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Chuck sat on the bench as the train pulled away from the platform. It didn’t take long for the place to start to fill back up, more people seeming to come from every direction. He leant backwards, his head resting on the wall. Normally, he would think about the dirt and grime that was layered up on the wall and all the horrible things that would be moving into his hair. He’d imagine spiders, lice, and other creatures crawling onto him and nesting in his hair. But after everything that happened, none of that seemed important. Arthur’s words were spinning around inside his head. The thought of trying to live a normal life, knowing that there was a completely different world out there, was almost impossible. At the same time, the idea of not going back home and trying to forget about everything was terrifying. He had almost died, and that was dawning on him more and more with every second. What had he been doing with all that time, the pointless shifts he’d worked, the endless nights watching rubbish TV, and the monotony of it all. If he’d died at Whistling, then none of it would have meant anything.
Another train pulled into the station, and the group of people moved about in an almost dance. People getting off the train being replaced by people getting on, moving about each other with annoyance and grace. The crowd dispersed once again for a new one to populate the station. He had always wanted to believe that things happened for a reason. Always wanted to think that there was a masterplan to everything and that the worst parts of life were building to better things. Maybe this was that moment. Maybe if he took the step into the unknown, he would find something that would make every life-draining shift worth it. He’d experienced literal magic at Whistling, and he knew deep down that it would be too hard to give up.
The sun seemed to be brighter than earlier, but it was still cold. Chuck held himself, making his coat as tight as possible as he walked out onto the street, looking for somewhere to be out of the way. He’d needed to find out where Churchyard Primary School was. It wasn’t a place he’d ever heard of before, but his phone led the way. He’d taken the tube as far as he could, and still had a twenty-minute walk before he could reach the school. As he approached the gate he saw Fiona walking from the opposite direction. He was more glad to see her than he thought he’d be.
“What are you doing here?” she asked as she reached him, looking puzzled.
“Arthur told me to come here, to help you with whatever’s going on here and then go back to Whistling to meet him.”
“What? You spoke to Arthur?”
“Kind of, it was weird. Kind of like a dream, but I was awake.”
“Yeah, he’s good at doing that. Lucky you. I just got Annwn.”
“His chough. It’s a bird.”
“I’m still not sure what you mean by that.”
“He sent his bird to give me a message. It speaks. I don’t have the time right now, so either believe me or don’t.”
“Okay, he has a talking bird. I don’t think it’s the strangest thing I’ve found out about recently. What are you doing here?”
“Arthur found out about someone who belongs at Whistling. They’re quite powerful and they go to school here, so we need to collect him before he hurts someone.”
“So what? You’re just going to go in there and kidnap him?”
“Not exactly, but we have to do something.”
“Why can’t you go and explain it to his parents, you know, after school.”
“Do you think they would understand if I went and knocked on there door and said, your son’s a magician and he needs to come with us? They would laugh us out of the room. We have to do this our way. Arthur found out about him because he hasn’t been home in three days, no one in the school has.”
“I’m going to need some more information on that. Sometimes you say something as if I’m just going to completely understand what you mean, when I clearly won’t.”
“You know, I think I liked you better when you were in a coma. You were funnier then.”
Chuck was going to retort that she was being a little harsh, but as she finished speaking, he could see that she felt bad for saying it. There was pain in her eyes and he was sure she was going to feel guilty about what happened for quite a while, so he bit his tongue and didn’t snap back.
“So what are you actually going to do?”
“I don’t know, just yet. Arthur warned me that it would be difficult, but Annwn didn’t exactly go into specifics before he flew off. I’ve just got here, so I’m going to play it by ear. There’s a kid in there, who has the power to distort reality. He’s powerful, since no one has noticed, and I don’t think this would be the first time he’s done this. He might not even realise that he’s doing it. He’s keeping everyone there in a prison, essentially.”
Fiona turned to the building. To Chuck, it looked like a normal school. A smallish, old, building that was a little run down and nothing special. He wouldn’t have taken any notice of it if he’d been walking past. Fiona held out her hand and there was a resistance to it. She couldn’t move forward. She could feel it in her head, that her brain was telling her to turn around and go away. She took out her knife and held it forward, making small circles in the air while whistling softly. Chuck was sure he saw the world shimmer. While still whistling, Fiona walked forward and disappeared, leaving Chuck alone on the pavement. The winter winds blowing harshly against his already cold face.
To Be Continued…
Part thirteen is available here: https://ashleymanning.com/2023/03/17/magic-in-london-enrolment-part-thirteen/! Don’t forget to subscribe to never miss a post:
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