Photo via Visual Hunt
Sophie glanced at the clock. She sighed and closed her book. It was almost time for her lesson. Just as she put the book on the shelf, she heard her mother’s voice. “Sophie, the Master is here.”
“Coming.” Sophie dragged herself off her bed and headed downstairs. She walked into the study. The Master – he’d never given either of them his true name – was a tall, gaunt man who appeared both young and old at the same time. His eyes shifted colors depending on his mood. They were the calm pale blue of a summer sky at the moment. That could – and probably would – change during the lesson.
“You seem reluctant,” the Master said, his voice sounding as if it were coming from the bottom of a well.
“I don’t understand why I need to know this. There’s no need for magic in this world. Science handles everything that magic can.”
“Can science put the unquiet dead to rest? Can scientists read minds and know the thoughts and emotions of others? There is much that the logical side of nature can do, but there are still things that can only be done by those of us with the gift.”
“So what do you want me to do today?” Sophie asked.
“I want you to practice what we started during your last session,” the Master said.
Sophie scowled. “The last time I tried I ended up covered in rainbow colored slime that took me two days to wash off. I had to skip school so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself.”
“That is why I selected a Friday this time,” the Master said. “I anticipated you would need the time again.”
Sophie sighed and took the proper stance. Her mother hastily left the room. The Master moved back to lean up against the wall. Sophie began moving her hands in the proper pattern, summoning a multi-colored mist. It swirled around her. The mist was supposed to help identify invisible creatures and passive spells, something that Sophie had yet to encounter.
As she expected, she only managed to hold the spell for a few seconds before it exploded. She could feel the impact of the slime on her skin. “Yuck,” she muttered.
“Try again,” the Master said, his face impassive. Sophie did as he told. Again the spell failed to last more than a few seconds. “You aren’t concentrating, Sophie. You must focus your will, channel your mind into your spell. That is the only way you’re going to succeed.”
Sophie shook her head. “I don’t want to do this. I think it’s ridiculous. I’m going to be an astrophysicist. I don’t need magic.”
The Master gestured and Sophie screamed as pain wracked her body. She dropped to the floor, writhing in agony. He held her there for several minutes. When he released her, he moved to stand over her. “You will do as you are told. Regardless if you wish to follow a path into science, your magic will be trained. There will come a day when you must use it and you’ll be glad you have the knowledge.” He turned away. “I will return in one month. I expect you to practice every weekend until you have this spell right.” He swept out of the room.
Sophie stayed on the floor, drawing in ragged breaths. Her mother reentered the room a short while later. “Sophie, what happened?”
“I made him angry again,” Sophie said, her voice weak.
“You need to stop doing that. He killed me for my disobedience. Do you want to die as well? He’ll bind you to this plane of existence. You won’t be able to pass on until one of his students releases you, if he even allows it.”
Sophie slowly hauled herself to her feet. “I know. But I don’t want to do this.”
“You have to. You’re my only hope.”
Sophie looked at her mother’s pale form. There were terrible burns all over her body, where the Master had set her on fire with an eldritch flame that nothing Sophie had done could put out. “I know, mother. I’ll do better. I promise.”
Her mother smiled. “Thank you, Sophie. Now, you’d better go clean yourself up.” Sophie nodded and made her way painfully out of the study and up the stairs towards her bathroom.