Welcome to Magic Weirdos. An audio fiction series about arcane goofballs and their many, many problems. You’re listening to season 1 - Pockets.
Chapter 8 - Every Kid Knows You Can’t Erase Crayon
They drove through the night — the second longest of Eric’s life, during which he experienced the second most acute existential crisis he’d ever known. He was unable to sleep for any amount of time. Instead, he lay face down on the chipped and painted plywood floor of the delivery van, his nostrils filled with the pungent sweet scent of sugary cakes and the stale nutty smell of cardboard. Hazel had slipped into a fructose coma on a bed of plastic wrappers after eating a box full of Bunny Hunnys — which were actually doughnuts containing approximately zero percent honey and crudely shaped into something like rabbits. Cooper and Giselle spoke quietly in the front from time to time to break the silence, but between the hum of the tires on asphalt and the roar of his brain, Eric had no comprehension of anything they said.
SFX: Hum of tires
He felt like he’d never laugh again. Like he’d never again know a normal day. It was a feeling he’d felt before. Several times, as a matter of fact. Cataclysmic shifts of the world on its axis that forever alter everything from colors and sounds to words and syllables themselves. The bitch of it was, while he HAD eventually laughed after each time he’d gone through such a rift in his reality, he was never able to laugh quite as hard as he had been before. He wondered how much more he could endure before any joy he was capable of truly was gone. He would just keep gaining and losing, and parts of him would keep living and dying as, in little increments, the finite tank in which he stored his sense of humor would be depleted forever. Then would he actually never laugh again?
“Aye,” he thought in prayer, moving his lips but making no sound. Only a squeak of a whisper. He didn’t know what to say. He only wanted her to know he was desperate. So he lay there, knots in his throat, stomach, and shoulders, desperately saying nothing and feeling no divine connection.
It hadn’t always been that way. Once upon a time, his conversations with Florence felt like his soul was vibrating. Even when they weren’t physically in the same room, which they had been, often. Connecting with her had made him feel lighter, not emptier.
But now, Eric felt his soul rotting as another attempt at prayer bounced off the roof of the van and came back to him unanswered, unheard.
Within the past 48 hours, he had stolen. He had watched helplessly as dozens, maybe hundreds of people were killed. He had thrown in his lot with people he didn’t know and watched as they fought and injured people who had fought and injured them. Would they have to kill before all was said and done? For years he’d held out hope for forgiveness. Reconciliation for a moment… a singular second of his life that never stopped torturing him. Bile rose in his throat at the thought that continuing down this road with these people may force him to do even more for which he could never be forgiven. How could that possibly be the right choice?
But Goddammit… he knew it was. Whether she spoke to him now or not. Even if she had never shown herself to him in the first place — if every moment, every talk, every healed wound, every touch, every tearful goodbye had been part of an elaborate delusion… some things had just always been in his blood.
“If you can get in trouble chasing something bigger than you, it’s worth the trouble.”
Gram had only said it one time, but he’d never forgotten it.
But what about these people? The young goth, the old goth and the hippie. Somewhere, a dorky kid that needed help. Messy, angry, sad, lonely, joyful. He’d known them for a grand total of 48 hours and he’d already had to trust them with his life more than once.
Messy, angry, sad, lonely, joyful.
There are certain truths that, when you unlock them, a beacon is lit for others who have found that same truth to find you.
Messy, angry, sad, lonely, joyful.
Just like everyone else in the world. The only people Eric had ever trusted were the people who were honest about that. Even without speaking of it, he knew these people accepted life for what it was.
As the sun rose over the 2-lane highway, corn fields on either side that had been cut with browned stalks and leaves rotting on mounds of plowed dirt, Eric wondered what had made each of them. The moments that had made them as messy, angry, sad, lonely, and joyful as he was.
Miraculously, a glint of yellow caught his attention. He leaned through the small opening that separated the van’s cargo from its cabin, and pointed to a gravel drive.
“No fuckin’ way. Cooper? Pull in there.”
It couldn’t be that easy.
