The Magician Goes to Town

The Magician sometimes visits the City. He needs ingredients for his laboratory, or experimental materials for his research, or simply some occult knickknack for professional reasons.

The Magician fancies himself the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. He takes guff from nobody. He's mind-bonded with the first and final angels. He's studied the arcane mysteries in far-off libraries in the frozen north. He's traveled from one end of the land to the other, seeking geomantic centers of power and drawing them out. It irritates him, then, when a stoplight turns red.

"Why must it do that?" he thinks to himself. "The blasted contraption can clearly see that I'm trying to drive here. Why, if my chariot were street-legal, I'd…"

He thinks more than that, but let's be fair and go to the street light for its thoughts.

"At 11:52:07," the streetlight thinks to itself, "I'll change north and south traffic to red, and allow east and west to proceed for 25 seconds. For another 15 seconds, I'll permit right turns on both sides, and then…"

It thinks more than that, but it's a street light and the Magician is angry at it, and since this is the Magician's story, some bias is to be expected.

The Magician begins the mind-bond: the simplest magical ritual, the one which connects two things. His third eye opens. He visualizes a faint string of force connecting the third eye to the light, then — and this is the true magic — forces that string through the screen of his Cartesian theater and into reality. He recognizes from long experience that the sudden buffeting and writhing of his force-string is due to all the other competing strands of probability, but he fights his way to the light.

The connection is made. The sympathetic somatic element — the gesturing, in other words — is invoked. His will pulses along the thread. Will the light turn?

This is a topic much debated by magicians. Every practicing magician knows that you and the light — or the ox, or the boulder, or whatever you're bonded to — will know at the same time whether the new reality will come to pass or not. Sometimes, though, the magic just doesn't work. The bond will tell the magician what's about to happen, but fail to let him affect it. This is why magicians still wear kevlar and lock their doors at night.

The light turns. The Magician grimaces in sour satisfaction. "Stupid stoplight," he thinks to himself. "That's what you get for tangling with a magician."

Little does he know that this is far too much effort to spend on a stoplight.