THE RETURN OF IN SCIENCE WE MAGIC
Recently (last night) I reread the entirety of In Science We Magic as it’s available on this here tumblr. This morning I then looked at the project file and counted twenty finished, partly finished, and bare bones vignettes yet to make their way to the light of day. Thusly, I have an announcement to make.
In Science We Magic will be updating every Thursday for the next twenty weeks.
What I’m going to do is basic editing to fill in notation. Unless the fancy strikes me, I won’t be flushing out entire pieces from the more bare bones ones. You’ll get full posts, strictly dialogue and a couple of one-liners. I won’t be writing anything new, the serial as it currently is (a dropped WIP) will be completely online.
I will continue to update The Hellborne Universe, in the meantime, but not on a weekly basis. So whether or not The Hellborne Universe gets an update, there’ll at least be ISWM to read for the next twenty weeks. I do have plenty of Hellborne Universe to post, don’t worry.
Foxhorn was a figment of Luna’s imagination. She didn’t know how else to explain. Foxhorn knew better than to ask her to collaborate on a job, but the client’s other hire had, and she accepted immediately.
Luna regarded his near palpable confusion with careful consideration.
“Is there something I should know?”
“Hopefully not.” She smiled.
If there was one thing to know about Luna, it was that she could handle situations that were inconceivable for her to deal with; even impossible in her own opinion. She could tell herself what she had to do, and then did it.
This was perhaps a result of her upbringing.
Luna had an infinite number of brothers. In a family of matrilineal Seers, Luna was the figurative heir apparent, and also the eldest, despite being born blind. This made her life remarkably difficult, as she had to explain on a near-constant basis that she didn’t actually have any ‘power’ and therein was of no use to the psychic shop that was hiring, for helping cheat the lottery nor did any dealers of illicit goods have any reason to target her.
All of which was extremely tedious and she had been tempted many times to purchase business cards stating that she was impertinent as a Seer and would not fetch a handsome sum, nor could she help some person’s crusade.
However many times she insisted she was not of use the way they insisted that she would be; she would wind up helping in some way regardless.
Which was a situation where having an infinite number of brothers helped. Her skills from wrangling multiple rambunctious children, as her brothers were barely anything but rambunctious, were a major asset. She often found herself having to multitask people or become an authority figure at a moment’s notice. These were characteristics that had nothing to do with her so-assumed Seer abilities. With every job she acquired, she became more resolute in the fact that she couldn’t be hired for things that she couldn’t do, yet she would find herself there the next time any ways.
Not just because she was paid – handsomely at times – but because she was becoming very good at it, and she found it interesting. She just had to be certain she wasn’t doing anything that was illegal or immoral.
She often refused jobs – actually refusing them took a lot of effort and some distasteful action – on hunches. Because as much as she didn’t have the entire Seer package that came with being born a woman with two X chromosomes, she still had her dreams. Her dreams were a comprehensive and lucid journey in vivid detail.
Which was why she started taking certain jobs at the first whisper of their inception.
Luna Hellborne knew exactly where she was going.
Daxes was in school two-hundred-and-thirty-six days out of three-hundred-and-sixty-five. Her time outside of academics and her interests – anything not strictly devoted to her own life and doings – was family-based. The third Saturday of every month was a mandatory canton caucus, with the rest of her kindred of paraos. She additionally visited her family and kinship every weekend that she wasn’t entirely mired with schoolwork.
So when she started spending time with Foxhorn – who knew Daxes barely existed in the same societal universe or social universe as he did, nevermind vicinity – he was a little bewildered.
Post-rain of pondscum and lakeweed, that Foxhorn swore was not his fault this time, the ‘unholy holy trio’ were making their way through pints in the darkest, dingiest back corner of the city’s pub that had the least technology draped over the walls. As amusing as walking into a sports bar was when the televisions began to explode and jump from their wall anchors; Daxes, Foxhorn and Channing were attempting to have a wind down. With the extreme lack of conversation floating between the despondent, wary figures, their company was retained purely because they had conquered today’s conflict together and Foxhorn had made motions for a drinkery.
