Penned in - The new city

2019-11-01 graemepenned in

Penned in is available on amazon or here for free but obviously any copied purcahsed is greatly appreciated, cheers!

He picked himself up off the floor with dusty clothing and dented pride. The sight of the city was impressive, regardless of his physical state. A sprawling metropolis laid out before him. Buildings fought for centre stage in a densely populated skyline using architectural styles unlike any he had seen before. It was as if all world cultures had come together to influence this set of looming giants.

Not only did the many structures seem to shun logical and functional design but a lot of them weren’t entirely straight either. Some bent precariously as they made their ascent into the swirling cloud formations above. It looked like the building process had been more organic. He likened it to those spectacular ant hills in Africa. On first glance, the best way to describe this city would be a comfortable chaos.

The streets were most certainly chaotic, untamed, and teeming with people going about their business. The colourful markets, street musicians, crowds of hustlers, beggars, business people, flocks of commuters narrowly avoiding the bikes, tuk-tuks, rickshaws and a multitude of heavier vehicles competing for dominance on the roads made it uncomfortably loud. The city had a healthy set of lungs and its voice rang in Kellan’s ears.

It had to be said that it wasn’t often Kellan found himself in a city and this one was nothing like any city he knew of. His home village was nowhere near anything this epic. The whole damn country didn’t have any cities like this one which left him puzzled and fairly anxious about his whereabouts. Was he in a hostile land? It wasn’t safe to travel parts of the globe and this place could well be one of the places he’d heard of teeming with bands of ruthless militias and street gangs capable of fearsome atrocities against his good person. This current thinking was far scarier than sharing a cab with a monkey driver.

After wrestling with his options and realising again he only really had one, he descended into the city from these dusty outskirts. To walk away from the city meant travelling through a desert which was way more likely to be inhospitable as he slowly roasted in the sunlight trekking aimlessly. Also, the city before him looked modern and was densely populated. There were no obvious signs of conflict and people were going about their business with relative calm. He had to glean some comfort from that.

The streets were packed. He pushed through the indifferent crowds awkwardly, letting them knock into him while doubling his efforts to move out of their way. With every bump, he felt increasingly self-conscious. Pushing on through the crowds eventually paid off after several blocks when he found the area quiet enough to stop still, pull himself together, and figure out what to do next.

A vacant bench was Kellan’s first port of call and he sat down heavily. Where on earth was he? How did he end up here? Why was it when he really needed it he didn’t have his phone on him? He could really do with some supportive social media right now and a crowd of eyes peering at his camera pictures helping to ascertain where he was.

He cursed sod’s law which had clearly left him phoneless.

He kept playing over events from the last hour. Firstly, he was pretty sure he’d fallen asleep in his bedroom. He then woke up on that train. Was it actually his room he’d fallen asleep in or was his mind all muddled and he’d boarded that train? He pondered on this but it didn’t seem likely. The train was then driven in such a way that anyone with a bad heart would have surely perished and what the hell was up with the front of the train! That must have been some kind of effect or an illusion. Maybe a symptom of being at high altitude? Then there was the car driven by a monkey and all other vehicles nearby. Were there monkeys out on the streets as well? Were they safe to be around humans normally? Finally in a chaotic city with crazy buildings that defied all normal building standards and that cab had been free of charge!

Kellan couldn’t get his head around what was happening and what was going on. Nothing really made sense and the more he tried to think about it the more questions he came up with. He decided thinking was not the best thing to do right now. He needed to keep moving. Sometimes it was better to just focus on the physical rather than the mental.

Walking did seem to help as it offered the odd moment when his thinking dulled and a positive realisation could bubble up from the writhing mass of confused thoughts stuck in his head such as:

“They all speak English here” and “at least there haven’t been any pan pipe buskers”.

Like an inexperienced and lost stoner he traipsed along streets, trying to find someone or something helpful, like a map or a tourist board. As the first signs of dusk appeared, his panic grew as the prospect of a night outside seemed inevitable. His legs were sore from pounding the sidewalk but he felt too low to ask for help. He didn’t really know what to ask for as he still wasn’t 100% sure how friendly the natives were so revealing his lack of accommodation could potentially have severe consequence here.

