The History of Magic
in the 21st Century

A novel by Brandon Starr

Now, a new fiction story--"The Voice of Cassandra"

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Chapter interlude: "the coming storm"

CHAPTER INTERLUDE:  “The Coming Storm”

(From Rev. Theodore Humphrey’s article “Magic:  the coming storm.”  Humphrey was one of the first religious thinkers to weigh in on the subject.)

     There are a few who would still deny magic.

     I remember there were times before Andy Naramore, when certain doubters would come to me.  “Theo,” they would say, “What is all this in the Bible about witches and sorcerers?  There’s no such thing.”  Well, now we all have further proof of the infallibility of the Word of God.

     Magic exists.

     I myself made it a point to go to Seattle, Washington to see this Andy Naramore, this so-called “The First.”  Such a strange nickname--it is as though there were no instances of miracles in the Good Book.

     But no miracle of God there did I witness.  As I saw him swoop over the crowd again and again, like a buzzard circling its prey, I could only think of Job:  “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”

     We now have quite a few instances of magic being practiced openly here in our very own society.  But the Lord says, “Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, to be defiled by them:  I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 19:31)

     What, then, are we to do?  For, in addition to not seeking such magicians out, we are instead advised, nay, ordered:  “Do not permit a sorceress to live!” (Ex 22:18)

     Despite this, we do live in a society of laws.  How are we to balance our societal duties against the laws of our Lord?

     My suggestion:  to make the use of all unnatural powers against the law, and enforced by strict punishments.  With no witches, there need be no killing of witches.

     For what is a magical power, but a circumventing of the natural laws?  With such power comes great temptation.  Who can deny it?  Take Andy Naramore, for instance.  He says he only does his flying to make a living.  But who is to say that some lovely young lady, high up in a residential high-rise changing her clothes, never suspecting a thing, doesn’t have a peeping Andy Naramore hovering right outside her window?

     There was a report in the Los Angeles Times about a wizard who could take the appearance of any person he liked.  Who is to say he won’t commit a crime while disguised as someone else, and end up sending an innocent person to prison?

     Just outside of Boston, there was someone who could walk through walls.  When we have witches who can do that, why will we bother having locked doors any more?  What good will bank vaults do?  How will we protect our families from harm?

     I am a reasonable man.  I don’t know whether these gifts come from God or the Devil—though I have my fears.  Some good may come from these unearthly powers.  But there will be much more danger.  This is because we are talking about people flouting the laws of God.  And we will not long be able to tolerate it.

     I call on all the so-called “emps” to cease using their powers immediately.  If you do not, we will have to take action.


Thursday, December 02, 2004
Chapter Four: "Daniel Mansfeld"

CHAPTER FOUR:  “Daniel Mansfeld”

     In the summer afternoon, there was no one to see it except a few cows.

     A boulder, mossy and deep-set, started to move.  First it rolled a bit one way and the other, the way a child does when he doesn’t want to be woken up.  Then it suddenly rolled up: and just at its tipping point, when it should by rights have gone right on moving, it stopped gracefully, rather like the hippo dancers from Fantasia.

     A moment later, a very old man strode out of the hole which had been hidden beneath the boulder.  His long white hair and beard contrasted with his dark gray robes.  He held a long staff in one hand, and a pack in the other, which he slung over his shoulder.

     Without so much as a glance back into the cave, he raised a hand and the great stone settled back down into its bed.

     He looked around, his long, straight nose sniffing the air.  His prominent white eyebrows furrowed a bit.  He walked towards the low hill a few hundred meters in front of him.

     There it was, still standing after all these years.  His heart started to warm at the sight.  Even from this distance, the triptychs were magnificent.

     And the next instant, his heart sunk again.

     Who, by the Father’s beard, are all these people?

     There were hundreds of them, swarming his beloved Stonehenge.  To either side of the monument, two great roads like rivers of rock rolled past, carrying many strange vehicles on them.  Beyond the site, the roads converged, giving the whole thing a rather snake-tongue appearance.

     He strode forward, a stern look pasted on his face.  But by the time he arrived, it had melted away to a rather bemused expression.

