Four Years Later
Raina and I graduated with CATS just last month and we begin our new full time ministry jobs tomorrow. Raina has a CAT in Spell Reversals and has continued helping the ministry with any suspicious events that have occurred. I obtained a CATS in Magical Business Affairs which Mum is very happy about because it keeps her abreast of all of the changes to operating businesses in Peach Blossom Lane and Dark Forest Cove.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table typing up a new Magical Business Guidelines document on my old red typewriter. Mum, Aunty Alyssum, and Grandma Marigold are all sitting around me eating cornflakes and toast for breakfast. Raina has already left for work and I’m working from home today. I have just finished typing up the document on my red typewriter.
Magical Business Guidelines. Updated by Saffra Goldrose on July 10, 2020.
1. A shop building must be its actual physical size. There must be no invisible spellcast areas. Shoppers must be able to roam the physical area as it was built by the shop-fitter. (Excluding space for safe).
2. Shops are allowed an allocated invisible space to store their daily takings. This space, that only staff members have access to must be 50cm x 50cm in dimension, no less, no more. These spaces will be measured with a ruler by a ministry representative without prior notice.
3. Products and goods sold must be sold in their original form. No product ought to be charmed or transfigured in such a way that deceives the consumer. Shoppers must know exactly what they are buying.
4. All monies handled must be the value it was manufactured to be. Stroms and Fens must not be charmed, or be altered in any way. They must display and exist in the form the magical mint created them.
5. Receipt printing must not be transfigured or altered in any way. Dates, times, locations, shop personnel and numerical totals must read as they were originally printed.
6. Refund and exchange policies must be displayed in A4-sized placards on the main counter. Failure to do so will result in a 300 strom fine.
7. Repeat breaches of this magical trade agreement will see that shop licences are revoked and the business is closed down.
Saffra Goldrose, Magical Business Affairs Junior Coordinator.
I peel the sheet of paper from the typewriter, roll it into a cylinder, and using my wand, and the magic allowance my boss has given me, send a copy of it to the ninety seven shops in our realm.
I finish my breakfast, and go upstairs with my typewriter, to my bedroom and lock the door. I put the typewriter away on the desk inside my wardrobe and fish around for my old school cauldron that I have been using these many years to turn the Wilted kind of hallucinogenic mushroom into a magical kind of magic mushroom.
I direct one mushroom into the cauldron, light a fire, and watch it change colours: from grey to pink, to green, to gold, to orange, and to red, until it finally turns purple, and I put the small flames out with a flame extinguishing spell and a wave of my wand. I take the mushroom from my cauldron – it’s cool to the touch. And though I am tempted to consume the whole thing in its natural size, I know better than to do so, and so I cast a shrinking spell at it, and it transforms into the size of a green grape. I shove it into my mouth and chew it until its all gone. It doesn’t taste like anything.
Twenty minutes later and the effects of the magic magic mushroom start taking place. I feel lightheaded, I feel dizzy, and so I quickly yell “zekandolti” so that anyone who walks in thinks I’m sitting on my bed typing up documents on my typewriter for work. In actual fact however, I really want to take this opportunity to explore the wilted realm in Melbourne, and so I envision myself standing on the footpath in Fitzroy Street which isn’t far from where we live in our realm.
I find myself standing on the footpath in Fitzroy Street outside a bunch of eclectic and cool cafes. A couple has just been on a walk with their small fluffy puppy – it looks like a terrier crossed with a poodle and it’s absolutely adorable! They are wearing expensive gym gear and sunglasses – despite the fact it isn’t very sunny in Melbourne today. It’s only 25 degrees. Anyway, the woman picks up the puppy in her arms and takes it inside the cafe with her. This cafe called Broche is a pet-friendly cafe and there are numerous animals lounging around underneath wooden tables at the feet of their owners.
A woman sitting at an outdoor setting with her dog behind me is smoking a cigarette; she has dreadlocks, a gold triquetra charm around her neck, and is dressed in multiple layers of purple and charcoal coloured fabric. Her dreads are wrapped in an embroidered hair wrap that she could have sewn herself. She is definitely an op-shopper, and a very good one too!
