Chapter 3: Yer A Wizard, Josh
"I'm a… what now?"
"Oh geez, I know it's hard to understand, especially when it's this sudden…" The girl said with a sympathetic tone to her voice. "But it's the truth! What you saw happen before your very eyes should tell you about as much."
"M-magic?" John muttered with some difficulty. "Do you expect us to buy into that? No way… there's no way what we saw was magic!"
The two kept going on, but I tuned out their voices. Right now, I was focused on trying to get a grip on reality. So… I was a wizard. I feel like I shouldn't believe it, like I should be on John's side. I'm not a kid anymore, so I shouldn't buy into a phony explanation like 'it was magic all along'. Under normal circumstances, I would have not believed her, but...
To say these were normal circumstances, however, would be to say that the sun is just a giant ball of cheese. As silly as that metaphor is, it was the truth. The only rational explanation for what's been going on with me along wasn't exactly what you'd call rational in any other situation, but there was no doubt in my mind. Everything that has been happening - the weird dreams, the sudden sinkhole, and now this - it was all pointing to once conclusion, as unbelievable as it was.
"I understand." Both John and the girl turned to look at me, both wearing a look of surprise on their faces. I couldn't really blame them for a reaction like that - I myself couldn't believe those words came out of my mouth. To be honest, I was far from understanding what was going on… but at the very least, I wanted to hear what she had to say before I make any more judgements.
The girl looked as if she was about to say something, but stopped right when she saw the still bleeding gash on my forearm. To be honest, with all that's beein going on, I kinda forgot about it too… at least, until she noticed, and all the pain came rushing back up. "So, that monster really did manage to get one hit in... I was afraid that would happen, so that's why I came prepared."
"W-what do you mean?" John asked with hesitation.
She leaned over my injured arm. The wound was emanating some kind of black smoke, but I had no idea what it could have been. I should have been more afraid, but honestly, I felt more annoyed than scared. Out of all the things that happened tonight, that stupid cut should be the least of my worries.
The girl produced a vial of red liquid from her coat pocket. I couldn't tell what it was, but it seemed to glow brightly as she inspected it. "Whoah whoah whoah, what the heck is that? How can we trust that just not a bunch of acid?"
"Well…" The girl murmured. "This is a concoction that heals wounds like this. Medicine here isn't suited to treat cuts inflicted by monsters, and it would probably just make it worse. You have to trust me, okay?"
"Fine…" I muttered in response. John shot me a confused glance, but nevertheless he stepped back and let the girl lean further in.
"I'm sorry, this might sting a little at first." Carefully, she poured the contents of the vial over the cut. The liquid evaporated quickly when it dripped against my skin, and just like the girl had worn, left an acute burning sensation.
"Ah-aahh! Mother of-"
"Ah, please! Clench your teeth, the pain will be over soon! I promise!"
I clenched my teeth until I felt the pain dissipate. I glanced, fearfully, at my arm, but found that in place of the cut was a pale red mark, which faded away a few moments later. "Do you… feel okay?" The girl asked.
"Y-yeah… thanks." I nodded with a sigh of relief. I flexed my arm a bit to test it out. To my surprise, aside from the faint feeling of soreness, it felt as if nothing had happened. "What… was that anyway?"
"A wraith." The girl answered gravely. "A spirit of death, and a fearsome monster. It's a strange occurence for such a thing to appear in a world like this, and… quite alarming. I don't know what it means, but there's no doubt that something is very wrong."
"No kidding, that really was a monster then…" John stood out against the dark background with his pale skin. Was it always that pale? "I-I don't even know what to believe anymore! But-"
"Forgive me..." The girl interjected, cutting of John from another one of his ramblings. "You shouldn't have seen this. I wasn't expecting an innocent bystander to get caught up in this mess. It's going to be hard to forget something like this, but can you at least promise me not to speak a word of this to anyone?"
John sighed. "It's not like anyone would believe me anyway."
"Joshua." The girl's attention suddenly turned to me. "We have to go. You aren't safe here. If that wraith managed to attack you here, then there's bound to be even more monsters waiting to get to you."
"Why me?" For all that's been said, I still don't have any answers. That thing was a wraith, sure, but what the heck even is a wraith? The more that we talk about this the more questions I have. "What do those things want to do with me?"
As soon as the question left my mouth, the girl's gaze fell to the ground. "I… don't know. Perhaps Mr. Ambrose would know more about this…"
The girl seemed taken aback by the question. "Oh, I forgot! With everything that's going on, I forgot to explain. I've been sent to look for you by Merle Ambrose, an old and powerful wizard who found you in this world. He knew you had powerful magic within you, and that magic would attract some unsavory folks. As you no doubt have already witnessed. That is why he wanted me to seek you out and bring you back to Wizard City, the home of… well, wizards."
"You're taking me to another world?"
"Well, yes." The girl answered, a bit awkwardly. "I hope you understand. You're not really safe here. In Wizard City, you'll at least be in good hands."
I didn't have a choice. That's about as much as I got from her explanation. I wouldn't be giving up much by going along with this girl to 'Wizard City', as she called it. I didn't have any family to speak of, and it's not like there were many people in this place that would miss me if I happened to run away. However, there was one thing - or rather, person - that I would have to leave behind.
John had been quite for quite some time. When the realization of what was going on had dawned on his, he finally mustered up his concern. "So… is this goodbye?"
