Exclusive Excerpt from Magic or Die
by J.P. Jackson
“ALL RIGHT.” MIRIAM tried to assuage the small crowd and waited until the side banter in the room dissipated. “I understand James’s abilities are rather unsettling and somewhat forceful.”
“Exactly how many others have abilities like him? He controlled every single one of us. What’s to prevent him from controlling an army?” Major Harris said. He was shaking, and his fat stuffy face formed angry red blotches that bled together. From the way his jowls hung over his tight shirt collar, you’d swear he was swelling with rage at my takeover.
“I couldn’t sustain large numbers of people for any lengthy period of time, and frankly, you weren’t actively resisting me. You were just sitting there,” I said. It was true. My abilities also had a physical cost and other limitations. “If you fought the impulses I had sent, you wouldn’t have succumbed. It works best on the element of surprise.” I gave them little morsels of information. That certainly wasn’t the total extent of my restrictions, but I’ll be damned if I was going to give it all away.
“Feel better, Major?” Miriam asked. “Perhaps you’ll agree James is the most qualified for the job, then.” She looked around the room, presumably waiting for anyone to disagree. “Very good, let’s proceed. We are here today to review prospective candidates. These are the five students James will be taking on.”
The participants in the room nervously shifted the dossiers in front of them.
“I didn’t agree to take on any class. I said consult—” I hissed from the corner of my mouth while my hackles rose and panic stirred in my gut.
“Need I remind you about your sister?” she whispered to me through tightly pursed lips and gritted teeth.
“I hate you,” I retorted back just as quietly.
“In front of each of you are dossier reports. Let’s start with the first.” A hidden movie screen descended, filling up the front of the room. Lights around the periphery of the stone table dimmed as spotlights above each seat turned on, creating an eerie halo around the executives’ heads.
“The first is twenty-four-year-old Ning Chiu,” Miriam started, as I grabbed the file on the girl. A picture of Ning appeared on the screen. She was pretty, bright, perky, and looked like she was all of sixteen in her schoolgirl uniform. “Ning is an exchange student from Beijing, China. She speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, English, German, and Italian. She’s incredibly gifted with languages and came to Canada to study the North American prairie indigenous tongues.”
Miriam held up a remote and pushed a few buttons. The picture on the screen flickered, disappeared, and then returned. She clicked the remote again and poof, the image was gone, blinding the audience with a pure white screen.
“Goddamn thing…” She pushed more buttons and waved the remote with unsuccessful results in the direction of where Ning’s picture had been. People around the table held their hands over their eyes, trying to shy away from the blinding light.
An underling who had been standing against the back wall rushed forward.
“May I,” he inquired as his hands flailed in an attempt to wrestle the remote away from her.
“Just make it work,” Miriam barked.
With the click of a few buttons, the tech guy had a movie clip playing with Ning and an unknown male interviewer who was off-screen.
“Ning, can you make the wind blow?”
“Yes,” Ning said softly. She closed her eyes as her long black hair swooped and swayed as if she was outside in a gentle autumn breeze.
“More?” the interviewer asked.
“Are you sure?” she said tentatively.
A whirlwind began, and a desk behind Ning jerked and shifted and then lifted off the floor, spinning in a clockwise motion, pivoting on one desk leg. Papers, books, an assortment of odd items were violently sucked into the vortex Ning had created. A spiralling tunnel of wind, akin to a mini tornado, twirled behind her. Objects caught up in its rotation flew out at random intervals, but oddly, as items were ejected from the small twister, none of them came anywhere near Ning.