She smiles at me. And boy am I stunned!
“Can you see me?” I ask her in absolute astonishment.
“Of course I can. I’m not blind, you know?” She says, and it’s clear she is high on something. Her dog lifts its head off the concrete, and starts sniffing my feet and the hem on my jean legs.
“Oh! No! Sorry. No, ofcourse you’re not blind…” I don’t know what else to say to be honest. She eyes my wand in my right hand.
“I’ve seen your kind before, you know? Loads of times. But only while I’m on the shrooms.” She exhales and butts her cigarette out into a glass ash tray in front of her.
“Dodger can see you too.” She adds.
“Really? I thought I was invisible to this world…” I say, knowing I have said far too much.
“Ey, you are. But us clairvoyants, we know you’re there…”
“Clairvoyants?” I ask.
“Much like you lovey, we are different. I’m not like the folk around here. I see everything.”
“Can you see our world?” I ask, mildly intrigued and very curious.
“Nope. Can’t say I can. But I’m sure I could if one of you lot showed me the way. I have often wondered what your world is like.” She smacks her tongue against her teeth on the word like.
“If I was allowed to, I’d show it to you. You seem lovely and kind. And you don’t seem like someone who would dob us in. But I can’t show it to you. It’s absolutely illegal, and it would have ramifications even I couldn’t charm my way out of and I work for the ministry.” Oh, shit. I’ve really said too much!
I think I really must go, but if I walk down the street she’ll probably just follow me, so the only thing I can do is think about my bedroom at home in my realm and go back there. The woman, whose name I didn’t get has touched my arm in a kind gesture just when I have envisioned my bedroom, and lo and behold, I’m sitting on my queen-sized bed, and there she is, standing on my carpet in front of me.
“Holy shit! Did you touch me? Why did you touch me?” I ask her.
“I was only being kind. I was about to tell you that I understand, and all of a sudden we ended up here.” She says, like she’s complete unfazed and doesn’t have a care in the world. Her dog is still tied to the table leg in her realm.
“What about your dog?” I ask.
“Oh, he’ll be fine. George the cafe owner knows him. He’ll look after him until I go back.” She smiles.
“So this is your house huh? Cool bedroom. How old are you?”
“I’m twenty-one! Mummmmm!!!” I scream, not knowing what else to do. Mum comes running up the stairs, and stops in my doorway, and leans against the doorframe and looks at me.
“What’s up honey? How’s all the typing going?” She asks me in a very chipper manner. Oh shit! “Zekandolti” I say, to reverse the spell, and the image of the typewriter being on my lap and me being completely sober disappears. Mum can see me now, under the effects of magical magical mushrooms. And, she can also see the wilted woman standing in my room.
“Saffra, are you ok? Your eyes are very glassy and bloodshot. And your hands are shaking?” Mum says, coming to the side of the bed.
“Don’t kill me, but I cooked some mushrooms and now this lady is in my bedroom.” I’m freaking out. I don’t think Mum has understood what I mean by “cooked”.
“Alright everyone. Let’s not panic. Firstly, I’m Delphinium Goldrose, and this is my house. This here is my idiot of a daughter Saffra Goldrose.” Mum holds her hand out to the wilted woman.
“Susannah Heartbleed.” The woman shakes mum’s hand and sits down on my bed.
“Don’t fret. As I was telling your daughter – I’ve seen your kind before. Loads of times. In the street. Just looking about the bloody place like tourists. But they’re not tourists. I can tell. They’re locals. Just not my kind of locals.” Susannah says.
“Right. And these people you see… how old are most of them roughly?” Mum’s eyebrows shoot up.
“All sorts of ages. Mostly young ones. But I’ve seen your kind and some of them are forty, fifty, sixty years old.”
“Right. And how long has this been happening?” Mum asks.
“Well, I’ve been psychic my whole life and I’m fifty so I’d say fifty years.”
“Fifty years? Shit! How does she not know this is happening?” Mum talks to the ceiling in reference to Dahlia Derefelle.
“Who’s she?” Susannah asks politely.
“She is our minister for magic. Just like your prime minister, we have a minister here too. Contact between realms should be impossible. But evidently it is not.”