"For the time being… but not forever." She reassured the both of us, although I could sense the doubt in her voice. From how John's face seemed to darken told me that he also wasn't that convinced. "You can come home one day. And I'm sure you'll like Wizard City. It's certainly a nice place full of cool people that would be willing to help you out. But… um…" Her words fell flat in this tense atmosphere, which she picked up on after a few moments of silence.
"I'll give you two a moment alone. I'll be waiting outside when you're ready." With that said, the girl disappeared into the dark hallway. I heard a door open and close further into the hall, so I assumed that she had kept her promise.
Neither of us really knew what to say at that moment. I mean, what could we really say? I wasn't expecting to say goodbye this soon. Or at all really. I've just been thinking that John would be part of my life forever, because I couldn't accept the possibility that one day we could be seperated so suddenly.
"So… looks like you're really going. So… have fun." John hesitantly offered out his hand for a handshake, which I just as awkwardly accepted. "Man, a wizard huh? Who would have guessed…"
"Yeah. Well…" As our hands seperated, another bout of tense silence fell between us. "You'll be okay, right?"
John shrugged in response. "'Course. I just don't know how I'm going to explain this in the morning. I'm pretty sure they will catch on pretty fast to your sudden disappearance. I can only keep filling in for you during roll call every morning for a few."
I haven't thought about how everyone else would react to my absence until now. Maybe they'd just assume I'd run away? I don't know how much trouble I'll stir up by up and disappearing into the air - I am just an orphan with no family to his name - but I doubt I have a choice in this anymore. All I could do for now was hope for the best, especially for John having to deal with the fallout.
"Good luck with that then." As I started making my way to the door, before I could make it a few steps, I felt arms wrap around me in a tight embrace. "W-whoah!"
"Geez, what's with you? This is what people do when they say goodbye, right?"
"S-sure." I returned the hug, with a lot less ferocity than John. After a few seconds, John finally let himself seperate from the embrace, and I followed suit. "I… never expected you to be the hugging type."
"I'm not. But it was my last chance to say goodbye, was it? Hey, don't die on me. And don't think just because you're Harry Potter now you can just skip out on me, alright?"
"Hah, point taken. You take care too. I'll make sure this isn't the last time we see each other. After all, you still owe me five dollars."
"Hey, can't you just let that go? What's a wizard going to do with money anyway? Can't you just make dollars pop out of thin air now?"
After exchanging another round of good byes and a few laughs, I was finally off. I can feel John's gaze on my back, but once I reached the door and took one final glance back at the hallway, he was nowhere to be seen. It stung not to be by his side anymore, but the girl was waiting outside just a few feet away.
The girl was waiting right outside, just as she had said. "Everything set?"
"Yeah. I got my one goodbye in. So, where's this Wizard City anyway?"
The girl reached for her staff, which conjured a green glow that provided enough light to illuminate our surroundings. It was the city I grew up in, still wet from a recent storm. The streetlights flickered on and off, as they had tended to do on particularly turbulent nights. "Follow me. We'll be there before you know it."
I followed her through the familiar streets, through a dark alley lit only by the green glow of her staff. "Oh! I have yet to introduce myself properly have I?" The girl shot a glance back at me. "I'm so sorry, I forgot my manners in all the mess. My name is Rose Greenthorn!"
"Well, hello Rose. Your name's a… bit on the nose, to be honest."
"Is it?" I couldn't see her face from where I was, but I kinda assumed she was taken aback. It didn't look like she got that comment often, judging from the tone of her voice. "Oh, well, wizards tend to have names like that. I can't quite tell you the reason why, but if you're curious there are quite a few people that could tell you more."
Surnames were low on priority when it came to learning about wizardry, but I'll keep it in mind. "I didn't mean to be rude. It's a nice name."
"Oh… thank you." She murmured in response. "Um, you know… if you need any help with anything, I'm here to help you. Ambrose only sent me to get you, but I could always be of service if you need me. I always enjoyed helping people."
"I'll… keep it in mind, thank you."
"Oh, and Josh…" Rose stopped in her tracks for a brief moment. "I know this was all so sudden. I wish we could have met under different circumstances, but believe me when I say this is for the best."
"You don't have to worry about me. It's not like I'm leaving much behind." I thought that was true, sure. But the orphanage was still my home. It was painful leaving behind everything I ever knew behind just like that, but I couldn't lie to myself either and say I didn't want to find out about wizards. Especially if it got me closer to finding out an explanation for all those weird dreams I've been having.
"Alright, we're here!" Rose's voice pulled me out of my thoughts as we reached the end of an alley. In front of us was a dumpster. Just… a dumpster. "Please mind the smell. I didn't expect the portal to form in such an unseemly place."
"This is the way to Wizard City?"
"Yep!" Rose stepped in front of the dumpster and flipped the lid open. A wave of foul stench hit me with such force that I reconsidered whether this new life was worth dumpster diving. A beam of light shot up from the inner chamber of the dumpster, and just like that Rose had disappeared into it.
I had my reservations, but as I closed the distance between myself and the dumpster I saw what was, indeed, a vortex of white light right in front of my own eyes. "Wild…" was the only thing I could muster to say in my confusion. "Well, here goes nothing…" Despite my reservations, I pinched my nose and jumped in.