As he took in his current surroundings he noticed there hadn’t been any shops or restaurants for a while and figured he was in the business sector of this particular city. All the buildings boasted affluence. Not the kind of place you’d expect a lot of help from unsympathetic high flyers but still strange there was no savvy business owner selling some evening wares or bars where city folk could shed some of their bonuses. So where could he go?

He really longed for some warm soup and the promise of a sheltered bed. The cold was starting to bite into him and he had no food to tackle this growing problem.

He passed a busker playing a saxophone and as if by magic his problems dissolved. It was amazing; the guy could make the music flow out his sax like a divine waterfall. The haunting blues notes humbled Kellan. He felt like his plight was shared with his woes felt by many. A warm feeling hit him, quite noticeably and the effect was incredible. He felt more clear-headed. The hunger had fled him and he felt OK as if the music had cleansed him of negative energies.

Kellan looked up at the musician, wanting to thank him but unable to pay him as he figured his pockets were empty. He thought he could still, at the very least, acknowledge the man. He wanted to give him a smile and let him know his music had touched someone. He glanced down at the saxophone case hoping to see a reassuringly large amount of loose change lining this talented musician’s case but instead saw nothing but a load of small glass vials. Not a single penny or generous note, just these delicate looking glass vials that, as Kellan squinted to focus on them better, contained tiny wisps of smoke.

Was this some drugs thing? Was this guy crazy just allowing an unguarded drug stash to sit in full view of others? As he stood still, listening to the beautiful melody and feeling pretty damn good with it, passers-by would lean toward the case and fling those same curious small vials into it. Some containers were less transparent than others, he noted. So this was their currency, he figured. What strange denominations were these! You’d have thought something this out of the ordinary would be common knowledge as it differed so greatly from regular coins and cash notes used globally.

Then Kellan became aware that his trouser pockets contained something. He reached in and pulled out a handful of the glass vials each with a wisp of smoke within them. They were quite small like cheap Christmas lights some with thicker wisps of smoke than others. How they came to be in his possession he wasn’t sure, but at least, it seemed he had some cash on him.

Kellan gave up one of the vials to the saxophone player. The music had nourished him and for that, he was truly grateful. He decided after a time he should move on and establish where he was and what to do next but he didn’t feel as stressed now.

He continued on, feeling more upbeat and calm. He had this beautiful, cleansed feeling which was not something he had felt often as a physically inactive, call centre employee. Usually, he would have a headache from work, feel tired from many sleepless nights or ache from a hangover with very little difference between the three. His body felt light and wasn’t giving off any of the normal minor complaints, not even the mild stiff lower back or clicking right knee. He wasn’t sure if it was the music or something somehow related to those curious vials that had done this to him but it was a good feeling.

As he walked down one of the many streets, his upbeat, stress-free experience was derailed by the sudden loud aggressive shout that came from behind him and tore through the air. “THAT’S HIM. GET ‘IM!”

He snapped around to see three, big, menacing guys advancing upon him. Like a rabbit caught in headlights, he froze. This was totally unexpected. They were closing in on him. All of them with shaved heads, industrial clothing, and steel toe capped boots raining down heavy on the pavement. He stumbled yet remained upright although he felt like he was about to fall. They ran past barely missing him to grab a man a few feet further along.

One of them slammed into the guy and sent him crashing down painfully to the ground. They circled around and rained heavy stamps and kicks to his body before they hoisted the screaming and badly wounded man up. They then threw him into the back of a van that had quickly appeared to the side of them with military precision. The victim’s body clanged as it landed inside the vehicle and was then followed by the three attackers. Doors slammed shut and tyres screeched. The whole thing was over within seconds.

Kellan felt numb. He was panicked, for sure, but the fact that the attack had just happened to someone was quite shocking. He’d felt powerless against the size of those guys. He was practically useless but still felt ashamed of having done nothing. What he really felt shame about was being in the lacking physical state that meant he had little choice but to avoid confronting them.