“We might know why that is…” I say, feeling my cheeks flush and burn red hot as I mentally steel myself to tell mum about the mushrooms.
“I’m all ears!” Mum’s pissed off.
“I took a magic mushroom!” I say, looking and feeling really guilty.
“Oh so did I! How good are they?” Susannah says, not grasping the enormity of the situation.
“Not you too! First Raina and now you! Bracken Saffra. I thought I raised you to know better!” Mum’s pissed.
“You did. It’s not Raina’s fault. It’s mine. Back from the Wolfe and Hark days. We all used to eat them together.” I feel really shit right now.
“Wolfe and Hark? Your ex-boyfriends? The two best-liked and best-mannered boys from Meridian? They ate them too?”
“Hmm. Yep.” I say regretfully for incriminating them both.
“Oh Saffra! Bracken! You have a ministry job for bracken-sake!!! If the ministry find out about this, you’re unemployed and unemployable!” Mum is shouting.
“Umm Del… sorry, I’ve forgotten your name. Umm, this wasn’t your daughter’s fault. It was mine. She was telling me about it being illegal to show me this world, and I just put my hand on her arm to say that I understood, and that’s when this all happened. Neither of us planned for this. I sure as hell was not prepared for this. My great dane Dodger is tied to a cafe table in Fitzroy Street. If you know how to get me back to him, I am more than happy to go now.” Susannah says.
“Oh trust me! If I knew how to get you home, you’d be there by now! Alyssum!” Mum screams, and Aunty Alyssum runs upstairs. She’s home from work because it’s the school holidays.
“Oh hello. I didn’t know we had friends over. Wait… you’re…What the fuck is happening here?” Aunty Alyssum is bewildered. More so than Mum. At least Mum was polite and introduced herself and shook Susannah’s hand. Aunty Alyssum is just crazy and furious! Aunty Alyssum sends a feather to Raina: “Raina – come home now! The brooms have hit a wall!” Aunty Alyssum sends her feather off to Raina who is at work, completely unaware of what is unfolding at home.
Raina appears in my bedroom ten minutes later, her collar all askew, her fringe in her face, and a stack of papers that is being held against her chest, in the messiest pile of all, that I’m surprised they made the journey.
“Holy bracken Mum! What the hell? You’re lucky I was in my office and not in a meeting! Whose broom has hit a wall?” Raina looks at her mum and then at me, and my mum, and finally at Susannah.
“Oh. Hello. Sorry. Didn’t see you there. I’m Raina. You are?” She asks Susannah, who shakes Raina’s hand and introduces herself.Raina and I don’t have the experience to tell bloomers and wilted apart. Obviously.
“Raina! Saffra took a mushroom. And this woman followed her back here. Can you do a spell reversal please?” Mum says, instantly knowing why Aunty Alyssum demanded her daughter come home.
“I, uh. What? Is she wilted? How? How did she get here? Rewind!!! What happened? Saff – you tell me!” Raina dumps her leather satchel on the floor and her pile of papers on top of it, and sits down on my bed beside me.
“For bracken-sake! I had a mushroom, I went to Fitzroy Street, Susannah was outside with her dog. She smiled. I was stunned she could see me, and then she touched my arm when I was coming back here, and she came with. The end!” I fall back onto my bed, completely mentally exhausted. And don’t forget – I’m still high as well, so this situation is triple exhausting and is doing my head in.
“Oh.” Is all she says.
“Spell reversal. Please.” Aunty Alyssum says.
“Well yes, technically, that is the only way to get her back to her realm, but if I do it, my boss will ask me why I need approval for a spell reversal and I can’t really tell him can I? Because then I’d need to tell him how she got here, and if I told him that, Saffra would lose her job.” Raina says.
“Just tell them I just appeared.” Susannah says.
“That’s not going to convince him. You being here is impossible. You just appearing out of thin air with absolutely no help in doing so… well… that’s even more impossible!” Raina says.
“What other way can I get home?” Susannah asks.
“There is no other way. We have to reverse the magic. Plain and simple.” Aunty Alyssum explains.
