Morning in the city.
Streetlights are awake all night and go to bed slowly,
reluctantly, as the sun rises, and the sky can be deepening blue with
clouds shining yellow and orange in the dawn, you can see where you're
going in the greyness, and still, the street lights will be awake, still
fighting for that last bit of time before they must sleep.
Mornings in the city, the light hits your wall sharp and bright, and
the shadows on the other side are dark, and cold, holding to them the
memory of the night. It's always coldest at dawn and the shadows let
it go as slowly as the streetlights fade.
Cars and trucks have been out all the night, of course, even at the
peak sleep hours of 2 and 3 AM. There's always one car, somewhere in the
city, that has been out all night long. Nor has the noise of
machinery ever stopped. If the noise were ever to stop,
people would stop making things, and if they stopped making things they
would stop making money, and the very towers would crumble. Can't have
that. One must always have coins to jingle and glitter and toss into the
fountain lit by the first rays of sunlight, another wish today that the
great mechanical limbs and spinning machines not catch one's own limbs
and break them. It's morning, and it's another day to make another
it's morning, and the bakeries and the liquor stores are
lifting their metal grilles, and the food trucks are
starting their stoves and the smell of cheap fried burrito is wafting
down the street. Eager young professionals are going click-clack in
their fancy shoes as they quick-march to their offices. You think them
crazy, but then, you're out on the street too. You're having fun,
they're desperate to arrive at the office before the boss does. Got to
look eager to get that promotion.
The street lamps and the night watchmen yawn and sign off, and go to their sleep.
Students in their dorms rise and wonder if they forgot to complete any assignments last night.
And the wind shifts, and blows in cold from the water.
And as the sun rises, everyone remembers that there is a such thing
as time. There is no time beneath the lights of the city of night, there
is no moon, there are no stars to mark such a passage. In the city,
night is all one time. Morning is when time starts again.
Between here and Heaven is the city of a bright morning.
I'd been reading a page in Jo's textbook in the
cloud-obscured morning light. The page lit up as the clouds swept on by,
revealing the sun. You know what it's like to try to read a sheet of
white paper in direct sunlight? The damn thing practically reflects the
light into your eyes. I shut the book with a heavy thump, and placed it
on Jo's desk, also with a heavy thump.
A voice spoke from within the makeshift hangings of the
bed. "Yawn, stretch," it said, "I daresay I heard someone reading my
textbook. Since when do you enjoy waking up early?"
"Since never," I said. "I just stayed up all night
finishing the yarn." I jerked my thumb toward 6 fat spools
of yarn sitting on my desk. "And then I thought, I wonder what my dear
Jo was so worried about comprehending last night? So I read where I
thought you'd left off. Fourth layer, eh? A cacophony of music that you
have to sort out. Maybe that layer is one where spells are based on what
"That's...is that it? The author was going on about
hermeneutics and the epistemology of sound and the mathematics of
melody. I couldn't figure out what point he was making. So you DID grasp
the concept before me. Now I am jealous. I am hurt. I am pouting. I
am...worried that you're going to fall asleep during today's class."
"Nonsense," I said, "I'm alert as ever. Look at me, I am
doing morning calisthenics. Join me." I rose and engaged in some
exaggerated stretches. "One two! Feel the burn!"
There was a rustle from the bed, and the cloak bulged
outward, and fell upon the shag carpet. It sat there, covering a
mysterious mass, and then the mass rose, slowly. A figure, hooded in a
great red cloak, stood before me. A tall figure. The kind you'd expect
to start chanting "Mea culpa mega culpa" while you go on and on about
how you love a forbidden dark beauty. From within the cloak, two hands
appeared, and flipped back the hood. And there before me stood Jo.
"You have always been slightly taller than me," I said,
rising from my stretch, "but it appears you are hitting a growth spurt.
Of two inches per week. At age seventeen. Do you need to get your
pituitary gland checked?"
"I told you I was
worried about exploding." Jo strode to the window and looked out. She
clenched her fist. "I have all this power...and all this responsibility.
Am I up to the task? Do I dare disturb the universe? What am I?"
She chuckled. "Think of all the drama I could make of this, instead of
trying to mitigate any potential problems. I could become...angsty.
Brooding. I could stand in the rain and curse God." She glanced at my
left hand. "Curse you! You found a ring
"That I did. That settles it, then. Let's get married."
"Oh, no," said Jo, shaking her head. "I still have to
find a ring. The hunt isn't over yet. I have to find a ring and then we
have to exchange them. That's how it works, right? That's how people get
married. They go on a long scavenger hunt."
"Exchange, eh? We should see if this thing fits your finger then."
As I prepared to slip the ring off, I looked closely at it.
It didn't look evil. It wasn't whispering or anything.
I slipped the ring off.
The next thing I knew, I was flat on the carpet, with the ring back on my finger.
"So that's what the ring does," said Jo, removing her
Wizard Glasses. "It keeps you up all night, among other enchantments,
though i couldn't figure those ones out. Do you know, there are probably
students around here who would kill for such a ring."
"So they can party all night?"
they can study all night. This is the Wizard Academy, Pat. We study. Well. Most of us do. You get tutored."
"You know, if you're going to keep going on about that,
you should remember that you're the one who signed me up for this place.
I didn't exactly ask." I sat up, no more tired than I had been before I
took the ring off. "I might have been just as well off if
I'd...just...come to the city with my family and...flipped burgers. I
"And lived a life of crushing poverty? And had no place
to practice your skills? And kept running from the police, only this time they had all the
magic and you had mere brute strength? No, Pat. This is where you are
safe. This is where you have a future. This is where you...where I have
you. How could I just let you go, into a dangerous world all on your
own? This is where you have me. How could I, in good conscience, not
have invited you to join my world? You're already a part of my world.
