prompt: morning, title: the bargain in "the next big thing" flash fiction

  • May 22, 2022, 1:41 p.m.
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The golem, the sasquatch, Frankenstein’s doctor, all these impossible monsters that should not exist, the washed-up jock and the rock stars past twenty-seven, the self-pitying failure, the holy witch. All of us too weird to live and too rare to die quite yet. The promised lands now broken and the cities of dreams that cannot survive past the next morning’s light, waiting for Sunset to come and allow them a new generation of rubes to fool yet again. Magic transcending the real and the disenchantment that comes when the deal you once agreed to is finally collected upon.

The scientist and the giant, all wired up to the wall, the doctor hoping to give himself the spark of a new life instead. It’s funny, or maybe not funny, but it causes me to think on the way I was taught to explain between the three different mental stats in Dungeons and Dragons, intelligence, wisdom and charisma. Intelligence is knowing that Frankenstein was the name of the doctor, not the monster. Wisdom is knowing that the doctor himself was the actual monster. But charisma is knowing when not to be pedantic about who is called what, that calling the creature Frankenstein is part of our common vocabulary and fighting about it will just let people know you’re a snob.

Meanings, of course, change. People, well, people can change too but it takes a lot more effort than it does for a word to change. Meanings change as society develops, as technology advances, as dialects mutate and merge upon contact with each other. It happens organically and cannot be stopped, whereas a person has to consciously put in the work if they want to become something better than they were in the past. What does not change, at least as far as the law stands, as far as God and the angels and the devils and magic stand, is a deal. A deal doesn’t change, it just is or is not. Mitzi felt that in her very bones as the conjurations took hold to “fix it all”, hoping that would save Frank the last yeti’s life. She could feel it, how whatever was happening, this was something that was final. She could sense her connection to holy magic splintering, faltering.

She did not hear these exact words in the voice of an angel or God as something violent but small, powerful but immaterial as the breeze was leaving her, but she knew what it would be saying if such forces spoke in plain English words. “All right, Margaret Nussbaum,” it would have said, “but something this big it’s the last that you’ll get. You’ll have it indeed. Goodbye.”

Which, yeah, she expected. That’s how magic works, that’s how dreams work and that’s how life works on a larger scale. You get to ride on a lightning bolt for just a little bit and it’s thrilling and it’s terrifying but know it lasts only so long. And then you’re left with whatever’s next.

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