CHAPTER 42 – Magic
Raven was stumped. It wasn’t quite like trying to recall what she had for breakfast a couple of days ago; more like a concept she had absorbed in physics class last semester – or in the third grade. Still, all she had to do was remember it. And she had noticed, too, when she had related other amazing bits of knowledge she now had stashed away, that just telling it seemed to clarify it in her own mind.
She began, “The glurriks figured out that human magic seems to be an aspect of a ‘power’ or a ‘force’ that’s … endemic to the human species, but only as a whole – all of humanity. Although, they are still not sure if it truly is all of humanity or just all of humanity on the world where an event of magic occurs. It would be something if the humans on a planet light-years away could have an instant effect on the use of magic here. Anyway, this power is not exactly a species consciousness, although it is created by the species. It’s more like a culmination of the minds and wills of every human. Some people claim there’s a ‘hive mind’ among bees, ants and termites that may be similar in concept. It’s not an entity, but it is a separate thing. All this is not proven fact, you understand. But, to the best of their abilities after centuries of studying us, these are the best theories the glurriks can come up with. Confusing, isn’t it?”
She paused again and studied the ceiling for a moment. She delved into her memories, burrowing through the accumulation of new knowledge that had been tucked into pockets and nooks and crannies, placing bits and pieces in different arrangements until she could understand it better, herself.
Finally, she said, “Picture humanity as a simmering pot of water and the water molecules as individual humans. The movement of molecules – life – is a result of an increase of energy, creation of heat being the first sensory change. If enough energy is applied – if life grows sufficiently complex and demanding, as when any species evolves – the heated water sends up gas bubbles to break on the surface, each one making little popping sounds. Picture these popping gas bubbles as potential uses of magic. The popping of the bubble is not due to the power or abilities of individual molecules, but rather is an effect of the action – the heating – of the entire pot. The individual human, being more than a water molecule, may have some control over how the magic is displayed – how or where is it focused. But, just as the water molecule that might somehow affect the play of light on the bubble’s thinning surface just before it breaks, or possibly even decide the shape of the crenellations of the splash, neither one can take credit for its actual existence.
“The kryls’ misunderstanding is they think they can stop the heat from rising by destroying individual bubbles before they pop.”
Raven glanced around the room at the sea of near-disbelief and confusion. Near-disbelief could evolve over time to belief, but confusion could lead to belief in the wrong direction.
She said, “For those culinarily challenged, let me put it another way. Just as a piece of glass properly shaped into a lens can focus the gentle rays of the sun into a concentrated point capable of burning a hole in wood, a single human whose mind is properly shaped – programmed in a manner glurriks still don’t completely understand – can focus the strength or energy or force of the entire human species into a point. An incidence of human magic is the effect, the specific type of magic being determined by the programming – the wiring – of the individual.”
Raven watched a few of the faces creased by confusion change to mere disbelief, but only a few. And it’s so clear to me.
She went on, “Now, humanity, being more complicated and more sophisticated than a pot of boiling water, or a collection of magnifying glasses, is able to collectively, but only collectively, control the availability of magic. Picture a force – a hive mind – within the water that is controlling the bubbles, perhaps at times preventing them from bursting on the surface by dissipating the rising gas. This force spreads out the heat so that it breaks the surface in thousands of very tiny places. All that is seen is an innocuous curtain of rising mist, rather than a collection of big, showy pops. So, if some kind of human hive mind has some control of the creation of magic, rather than occasional big, showy magic events, there could be many events that were just too subtle to attract attention.
“This mind may be prodded or encouraged to react in this manner if it was detrimental to the species for too many bubbles to burst in a showy display. Its reaction may be similar to someone turning down the heat to prevent the pot from boiling over. This mind is not intelligent, you understand, but it learns, which is a definition of intelligence, so I feel like I’m talking in circles. Is everyone else as confused as I am?”
“Hon, I’m the local expert at talking in circles,” Dagar said with his familiar, easy smile, “and you aren’t quite up to me, yet. Although, I’m afraid it is just a tad confusing. But, go on, we’ll work it out.”
Raven smiled her gratitude back at the first human friend she had made after losing Woody. She had known Charlie and The Judge longer, but not well enough in the beginning to call them friends. And, of course Uncle Joe didn’t count; he was from the previous world, and he was family.
With her eyes closed, she continued the lecture as her new knowledge unfolded in her mind. “The dissipation of the gas was not a deliberate act by the water, which is not an intelligent entity, but merely a reflexive action by a force whose existence depends on the continuance of the medium in which it occurs, whether a boiling pot of water or a very complicated species – maybe something on the order of evolutionary pressure. It becomes unwise to use magic after the level of civilization reaches a certain level because the destroyers – the kryls – would return, and the magic would suffer decimation. However, after the kryls have destroyed civilization, or even during the destruction, it becomes safe for magic to emerge again because it should be a long time before they come back. Plus, it is a very effective survival tool.”
She opened her eyes and shook her head as a wry smile worked across her face. “But, then, we foolish humans go and shoot ourselves in the foot. Rather than developing our magic while we have the chance beyond what the kryls might be able to defeat, we suppress it. There are always enough of those among us, charismatic, natural leaders like Ned Morgan, that are not able to work magic. And, because they are so domineering, and because they are so convinced of their own righteousness and deserving of any powers available, to soothe their bruised egos they condemn magic as evil, and, for some reason, the majority listens to them. The new societies that develop become overly influenced by the priests and bishops and the imams and rabbis that dare not allow a power they don’t share, or at least control, to exist among the people. So, they burn witches. And the witches that they don’t catch suppress their own abilities.
“This suppression isn’t a conscious effort by anyone or any group. It is simply a self-protective reflex by the species as a whole, something like the species blinking an eye when a speck of dust gets in it. The magic doesn’t go away – the water doesn’t cool down – it just becomes an unnoticeable simmer. And, these changes are not overnight. They occur over long periods of time, with more and more people unwilling to be among those suspected of evil, so that even the people are not aware of what they are … not losing … rejecting. After periods when the usage of recognizable magic diminishes to practically zero, we forget we had ever actually been able to do it, recalling it’s long ago use in myth, legend and religious miracles from olden times. After a time, we humans are not even aware such ability is real and is ours.
“Everyone accepts the few noticeable events that still occasionally pop to the surface as wrong, somehow evil, and too often deal with them in tragic ways, such as burning, stoning, or drowning a witch. They may take the lesser of these events as freaky cases like maybe feeling they had seen or done something before, or that they had simply forgotten moving something to a particular spot when, in fact, it had been moved magically. A desperate mother lifting a burning car off her trapped child and unexplainable spontaneous combustion are effects of the same cause, unconsciously directed energy. Of course, some events of spontaneous combustion were merely dying glurriks disposing of their bodies with their glurrik magic.
“In their study of humans, glurriks have learned much of what magic is and why it works – if not how. Or maybe that should be they know how but not why it works. Actually, neither one is certain because there is still so much that they don’t know about humans and the magic we are able to use.
“Humans are not the only species known to be able to use mind power. Some other species may have similar limited abilities, such as the glurriks’ telepathy and pyrokinesis, but nothing like the magic we humans are capable of when it is used to its fullest extent. Or, at least, to the fullest extent that has been observed. The glurriks believe that human magic is still evolving. And who knows what we may be capable of if the kryls will just leave us alone long enough?”