It’s a Snap
Try – Effort spent with no guarantee of success.
“Clear your mind, Chance. Concentrate.”
“I am!” I said through gritted teeth.
My mind was a swirling confusion of conflicting thoughts and self doubt. I chanted my instructor’s words in my head like a mantra.
Clear your mind… Clear your mind…
“Don’t tense. You have to relax.”
I could feel that my face was red and veins were popping out on my hands and arms as I shook with concentration trying to push away the random thoughts swirling through my mind.
“Gah!” I panted desperately for air. I was holding my breath.
“Gerome, I just can’t do it. I worked so hard to get here and now I’m going to fail my first semester.”
In front of me on a table sat a very motionless grain of sand I had been attempting to lift with my mind. I knew the theory of how to do it and seen it done many times. I just couldn’t focus…
“The more you tense up the more you restrict your flow of energy.”
Gerome’s patient tone only aggravated me further. He’s only a year my senior but the way he spoke and carried himself made the gap seem more like 20 years. This always aggravates me too because he’s already teaching at the school when just a few years ago we were in the same class.
With a finger he brushed aside a strand of his straight black hair from his face.
“Maybe we should try something easier…”
“Easier?! Than a grain of sand? I don’t see how lifting empty space is a worthwhile exercise!”
It didn’t matter how mad I got he always stayed so calm like nothing could effect him at all.
“That’s not what I mean Chance. Instead of lifting it let’s try rolling it.”
“The midterm isn’t on rolling things! I’ve got to lift something.”
Again with cool certainty he replied, “We’ll work up to that. Just try it.”
I turned around and looked at the table solemnly. There sat the grain of yellow white sand carefully plucked from the golden beaches of the Northern California coast. It might as well have been a 2 ton pickup truck for all of my ability to lift it.
I shook out my hands and readied my mind for another go at it. I closed my eyes and reached out with my mind to touch the miniscule object. I could feel every sharp point and shallow pit in its surface like I was seeing it in a microscope. Now the force.
I imagined the idea of pushing with my mind. I could feel the energy building inside me. Now all I had to do was channel it. This is the part that requires absolute unwavering focus as every stray thought disperses your energy, thoughts being able to conduct magical energy much more readily than physical objects.
Magic follows very closely the laws of electricity except it can obey and execute your intentions when focused properly.
At least that’s what my text book says.
Here I am getting distracted again.
As I focus I begin to push away all the stray thoughts and self doubt and push the energy building up in me at the grain of sand. I can feel it building.
There’s the grain of sand, I can move it…
Suddenly in my mind I could feel it wobble just a nanometer I’m doing it! Focus! Don’t think about anything!
At that exact moment it all came crashing in on me, the same swirling confusion and the energy is gone.
“Damnit!” I snapped my fingers in frustration. “I almost had it!”
“You were close, I could sense it. You just have to relax.” Again that patient tone.
“I’m hungry let’s get some dinner and pick this back up later.”
I turned to glare menacingly at my tiny nemesis, but to my surprise it was missing.
“Hey! Where’d it go!?” I exclaimed.
“What do you mean?”
“The sand is gone. There’s no breeze in here, and I sure didn’t move it, but it’s gone.” I tested the air by licking my finger and sticking it up in the air above my head. “Nope.”
“No matter, there’s plenty where that one came from.” said Gerome.
We both shrugged our shoulders and left the stonewalled, book lined and dusty library.
The conservative atmosphere is always heavy at the older universities. Every thing is wood and stone like someone is really trying to impress you with how much work it must have been to build the place. All I know is it’s always cold and drafty. Tradition is important though; so the old alumni would have you believe.
Two massive wooden doors stood at the exit into the main courtyard. They were heavy enough to stop a train but with some clever engineering and a little magic even a child could open them.
I grabbed hold of the massive black metal handles, smooth yet shallowly pitted from 100s of years of rust and re-polishing. Gerome and I together pushed the doors outward.
The din and chaos outside hit us like an unexpected slap.
“It’s a war zone out there.” Gerome commented dryly, with only a slight hint of distaste in his voice. Always calm.