But seriously what could he have done? There had been three of them and they were much bigger than him and clearly furious. Three angry guys against one of him. Even if he had been in better shape that still made for awful odds. They tore into that guy like he’d done something wrong, although maybe he had? That thought instantly offered some reassurance.

Kellan wasn’t sure if he should wait around to talk to the police, but the idea didn’t rest comfortably with him. He expected someone would have called them so at least he wouldn’t have to. Of course, that could still lead to the potentially deadly scenario of getting drawn into a court case and acting as key witness in some foreign court while picking out potential hoodlums. Hoodlums from a highly organised crime network, possibly? This helped give fuel to his legs and moved him away from the crime scene. Besides, he thought, that guy could have really deserved a kicking. He’d just keep walking the way he had been heading and stop and talk to the police if they caught up with him.

He continued to walk quickly for some time.

After that ordeal, Kellan really could have done with a beer to give him some much needed Dutch courage but he was struggling to find anywhere that supplied alcohol. He still hadn’t seen any shops or restaurants and he was certain he hadn’t been repeating the same food-and-drink-free route for hours.

He wanted to find somewhere safe to get to, but he wasn’t sure where to go. With guys like that, it was most likely unsafe to be here at night out alone. He had to find some cheap hotel or B&B where he could get plenty of bang for his … well … smoky vial. What kind of city didn’t have any noticeable shops / restaurants or bars? Kellan really envied those who lived in what he imagined were, the nearby apartment blocks. They didn’t have to trek these streets unknowingly. Those residents would be armed with knowledge of the area so there would be no unpleasant surprises for them. He was at the mercy of this place. He didn’t know where to go or what to do but a slow acceptance was forming. He was on his own here and had to fend for himself. In a way, the lack of companions to worry about was good. With loved ones in tow, it would have elevated the stress so at least that was something. Here he was alone but that meant no one he cared for could get hurt.

Just up ahead, a guy with weathered skin and a poorly maintained appearance was hassling people, Kellan guessed, for some of the vials. People were refusing his requests so he figured it was for this weird money. Inevitably the guy closed in on Kellan. “Hello, sir, thank you for stopping,” the man said annoyingly as Kellan was made to stop else he would have walked into him.

“I really appreciate you stopping to listen to me, so many people don’t.” This rhetoric was actually quite familiar; Kellan decided to put him out of his misery and held up his hand.

“Sorry, mate, I don’t have any change,” he said dismissively.

“You know they were actually after you, Kellan,” said the man suddenly. His accent and voice noticeably different. His stare was less vacant now and more focused on him.

“Excuse me?” Kellan said as clearly as possible.

“They were after you, Kellan. They got the wrong man back there. They meant to get you.”

“What are you talking about?” Kellan said taken aback.

“It’s not safe for you here. You have to get to the old bookshop. I cannot emphasise this enough. We can explain more to you there but you must follow me now.”

“Ok, mate,” Kellan said as convincingly as possible. This guy was off his rocker, no doubt about it. Why on earth would he believe some random wino about some bookshop and what did he mean by ‘we’. As the guy turned and crossed the road for him to follow, Kellan allowed him to get ahead just enough to put a little distance between them and then bolted away in the same direction he had been headed before. He figured this rag-tag fellow wouldn’t have much of a sprint in him and looking back after a little distance seemed to confirm this as he was nowhere in sight.

As he dropped his pace from a run to a walk, he was pretty confident he’d done the right thing avoiding that crazy naysayer, but he had to admit, the guy was convincing. The accent change was unnervingly good and, seriously, how did he know his name? He must have imagined it.

Why on earth would those guys want him, what had he done? Maybe though they did want him as he wasn’t from around here. Maybe they were some local right-wing group out to get immigrants. Maybe then the homeless guy must work for some group protecting people like him getting his name and picture from the train line. That made sense right! That also meant he had just refused help.