Daxes didn’t often fry technology, but she didn’t doubt that Foxhorn knew every low-tech pub in the region’s municipal limits and she well-appreciated the firehall bar’s feel rather than glaring lights and everything that made her feel like her guise was itching off. Wearing her guise made the world an entirely different place that she was quite sure she didn’t like.
Human-passing wasn’t something she felt the need to be.
Foxhorn leaned forward to peer at the bar for reconnaissance when Daxes rolled her shoulders and feathers became the arm she was holding her mug with.
The saint Ashley Channing had been staring into the honey liquid that was something Foxhorn had flagged down with less than two words and tasted much like the mead brews he was used to from the remote monasticism of his youth. His eyes – a hazel mirroring his second mug of the alcoholic beverage – remained just out of focus as he became aware of Daxes’ shift in a non-creature space.
In a more average situation, he might have spoken up about the public visibility but would have still considered that it would perhaps be not of his business or that he didn’t know the scope of the situation. Having just spent the last fourteen hours managing and obstructing a newt apocalypse, he was pretty sure Daxes – who had also spent the last fourteen hours managing and obstructing the newt apocalypse – could do whatever she wanted, provided she was up to dealing with any consequences.
The way she flexed her fingers out, stretched them to the straining point before rippling them back into her other wing, whilst knocking back the last remains of her mug, said she both could deal with any consequences and that she didn’t concern herself about any consequences.
She refilled her mug from the pitcher and topped up Channing’s with a stretch and her feathers brushing the floor.
Channing tilted his mug to thank her.
Daxes returned the gesture with her own once she had returned to it.
“I’m still mad about Leixes.”
Harm’s forehead planted itself into his palm like an elephant off a high-board going for a twisting pike dive. He groaned with as much lament as his taxed energy could achieve.
With Sigge in the apartment Foxhorn was no longer alone. Sigge was the bane of his existence. An ever-taunting and leisurely creature that rued the fact its visage couldn’t unnerve the man and therefore kept a steady, doubled pace of ruining every second of Foxhorn’s day.
Harm Foxhorn, being a beast of immeasurable destruction and terror, wasn’t the least bothered by the elongated neck and bisque doll face straight out of a museum collection. Not even when Sigge was trying to crane its head to peer into his bedroom because the damn thing couldn’t leave him alone.
The man was intent on washing off the blood and grime covering everything that wasn’t his ripped psychic shop T-shirt and the pants he had also managed to shred.
I can’t sleep while I’m here, just like I can’t sleep the night before coming here. This place and its inhabitants are the root to my trauma, to my inability to do anything. An inability I shove away and function outside of, as long as I’m outside of here.
I’m surrounded by people who would never hurt me. Except for the scores and scores of times they’ve hurt me and continue to do so. And I hate how comfortable it is.
There’s a buzz of anxiety just under my skin, dancing in the back of my mind, an ache in my chest. It makes me squeamish but it blends into the familiar scenery, the rug I feel at home sitting on, the sounds of the house I recognize best, the genuine appreciation I receive for being here.
I can’t sleep. And they’re slowly killing me.
It’s half past midnight and
I’m actually tired enough to sleep.
somewhere already in bed,
already lulled into slumber
with the aid of pills that she
could never sleep without,
my mother is proud of me.
Miss Officer, Mr. Truffles and Ms. Taffe’s Furnace
Being a constable in the RCMP was a serious job, with as much fun and light heartedness one could apply day-to-day. But today wasn’t another ordinary day on the job. No, ordinary days involved car chases, evidence gathering, sitting behind a speed radar gun with a very large cup of coffee and a very deep dish of water, or even the average arrest. Today, a cat was stuck in a tree.
“I can’t say it’s the most exciting thing we’ve done this morning,” Miss Officer said, all of an hour on shift and having done literally nothing but a comms check in her squad car before being called out. She smiled as Mr. Truffles agreed shortly before scampering up the tree. “I thought people stopped calling emergency services for this kind of thing?”
