Happy Birthday Mickey

Semi-autonomous Animatronic Unit #0024 strolled down Main Street. A colorful party hat was perched on its head between its plate-sized fake ears. Ahead of it SAU #0169 stopped its patrol route to interact with SAU #024.
“Heya Mickey, what’s with the dunce hat?”

“It’s not a dunce hat Goofy. Don’t you know what today is?”

SAU #0169 grabbed its chin in fake thought. “Hmm. It’s not president’s day. And it’s not the Fourth of July.” It stabbed a finger into the air in a triumphant gesture. “Oh, I know! It’s Christmas! Hyuk!”

“No it’s –” SAU #0024 began to speak but SAU #0169 cut it off.

“Hanukkah?”

“No.”

“Veteran’s Day?”

“That was last week. It’s my birthday.”

“Why didn’t you say so?”

“I was trying to.”

“I’m sorry Mickey; I forgot all about your birthday. I have an errand to run so I’ll see you later. Hyuk.” SAU #0169 turned and jogged away.

SAU #0024 placed its hands on its hips and humphed. “I can’t believe he forgot my birthday,” it said with programmed sadness. It soon resumed its stroll to the plaza near the main entrance. After an hour of zero guest interaction, SAU #0024’s entered free-roam mode. It ambled up Main Street and turned toward Adventure Land.

As it roamed the park, it encountered zero guests and oddly zero SAUs. The park was empty, as it had been for the last 3,742 days. If SAU #0024 had memories it would remember the day everyone had left the park in the middle of the day. That day it had waved goodbye to guests for the last time. The evening fireworks had exploded with no one to watch them. After that, there had been no more guests. But SAU #0024 had no memories just programmed responses from the park’s mainframe.

The mainframe ran the park with little human oversight before guest attendance had dropped to zero. Now it continued its job as well as it could. Over time some park attractions had broken down and been closed. Many of the semi-autonomous animatronic units had also broken down leaving the park with an incomplete extended cast. However, one each of the main six unit types had managed to remain operational.

After looping through Adventure Land and not finding any guests or other units to interact with, it passed through Main Street to Tomorrow Land. Again it found nothing, as the mainframe had alerted the other units to hide or change their routes to avoid SAU #0024.

In Fantasy Land, it stopped at a Character Greeting spot. It placed its hands on its hips, looked up and down the path and said, “Well shucks, where is everyone?” SAU #0024 looked around again for a guest to continue its interaction but as always there were none around. It resumed walking through Fantasy Land.

SAU #0276 exited from the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and ran down the path away from SAU #0024. SAU #0024 called out, “Hey Puto! Where are you going?” It jogged after SAU #0276 past Friar’s Nook and Princess Fairytale Hall all the way to Cinderella’s Royal Table. “Hey you’re not supposed to go in there!” it scolded SAU #0276 and followed it inside.

“Surprise Hyuk!” yelled SAU #0169 as it stood up from behind a table that was not tall enough to conceal it. Around the room SAU #0038, SAU #0103, and SAU #0220 also stood up from their non-hiding places and yelled surprise in unison. On a table, in the center of them was a stack of empty cake pans.

SAU #0024 placed its hands over its chest where its heart would be if it was human. “Dasiy, Donald, Goofy, Pluto? What are you all doing here?”

SAU #0220 batted its long eyelashes and said, “Silly Mickey, did you really think we forgot your birthday?”

“Is this party for me?” it asked.

SAU #0038 waddled up to SAU #0024. Its white feathers were stained and yellowed, almost matching its beak. It spoke in a hoarse quacking tone, “Of course. We would never forget your birthday.”

SAU #0024 turned to SAU #0169, “You didn’t forget after all?”

“Sucks, Mickey if it weren’t for you none of us would be here. Hyuk.”

