Welcome back again to our ongoing writing experiment. I’ve had this last week off from work, which means I’ve had time for more sleep, leisurely showers, and all sorts of idle time. These work in concert to help me imagine more of the world of The Beulah Candlewick School for Young Magicks.
No wonder so many writers come from the ranks of the idle rich. Must be nice.
Oh, one thing I ought to announce here: There’s a new Facebook community page for subscribers to this newsletter. I’ll be posting links, talking about behind-the-scenes stuff, and you’re welcome to join if you like. We’ll see how it goes.
random sample for quality control
I was up pretty late last night and it turns out when I’m tired, I don’t want to fight with character limits on Twitter.
monsters in halls and kitchens
This section is set at The Beulah Candlewick School for Young Magicks, an instructional school with a high failure rate for safely teaching students how to wield magic. See previous installments of the lost time incident newsletter for more context.
“It got out! It got out!” Students turned from their open lockers in time to see a young woman running down the corridor, just steps ahead of a creature out of nightmares.
Luckily, among the witnesses was faculty member Lemoyne Wills, Perception Witch. He had just finished making use of a nearby water fountain. With a resigned expression on his face, he brushed his long hair back out of his face and concentrated.
The creature in pursuit had purple skin and a dorsal fin that scraped along the ceiling as it shuffled after the screaming young lady, her eyes white with terror, her white-knuckled grip on an Infinity Box that had, up until moments ago, been keeping the creature in other-dimensional stasis.
Its low-slung mouth resembled a lizard’s, its eyes like ashy coals, its limbs over-muscled in a fashion Lemoyne thought of as “trying too hard.” “Whoever invented that creature had issues,” he thought.
Lemoyne, eyes closed, extended his concentration, reaching out to the creature’s mind. With some effort, he felt his way into its nervous system, cataloging its senses. He could smell the student who had released the monster, her panicked sweat leaving a river of attractive perfume in her wake that was easily followed. He could feel the pooling saliva in the creature’s bone-ridged mouth. He could sense that its name for itself was Need.
Easy enough to reroute its senses, hiding the students in the hallway from its senses of sight and smell. Well, except for the young woman who was initially pursued. After all, she had opened the Infinity Box, even though it was plainly labeled “Expired Corn Dogs,” a clever disguise designed to prevent any curious young troublemaker from peeking inside and freeing the beast. Actions have consequences, and this was a place of learning.
The young woman skidded around a corner and disappeared out of sight, with Need galloping after her, huffing with hunger.
In hindsight, maybe the faculty should have actually put some corn dogs in the box to feed the thing. But the Infinity Box was never meant to be more than a temporary home for the beast. At some point, the staff of the cafeteria was supposed to figure out if Need was edible.
Maybe they’ll get another shot at it once someone steps up and captures the creature again. But Lemoyne had a class to prepare for.
In the cafeteria, the ovens screamed when opened. The head of the cafeteria, known to the students only as “Pizza,” pulled out a tray of bland lasagna. He set it down and grabbed a passing student kitchen worker.
“My boy, come here a second.” His strong hands, insensible now to extremes of heat, guided the student by the back of the neck.
Pizza pointed into the oven, his arm over the shoulder of the young student dressed in a white apron and head scarf. Inside the oven, tiny flames danced and cried out, sometimes taking almost human form, clinging to the baking food in either anger or despair.
“You know where those souls came from?” Pizza grinned. “They’re ghosts.”
“Ghosts?” said the student.
“Each of them used to be a student here, but they couldn’t move on. They had… unfinished business.” Pizza nodded sagely.
“In class,” said the student, “We were told that you can help ghosts move on to the next realm if you can help them resolve their unfinished business. Do we– do we know what’s the deal with these oven ghosts? What, for them is unresolved?”
“That we do,” said Pizza, laughing. “Lunch. Lunch is unresolved. Dinner tonight is unresolved. Every meal we’ve got coming is unresolved. So grab a carving knife and get that bucket of potatoes over there peeled. You want to finish all your kitchen business, don’t you?”
ending theme song
A good chunk of today was spent playing a cartoony golf video game. It comes with all the frustration of missed putts, but with none of the benefits of exercise. But it helped me postpone thinking about the fact that my week-long vacation is coming to a close and I have to prepare to return to my social role as a wage-earner.
I hope you’re all enjoying the Candlewick stuff. If you’re not, well… there’s an unsubscribe notice somewhere on this email. I have a Google document that keeps growing with more details about the world and characters of Candlewick. Personally, I’m finding this pretty exciting. I’ve never been much for world-building, as my previous short fiction demonstrates. I usually just get an idea for a scene, or some dialogue, and then it’s a quick in-and-out.
If you have any thoughts, or wish to lobby on behalf of seeing other topics, please do drop by the Facebook page and leave a comment. Or you can respond to this email directly. I get replies to this newsletter.
Or write a letter on parchment, and bury it under a willow by the river under the moon’s light. Those messages reach me as well, but they’re muddy and smeared, so it slows response time ’cause I don’t want to touch them.
— Michael Van Vleet