We’re changing the way we send you stories and this post is going to get a whole lot more packed. We’re now going to publish the whole of every Friday’s Wyld Flash short stories in these posts, so no more fiddly double clicking, and we’re streamlining our signup so that anything we might have put in a newsletter we’re going to post here. The downside is that if you’re a newsletter follower you’ll need to click follow here to get all the great stuff every week (since we’re closing down our old Mailchimp newsletter), but the upside is lots of lovely stories. Like this one – Y.M. Resnik’s Magic is Like a Box of Chocolates, all about how tough life is for trainee magical heroes and the difficult choices they have to make. And more next Friday. And the Friday after..
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Magic is Like a Box of Chocolates
Y. M. Resnik
June 23rd 2023
Michaela eyed the row of tinfoil wrapped treats warily, before prodding each with her wand. She’d already slayed a manticore, brewed an invisibility potion, and teleported to Mars while hastily transfiguring her own oxygen when it became apparent that none would be provided. Her entrance to the Ballard School of Magical Heroism was almost a lock. She’d dreamed about this day since she was a toddler, lisping out her first spell and waving a wand with sticky fingers. She wasn’t about to fail the last test.
The chocolates, laid out in front of an imposing row of famous sorcerers, represented a unique obstacle. At least for her.
“Well?” Said the sorceress in the center. She was wearing floaty lavender robes that accentuated the pinched scowl on her face, along with a matching floral headwrap and jangly earrings. “Which is your favorite?”
“None.” Michaela scrunched her nose in annoyance before remembering her manners. These were the people in charge of helping her train to save the world. Best to be polite even if she had no idea what they were talking about. “I’m sorry, but I don’t eat chocolate.”
There was a loud guffaw from the man sitting to the right of Lady Lavender. He elbowed his neighbor, a sorcerer wearing a grateful dead T-shirt, and whispered something that sounded suspiciously like “OMG she’s serious.” Except it couldn’t possibly be that, because Michaela assumed the expert panel of examiners gathered by Ballard to judge the entrance exam were professionals.
Or maybe not. Because the entire group was practically foaming at the mouth, gesticulating wildly, until Lavender loudly cleared her throat.
“Miss Wetheby, your class schedule and magic specialty cannot be properly sorted until we know the exact level of cacao you prefer in your chocolate.”
“Then we’re going to be here a while.” Michaela crossed her arms over her chest. This was ridiculous. These people were obviously toying with her as some sort of newbie hazing ritual. What kind of class schedule, even a magical one, required cacao levels? “Because I’ve never eaten any. I’m allergic. I had a huge reaction at my first birthday party that almost killed me.”
She pulled an epinephrine autoinjector out of her pocket as proof. Most magic users wouldn’t be caught dead carrying human meds, but Michaela didn’t want to rely on her magic if an accidental ingestion cut off her air supply. She’d experienced hypoxia on the Mars portion of this exam, and it was highly unpleasant. The way she saw it, there was no shame in using all possible resources to stay alive.
The examiners only got more agitated, hissing and pointing. Only Lavender seemed to be in full control of her faculties, so Michaela decided to address her directly.
“The last kid that walked out of here shot lava from his eyeballs. The girl before that communicated with sloths. You’re honestly telling me that a chocolate allergy is the weirdest thing you’ve seen today?
Lavender was unswayed. “We can deal with flaming sloths. We cannot make an accurate magical heroism class schedule without a cacao level.”
She signaled for the woman on the end of the row to turn over a giant hourglass, in case Michaela was harboring any notions of asking for an extension.
What a bunch of pricks. Still, they were the gatekeepers to the school of magical heroism. Michaela did not have many options if she wanted admission. They’d made it clear “none” was not an acceptable answer. Either she lied through her teeth and chose a random chocolate, or she attempted to cobble together a spell that would keep her alive during the anaphylaxis that was sure to occur as she sampled the chocolates.
The first idea was patently ridiculous. She’d already told them she’d never eaten chocolate after her first reaction. Plus, if cacao levels really were that important, she didn’t want a schedule that wasn’t her own. Which left only the sampling option.
It was dangerous at best, suicidal at worst. Magic sensed when users were attempting to circumvent their own limitations for personal gain and punished them accordingly. If she survived, she’d probably spend her tenure at the school covered in boils as a form of karmic payback.
She looked each teacher in the eye, reading the expectation in their eyes. They’d lauded her as the deadliest manticore dueler, suggested she teleport to a planet without a breathable atmosphere, and now they were chomping at the bit to see if she could pull this off. Sure, she might lose half her toes from the magical fall out, but they’d be impressed as hell. She’d be assured all the best classes. Not to mention a seat in the legendary Ballard pantheon of heroes.
Which was all well and good, Michaela wanted nothing more than to defend the universe against any threats – magical or otherwise – but something about risking her life on an entrance exam just didn’t feel right. But if she didn’t, her parents were going to be so disappointed. They were both Ballard alums and Michaela was their only child with any magical talent.
The sand in the hour glass was almost up.
Michaela pocketed her wand and held her chin up high as she turned to go. “Hope you have a deep waitlist. Although anyone foolish enough to risk their life just to impress a bunch of famous people is not an individual I would trust with high level magic.”
She was about to march out of the room when Lavender’s voice called her back.
“I quite agree.”
When she spun around, Michaela saw the examiners beaming at her. She squeaked out a question as they thunderously applauded and swathed her in a Ballard sweatshirt. “I don’t understand. The cacao level…”
Lavender hushed her with a gentle hand on the shoulder. “Magic is all well and good Miss Wetheby, but true heroism requires difficult choices. Welcome, to the Ballard School of Magical Heroism.”
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Robert Bagnall’s I Was Just Doing What You Asked, a salutary tale about being all wiffly waffly when there are robots around.
Megan Baffoe’s Away with the Mermaids,
Hilary Ayshford’s Tears and Smoke
B.A. Booher’s High Stakes
Matt Bliss’ Penny Rutherford’s Super Awesome Adventure Journal
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