Chapter 1

Today was very unusual. It was both good and bad, but truly unusual! And then, things really changed!

I live in a seaside village, filled with a plethora of outdoor cafes and cultural venues. These are all mixed in with the usual tourist traps that are evident in seaside towns. As was my daily habit, I set out for my regular constitutional at about eight AM.

It was a pleasant day. White puffy clouds were moving across a vivid blue sky, and a slight sea breeze rustled the leaves of the many trees that grow all over town.

Years ago, this town was an unsavory and dangerous place to live. Thanks to the arts community and 'gentrification', things are now very pleasant. The town fathers expended great sums of taxpayer dollars to install gas-facsimile period lampposts, and brick sidewalks. Added to that is the fact that the Historic Commission (the body that says what can and cannot be done to buildings in the Historic District) makes sure that all buildings are in good repair, and adhere to the colonial motif. Since most of the town is in the Historical District, the whole place is near picture perfect.

It took about half an hour for me to get to Market Square: the town center. I went into my favorite café where I purchased a coffee and a biscotti. None of that double shot, soy latte stuff, or any other pretentious concoction. It was just a regular coffee ... easy on the cream and sugar ... with my favorite Italian biscuit.

[Editor's note:]

I took my purchases out to my favorite table at curbside. For some reason I just feel better without a bunch of tables and chairs between me and the square ... go figure.

This particular café has been here for so long, that the town had to grandfather it in, when they established sidewalk regulations. At this particular establishment, the pedestrians have to walk through the out door café, maneuvering around all of the tables and chairs that fill the sidewalk. Very 'continental'. We locals call this place 'the town's living room'. It's a place to gather and talk with neighbors and strangers alike.

The tables are the traditional metal café type, with a hole in the center for umbrellas. But because there are two mature, shade trees out front, the umbrellas are not needed. Because of that fact, I habitually put my cane in the hole so that others don't trip over the thing.

As I sat sipping my brew, regaining the strength that I had expended on my walk into town, I did some people watching. Our tourists are from all over the world, but most are American urbanites that find our little town quite charming but a bit confusing.

This town has been here since the seventeenth century, and our roads and alleys are anything but straight. Added to that, is the fact that many streets are one-way, so it is easy to get distracted or lost.

Today was no exception. In fact, it was far worse than usual! A family from New York entered the square at a higher speed than was safe. On top of that, the driver was trying to read a map!

Thus distracted, he drove off of the street and plowed into the café. Thankfully for me he missed my table. However, he smashed into those that were sitting closer to the building.

It was a horrible sight as the Hummer crushed people under its wheels! Next to my table a wizened old man had just arrived with his granddaughter. She took the full impact of the vehicle while he received a glancing blow to the head from the mirror.

I grabbed my cane (I can't walk without the damn thing) and rushed to help the victims. The closest was the old man and the child. It was obvious that there was no hope for the little girl. The tires of the massive SUV had passed right over her midsection. She was little more than a collection of bloody rags.

Though only having received a glancing blow, the old man was also in very bad shape. We old people become very brittle as we age.

Using my cane for support, I lowered myself to his side to render what assistance I could. I wiped the blood that was flowing from his mouth with one of the paper napkins that were now blowing about.

"How is the child?" he whispered as he clutched at my shirtfront with a gnarled hand.

His grip was surprisingly strong!

"She's gone, I'm afraid," I said as gently as possible ... I mean, how can that kind of news ever be delivered gently?

With a shudder the old man closed his eyes, I saw tears mix with the blood that covered his face.

Imagine my surprise when he suddenly grabbed my shirt again, and pulled me down so that he could whisper in my ear.

"The Power must not be lost! Use it for the good of others, or it will be a curse upon you!"

I tried to ask him what he was talking about, but suddenly everything around me began to move in slow motion ... and the colors ... brilliant flashes of every color and hue imaginable!

That's when the pain came!

It was so intense that I passed out, but not before I felt horrible strong bolts of energy pass into my frail old body!

When I awoke, I found that I was lying across the body of the old man.

He was dead!

"Are you ok? Are you hurt anywhere?" asked the EMT that was kneeling next to me.

"I'm ok," I said. "I think it was the shock of seeing all of this," I added with a wave of my hand to indicate the carnage.

After all, if I mentioned the bolts of energy and bright lights ... I would, without a doubt, be taken to a mental hospital. I had no desire to be psychoanalyzed by some young, snot-nosed condescending, so-called doctor. I ask you, why do they say that they have a practice? It is because they really haven't any idea what the hell they are up to. Period! Full stop! Whatever!

