Magic vs Science a Compromise
Carl sneaked into his house through the back door. He stood still, listening for his mother. He heard a drawer slam shut in his parent’s bedroom. Moving quickly, he ducked down the hallway and slipped into his bedroom. He quietly pushed his door shut. Dropping his book bag on his desk, he moved into his bathroom. He stared at himself in the mirror. His right eye was already turning black and a little blood seeped out a nostril. A shirt pocket hung loose where it had been torn.
Both his upper arms hurt where he had been held. Damn! There was no way his mother would miss seeing how he looked. At least his father was out of town and would not be telling him he had to stand up for himself. How was he supposed to stand up to four football players? Any one of them could whip his butt. But four of them? He would have to be the Karate Kid on steroids to stand up to all four of them.
He slowly eased out of his clothes. His stomach and ribs were turning yellow already. He started filling up his bath with hot water. Lowering himself into the tub, he took it easy until he was fully submerged letting the hot water soak his sore muscles. He leaned back resting his head on the tub edge. Closing his eyes he drifted off to sleep.
“Carl? Carl! You’d better not fall asleep in there. We’re going over to my sister’s tonight, so you need to get out of the bath and get dressed.”
At the first sound of his mother’s voice calling him, he snapped awake and sat up in the bathtub. He winced with pain as he pulled the muscles on his right side. He slowly pulled himself up. He got out of the bathtub and dried off. It took a while but he got dressed.
The big question to him was, “why?” Why was he the target of these four dumb jocks? He no sooner thought the question than it answered itself. “Dumb Jocks!” It was hard to believe, but maybe they were just jealous. None of them had made a grade above a “C” since kindergarten. He had heard that they did not even get better than a “C” in gym. They barely qualified academically for the football team. He had been on the “A” honor roll ever since middle school. Here it was, his junior year in High School, and he was already taking advanced courses. He even had dual enrollment at the local community college. With summer school, he could apply to graduate from high school before the start of the next fall semester. In fact, he would be going full time at the community college next fall.
Could it be that simple? Well that meant there was nothing he could do now that would fix the problem. He started thinking about overcoming the problem. He was no wimp. His gym class grade was an “A” which meant he actually did better in gym than those four ‘jocks’! He just was not into team sports. To be truthful, he was not much into any sports. He just listened and exercised the way the coach taught them.
Carl walked into the kitchen where his mother was gathering her purse and keys to leave. Turning, she saw him for the first time since he had come home. “Carl! My God Carl, what happened to you?”
“I got jumped by four of the dumbest jocks in school. I mean did they think I could hide what I looked like after they beat me up?”
“I’m calling the police!”
“No Mom! That won’t help. There were no witnesses, just me and them. They will come up with something like I attacked them with a club and they just defended themselves. Then I will be in trouble.”
“But Carl we can’t let them get away with this.”
“I’m thinking about it, Mom. Now let’s go over to Aunt Clara’s. She did say she was fixing fried chicken didn’t she?”
“Oh Carl, you don’t even like fried chicken!”
“I know Mom, but it’s better than liver and onions.”
“Aunt Clara, you out-did yourself! That was the best fried chicken I have ever eaten.”
“Carl, you can’t fool me, you just want that extra banana pudding.”
“Now that was a surprise, I had no idea you were going to make banana pudding, tonight.”
“Carl, we have all been sneaking around the subject like it was contagious, but it is obvious that you were in a fight. Who was it, and how did it happen?” Uncle Rick asked, leaning back in his chair drinking his coffee.
Quiet settled around the table. Peggy, his cousin who was only eleven, got very still waiting to hear the answers.
“Uncle Rick, I got jumped by four of the dumbest football players in school. I guess I am lucky two of them held me while the other two did the hitting. If they had let me go I would have fallen to the ground and probably gotten the hell kicked out of me. These guys have never made a grade higher than a ‘C’ since kindergarten. I mean it! They have not even made a higher grade in gym class.”
Uncle Rick looked at his sister-in-law, “Did you report it to anyone?”