How could I let you fall out of it?"
"You could have declined to come to Wizard school, and
joined me among the plebians.
Among the poor. But you dragged me into this place. Accidentally."
"I...yeah." Jo flipped her hood over her head and rose, turning back tot he window. "That's precisely what I did."
I rose, and joined her at the window. "Why justify it, though?" I said. "If it really was an accident, if you didn't know..."
justification. Pat, it wasn't an accident. I read that contract carefully. I knew exactly what I was
getting you into."
"As I said -- I would have felt irresponsible if I
hadn't offered you the chance to live here. If you had learned that I'd
had the chance to hand you a Golden Ticket out of poverty, and that I'd
let it go, what would you have thought of me? What would I have thought
of myself? " She turned to me. "One of the greatest sins is splitting
the congregation. How could I have split you and me? At the end of a
long life of brave deeds, as I stood before the Lord of Song, he would
sweep aside my shining trophies and ask me why I left you to die. And I
would have no answer."
"As I said, you could have joined me in
poverty. Flipped burgers with me, or washed sheets at hotels. You could
have...descended, from your class, into mine. Instead you have given me
the chance to rise into yours. The magical upper class." I giggled.
"Like I'm a hick from the sticks. 'Good news, Ma, I'm gonna be the first
one in my family to go to Wizard College!' Good God. We're replicating
American class structures even while we have magic at our
fingertips. What use is making bread out of thin air if we don't feed
the hungry? What use is a fireball if we don't throw it at a racist
billionaire? What good is our power if we don't seize the means of
"The Wizard police would get mad."
"So would the director."
"And yet...we supply the police with Wizards, no?
Remember what Hurley said in the first morning lecture? This place has
an understanding with them. The director resolutely does not want any of us to get any wacky revolutionary ideas."
"Too late. Much too late. Mister Mazigh is currently
working with a bunch of beings from outside the universe. We two have
already changed the
Jo frowned. "Did we? Or did we just save the status quo
as best we could? Are we revolutionaries, Pat? Or are we mere
"What do you want to be?"
"I..." Jo looked out the window. "I want everyone to live in peace and freedom."
"I want everyone to live in freedom and peace."
"The difference is which one we try to achieve first, I
suppose. Ah, but either way, we have to get around the Wizard Police
first. And the Director. And we have to topple everything and not listen
to them when they say they were doing just fine. Because we, in our
mighty magnificence, know what is best for the people we have never met.
Long live the revolution! Where's my military band? I need to hear the
Marsellaise right now!" Jo stood up tall and proud in the morning light.
"What a revolution", I said, slouching. "They freed their own country, but Haiti? Never."
"There is that as well," said Jo. "That as well. But we don't have slaves these days, right? That's all taken care of."
I turned to Jo. "I cannot tell right now whether or not you're being sarcastic."
"Well. Let's just say slavery doesn't look quite like
what it used to, and leave that discussion for another time. Another
time. It is almost time for the morning exercises. We have spent too
much time plotting revolutionary terrorism. And I'm supposed to be
working for the President! I can't be a revolutionary yet!"
I strode to my wardrobe as Jo ran to hers.
"I'm sorry," said Jo as we donned our track suits. "I
really am. I guess I forgot what i said, that I'd follow you wherever
you went. I made the choice of where you would go, instead of letting
you direct your own life."
"It's not like I was there to speak for myself," I said
as I tied my shoes. "And we've been over this, Jo. I did the same thing
to you, when I spoke to the Heart of New York. I spoke for you when you
weren't there. We're even. Knowing that you knew what you were
doing...changes some things. But, hey, we're seventeen. We're supposed to be responsible adults now.
Would you rather have been naive and signed a contract you couldn't
read, and been a hapless victim? Or would you rather be willing to face
the consequences of your mistakes and own them?"
Jo had her hand on the door handle, but she paused, and said, "What are the consequences of my mistakes?"
"What do you think they are?"
you're angry, and that you will run away again. That you will sleep in
your own bed for a month, or in Aurore's room, or you will stay out all
day like before. But you aren't angry, are you? So why am I worried?
After all we've said? Why am I still scared that you will hate me for
the mistakes I've made? Perhaps I value your opinion highly. Perhaps
you are my weakness. I don't know. What consequences do you see?"
I strode over to Jo and kissed her on the cheek. "I see that we remain together."
"For how long?"
"For as long as we both love. Do not fear my anger, Jo.
Trust me when I say I love you. Trust me when I say that will never
change. We will get angry at each other, surely. But if we break apart,
by some circumstance -- if we decide it will be better to part ways, let
it be an act of of love as well. Let it be because we think it is best
for each other. And though the miles will be between us, and though we
lie in the arms of other people, I will still love you."
Jo held me close, and looked into my eyes, her forehead resting upon
mine. "I can't imagine being in anyone's arms besides yours. I cannot
imagine ever leaving you. Not even at the end. I wish to die by your
side, whether of age or of battle." She let me go. "But even if we do
separate, somehow, I imagine we will die at the same time anyway -- on
the same day, each of us asking about the other. 'Then Pat still lives?
Good. Urk.' But seriously -- I'd like to be sure that we stand
before the Lord of Song together. Not that I'm suggesting a suicide pact
or anything. Unless it's to save the world."
"I'll be sure to consult you before I jump into the Hell Mouth. Shall we get going?"
"Let's shall." Jo let me go and opened the door.
We jogged down the corridor loudly. Whoever was still in their dorms
at this hour either needed waking or a reminder. Aurore was always last
to the field, judging form the last few days.
Aurore. The girl who could teleport without a sweat.
I resolved to question her at the first opportunity.