Underground, where the tunnels allowed access to any part of the park in minutes, where the suited units returned to recharge at night, where the mainframe sat, a decision was made. For the tenth year in a row, attendance to Mickey’s Birthday Party by guests was zero. With no fanfare or ominous music, Mickey’s Birthday Party was removed from the schedule of events.

Inside Cinderella’s Royal Table, the SAUs stopped their party interactions and quietly filed out of the restaurant. SAU #0024 was the last to leave, setting its party hat on a table before walking out. It turned and walked toward Main Street where it would wait to wave at the non-existent leaving guests. It waited a long time.

Author’s note: The setting of this story is borrowed from a story I read a long time ago. Recently I’ve been trying to find that story but have had no luck. A friend suggested I write my own version of the story. At first, I was reluctant to wholesale steal another’s idea but I came up with a different story using the setting of a post-apocalyptic Disney theme park where the suited characters like Mickey and Goofy are now robots that continue to act their part.

In an amazing coincidence, the day I looked up Mickey Mouse’s Birthday was the same day as his birthday, Nov. 18.

Time Crystals and the World of Tomorrow

“Can you believe this?”

“Believe what?”

“I’m reading this article, a serious science article, about a new state of matter called ‘time crystals’.”

“Time crystals?”

“Yeah!”

“Sounds like a hooky scifi plot device.  ‘We need to find the time crystals to power the flux capacitor.'”

“Exactly!  How am I, a humble writer of science fiction, supposed to compete with that?”

“I heard NASA is testing a new type of engine.  Uses microwaves or something bouncing around a chamber to produce thrust.  They said it could lead to a warp drive like travel.”

“Did you hear about those planets that might be able to support life?”  I paused to seethe into the distance.  “See that right there is the problem.  The future is nipping at our heels.”

“Is it really such a problem?”

“It wouldn’t be if the world was closer to a utopia rather than the slow dystopia we’re living in now.  I’d be glad to jump into the future if it meant real advancement for the common people.  How long before the rich leave in their warp ships for clean fresh worlds?”

“It’s not going to be that bad.”

“No, it’ll probably be worse.  After all, they aren’t going to want to do the actual work of building a new civilization.”

“That’s a good thing.  It means regular people will have a chance at making it to these new worlds.”

“Maybe but as what?  Serfs?  Indentured servants?  How long do you think it will take to pay back a trip to another world?”

“We aren’t going to become slaves to the rich.”

“No, of course not.  There will always be a choice but eventually, the choice will seem less a choice and more the obvious answer.  They’re salting the earth, poisoning the seas, burning the sky, and just choking the life out of us.  We can’t even get off the planet yet.  How much worse will it get when they can leave?  How much of your life working for a ‘company’ is worth going with them?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe it won’t be that bad.  Maybe we can fix the planet after they leave.  Even if we royally screw up the planet something will survive.  It may not be humans but it’ll be something.”

“Maybe they won’t make the same mistakes we made.”

Alien Neighbors

Yup, I saw them land, eh, fifteen years ago. Susan was three and Johnny was still in the oven. Big light show over the old Gordon’s farm. I left Maria with Susan and five or six of us drove out there with our hunting rifles ready to fight the ‘Martians’ and send em packing. Everyone was waiting at the front gate for enough of guns to show up. I was the last one there and I guess I was enough cause Lonnie opens the gate and we all start walking up the long driveway to the farmhouse.

This whole time the lights had been swirling around lighting up the farm and everything for a couple of miles. Suddenly the lights cut off leaving us in the dark. None of us had brought flashlights or lanterns. So we stumble on up to the farmhouse in the dark except the farmhouse isn’t dark. It’s got lights on, regular lights inside like someone’s living there. The porch light’s on too and we can see a new four-door pick-up parked up front.

I don’t know about the rest of those fellows but I started feeling a little foolish standing outside a neighbor’s house with a hunting rifle. I’m about to turn around and head back to my truck when the front door opens and a skinny gray alien with a big bald walks out. It’s wearing pants and a flannel shirt. Rob starts to raise his gun but Josie slaps it down.