“No, Carl told me not to. He said that it was their four words, to his one and that he could, in fact, get in trouble.”
“Smart thinking Carl, but is it over or will they continue to come after you?”
“Well, Uncle Rick, I figured it out. Its jealousy, I am smart, and they are dumb. They know this and blame me for having the brains, which they don’t have. In fact now that they got away with it… and probably enjoyed the hell out of it… they will probably come back for more.”
“Oh. no Carl! We have to do something.”
“Well one thing is to getting to school and back home. I don’t think they will jump me at school where there are so many witnesses.”
“Heck, if nothing else Mom, I will transfer to another high school. I could always go to one of the magnet schools.”
“I think that’s enough for now. Ladies, why don’t you go to the living room and do your normal gossiping. Carl if you want to talk more about this, I’ll be in my workshop out in the garage.”
Everybody got up from the dinner table and scattered.
Carl turned; trying to figure where he could go that nobody would be digging at his wounds. A motion attracted his attention. He saw his cousin standing in the kitchen doorway motioning for him to join her. She turned and headed out the back door. He hesitated for a moment, shrugged and followed her.
The backyard was a scene from a fairy tale. In a corner, a waterfall of lichen covered rock gave off a tinkling sound as water flowed and dripped over the rocks. The water then flowed down a rock covered miniature stream until it widened out into a small pool. In this pool a few Koi fish swam around. All of this was new since his last visit. How in the heck did they get all of this done in that short of time?
His next thought was this must have cost a fortune. Carl went and examined the pool closely, looking for the outlet that had to be there to take the water back to the top of the waterfalls. He found it under an overhanging rock ledge. There had to be a filter over that outlet to prevent debris and fish from being sucked in the piping system.
“Nice! But it must cost a fortune to put in and to maintain.”
“Not really, we use solar power to keep the water flowing, replace the water filter once a month and that’s it. Dad put in the pumping system and solar power system, and then got a Japanese landscaper to come in and build the landscape. He charged us less than half his normal price, as he uses this as a demonstration of his work. Dad actually makes money from it, as a lot of the landscaper’s customers want that waterfall idea themselves.”
“Carl, remember that time you put fire in my hands?”
“Yeah you were like… eight. That was what… three years ago?”
She held out her hand, and a flame started burning above it.”
“Wow! I didn’t see you light that up and that is a lot flame.”
Carl had turned heading towards Peggy. As he neared her, she moved her hand and dropped it leaving a ball of flame drifting in the air. He approached it then slowly walked around it. There appeared to be nothing supporting the flames.
Carl stopped and just stared. “What the hell is burning? There’s no fuel!”
“Hum, I never thought about that. I just order the flame to be there and there it is.”
“Unless, it’s not really there,” with that he swept his hand toward the flame.
“Stop Carl!” Peggy jumped toward him, but Carl stopped with his hand more than ten inches from the flame. He quickly pulled it back. He could definitely feel the heat.
“It’s a real flame!” Peggy said. “I have burnt sticks and paper and just about anything that burns by sticking it in the flames.”
“You said you ordered the flame to be there and it was. Can you make it move?”
The flames started moving in circles, and then into figure eights. It went back and forth over the back yard. Finally Peggy snapped her fingers, and the flame was gone.
“How are you doing it?”
“You are not scared?”
“Well I might be later when I have had time to think about it. Now I am just curious about what the fuel was and how you controlled it.”
“At first it was just a candle. Then, as I learned more about controlling it, I expanded the things it did.”
“I got this book on Magic. Real magic, not tricks. It is supposed to be a pre-apprentice book, to get a person familiar with magic before becoming a student. It teaches you about the laws of magic and some of the techniques on how to actually do magic. One of the things that it emphasizes is the Tri-fold law. ‘Do as you please but with harm to none, for what you sow will be return three fold’. “
“I have figured out that the three-fold law mainly applies to ritualized magic. That’s the most powerful. Whenever I start doing that kind of magic I feel like there’s this real big person standing right behind me with a ruler in hand just waiting for me to make a mistake. So I don’t do those anymore.”
