The Last Magus

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School’s in…

Natalie came to the door, her smile was triumphant but the smile vanished as she looked at the state Joe was in, her eyes rapidly filled with genuine concern.

“There you are, I told you five Joe...Oh my God are you OK?”

“Sorry…” Joe gulped a breath and gasped, hurriedly looking back over his shoulder again. Genuine fear shaded his eyes and a look of horror flashed over his face, had that been a movement? “Sorry I’m a little late Nat, lost track you know. I’ll tell you about it while we get ready…”

Natalie strode out of the house towards him, “What happened, you look ghastly! I mean apart from looking dead on your feet you look like you’ve seen the dead...”

Joe almost laughed with relief, “You could say I’ve seen a ghost or two yeah.”

“Only one or two? You look like you’ve seen an entire cemetery.”

“Maybe I have, I don’t know, at least two were ghosts.”

“Jesus Joe!” Natalie’s smile again vanished, she’d been joking, but Joe apparently wasn’t. “You’re not joking are you? You’re serious?” Joe nodded as solemnly as he could between gulped breaths, he coughed again and spat onto to the road, a foul taste was filling his mouth that he just couldn’t shake. “Come on in, let me give you a hand.” Natalie stretched out her hand and gratefully Joe took it, squeezing her fingers. To Natalie’s surprise though he pulled her close to him and wrapped both arms around her before kissing her.

“And what sparked that may I ask?” she giggled kissing his cheek.

“You’re real I needed to feel that. Real flesh and blood, I have had an afternoon you are not going to believe! I’m not that sure I do…”

“Well let’s get inside Romeo and you can tell me all about it. By the way I’ve got something to tell you too…you are not going to believe, it will just blow your mind!”

“OK, you’d better lead the way. I’m totally spent…” Joe doubled over and coughed loudly choking up another disgusting mouthful of spit that he spat out onto the road.

“Ooh charm school really worked for you didn’t it Joseph?”

Natalie led the way inside, she was almost skipping with her excitement, she was burning to give Joe her news. She brought Joe into the part of the house he had deemed her area. Joe looked at her small couch and shambled over to it before he collapsed from exhaustion onto it.

“Are you telling me you ran all the way? God no wonder you look like that you must be exhausted. OK so who goes first, my news or do you want to tell me about your afternoon?”

“I think I’d better go first while I can still remember it…” a mental image of the cadaverous ghoul that Old Tatty had become at the end flashed into Joe’s mind and he shuddered.

With a painful expression on his face and slow halting description he told Natalie of the walk and the events at the old school. Each time he stopped Natalie looked more horrified and Joe felt that his words just didn’t do the feelings he had had justice. When he finally finished he looked longingly at Natalie.

“Do you believe me?”

“Joe, I believe anything you tell me…but that has to be the wildest story. You walked out of here needing to think about your mum and Amy and then what subconsciously you made your way to your old primary school?”

“I was happy there Nat, about the only place I ever felt happiness, Old Tatty could be a terror but it was all bluster really, when I gave the speech at his retirement he complimented me for it.”

“But you saw everyone there, just as you had as a boy? So they were what?”

“I don’t know. Old Tatty and Pete must have been ghosts or phantoms. Pete told me he had died in an accident, Old Tatty looked like if he were alive he should have been dead. And at the end...” Joe shuddered again picturing the shambling corpse that had born down on him. “You should have seen him at the end Nat, he looked like a corpse, all those old films of zombies wouldn’t come close to what he looked like. Then when the security guard found me the whole school was a burned out shell, had been for some years, he reckoned they would be demolishing it all.”

“God and this was in broad daylight?”

“Yes, pretty much, it was about four thirty when I stopped walking. I was lost for a moment, I haven’t been out that way in thirty odd years see...then I started seeing the old landmarks. I felt drawn to the old school, maybe because I had such fond memories of the place. I was amazed it was still there, it was like time had stood still. But then once I went in through the gate as I remembered things about the school, well they happened around me. I remembered roller skating and skaters appeared, the sound of a cricket game, even the old loud speaker system they used on sports day. I saw kids collecting conkers and then out of nowhere got hit by a snowball.”

“But Joe there’s no snow.”

“I know, it was cold but there was no wet to it either. The whole time I felt I was being drawn toward the door, I started to get scared it was a fear unlike anything I have ever experienced. But it was like when you’re going to have an accident things seem to slow down and you just can’t avoid it happening. Pete went inside the front door and I started feeling as if I was really being drawn there and I didn’t like it that much. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go inside, but as each memory appeared around me I felt...”

“Compelled?”

“Yeah I suppose. When I opened the door and saw Old Tatty it was like something physically dragged or shoved me inside. Icy hands gripped me and almost lifted me off my feet.”

