The space in front of me exploded. Again. Damn it, why can’t I use my magic? For the past hour or so since the sun rose, I’d been trying to cast something more substantial than a loud bang. The void inside me that I’d initially thought was hunger was ever present. Something about the way I was transported somehow dislodged some part of me that reaches out to the world. That, or there simply wasn’t enough magic being leaked out into the world. Could the whole cape thing have something to do with that? The door to the motel room slammed open. Sidearm drawn, Detective Reynolds barged in.
“What the hell happened here?!” She barked.
“Uh, I was trying to use my magic?” Tiny little sparks walked across my fingers. She slowly holstered her weapon, suspicion on her face. “Why?” she asked.
“Well, since I’m helping you, I figured I should be as prepared as possible. Someone, after all, did take my gun.” I grumbled. Lisa—the detective confused me. She was willing to take my weapon, yet seemed mostly fine about me using my powers and left me alone to stay in the motel room throughout the night. Then again, the fact that she also took my wallet and IDs might’ve helped. “I know full-auto mods aren’t exactly legal but—” I started. She interrupted.
“Actually, no. With parahumans in the picture, weapons law in the States is—as I understand—less strict compared to our Aleph counterparts. Anyway, that doesn’t look like what I imagined spells would be like; not that performing witchcraft in front of a sworn officer of the law speaks highly of your intelligence. Are you sure you’re not a parahuman, O’Carroll?” She didn’t mention anything further about my gun. I sighed.
“Nope. Pretty sure I don’t have any of those brain structures you talked about.” Apparently, parahumans have a structure in their brains that gives them powers. Most humans here actually have them, but they only come into effect after something called a ‘trigger event.' Information regarding that seemed awfully muddled, but the gist was that you reach some sort of limit, possibly a mental or emotional one, and your powers suddenly awaken. There’s also stuff about the Manton Limit—how powers seemingly have safeties that reduce or remove the effect to the user or to biological targets. That part wrankled me. I have a couple of issues regarding how powers work here; they seemed… too well-designed, somehow. Look at me, Earth’s resident not-super witch complaining about how bullshit powers are. Maybe it was just my imagination.
“Plus, in my world, witches existed since long before that golden dude came along. Probably since the dawn of humanity itself.” I continued.
“So you say.” She frowned. “So, what can you do?”
I stood up. “Well, thankfully my warlock glyphs still work.”
“Warlock glyphs?” I walked to the foot of the bed, placing my hands on the bottom edge. Black lines traced across my body, glyphs appearing and warping like liquid. I lifted the frame easily, the headboard colliding into the wall with a huge noise, dust falling out of the ceiling.
“Oops. Sorry.” I slowly lowered it down, looking at the fresh dent in the drywall. I turned to Reynolds. She currently had a look of shock mixed in with exasperation. “Brute, and Shaker powers huh? Guess that will come in handy.” She looked at me and sighed. “I’ll pay for the damage.”
Lisa drove in her car with Declan in the passenger seat. She glanced to the right. Declan was looking around curiously at his surroundings. His eyes weren’t seemed to be focused on anything. She wondered what it would be like to suddenly find yourself in a world so much like your own, but not quite home. Lisa figured she wouldn’t be quite as well adjusted as Declan was. Or maybe he’s been hiding it…?, she thought.
“Are you okay?” Lisa finally asked. Declan blinked, seeming to come back to himself. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He said, puzzled. Lisa continued. “It’s just that, you’ve found yourself in another world and you’re taking it a lot better than I would’ve expected.”
A wan smile stole across his face. “I guess it hasn’t really hit yet. I’ve been through a lot these past couple of years. It’s like a never-ending cycle of world-ending hazards, mixed with short amounts of relaxation.” He sighed. “Plus, being without my magic…” he trailed off. Lisa waited.
