four.
THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE.
Cedric opens his eyes. He’s still laying on the floor, hideous linoleum crowding his view.
The voice comes from behind him. It seems familiar, somehow.
He pushes against his arms to crane his neck to the other side. Sideways from his sleeping position, a pair of brown shoes pushes against the floor; a man squatting on the floor about two feet from his prone body.
CEDRIC, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE.
That phrase… why does he keep repeating that phrase?
Mumbling, Cedric, with difficulty, pens a response while still laying on the floor.
D’A FUCK D’YOU WANT?
With extreme difficulty, Cedric lifts himself from the floor, at first seeing only those brown shoes. As he assumes a seated position, he leans against his legs, knees turned up toward the ceiling.
He is entirely exhausted, and were this man not here, he’d simply lay his head back upon the linoleum and drift off back toward the dream he was having.
Now… What was the dream again?
SAY YOUR GOODBYES.
The man wears brown pants and a long-sleeved grey shirt. His hair has receded from his forehead, leaving brown hair to imply a widow’s peak promontory upon the top of his skull. The edges of his hairline are speckled with salt and pepper. His skin is pale, almost alabaster.
I’M VINCENT MARSCAPONE.
YES, “AS IN”.
NOW COME ON. WE HAVE TO GO.
His anxiety must refer to the broken window and tree branch that lay within.
It was quite plain that the house was not on fire.
YOU’RE LUCKY I MADE IT IN.
YOUR WARDS WERE IMPRESSIVE.
Cedric cradles his head in his hands and loses eye contact with Vincent.
He didn’t want to think about his wards… Damn waste of time. Didn’t stop a rogue tree from –
I NEED YOU TO OPEN THE DOOR.
YOU HAVE TO WANT TO LEAVE.
I CAN’T FORCE YOU TO GO ANYWHERE.
BUT I THINK YOU SHOULD GO.
BACK TO MY SCHOOL.
And suddenly, revulsion wracks his mind. He thinks of Hermione, Larry and his little friend, and blood.
BACK TO THE SCHOOL?
FUCK THE SCHOOL, I’M NOT GOING BACK.
I WAS SUPPOSED TO –
He leaves off the end of his own sentence, unsure of what word best finishes it.
YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO ‘WIN’.
Rage consumes Cedric’s better judgement.
DIE! I WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE!
WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
SOMEONE YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO.
WE NEED TO LEAVE THIS PLACE.
WE CAN HAVE THIS CONVERSATION LATER, SOMEWHERE SAFER.
LIKE HELL WE CAN!
(quietly) Too true…
He sighs delicately.
CEDRIC, I NEED YOU TO OPEN THE DOOR.
WHAT, SO YOU CAN TAKE ME BACK TO YOUR STUPID SCHOOL?
I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!!
I’M NOT DEAD.
BUT YES, I DO INTEND TO TAKE YOU BACK TO MY “STUPID SCHOOL”.
IT’S THE ONLY PLACE I HAVE TO HELP YOU.
IT’S NOT GREAT, BUT IT’S ALL I’VE GOT.
I’M NOT GOING BACK.
Vincent hestitates, trying to conjure the right phrase to convince his unwilling student.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO SEE THEM.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO SEE THEM.
Vincent carefully enunciates his repeated sentence. Cedric stands aloft, and Vincent follows in turn. Cedric tries to comprehend the words being spoken, but it is all so overwhelming.
BUT YOU SAID…
I’VE BEEN THERE THIS WHOLE TIME, AND HAVE YOU KNOWN?
Cedric considers the verity of his statement.
OPEN THE DOOR, CEDRIC.
OPEN THE DOOR AND I’LL TAKE YOU WHERE YOU NEED TO GO.
Cedric takes a step backward, toward the door without looking.
A stiff wind blows in through the window and Vincent suddenly seems to be losing his patience.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE HERE? WHAT LIFE ARE YOU LIVING? WHOSE LIFE ARE YOU LIVING?
YOU HATE IT, DON’T YOU?
WISH YOU’D BEEN TAKEN IN WITH THE OTHER ORPHANS. WISH YOU’D BEEN KILLED BY A DAMN CAR CRASH?!
OPEN THE DOOR, CEDRIC. OPEN THE GODDAMNED DOOR!
Another step back, and another.
It was true, he was nothing, he had nothing. Each waking moment flitting from one hatred to another; each moment wishing for a return to the solitude.
Everything about it felt wrong, somehow. It hadn’t always felt so wrong, but with time there’d been the increasingly nagging sensation that he was straying from an unknown destiny. That at some point prior, he’d taken the wrong path and every step thereafter was to punish him for making the incorrect choice.
Was this the second chance?
He keeps watch on Vincent and backs up toward the door, taking its knob in his hand. He hesitates a moment, fearing he’s forgotten that he’d locked the door, but instead it clicks open.
Wind pushes the door against his hand.
THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE
AND YOU’RE COMING WITH ME.
Vincent collapses with the smell of flowers and cut grass and in his place appears a gigantic grey wolf.
Cedric opens his mouth to gasp in fear when his own shape dissolves and he’s frozen on the floor, terrified, his vantage point shockingly close to the ground.
He’s… a rabbit.
Vincent runs forward, grasps the rabbit by the scruff of the neck, runs out the door and down the stairs into a newly cloudless night.
Pain consumes Cedric’s waking thought, teeth sinking into the back of his neck, and he struggles to keep his eyes open.
And yet, there is nothing in the dark behind his eyelids that he wants to see.
The wolf keeps running, loping on and on in the night.
A voice speaks into his mind, and he listens, unable to fight any longer.