Of course, it was just as likely that attack was planned for that other guy or was just a bout of mindless violence. The latter was not really reassuring of course! Also, the homeless guy probably didn’t address him directly, the guy probably said some other name and he’d just imagined he’d said, “Kellan”. Or even if he did say Kellan, it could have been a lucky guess and he said it to everyone until he was lucky enough to meet someone sharing the name. He was sure he’d seen a television documentary about street magicians which mentioned that technique. He felt pretty self-assured and was now convinced he had just avoided getting mugged by some crazy, homeless fella. He was almost positively certain.

After some time, and more walking, Kellan became more aware of and interested in the passing faces. He began to see all manner of folk, of all colours and creed. Every imaginable face and extravagant clothing seemed to be passing him by and it certainly wasn’t the case earlier. Dazzling colours in all manner of tribal, traditional, modern and frankly crazy wear and the weirdest and wonderful costumes were worn by passers-by. Suddenly the world had gone all fancy-dress. Everything clicked once he passed the most impressive building he had yet seen in the city. This was clearly the theatre.

Many of the outlandish costumes he’d seen pass by must have been actors. The congregation that had formed outside the theatre was alive with thespian energy and drive. The air was electric. You could feed off the buzz and the excitement. The costumes and effects looked amazing. What kind of show could they be performing? Kellan decided to benefit from the jovial crowd and ask for directions to the nearest shelter, B&B or backpacker pub.

He stopped to ask a crocodile directions. The unconvincing reptile, clearly a man in a comical green costume with white fabric triangles for teeth, just looked at him and hissed harshly. “Well, sod you then,” muttered Kellan under his breath.

He decided to talk to the guy who looked a lot like Che Guevara. He’d had the poster as a radical teen, he felt some connection to this guy which was a foolish way to judge the man underneath the mask but hey ho. Che knew nothing of such places.

Finally, Kellan settled on some people who didn’t appear to be part of the theatre. He could tell they were revellers at most and asked them where he could find a warm place for the evening.

“A what? Shelter? No idea. What’s that then?”

Kellan didn’t try to explain too hard as he found it tiresome to be caught up in this apparent joke. “Stoners!” he thought. At least they hadn’t hissed at him. He had a mixed vibe about this place, this city. On the one hand, groups kidnapped people off the street, so prominent were this group of bandits, the local street people tried to cash in on their crimes by offering assistance to fresh-faced, naive, city visitors. On the other, it was clearly a place with a magnificent arts culture. It was all very odd.

Kellan tried to ask a couple more people for directions but no one could help. It was really hard to know how to feel about this. How could nobody know where he could find some kind of shelter? A B&B or youth hostel. It was beyond him. Was everyone in on some kind of joke to keep the foreigner from a warm room for the night? It wasn’t funny.

Still, regardless of the local sense of humour, he was finding being in the crowd intoxicating. It must be how it feels to go to those festivals he’d never got round to attending, minus the music, he thought. He was really starting to regret his pedestrian lifestyle although that did mean he avoided lethal trains and crazy monkey-driven car journeys. He wouldn’t seek that kind of adventure out again, that’s for sure.

To be amongst all these happy and energised people was exciting. It gave him a euphoric feeling. Being part of this crowd felt right. It felt like he belonged, no longer feeling like an outsider. Was it because he had such a rigid and boring routine to his life that reduced the flow of new people in his life that made this feel so good?

He decided to move on and even though he felt he could stay indefinitely he thought it would be a smarter move to find a place to stay for the night. After all, he could always return later once he’d found a bed to sleep in. The theatre area had given him such an upbeat feeling. Thank goodness he hadn’t walked away after speaking to that crocodile guy. Not that it mattered. He forgave the rude response he’d received. He felt purged of negative thought and limber, like he had just exercised. The lights of the city looked clearer, brighter and more vibrant; the air crisp and fresh. He felt excited about roaming the streets. The place now held possibilities rather than fearful mysteries. He strode along taking in the sights passing the interesting and good looking people. Everyone now seemed happy or at least no one seemed to harbour negative feelings. Life felt good.

