2019-10-26 - A to Z of magic


things get weird around a wizard i know right

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Sat Oct 26 23:41:55 2019
Location: {$location}

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It began with parking meters.

Everyone in New York thinks they know the best place for pizza, or a sandwich, or whatever. Zatanna is actually, measurably right when it comes to doughnuts. There's a small shop in the suburbs, quiet, humble, that makes a maple bacon long john you are objectively wrong not to like, and it was to that shop's curb Zatanna pulled up to in her BMW. She made sure to align the pole of the parking meter with the bottom corner of the passenger's side of the windshield, an old trick to be sure you're properly positioned in the spot, threw it into park, grabbed her purse, and got out to put a dime in the meter.

But the meter wasn't there.

Zatanna frowned at the space where the meter should have been. It didn't occur to her to wonder if she'd been wrong about the meter having been there in the first place: Zatanna doesn't do self-doubt. Cautiously, she pulled out her cell phone and flipped on the video camera to document the phenomenon.

In her camera, the meter was there.

Frowning, Zatanna glanced around. It was early afternoon; no one was on the streets looking for doughnuts at this hour except for the Mistress of Magic. She smiled wryly to herself and glanced over her phone at the place where the meter should be. Nothing. Glanced through the camera: the meter was there.

She reached for the meter while looking over her phone: her hand passed through empty air.

She reached for the meter while looking at it through her phone: her hand closed around November-cold metal.

Oh, that's dangerous. Zatanna withdrew her hand hastily and stuffed it into her purse, feeling the comforting weight of her wand near the bottom of the clutter of leather folds and plastic applicators. In that state she remains, considering how to proceed.

If there's two things consistent about New York City no matter what New York City America Chavez happens to be in, it's these:

1) Weird shit always gravitates here, inevitably, and
2) People always have strong opinions about the best food here.

It's the latter that America is trying to sort through when the former crops up; learning the lay of the land in a veritable nexus of insanity is always an important first step forward in new worlds, and learning the lay of the land of the food situation in a given NYC is an ordeal unto itself — and an extremely important one at that. It's why, when the first metaphysical tinge at the back of her skull crackles with dim but disconcerting life, America is presently emerging from Famous Joe's Pizza, a meat lover's Sicilian Square slice dangling precariously from between her lips as she turns narrowed brown eyes towards the sky.

America stares. Frowns around her pizza. The feeling intensifies.

"… Shit."

And in a sudden smear of red, white and blue, the Utopian vagabond is off to the skies.

And that is how Zatanna Zatara gets a sudden visitor dressed in a blue denim jacket, red-and-white-striped t-shirt, black shorts and star-spangled sneakers landing into her life, very literally. A bolt of speed has America hitting ground a good handful of feet away from the other woman, so as not to startle or potentially catch her in the blowback of her impact. She looks dead on where that parking meter should be. Frowns deeper.

"/Shit./" Dark brown gaze focuses on Zatanna. She'd tell her to evacuate but — she recognizes a pro when she sees one. So, instead, she asks: "How long's it been like this?"

She is, of course, still eating that pizza slice. After all, she too is a pro; she's good at multi-tasking.

There's being a pro, and there's being dead inside. You'd have to be the latter not to be startled by America's supersonic appearance! But her outfit, casual and even ratty as it is compared to Zatanna's luxurious cashmere sweater and angora pants, is themed well enough Zatanna would have picked up on her superheroic nature even without the, y'know, superspeed flight. Zatanna's just perceptive like that.

"I don't know. I just got here by accident, I wasn't looking for trouble." Zatanna doublechecks the phone and the naked eye view, then suggests, "It looks like there's what we call a perceptual paradox incursion, where the problem only exists if you can see it but seeing it is what makes it exist in the first place, so now part of our reality is mixing up with someone else's." She stows her phone in her jacket pocket and considers. She pulls her hands up to her face, both forefingers and thumbs in the shape of an L she joins together into a rectangle and holds up to her eye like a director trying to frame a scene, then steps closer to America and holds the same frame up to the Utopian's eyes.