“Ritualized?” Carl asked.
“Yeah, those with circles and candles and really long spells and lots of ingredients; the last time I did one was to put protective wards on our house.”
“Wards?” Carl was beginning to feel like a parrot.
“Yes, think Star Trek Shields.”
“That is not magic that’s just science.”
“Oh? Do you know how they make a shield? Well I don’t. But I know how to make a ward! And my wards seem to act just like a Star Trek Shield. Here, take my book but you better not lose it. I think if you can learn to use it then you can build some protection for yourself.”
“Peggy, I don’t believe in Magic.”
“Carl you know I have read every one of those science fiction books you gave me. I read what that one author said. A significantly super technology cannot be different than magic.”
“Oh you mean Arthur C. Clark’s third law? He said, that ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’”
“Yeah, that’s what I said. So just think of this as a super technology, if you can’t believe in magic.”
Carl sat there for a while. Peggy was right. She had shown him something that she claimed was real magic. He could not accept that. Now if she had said it was a magic trick he would tried to find the fuel source. Also, how she had hid the physical connections. The words ‘real magic’ threw his whole mental viewpoint off. Whatever it was, it worked.
“Thanks Peggy, I’ll try to get it back next week.”
He went over to a swing set and took a seat. A light shining over his shoulder from a yard lamp was it easily bright enough for reading. He examined the book closely. It looked like a book for pre-school kids. It was covered with pictures of geese on the cover. The title was ‘Here a geese, there a geese and every where a geese, geese, geese.’ He opened it and began to read.
He had made it half way through the book before his mother called him, “Carl, we need to be going?”
“Okay Mom, be right there.”
He stood up and looked for Peggy. His eyes bugged out when he saw her sitting cross-legged but three feet off of the ground, in a full lotus position. He slowly moved around her, not wanting to disturb her.
That really shook him up. If you could make a machine to do that, man could conquer the galaxy!
Carl slipped back into the kitchen where his mother waited for him.
“Carl what do think of Peggy’s garden?”
“Yeah, I don’t tell people but she’s the one that designed the whole thing. She brought me the plans she had drawn up using a free CAD type, software. It was so detailed that I had no problem building it. A Realtor I know came over and examined the whole deal. He told me that it increased the house value by at least $50,000 and pulled all the other nearby houses up by at least $5,000 each.”
Carl finished the book that night. He had a hard time sleeping. He kept waking up thinking about what he had read. The next morning he headed for his ‘laboratory’. A couple of years ago his Mom and Dad had turned the basement over to him for his own use. He had turned it into a lab. He had installed all the safety equipment himself. He had fire extinguishers and armored enclosures. These were meant for his chemical experiments.
Opening the loose-leaf bound printout of his scanned copy of Peggy’s book, he began the first example the author had used. He placed a candle inside the armored enclosure and began the experiment. After an hour he was worn out. He examined everything he had done then compared it with the book. He saw no reason for a circle. Then there was the placement of the four candles. Why did they have to be placed exactly the way the book had stated? Why did they have to be at 90-degree distances around the circumference of the circle?
But science was about repeatability. No matter what you did, it must be repeatable. So he went back to the beginning and started over. He drew the circle inside the armored enclosure. Then he estimated where north was on the circle and marked it. Then he marked the spots about ninety degrees on either side of the first mark, and then one across from ‘north’. Next he placed a candle on each mark, and one in the center. He read off the chant as he lit each of the candles on the circumference of the circle.
Finally, he visualized a burning candle in the center of the circle; as the final line of the chant erupted from his mouth, “As I have spoken, so mote it be.”
He had relaxed as he had repeated the chant four times with each lighting a candle. The fifth time he just stood there looking at that unlit candle in the middle of the circle. With a ‘whoosh’ the candle lighted.
Carl jumped a full three feet backwards, tripping over his own feet and landing on his butt.
Slowly, he climbed to his feet and approached his experimental area. He stared at a circle, drawn with a black marker on a piece of paper with the four candles burning brightly. That was no problem as he clearly remembered lighting each of them. The fifth candle sitting in the middle of the circle was the problem. It was burning also and he knew he had not lit it.