Just then he saw the same group of guys, the ones who had attacked that poor guy. They were standing at a street corner not far from him. His good mood almost quelled an appropriate fear in him but he allowed some common sense to guide him and he stopped walking. Almost as if they heard him stop they all snapped their heads round to look at him, staring him down with narrowed eyes. It was fast becoming clear he had been their target after all. Whatever they wanted him for it was going to involve a kicking. Kellan felt the fear but he went with it instead of rooting himself to the spot in terror, he made the sensible decision and bolted in the opposite direction. No point waiting to hear what they were going to say first.

“Oi!” One of them screamed. Kellan was definitely their target.

Kellan sprinted down the road, darting along the kerb to avoid oncoming pedestrians. He could hear his pursuers shouting him down. They were furious and this gave speed to his legs.

He could hear them closing in and he had to shake them off. No one here helped, it seemed. He didn’t want to end up in a van with them. He also didn’t want to run down any darkened side alleys in case he found himself at a dead end; choice words for this situation.

Quicker than he could think, he was back at the theatre area and the huge crowds made for a large amount of natural cover which he went tearing into. He weaved through the sea of people and had no choice but to ignore the many protests as he tore through conversations and clipped folk in his haste to avoid a severe beating. The electric atmosphere was now tainted as he ran to escape these intimidating bastards. He kept moving through the thick crowd envious of each and every one of them as they enjoyed themselves thoroughly while he ran for his life.

The crowd had been immense and he was pretty sure he had managed to shake those guys after a healthy time had passed. He was now disorientated and wasn’t sure what to do. Did he risk heading to the crowd perimeter to get spotted again or risk bumping into them while staying within this crowd? He was standing in the largest gathering he had ever experienced and was feeling the loneliest he had ever felt.

A hand landed heavily on his left shoulder.

The panic he felt was the strongest yet. He spun around faster than he knew he could move and met the ramshackle face of the homeless man.

“This could have been avoided if you’d have come with me earlier,” he said. This was really uncalled for as Kellan didn’t know this guy or the group chasing him, so being cautious was a pretty reasonable thing to do. He was a bit annoyed that he was getting, effectively, a scolding.

“Who are they?” Kellan said.

“It’ll be easier if I explain later. For now, we really need to get to the bookshop. PLEASE trust me this time.” Kellan nodded. He was out of breath and unable to see this guy as much of a threat now his warning from earlier had been given more truth. Something really sinister was going on. Something sinister and organised. This guy knew his situation, his plight, and his name. He decided to tempt fate and trust him since he already knew the other group wasn’t friendly. He promised himself he would remain as vigilant as possible and any darkened alleys would prompt another sprint in the opposite direction.

The homeless man led him through the crowd by navigating the ever-shifting mass of jovial folk. He would regularly glance back to ensure Kellan was behind him and never once smiling.

Without warning, they ran into the group of thugs. It was so quick it took Kellan’s breath from him and he felt giddy with dread.

“This is it,” he thought. “Oh my God, this is it!” He was only a few feet away from them and they were about to see him as they scanned the crowd. That homeless guy was part of all this. His instinct had betrayed him. Then, from Kellan’s position behind the homeless gentleman something really unnatural happened. A sudden transformation occurred in the man who said he could help him. He appeared to inflate, his hair disappeared, and he was suddenly wearing a black jacket and khakis. He turned to the attackers and in a similar voice to theirs shouted: “He went that way, heading 10 0’clock.” Unquestioningly, they darted off in the direction pointed out to them. It was hard to explain but he’d changed his appearance to match theirs and it had happened so seamlessly. Like the front carriage on the train, it was like the eye was tricked into seeing something that hadn’t really happened but it just had. Of course, the initial transformation caused Kellan’s heart to stop when he thought he had just fallen into a trap but once the man redirected them elsewhere he felt a little confidence creeping back. Kellan knew his own face looked very pale right then.

The skinhead aggressors darted off in the direction they had been diverted to. None of them noticed Kellan cowering a few feet away. It was surely a miracle. The homeless guy turned to him. He looked the same as before not a hint of the clever unexplainable disguise.

“That was too close. We have to keep moving quickly. More of them will be looking for you now,” he shouted over the crowd.