     At first he could hardly make out a word of what anyone was saying.  But he had a gift for languages, and this one seemed to be a mixture mostly of a different variant of his tongue and Latin.  He got a lot of looks, and a lot of requests for people to stand by him, smiling, while they “took a picture.”  He soon figured out that there was an entire room in that little box they were holding—they even called it a camera.  The rooms were art houses; some even spat out a picture almost immediately.  So, they’ve finally figured out magic, he thought, and they’ve put little faeries to work drawing their pictures.

       Everyone seemed to think he was part of the official scene, and he was happy not to change their minds.  He noticed that some people spoke other languages, and had features that marked them as being from lands far away.  Remarkable, he thought.

     A few hours later, the sun was starting to set, and the crowds began to thin a bit.  He had decided on the name “Daniel Mansfeld,” and no one seemed to challenge him on it.  He followed some of them back to their vehicles, and it was there that he determined that none of it was magic:  not the great roads, not the strange vehicles, not the cameras.  He had tried to determine the type of magic being used by the great conveyances by a detection spell, and nothing had happened.

     No one was casting any spells.

     He had had to sit down for a bit after that.  All of this was technological in nature.  For how long had he been asleep?

     A tourist saw him looking at their newspaper, and handed it to him.  “We’re done,” they said.  He smiled and nodded in appreciation.

     His talent for languages, and a few spells he knew to help him along, determined that he had been asleep for hundreds of years longer than he ever had been before.  He knew the date was printed on the newspaper, but didn’t know the exact meaning yet.  He would figure that out soon enough.

     Time to get to a center of learning, he thought.  And time to start trying out the language.

     “Can anyone…take me…to the city?” he asked loudly to a group of people.

     “You mean London?  Yeah, we’re going back tonight.  You need a lift?”

     He nodded and smiled.  So, the Roman administrative capital had ceased being a glorified fort had managed to become a real city.  Probably forty or fifty thousand people there now, he mused.  This could be most rewarding.


Friday, December 03, 2004
Chapter Four (cont'd) and short interlude

     On the way back, he did his best to make conversation and learn what he could from the family of three.

     “So, Mr. Mansfeld, you work for the National Trust, playing the part of a druid, do you?”

     “Ah…yes,” he replied.

     “Interesting accent you have.  I can’t place it.  Is it from Eastern Europe?”

     “Sure,” he replied.  He shifted a bit in his seat.

     “Where?  Greece?  Hungary?  Bosnia?”

     “Do you speak any of those languages?” he asked.

     “No.”

     “It’s…from Greece.  Greek.”

     “Really?  I never would’ve guessed.  You must be from a different part of Greece than my Greek friend, Andrew Kazanstakis.”

     “Yes, must be different part.  How long to London?”

     “Oh, three hours from when we left.  Maybe two or so now.”

     “Hmmm.”  That would mean this vehicle, this “car,” would make the trip a good four or five times faster than a very good horse.  And probably about the same speed as his flight spell.

     “Mr. Langdon?” he asked.

     “Please, it’s Walt.”

     “Walt, do you see Stonehenge often?”

     “No, actually, we’ve lived our whole lives without seeing it before.  That’s what we’re going to do this summer, see the important sites of our very own land that we’ve never seen.  I read somewhere that over half of all Londoners have never been.  Imagine that, some four million people live so close yet haven’t made the trip.”

     “So London has…”

     “Over seven million people in it, yes.”

     He let out a low whistle.

     “What, you didn’t know that?”

     “I…forgot.  What other sights are you going to see?”

     “Well, quite a few of right in London, to start.  Wendy and I have seen some that Lil hasn’t.  We’re going to the museums next.  The Imperial War Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum.”

     “What is—oh—what do you want to see at the British Museum?”

     “Oh, everything.  The Magna Carta, the Grecian works—you’d like that—the Assyrian.  There’s a brochure back there, I think.”

     Daniel picked it up.  More than a brochure, it was almost a short book on all the exhibits.  He looked through it, pausing for quite a while on the early British history.  Then he got to the Egyptian.

     He couldn’t stop himself.

     “Sekhemib!” he yelled.

     Walt swerved the car.  “Christ, you gave me a scare, Daniel!  What’s wrong?”

     “Nothing…I…was just noticing something in the brochure.”

     “Well, notice a little quieter, then—you almost gave me a stroke!”