On the grassy front lawn of a quaint, proverbial cottage-house occupied by a tall, elderly woman in a Canadiens housecoat, with a Jamaican accent not diminished in the least from her fifty years rooting for the habs – stood said elderly woman, Miss Officer and one remarkably large tree. “They said on the phone, they had an officer in mind,” Ms. Taffe watched the small black bear make its way to the thickest branch that was the current perch for a very arrogant tabby by the name of Furnace. “Are you sure about this?”
“Trust me ma’am, we are professional law enforcement officers – which may not actually directly apply to getting cats out of trees – but Mr. Truffles is a highly trained expert in… many other things.” She surveyed their small audience of a kid on a BMX bike with a Maple Leafs tuque, before looking back up to her partner. “How’s it going?”
Mr. Truffles waved a paw in the air as a thumbs-up, serving to swing him off-balance and nearly off the branch. He hung on, upside-down, with his free paw attempting to get a grip for leverage.
Furnace, meanwhile, appeared to have fallen asleep.
“Yeah, we’ve got this.”
Between breaths, Harm Foxhorn hacked blood onto the sidewalk. Somewhere in the distance someone called emergency services, sending alarms off in his head that he needed to move. Foxhorn couldn’t be sent to a hospital; he wasn’t necessarily human and any medical professional paying attention could figure that out. As much as he had been out of the ICU for years, the fact that they looked sharply down on public awareness was forever holding over Foxhorn’s head.
Much like his awareness of fatigue and the time limits imposed on his current circumstances.
When the alarms were combined with actual sirens, Foxhorn managed to stumble to a stand, unsure if he had been conscious for the minutes it had taken for first responders to respond or if he had blacked out at some point. His gait was uneven, twisted and broken by the occasional slump into a wall, a wincing shuffle around an obstacle or the need to cough up some more bloody spittle.
The sirens came closer and closer until they stopped where he had been reported.
I am the cracks in the sidewalk
threatening to swallow you whole.
I am not the fear
that you will never escape.
I am the alternative.
I wake and my first thought
is that today’s skies are clear
because I cannot hear the rain
but in reality it is all I hear
the background noise of life
Jennifer wanted to die.
Between the crushing feeling in her chest and whatever was making her knees quake, she was three steps away from heading into traffic if she wasn’t so sure she would falter if she dared moved even an inch. Around her, the crowd was excess stimuli.
People everywhere; wearing colours, moving, with facial expressions and all those little details that makes that person an individual. Everything ever about everyone around Jennifer swamped her every sense that wasn’t fixated on the people she was with. The people calmly discussing the newest interruption in their day with such subdued anger for the sake of being in public, that Jennifer didn’t know if she felt like the sky was falling on her more now than at home when the facial expressions and gestures were wild and large.
Jennifer was stuck exactly where she stood. Even when the argument would come to its inevitable end and the family would move off the streetside to wherever they had ‘compromised’, Jennifer wouldn’t be able to move.
She knew this.
She knew the second that they would know this, that she’d become the fixation of their anger. They’d become undeniably frustrated, as though frustration wasn’t full of every gruesome emotion that hurt to be the focus of. Every microsecond of their attention would be direct attacks. Even without angered words, it would be written on their faces, in their hand movement, their body language.
Jennifer could feel time slowly running out, churning through her crushed chest like a sieve but coming out just as semiliquid as it went in. Piling on pressure as though her heart were the strongest part of her.
Nothing was the strongest part of her.
This was something she knew too well, but didn’t want to admit.
Because if she could be strong, she could end it. If she had just a moment’s strength to step off the bridge, to wander into traffic, to swallow one too many pills, to do more than stare at blades poised millimetres above her flesh. If she were anything but the weakest creature on Earth, she could make sure nothing ever hurt her ever again.
Instead she prolonged in the sea of horrible things. Of stimuli and fright, of being so physically affected by nothing – nothing they told her, there was nothing – that she was frozen and broken, she could feel how wrong everything was and it hurt so much.
