Magic, Part 2

She handed me a small book, bound in dark black leather. The pages were fashioned from a coarse, heavy paper, the edges of which were worn as if thousands of fingers had touched them. I couldn’t see a title or symbol or any other special marking on the cover. Flipping through the book, I noticed that every detailed picture, every ornate word, indeed each page had be inked by hand.

“That book is over two thousand years old. It has been passed on from master to student one hundred and fifty seven times,” she said. “You are the one hundred and fifty eighth owner of the Pahn Shirah – Book of Spells.”

I opened to the middle and looked at the hand written words. The letters were completely foreign. For some reason, I expected the book to be in English, even after hearing its age.

“I can’t read this. I don’t even know what language this is in.”

“Why don’t you try reading it from the beginning, Ron. You aren’t the kind of guy who reads the last page before finishing a book, are you?” She laughed.

“Okay, but I still can’t read this shit.” I looked down at the first page of the Pahn Shirah. There were no words, only pictures of a person in various poses. The images seemed to flow together, the page alive with an animated dance. I watched as the figure moved from one position to the next. Over and over it danced. I cannot remember how long I watched the figure move. When I finally looked away, she was gone. But the dance remained vividly in my mind.

I stood up from the small wooden chair, moved to an open space in the room and began to dance. I moved as I remembered the figure moving. I moved my arms. I moved my legs. The motions were slow like those of a Tai Chi master. Finally, I raised my arm in the final pose. I waited. Nothing.

“What the hell?” I asked the empty room, folding my arms. I figured she would hear me no matter how far away she had been. “That didn’t do anything. What am I supposed to be doing anyway?”

“This is your journey, your dance. Nothing is going to be handed to you on a plate. Don’t expect everything to come in the form of an explosion. Some things take time. I’m here to guide you, not force you down a particular path. You choose where to go. I’ll help you if you fall, but it’s you who must move forward, not I.” Her voice came from the book.

“What kind of teacher lets her student do whatever he wants? How am I supposed to learn from that?”

No reply ever came. With nothing better to do, I turned to the second page. Again a figure danced. Again I watched countless times. Again I moved my own body in the form I had just learned. This time my head was filled with ten thousand voices, each was distinct. The chorus of words seemed to merge until a single unified sound was heard.

I woke up on the floor, dizzy and confused. After a few minutes I regained my senses and stood. The book lay open on the arm of the chair. I picked it up and read the third page. Hahliza tomas batta kyu. Naraddha simo dayradin tor. A figure danced in rhythm with the strange words.

“I told you so.” She was suddenly standing next to me again. I wondered if she had ever really left.

“What is this?” I asked.

“Its magic. The first spell is one of purification. It helps to clear the mind and lets you focus on important stuff. The second is one of understanding. It helps you communicate with those around you. You’ll understand whatever they say or write. Likewise they’ll understand you. These two spells form the base of your studies. They’ll help you learn much faster, so I suggest you do them both every day. I do them when I wake up.” Her smile faded into a frown. “Obviously you can read that ‘shit’ now.”

“Okay, fine. I’m sorry.” The whole I-told-you-so attitude always irked me. “So, what’s this third spell do?”

She just stood there with a “wouldn’t you like to know” look on her face. I rolled my eyes then performed the third dance, singing the words. Every syllable seemed to burn my tongue as I spoke it. My body tingled with every word. As the last utterance left my lips and my arms moved into their final position, the air around me crackled with energy. I felt peaceful, clam, safe.

“Its a spell of protection. It won’t stop bullets or swords, but when danger is near, you’ll know it. And you’ll know where its coming from.”

“How long do these spells last?”

“I’m being nice. My teacher wouldn’t tell me anything. I had to figure it all out on my own.” Laughing, she said, “I bet she’d have a fit if she knew I told you all that already. But that’s really not my style. I did kind of resent her for it, you know. But don’t think I’m just going to tell you everything. I guess one thing I learned was that sometimes we learn better through experience.”

“So you’re not going to tell me?”

“Nope.”

“Thanks.” I mumbled.

“You’re welcome! Always glad to help.”

I suddenly felt tired, or maybe just realized how tired I had been. “What time is it?”

“Time is relative, grass-hopper.”

I stared at her, arms folded, and sneered.

“Four in the morning. You look tired. I know I am so I’m going to bed.” She pointed to a door I hadn’t notice before. “That’ll be your room.” She walked away into her own bedroom, then turned before closing the door. “Don’t stay up all night reading, okay? And please don’t wake me up if you get to number six. I’m really grumpy when someone wakes me up.” She closed her door.

I was so tired I couldn’t imagine reading any more. But her warning intrigued me. I wondered what the sixth spell would do to wake her up. Taking the book with me, I went into my room. The bed was small, but comfortable. The rest of my surroundings didn’t register in my memory. Sleep came quickly.

January 4, 2002 • Posted in: Fiction

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