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Silver Bullet -- Spirit and Fire

I love writing the magic in the Order of the Air! It's not big high fantasy explosions, but magic no less effective for its size. I especially love writing Alma and Mitch's low magic, the application of Hermetic principles to a very homegrown style of magic. Sometimes, like the breaking of the Eldrich Wind in Steel Blues, it's decidedly quirky! (Stasi really feels that magic is not at all like the internal combustion engine!)

This is a piece I particularly like from Silver Bullet, which is coming out in a few months. In which Mitch invokes spirit and fire....



The approach into Woodward Field over the Great Salt Lake was one of the most spectacular pieces of scenery Mitch had ever seen. He'd flown this route just about once a week for the last seven months, and on and off for ten years before that, but it never got old no matter how routine the flight.

This morning's flight was routine, taking off from Colorado Springs on schedule at 8:30, four passengers in the back of the Terrier, for a four hour flight to Salt Lake City. One of them was Doc Saunders, on business at the university hospital. Three of them were missionary boys on their way home, a year long sojourn in Texas that ended just in time for Christmas, and they were heady with excitement, laughing and looking out the windows, clean shaven faces and voices that still broke. He'd been that young once.

As they climbed for altitude over the peaks, used to the location of every updraft, he wondered what they saw when they looked at him. Probably the old guy, pops in his battered leather flight jacket, aviator sunglasses worn in the dead of winter against the snow glare, smoking under the wing waiting for the passengers to board while the boys crowded on. He supposed he was that guy now.

And there was the Great Salt Lake, improbably tropically blue and strange, cerulean shading to azure, like some bizarre jewel set among barren mountains and snow. City and farmland were dusted with snow, unbearably bright in the noon sun. The ridge lines stood out rocky and black. The lake -- there were no words for it, clear and endless, deep sapphire in its center. It looked like another planet must look, improbable and gorgeous. No, he'd never get tired of this, dropping down to five hundred feet to skim over the surface of the lake like an oversized water bird, the Terrier's shadow chasing just ahead of them like an eagle stooping after fish. If the Terrier could have whooped she would have. Mitch couldn't help but think that she enjoyed it as much as he did.

The paved asphalt runway came up and they glided onto it perfectly. Salt Lake City took good care of their airport. The runway was neatly plowed and salted.

"Hope y'all had a nice flight," Mitch said, cutting the engines and coming back to let down the stairs.

"It was super, Mr. Sorley!" one of the boys said. "How long did it take you to learn to do that?"

"About twenty years," Mitch said.

"It would be worth it, wouldn’t it?" the boy said. His whole face was alight. He's got the bug, Mitch thought. Once you got the bug, you never got over it.

"I reckon it is," Mitch said solemnly. "You boys have a good Christmas."

He left the baggage handlers to load cargo. He'd check it, of course, but might as well let them unload and load before he balanced it. They'd fuel the baby too, and of course he'd check that too. He had two hours on the ground in Salt Lake before he started back, three passengers this time and more cargo, a bunch of boxes that looked big on the cart but he bet weren’t heavy, consigned as they were to AnnaMaria's Millinery in Colorado Springs. Hats didn't weight much but they took up a lot of space.

Mitch stopped well away from the fuel truck parked by the hangar and felt in his breast pocket for his cigarettes. Four hours there and four hours back, with two hours on the ground between made for a long day, but not too much to take solo. It made sense for him to take the Wednesday Salt Lake trip because it wasn't an overnight. The Santa Fe/Albuquerque run was always an overnight, which made it awkward for him and Al to do it together. Or at least more expensive, as they had to spring for two rooms. It made more sense for Lewis and Al to take that one and for him to take Salt Lake. Not that he minded. It was a beautiful damn trip.

He lit his cigarette and took a long drag. Lewis's dream nagged at him. Lewis dreamed true. They all knew that. And when Diana wanted to show him something it wasn't unimportant. Mysterious, maybe, but not unimportant. And Stasi. She hadn't told him about the job, about of all people Pelley wanting her to burgle the Metropolitan Museum of Art for him! Well, why should she? It was none of his business. He hadn't told her that Henry had offered him a job. He hadn't told anybody. He needed to think about it himself. Alma would say it was his decision. Her friendship wouldn't waver whether he flew for Gilchrist or Republic, and he'd still be part owner. Only he'd have a lot more money to put into the company if he wanted to. And Stasi…. It wasn't like she was his wife. She didn't have a right to know. It wasn't her life on the line too. So he didn't have a say in what she did either.

Mitch blew smoke, watched it dissipating in the wind that skimmed over the field. Pelley. The man had made the hair on the back of his neck stand up all out of proportion to the things he'd said. He was just a nut. He was some guy Henry knew who had his own gig about Ascended Masters. Yeah, he'd been rude to Lewis but it was more than that. Mitch had disliked him the moment he saw him. And this business of trying to get Jerry's Hellenistic medallion -- there was something else going on. He'd had to leave before they were through talking about what Jerry had said, the little Jerry had said on the phone, because he had to take this flight to Salt Lake. But something was seriously rotten.

Mitch flicked his friendly Ronson again as if relighting his cigarette. It was a very small fire, but it was fire. It was fire you could keep in your pocket. It was fire you could have anywhere. Nobody ever thought anything about a guy lighting a cigarette. It wasn't occult. He cupped the flame with his other hand as though keeping the wind off, feeling its miniscule warmth. Not the patterns of the past that Jerry read. Not the future as Stasi and Lewis saw it, but the patterns of the present, the warp and weft of the moment that is, all the pieces that tie together in invisible ways, pattern and synchronicity, energy flowing like fire following lines of gasoline. Show me, Mitch thought. Just a little push of energy, a bead of fire flowing down lines, a spark jumping inside an engine to begin combustion, a tiny push from him, a tiny boost from a miniature flame, part of the much greater dance of energy that was the cosmos. Show me the pattern.

He held the thought in his mind, nursing it to the last wisp of burning tobacco. And that too was a tie, a strength. These were Camels, made in his hometown. This was North Carolina tobacco, drawing its magic from red clay soil since the Indians had first used it for ceremony. His ancestors lay in that soil, their flesh become one with it, generation after generation on back. They were part of the land now, men and women who had worked it and loved it and died for it. Their blood was dust, except where it ran through him. This tobacco was part of him, drawn from the soil, drawn from blood and flesh made mineral again, pattern on pattern on pattern. Show me, he said again, not compelling but asking. He had the right to ask. Flame, show me. Smoke, show me, spirit and fire.

In the diner. He could feel it like a trace, like a line of brightness leading across the tarmac to the airport diner, another piece of the puzzle. Ok then. Mitch smiled and ground the butt out carefully with his boot. Time for some lunch.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
squishydish
May. 29th, 2013 02:03 am (UTC)
Gorgeous writing and an "oooh" at the cigarette link to his ancestral home.
jo_graham
May. 30th, 2013 11:58 am (UTC)
Thank you! And I'm so glad you like that. The cigarette thing is my favorite. And after all, nobody sees any magic. All they see is a guy standing around smoking a cigarette! :)
squishydish
May. 31st, 2013 07:53 am (UTC)
Yes, I should have mentioned that, too -- no circle, no chanting, no glowing sigils traced in the air, just a little flash from a lighter and a plume of smoke! Nothing to see here!
jo_graham
Jun. 1st, 2013 06:33 pm (UTC)
Yep! It's very discreet magic! Mitch and Alma particularly are good at doing things while not looking like they're doing anything!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )