Being on call nearly seven days a week was not working out for Miser Hank. Sewhole Hospital was extremely prestigious, and he had hoped for less of a workload upon transferring. His old hospital, Webtoe General, never made it into the medical scrolls. They had him sewing up splitting spell wounds and prescribing vitamins for lizard familiars.
Sewhole dealt only in human patients, magical humans of course, but even without patients literally crawling over his shoes he was still drowning in work. That was why, once he arrived home, a lovely little condensed apartment magically stuffed inside a fur coat pocket in a fashion museum display, all he could do was collapse against the door and groan.
The door bent out of the way, it was just mink fur on the other side after all, and Miser fell backward. He was nearing fifty and the constant background magic he applied to his face each morning had hit its limit; he could rejuvenate his appearance back to thirty-five or so now. He had hoped to do some final flirting when he first got to Sewhole, but his face had already shifted. The young nurses and patients looked at him like a wise old doctor now, rather than a radical smoldering upstart.
“Do you remember what I was?” Miser asked his pet parrot Sunflower. The bird was not enchanted, a reminder of Miser’s upbringing as a boy without magic, but it remembered what it was supposed to say nonetheless.
“Miser is magic!” the parrot squawked. It flew from its perch to a bowl of half-devoured peanuts on the kitchen counter and dug in to reward itself. That’s right, he thought. I’m magic. I’m special. That’s why they want me to work so hard. How many humans get to be magic? I think it’s down to one in four thousand these days. I wish I could tell them. I wish I could rub it in all their faces, but I’m too busy rubbing my face in the wounds of the world.
Miser rose and let the door regain its appropriate shape. He took off his coat, its enchantment lifting a little of his stress away with it, like a skin of invisible insults that had clung to him, and went to share the peanuts with Sunflower. He’d worked so hard that week that there was no proper food in the icebox. It would have to be peanuts. If he wanted flavor, there was a little bit of brown mustard crust left in a jar. Even magic couldn’t improve it that much, but he was too tired to use it anyway.
He thought back to the day’s procedures. They’d removed a man’s backfired wand from his abdominal cavity. They’d vivisected a woman, partly transformed ino a flamingo, back to her normal self. When she woke up she swore off an online dating site for shapeshifters. Hank had to ignore her foolishness and move on to the last patient of the day.
That one was extremely difficult. They didn’t even know what was wrong with him. He was an older fellow, presenting with black eyes and necrotic spots across his sternum. He was brought in in a hatbox and then returned to his normal size upon the operating table. That was how the field medics had to do it anyway. Magical ambulances might catch the eye of the normals, eager to find excuses to unplug their tablets and pick up their torches once again. All patients were shrunk and stored in ordinary ojects until they made it throught Sewhole’s doors.
Miser was expected to cut him open and figure it out within the hour. There were already objects backed up on the front desk,wine bottles, dice cups, and old shoes, full of bleeding, transformed, or comatose people who just hadn’t figured out how to use their magic the right way. Miser knew how. He had it under control.
The magical doctors and apothecaries of old had paved the way. They lost patients because they lost concentration. If you slip up with magic, it can easily be permanent. So Miser used a newer technique where he simply stored the appropriate magics in his surgical tools. His scalpel was his wand and he never went anywhere without it.
He cut into the man with determination, ignoring his ominous backward babbling in Latin. Given that and the black eyes, a curse seemed most likely. Inside the man’s chest cavity he found not organs, but fluffy purple magic. Miser still couldn’t believe that was inside him as well. So many possibilities entered you when you became magic. Your innards turned to possibilities and soft realities. You could no longer have renal failure, heart failure, or cancer. It was just a matter of whether or not you had the right amount of stuffing and if its humors were balanced properly.
The curse hid around his spine, curses loved to attack a person’s foundation, and bit at Miser’s hand as he cut the black spiny lump out of the man’s stuffing. He’d heard a colleague once joke that it was like repairing teddy bears. It certainly didn’t feel that way when you had to get a booster shot after a nasty curse bite.
Miser was having trouble opening one of the peanuts as he walked over to his couch. He considered digging out his scalpel, but the thought fell out of his head when he once again tried to sit and found nothing but floor and a new knot on the back of his head. He jumped to his feet and whirled around.
“Where’s the couch?” he asked Sunflower.
“Miser is magic!” the parrot squawked.
He had not misplaced the couch. It was a long day. He forgot his wall was just the lining of a moth-eaten coat. He forgot to buy real food, but he did not misplace the couch. It had to be there somewhere.
Fshoooooo! Something whizzed by his ear. He whirled around, but couldn’t see anything. The sound had definitely flown into his bedroom though. It also disturbed Sunflower enough for the bird to overturn the peanut bowl and spill shells everywhere. Whatever it was, it convinced the parrot to keep its head down and stay out of the air.
Miser ran to his coat to grab his scalpel; he might need magic to handle whatever it was. He reached into the pocket and found nothing. Stupendous, I’ve left that somewhere as well. He took off for the bedroom and was horrified to see his mattress was gone. The blankets were still there, but they hung down between the posts of the bed.
He couldn’t even rest. An entire week of saving lives, saving magic, and he wasn’t even allowed to rest. Miser seethed and dared whatever it was to come out of the woodwork. Fshooooooo! It buzzed by him again. There was only one big piece of furniture left. His armchair. Back out next to the kitchen. Miser ran.
The fatigued healer was done playing nice. He brought fire magic to his fingetips, not caring that it blackened his nailbeds. He was going to fry whatever it was and pick through the ashes for answers later. If he wans’t careful the whole apartment, the whole coat, and the whole museum might go up in flames.
The culprint hung there in the air, sharp nose pointed down at the chair. It was a slightly magical chair, there was a ghost or two that found it so comfortable that they couldn’t leave, so the object hesitated slightly.
Miser had paid much, in magical ingots of silver no less, for that chair, but something more valuable was about to destroy it: his scalpel! His formerly trusty knife hung there, eyeing the chair like a Thanksgiving turkey. Of course! I put too much magic in the damneded thing! Pawning off stress on the coat, the knife… it had to overflow at some point!
The scalpel’s magic had it convinced that they needed to perform surgery constantly. The closest thing to the magical stuffing of a man in the apartment had been the stuffing of the couch, the bed, and now the poor haunted chair. Its current enchantment drained the stuffing because their last patient had needed a little suction before being sewn back up; that was how it had eaten up the bed and couch.
“It’s okay,” he told the knife, converting the fire in his hands to soothing blue vapor. He shot it out at the blade and scored a hit. It fell to the carpet, twitching. He quickly stored it away, taking some of the stress back before it could turn on him and drain his stuffing.
He took a deep breath. If anyone could handle this it was Miser. He still had his home and he still had his pet, and above all, he still had his magic. Who needed a bed when their life was so exciting? His fortitude would die some when he realized the knife had gotten to his laptop, figuratively sliced it open, and spilled his personal data stuffing to the world, but he would recover. It was good that it was out there.
He didn’t need a younger face; he just needed to get out more and do a few tricks. He promised himself he would be a real magician of the hour that weekend, as soon as he swept the lint out of his pocket.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by rockchickjo during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop bytwitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!