AN UNEXPECTED MOVE
Dreamed 1998/12/17 by Chris Wayan
BEFORE THE DREAM:
It's time for the final performance in my music composition class. Have to sing an original in front of a formal audience. My first time. I'm terrified!
My friend Mark promised to sing harmony. We practice all afternoon. With keyboard, then a cappella. Break. Hike up Bernal Hill. It's warm for winter, and clear. Views for forty miles. Back down and copy the score at a corner store. Then back to the house. Cook, eat, practice...
Off to school. Practice more on a real piano. Recruit classmate Kevin and friend, ask them to listen to us. Goes okay with two people listening.
At last we perform... I botch several chords. Grr. Mediocre. But keep going, keep the melody and rhythm. Panic less extreme than previous times performing. Maybe it WILL fade away, at least to tolerable levels, if I keep at it.
Leave immediately, feeling a bit let down. Mark's a bit mad at himself for harmony errors I hardly noticed--as mad as I am about my piano errors. But not very. Got through it alive... that's what counts!
Los Angeles. A run-down but still rather elegant neighborhood near the movie studios. Alleys halfway between official streets; on each corner looking down on an alley, every floor of every building has a lobby with urns, ferns and palms, round windows, a Deco/Modern/Futurist decor. They're unique to old LA and have a special Spanglish term I forget...
I live here with friends who are all into magic. We're like street kids--we all live in an abandoned fern-lobby. But we seek to find new powers (or uncover lost ones) and fix up the neighborhood with them. We've been slowly succeeding, though long stretches pass with no big finds. But a wizard friend and I just broke through, learned a new power--how to tame lightning. The ancients used it a lot, but we're the first in ages.
For a moment I see us as the local gods and powers may--savages who've stumbled on dangerous tools. But then, I think, THEY trashed this city, or let it be trashed. Their record's nothing to boast of! We head home with the Power.
On the way, we have to skirt a big open plaza of cement squares, dark and light. Two wizards of a rival gang spot us and give chase. They outnumber us. We all move by spells, several squares at a time, like knights in chess. Each side even has to take turns (simultaneous spells can interfere, wrecking both, and it's best to wait a minute and assess your enemy's spell before casting your next). Anyway, think of it as a huge chess game--except we're the pieces, and if we're caught, it's gonna hurt.
They're on our right, angling in across the plaza. I calculate they'll catch us on their next move--which is now. So in desperation I start running! No one ever bothers to go on foot in LA, it's slower than magic, a sign you're a thaumaturgical incompetent--but since it's unthinkable, they don't believe it for moments. Gains us a square or two before they too start running after us, cursing, incredulous. That buys me enough time to tell my friend what to do. We turn and point with our arms and loose the new power. I take care to keep it stunning, not fatal. My opponent falls paralyzed--I worry I hit him too hard, though I know he'd waste little time on this if he were the one zapping me.
But my friend misses, and I'm drained for a few seconds--can't defend him. The other wizard runs up, and I have to choose--stay and risk neither of us coming back with the new power or leaving my friend to take his chances and make it home, teach the technique, and come back to rescue him. I flee and my friend follows. I run along the crenellated line of stone blocks, into our street, leap the rubble piles, in our gate. Safe! Can he make it or will the big guy catch him? Even if he's just in close pursuit, I must lock the gate to keep him out of our haven, even if this dooms our friend to capture.
Despite all this, I feel pretty good. From a sure and total loss against overwhelming force, I won us a weak uncertain victory: half their force down, half ours safe, while the other halves are still in contest. Pretty good really for the first use of the new power--plus a child's trick...
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