There's the parking meter.

A hand pushing through wild, wavy brown hair, America certainly strikes that seasoned, superheroic air beyond that exquisite attention to color-coordinated detail — it's the kind of sense that makes her seem much older than she really is as she peers at that empty space where there should be a parking meter, but isn't. Her hand falls to her side as she finishes off the remnants of that pizza, her lips pulling into a line of thin, pensive thought.

"So you know your shit, huh?" It's a sincere question — and one that gets answered soon enough when Zatanna draws in close to offer the painter's frame of her fingers up to America's scrutiny. She leans in, squeezing one eye shut — and through that literally hand-made aperture, sees the shape of what she's been sensing. A breath escapes her in a soft grunt of consternation.

"Yeah, okay. Perceptual paradox incursion. Fuck me." She leans back, hands finding her jacket pockets as she stares at that empty space, seeing more than just the innocuous air. She feels out the shape of it, brows furrowed faintly. "… Feels like it's a pretty fresh bleed." The star tattoos on the inside of her wrist start to glow in preparation as she looks at Zatanna, a similar blue hue beginning to illuminate her gaze.

"You got a lotta experience with this kinda thing, chica?"

Zatanna Zatara says, "A little, here and there," Zatanna answers, though the modesty is belied by the way she tosses her hair (only ebon for now) in an unconscious gesture of pride. "You must have your own?" she guesses dryly with a glance at America's glowing tattoos. "We professionals just have a sixth sense for that kind of thing.""

The answer has America snorting in a wry kind of amusement, especially when punctuated by that casual flip of the other woman's hair. Her right hand curls into a fist, her eyes now fully a solid blue glow.

"Enough," is her own answer, interminably vague though it is — and punctuated, in her case, by the manifestation of a great blue-white, five-pointed star of hard light.

That she summarily punches.

In the glittery shatter of light shards, a hole is punctured through the boundaries of space. Beyond that portal lies here — just, a different here. A here with the parking meter that -should- be here. Her brows lift.

'I can handle it,' she wants to say, but — right now, she can't. It inspires a few seconds of hesitation in America, before she looks back at the magician. "If you can sift the crap that doesn't belong out, I can shut it down. Sound good?" A second passes.

And Zatanna's observation earns a small, lopsided smile. A sixth sense. "Yeah. It's called 'bullshit induced migraines.'"

Zatanna notes those wry smirks from the corner of her eye and feels a smile blossoming on her lips. She doesn't try to restrain it. "I can handle that," she agrees, reaching back into her purse for her wand, which she allows to hang loosely at her side like a loaded pistol. "Anything I need to know about the portal? Do we have to hold hands or whatever to get through it?" she asks, reaching out with her right hand toward you in case this is the kind of portal where you need contact with its summoner. You never know, with portals.

Brows lift in that curious, subdued way of hers as America spies that wand held like a veteran might handle a deadly weapon they really know their way around.

"You're all in on the magician thing, huh?" she notes off-handedly, glowing eyes refocusing on her portal, her tone and expression a perfect poker face. Thankfully —

"It's not a bad look." —America, at least, has no qualms with speaking her mind most of the time. Queen of understatement though she may be.

She looks at the hand offered to her afterwards, for a few precious seconds of silence. Do they need to hold hands?

The grip of America's rougher fingers slide around Zatanna's offered set, before she tugs the other woman in through that shining, shattered aperture.

"Nope," is her answer, the second they start to step through.

Zatanna laughs so much at that cocky grab of her hand and cockier answer that she completely misses the chance to cast her spell before she passes through the portal. She can only squeeze America's rough hand as they pass through to a place that looks, well, pretty much like the street they just crossed through to. Buildings off to one side, street off to the other, the usual. No cars, though, and the storefronts can't be individually identified because they're covered in thick webs, each strand as wide as one of America's fingers and unevenly beaded with odd, tumorous lumps of silk where one must assume the giant spinnerets that made these webs stuttered in their wicked work. The road begins to fade before it can reach where the opposite sidewalk should be, instead replaced by what must be this dimension's natural ground, an unpaved ochre kind of dirt or clay that stretches featurelessly beyond Zatanna's sight, which actually doesn't extend very far because it's night on this side. Light still emits from the area around the adventurers, as if carried over from the Earth it's part of, but a glance at the sky reveals it's a paper-thin black membrane with holes poked in it to allow the prismatic light behind it to peek through like stars, if stars could scream like the wind.

