Thin on the Ground

Pete stomped into the living room. Erica was lying sideways on the sofa, blonde hair hanging over the armrest at one end, feet propped up on the other, nose buried in a book. She did not acknowledge his entrance.

“Hi,” he said.

“Mmmm,” she replied.

Pete wandered over to the kitchen area and began to assemble the ingredients for a vegetable soup. He glanced over the counter to see where Erica still reclined.

“Where’s Will?” he said.

Erica smiled. “He’s out at a concert,” she said. “The Shapeless Babies are playing at Windswept tonight.”

“Right, I remember now,” said Pete, crunching a blade through layers of leek. “He’s been on about that for months.”

Crunch, crunch, crunch. The only sound for a while, until punctuated by the rustle of Erica turning a page of her book.

“Where’s Marek?” said Pete.

“Herbal tea conference,” said Erica. “All weekend. Something about polyphenols.” Then she shook her head, as if to clear a thought.

Crunch, crunch, crunch, then the rattle of the spice cupboard.

“Have you seen the turmeric?” Pete asked.

“Yes, it’s here next to me.”

“Really? Why?! Did you need it to help you read the book?” he said.

“It’s a strange book,” she sighed, “I thought it was going to be about sexy, supernatural pirates. But it’s taken a strange turn these last few chapters. Become rather… instructional.”

“Instructional?” he asked. “How to be a sexy, supernatural pirate? With turmeric?”

“No,” she said, brow furrowed. “How to create friends.”

“By magic? By cooking?” he said. “Why not just chat to strangers?”

“Not magic exactly,” Erica replied. “More like a natural technology. Just doing things in the right order. Watch.”

Pete looked on as Erica stood up from the couch, took the jar of turmeric from the nearby table and poured a little into her right hand. Then she faced the door, and sung a few lines of a song so quietly that Pete could barely hear it. With her left fingers she drew oval shapes in the air, then raised her right hand to her lips and blew the turmeric through the oval.

At that moment, the door banged open and Will strode into the room. He was dressed almost entirely in leather, he was still dancing, and he was shouting at the top of his lungs.

“What an amazing night!” he yelled. “So awesome musics!”

“Oh no,” said Erica, shaking her head. “No, no, no. That won’t do.” She waved her hand dismissively. One moment Will was there, the next he had disappeared, leaving only a puff of yellow powder that floated gently downwards and then settled on the carpet.

“What happened?” gasped Pete. “What did you do to him?”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” said Erica. “I’ll get it right. Watch again.”

Once more she took the spice, sang, drew the shape and blew the powder through it. Once more the door opened and Will walked in.

This time he walked slowly, sleepily, without a word. He shuffled over to the sofa and sat down, put his head back and closing his eyes.

“Amazing night,” Will said quietly. “Awesome musics.” Then he tilted his head to one side and seemed to fall asleep.

Pete walked over to him, examined the sleeping figure carefully, then turned to Erica.

“You just magic’d Will out of thin air.” he said. “That’s insane.”

“No, it’s logical, really,” said Erica. “You just picture the person in your head, create their back-story, and then assemble the ingredients. Like following a recipe. Speaking of which, is the soup done?”

“It’s cooking now. Well, you might just think magic is normal,” said Pete. “But to me this is mind-blowing. Amazing. Are you a witch?”

“No!” protested Erica. “I’m just trying it out.”

“Not bad for your first attempt.”

“Oh sorry,” said Erica. “Wasn’t my first attempt.” She waved her hand and Pete dissolved into a dusty cloud.


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