Kellan would have said “Ok” but a nod had to suffice. They carried on through the masses with haste. The crowd thinned, making Kellan feel edgy. He’d been relying on the safety offered in the swarm. They kept moving via quiet back streets and a few darkened alleys. He had no choice but to follow the man regardless of his previous reservations until they finally reached their destination; a ropey looking bookshop, down some steps protected by 19th-century railings and a swing gate. A fortress, no less.

The doorbell rang out cheerily as they walked in. Stacks of musty books littered the place and were illuminated by old-fashioned lamp lighting. A voice from the back of the shop shouted, “Wait a minute. I will be with you,” in an African-sounding accent.

A slender, black gentleman of advanced years appeared.

“To what do I owe this pleasure,” he said in a thick African accent Kellan guessed was Nigerian but only because he had known some Nigerian guys back at college.

“We need somewhere to lie low for a while. I need to get this gentleman to the library but he is sought after.” The shopkeeper peered at Kellan, almost into him, with a confused and offended look on his face. He stared at

Kellan for longer than would be considered polite.

“He is not normal, is he?” said the bookkeeper after the significant pause. Kellan didn’t think he was going to like this guy.

They were led through the shop, which was a lot larger than the front suggested, to a back room which was very much a living area.

The room was small and cosy. A bar heater sat inside the hearth of a real fireplace while soot suggested a real fire had been lit at some point. The bar heater licked at your shins with an intense heat that reminded him how scorchingly cold the rest of his body was. A few seconds felt like the skin had been cooked off the lower limbs. Strong coffee was offered in cold, but soon to be piping, hot ceramic mugs. The steamy pick-me-up was greatly appreciated.

“We need to get him to the library,” the homeless guy said to the shopkeeper.

“He will need to make a delivery then. It is the only way to get there regardless of them looking for him.”

They continued to talk about Kellan for some time, which was fine for a couple minutes but after around 15 minutes it felt quite rude. Kellan felt he deserved to be recognised as another individual sitting in the room.

They made him feel very insignificant and he wasn’t sure why they should warrant any respect from him. He was appreciative of the help they had offered him, though, and the shelter they now gave. These two were being quite serious as they chatted and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know why. His thoughts kept taking him back to the street attack.

Kellan sat quietly, listening to the conversation, trying to piece together what was happening. He felt nervous, unsure about his circumstance and waiting for an explanation.

“… but the roads are so dangerous.”

“There is no alternative.”

“Well, he cannot go as he is. They must know what he looks like, right?”

“It seems that way, yes. They identified him and pursued him outside the theatre area.”

“But didn’t you say before that they had beat up another guy standing before him. Are we sure they are looking for him, maybe they just don’t like what he looks like?”

“I don’t think we should risk assumptions as to the first victim although I know he personally held very little significance to that group’s usual operations.”

“Who knows with those close-minded idiots. So what are their motives for this one? How ‘special’ is he?”

After more discussion, Kellan finally got the explanation he needed. The shopkeeper had left the room leaving him with the homeless guy whose face seemed far less manic than on their first encounter. In fact, it had cleared up considerably and the worn features of someone sleeping rough had gone.

“Kellan, I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”

“Yes I do!” said Kellan, a little exasperated. “Well, how about start with where I am and how I got here?”

“Do you believe in magic?” the homeless guy said surprisingly.

“Sorry?” Kellan was taken aback by this question.

“Do you believe in magic, Kellan?”

“Sorry, but are you being serious!? What do you mean MAGIC?” Kellan emphasised the word.

“I mean, a force that cannot be explained by conventional science, reason or logic.”

“I don’t understand why you would be asking me that,” said Kellan struggling with the conversation.

“Let me explain further. You see magic is a real thing. It is a power, a force that exists within your world …”

“My world?” said Kellan, grabbing on to that phrase.

“Yes. You are not in your normal world right now.”

“What! Look this is getting a bit much,” said Kellan, perplexed especially after waiting patiently to now be ridiculed.

“This may sound ridiculous but surely some of your experiences here have not been easy to explain. Did the train you travelled in make sense and have you ever seen monkeys driving vehicles before. I would imagine seeing me change into one of the men who was pursuing you was not an exactly an everyday occurrence?”