In front of us was a young man in his early 20s in a daze stumbling forward as two others helped him along each under one of his arms to lend support.
“Don’t go in there man…” The nearly incapacitated youth gestured aimlessly at the rec room across the quad. “You won’t get out alive…”
Across the quad I could see other similar victims stumbling or weaving out of the entrance from which lights and loud noise were emanating.
“I hate it when they use the rec room.” I complained to Gerome. “Now how am I going to get a soda?”
“I wish they would ban these parties all together. I don’t see how they contribute to the learning environment in the least.” he agreed.
As you can guess, the stumbling people, lights and noise all boil down to one thing. Frat party.
I mainly hate them because none of them will let me join, but secretly I wish I was there right now dancing with Elena my girl from back home. Don’t tell Gerome though, he’s the only professor here who cares if I make it. That’s why he’s tutoring me at night. I’ve failed every practical test so far because I can’t seem to focus or channel energy when I want to. The final exam is coming up and if I fail that, it’s goodbye for me. Back to Sacramento to flip burgers at some fast food joint for the rest of my life.
“Hey boys! What’cha up to?” came an unnecessarily peppy voice from behind us.
“Hey Trish…” I said in a bored and apathetic tone as I could muster. It wasn’t too hard after my recent failure.
Her response as usual was to punch me in the arm. As usual I turned around and smiled.
“Just some late night studying. We were just taking a break to get something to eat. I was going to the rec room to get a soda, but it’s muy occupado at the moment.” I gestured across the quad.
“Oh, them? I can get you in. It’s a snap.” Trish suggested.
What I haven’t told you about the rec room is besides the drunk and stumbling idiots and those stepping outside for a smoke were two defensive line-men playing bouncer at the entrance in their overly bulky letterman jackets and baseball caps worn at odd backwards angles atop their head. For sure they’d never let Gerome and I in, but Trish… That might work.
Trish is cute. Really cute. Guys drool over her, and so will the meatheads. I’ve never been much into her though. She’s too immature for me; not like Elena. Trish is a girl, Elena is a woman.
Also, Trish is a cheerleader. She’s more like the black sheep of the squad though because she’s too nice and hangs out with geeks like Gerome and I. No one would ever think of kicking her out though because she’s the best on the team. It’s because of her that Westport University wins all the cheerleading competitions.
If we’re with her they’ll have to let us in.
As if reading my thoughts Gerome cut in, “I don’t think that would be wise, Chance.”
“Come on Gerome, don’t be so stuffy. Let’s go.”
At that she grabbed both our hands and dragged us along behind. Gerome was a little more reluctant than I but didn’t resist as I knew he wouldn’t.
The two men sneered as we approached.
“Hey Trish. If you’ve come to party, you don’t need those losers. I’ve got all you need right here.” he gestured to himself, I’m assuming to make sure everyone knew who he was talking about.
“Sorry Jeff, I don’t settle for bare necessity. These guys have a little something ‘extra’ if you know what I mean.” And all three of us sailed on through, some blushing more than others.
Inside was pretty much everything I’d always expected. Bright lights flashing but otherwise dark with anonymous silhouettes moving in various ways, some skilled some not so skilled, to the beat of really bad dance music playing so loud you‘d think they were trying to make up for the lack of musical skill with pure volume of sound. The theory seems to be “if you turn up the bass high enough any song is good to dance to.”
The DJ, as you would expect, has headphones on so he can listen to something else.
Most people don’t know the purpose of the flashing lights at any club or party. It’s exciting and all but their real purpose is keep you night blind so you can’t see how ugly the person you’re dancing with is. That way you can trick yourself into thinking you’re having a good time. You don’t realize you’re not until you wake up next to the person the next morning. All you remember is how fun last night was and so go back next weekend to do the same thing all over again.
The people were categorized into a few basic groups. First were the wall flowers. When I do go to a party this is the group I hang with. Quietly observing the action, trying to feel superior by telling yourself you’re not as petty and superficial as those people.
Second are ‘those people’. Guys acting macho just to hide that fact that they hope no one notices how sweaty their palms are. Some of them can actually dance, but no one really cares how well the guys can dance, just how ruggedly good they look. The girls teeter atop impossibly high heels. So high in fact that they have to add lifts under the toes just so they don‘t fall forward. I believe they are called platforms.