He had opened the door and jumped out before the van had come to a stop. There stood the burnt bones of a house. The ash had long since washed away, but some of the belongings inside remained. A scorched metal bedframe. A grotesque rocking horse with a melted plastic face. Glass vases and aluminum cans. Ghosts.
Eric only clocked these things in his periphery. Tears welled in his eyes as he approached the crumbling brick fireplace and touched an alien-looking, bright yellow vine that crawled up the side. Small, almond-shaped pods sprouted out from each side of the vine like Christmas lights. The tendril was fleshy and cold… but vibrant under a layer of frost… the first of the season. It was tucked into the bottom of a large bird’s nest perched at the top of the chimney. He’d never seen it growing anywhere besides the floor of his closet.
“Please be empty, please be empty…” he whispered, and tugged on the vine. The nest upended and toppled to the ground. With it, three eggs splattered on the ground. Eric flinched as yolk filtered through the rubble.
“Sorry, Mama Bird.” He pinched the vine between his thumb and forefinger, and held it to his nose. Earthy, minty honeysuckle.
He smiled. “I love you. I really do. Maybe you still like me, too. A little.”
He rolled the vine in a tight coil, grabbed an empty vase lying on the ground, and filled it with dirt from around the root.
“The heck is that?” Hazel called from the back of the van, spitting crumbs as she spoke.
“Mana from heaven,” Eric said as he climbed into the van.
“So is this oatmeal pie, sweet Jesus.”
“Everybody in?” Cooper called from the Driver’s seat.
“Can we stop someplace that sells gardening supplies?” Eric asked, popping open one of the pods and extracting a small blue seed.
Giselle turned her head like an owl. “Do we think that’s safe?”
“I gotchu, boo,” said Hazel. Mouth still full of cake and buttercream, she scribbled
in her notebook until plastic trays and cups materialized on the floor in front of them.
“You’re my hero,” Eric said.
“I aim to please.”
“I guess a propane burner would be too much to ask?”
“Can you do a glass beaker?” Hazel nodded. Within seconds, Eric held a freezing cold vial in his hands. “Why is it cold?”
“I dunno,” Hazel shrugged. “Always is. I think it comes from somewhere else. I probably just ruined some student’s lab project.”
“All sorts of things for me to be sorry for today…” Eric poured a few milliliters of water into the beaker, dropped a few seeds inside. He borrowed a cigarette lighter from Cooper and heated the water from underneath. It would never be enough heat to make it boil, but if he could just get the seeds to dissolve...
“While everyone is awake,” Giselle said from the front seat, waving some of the papers they’d stolen from the GillCo building. “I’ve been doing some reading. It seems that the woman who took Aiden built her own prison in a border town called Rouse's Point in New York state. Or, rather, beside it.”
“Why?” Cooper asked. Eric said nothing, his focus set on trying to wring one more miracle out of the day.
Giselle read. “It says ‘...To explore new ways to harness magic for the safety of humanity and her children.’”
Cooper sighed. “Long fuckin’ way of saying ‘torture Wielders for fun.’”
Eric clapped his hands. “HELL YES. Sorry, got my own thing going back here. Torture bad. Do we think that’s where she took the kid? Do we just drive north and figure out what to do once we get there?”
Hazel looked up from her phone. “According to Google, that’s about a 23 hour drive, if we stay on backroads like this.”
“Which we should,” Eric said, now scooping dirt into the plastic gardening trays.
“And according to someone named HornyTrumpo_420 on 4Chan, we can access a government-funded pocket dimension with a salt circle and apple cider vinegar,” Hazel added. “Comments say it’s also good for sore throats.”
“Heh. No weirder than white crayon, right?” Eric said.
[MUSIC: Hazel’s theme, reflective]
There were no lines to color outside of. Hazel made her own lines. The fancy doctor lady didn’t have any black markers, so Hazel used a dark green one to draw the outline of a robot picking flowers. By the time she started looking for markers to fill in the lines with color, the sides of her hands and her fingertips were smudgy from the ink. Her head was empty. None of what the Fancy Lady called “what ifs”. Usually it was “What if someone poisoned our toothpaste” or “What if this present from Papá was because I’m dying and they don’t want me to know?”
