MaryLin's Special Brand of Magic
by Marina J. Lostetter
The magic appeared in 2019, when a rogue comet performed an impossible loop-de-loop while passing Earth. The strange astrological phenomenon was a sign, a sigil, a portent--or perhaps just a pretense. Whatever it was, the day after, millions of people around the world awoke to find themselves blessed--or cursed--with magical abilities. The magic appeared random, with no rhyme or reason as to why some people had received powers when others had not. Worse, the majority of the new warlocks, sorceresses, alchemists and whatnot couldn't pin down the rules to their particular brand of hocus-pocus before things got out of hand.
Luckily, MaryLin wasn't like most people. She'd figured out her place in the new world right away. Having been raised by a professional poker player turned semi-professional con man, she'd learned early on: find an angle. All you need to survive is an angle.
Well, she'd found her angle, and her powers had become the most desired around.
Her brand of magic was... unique.
After a harrowing morning spent with one of the last surviving fire users (most of those cursed with fire/flame abilities had been eliminated in the early days of magic via spontaneous human combustion), MaryLin now stood on the unkempt front lawn of a split-level ranch. Judging by the noises coming from inside, this had to be the place.
The racket reminded her a bit of Bill's Pub on a Saturday night, back when she was a kid. Her dad used to take her there all the time. He made her sit in the car while he "worked."
Work, she'd figured out later in life, was not synonymous with "scam."
She dialed the call-back number on her cell. Calling to announce her arrival was a thousand times safer than ringing the doorbell--she'd been bitten twice by sentient buzzers. After two rings, someone picked up. "Hello? Yes, I'm from MaryLin's Enchantment Removal, I--uh--YES. THAT'S WHAT I SAID. OK, I'M COMING IN."
Hanging up, she approached the door and gingerly turned the knob.
Inside, it sounded like thirty people were trying to talk over each other at once.
"Mrs. Kurr?" MaryLin yelled, throwing her hands over her ears.
A squat, older woman--her glasses askew and grey curls a-bouncing--came rushing forward with all ten fingers clasped over her mouth.
It didn't take MaryLin more than a few moments to assess the situation. "Voice magic? Propagating uncontrollably?"
She received a pleading nod in answer.
Replicating problems could be tricky. Sometimes it was just a matter of deleting--in a sense--each iteration. In other cases she needed to find the magic equivalent of a reset button.