Eric sat in the back seat with Terry, but had no idea where they were going. He had, in fact, no memory of getting into the car at all. One minute he was shouldering his backpack and heading out the door of Thorne’s apartment—“You’re crazy,” he’d told Terry. “I thought I was nuts, but you people are making me feel all kinds of better about that.” —and the next thing he knew he was neatly belted into the back seat listening to a stupid argument about magic.

Chapter 6: Redshirts, an excerpt

Another blackout. What kind of drugs had he been mainlining that left such extreme aftereffects?

Thorne glared back at Terry from the front seat of Uncle’s—Eric assumed the vehicle belonged to the old man—1990 Chrysler Imperial.

“How many times do I have to say this?” Thorne asked. “That’s not the right word for it.”

“Well, what would you call it if not magic?” Terry asked. He was baiting her, though, Eric could tell. Like maybe this was an old question that had been answered many times. Terry just liked getting a rise out of Thorne. Were they a couple, then?

Jealousy caused a flash of red that distracted him. Uncle had said he could see red around Eric, so it couldn’t just be Eric’s imagination. Could it? Hadn’t he been seeing colors all his life, really? In fact, it had been happening for so long and so often that he had mostly stopped noticing until Uncle brought it to his attention.

Finally, Uncle brought the bickering to an end by saying, “Just as the word ‘soul’ is an inadequate label for the inner essence of self, so words like magic and power and spells are no more than a cloth thrown over the true shape of a thing.”

“Exactly.” Thorne crossed her arms and flounced back into the passenger seat.

“Well,” Terry said, but in a more subdued ‘I give in’ tone of voice, “You’ve got to call it something so I choose the word magic. Get over it.”

“I don’t care what you call it,” Eric said. “I just want to know what the fuck is going on here. Where are we going? How did I get here?”

“The mother of Storm’s Eye is in trouble,” Uncle answered. “We were on our way to help her when Thorne summoned me.”

“You must be here because we need you. Although I have no idea why.”

Summoned? Eric shook his head. It didn’t matter. “I’m being held against my will here. You can’t cart an unconscious person from one place to another like this. It’s called kidnapping.”

Even to his own ears he sounded like an old woman complaining about her arthritis. A scared old woman at that.

They were traveling on the Interstate; traffic buzzed around them. An exit ramp that the car wound up brought them to another route leading to a long stretch of pavement that seemed to float across a wide expanse of water. Traffic going in their direction, east, was light, but the cars headed into the city crawled by slowly, the traffic further compromised by construction that caused a closure of one lane.

“Relocation would not have worked if your subconscious did not want to go.” Uncle caught Eric’s eye in the rearview mirror, then looked away to merge left.

“Relocation? Relocation?” The old man made absolutely no fucking sense at all. “Whatever. I’m telling you my conscious mind does not—fucking—want to be here.” Red rage and a feeling of disorientation made him dizzy.

Before things could get worse, however, Thorne looked back at him and said quietly, “Look, I don’t exactly know what the hell’s happening here either. Not completely. But I trust Uncle and you can, too.”

Then, when she saw Eric had calmed down a bit, she explained, “Relocation is the ability to move an object or a person to another place. But the rules don’t allow that to happen if the person, or thing, animal, whatever, isn’t supposed to be in the new location. You must be here because we need you.”
She turned to look out the windshield again, but he thought he heard her mutter, “Although I have no idea why the hell that is.”

“So you’re saying one of you magicked—” Eric used the word deliberately, to annoy Thorne. “—me from the apartment to this car just like that.” He snapped his fingers. “Poof. Done. Bob’s your uncle and fuck if you care what I want or where we’re going.”

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