None of it. No heaviness in her chest. Her throat was open. She could breathe. Just flowers and robots.
She finished the drawing and moved on to something else. An idea she’d had for a while regarding a dragon on rollerskates. She could hear Mamá and Papá talking to the Fancy Lady, but she couldn’t bring herself to care too much what they were talking about. They were too far away.
SFX: Distant voices
“I know it doesn’t feel like it, but she’s made tremendous progress.”
“A child shouldn’t… feel… the way she does.”
“Children feel all the same things we do. The difference is they’re feeling it for the first time and don’t know how to cope.”
“And in some children like Hazel, those feelings can turn to fear and take the form of things like her obsessive compulsive disorder.”
“But she’s not… neat. We can’t keep her bedroom clean to save our lives.”
“That’s not always how it works. Sometimes, certainly. But for other people… Think of it this way. There’s so much noise in her little head that she can’t focus on anything other than performing the actions that make the noise a little quieter, only if for a moment.”
“She’s strong. Don’t underestimate her. Just… let her get the noise out of her head. It’ll be messy, but it’s necessary. Drawing seems to do the trick.”
Hazel finished the roller skating dragon and felt compelled to leave a signature — a single H — in the bottom left corner in pink marker.
Through the fog of her breath on the car window, Hazel saw raindrops jiggling and dancing in the wind. She drew another H… this time a little fancier… on the window. The buildings passed by one by one. Soon, the heavy came back. Her leg started shaking and her mouth went dry. Sometimes there was a reason, but not this time. Just the Heavy. Looking for something to be scared about.
Hazel rubbed her eyes, scratched her head, and reached into the floorboard to grab her paper and crayons. The paper was there, but the crayons weren’t. She’d left them in her backpack at home. The heavy got heavier.
“Mamá… It’s happening, but I can’t find my crayons.”
“Remember your breaths, mija,” Papá said. She tried, but they caught in her throat. Her deepest breath was only a whimper. Mamá turned in her seat to rub Hazel’s leg. She fumbled between the seats, grasping for anything that would help her control the thunder in her mind. It felt like her brain was shaking. She knew that anything bad that could happen, would. And somehow, it would be her fault. She couldn’t control her thoughts or her feelings, and because of them, bad things would happen. Other children didn’t seem to even have to control their thoughts. She had asked her best friend one time what he did when he was sad. He had said “I stop,” which had been entirely unhelpful.
The Fancy Lady — Dr. Taylor — had told her to focus on her senses. What she could see, hear, smell, touch, taste. But her vision was thick and runny. Her ears rang. There was nothing to eat, and her shirt felt tight around her neck. There were no smells besides the coconut air freshener hanging from the rearview. She thought she could focus on the scent for a split second… but it became a loud, choking smell she couldn’t get away from.
“Window?” She choked. Mamá reached with her other arm to turn the window crank. Hazel hated that she wasn’t strong enough to do it herself.
Spray from the rain hit her face. The cool of it granted her one clear breath. In that breath, her fingers, still fumbling beneath the seat, wrapped around a stubby, discarded crayon.
“Draw whatever your brain feels like,” Mamá said. “Draw something that could chase away the scaries.”
“It’s white. I can’t see what I’m drawing.”
“Draw on darker paper,” said Papá.
An image popped in Hazel’s head. Something strong, but still nice. Hazel immediately drew it, even though she could hardly make out what she was drawing. Her eyes dried in the wind, caking salt to her cheeks. She laughed… realizing she wanted to draw it again when she got home, with the full force of colors. What she drew was huge. Larger than life.
“Feeling better?” Papá asked. Hazel nodded as she finished her drawing. “See? It’s not real. Your brain is playing tricks on you. It can’t hurt--”
MUSIC: Hazel’s theme, intense
Hazel didn’t see much. But she didn’t need to. Her legs screamed in pain under the weight of an enormous wheel. A single glimpse in her final moment of consciousness was enough to haunt her for as long as she lived: Her parents, limp and bloody in the front seat, crushed beneath the weight of a truck that had landed on them.
A bright pink monster truck with flowers painted on the hood, just as she had imagined it.