They sure can move in those things though…
Sorry, I’m getting distracted.
The 3rd and last group is the worst of all. The others are just innocent bystanders unaware of the evil in their midst. I call them the groupies. It’s the really dumb popular girls and really dumb jocks who all hang out at a table or booth in the corner getting drunk, covertly feeling each other up and generally giving way too many high fives. All the while making most of everyone else miserable with their taunts and jibes.
Still, I could just imagine Elena in one of those dresses; and heels. So beautiful. I’d dance to this with her any day…
But I digress. With my thoughts elsewhere I snapped back to the present facing the object of my search. The soda machine. It’s multicolored glow basked the room in ethereal light.
I fished a dollar out of my pocket and seconds later a plastic bottle of fizzy caramel colored goodness dropped into the slot below.
I had just about convinced myself this mission was going to be a smooth success when I turned around and found 3 more football stars blocking the exit from the small kitchenette connected to the rec room.
“You two weren’t invited,” said the brute in the middle.
Before I could come up with some witty response, or at least warn them that they were about to attack a school professor the battle started; and ended just as quickly.
Three sets of tree trunk arms reached out to grab us but were stopped mid air by some invisible wall as Gerome’s arm came up in a sweep in front of his chest. There’s a reason he was made a professor at such a young age. But there’s a limit to such a spell and the brutes knew it.
They continued pushing against it and soon the spell’s hold began to fail as they lurched forward. The invisible wall slowly becoming invisible sludge and eventually just regular air.
The way it works is magic temporarily locks the position of air molecules by connecting them so they can’t move out of the way of something trying to pass through them thus creating an invisible wall. Force applied to the wall can break these magical connections like a spider’s web, it all eventually collapses.
One of them had gotten a hand through and was reaching wildly. I cringed back closing my eyes in expectation of the impacts to come. I could hear them grunting and straining, slowly breaking the magical holds on the invisible wall. Then amidst all of that there was a very unexpected sound.
“Hey what are you-…”
I opened my eyes to see what was happening and standing there was a giant. If those guys were built like houses, this guy was a mountain. A grinning mountain. Luckily I knew him.
“Hey Ronny! Just on time to save our bacon.”
“Hey guys. No sweat. These guys are more bark than bite.” with that he gestured to the 3 unconscious former assailants. They were from the lacrosse team as indicated by the symbol on their jackets.
Ronny is Westport’s star defensive line-man. He also doesn’t fall in with the superficial crowd.
“I’m surprised you’re here. I thought you were more of the staying in kind of guy.” I commented.
“Yeah, I didn’t really want to come, but Charlene heard this DJ Max was going to be here and she wanted to dance. You know her.”
“That girl was born on the dance floor.” I agreed.
“That’s her over there,” he pointed at the center of the dance floor towards the tall Roxy girl looking dancer. She tended to get a little wild which was why it was so easy to spot her amongst the dark silhouettes; everyone gave her plenty of space.
“She’s the only person I’ve ever seen perform ballet to dance music.”
All three of us were craning our necks out of the kitchenette doorway watching the spectacle.
“She’s a little weird, but really nice. I like her.” chimed Trish.
“Chance, it’s time to resume your studies. The midterm is the day after tomorrow.”
Trust Gerome to bring me back to reality so bluntly.
“Alright. Alright. What’re we going to do with these guys though?” I asked.
“We’ll take care of them,” Trish smiled evilly.
“I don’t want to know,” I replied.
“I should file a reprimand on them…” Gerome added.
“Come on Gerome, let’s get out of here before we get into more trouble.”
With that Gerome and I exited out the back door. It’s a little farther but worth avoiding the hassle we would get from the doormen. Unfortunately it doesn’t open from the outside otherwise I could have avoided the whole mess.
Heady with my recent victory I twisted the cap off of my prize and drank deeply of the refreshing beverage.
The rest of the night was uneventful. I don’t know if that is really a good thing though because now I only had 1 day until midterms and I still couldn’t use any magic.