“Shit!” Susannah says.
“You got that right.” I say.
“I’ll do it. I’ll just have to deal with the consequences.” Raina huffs and puffs, and scrounges around in her satchel for her wand. We don’t need our wands to disappear thankfully. Just for spells and charms.
“Alright. Susannah. You stand over there. Away from the bed.” Susannah does as she is told.
“Reversario Grande Bellago!” Raina screams, and Susannah disappears and Mum and Aunty Alyssum are standing around like nothing has happened. I’m sober instantly.
“I just took you back to before you cooked it. Well, the time is the same, and that mushroom is still in your stomach, but the magical elements are gone. No high for you!” Raina laughs, and then stops immediately.
She is waiting to be scolded.
“If both of you are fired – don’t blame us!” Aunty Alyssum says, leaving my room and going downstairs, and Mum gives us a stern look and then follows her out, slamming my bedroom door closed with a swish of her wand hand.
“We are screwed.” Raina says, holding my pillow over her face.
“We are so screwed.” I agree, groaning into a cushion.
A black feather floats into my room through the window and starts writing in front of Raina: “Miss Goldrose. We have been notified of an unauthorised spell reversal that was cast by your wand at exactly 11.23am, magical realm time, outside of ministry buildings. No approval was sought for this reversal. You must present yourself to the Head of Spell Reversals to explain this occurrence. Yours Kindly, Miss Optina Gulachey, Secretary to the Head Minister of Magical Allowance.” The feather flies back out the window.
“Great. Just great. This is the part where there are repercussions.” She says.
“Do you want me to come with you?” I ask.
“Yeah, you’d better come. Come on. Let’s tell the mothers where we have to go.” Raina disappears downstairs, and I disappear too.
We appear in the kitchen where Mum and Aunty Alyssum are sitting on the sofas in the living room, drinking cups of darjeeling and peppermint tea, and pushing needles through calico to create embroidered imagery.
“I just got a feather from magical allowance. I have to go see my boss. Saffra’s coming with. Cool?” Raina says, knowing neither of them will answer or respond, and neither of them do.
We disappear and reappear in Raina’s office, with our wands in our skirt pockets. We fix our hair and our collars, and Raina swings open her glass door and leads me to her boss’ glass office.
“Mr Brookline. I am here.” Raina says sitting in a swivel chair, and motioning me to sit in the swivel chair beside her.
“I’ve just had a black feather from magical allowance wanting to know why you cast a reversal spell outside ministry headquarters without authorisation or approval. What’s the story Miss Goldrose?” Mr Brookline who is very handsome, and very married, but a very big flirt, proffers his lolly jar toward us, where we take a few wrapped Cauldron lollies each. I pop one in my mouth and suck on it.
“Well, If I tell you I will surely be fired. Is there a way we can, you know, conceal the reason, behind it, a little bit?” Raina smiles.
“Well give me the story and I’ll tell you if your ass can be saved. But right now your head’s on a chopping block…” He smiles.
“Right. Ok. Well. My cousin and I have had not so charming habits since we were seventeen that should in no way effect my job whatsoever except for rare occasions like this, when my cousin Saffra decides to observe the wilted realm under the influence of magical magical mushrooms, and what should happen, but, well, a wilted woman could SEE her, and she touched Saffra’s hand, and somehow, she was able to come into our realm. It was the only thing I could do to get her back in her realm.” Raina says.
“Interesting story Raina. Why should I believe you?”
“What? Are you saying you don’t believe me?” Raina is offended.
“I do and I don’t. It’s not possible for the wilted to come here. It’s quite impossible.” He says.
“But it’s true. Ask our mothers. They were there. They saw her. They’ll tell you the same thing. Her name’s Susannah and she has a dog called Dodger and she looks like a hippie, and she has a triquetra around her neck, and dreadlocks, and she is a psychic!”
“You don’t honestly believe in all that psychic stuff do you?” He isn’t buying our story.
“Well, I didn’t, but I do now. Whose testimony do we need to prove this to you?” Raina asks, annoyed.
“Well, the woman’s, if anybody’s, but how would you get it?” He asks.