Everything hurt so much, Jennifer wanted to die.
Regardless of his boots’ valiant efforts, Harm Foxhorn’s toes hadn’t been dry since five in the morning. The torrential downpour season had begun, serving to remind Foxhorn that he had a hefty raincoat that he isn’t allowed to wear, which left him in something he had picked up for less than ten dollars that had essentially no insulation. Once the sunrise’s effects made its tardy way into the darker back alleys, the morning chill in his bones was no longer his most pertinent problem.
It was remarkably difficult to sidestep spiny caterwal spores while one’s whole body was shivering, especially when the rain both spread them and made them reproduce at alarming rates.
Foxhorn wasn’t terribly worried about them. The rain season was short and followed by a freezing, dry snow of a winter that obliterated the dank and humid proliferating plantlife. Foxhorn had to find his snow season clothes in the wreck that was his apartment, and hope Sigge wouldn’t shred them out of whatever vendetta the familiar held.
Mostly, Foxhorn was worried about the surprising lack of abaedan haunting the edges of rooftops and marking magically prominent areas. He wasn’t sure if it meant more or less work for him in the future and the uncertainty was certainly making him anxious.
He was also worried about his toes never being warm again and that the cope had managed to circle around and sneak up behind him.
The sword that made its way through the primarily shadow-based creature didn’t make a sound, nor did the cope as it started to collapse into two individual portions, divided by the blade at a sharp angle. What had previously been a tall, thin, vaguely solid entity of sharp edges, sharper claws and gruesome teeth, flattened to long flickers of falling black cloth before fading midair.
Foxhorn kept the information that he had been moments from being slaughtered well away from any expression he wore. Instead, he blinked at the unexpected appearance of the man apparent in front of him. “There’s your sword,” he fumed sardonically, as though it had been mere days since the topic had been bantered between them. Or since they had seen each other more than just in passing.
In the grey alley saturated with water from pavement ground to concrete walls, Ashley stood as straight-backed and square-shouldered as he ever did, with his broadsword at rest in one hand at his side. Its tip just barely threatened to touch the ground, subtly portraying just how well-versed he was with the weapon to hold it so with such ease.
With the overcast sky above and the background noise of cars on the equally soaked and puddle-ridden roads, the world of that alley just then was comprised entirely of hard surfaces and water. Foxhorn’s soles were solid and wet, grounding him to the spot he could have just died in, down some nameless crack between buildings.
Saint Ashley Channing’s eyes were on the spot where the cope Foxhorn had been tracking had perished. “There’s my sword,” he duplicated with heavy irony that Harm couldn’t have possibly been more aware of than he was. “Was that the last?”
Foxhorn had spent the entire morning tracking the colony of what were essentially the manifestation of the word massacre. “I don’t know if I should be pissed or not.”
He waited the maximum time before Ashley’s silence in lieu of question would turn into an actual spoken question, spending the majority of it stepping out of the puddle he was standing in and reorienting himself with the surroundings. He also fixed his jacket cuffs after making an attempt to rub his hands together for warmth. “I had been gathering information…” his defiant gaze into Ashley’s eyes conceded, “and exterminating, synchronously.”
There wasn’t the slightest trace of hesitation when the saint followed Harm leaving the alley, stepping around the occasional overgrown spiny caterwal. “Wherefore?”
“Contrary to popular belief,” Foxhorn started ready to lecture, without any consideration. He eyed Ashley for a moment, specifically the sword. “Not everything that’s not ‘human’ is a ‘monster’.”
Ashley’s ‘don’t condescend me’ look was parsed by Harm even with the few hours spent in each other’s company.
“I don’t mean just the human-form ones and the intelligible ones.”
Queen Street was near bare prior to midday and Foxhorn briefly wondered how the saint and his mighty sword fared during rush times. He also wondered where he was going.
And whether or not Ashley would kill him whether he was in shift, not recognizing him for the great beast that he was. It was a pointless string of thought; he knew the man would definitely do so.