In the distance, the shadows watch. Zatanna doesn't even know what that means, but she's sure of it.

"Krow sehtolc," Zatanna says with a careless flip of her wand, and there's a brief flash of light as her chic autumnwear vanishes into her top hat, her tuxedo top with gold cummerbund, her white gloves, her bikini bottom, her signature fishnets, her leather heels. Her hair becomes a veil of night in which true stars sparkle. She gives America's hand one more squeeze, this time to draw comfort from the superwoman's strength, before releasing it. "We better know each other's names," she says as she peers into the outer darkness. "I'm Zatanna."

It's a bit like diving into water, or even as subtle as feeling a change in air pressure, passing that membrane in space; it's something America's grown used to over time. The viscosity of reality is different from universe to universe, dimension to dimension, and here is no different. Here, the main difference is, it feels like tiny bugs are crawling all over the small hairs on the back of her neck in a sickly skitter of space.

When the glow from her eyes fades, America sees exactly why. Any glimmer of a smile fades from her lips at the webs that wrap around this world like overgrown moss, the featureless wrongness of this dimension.

"Oh," she breathes, slowly. "One of these places. Great."

Her voice is low. And despite the sarcasm, the tension of someone preparing themselves for the worst runs through that superpowered musculature of hers, rolling from shoulders all the way to forearms and legs; it's only compromised by the way she returns that squeeze, a small sign of confident reassurance for Zatanna, before America glances the magician's way, sizing up her Krow sehtolc thoughtfully.

"Zatanna, huh," she echoes, tucking that freed hand into her jacket pocket. "America. You do your thing, yeah? When things start to go south, I'll have your back." When, not if. Because… just look at this place. She turns, hands curling into ready fists with one more passing remark:

"Yep. Magician look works for you."

The corners of Zatanna's eyes crinkle with mischief as she grins at the Utopian. "Why, Miss America, you're bound to make me blush," she drawls in a not terribly credible Southern belle accent, before returning to the business at hand. With a moment's thought, she decides, "It's best to turn your back on all that and look at the real world, but only if you can convince yourself what's behind you doesn't exist. It'll be worse if it exists in your imagination than in your head." With that, she turns her back on the alien world engulfing this out of place bit of street (she wonders briefly how much of the buildings exist here, then forces the thought from her mind: that's exactly the kind of problem she was warning America about), standing… well, not really standing. Posing. Her arms are folded under her chest as if in thought, her hips are slightly cocked, and her left leg is extended to the side further than is absolutely necessary. She looks like a pin-up as she does it, which is at least partially calculated on her part. If she can distract America's thoughts, that makes both of them safer.

The webs, to start with. They're just strung up like cobwebs rather than like traps, but at least symbolically, webs represent anchors. They represent something holding you in place. She doesn't like thinking about them, doesn't like lending them her reality by considering them, but they seem like a place to start from. She glances over her shoulder at America to ask, "How strong are you? Do you think you could lift a quarter of a city block if you had to?"

Something where a strong application of punching does not quite solve the problem is just slightly, regrettably, out of America's wheelhouse. As much as she has a hard time bringing herself to rely on others, she can at least follow the instructions given by Zatanna — help, by not making the problem worse, at least until she can shut down this zone of madness.

So for now, she manages an entertained sort of snort at Zatanna's words and a sarcastic but good-natured roll of her eyes that looks practiced to perfection before she turns herself about, facing away from the pile up of metaphorical, metaphysical cobwebs. She does a good job keeping those thoughts from her head to give this reality any more legitimacy than it already has - this isn't the first brand of this kind of existential terror she's ever seen - as those dark brown eyes fall on Zatanna, deep in thought. Her head cocks to the right.