“We would have to eat mushrooms again.” I say.
“And what if you can’t find her? What will you do then?”
“No idea. But I’m sure we will find her. If she can see us, other wilted people are bound to be able to too!” I say.
“You do realise you’ll be breaking the law twice over.. again? Saffra how is it that you haven’t been contacted by the prohibited items ministry?” He looks at me.
“No, idea, actually. Someone’s not doing their job I guess?” I say, completely unsure why the ministry doesn’t know that I have been charming magic mushrooms into magical magic mushrooms.
“Both of you should be fired. But find me this woman, and if she can confirm that she was accidentally brought into our realm then all the charges against both of you will be dropped. You do not want this entering the arena of the judicial ministry. If it does, neither of you will ever hold a ministry job again.” He says. And that’s our cue to leave. We disappear from his office and reappear in our kitchen where we think about what we have been told.
“How bizarre! We are in trouble for breaking the law, and he wants us to break those laws again, in the exact same way, to rectify the laws we broke in the first place!” Raina stomps upstairs and I follow her.
We put two mushrooms in my cauldron, I set them alight with Raina’s wand – hopefully with an allowance of magic from her boss, and wait the twenty minutes for the effects to kick in. Half an hour later, I hold Raina’s hand, and take us to the footpath just in front of Broche where Susannah was sitting. And while Dodger is still tied to the table leg, she is nowhere to be seen.
“Are you sure this is where you met her?” Raina asks me.
“I’m certain. That’s her dog Dodger.” I say. He hears me say his name and his ears prick up.
“Maybe she’s inside ordering coffee? Raina asks, opening the door to the cafe. Nobody in the cafe has seen us enter for they cannot see us, which is a relief, and also a hassle, because how do you find someone when nobody can see you?
We go back outside where shoppers line the street, drinking coffee at outdoor tables, dodging cars on the road, and walking their dogs.
“If I was a psychic, what would I look like?” Raina ponders rhetorically aloud.
“A hippy.” I answer her anyway.
“Maybe we should scream out her name? She is the only person who can hear it, and nobody can see us, so we won’t look like lunatics.” Raina says and smiles.
“Okay. Susannah!” I scream, and Dodger barks. The cafe barista from inside comes outside and holds the dog’s jaw and looks into his eyes.
“What are you barking at mate? There’s nothing there. Mummy will be back soon.” He says, untying Dodger’s leash and taking him inside the cafe and retying him to the fixed leg of a cafe bar stool.
Raina and I scream for Susannah again and again to no avail. And then Susannah rounds the corner with more plastic shopping bags than she can carry.
“Jesus! You scared the living daylights out of me! Oh, it’s you two. I thought you were glad to be rid of me?” She says, dumping the bags onto the outdoor table and then looking at the ground.
“Where’s Dodger?” She asks, looking around.
“Someone came and took him inside because he was barking at us. Look. we need a favour. Saffra and I are in danger of losing our jobs. There is a chance we can keep them if you come back to our realm with us and just explain to my boss what happened.” Raina says.
“Explain? Why should I explain? It wasn’t my doing.” Susannah lights up a cigarette and sits down on the wooden bench backwards.
“My boss doesn’t believe my story. He doesn’t believe a wilted could come into our realm.”
“What the hell is a wilted?” She asks.
“You are.” Raina says.
“Gee thanks. What a name to give someone. I’ve got bloody labels coming out of my ears, but wilted? That’s a new ones. Lesbian, dyke, hippie, greenie, treehugger, rainbow queen, that dog’s mother, and the list goes on. But wilted, that’s a new one.” She smiles. She is still high evidently.
“Please will you come with us? Our jobs depend on it! We can even give you money for it!” Raina pleads with her. And I look at Raina. Money? Really?
“Alright. I’ll come. But I want five hundred dollars, and just make sure you get me back here!” Susannah says.
“We will. I promise. We’ll do the same thing as before.” Raina says.
Susannah takes her grocery shopping inside the cafe, props it on top of the stool that Dodger is napping under and comes back outside.
“Okay. Around the corner. So they don’t see.” She says, and we follow her around to the side of the cafe into a narrow alleyway, hold her hands and disappear back to our realm.