     Daniel Mansfeld was a lot quieter for the rest of the trip.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER INTERLUDE:  “On seeing The First”

     “You know that feeling you get when you’ve just seen a great movie, about magic or superheroes or something fantastic like that—and then you go outside, and you realize that nothing in your life is going to ever possibly be that interesting?  I’ll never have to feel that again.”

     --unnamed member of crowd after seeing The First’s first exhibition, quoted by Seattle Post-Intelligencer

 


Saturday, December 04, 2004
Chapter Five: Concha MacFrith

CHAPTER FIVE:  Concha MacFrith

     Concha MacFrith was packing.

     Her friend Sue was standing in the doorway.

     “Where are you going to go?” Sue asked.

     “To see,” Concha replied.

     “To see what?”

     “To see him.  The First.”

     “But why are you moving out?  You know you have a place here with me.  You haven’t even finished high school yet.  What are you going to do?”

     “Stop asking me questions I can’t answer!” snapped Concha.  She stopped packing, and went over to Sue.  “Sorry.  Look, you’ve been great.  But a lot of people seem to know that I’m one of them.  And it’s gotten ugly one too many times.  I don’t mean with my parents.  I mean like yesterday’s fight.  And that time Monday when I almost got in another fight.”  Without even thinking about it, she touched the bruise on her cheek.

     “But why go up to Seattle?”

     “Because he’s there.  And there will be others there, too.”

     “Maybe there are others right here in L.A.

     “Yeah, maybe.  Probably.  But a lot of them—a lot of us—are going up to Seattle.  It’s like Woodstock for emps.  You’ve heard the news.  There aren’t a lot of us, but the few of us there are are going there to find each other.”

     Sue fell silent.

     Concha slipped on a windbreaker.  It wasn’t cool at all, but she wanted to take what she could.  She turned to her bed, kneeled down, and put one hand on the bedspread.  Then she reached out with her mind and asked her mouse Tina to come to her.

     Tina scurried up her arm and dropped down into the pocket of her windbreaker.

“How are you going to travel?”

     “Any way I can.”

     “Hang on.”  Sue disappeared for a moment.  She came back with a small wad of bills in her hand.

     “You’re taking this.”

     “No, I’m not.  You don’t even have any money.”

     “Not any more.  This is yours.”

     “But you never have any money.”

     “I’ve been saving it for a rainy day.  They say it rains a lot in Seattle.”

     “You must have saved a long time for that.”

     “Listen, Conch.  I made sure my mom took you in when your folks called you witch and dumped you on the street.  I don’t consider my obligations as a friend done just because you spent a few weeks here.  You’re going to need money.  Maybe this’ll be enough for a bus ticket.  Then you won’t have to hitchhike all the way up there.”

     “I don’t know what to say.”

     “Don’t say anything.  Just take it.”

     Concha took it.

     “I don’t know what to say.”

     Sue smiled.  “You already said that.  If you’re going to go, go.  Crazy chica.”

     A few hours later, she was on a Greyhound to Seattle.

     The bus had quite a few people on it, but no one was in her row.  She decided to take Tina out.

     “Hey, cutie,” she whispered at the mouse in her cupped hands.  Tina looked back at her with eyes like two black pin-heads.  Then she took one paw and rubbed at her whiskers.

     Would you like me to talk with you?  Concha asked Tina with her mind.  Tina bobbed her head up and down in a way Concha had taught her meant “yes.”

     We’re going a long, long way.

     Tina cocked her head to let Concha know she didn’t understand.

     Concha thought about the concept of distance, and changed it into a little scene in her head.  Then she let Tina see what she was seeing.

     You and me, we’re going there, she thought to her.  What I want to know is, is that okay with you?

     Tina nodded her head.

     Because I could leave you somewhere safe instead.

     Tina shook her head.

     Okay.  Are you hungry?

     Tina nodded her head vigorously.

     Okay.  Come up on my shoulder.

     Tina skittered up her arm, and Concha got out the lunch that Sue had packed for her.  Nestled among a sandwich, an apple, a bag of chips, a small bag of seeds for Tina, and a Snapple was a note.

     She already knew what it would say.  She decided to save it for later, when she might need to hear something from a friend.


Sunday, December 05, 2004
Chapter interlude: "It's best to be The First"

CHAPTER INTERLUDE:  “It’s best to be The First”

(From a Time article entitled “Teflon Emp,” about Andy Naramore and the situation of magic at the time.)

