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Magical Companion Applicant #2251, or "Maggie"

Alexandra Grunberg is a Glasgow based author, poet, screenwriter, and artist. Her fiction has appeared in Cast of Wonders, Flash Fiction Online, and Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. This is her sixth story to appear in Daily Science Fiction. She is a postgraduate student in the DFA in Creative Writing programme at the University of Glasgow. You can learn more at her website, alexandragrunberg.weebly.com.
"Sir, is this place a joke to you?"
The young man was not chuckling. The corgi tucked under his arm looked even less amused than Magical Animal Control Officer Adelaide Wilson felt.
"I'm just trying to get my magical companion registered," said the man.
Adelaide looked at the corgi, who panted in a distinctly unmagical fashion. She turned his paperwork towards her to check the man's name. He appeared to be a serious applicant. He was even dressed in the court-approved uniform of a certified adventurer, which meant he had passed a psychological exam deeming him able to travel between dimensions without suffering ill effects. Adelaide did not understand how this man could really think she would approve his request.
"Martin," she said, reading the neatly printed handwriting at the top of the form. "Martin Fairley. Are you seriously trying to register a corgi as a magical companion?"
"She's much more than a corgi."
Martin lifted his burden higher, as if she just could not see how clearly magical this creature was. In the corner of the waiting room, a flaming newt coughed out a laugh in a burst of black smoke. His owner shushed him, and the newt blushed a sincerely ashamed scarlet.
"You're going to have to be a little more specific on the magical nature of this corgi if you want to get the paperwork approved," Adelaide said.
There were magical animals that seemed normal at first glance. Pegasi could fold their wings close to their bodies, and from a distance, look like a mere herd of horses. Wisp asps looked like normal snakes when they slept and only turned shadowy when they moved. But this corgi was obviously, painfully, unmagical.
"Maggie is a beacon of light--"
"Your dog can emit a beacon of light?"
"Well, no. I meant metaphorically."
"Martin, do you see that Mirror Beast in the corner with Mrs. Lavelle?" asked Adelaide.
Martin looked over his shoulder where Mrs. Lavelle sat sipping an underwhelming cup of waiting room coffee next to an empty chair.
"No?"
"That's because the Mirror Beast is invisible," Adelaide said slowly. Martin's gaze fell to his shoes. "And I don't mean metaphorically."
"But Maggie--"
"Is magic?" asked Adelaide. "Because if the answer isn't yes, I have quite a few people with actually magical animals waiting to be approved."
Maggie looked up at Martin and gave a soft, but distinct, woof. He adjusted his burden, his eyes meeting Adelaide's once more.
"Maggie is magical," said Martin. "She survived a puppy mill after the rest of her litter died. She survived a kill shelter. She was so small, she was there a week longer than any dog was supposed to be held, because the employees just could not find her in an empty cell. They couldn't tell me how she hid. And when I saw her, they had already taken her to the back room, but they had to bring her out again because the electricity had gone out for ten minutes. Just a ten-minute window for me to enter the shelter before they took her back again. Do you know what happens in the back room?"
Martin waited. The newt coughed an uncomfortable ball of smoke.
"Yes," said Adelaide. "I know what happens in the back room."
"If I had been one minute later, she would have been gone," said Martin. "And despite all of that, she wagged her corgi butt when I picked her up, and she smiled at me, and I smiled at her. I smiled at her! I hadn't smiled for six months."
The Mirror Beast had materialized and was looking at Adelaide with the same deep brown eyes as its master. Both pairs of eyes were equally judgmental.
"Martin, I'm sure Maggie is a very special corgi," said Adelaide. "That does not make her magical."
"Did you know only magical companions are approved for interdimensional travel?" asked Martin.
"Of course. It is highly unlikely that a non-magical animal could survive even the mildest adventure."
Martin lifted Maggie so the corgi could look Adelaide in the eye.
"She survived the puppy mill," he said. "She survived the kill shelter. She survived the back room. She could survive any adventure that any dimension throws at us."
Adelaide looked at Maggie. She did not seem impressive. But the Mirror Beast, with its deep brown eyes, looked too gentle to be of much assistance in a duel. And the flaming newt's little limbs looked like they could be crushed under a careless traveler's boot. This corgi looked loyal. This corgi looked sturdy. This corgi looked like it was made to fit perfectly in the crook of Martin's arm.
"There is a very obvious reason why she survived all those hardships," said Adelaide, and Martin's arms lowered as his shoulders sagged. "Clearly... Maggie is a magical corgi."
Martin's eyes lit up.
"Really?" he asked. "I mean, yes! She is magical! I can take her traveling with me now?"
"Well, not now," said Adelaide, stamping a series of seals along the form. "The paperwork will take three weeks to be approved. You'll have to come back for the official license, which will be revoked without warning due to any untoward behavior on your companion's part, reported in any dimension on the Traveler's Link. You also need to have photographs taken for the license before the approval, or it could delay the paperwork another month, but you could have those done today if you're willing to wait... Two hours? Maybe three."
"Yes!" Martin shouted, eliciting another woof from Maggie. "Thank you."
"Take a seat, Martin Fairley."
Martin carried Maggie to an empty chair. The pair received a few odd looks from the other applicants and Adelaide supposed they were warranted. The corgi was one of the strangest magical companions in the room, but no less deserving than any of the other creatures she had approved for adventure.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, April 13th, 2021


This story was inspired by Hilde the corgi, an unlikely but effective muse.

- Alexandra Grunberg
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