“My life is over.”
“Your life is not over,” TJ said reasonably over the headset. It was drowned out by the sound of two light bulbs in Sean’s kitchen popping and showering glass to the tile floor.
Sean whirled, went to his computer setup, and slammed his palm on the switch for the power strip. Nothing changed. The strange symbol glowed in taunting mockery on all four of his computer screens. Fuck, the magic was feeding the current. This wasn’t good. He could feel his business along with his little scrap of independence dying right before his eyes.
“We’re not zoned for magic.” Sean’s shock was slowly giving way to anger. “There are over 30 apartments in this building; you can’t just go throwing in a magical element without the right buffers.” Not just an element, it was a magic practitioner. Spirit Movers were contracted only by the magically inclined. It wasn’t one fucked up magically cursed item, but a creator of all things magical about to come into his apartment building. It didn’t matter how much Sean invested in proper shielding, his technology was going to be a hunk of melted metal and plastic the moment a witch stepped into the building.
Four years. He had built this business up from nothing over the last four years. He slaved without breaks, starved more than he ate, and had only just gotten to the point where he could finally pay off the fucking loan it took to buy his equipment in the first place. This wasn’t allowed to happen. He couldn’t let this happen. This was his fucking life and he wasn’t just handing it over to some careless, spark happy witch.
“Sean? Hey, are you there?”
“Quiet,” Sean snapped automatically. He looked around his satisfyingly immaculate living room which doubled as his office. He just needed something big, like a bat. How did he live in the fucking city and not have a hunk of baseball bat to slug at intruders? Sean stomped into the kitchen and grabbed the tea kettle off the stove, thought better of it, and reached for a frying pan instead.
“Sean, talk to me. You’re doing that muttering thing. Tell me you’re not losing your shit.”
Sean snorted in irritation. “I’m not losing my shit. I’m just going to go down there and tell them to get the fuck away from my building.”
TJ sighed heavily. “Come on, you know you can’t…”
“Blunt force trauma can still hurt a witch, right? They’re still human, after all.”
“Wait,” TJ interrupted before Sean could storm out the door. “Just take a breath and hold the fuck on. This is a witch we’re talking about.”
“I don’t care if it’s the fucking mayor!” Sean wasn’t sure exactly when he started yelling, but yelling felt like the thing he needed to do. He swung his arm with the frying pan, satisfied by the heft of the object. “Witches have to abide by the same regulations as everyone else. Otherwise it’s chaos! I cannot handle fucking chaos.” Sean tried to take a calming breath, his face too flush and throat tight all of a sudden. “I’m just going to go down and calmly explain other people live in the building and bringing any sort of magic into an unbuffered space can lead to the total destruction of any and all electronics.” He swung the frying pan again, his mouth set in a grim line.
“Right, tell that to the ass end of their wand when they’re turning you into a toad. Just calm down, Sean. My shift is over in an hour. I’ll come by and talk to them for you.”
“Like fuck. I’m not waiting for you. The second they move all that shit in here, my computers will be fried. That’s thousands of dollars down the fucking toilet.” Sean stopped his erratic pacing and slapped his hand to his forehead. “Oh fuck, I’ll have to move. They’ll want references. Credit checks. Fuck, TJ, they’re going to want to talk to my parents.” The frying pan fell from his hand and clattered noisily to the tile floor. “I can’t do this. I can’t fucking do this. My life is over. I can’t run a business in the same building as a witch.”
“Breathe. Sean, there is no reason to believe any of that. You’re just making shit up in your head and…” Another light bulb blew overhead and Sean jumped in surprise. He scrambled blindly until his back slammed against the fridge. Feeling trapped, he glared at the bare socket which was glowing a suspicious purple. TJ continued, oblivious. “People work with witches all the time. Hell, witches are total entrepreneurs and not only hire a ton of freelancers like yourself, but also improve the local economy. I’m sure whoever is moving in has no interest in fucking up your business.”
Sean shook his head fiercely. Some days he just couldn’t understand how fucking naive TJ was. “The building isn’t zoned. I have it in fucking writing. I never would have started a tech based business in a building zoned for magic; I’m not an idiot. Magic kills tech.”
“Breathe,” TJ insisted while completely ignoring his brilliant point.