…But the more emps that make themselves known, the harder it is to ignore them or consider them as special cases.

     Ever since The First popped up, he has had a protective shell around him that has nothing to do with magic.  Even the leaders of the most virulent anti-magic leagues and religious denominations have difficulty speaking out against Andy Naramore.

     A part of it seems to come from his personality—self-effacing and surprisingly shy at times, Andy comes across as a most reluctant celebrity.  Indeed, he has stated on many occasions that he felt forced to make his powers publicly known, and if he could have, he would have kept them private.  Fortunately or unfortunately, flying just isn’t easily kept under wraps.

     Another part comes from his growing ability to speak in public, especially for the cause of emp rights and peaceful coexistence.  Some of his admirers have likened him already to a magical version of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement.

     Still another piece of the puzzle comes when one realizes that Andy Naramore still sees himself mostly as a working-class guy, more like a factory worker who won the lottery than a real magician or superhero.  Though his income is taking off right along with he himself, his lifestyle has hardly changed.  He still drives his vintage Mustang that he’s had for over ten years.

     Yet no one can accuse him of being a goody-goody, either.  The First has been seen with quite a few women on his arm, and in this respect at least he seems willing to take advantage of his newfound fame.

     His would-be detractors have a hard time finding faults to grab onto, and seem content to leave him alone in order to focus on the “emp problem” as a whole, or specific instances where emps have used their magical powers to commit crimes or do other underhanded activities.  Unfortunately for the emp rights movement, there are all too many to choose from.

     Take, for instance, the case of Peter Ickler, who decided his ability to become invisible would make him impossible to capture.  He went on a robbery spree, but failed to wear gloves, and his fingerprints led police to his door last week.  He is now awaiting trial, and wearing special ankle collars which broadcast his exact location using GPS technology to prevent his escape…


Monday, December 06, 2004
Chapter Six: Daniel Mansfeld in London

CHAPTER SIX:  Daniel Mansfeld in London

     After exchanging a few extremely old gold coins with a rare-coin dealer, obtaining some modern clothes, and getting a hotel room, Daniel struck out for the British Museum.

     Immediately upon entering, he took a map and struck out for the Egyptian collection.

     He soon reached the large room housing Sekhemib’s sarcophagus.  He pulled out a small wand from his clothes and raised his arms.

     The heavy lid of the sarcophagus groaned slightly, then raised itself back as if on a hinge.

     After a moment of preparation, Daniel levitated off the floor to look down into the sarcophagus.

     It was empty.

     Daniel closed his eyes.  “Too late,” he muttered.  He lowered himself to the ground, and allowed the lid to return to its rest.

     The newspaper headline that evening screamed, “EMP INFILTRATES BRITISH MUSEUM,” and featured a clear picture of Daniel, beard and hair floating gracefully while he levitated over Sekhemib’s resting place.

     Remember patience, Daniel chastised himself.  The instant he saw that picture of himself, he started using a disguise spell.  I may have need of all my powers soon, though, he thought.  I shouldn’t force myself to keep up this disguise.

     He ducked into a nearby store.

 

     Sekhemib had over fifty newspapers from around the world brought to him each day by one of his servants.  These underlings were growing numerous; but each one had their place in his plans.  The most important ones of all did nothing except prepare.

     He could hardly miss the British Museum article, and stared at the picture for a long time.

     Mentor,” he growled.

     He went through the story very carefully; then, to ensure he hadn’t missed some important detail or subtext due to his newness to the tongue and the culture, he called in one of his servants and had her explain the story to him, sentence by sentence.

     Two hours later, when she was finally released, Sekhemib sat back and pondered the new situation.

     “You know I’m here, old one,” he whispered in his ancient language.  His voice was like dead leaves crumbling to dust.  “You came after me.  Given your recklessness, you must surely have awakened very recently.  You haven’t even learned of the eyes that penetrate nearly every public space, recording every image to be used against you later.

     “So, after my victory, when I thought I would finally kill you as well, this is where you disappeared.  A tiny island beyond the edge of what was then civilized.

     “Now you hoped to catch me unawares, and kill me in my bed.  Since you obviously haven’t learned your lesson, o tutor of men, your better will have to instruct you once more.  And who now in this alien time will help you, since you refuse to control the minds of the weak as I do?”

     He sat quiet for a long time.  Only a corpse could have been more still.