“I don’t like being helpless. My magic has always been part of me from the moment of birth. This whole situation brings back a load of bad memories.” Black lines appeared, skin darkened under the sunlight. Declan noticed her gaze and immediately they disappeared. Lisa remembered an earlier conversation. If Declan was to be believed, he was one of the core members of what was their version of a Protectorate—if slightly more of a macabre theme; with members consisting of werewolves, vampires, and witches. In fact, going by his implications, the young man sitting beside her was essentially a part of their equivalent of the Triumvirate. They kept silent until they arrived at Lisa’s destination.
Declan’s brow arched slightly. “A diner?” Lisa nodded. “One of my sources of info regarding the suspect frequents there.” They walked to the entrance. Declan moved forward and opened the door, the bell affixed to the frame chiming. He was angling his body slightly and scanning the interior; Lisa wondered if he even noticed. Oddly, it reminded her of the way her colleagues would enter a potentially hostile situation. His gaze seemed to lock on something. What—
“Hey! Lisa!” Both of them looked at one of the few occupants in the diner. A middle-aged man waved at them. Both of them finally entered the diner. As diners went, it was pretty decent. The morning news played on the ceiling-mounted television. They approached the man’s table. Lisa began.
“His name’s Martin O’Connell.” Martin reached out with his free hand. “Call me Martin, lad.” Declan shook it. “I’m Declan.” “Aye, Declan. You’ve got the look about ya. Where’re your people from?” The man grinned.
“Tipperary,” Declan responded, smiling slightly, seeming to remember something. “Declan is my… consultant.” Lisa said, somewhat weakly. Damnit, I was so excited that I forgot to discuss things with Declan, she thought.
“Looks a might young to be in working law enforcement, does he?” Martin raised his eyebrow as the two sat down. Declan responded, “My aunt’s a deputy and my mentor used to work for the NYPD. I know my way around.” Lisa pressed before Martin could ask any more questions, “I brought him to help with the case.”
“Ah, I knew it. This about Mrs. Finnegan?” Martin asked. “Yes—,” Lisa started, but at that moment the waitress arrived. The woman was younger than she was, with styled brunette hair. She was a new hire, someone who’d been working here for only a few months.
“Can I take your orders?” she said brightly, holding a notepad in her left hand. The wooden bead bracelet rattled a bit. She’d always worn that since Lisa had met her and she wondered where the waitress had gotten it. Lisa went for a black coffee, while Declan asked for a bagel and bottled water. The waitress wrote their orders down and left. She looked at Declan. “Not a fan of coffee,” he said at Lisa’s questioning gaze. “This fine establishment serves tea as well,” Martin noted, raising his own cup. “Mm.” The young man didn’t elaborate further and made himself comfortable on the seat.
“So, Mrs. Finnegan.” Lisa prompted at Martin. He nodded. “Aye, she’s been a fixture of this town for almost thirty years. Rumor was, she used to be quite the psychic in the Big Apple. Everyone looked to her for marriage advice, investment opportunities, finding their lost cat, that sort of thing.” Martin drank his tea. “Then the capes came along.”
“People proven to have powers, and she was dismissed as a fraud?” Declan put in. Martin shook his finger “Don’t be interruptin’ the flow of the story, lad.” He placed his hand back on his cup. “The whole superpower thing came along, and New York was only one of the many cities thrown into the ringer. Lots of violence, lots of gangs aimin’ for power and influence. Mrs. Finnegan left not long after the violence started, along with her family and friends. And yes, when she tried to establish her practice back, she wasn’t treated very well.”
“Psychics and illusionists claiming to have powers tended to be targets by villain gangs,” Lisa added. “Some of them think they might be hiding in plain sight unlike the rest of the capes. Mostly, they just get offended and decide to make an example out of them.” Martin nodded, somber. “Apparently, some of her friends got done in by villain gangs during the early years.”
“She doesn’t have a high opinion on capes, then?” Declan asked.
“Nope, not a bit. Called ‘em ‘onesie-wearing fools,’ often said the capes loaned their power and that someday, someone was going to collect.” Lisa glanced at Declan, who was looking thoughtful. “It became a lot worse, however.” Martin took another sip of his tea.