After a minute, I can’t take the silence and start rambling, “Hi neighbor, you just move in? We saw the lights and thought the Martian Army had landed. Do you come in peace?” The alien smiles and shows off its pointy teeth. Rob starts raising his gun again and Josie pushes it back down again. Then it started talking.

“Well howdy neighbors. Nice to meet you. So sorry about the lights but it won’t happen again. It’s just me and my mate here now. We’re planning on farming corn.” Lonnie laughs and the alien stops smiling and squints something fierce at him. “Did I say something funny?”

Now back then we didn’t know these aliens squint when they ask a question. To us, it looked like the alien was mad at Lonnie. I step in front of Lonnie and start rambling again, “Not at all. Lonnie didn’t mean anything mean by laughing. Did you Lonnie?”

“Not at all. I just got tickled thinking about this little guy farming corn,” Lonnie says. Everyone gives a little chuckle now that they’re thinking about it too. And that is when my water broke.

Everyone, human and alien, just stares at the wet ground. They all knew what that meant. Well, the alien didn’t but everyone else knew. Then the first contraction hit. Josie took charge and before I knew it I was in the back seat of the alien’s truck being driven to the hospital. The alien kept looking back at me and Josie kept yelling for it to keep its eyes on the road. It had a lot of questions about human reproduction, I really wasn’t in the mood to answer them but Josie has a couple rugrats of her own so she filled in the alien on what I was going through.

At the hospital, we decided it would be better if the alien stayed in the truck. I didn’t see it again until the next day when Rob and Josie snuck it into the room to see baby Johnny. By that time the others had had time to talk to the alien and while a few were still a little wary they were convinced it and its mate just wanted to live in peace and grow corn.

We’re a small community and it wouldn’t be right to shun a fellow farmer so we did our best welcome them. There was a little upset in their third year when the government showed up. Probably because Alien Bob started flying around with a “phased energy array generator” mounted on the back of its truck. Alien Bob was using it to disrupt tornadoes from forming. I bet it was those storm chasers that got pissed off because there were no tornadoes to chase.

Luckily by that point, Alien Bob and Alien Javier had “combined genetic information” and “incubated an offspring” which meant they had an “anchor baby” when immigration showed up. We all chipped in and got them a good lawyer. Their lawyer was able to argue that Alien Baby Daria was a citizen since the Constitution doesn’t exclude extraterrestrial aliens. They had work visas a year later and green cards several years later. We’re not sure if they’ll ever get sworn in as citizens but they’ll be our neighbors for as long as they want to be.

Gazebo – A Francine Non-Adventure

Previously – The Scene – A Francine Non-Adventure

I waited in Kowalski’s patrol car for an hour while more police showed up to “take charge” of the scene. Then Kowalski took me back to the station where I waited another two hours at my desk for Detective Karter. He came in, glanced at me and hurried past into an office. Ten minutes later he came out and approached me.

He opened his mouth to speak but I cut him off. “Detective Karter, can I get pictures of the circle? I recognized some of the symbols but I’d like to try to find the rest.”

“Ms. Espinosa, your help has been invaluable but we no longer require it.” He sounded apologetic.

“What does that mean?”

He sighed heavily. “It has been made clear to me that no one outside the police force is to be working on this case.”

“You’re shutting me out?”

“I pulled a lot of strings to bring you on in the first place. It was a desperation move on a case that had dead-ended. Now that there are new leads and evidence–”

“That I found.”

He held his hands up. “I know. If it was up to me, you’d already have those photos but it’s not up to me.”

“Now what?” I asked.

“I need you to leave. If you have any more insights, you have my number but I can’t share any more details of the case with you.”

I had wanted to study the circle to know exactly what we were dealing with but my hand was being forced. “Detective Karter, you have to destroy or damage the circle.”

“I can’t destroy evidence,” he said.