Save for her parents’ crushed remains, it would be the last thing Hazel would see in her head for more than a decade. But that, she saw in vivid detail.
There would be episodes of bad cable tv — for which Hazel would never receive a dime — about the mysterious monster truck that fell out of the sky in Dallas. About how it hadn’t had a driver, or any machinery under the hood. About how first responders said it was ice cold and steaming in the rain.
MUSIC: Hazel’s theme - Tragic
Days. Funeral. Surgery. Steel rods.
Weeks. Crying. Tantrums. Punching.
Months. Therapy. Questions. Nothing.
Years. Nothing. Nothing. Masking.
She never told a soul. Years passed without so much as the flicker of an image in her mind. Just the Heavy, and no drawings to chase it away.
When she was sixteen, Hazel was listening to Motion City Soundtrack on an iPod she’d stolen from lost and found. She mostly successfully hid the earbud in her left ear with her hair, but her teacher knew. As loud as it was, it was impossible not to. But Hazel kept up the charade of hiding it out of something akin to respect.
As she scribbled lyrics in the margins of her graph paper, something old that felt new happened. She saw, clearly, a black rose with blood dripping from a thorn.
So, she drew it.
MUSIC: Hazel theme - slow and plucky
Days. Roses. Ravens. Heart grenades.
Weeks. Penises. Headstones. Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas.
Months. Crushes. Faces. Women. Men. People.
Years. Contests. Scholarships. Art school.
When she was 22, at her senior art show, Hazel stood proudly before an oil-on-canvas piece that was the talk of the exhibition. Several elders, who had mistaken the sign out front for a senior citizen art show, blushed and left immediately upon entering.
“Hazel, dear?” said Professor Aldrich as she approached, leading a pair of older women in pantsuits. Aldrich was clearly snuffing a smile.
“That’s me!” Hazel chimed.
“This is Dr. Melrose and Dr. Walker, from the college’s board of directors.”
Hazel shook their hands. “So nice to meet you!”
“Your display is quite the talk of the show,” said Professor Aldrich. “But confirm for me… what’s the theme of your piece?”
“Orgy while Cthulu attacks,” she said, pointing over her shoulder. She seared the suits with eye contact. Here, she was herself. Here, she was unafraid.
“But… why?” Dr Melrose pleaded.
Hazel shrugged. “What else are you gonna do if Cthulu attacks? If you prefer, I can say it’s a statement about romanticizing and fetishizing the classic writers of the western canon despite what we know about their authors. Lovecraft was a jerk, he woulda hated this. But I can make stuff up all day, it’s mainly, just a big, filthy, end-of-times orgy.”
“Is it for sale?” Dr. Walker asked, sipping her punch.
Days. Resumés. Portfolios. Entry-level marketing.
Weeks. Paychecks. Benefits. Depression.
Months. Depression. Depression. Nerdy hobbies to fight depression.
Years. Unemployment. Fan art. Freelance.
When she was 25, Hazel stood in the aisle of the pharmacy, staring at a pack of crayons. She bit her lip. Cracked her knuckles. Scratched her head.
“Fuck it,” she said, yanking the crayons off the display hanger, as well as a pack of construction paper. She paid in quarters and dimes, and sped home.
Later, she sat cross-legged on her kitchen floor, having taken a single crayon out of the box. She stared at it. A white crayon. The crayon every kid ignored. The one that goes unused. The one that gets forgotten in the floorboard of the car.
The one she killed her parents with.
She breathed, letting that last thought float down the river.
But what if?
What if she really HAD drawn that truck into existence? What if she HADN’T just created the memory out of survivor’s guilt, like every psychologist she’d ever seen had said? That would mean she could draw other things…
She leaned over a piece of black construction paper and drew the first thing she could think of. Something simple. Small. A 20-sided die.
Space seemed to part like a curtain, and a black 20-sided die fell out of the folds.
It was cold in her hands, like it had traveled through space to get to her. She rolled it. 19.
“Critical hit if you’re a Fighter,” she said, hugging the die to her chest.
This concludes Chapter 8 of pockets. Thank you for listening.
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Thanks again, and stay weird. The world depends on it.