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Urban Fantasy Fantasy

Anne Marie examined the frozen landscape outside her window, leaves paused in a brief moment as they fluttered to the ground. Upon a moment of reflection, Anne Marie decided things would be easier to understand with coffee in her system. She had half boiled the water when Matt came out downstairs from his attack bedroom and regarded the window curiously. 

“Not getting any closer?” 

“You’d think Chronovision would be a little easier to crack,” Anne Marie said. “This is attempt number three and I still can’t get the glass to behave right…”  

“What about the goggles?” Matt asked, picking up the spectacles on the table.

“Functional, but I don’t like the narrow field of vision,” Anne Marie said. “I don’t want to lock out reality. I want a way for people to look back on the past as something to have on in the background, ya know?” 

“Yeah,” Matt said. “You’re getting there.” 

Anne Marie sipped her coffee and scoffed. “Right…”

“Hey, senior year independent study isn’t supposed to be easy,” Matt said, sitting on the counter and regarding the frozen scene. “The window is still in one piece, right?” 

“Yeah, but this is the first time I’ve gotten it to do anything besides be a window.” 

“Come on, you’ll get something.” 

Anne Marie took a sip of coffee and stared at the frozen scene. “I suppose it’s closer to what I want.” 

“That’s the spirit.”

“I just wish my advisor wasn’t coming by today to check my project.” 

“Bennett likes you.” 

“She likes everyone, but I still need to show progress—real progress…” 

“You got the goggles working.” 

“I need a more practical application than just goggles. Trying not to cut—“

“Reality out,” Matt nodded. “Got it. We’ll have to figure out what’s next when we get there.” 

“I just hope I don’t ruin the windows. If this isn’t removable, it’ll be hard to explain this to our landlord.” 

“Well, you got until much later tonight to finish it,” Matt said, wrapping Anne Marie in his arms. “I’m gonna go make rent for the week.” 

“Have fun at the shop. Make good decisions or good potions.” 

“I’m glad you made it an option,” Matt said, running upstairs to get ready for work. Anne Marie took another sip of coffee, adjusted her glasses, and set an alarm for an hour before her advisor was supposed to come by for a visit. That left her with most of the day to make real progress. The first thing to do was clean the window from her last experiment, removing the potion components with a rag and disengaging the runes she’d made around the frame. Then it was back to formula. 

Levitating strangely helped Anne Marie. She sat with her legs crossed and hovered a few feet off the ground with a book in her lap and her coffee cup close at hand. She’d lean forward to examine other references and check past iterations for flaws in the rune structure. She would only float down on the rare occasion that she ran out of coffee and then would go back to work. When she’d enrolled in wizard college, this wasn’t what she had in mind. 

Anne Marie’s freshman year was much more of the whirlwind she’d been hoping for. The Humbrin’s School for Applied Magics was one of the only schools in North America that would accept students without an invitation. Anne Marie had always been interested in magics, from basic card tricks to the invisible magical forces that held modern society together. When she was accepted, she started studying everything that she could possibly find. Her first year had been about trying everything, even joining in transfiguration club as an extracurricular. She’d met Matt when she was a fox in a game of transfiguration tag. Even though he was a junior, they became fast friends and fell in love. 

Her second year required a bit more focus. Matt and Anne Marie spent as much time as his schedule would allow when he was finishing his own senior project. Anne Marie spent months trying to focus more on her specialty, but the problem was that all of the magic was too interesting to her. She spent a few weeks hyper-focused on transfiguration, another month of divination, then weeks of summoning until she finally found alchemical technologies. An often undervalued section of magical learning—ridiculed for its oddness and propensity for creating ‘baubles and trinkets’—Anne Marie thought that the merging of magic and technology would represent the future of the arcane. 

Junior year, Anne Marie and Matt moved into the same apartment while she was finishing school. Matt got a job slinging potions and supplemented his work with night shifts at a magical coffee shop. Anne Marie worked sometimes, but she was on the accelerated track to get her Alchemical Technologies degree. Part of her regretted being so unfocused in her first few years, but her advisor confirmed that she could still graduate on time with an increased workload. The only conundrum was going to be deciding her senior independent study. 

Senior Independent Studies were practically a requirement at Humbrin’s School for Applied Magics. While a student could graduate without one, any magic worker would only make their mark with an independent study project. Matt’s had been focused on the applications of recreational potions for healing purposes. The biggest problem with an independent project was that if you were a standard course of study, you just had to be careful not to repeat previous projects. In Anne Marie’s case, she didn’t have to worry about an original project because almost no one graduated from her program. 

From her first meeting with her instructor, she knew that she had an interest in time. In the time she’d spent in divination, she knew that the future and the past were of equal import to people. The problem was that it took time to get an accurate reading on the past. So, Anne Marie decided she wanted a simplified way to see into the past without too much effort or energy. Her advisor, Professor Katherine Bennett, was fascinated by the prospect of simplified Chronovision and approved the study. “Even if it doesn’t work,” Professor Bennett concluded, “Chronovision is fairly untapped in our field. Making it more accessible could change our field…and possibly eliminate the archaic and difficult methods of divination.” 

“No pressure though, right?” Anne Marie said. 

“In our field? Experimentation is more valuable than success,” Professor Bennett laughed. “Try, fail, try again, fail better.”

“Not much of a motto, is it?” 