“What happened?” Declan asked.
“Three years ago, something bad happened. A couple of small-time supervillains wanted to rob an armored car that was on their way to a local bank. They ended up using explosives to blow the vehicle off the road. Only, they must’ve underestimated how much of an effect it would make, because the amount of it ended up shooting chunks of the highway into a car that was going the other way.” He looked down. “Finnegan’s daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren died in that attack. The car was found in the bottom of a ditch. Heroes arrived and captured the villains, but it was already too late.” Martin finished.
Lisa gazed at the table. She already knew the story, of course. It was a tragedy for sure, but it also contributed to her difficulties in pinning the case on the old woman. She looked at Declan, who seemed sad but also angry.
“Well, that’s all I know.” Martin exhaled explosively. He stood up, rummaging in his pocket, and placed a couple of dollars on the table.
“The name, Finnegan. Was she from Ireland?” Declan asked. Martin looked at him and nodded. “Yeah. Came here a while ago. Family troubles, from what I gather,” Declan nodded in thanks and the man walked away. Lisa figured she was the only one that noticed the near-imperceptible widening of his eyes at the last part. As Martin exited the diner, the waitress came back. “Anything else you’d like?” she asked.
“No, we’re just leaving,” Lisa asked for the bill. The waitress produced it, then was called back by the loud voice of the chef. As soon as the waitress left out of view, Declan started rummaging in his messenger bag. He pulled out a bottle of hand sanitizer, and using the napkins, started wiping down his small plate and her cup. Lisa raised her eyebrow at him. Declan glanced up and grinned. It didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Well you know, health and safety and all that,” he said, a slight edge in his normally joking voice. Lisa was immediately on guard. Both of them stood up. She left the appropriate amount of money, plus a tip for the waitress. They exited the diner, the bell chiming.
“W—,” Lisa started.
“This place is wonderful, it reminds me of my hometown. I love to kick back and leave my troubles behind so they wouldn’t follow me home,” Declan said suddenly. Lisa understood, and she stayed quiet as they reached her car. Even then, both of them were silent the rest of the ride to the motel.
As we both walked to the entrance of the motel, I thought back to the story Martin said. A witch who emigrated from Ireland to escape something related to her family, only to end up losing her new one after thirty years. It resonated with me so much, and it also made me wonder. How much of this Earth’s history was paralleled with my own Earth? I glanced at Lisa. There were multiple similarities between her and Stacia’s mother, but the detective was more direct, outgoing. Less burdened by the world. I then wondered about my own family. The Irwin clan, whether they still remained as witches. My mother.
I froze. Was she still alive, here, in this planet? If she was, did she stay in Ireland? Became the new head of the Irwin Circle instead of that two-faced old hag? If she was, what could I say if I ever meet her? Or maybe she wasn’t. Maybe she died again, though from different circumstances. I then had the surreal thought of suddenly meeting my own self, still cleaning dishes at Rowan West and never leaving the warded safety of my home.
“—clan? Declan!” a voice broke in my thoughts. I looked up, startled. The detective was looking at me from the counter, the college-aged dude sitting behind it surreptitiously looking at her hip area. “Come on, we need to discuss.” She walked away from the counter. The college dude stared at her retreating form, then grinned at me.
“Damn bro. I saw the damage,” he made air quotes, “earlier. You hittin’ that?” The dude waggled his eyebrows.
I coughed hard, the most uncomfortable image entering my thoughts. Nope. Not thinking of that, not any further. “She’s like, my mother-in-law.” I snapped. I quickly followed the detective back into the motel room, ignoring the faint “Even better, man…!” that came from behind me. I reached the open door, closing it as I entered.
The detective turned towards me.
“Okay, what’s going on?” she asked.
“The waitress is a witch.” I said. She blinked, then sat down heavily on the sole chair.