“And when you saw your old headmaster, this Old Tatty…However did he get a name like that, was he a shabby dresser or something?”

“He was a gruff no nonsense bloke from Yorkshire and his name was Ilkley. Over the years he went from Mr Ilkley, to Ilkley-Moor to Old Ilkley-Moor bar tat, just like the song and finally Old Tatty which sort of stuck.” Natalie giggled and sniggered which raised a smile on Joe’s face too. “I know kids can be cruel sometimes.”

“Whoever came up with that?”

“Kids who left years before me, I only ever knew him as Old Tatty. It was when that guard told me he’d died twenty years ago in a care home.”

“…Of a massive stroke. That would explain why he became the way he did in front of you all that paralysis down one side.”

“Yeah, but it was all so so real. I swear to you as I sit here now, I read an essay that I wrote thirty six years ago that Tatty had stapled to the wall of his room. He did it as a name and shame type thing, not an example of good work but an example of bad. I wanted to rip that essay up each day it was there. Where I sat it was just above my head. I sat on a child’s wooden plywood chair at an old wooden desk, the type where a lid flips up, beside my old best friend. I pressed my head against the outside door and felt that old worn oak. I gripped the handle on that outer door so tight it left marks in my hand, I felt that old iron ring of a handle to the point I felt I’d strained the tendons in my hand crushing it so tight.” Joe grimaced and stared down at his hand flexing it, “I smelt the black creosote and paint they used on it. It was very very real Nat! Those things were no phantoms. Then when Old Tatty came at me down the length of the classroom he looked like he wanted to kill me…Even in his very worst angers he never ever would have considered anything like that, in fact I was told later that that was why he felt he had to retire, he came close to hitting a student.” Joe wiped his hand across his forehead, “He said something odd too, he said if the would be Great Magus couldn’t handle a few ghosts what good was I going to be against that demon. Before urging me to give up the magic.”

“Shit! Oh sorry Joe...”

“Don’t sweat it honey in case you haven’t heard I swear.”

“Yes, but I mean why would he be telling you to give up? You only got that idea this afternoon after the visit from your mum.”

“Beats me! Unless there’s more going on here. After all something shoved me into that school. Any way what’s this big news of yours? And are we going out to this restaurant or not...because I’m not sure I want to escort a babe like you looking quite like that.”

Natalie beamed a smile at Joe and playfully slapped his forearm, “We’ll need to go into the office so I can show you on the computer.”

“OK you want to get changed first, might give me some time to catch my breath.”

“And see me in my sexy underwear no doubt, I know your sort Joseph Winstanton...” another playful slap as Natalie skipped off to her bedroom. She returned a few minutes later in a sleek black satin looking dress that hugged every curve of her body, the neck was scooped low enough to hint at her ample cleavage while the bottom was cut just below the level of her knees. Joe wolf whistled appreciatively. Natalie bobbed her head in his direction and blew him a kiss. “I take it you like the dress then, I splashed out a bit on it but from the look on your face Joe I can see it was well spent. Now do you want to hear my news?”

“Oh I don’t know I could spend the rest of the evening just watching you stand there, that fabric just looks amazing the way it shimmers on you.” Joe smiled as Natalie gave him a twirl to show the dress off properly. “Yeah all evening!...but lead the way babe.” Joe stretched out his hand as Natalie squeezed hers into his with a smile. The pair of them stepped out of her room before Natalie closed the door with a quiet click, turned back and said the word “Office.”

“You’re getting used to this house I see...”

“It’s funny but it is quite a place when you understand how it works. And in a way it’s so much more convenient the room sort of comes to you rather than the normal way round. Anyway come and look at the computer.” Natalie stepped into the office and bent at the waist as she faced the computer screen. Joe playfully wolf whistled again at the sight and hushed whisper sound of her breasts slipping inside the dress top, Natalie wasn’t wearing a bra. Natalie smiled and slapped his hand away gently. She pressed a key to bring the screen back on. The screen displayed a globe of the Earth rotating slowly.

“I sat down with Draco while you were having your walk and school visit, with your old friends.” Joe shivered involuntarily, “Between us we managed to get a good approximation of the planet as he remembered it...you know before your Great Magus did his shake ’n’ bake on it! I have got to say Joe it is very different.”

“He’s hardly my Great Magus Nat.”

“I know, but the thing is Draco and I got a globe of the world as he remembered it, or at least close enough. I then overlaid a globe of the Earth as the computer says it should have been six thousand years ago, you know reversing continental drift and everything…”

“And?”

“And I’m getting to it Joe, don’t rush me. Where was I? Oh yes I overlaid the globe and found those common points I talked about. There were dozens of them. Vast areas of land have been lost, probably swallowed by oceans or just devoured into volcanic lava, in fact I’d even say the whole globe was about ten to twelve percent larger. But Draco mapped the Towers to his globe I transferred them to the computer’s and…”

“Yes?”

