“What? No, real magic doesn’t— Are you pulling my leg?” Jimmy stared at his fellow magicians. None of them looked like they were joking. For a moment, they all just looked at each other, then their expressions morphed into horror as they realised he wasn’t joking either. “Are you saying all of you have been using real magic all this time?” Jimmy’s voice came out hoarse and quiet. Derek, someone he’d known for years and considered a close friend, laughed brokenly.
“You’re saying you haven’t?” Derek asked. Jimmy nodded. He looked pleadingly at Derek, hoping he’d start laughing for real and tell him it was a joke after all. But Derek didn’t laugh, he didn’t even smile. Instead, he turned around to Rogers. “What now?” He sounded pained. “Is there a policy for this?”
Rogers shook his head. “Just standard,” he said. Derek turned back around with a mournful expression on his face. Jimmy took a step back.
“I’m sorry Jimmy,” Derek whispered, “but you’re not allowed to remember this.” Jimmy’s mind stuttered to a halt. Not remember…? His eyes widened as Derek pulled his wand out of his jacket. Such a familiar movement. How many times had he seen Derek pull out his wand during a show? Never before did the movement have so much weight behind it. Never before had the thin wooden stick seemed so imposing.
Jimmy took a quick step back. His eyes darted around for an exit. Like hell would he forget about this. Magic is real? He had to get to the bottom of this. A tiny flash of light from the corner of his vision drew his eye. His gaze hardened. With a quick movement, he drew his own wand, just a regular piece of painted wood, black with white at the ends. He looked Derek in the eye with falsified confidence. He had no idea if his little parlour trick was going to work. After all, if he was up against real magic…
But they were still on his stage, and he didn’t intend to go out without a fight. With his wand, he snatched the nearly invisible cord hanging over his head. With a quick flourish, thick impenetrable smoke filled the stage. He heard the others call out in confusion and panic, but he ignored them. With a handkerchief held against his mouth, he dropped through the hidden hatch in the stage’s floor. He locked the hatch behind him and hoped they didn’t have any lock-picking magic-spells or anything. He ran through the backstage area, dodging his stagehands on the way. He accidentally pushed over Lydia, but he didn’t have the time to help his assistant up. He raced out the back of the building where he had his car parked. Heart beating in his throat, he shimmied the keys in the lock and flung himself inside.
He fled, memories intact and mind racing through conclusions, questions and plans.
He had to find out more about magic. He didn’t become a magician for his lack of love for the concept after all. If it was real, then he wanted to know about it. He’d follow his contemporaries and see if there was some hidden place for magicals out there.
But first, he had to hide.
On a cool night, Jimmy stalked after Derek. Out of all his fellow magicians, he knew Derek’s schedule best. He’d been following him for a few days now. Not all day of course, just the moments Jimmy thought most likely to give him some insight. It was two months after he fled his own stage and went on the run. He’d been living in various cheap camping lodges ever since.
He felt bad about leaving his crew without a word, especially Lydia. But he didn’t have a choice. If he contacted them, there was a chance one of the magicians – wizards – could find out. He had no idea how close they were monitoring him. Hell, for all he knew they weren’t monitoring him at all! He had no way of knowing.
But that’s why he was here, stalking after Derek like a creep. So far, he hadn’t done anything suspicious. He hadn’t gone down any secret alleyways leading to magical city districts. He hadn’t vanished somewhere Jimmy couldn’t follow… Jimmy was starting to think this magical community might look different than his fantasy books made them out to be. Maybe all they had was a Facebook group, not even a secret clubhouse or something actually cool and magical.
Honestly. What’s the point of having a group of wizards when you don’t make a secret club out of it?
Just as Jimmy decided he had enough for tonight, Derek did something unusual. He pulled out his wand. Jimmy perked up, his eyes following Derek’s every move. Derek stood unnaturally still before a normal, if expensive, looking house. He slowly moved his wand in a pattern Jimmy couldn’t quite make out from the other side of the street. A shiver went up Jimmy’s spine that had nothing do with the cold or fear. He could feel the magic crawl over his skin. Derek’s eyes glinted dangerously in the light of a distant streetlight as they focused on Jimmy.
Fuck, oh god, oh fuck-
For a moment, Jimmy thought he would die right then and there, if not from Derek’s magic, then from the heart-palpitations he could feel in his chest. But then Derek laughed. And it wasn’t an evil cackle or a maniacal giggle, it was just Derek’s usual friendly ‘I got you good’ laugh. Jimmy’s knees gave out from under him, so deep was his relief. Derek rushed over to him, concerned but still smiling like a loon.
“The fuck, Derek! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”
“Aw come on, you should have recognised the evil villain routine, you’ve been to my show often enough.”
“Asshole.” To his embarrassment, his voice cracked a little. His eyes burned. “Do you have any idea how scared I was?”
Derek flopped down on the sidewalk beside him. “Probably as scared as I was knowing that any day one of the others could find you and erase your memory.” Jimmy had never heard Derek sound so small before. He sighed, he shuffled a little closer and leaned himself against Derek’s shoulder.
They sat there in silence for a while. Derek’s warmth beside him a comfortable contrast to the cool night air. “Do you have a plan?” Derek asked. Without any wind to carry his voice, it sounded strangely intimate even though they were outside in the middle of the city.
“My plan was to follow you to your secret magical society or spy on your secret wizard club meeting.” Derek let out a surprised bark of laughter.
“Secret club meeting?” he asked incredulously.
“So you aren’t denying the bit about the secret magical society then?” Derek didn’t honour that question with an answer. “Do you have a plan then?” Jimmy asked.
Derek shook his head. “Not really, I just wanted to find you before the others…”
Jimmy shivered at the thought of what would have happened if anyone else had discovered him. He didn’t know what exactly they would have erased. That one conversation? His friendship with Derek? Everything to do with magic, even the concept? He didn’t want to think about it. It could still happen. They were right there in the middle of the city, out in the open for anyone to see. Any moment now, Rogers could jump out from behind a corner and erase his memories. And who knows what he would do to Derek when he realised he wasn’t planning to do the same. “Do you want to go on the run with me?” Jimmy asked.
Derek looked at him, his bright eyes wide in surprise. Then a small smile spread on his face. “Alright.”