We reappear in Raina’s office completely high off our faces. How is this going to be any more credible than our first attempt of explanation? Mr Brookline opens his door with his wand and we sit down in the three chairs facing him.
“Hello. Thanks for coming. I’m Lake Brookline and I see you’ve met my understudy Miss Raina Goldrose and her cousin Saffra. Tell me your name, your age, and where you are from.” Mr Brookline says, smiling, and offering us more lollies.
“Uh. Susannah Heartbleed. Fifty years old. Melbourne. Well, Fitzroy. My kind of Fitzroy.” She is a bit unsure with Mr Brookline sitting right in front of her.
“Do you know where you are Ms Heartbleed?” He asks.
“Yep. I’m in your office. Raina works for the ministry, so this must be some government building.”
“Yes, this is a government building, that’s correct. Now would you like to tell me how you met Saffra earlier today?”
“I was sitting outside with Dodger, outside Broche. It’s a cafe in Fitzroy. Anyway I was having a fag, and feeling sweet from the shrooms I had just had, and she just popped up in front of me and I smiled. And she was shocked. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to be able to see her, but I could. Because I’m psychic. I’m what we wilted call Clairvoyant.”
“I see. And how do you know that you are referred to as Wilted Susannah?” He asks curious.
“Ah the girls told me that’s what we’re called. I like it. It has a nice ring to it. I’ve been called worse I assure you.”
“I see. How did you get to be in Saffra’s bedroom?”
“I just touched her arm, and there I was! In her room! Pretty room too! My daughter would love it!”
“And then what happened?” Mr Brookline is disinterested, annoyed and tired.
“Raina came home from work. She just appeared in front of me. She said some spell, and I was sitting back at the table in front of Broche.” Susannah grins a pretty big grin.
“I believe your account Susannah, I do. Thank you. I hope we cant recompense you in some way for your troubles?” He says.
“Ah yes. I think you can. Two thousand would do it!” Susannah grins. She’s in the peak of her high.
“Two thousand what?” He asks.
“Two thousand dollars.”
“We don’t deal in dollars.” He says flatly.
“These girls promised me some money!” She says looking at Raina and then at me.
“They had no right to do that Susannah. In our world our currency is very different. We don’t use dollars and cents. How can I give you money?” He says.
“What do you have then?” She eyes his suspiciously.
“We have many things. It just depends what you want. How about some food, or clothing?” He asks.
“How about a life’s-worth of visits here?” She asks excitedly.
“That can be arranged however how do I know you wouldn’t go around telling your kind about our kind?” He asks her.
“Twenty per cent of my kind already know about your kind. The other eighty percent – well, I don’t give a stuff about them!”
“Ok. Rest assured, whenever you would like to visit our realm, these girls will know, and they will collect you from that same cafe.” He says, knowing what he is saying is absolutely untrue.
“That sounds like a good bargain there. Thank you very much.” She shakes his hand, he does the spell reversal with his wand, and she disappears. Raina and I are immediately sober.
“Little does she know, she’ll never be stepping foot in this realm again. Now, where were we? Ok. Raina – I believe your account one hundred percent, but if I forwarded this on to my boss, and he knew I allowed you to get away with this, it would be my head on the chopping block. Not yours. The best I can do is sort this, give them some make believe story, and tell them I fired you.” He says, in a tone that suggests firing her is the last thing he really wants to do.
“So that’s the only outcome then? I’m fired?” Raina isn’t surprised. Just pissed off. Breaking the law like we both have comes with its consequences.
“You are darling. I’m so sorry.” He comes around to our side of the desk to give her a hug and a kiss on her cheek. He wants her ministry pin and her wand so he can retract her work-based magical-allowance from it with his wand. We leave his office and we go into hers. I begin by helping her pack all of her things into boxes that we create out of thin air. She doesn’t have much – most of it is personal items from home like photo frames and feathers and pens and sheets of fancy paper and envelopes. She has her typewriter – it’ s a deep emerald green. She puts that into a box and charms all the boxes down into the size of dice so that all five fit into her skirt pocket. We hold hands and disappear home.