     And slowly, like a glacier grinding a hill to gravel, a smile spread across his desiccated face.  It grew wider and wider, until his fangs popped from his lips.

 


Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Chapter interlude: "The physiology of magic"

CHAPTER INTERLUDE:  “The physiology of magic”

(From Dr. Henry S. Williams’s Magic:  A New Age Dawns, Chapter 6:  “Physiology and magical effects upon the caster.”)

     …Naturally, spells cast upon the emp’s own body have a myriad of effects.  Instead the subject here is the effects that magic has upon the body simply by the act of casting.

     Most of the emps studied reported feeling very little when they cast their spells.  Some reported a sort of rushing sensation, but often that can be traced back to the effects of the spell itself, and not the magical energy per se.

     Heartbeat and breathing often increased during spellcasting, but again, this may not be due to the magical energy itself.  Many, though not all, of the emps had to undergo physical movements, often quite strenuous, in order to cast their spells.

     CAT scans and other tests showed no changes in most emps.  Two instances were found:  one was a change in the emp’s tongue—the emp had gained the power to smell by taste, like a snake.  Some subtle changes were observed in the number, size, and shape of the taste buds.

     A more obvious one came with the celebrated story of Ukiah Tympano, who sprouted horns from his head at the same time that he developed strength beyond any human—and at the age of seventy-two.  The horns were removed surgically without apparently affecting the strength he had developed.  Though one would expect many physical changes in musculature, tendon and ligament strength, bone density, and so on, none were found.  Apparently the magical energy which he was unleashing was protecting his body as well as increasing his physical strength, leaving no lasting changes.

     Tests done during spell casting did show increased activity in some parts of the brain, and decreased activity in others.

     The right portion of the brain, typically associated with spatial skills and many creative and artistic processes, showed marked increases in activity in most emps studied.

     Interestingly, there were quite a few emps who considered themselves “witches” in the formal sense of the word, and cast their spells using incantations, special symbols, and physical objects such as candles or herbs.  However, little difference was detected in the left portion of the brain, where symbolic functions such as language are contained.  This was true of nearly all emps, whether “witches” or not.  Further study will need to be done in this area.

     The occipital lobe, the center of sight, often had high activity, even when the emps had their eyes closed.

     Many parts of the limbic system, especially those associated with memory, such as the hippocampi, showed heavy activity.  The limbic lobes, associated with emotion and sex drive, also were highly active.

     All of these brain activities will require further study and interpretation.  They may be a clue to finding out how the human mind is able to tap into this mysterious energy source.  However, the brain activities seen so strongly during the casting of spells ceased when the magic was not being used, and so do not give us a practical means of determining whether someone has magical powers.

     There are, then, no effective means yet found for determining by physical inspection whether or not someone is or will become an emp.  If any means are to be found, then, it is going to have to be by finding some way of detecting magic as it is being cast.

     Whether detection technology should be used, and how, will need to be debated publicly.  As it is still hypothetical, I make no judgments now, except to say that it will likely be impossible to prevent at least the private use of magical detection devices.  Given the amount of controversy and fear arising in pockets of the population, such a technology will likely be very popular.  Whether it will lead to further discrimination and persecution of emps will need to be watched for.

     If you will allow me a quick break from my objective viewpoint, I must say that, having at least briefly examined several hundred emps, and getting to know dozens quite well, that they run the usual gamut of humanity.  They seem neither more ethical, nor less, nor more violent, nor less, than anyone else.  They do seem a bit more disturbed than the average, which is borne out by the psychological tests my team has performed on them; but they have often undergone more than the usual amount of social ostracism and abuse.  Their lives are demonstrably more stressful than the average, and there are quite a few instances of PTSD.  For more on this, see Chapter 9.

     Perhaps instead of seeing emps as some sort of freak, or a break with humanity altogether, they should be viewed as merely talented.  Their powers do give them advantages; but then, so do more mundane talents, whether it be a musical gift, selling skills, or the ability to hit a fastball out of the park.

     That many of their powers allow them to “get away with” crimes or unethical actions does not, to me, have any bearing.  Illegal actions are still illegal; if the power makes them more difficult to catch, the law enforcers will have to come up with better ways to do so.  Having the ability to commit a crime doesn’t mean that one will.  One’s situation does not automatically trump one’s heart.


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