Well. The distraction isn't not working.

Whatever thoughts might be running through America's head to starve this world of credence, though, they're interrupted by that question; America looks up towards Zatanna. A brow lifts, in perfect time to the upward, smirking twitch of the right corner of her lip.

"Yep," she states, just flat out matter-of-factly. Not lacking for confidence, at least. "Just name the quarter."

Zatanna notices America noticing Zatanna and shows her teeth in a quick little grin. "Good girl," she says, her accent briefly and unknowingly Cockney, a leftover from a previous relationship she isn't quite aware is clinging to her. "I'm going to vanish those things," she says, gesturing vaguely with her wand toward the webs. She doesn't want to even name them. "Then I think it's just about moving this area back where it goes. It'll be a state of mind as much as a physical feat."

America is nothing if not uncannily observant; call it a necessity of how she grew up. She's also nothing if not eternally close-lipped about many thing, so when Zatanna bleeds a bit of Cockney into her tone, it's met with a small, barely-there look of scrutiny before her gaze tilts up.

"Yeah, that's me," she declares, with that effortlessly dry humor. "The good girl."

Still, America falls into business like someone who was made for this line of weird, worrisome work; her feet lift off the ground not seconds after she says that, hands pulling from her pockets clenched in ready fists as she ascends into the stale, membranous skies. She looks down towards Zatanna, giving a glib, two-fingered salute.

"Do your magic. I've got your ass."

Physical, America can definitely do.

"Be careful not to break it. It already has a big crack down it," Zatanna warns with a little smirk before turning to the gargantuan webs that cover the storefronts like a half-rotted cere cloth. She takes a deep breath, points her wand authoritatively at the webs, and declares firmly, "Uoy erew reven ereh!" And they weren't. They were a trick of the light, or a stray bit of imagination. That's all.

The strands of webbing snap as if cut with invisible shears. They collapse elastically back to their anchor points (it's hard for Zatanna not to think of a severed tendon) and begin to melt, like cotton candy in water. Zatanna stands there, feet wide apart and wand pointed, letting the invisible winds of magic swirl her hair and coattail until the webbing is gone.

Zatanna doesn't bother telling America that's her cue. At America's speed, she'll figure it out.

And amongst all those subdued responses, America Chavez finally cracks a grin at Zatanna's joke.

Pearly white teeth flash as the multiversal wanderer shakes her head. One hand comes up to her face as she mutters a very warm "muy soso" before she looks back down Zatanna's way.

"Looks pretty sturdy to me from here," she claims, brows hiking. Her body tenses in readiness.

"But no promises. Sorry."

Her words aside, though, America handles those next few moments with aplomb. As webbing snaps and shrivels like connective tissues introduced to a crash course in entropy, the Utopian woman rears backward, tattoos glowing. That portal between spatial boundaries stretches outward at her coaxing. And as tendons dissolve —

— America -crashes- down, gripping onto that stolen (quarter of a) city block. Muscles strain; teeth grit.

But her eyes are full of that wild, resolved intensity of hers as she starts to carry that city block where it needs to go.

Zatanna winks up at America. The gesture is so natural it nearly overcomes her instinct to notice that construction paper sky shading the insane lights behind it.

Almost. Not quite.

Zatanna's regal, theatrically masterful posture falters just a bit. Her shoulders slump a bit and her hand trembles a bit. In that moment, her belief, so carefully cultivated, cracks, and she remembers an old adage: 'If there is the tiniest crack in your circle, then a demon will thrust a hair through it and blind you.'

A hair. Ticklish. Like the tickle on her arm, which she looks down to and sees a monster the size of a rat, spider-like but with thirteen unequal legs and a lobster-like tail that curls up over its back like a scorpion. It its eyes, she can see the reflections of a child's face, vacant-eyed and slack-jawed but grinning, hairless of scalp and eyebrows.

