I'm writing a book on magic”, I explain, and I'm asked, “Real magic?” By real magic people mean miracles, thaumaturgical acts, and supernatural powers. “No”, I answer: “Conjuring tricks, not real magic”. Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic.
This is the story of a boy named Pete Coutinho, who had a spell put on him. Some people might have called it a curse. I don't know. It depends on a lot of things, on whether you've got gipsy blood, like old Beatriz Sousa, who learned a lot about magic from the wild gitana tribe in the mountains beyond Lisbon, and whether you're satisfied with a fisherman's life in Cabrillo.Not that a fisherman's life is a bad one, far from it. By day you go out in the boats that rock smoothly across the blue Gulf waters, and at night you can listen to music and drink wine at the Shore Haven or the Castle or any of the other taverns on Front Street. What more do you want? What more is there?And what does any sensible man, or any sensible boy, want with that sorcerous sort of glamor that can make everything incredibly bright and shining, deepening colors till they hurt, while wild music swings down from stars that have turned strange and alive? Pete shouldn't have wanted that, I suppose, but he did, and probably that's why there happened to him - what did happen. And the trouble began long before the actual magic started working.("Before I Wake...")
In a swamp, as in meditation, you begin to glimpse how elusive, how inherently insubstantial, how fleeting our thoughts are, our identities. There is magic in this moist world, in how the mind lets go, slips into sleepy water, circles and nuzzles the banks of palmetto and wild iris, how it seeps across dreams, smears them into the upright world, rots the wood of treasure chests, welcomes the body home.
Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black. She has a knife, knife, knife, stuck in her back, back, back. She cannot breathe, breathe, breathe. She cannot cry, cry, cry. Thats why she begs, begs, begs. She begs to die, die ,die..
The light changed slightly. Mari looked up and over at one wall. There was now a narrow, roughly door-shaped hole in it. Standing in the hole was Mage Alain. Mari stood up, realizing that her mouth was hanging open. That wall was solid. I felt it. There wasn't any opening. She watched as the Mage took two shaky steps into the cell, then paused, some of the strain leaving his face. She blinked, wondering what she had just seen, as the hole in the wall vanished as if it had never been. One moment it was there, the next it was gone. ...Mari took a long slow breath. 'They use smoke and mirrors and other 'magic' to make commons think they can create temporary holes in walls and things like that. It's all nonsense.' "Mages actually can make real holes in walls." "No."Her head hurting with increased intensity, Mari glowered at the Mage. "You didn't make a hole in the wall?""I made the illusion of a hole in the illusion of the wall."Mari looked at Mage Alain for what felt like a long time, trying to detect any sign of mockery or lying. But he seemed perfectly sincere. And unless she had completely lost her mind, he had just walked through that solid wall. ..."We can get out the same way that you got in?" Mari asked. "Through imaginary holes in the imaginary wall?" She wondered how her guild would feel about seeing that in her report. Actually, she didn't have to wonder, but she wasn't about to turn down a chance at escape. The Mage took a deep breath and swayed on his feet. "No.""No?""Unfortunately—" Alain collapsed into a seated position on the cot next to her—"the effort of finding you has exhausted me. There were several walls to get through. I can do no more for some time. I am probably incapable of any major effort until morning." He shook his head. "I did not plan this well. Maybe the elders are right and seventeen is simply too young to be a Mage."Mari stared at him. "Are you telling me that you came to rescue me, following a metaphorical thread through imaginary holes, but now that you're in the same cell with me you can't get us out?""Yes, that is correct. This one erred.""That one sure did. Now instead of one of us being stuck in here, we're both stuck in here."The Mage gave her a look which actually betrayed a trace of irritation. He must have really been exhausted for such a feeling to show. "I do not have much experience with rescues. Are you always so difficult?