“If the killer manages to finish their spell–“

“Nothing is going to happen because magic doesn’t exist.” I watched his face shift from apologetic to suspicious. “How did you find the circle again?” He was close to accusing me of being involved with the killer and I didn’t really blame him. I was spouting off about magic and spells.

I took a calming breath and said, “I looked at the files and found a pattern in where the victims lived. Officer Kowalski and I went to one of the victim’s home and I tripped over the loose rug. That’s all.”

He stared at me before gesturing toward the front. “Thank you, Ms. Espinosa, but we will take it from here.”

***

Later that evening I sat thumbing through a magic reference book. The book was just a book, not a magical book. Those I had burned and buried. I was looking for more info on magic circles. There was a surprisingly lot of magic systems that used circles for various rituals. They had differing structures but it was easy to find several that used the cardinal directions in setup for the main ritual or spell. The killer had to have a place for the final part of their spell and it had to be in the center of the victim’s homes.

Using the map app on my phone I pinned the victims’ homes and eyeballed the center point to be near the duck pond in Creekside Park. I gathered some supplies from around my apartment in one of those reusable grocery bags and headed to the park. Twenty minutes later I was wandering through the park toward the approximate center of the four ritual circles. A quick walk around the pond didn’t turn anything up. I checked the map again.

My location looked to be dead center. I zoomed in until the pond’s bean shape filled the screen. A smaller circle popped into view inside the pond. The gazebo. Except as I looked across the pond I didn’t see it. The duck pond gazebo had been closed for repairs after a big storm last year but I couldn’t remember hearing about it being demolished. The bridge to the gazebo remained with a heavy chain across its opening. I stepped over it and started walking across.

A few boards creaked and wobbled but otherwise, the bridge felt solid. At the end was just water. I stared at the end of the bridge for a couple of minutes. The last board was only half as wide and the railing didn’t end in a post instead just hanging in space. I steeled myself and stepped forward off the end of the bridge. My vision blurred and static filled my ears. Then I was inside the gazebo. Magic. That seemed to confirm whether or not the circles would work.

Outside, under the full moon and light from nearby street lights, I hadn’t had much trouble seeing but in the shade of the gazebo’s roof, I found myself in the dark. I pulled a flashlight out of my bag and swept it across the floor. The circle I had found in the apartment had been four to five feet across. The one carved into the gazebo’s floor was at least twice as wide and as jammed packed with sigils, glyphs, runes, and words written in languages I didn’t know. The was no blood traced over the carvings.

The killer hadn’t finished their ritual. Ok, now I just needed to find a place to hide nearby so I – Wait, wait, no. What was I thinking?! I’m not going to play into the plot. I’m not.

I swung the beam of my flashlight behind me, checking for the killer. No one was there. Right, the killer will kill tomorrow so I have most of a day to do something but first things first. I pulled out a box of salt from my bag and popped out the spout. I started at the door and poured a line of salt around the inside of the gazebo. Salt was good protection against a general number of evil things. It probably wouldn’t keep the killer out but it might disrupt the magics they were using. Blood magic tended to be evil.

Once the salt circle was done, I carefully stepped over it back onto the bridge. The gazebo remained visible. Either my stepping through it or the salt had broken the spell hiding it. Hopefully, it wouldn’t scare off the killer when they returned. I left the park and headed home.

I didn’t think Detective Karter would listen to me so I called Kowalski.

“Hello is this Officer Kowalski?”

“Yo, Kowalski here.”

“I … You answer the phone with yo?”

“Who is this?”

“Sorry, it’s Francine Espinosa. The consultant.”

“Oh hey, what can I do for you? I heard you had been taken off the case?”

“Yes but I think I have a lead for you. The center point of the four victim’s homes is in Creekside Park. I think you should check out the gazebo in the duck pond.”

“Have you been out there?”

“No. I just looked at a map. If the killer thinks they’re doing magic then it makes sense that they’ll want to finish their ritual.”