The city block refuses to budge.

Her first instinct is to destroy it.

Maybe that would inspire troublingly existential thoughts in anyone else, that their first thought upon seeing an unknown factor is 'punch it until it explodes into a thousand non-problems.' America is blissfully free of any such doubt. She sees the thing crawling up Zatanna's arm like a disgusting amalgamation of silverfish and spider writ large. She feels the immovable city block strain against her not-inconsiderable strength, but refuse to move.

"Nngh — gh — for fuck's sake-" And, releasing that block, that is exactly what she plans to do. Rip it off Zatanna. Tear it in half. Hurl it into whatever viscous substance makes up space beyond that sickening membrane. Her body tenses, one leg drawing back and the other bending up against her chest like someone preparing for a dash. Her eyes steel —

— and then she remembers, what Zatanna told her before about all this. Acknowledging it will just make it worse. Punching it will just make it worse. Anything she's good at will just make it worse. Just thinking all this is making it worse, stop thinking about it, stop thinking about thinking about it


She has to fix this. She has to. Her mind races, annoyance and frustration tumbling through her expression because she knows every second spent is another second spent acknowledging it. She can't. She can't. She can't she has to fix this she can't — wait. Brown eyes widen.

"Yo! Magic girl!"

And those eyes focus on Zatanna, piercing in a way that demands attention. Her entire expression is wreathed in a certain amount of intensity that is certainly appropriate for the moment —

"What's the food like at that shop you were going to?"

— maybe not so much, though, for the question she asks. But she asks it, that disarmingly mundane thing, expecting — demanding — a thoughtful answer.

Right now, for all the world, America Chavez does not give a fuck about anything else except Zatanna's favorite donuts.

Zatanna's sensitivity is a double-edged sword. Things that are not real can be real to her, but part of being a sorcerer is self-control. Zatanna looks firmly up at America and nothing but America, affecting a natural-sounding laugh and falling into the cadence of her stage patter as she replies, "Maple bacon longjohns. No creme filling, just a yeast roll with spaghetti slices of thick-cut bacon and a homemade maple glaze. I never asked how they make it because if I knew, I'd make it myself and never fit into my costume again!" Pause for laughter, and now, while the audience is in the river, the flop. She casually brushes the questing thing off her arm, letting it vanish like magic as she continues, "I go there on my cheat day, and even then only in the afternoon so I won't be tempted by freshness. Where did you get your slice?"

Listen to the mouth, overlook what the hands are doing. All the best magic works like that.

America is not exactly the most talkative of people. But that's not to say she's shy; far from it, considering the way she just eases naturally into this conversation now.

She just likes to save her words for when they actually matter, and they don't matter any more than they do right now.

"Shit, that sounds good," she empathizes with the rueful shake of her head and a big grin. Her fingers curl around stolen concrete. "Got mine from Joe's. Been looking for the best I can find here; their Sicilian is some ridiculous pizza magic." 'Looking for the best' would imply some unfamiliarity. Maybe she's new to New York City. Maybe that will inspire more thought. More distraction.

The creature is gone from the peripheries of her vision; her eyes narrow. The muscles of her arms tense again.

But she flashes Zatanna a small, easy smile. A little distraction in a sea of them.

"Hey," she offers. "How about I get one of those donuts with you? Make sure you're not just fucking with me about how good they are."

And, teeth flashing, she begins to pull.

"No way in hell I can believe something like that without seeing it for myself. Yeah?"

"You, madam, have got yourself a date," Zatanna informs America with a small, intimate smile. A flirt's smile, a coquette's smile, but a real one, between two people making a connection on the street, a street filled with warm yellow sunlight tempered by a cold New York breeze. Zatanna squints her eyes against the glare of sunlight behind you because why wouldn't she? The curtain has been peeled back, the smoke blown away and the mirrors hidden, leaving the two ladies in a new place almost exactly like the old one, ready to take a bow.

Zatanna grins up at America, triumphantly.

"Abra cadabra."

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