The Grand Design Part I

This is the first 500 words of a fantasy novella. The second 500 words will come tomorrow. And so on and so on, until it’s finished. The title is tentative. Everything is tentative. I might go back and revise this entire thing at any time and you can’t stop me.

Magic requires wisdom, fortitude of the mental and physical varieties, intensive study, and finesse. Magic also requires decent aim, a fact which is seldom appreciated.

Alexis Smith stood by the bus shelter across the street from the girls’ high school she taught at in Andong. It was a warm May Friday afternoon, green leaves having long since replaced the cherry blossoms, and it was not a day where she could be expected to contemplate the finer intricacies of magic, even had she believed that such a force existed. She’d had to confiscate far too many phones due to the misuse of Kakaotalk for that.

Most of the students were already gone, having caught the previous buses or headed off to various after-school academies or home for the weekend after a long week at the dorms. A few stragglers huddled about, chattering in Korean about things she hoped were legal. (Her school had a tough rep, or so she’d heard. One couldn’t assume.)

The time was 4:57 according to her smartphone. She still hadn’t decided if she was going to catch the bus to Daegu that night. She knew Jade and Leah were, but she wasn’t getting paid until next week and she was sure people would be at Indis tonight, or maybe she just wanted to stay at home and torrent Game of Thrones…

One of her coteachers, Miss Choi, stomped up next to her, turned to face the road, halted with the force of a soldier coming to attention. Alexis hadn’t had any classes with her today, so she had only seen her at lunch – where she sat mostly silently, ‘mmm mmm’ing her responses, jabbing the mackerel with the metal chopsticks with enough force to slice through the bone. Her normally perfectly coiffed hair hung lank in a ponytail, her dress was wrinkled, and even her makeup was slapdash.

“So,” said Alexis. “What are you doing this weekend?”

A taxi passed, with a long, loud honk. Then a second taxi.

“We’re going to drink tonight,” announced Miss Choi.

Alexis blinked. “O-“

“No,” said Miss Choi. “Tonight is too far. We’re going for dinner. Now. Then we’re going to drink. Do you like soju?”

The last time Alexis drank soju, she spent the next morning mainlining coffee, sausages, and eggs. “It’s okay,” she said. “Miss Choi, where’s your car?”

Miss Choi’s lips tightened to a thin, glossy line. “What do you want to eat? I think maybe samgyeopsal.

Alexis had known Miss Choi for barely two months, but she knew these things about her: she was responsible for the C-level classes, she was the only coteacher anywhere near her own age, she had the capacity to make her life hell if she saw fit, she seemed nice enough, and she religiously avoided scooping up particularly fatty foods onto her lunch tray. ‘Samgyeopsal’ meant ‘serious.’ So much for Daegu. So she nodded. “Okay, okay, sounds good.”

She blinked.

Miss Choi blinked.

The sky was bright, brighter than it should be for this time of day, and they hadn’t been facing west.

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