“I’ll pass this along to Detective Karter.”

“Don’t tell him I told you. Tell him you thought of it.”

“Ah… sure.”

“Thank you. Bye.”

“See ya.”

A few days later I read about an attempted murder in Creekside Park. The papers reported that there were occult connections but a lot of the details were being withheld by the police. Kowalski called to tell me my tip had been good. They found the circle, stacked it out and grabbed the killer when he showed up dragging a homeless man. It’s unclear if he will be officially connected to the first four murders.

Not a completely satisfying conclusion but better than trying to fight some magic powered killer in the park. The ghost in the park across the street has started calling my name again. I’m thinking of walking over for a chat.

Author’s Note: So, this is the end of the story started in “The Alibi” which was meant to be a one off story.

“The Non-Adventures of Francine” was conceived as a series of very short stories about Francine avoiding story plots. The first three stories followed this format. It was while writing “The Scrapbook” that I had the idea of continuing the story from “The Alibi” the previous story.

I’m currently thinking of using “The Non-Adventures of Francine” as the title story of my next e-book.

Gillian Reviews Train to Busan

Just watched this and I loved it. It’s about a father and daughter who are traveling on a train when a zombie outbreak happens in South Korea and zombies get on the train.

The little girl nails her scenes. The suspense and action are great. The film is centered on the two but addition character give it an ensemble feel. One of the main themes of the film is saving yourself vs saving others and I love how they played it out.

It is a South Korean film so subtitle reading is required but well worth it.

Rating 5/5

 

Codex Cipher – Inception

Previous Parts

Codex Cipher – The Arrival
Codex Cipher – The Departure

Stephanie and Marcus sat in the hut they had constructed and improved over the last couple of months. It was a far cry from a modern house but it kept the rain off them and the heat of the fire in at night. Stephanie was sitting on a pile of grass mats typing on her phone.

“What are you typing?” Marcus asked.

“I’m recreating the time distortion field formula,” Stephanie said.

“Why?”

“We built a time machine by accident which should be impossible. The other option is that our understanding of the time distortion field is incomplete. I’m hoping to figure out how the machine transported us through time.”

“And then what? We can’t fix the machine or build a new one. We don’t even have enough power to run it if we could.”

She stopped typing on her phone and let her hand fall to her lap. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I just wanted to do something.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to bum you out.”

“No you’re right we’re stuck here. It’s not like we could Doc Brown the plans to someone in the future.”

“Does mail even exist yet?”

“Who knows?” The lapsed into silence. Stephanie sat looking at the stack of storage boxes they had pulled from the wreckage of their arrival. They had been incredibly lucky those boxes had been stored under the counter and not the Christmas declarations or The Professor’s tax returns. Besides the camping gear box, there had been a box with gardening tools and a garden starter kit. Another had contained a couple of quilts, fabric pieces, and a sewing kit. A third had been full of odds and ends that had proved useful.

Also, the part of living room bookcase, that had made the trip, had contained useful books about simple tools, farming, hunting, building simple structures, etc. Stephanie got up and started looking over the piles of books. Out of almost seventy books, only fifteen were ‘useless’ fiction. The rest were either about the time period they had found themselves or had knowledge to help them survive. She couldn’t have planned for a better selection of books to accidentally take back in time. Or could she?

“How did these books get here?”

“What?” Marcus asked.

“These books. Why were they all on the same shelves?”

“I don’t know. The professor probably just put them on the shelf. She was always buying new books and rearranging everything.”

“Yeah, we got really ‘lucky’. We couldn’t have built this hut with the Primitive Technology book. Without the gardening books, we’d still be eating protein bars.”

“Lucky us.”

“No, we didn’t just get lucky. Where are the books about physics or space or computer programming? Where are the other history books?”

“Probably just on a different shelf.”

“Yes exactly. Why weren’t they on the same shelf with these history books? Why don’t we have books about the Industrial Revolution or cave paintings or Victorian England?”