“Sadly, it doesn’t translate into Latin. I’ll check on your progress later. Get to work…”

The weeks that followed were full of long nights studying, failing, and trying again. She’s managed to get something functional, but the effects were limited and very temporary. The goggles only allowed one person to view alternate times at once, but Anne Marie wanted everyone to be able to see at the same time. Diviners and psychics were the only ones who could see the past as it was. Anne Marie didn’t see the point of replacing one ineffective method of seeing the past or future for another. 

Frustrated, Anne Marie uncrossed her legs and padded barefoot over to the kitchen table. She sighed and refilled her coffee cup, staring out the frozen moment through the window. Looking around, Anne Marie sighed at the unfortunate failure. Dismayed, she grabbed the goggles and started adjusting the lenses. She walked over to their living room and crossed her legs to sit on a cushion of air. She watched the couch and saw two figures. She knew they were the after images of her and Matt watching TV together. She found that she kept going to this spot in the apartment’s timeline. It brought her comfort. It brought her peace.

“You know,” Anne Marie said, running her hand over Matt’s arm, “most people who just graduated would be going out and drinking themselves numb in ways that they’ll regret the next morning…” Anne Marie told Matt. 

“Yeah, but I don’t wanna forget this feeling,” Matt smiled. “I’m sure I’ll have plenty of hangovers in my life, but I only get one night feeling like I’m on top of the world.” 

“As if,” Anne Marie said. “You’re gonna live on top of the world.” 

“Everyone’s got a potion mixer these days,” Matt shrugged. “Even if I’m one of the best, no one is gonna know me. Not like they’ll know you.” 

“Everyone is gonna know you…” Anne Marie said, shifting and running her hand over Matt’s hair. “You’re a good potion mixer.” 

“If anyone knows me? It’ll be because of you. You’re gonna really change the world, I can tell.” 

“Tonight’s about you, not me.” 

“Anne Marie, don’t you ever let anyone tell you that you’re inferior. Potion makers are a dime a dozen, but true genius? That’s once in a hundred years. If anyone is going to live on top of the world? It’s gonna be you.” 

“I’d think there’s enough room at the top for both of us.”

“Well,” Matt smirked. “Technically, since the Earth is a sphere? We’re always on top of the world. In space, there’s no top or bottom.” 

“Then we’ll always be on top of the world together,” Anne Marie smiled and pressed her lips against Matt’s lips. 

In the present, looking through the glasses, Anne Marie reached up and made an instinctual adjustment to the goggles. She wasn’t sure if it was because she was tearing up or not, but the picture was giving her a headache. She wasn’t sure why, but something about the picture was out of focus and made her—

Anne Marie reached up and tore the goggles off her face. She checked, the structure of her goggles and compared them to the window. With a loud groan, Anne Marie slapped her forehead and cursed. “Damn it, I’m an idiot!” 

###

At almost eight o’clock on the dot, a knock on the door still managed to catch Anne Marie by surprise. She had thankfully taken a break to get dressed in something besides pajamas, so she wasn’t answering her academic advisor in pink shorts and a tank top. 

“Professor Bennett!” Anne Marie looked at the clock. “Come in! Sorry, it’s been a busy day.” 

“A breakthrough?” 

“Yes!” Anne Marie said, rushing over to her desk. “Come look at this. I think you’re gonna be impressed!” 

Anne Marie had spent the afternoon on the balcony welding the frame she’d built together and used a summoning to task a minor elemental spirit with getting her two, huge panes of glass that occupied the frame. Professor Bennett tilted her head and inspected the device, seeing torsos and legs pass without full bodies on the other side. 

“Fascinating…” Professor Bennett tilted her head. “Not as ergonomic as the goggles, though.” 

“Agreed,” Anne Marie said, “but this is a more impressive scope. Here come take a look…” 

Anne Marie adjusted a few knobs on another side of the frame and the image flickered for a moment. She turned a big lever on the side, adjusting the quality of the picture. Professor Bennett squatted to get a better view and saw a somewhat ghostly image of Anne Marie assembling the frame mechanics together into the machine that now stood in the middle of the room. 

“Interesting…” Professor Bennett rubbed her chin and nodded. “What’s the range?” 

“I haven’t tried going too far back,” Anne Marie said, “but at least as far as the goggles. But, if nothing else, it’s a proof of concept!” 

“It absolutely is!” Professor Bennett smiled. “What was the inspiration?” 

“I realized that time isn’t two-dimensional,” Anne Marie said. “The goggles work because they’re two sets of glass lenses, but a traditional window is just one! So, by adjusting the focal length of the lenses? We change the clarity of the chronovision!” 

“Excellent work, Anne Marie,” Professor Bennett smiled. “I dare say this will count as enough progress. I’d suggest trying to get a model capable of looking back into the past at least…ten years.” 

“I was thinking the same thing,” Anne Marie nodded. “But…if I can’t--?” 

“You will,” Professor Bennett said. “But I think this is sufficient enough to tell you that you’re going to pass your independent study. Excellent work…” 

“Do you want to help me get things a little clearer?” Anne Marie asked. “Honestly, just having someone to talk at would be helpful.” 

“I was hoping you’d offer to tell me a bit more,” Professor Bennett took off her blazer and rolled up her sleeves. “It’ll be much easier than trying to guess it out once I get one of my own!” 

June 11, 2021 22:43

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