He stood there for at least five minutes before shaking his head. He blew out the candles and removed all the items from his experimental enclosure. He placed the items in his hazardous waste containers. Carl went to the desk on the far side of his laboratory and took another sheet of paper and laid it on his desk. With a compass he drew the most perfect circle that he could on the paper.
With a ruler he bisected the circle, using the hole where the compass had been as a guide. He marked on the circle, where the ruler intersected the circle. Then using a protractor he bisected the circle again at a ninety-degree angle to the first bisection. Now the circle was marked, nearly precisely at four equal spots on the circle.
Finally he got a magnetic compass from another drawer. He had used it in other experiments on electromagnetic fields. Inside the armored enclosure, he found ‘magnetic north’ and marked the four directions on the enclosure’s floor.
He laid the paper in the center, aligning the marks with the compass points he had marked on the enclosure’s floor. He went and got five new candles. These were ‘tea candles’ used to keep little teakettles warm. Being self-contained their own metal container, he had found them very handy when a little bit of heat was needed for his experiments. Simply by raising or lowering the items to be heated he could increase or decrease the heat being applied with reasonable and repeatable accuracy.
He placed one of the candles on each mark on the circle and one in the center.
Taking up his striker he lit a Bunsen burner. It was over ten feet from the experimental enclosure. Opening a drawer he took out four separate fireplace matches and cut the heads off of all of them. He laid the six-inch sticks that were left on the table, next to the Bunsen burner.
Removing it from the loose-leaf binder, he picked up the printed copy of the chant and studied it. This time he took some effort to analyze what it said. It definitely was not good poetry. The meter was off and the rhymes were stretched. So those items were not likely to be what was important.
The words! The only physical items used were the paper, the candles and the circle scribed on the paper. All the rest were symbols… actually that included the circle itself. Words are symbols that stand for something in our minds. Wow, he thought, that is it. A circle was a sign of forever, or infinity. The candles unlit represent potential light or heat. He had lit each one while stating what that candle was symbolizing in the ‘ritual’ or, as he now thought of it, the equation’s.
Then he considered the final part of the chant: “As I have spoken, so mote it be.” Basically, it was an old English saying meaning ‘this is’ or ‘equals’, which finalized the equation.
“Let’s see now,” Carl mumbled to himself, “if I did this and do this, it will simplify the equation. What I have been chanting, was: ‘A’ = ‘A’, ‘B’=’B’, ‘C’ = ‘C’, ‘D’=’D’, and ‘A + B + C + D = FLAME’.”
Let’s try that, he thought. Picking up a matchstick he lit it with the Bunsen burner and moved to the first candle. Lighting it he stated, “A = A”. Dropping the lit stick in the sink he picked up another matchstick and lit it at the Bunsen burner, and then lit the second candle “B = B”.
He repeated the steps till all four candles on the circle were lit.
Strange he thought I am excited, intrigued and relaxed all at the same time. “A plus B plus C plus D equals “ he paused took a deep breath and finished the formula “FLAME” with a visualization that flame was the release of energy!
The blast threw him completely across the room where his head hit the wall.
His last thoughts were “God I’m glad I didn’t write all that down!” He blacked out as he slid to the floor.
Carl’s first thought was “God what a headache!” He tried to roll over and sit up, but could do neither.
That was his mother and he wished she would not scream in his ear like that.
He opened his eyes… or really one eye… and saw his mother as she was squeezing his hand. His father was standing on the other side of the bed and looked pale. There was a look of fright on his face. His father was not frightened of anything!
“Mom…?” Carl croaked out, then “Dad…? What are you doing home?”
“Excuse me please. Everybody step back. I have to check the patient.”
His mom let go his hand and stood up. He could see tear streaks on her face. Why had she been crying?
A man in a doctor’s smock began flashing lights in his eyes and taking his pulse. When he finished he stepped back and looked Carl in the face.