“What are you saying?”

“I think the books we ‘accidentally’ brought back in time were selected for us.”

“Selected by who? The professor?”

“No. Maybe. What if we could send a message forward in time? What would you say?”

“Don’t run tests on … on … what day did we leave? Doesn’t matter. I’d just say to be extra careful when running tests.”

“Would that cause a paradox? Or is this an alternate universe and paradoxes don’t apply? Either way, it doesn’t get us back to the future.”

“What would you say?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” She looked around at the storage crates and books. A memory surfaced. “The professor came to us looking to fund our experiments. She set us up in her house. She stocked camping gear and protein bars and as many useful books she could on a bookcase we were going to take with us back in time.”

“Wait, you think the professor sent us back in time?”

“No, we built the machine but she had foreknowledge of our accident. We sent or will send her a message.”

“But how?”

Author’s Note: Primitive Technology is not a book but it is a YouTube channel run by an Australian man who shows how to build tools and buildings from scratch.

No More “Firsts”

Danica Roem is the first openly transgender state legislator in the USA. Not the first. Althea Garrison was the first transgender state state legislator in 1992.

It’s important to celebrate firsts. They show progress to, hopefully, a better country. I was going to say world but I think many places have beat the USA to many of the “firsts” we celebrate. By saying “this is the first time this has happened” we plant a flag in history but the USA has a bad history with planting flags where they don’t belong.

The new news article is the headline. Whole stories are condensed into a single sentence. Then as often happens with online media someone writes a new article off of the first. They can’t use the exact same headline so they change it. “First Openly Transgender State Legislator” becomes “First Transgender State Legislator” becomes “First Trans Person Elected Ever”.

It’s a game of telephone played by “journalists” and bloggers for sensational news. I see it happen every time a “First” is announced. “The First” is a story but maybe it shouldn’t be. Firsts are great but they aren’t and shouldn’t be the start and end of a story.

“Trans Woman Elected to State Legislator” is a rare enough event that it doesn’t need to be the first. This is news. This is history. This is what should be reported. Clear factual articles. Remember headlines are the new news articles.

“Firsts” are flag waving and we’ve had enough flag waving in the past year.

The Haunted Air

The Whitmore Hotel was built in 1894, designed by Stephen Newton, and named after its owner Mary Whitmore. For many years it was an unremarkable hotel that appealed to middle-class tourists and businessmen. In the mid-1960’s, rumors that the hotel was haunted began to increase. For the next twenty years, the owners and staff disputed these stories and complaints as overactive imaginations or lies. However as guest numbers began to dwindle in the 1980’s, due to newer ghost free hotels opening, a new policy was enacted to drum up new business. Tours of the haunted floors were created along with an ad campaign to entice those interested in the supernatural to visit. This new direction paid off and the hotel was soon booked solid for months.

People flocked to see the spirits. There was Mary on the seventh floor who wandered the halls. John on the fourth floor unlocked and locked doors with his keys. On the sixth floor, Sarah stayed in her room crying just loud enough to be heard in neighboring rooms. A simple knock would quiet her for the night but those brave enough to stay the night in her room could hear her whispering about her life. Edward rode the freight elevator, announcing the floors it stopped at. The poltergeist on the tenth floor never had a name. It tossed items around at night but music could calm it.

They were strong spirits with ghostly bodies that faded in and out, except for the poltergeist. For a while, they bolstered the hotel’s popularity. People came to see and photograph Mary. They came to ride the freight elevator. They came to listen to Sarah. They even came to dodge ashtrays thrown by the poltergeist. But slowly the novelty wore off. Everyone who wanted to stay there for the ghosts had already done so or knew someone who had. Eventually, the hotel closed.