He did have it in writing and Sean stalked to the bedroom and went to the bookcase. He keyed in the combination and opened his personal safe and quickly riffled through the papers piled within. It took him a minute to find his agreement with the property management. “It’s in the third paragraph of the lease; no magical interference will be allowed into the apartment. This isn’t just about my business, this is basic regulations to be able to use a television or cell phone. You can’t run a fucking lamp around magic without fear of something fucking up.”
“Then call the property managers and yell at them,” TJ said as reasonably as possible. “For the love of fuck, just don’t pick a fight with a witch.”
Sean growled and headed back to the living room. He jumped and grabbed his chest when the overhead light exploded in shards and trickled into his hair. “Fuck!” he gasped as he brushed his blond hair free of glass. “TJ, if I could disconnect from you, I would have already. Take the batteries out of your phone; it won’t make a fucking difference. The witch isn’t even through the damn door yet and all the tech is fucked in the building.” Sean grabbed his keys from the bowl in the kitchen. “I’m going down there and telling them they’ve made a mistake. They’re out of zone and have to move their truck at least a quarter of a mile away.”
TJ sighed in exasperation. “No, you’re not, Sean. Just focus on your breathing. I’ll be down there in less than an hour. Fuck, I’ll blow the rest of my shift off. Just chill, and I’ll be right there.”
“I’m not fucking waiting! You didn’t see my setup!” Sean pointed to his glowing computer screens, only to roll his eyes when he realized TJ couldn’t see shit through the headset. “The only one else home this time of day is the elderly couple on the first floor. What exactly is Mr. and Mrs. Luthra going to do? They’re both probably having heart attacks from all their light bulbs explode.”
“Either that of they haven’t noticed,” TJ said, his voice even more even and soothing. “The Luthras are pretty laid back. Just calm down. I’m leaving now.”
Sean bared his teeth and growled. “Fuck you. I’m not a fucking five-year-old. I don’t need you to hold my fucking hand to deal with this. Fucking bullshit.” Still, Sean stopped his angry march to the front door stopped and stared warily at the cherry stained door.
“Uh huh.” TJ sounded distracted over the sound of a cage clicking shut and the excited mewls of a half dozen kittens. “Traffic shouldn’t be too bad this time of day. It’ll take ten minutes, top.”
“I go to the gym every fucking day. Every day. I don’t need your help. It’s right downstairs,” Sean insisted, his voice sharp.
“Yup, it’s pretty fucking awesome, man. I can’t drag myself to the gym consistently once a week, and you go every day.”
“Don’t condescend.” God, he hated his life. Fucking hated it. Sean crossed the distance and slammed his fist down on the door.
“You know I wouldn’t do that. I seriously wish I could work out. I’m going all flab since I left college.” TJ’s cheerful tone drained away, and in his mind’s eye, Sean could see his friend’s familiar, worried expression. “You know the path is different, Sean. You can’t get to the front door from the gym.”
“Fuck you.” Sean wasn’t sure if he was directing the curse at TJ or the light bulb that just exploded overhead. “My computers are going to be on fire the second they drag something magical through those doors.” He sounded determined, but when Sean grabbed the door handle, he couldn’t bring himself to turn it. Fuck. Motherfucker.
For a brief, unnerving moment Sean could see the path it would take to get from his apartment doors to downstairs. It was a twisted, crooked walk where the edges felt dark and every doorway led to a maze of hallways and potential danger. Sean’s heart pounded in his chest loud enough for him to finally notice over the sickening wave of heat lurching through him. What would happen once he was outside? The world would stretch out like an ocean of sky and pavement, where the towering skyscrapers were his only buffers to the lack of boundaries all around.
TJ’s voice broke through, calm and full of a reassuring smile. “Ten minutes, man. That’s it. You know how movers are; I bet they take an hour break before they even get started.”
Damn it. God fucking damn it. Sean huffed, stomped back to the living room, and threw himself into his roller chair. His hands were clammy with sweat. He rubbed them distractedly on his pants while the racing of his heart slowed to something bearable.
“Ten minutes,” Sean said too sharply as he fought to regain control of himself. “If they come through those doors with something computer destroying before you get here, I’m totally blaming you.”
“Fair enough.” TJ, as usual, was far too agreeable. Sean slumped in his seat and covered his eyes with his hands.