“You ready for this?”

“Nat? I’m on tenterhooks here so go on what did you get?”

“Draco and I think...understand we can’t be one hundred percent sure, but we think...”

“Nat for God’s sake what is it?”

Natalie smiled a broad triumphant smile, “…We think we’ve found one of the towers, maybe the first. Draco is fairly confident it’s right and he thinks that finding one might lead you to the others.” Joe sat down into one of the chairs heavily.

“You’ve found a tower…I mean are you sure? you’ve actually found one of the towers?” he asked quietly, awe filling his voice.

“No…I said nothing is certain, there is a massive amount of guesswork involved here, but everything says it should be there if the guesswork is for the most part right.”

“How much right?”

“Well maybe high eighties. But after we’d worked out where it should be I tried Google Earth on the coordinates the computer predicts for the current location and you get a lot of empty ocean, a lot! But there is a very small island at that place, it’s literally not much more than a fly speck on the map, I think area wise you could probably get your house and garden on it and not much else. I’d almost swear there was nothing there at all.”

“Oh my God Nat you’re a wonder. Where...I mean where is it?”

“It’s in the Atlantic about two days boat trip out from the nearest port. If it was standing and hasn’t raised or lowered then about half of it is underwater! The nearest port though is in a little fishing village on one of the outermost islands of the outer Hebrides err Harris off the north western corner, that’s up in Scotland.”

“I know where those islands are thanks.”

“You’ll have to head towards Greenland from Harris and hope you don’t miss it. It’s nobody’s property as it is sitting in international waters. I can give you GPS coordinates if the boat can be guided by GPS, otherwise you might need dead reckoning and a huge amount of luck.” Natalie typed at a few keys on the keyboard and the screen zoomed in on a view of empty ocean. “Right there!” she said pressing a fingertip to the screen. Joe looked at the display, initially he couldn’t see anything except water. Natalie zoomed in closer and a dark spot in the middle of the ocean appeared. “I can’t get in any closer Joe as it will try and go to street view which of course won’t be possible, I mean who is going to get a Google car out to there right?”

“Nat…that’s, I mean that’s just…”

“I told you I’m a wizard too Joe. I may not be able to do any of the stuff you do but give me a computer and I can do magic baby!” Natalie started humming the tune that matched those song words, all the time smiling like the cat that had not only had the cream but most of the milk too!

Joe sat for some minutes just looking confoundedly at the screen and the dark blob, he was totally bowled over. Natalie had potentially found the first tower of magic. He didn’t know what to say except thank you, which just sounded so totally inadequate.

“Well?” Natalie smiled at him.

“Well what?”

“Are you proud of me Joe?”

“Nat I don’t know what to say…I really don’t.”

“Well I get that but are you proud?”

“I have never ever been prouder or more grateful to anyone.”

“OK then you’re welcome, if it is the first tower do you want to go see it?”

“What?” Joe had thought the towers lost he hadn’t even considered the possibility of finding one and now going to see it? He thought for a long time looking at the dark blob on the screen, “Of course!” he said simply.

“Good, I thought you’d say that so I took the liberty of booking the train tickets and arranged transport enough to get you to that little village. You’ll have to hire a boat from there.”

“When?”

“When do you leave? No time like the present is there and if you’re getting ghosts or phantoms or whatever they were trying to get you to give up maybe you going is going to help sort things out a bit. Looks like you’ve still got your three options…”

“Yeah I suppose. I suppose I can always back out even if I do visit the towers. OK looks like I’m going to Scotland then…is it tickets for two?”

“Do you want me to come with you then? I thought I might be more use back here trying to find the other towers. You said yourself you don’t know how much time you might have.”

“Yeah that would be very true, but the Scottish islands are supposed to be quite romantic you know? It would give us some proper time away from this place…time together.”

“Ooh Joe you say the sweetest things.” Natalie kissed his cheek, “Let me guess, open fire, champagne chilling, two glasses and a bearskin rug...” Joe blushed and hung his head nodding, “…and me all nice and cosy in a thick flannelette nightdress to keep out the cold! That place is closer to the arctic than the equator Joe.” Natalie giggled, “Besides I prefer some sexy satin anyway lover boy. Maybe if you let me find a tower in the islands of the Caribbean, well you just try and stop me coming. This is your thing Joe, I’ll find them, you go do your Lara Croft impersonation on them…”

“Lara Croft?”

“Tomb Raider…don’t tell me you’ve never seen Tomb Raider?”

“No I haven’t…”

“Well if you’re a good boy I just might slip into my Lara croft outfit for you...if you’re good. Are we going out for this pasta or what?”

“Yeah course, come on we’ve got something to celebrate…I think!”

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