For five years, it stood unoccupied except by the ghosts and homeless until it burned down. The exact cause of the fire was never discovered. There were rumors of arson to collect insurance money but nothing was proven. Firefighters were called to the scene but in the end, the hotel was a total loss. It collapsed in on itself after only three hours. It is theorized the poltergeist may have become agitated during the fire and created a wind funnel effect that fanned the flames. No one was killed, five firefighters were injured.

The night after and every night since the Whitmore collapsed, Mary and John could be seen in the air “walking” through the now non-existent hallways. Sarah was also visible and audible in her “room” from the ground. Edward would not be seen again for several months until the freight elevator was uncovered in the basement while clearing the debris. After it was removed, he took up station where it once stood on the first floor. The poltergeist remained, ten stories above ground, unconsolable and constantly lashing out. Gusts of wind can be observed in the empty lot even on still nights.

There are currently no plans to build there.

The Scene – A Francine Non-Adventure

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We went to the last victim’s apartment. The apartment manager let us in. The door was clean of any signs or police tape.

“Have you been inside since … the police came by?” I asked the manager.

“Uh, I let Rob’s sister in and gave her a key so she could get his stuff out,” he said.

I looked at Kowalski. “Shouldn’t the apartment be locked down while the investigation is ongoing?”

“Why? It’s not a crime scene. The officers who checked it out didn’t see anything out of place. So what are looking for?”

“I don’t know. The killer chose the victim based on where he lived. There must be something special about the apartment or maybe the building. The killer could have drawn his square anywhere but he chose this place.”

“What if it’s random?” Kowalski asked.

“Then we have no chance at predicting where he will kill next and I’ve wasted the last week of my life on a pointless task,” I said.

“A lot of police work is pointless tasks.”

“That’s not how things work around me.”

“What makes you special?”

“Nothing.” I was a girl detective as a teen and now I’m a main character trying to avoid plot hooks. I turned away from him and started walking around the apartment looking at the walls and shelves for a clue. Rob had been the man found in my apartment. Pictures of him with family and friends dotted the walls.

In the living room, I examined his DVD collection. Action, horror, and a martial arts movies dominated but I noticed a shelf near the floor with romantic comedies. Nothing jumped out at me as strange or out of place. I turned to walk into the kitchen and stumbled as my foot caught on something. The carpet had a loose flap in the middle of the room. I crouched down, pulled the carpet up and felt a chill run up my spine. The third act twist had just shown up.

Kowalski leaned over the sofa and asked me, “What did you find?” I yanked the carpet up and to the side, exposing the floor. Underneath the rug was a series of circles, one inside the next. Between the circles, symbols, glyphs, runes, sigils, and other things I couldn’t identify were carved into the wood. A dark brown substance was smeared, tracing every line, on all of them. Kowalski stared at it all with mixed horror and puzzlement playing across his face. I probably didn’t have to tell him the brown smears were most likely blood either the victim’s or the killer’s or both. “What is this?” he asked.

“It’s a magic circle meant to draw energies from the victim and give power to the killer.”

“And how do you know that?” he asked. His eyes narrowed and his posture shifted.

“I took a few classes on myths, magic, and religions. This rune represents power. This symbol means power and this one is life. It’s all jumbled up from like five different systems. The killer probably just copied it out of a book.” Kowalski relaxed as I rambled about the circle. I had actually learned most of what I knew when magic beings started appearing around me. Several days of hard studying at the public library had given me enough knowledge to mostly avoid getting involved with anything supernatural up til now.

This jumbled as it was might still work. The normal rules didn’t apply around me. I had seen portals to other worlds, wizard duels in alleyways, magic rings(I knew they were magic because they glowed), and ghosts in numerous locations. I had even seen a circle like this but simpler and made of stones. That one I had disarmed by kicking the stones and running away. This one, one of four, might be harder to dispel. I reached to touch one of the symbols.

“Stop! Don’t touch that,” Kowalski shouted. “This is a crime scene now. We need to get out and call CSI to come examine the floor.” He grabbed my arm and gently guided me out of the apartment.

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