The EMT, a cute young woman, helped me to my feet. She guided me to the chair where I had been sitting, before the disaster.

"Would you please hand me my cane?" I asked the young woman.

It was still next to the old man. Amazingly my coffee was still right where I had left it. It was still warm, I noticed, as I automatically reached for the cup and took a sip.

It never ceases to amaze me just how capricious fate can be! Outside of the path of gore created by the huge SUV all of the tables were exactly as before! None of the patrons that had been sitting in those spots even had a scratch, amazing!

A dazed café waiter brought me two towels, one wet and the other dry. The young man needed to be doing something. After handing me the towels he sat down heavily in the chair across from me.

"She took my table so that I could go to the bathroom. Now she's dead!" he said flatly. "We were going to the movies, tonight."

It was very obvious that the young man was in shock. I waved one of the emergency workers over to help the lad. The boy was taken to one of the ambulances as I began to make use of the towels that the lad had given to me.

Once I had finished removing as much blood as possible, I began to ruminate over what the old man had said.

'First he had mentioned 'The Power.' Well, whatever it was, it was real. I had felt it! The old boy had definitely transferred something to me. The pain was proof enough, ' I thought.

'Ok. Secondly, the next part of what he said, " ... it must not be lost" was covered too, since the power now resided within me.

"Now what was the last part? There was something about a curse in there ... Hmm...

"Shit! I hate these 'senior moments'..."

"Sir? May I ask you a few questions? That is if you are not injured in some way," asked the police officer that had come up from behind me.

I looked up into the greenest eyes I had ever seen in my seventy-nine years. The officer was a very attractive red headed woman. She looked as if she had just stepped out of central casting. She was wearing a well-tailored uniform, and had her hair done up in a bun that, somehow, was very sensual.

"Man I wish I was thirty or forty years younger!" I thought as I waved a hand at the chair across from me. She took a seat and proceeded to politely ask my name, what I had seen and done and so forth. She dutifully wrote everything down in her notebook.

Then rose and gave me her card, saying, "If you think of anything else, please call me."

"I will officer ... but, honestly, I've told you everything I know about this awful mess."

"Ok then, Sir. Thank you for your time," she said.

'What a woman!' I thought as I watched her move off to question other witnesses.

She was petite, perfectly proportioned and moved with an athlete's grace. The woman had all of the attributes that I loved. She was heavily freckled and had what looked to be straight mahogany colored hair. Add to those features, slightly Asian green eyes, and you have an astoundingly beautiful woman.

"Wow," I muttered under my breath.

As I regained my senses, I realized that it was not good to sit in the middle of all of that tragedy. I reached for my cane; suddenly I felt my heart drop into my stomach. I had made that cane fifteen years ago. It was made from an antique bed knob that was over one hundred years old. I used the thing everyday since its creation. The knob was pretty banged up when I made the cane and over the years I had added many more dents and scratches.

Yet here was my cane, a unique one of a kind item, in pristine condition, the brass was sparkling and undamaged and the wood gleamed! My old stick was beautiful again and looked brand new!

"What the hell is going on?" I asked out loud.

The redheaded policewoman—who was asking questions of nearby witness—came over to me, concern written on her face.

"Sir? Are you all right?" she asked.

"What?" I asked. I then looked up and continued, trying to cover myself, "Oh, yes. I'm ok. It's just all of this needless death. It has angered me. A short time ago that was a vibrant young girl, now ... It's all just so meaningless. It would have been better if I had died and she had lived!" I said as I pointed at the dead waitress.

"That is survivor's guilt talking, Sir. Would you like me to get one of the EMTs to talk with you?"

"No, no. It's like it says in the Bible, Miss, ah ... Officer. Time and chance happen to us all."

She looked at me blankly.

"Ok, to put it another way, 'Shit Happens'," I explained.

She then nodded with understanding.

I grabbed up my cane and started walking toward my apartment. I was filled with the fear that I would be placed in a mental hospital for observation. Young people don't understand what it is like to get old in America.

We old people are an inconvenience that the 'culture of the young' wish to put out of sight. Young family members will say how concerned they are for the health and well being of us older folk, but in reality that talk is just a salve to their consciences.

Once I was a few blocks away from the accident I began to relax and bring my mind back to the problem of what the old man had said.

'Now what was it he had said?'

Nothing! It was gone! I couldn't remember a word of it.

'Damn it, this is important... ' I thought.

'Oh! Yeah!' I exclaimed as the memory suddenly returned.

