Free Write Friday #11: The Importance of Curses

A man gets cursed by an incompetent wizard. While still technically cursed, the man finds the side effects to be helpful in certain situations. 

The afternoon was perfect. Spring was finally here, chasing away the last tendrils of winter. The temperatures were getting warmer and warmer each day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky as Preston headed down the long pedestrian walkway that cut through the middle of campus heading toward the Chemistry Building. It was lab day. Preston hated lab, but Curses and Incantation was a required course for all first year students and it had a nasty reputation as a 'weed out' course that was well deserved. It consisted of a lecture section (one and a half hours), a discussion section (a forty-five minute 'attendance required' eight o'clock on Monday morning hellscape) and a lab section (three hours- three!) on Thursday afternoons. It was probably the biggest and most important class of his fall semester and he was already dreading the midterm.

He was almost there, just walking past the Business College, the red brick bulk of the Chemistry Building just across the street ahead of him when, with an audible 'pop' his demon familiar, Lark, appeared beside him. It had taken Preston some getting used to, but Lark pretty much came and went as he pleased these days.

"Hey man, what are you doing?"

"Lark, pants!"

"What?" Lark looked downward and rolled his eyes. "Humans and their foibles." He snapped his fingers and a pair of brown shorts appeared on his bottom half. "The question stands though: what are you doing?"

"It's Thursday," Preston said. "I've got lab."

"Skip it," Lark said.

"Don't tempt me, you dick," Preston said. "I've got to at least pass the class. It's required for my major."

"Suit yourself," Lark shrugged. "At least come down to the Lozario's Pool Hall when you're done though. Delta Sig are having a tournament and I want to win."

"You're on," Preston said. "This lab section is three hours so for damn sure I'm going to need to have some fun when I'm done."

"Okay," Lark replied. "See you then," With another audible 'pop' he vanished and Preston crossed the street and headed up the steps and into the Chemistry Building. From the main lobby of the building, (which contained a three dimensional representation of the entire periodic table) it was a short walk up the stairs to the fourth floor and then down the hall to the lab. Preston was one of the last students to arrive.

"All right, all right," Professor Margol came ambling into the room, looking tired, haggard and miserable as he always did. His plum colored robes were looked as though they were in bad need of a trip to the laundromat. Normally, he launched into the lesson for the day without hesitation, oftentimes before his students had sat down and prepared themselves for the lesson. Today, however, he had someone with him.

"All right," Margol said as he set his books down on the desk at the front of the lab. "You're in luck, kids, because today we're about to start our first section of Practical Curses and before we do, I thought it'd be good for you to learn about the importance safety as well as some of the long term consequences that curses can have." He gestured for the man to come up to the front of the room and stand beside him. "This is Nigel," Margol said. "He's an old friend of mine from when I was teaching at Cambridge- and I'll let him tell you the rest of the story."

Nigel looked to be about Margol's age and set down his mug of coffee and walked up to the front of the classroom. "So, Dwayne tells me you're about to start curses."

"Nigel," Professor Margol said,with a pained look in his face. "Don't call me that. It's-"

Nigel chuckled and raised a hand. "I know, I know... it's Margol the Magnificent," he grinned. "I only did it to piss you off."

"Well, mission accomplished," Margol replied. "Now tell the damn story."

"All right, all right," Nigel said. "Well, our story begins about a year ago when we were both post-doctoral students over in Cambridge. One night, after several pints of bitter at the Lamb and Crown- the local pub we all liked to frequent, we ended up on the lawn along side King's College and we did what all your professors have probably told you multiple times never to do- we started playing with our wands while we were drunk."

There was a round of giggles at that. Nigel rolled his eyes. "Not those wands," Nigel said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wand. "These wands. Well one thing lead to another and soon we were having practicing our curses and counter curses on one another right there in the moonlight by the River Cam. I used the tiburonus curse to give Dwayney- I'm sorry, Margol," he rolled his eyes. "A shark's head. Georgie, another one of our friends used the yakisoborus curse to give me noodle arms for a bit. But you know what it's like when you're drunk and being stupid, right? You don't care about the quality of the magic, You're not precise with your spells and your pronunciation. You're wizards, but you're damned incompetent ones and you're usually trying to one up each other the drunker you are. And we were pretty drunk."

"Which bring us to the point of our little cautionary tale," Nigel said. "At some point during the night, I tried to hit Georgie with a stretcherous curse and he managed to block my curse and it rebounded and hit me dead on. That sobered everyone up pretty quickly and they got me to the infirmary as best they could. It took a long time to get it under control and they did the best they could to purge the curse from my system, but they couldn't get all of it."

"When you start working with these curses," Nigel said. "You have to take them seriously. Don't mess around with your wands while you're drunk. Always remember that pronunciation matters- especially if you're trying to block a curse. If I would I have pronounced keethara with a long 'a' instead of a short 'a' like I did that night, I probably would have been fine," Nigel said. "I know that this is one of the dreaded 'weed-out' courses and you may feel a little hard done by this semester, but there's a reason for it. Student of magic need to take their curses seriously. They need to treat magic like the craft and the art it is. Don't be sloppy. Don't get drunk and play with your wands. We expect wizards and witches all across the world to leave their studies with a basic level of competence for the practice of magic. Let me be the cautionary tale for all of you." He looked around the room. "Does anyone have any questions?"

A hand shot up at the back of the room. Nigel nodded.

"What side effects do you suffer from today?  You seem okay to me," a young witch said from the back of the room.

"Oh," Nigel said. The class watched in fascinated horror as he reached out his arm and it... kept reaching. It stretched down the length of the classroom and picked up the coffee cup that Nigel had left there at the beginning of the class. He wrapped his hands around it and the arm began to shrink down and bring the coffee cup back to Nigel. When his arm was back down to the regular size, he took a sip of the coffee. "I'm fine, more or less." He grinned at the shocked look on their faces. "Look at it this way, kids. I never have any trouble getting anything down off of high shelves."

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