“I don’t know what happened, Son, but you are going to be okay. The MRI shows no brain injury. X-rays show no broken bones and lab tests are all normal. If pushed, I will release you in the morning. But no school for at least a week. No computer or TV for that same period. Rest your eyes.”
He turned to Carl’s parents and stepped away from the bed. Carl could not hear what he told them but he could see the look of relief on his father’s face. His father had been scared of what was wrong with him!
His mother was back at his bedside in minutes and his dad was once more standing tall looking unconcerned. Carl now knew better. It was a front. His dad’s cool exterior was all show.
“Carl, what happened in the basement? You promised not to mess with anything dangerous down there.”
“I wasn’t, in fact it was not even a chemical experiment. I have not done any experimenting in months. It was an exercise in symbolic logic.”
“Symbolic logic? Symbolic…” a voice said from the doorway. His parents turned to stare at the men grouped outside his door. Carl’s eyes focused on the book the first man was holding. It was Peggy’s book.
“Who are you?” His dad stepped between them and the doorway, blocking them from the room.
“I am Special Agent Drake, Homeland Security, Anti-Terrorism Division. These are my men. Step back Mr. Black and let’s take this to a more private discussion.”
He eased Carl’s father back away from the door and entered with one of his men.
Carl saw two more men take up positions outside his doorway before it was closed. The man that had followed Agent Drake into the room shut the door behind himself and leaned back against it.
“What do you want?” Carl’s father asked. His mother was gripping Carl’s hand like it would escape if she let go.
“First we need to talk to your son. Then we will probably have to talk to all of you. There are only three of you in your family? No daughters?”
“No, we never had any more children after Carl” his dad said.
“I can’t, complication during delivery,” his mother whispered.
“My apologizes, it’s just we have to be sure. Normally it’s a female. We rarely have a male get us involved. Carl is it? Is this your book?” He asked holding up Peggy’s book.
Before he could say anything his dad answered. “That is not his. Why look at that? It’s a kid’s book. That looks like something that Peggy would read.”
Carl closed his eye wincing.
“Who is Peggy?” Agent Drake voice had a cold calm tone to it now.
The room was quiet as his dad realized that something dangerous had entered the room.
Carl’s voice came for the bed. “Explain why you want to know first.”
“Kid, somebody might be messing with things they do not understand. It’s part of our jobs to protect the America. So we have to investigate certain occurrences and the one at your house set off alarms over half of the nation. Now you’ve got police, ATF, fire department, and soon the FBI they will all be tearing your home apart.”
“What! Joe what is going on?” His mother asked.
“I don’t know but I am going to find out.” He pulled his cellphone out of his pocket.
“Don’t do that sir. You will just make waves. You cooperate with us and we will smooth everything out. Now who is Peggy?”
His dad answered, saying. “She is my brother’s daughter. She is only eleven and can’t be of interest to you.”
“Eleven! That’s the perfect age!” He turned to the other agent who was pulling a phone out of his pocket. “Wolf…”
“I’m on it Boss.”
Agent Drake faced back to Carl’s Dad. “Now, your son. What did he mean by an experiment in symbolic logic?”
“Hell if I know. He’s about three times smarter than I am. He might be three times smarter than anybody in this town.”
Agent Drake stepped to the side so he could see Carl on the bed. “Son, what did you mean?”
Carl laid there for a minute, thinking. He remembered when Peggy had shown him the flames in her hand. She had said nothing. Verbal speech was not necessary. He held out his hand and thought “A plus B plus C plus D equals FLAME”. However, he toned down his previous visualization of what fire was.
A miniature sun appeared above his hand. “It’s all just symbols. All those old magic spells are just equations. Einstein figured it out. That’s why he quit doing anything significant in his later years. It scared him to death. He hated Quantum Physics.”
My thanks to Grumpybear and TeNderLoin for their editing and proofing help. But the final results are mine and all criticism should be loaded onto my shoulders.
© Virgil Lee Fuqua III and ‘vlfouquet.wordpress’, 2008-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vlfouquet and Virgil Lee Fuqua III with appropriate and specific direction to the original contents.