'Use it for the good of others or it will be a curse upon you!'

It had been a very traumatic morning. I was dead tired and emotionally drained. I, therefore, sought out one of the many 'pocket parks' that are scattered around town for use by weary tourists. I found a bench to my liking, and returned to my thoughts as I caught my breath.

"Ok. That phrase seems pretty straight forward, but the question is, 'what do I use for the good of others?' And how do I do that?" I muttered under my breath.

'Please don't be alarmed. All will be explained to you, ' said a voice in my head.

I gave a great start and dropped my cane in the process. I looked around but found no one. As I reached down to pick up my stick I saw that it was glowing with a blue-green light.

I was sure, now, that the voice had come from the cane.

'This is a message from the man that you tried to help. You fainted before I could explain things to you. Because of that, I have placed this message in your cane. It has but a limited amount of power, and will play only once. So please listen carefully.

"I am a wizard as were all of my progenitors. Normally our powers are passed down within our own bloodline, but since that line ends with the deaths of my granddaughter and myself, I have decided to grant you my powers with the hope that you will establish a new line of descent. As I said to you before you fainted, these powers must be used for the good of others, else a horrible curse will befall you... and your family.

"I have placed a magical manual of sorts within you. Say the spell, <KOOBRAEPPA> to call the book forth.

"Fare you well. Take care to remember the curse."

I sat stunned as the voice in my head stopped and the glow dissipated. After resting for a while longer I rose woodenly and made my way back to my apartment.

This was all too much! I stumbled to my recliner, and sat down heavily. There is a mantra among many of our older generation: 'When all else fails, take a nap.'

I thought that this was sound advice, and did just that.

About an hour later, I awoke to the idea that it all had been a horrible dream. That thought vanished when I turned on the TV, and caught the noon news. There, right in front of me, were the pictures: cell phone stills and videos of the disaster.

The many pictures showed the driver being pulled from the Hummer and nearly killed by distraught people that had lost loved ones to the tragedy. Some of the rioters went so far as to attack the family of the driver. Even the little children of the family were injured. The whole family had to be rescued by the police, and rushed to the hospital right along with the injured patrons of the café.

Something was terribly wrong! I saw these people and talked with many of them every day. What could cause them to lose their senses in such an evil way? The driver did hurt people, but not with malice! It was an accident, after all ... wasn't it?

One of the local stations then played a recording of the driver of the Hummer foul mouthing the local populace.

He was asking, "What's the big deal? I only hit a few poor people. It's not like these hicks ever did anything important."

That comment got him one of the metal café chairs in the face. Things went down hill from there as his wife began spouting off ... in Spanish and English ... that everyone would pay for what they had done to her husband! He was the El Diablo's great leader. Then she kicked an injured old woman out of the way in an attempt to get to her husband. That act got a bunch of the local women to descend on her like a tornado. She had been a pretty woman until that moment. If she lived, it would take massive plastic surgery to give her any kind of a face at all.

The strange thing was that I didn't remember any of the rioting. It all must have taken place while I was unconscious.

I felt incredibly sad for my town and its people. This was a place of peace, not of rioting.

'Well there is no time like the present, ' I thought and then said in a loud firm voice, "<KOOBRAEPPA>."

Instantly little sparkles appeared and coalesced into a large book floating right before me. I reached out, snatched it out of the air, and brought it to my desk.

Up until that moment I had known that what the old Wizard had said was true, but now I believed, I really believed! Shaken badly, I went to the kitchen, got out a large tumbler, and then proceeded to fill it half full of Bourbon.

After a large gulp of the amber liquid I returned to my desk, with glass in hand, and sat staring at the ancient tome. It took several more sips of liquid courage before I opened the book. To my surprise all of the pages were blank!

"What the hell?" I exclaimed in exasperation.

Suddenly the pages of the book began to riffle back and forth, ending up at the very first page.

This time there were words! Words in a smooth flowing script that asked, "I did not understand your request. Please restate the question?"

I stared dumbfounded! Mouth agape! This was an interactive book!

"Ah ... Book, what are my powers?"

"At the moment none of your powers, save one, are active, Master. You must learn how to use me, and the spells that I contain."

"Well then, what power is active?"

"The power of self healing, Master."

"Self healing? What do you mean?"

"Your body is in ill health, Master. The power is restoring you to good health, my Lord."

"That's great news! Ok then ... How do I learn to use my powers?"

"I will guide you, Master."

And so it was that I returned to school!

Edited By TeNderLoin

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