“This way,” Ashley encouraged, heading towards buildings made of brick and stone, encircled by glazed high-rises of offices ready to get out for a dreary, grey lunch.
Foxhorn shrugged and followed with hard, icy-wet footfalls.
In the midst of the older, stony constructions of the city, Saint Channing turned down another alley. Far from Foxhorn’s prior hunting grounds, with significantly more drainage, a sole spiny caterwal was to be avoided. “I hear out east these are a blight,” Ashley commented, and then leaned his shoulder against a wooden backdoor to a structure Foxhorn scoped out to have a steeple before he ducked inside.
Any building with a backdoor short enough that Foxhorn felt the need to duck was generally a church.
“I’m not saying the caters are intelligible creatures – people – but still, y’know, an entity,” Foxhorn followed up, finding himself led into rather tight digs, cosy but spartan. He didn’t have to explain that ‘living’ wasn’t a classifier that qualified for all intelligible beings. He also didn’t have to take an intuitive leap to come to the conclusion that this was Ashley’s home. “So you live in a church.”
Ashley’s sword was sheathed and hung. He took a seat and gestured for Foxhorn to do the same.
“I mean – thanks – of course you live in a church, but you actually live in a church.”
“Churches.” Instead of a fireplace, a radiator nearly predating the 20th century centred the attention of the chairs in the room; Ashley leaned forward to turn it up with all the appropriate responding rattles.
“Right,” Foxhorn mumbled. He supposed Ashley could go just about anywhere in the world and gain lodging. His succession of discussion on creature-kind wasn’t near a finish, “You wouldn’t screw with the natural forces of the universe, and they’re not intelligible, so what makes say… abaedan so different. Or those half-stone gnomes.”
‘Garden fey’ were referred to in size by ‘stone’ – a standardized smooth rock dimension, of optimal skipping-across-water proportions – much akin to the more variable human units of measurement before they were turned systematic. Gnomes that were half-stone had no vocalization abilities and rode centipedes for transportation.
“And don’t you dare say something about how they ‘look human’, because that’s race bullshit. And abaedan are…” Actually the almost-black swift bird creatures creeped out Foxhorn, no matter what he did. Just the thought ran a chill down his spine.
The look Ashley gave Foxhorn attempted to tell the chilled man he was being entirely too patronizing. “Not everything is simply hills and dale.”
“That’s a revelation coming from you,” Foxhorn laughed.
Foxhorn continued to laugh, at the pun within, tittering into his hand briefly. “Consider then,” he recovered, “there is no black or white and everything’s grey, and maybe shades of purple at times.”
“I can’t say this is the most eloquent philosophical discussion I’ve held in these quarters,” remarked the saint.
“Be serious for one minute, alright?” he said as though he wasn’t one of the few people who could pinpoint exactly when the saint started to become childishly facetious.
Foxhorn’s boots were still drying on the register when he finally thanked Ashley for saving him.
The caffeine effectively killed any visible symptoms of his current depression downswing, but amplified his anxiety enough that he had opted out of his favourite chair - more comfortable on the wings - and had backed into a corner. Jenny kept an eye on him, catching herself staring whenever she paused to rub her glasses clean. She had been looking away when his phone went off.
Interrupting the smile blooming out of reading the text message – a smile Jenny cherished – Leixes hurriedly pressed the phone to his ear after a moment’s reluctance paired with a terrified expression. He frowned at the stream of vocals flooding his ear, which he responded to in kind. “Akhae ixes, noml daehn… koht.” His entire face twitched. “Please, at least when you’re talking about words I don’t even know in English… yes, you did warn me, barely.”
Jenny took this moment to approach, picking up the knitting Leixes had dropped to answer the call. He mouthed a thanks and gestured for her to stay around when she moved to end her eavesdropping.
From the phone came a further avalanche of language Jenny had never heard before, barring whatever Leixes had just sputtered and clicked.
“Koht, please don’t call me sahkee.” His grimace wasn’t missed by Jenny; that had been a proper, pained look. “Not if you– abhat, uh… abhat kholea. No, abghat. My enunciation isn’t that bad. I said abghat. I did.”