“No, so where am I then? Sorry, wait, how do you know all that?”

“You are still on Earth but not in your dimension, as it were. You’ve been pulled into this place by an unknown force,” the wizard replied ignoring his second question.

“This place?” said Kellan feeling a surprising anxiety rising within him as he spoke to this man he now suddenly had to trust.

“You’re inside a computer, Kellan. Not the exact one that sits at the bottom of your bed you use to browse websites on spicy chilli sauce recipes and scantily clad Scandinavian women, but certainly one that powers that particular unit.”

“Um, ok,” Kellan said red faced and more than a little surprised this stranger knew his browsing habits. Was this guy a hacker?

“You were pulled into your computer. We are not sure who did this, it is not something that has happened before, but we know that you being here is incredibly dangerous for all of us.”

“Why?” Kellan heard himself say. He couldn’t explain what he was feeling at this point, but worried about the mental state of his companion and confusion as to the possible truth he spoke after the experiences he’d just had in the last few hours. It was too hard to grasp what was really going on.

“The men you saw, the ones who chased you, are really quite dangerous.”

“I could see that! Who were… who are they?”

“We call them Luddites.”

Kellan went to repeat the word but only mouthed it instead. He’d heard of Luddites after a school trip to an old hosiery factory.

“They are best described as anti-magic.”

Kellan just remained silent

“Do you understand me so far?”

“I am not sure I do, I don’t know…” Kellan trailed off. He wanted to say he didn’t know about anything this man had told him but couldn’t say it. He wasn’t really thinking straight.

“Let me try and explain in more detail. Magic is entwined into the very fabric of your reality. It is a naturally occurring entity, one that needs to be harnessed, controlled. If not, it can become unwieldy, unpredictable and devastating. Where you stand is the perfect device for magic to safely exist in tandem with the human world, your world. No one would suspect that the most widespread instrument on this planet could be the one place where magic lives.”

“Sorry … so you’re telling me magic is a natural thing?”

“Yes, entirely. Magic is an off-shoot, a powerful by-product. Once that first conscious creative thought was made what we know of as magic was born. Here we are, born from the creative thoughts of people, the uninhibited unrestricted thoughts.”

“A thought without boundaries forms magic. Those stories of monsters and mermaids, witches, warlocks, vampires, voodoo feed our realm. We need people’s creative thoughts and beliefs and what we have found is the perfect vessel to manipulate people’s thinking. We have given them a tool, a device which they must learn to utilise to strive to improve and perfect where the sky’s the limit as they improve the device and how they communicate with it.”

“Education is teaching children to stop daydreaming, using their powerful imaginations. We need those thoughts to survive. With a computer, we have managed to manipulate people into creating those thoughts and given them something they have come to rely on.”

“I …um…right!” Kellan stumbled through the sentence. Was this rational? Was he losing his mind?

“You are not losing your mind, Kellan.”

Hearing this made Kellan jump. That was just a coincidence, right?

“It was not a coincidence. I am giving you answers relevant to your thoughts.”

“‘What the fuuuc—” Kellan was speechless.

Kellan’s mind raced, processing what he had just heard and experienced.

“Let me answer those,” said the homeless gentleman making Kellan feel very uncomfortable that his jumbled thoughts were being received by the gentleman next to him.

“Science can help nurture creative thought in humans but not as many as we here in this realm need to flourish.”

“To answer your next thought, no, your thoughts hold no power while you are inside this realm, which is a shame as it could be extremely beneficial to us. To your next thought: I usually let others speak out of politeness, and to your final thought: in that cluster of thoughts my ability to hear your thoughts is similar to my ability to hear the words you speak.”

Kellan felt a little embarrassed and very uncomfortable.

“You may ask your next question, yes,” said the wizard.

“But you already know what I want to ask,” said Kellan.

“It makes no difference to me if I am delayed a little in answering your questions.”

“Can you ignore my thoughts? Can you, please, give me privacy?”

“I can.”

“So can everyone here do that? Read minds?”

“Only wizards like me.”

That gave Kellan some reassurance.

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