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Chuck tried to follow Fiona, but there was an invisible force stopping him from moving. It wasn’t like a wall or something physical blocking him, it was more mental. He wanted to move forward, but his body wouldn’t follow his instruction and instead there was a growing sense of wanting to turn around and walk away. He was just about to give up when Fiona’s head appeared through the shimmering air, as if she’d popped through a curtain.
“Are you coming or what?” she asked.
“Okay, go home then and stop wasting my time.”
“That’s not what I mean. I don’t know how to follow you.”
“Oh, I thought I’d weakened it enough. Must be a much more powerful spell than I was expecting.”
Fiona disappeared again and then stepped back out onto the pavement. With her knife in hand she waved it in large circles at the barrier until the shimmering got more violent and a red glow started to appear.
“It’s a strong one,” she said through gritted teeth. “When I say go, run through with me. Don’t hesitate. This is harder to keep open for both of us to go through. Just do it okay,”
“Okay, almost there. One more moment. And now.”
Chuck barged through the barrier, and with a little bit of resistance he made it through almost falling over himself as he did. Fiona was close behind. He steadied himself and looked around.
“Is this one of those pocket dimensions?” he asked after taking everything in.
In front of him was the same school that he’d been standing in front of in the street, except it was night-time. A large bright moon hung lowly over the building, stars shining brightly around it. There was a well in the middle of the playground, that hadn’t been there before. A spectral skeleton of a horse galloped over the building. Every window was pitch black with no sign of life inside. Around the building, including right behind Chuck, was nothing. It was like an endless void. He couldn’t see the street he’d just been standing on, or any other way of getting out.
“No,” Fiona said. “This is an illusion. None of this is real. Well mostly not real. The building is there, and there are going to be things here that can hurt you that don’t seem real, but it’s not completely real. It’s like someone is projecting their dreamworld onto the school.”
“That’s so messed up. Why would they even do this?”
“From what Arthur said, there’s a child here who was being bullied and created this by accident. That’s what he suspects anyway. It might be something more sinister, but Arthur is normally right.”
“How could someone do this by accident?”
“A coping mechanism. It’s not that uncommon. Children create things like imaginary friends to help with stuff, and this is just a stronger form of that.”
“So imaginary friends are magic?”
“You tell me. Mine was. Let’s just get on with this. Who knows what we’re going to find in there.”
Fiona started to walk towards the building and Chuck followed. He noticed that it was dead silent. There was no sound of wind, no cars in the distance, not even the sound of their footsteps. Apart from their voices, there was no sound at all. Fiona headed towards the well in the middle of the playground and cautiously put a handout to touch it.
“Just want to make sure it’s real,” she said as she started to lean on it. “Real enough, I mean. Some illusions are just that, but some are more tangible like this one. Why would they want a well here.”
“Hello?” a voice came out from the bottom of the well. It sounded scared and shaken. “Is there anyone there?”
“Jesus,” Fiona said and stepped back. “I’m here. Who are you?”
“My name’s Jacob. I’m scared. Please help me out.”
“Don’t worry Jacob, I’m here to help. Just stay with me. How did you get down there?”
“He put me down here. He pushed me.”
“What? Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“I think I’m okay. It doesn’t hurt.”
“That’s good. Just give me a moment and I will get you out of there.”
Fiona leant over the edge of the well but couldn’t see the bottom. She flicked her wand towards the well and shot out a small ball of light that slowly descended into the depths, flicking as it did. The sides of the well were damp and covered in fungus. It was a lot deeper than Fiona was expecting, but after a few seconds the light reached the bottom and a small child wearing a dirty and torn school uniform was curled up at the bottom. It was hard to be sure, but she didn’t think he was hurt.
“I can see you,” she said. “I’ll get you out in a moment. Just don’t be scared. Help is here.”
“Are you going to make him fly?” Chuck asked.
“No, I don’t think I could if I wanted to. That would probably scare him too much and have you noticed how quiet it is? If he starts screaming then it’s sure to attract attention.”
“I think they’ll hear you talking as well.”
“By all means, scream, see if it brings anything here that can kill us. That ghost horse seems to be a little hungry.”
“Good. Now help me try and find a way to get him out of there.”
“Maybe one of us could climb down there and get him out that way.”
Fiona leant over the side of the well and took another look.
“Potentially, but I don’t quite like my chances of being able to do it and no offence, I don’t think you could either.”
“I think we need to find something else.”
“Oh, what about in the school?”
Fiona just looked at him.
“I mean in the gymnasium. There are those ropes. We could cut one of them down and then get Jacob to grab it and pull him up, or we could climb down on it.”
“That’s good back up, but I’ve got a better idea.”
Fiona leant over the side of the well and held her knife out as far as she could. She started to whistle, which echoed up and out of the well. The wall of the well started to shake and the bricks started to become loose, pulling themselves out just slightly, creating a rough spiral staircase around the edges.
“Okay, now you can go down there and get him,” she said.
Fiona shrugged and smiled.
To Be Continued…
Part fourteen is available here: https://ashleymanning.com/2023/03/24/magic-in-london-enrolment-part-fourteen/! Don’t forget to subscribe to never miss a post:
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