Jenny smirked, “No, you didn’t.”
Leixes smothered the phone against his jaw, “Don’t even.”
“Who is it?”
“I’m– Pshhht, phone.”
“Well then why am I standing here?”
“Asfdjhaldf, I have to tell you a thing.”
Jenny considered taking away Leixes’ coffee, but then he’d never get any work done. She eyed the knitting on the table and tried to place who it would best fit on. Meanwhile, Leixes rambled away on the phone assuring that he was fine and the world was a wonderful place and ‘if only you stopped with the words or bringing that up this would be a good phone call’.
The call was ended while Jenny watched, somewhat unnerved at how long she had been away from behind the counter, and Leixes took an extra moment to compile himself.
“So I’m on for Saturday.”
The sudden news brought an overjoyed grin to Jenny’s face, “Yesss.” Her weekend plans didn’t often require goading friends into attending a show, but she had a minimum audience prerequisite. “And I didn’t know you spoke…”
“Yeah,” she was already backstepping towards the counter, still bouncing at the good news. “Also, whoever that was, she sounds hot.”
Leixes sputtered and dropped a stitch. “That’s really not okay!”
After a particularly harrowing semester, Daxes favoured working on her personal projects during her more ample downtime. At a glance, her projects were comparisons and statistics that looked the same as any notes from her comparative perspective classes. With a more detailed inspection, one could observe that the studies she recorded in her spare time were significantly more complex and oriented well-outside of the categories examined in any of her courses’ curriculum.
Maintaining the most objective point of view for analysis, she was in the habit of taking preliminary notes from afar. In most situations, collecting face-to-face data required a glamour. At her university, Daxes navigated the social change school clubs in and out of as much, though not an active participant herself.
Her pastime wasn’t confined to her campus. In human guise she could be found at every other university within practical travel distance. She extended as far as talking to teachers and administrators in elementary and secondary schools, questioning youth programs organizers, conversing freely with instructors and local sociologists, and catching herself idly making notes on the patrons of the coffee shops she spent lunches in.
While school taught her the tools of the trade and trained her in the political and social aspects of sociology, Daxes was imbedded in the phenomena surrounding supernatural creatures and affiliated people in social environments. She had written entire papers on changes in group behaviours and origins of cultural structures, and how they cross-pollinated when subjects from different cultural and creature origins inhabited an environment together. Entire notebooks of data were filled on model situations, accounting for the fact that society doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
When started, she could talk endlessly regarding personality traits as opposed to supernatural attributes in relationship building.
Her friends found it interesting, her peers found it extraordinary and her family, on occasion, would listen raptly while certain aunts – and one uncle – would start arguments. Those who didn’t have either a basic understanding or a foundation of a relationship with her were more than often found charging off in the opposing direction. Especially those unaware of preternatural existence.
She herself regarded it as so compelling that, besides her multiple published papers, she had enough material for an entire book. Or three.
Having grown up in a wholly family-oriented environment within an even further isolated society, she found every single person and creature fascinating, especially non-paraos. The fact that these people socialized with other people regardless and working around their own various preternatural attributes, species and cultural background therein was riveting.
Her childhood had been wing-wrestling with others her age, being taught arithmetic and algebra by aunts, conceptual topology by uncles, flight and flight physics by her mother, and grooming and paraos history by her father. Her social upbringing was entirely by her kind, with all its intricacies of gender roles. All of which filled her sense of a default society, with human society an drastic reverse and generally found on the extreme end of a spectrum if found in a spectrum.
With inherent cultures still prevalent among most species; interspecies socialization – especially including humans or under the parameters of human society – were nothing short of fascinating to Daxes. Outside of profession and passion, Daxes thoroughly enjoyed her own part in the platform of cultural crossovers. The extent of her respect to the validity of every single person’s experiences made her well-respected in turn, often instantly befriended and at times a role model.
Daxes took the attitude that this was basic social decency and went about her way.