"Gene, what is that?" My wife leaned on the door frame, her hip kicked out to one side and arms expertly crossed.
"It's a table... sort of."
I did my best to run a hand over the ruined top to show her how nice it was, and only picked up a few splinters for my trouble.
"I can see it's a table, did you drag it behind the car or something?"
"No. I found it that way."
"And you didn't leave it there, because..."
I tapped on the top of the tiny end table. Sure, it looked like it'd been sent to the moon with bottle rockets and made the return trip without the benefit of the parachute, but it had potential.
My name is Eugene Law and I'm a Magician. I don't pull rabbits out of hats or saw women in half. I deal in real Magick, the cosmic powers of the universe, and all the terrible things that comes with.
Today that meant restoring furniture.
My wife shook her head. "Do you even know what you are doing?"
With restoring furniture? No.
"Of course." I pointed at my daughter's tablet that lay propped up on the workbench. Cathy, the rightful teenage owner of that device, had been willing to part with it in exchange for some cash and the offer to look the other way as she purchased obscene amounts of candy with said money.
Porter took one look at the tablet and put it all together far faster than she should have. "You might want to watch more than three minutes of the thirty-minute tutorial."
"Sweetheart, how hard can it be? You may not know this, but I'm a Magician. Cosmic powers of the universe and all." I waved my hands around like a stage magician. It was a funny little move that really worked when she was in the mood, but Porter was too busy eyeing the caustic chemicals on the workbench to pay much attention to me.
She picked up one of the jugs and held it to the light.
"Use in well ventilated area, with adult supervision. Should I call my Father?"
I took the jug of 'Strips-All' back from her. "No. I'm telling you, I've got this. First, I get the finish off, then I sand it, and finally I brush on a new coat. I mean, easy stuff."
It was easy stuff, but it was also not remotely what I planned to do. I was a Magician, and had no interest in waiting the obscene amount of time it would have taken to do anything remotely standard or proper. A person willing to do that, would have watched more than three minutes of a thirty minute tutorial.
"Fine." Porter pulled the door to the house open, but not before hitting the garage opener. "Just promise me you won't melt your face off or something."
"You got it!"
I poured a liberal amount of stripping compound on the scuffed-up wood and spread it around with a brush. It wasn't exactly like the video, but close enough. It was definitely putting out the caustic, nose hair burning smell I was hoping to avoid, but it just wasn't working fast enough.
I needed to up the ante.
I needed Magick.
There weren't a lot of good options for finish removing, but the Otomonix Acceleration should help. That sigil was designed for a pinch of youthful vigor, and that was exactly what this compound needed to speed the process along.
No sooner had I traced the design with the brush, and willed a little Magick into it than I noticed the popping, sizzling, and altogether exciting action going to work on my table. This was right about the moment where I started to wonder if perhaps I'd missed a few steps, and not in the wood restoration process.
Mixing Magick with caustic chemicals was not the smartest move. I had promised Porter I wouldn't melt my face off, so I should probably have made some effort to avoid that.
I left the brush on the work bench, then grabbed some of the colored chalk we'd kept around for next to forever.
"Yep. A little RikTik's Ring should be exactly what the Magician ordered," I said to no one but the sizzling table.
I'd only just spun around to get to work when I discovered the table wasn't exactly in the state I'd left it in. I hadn't watched the whole tutorial, but I was pretty sure it didn't have a section for what to do if the piece decides to plant itself.
Green shoots erupted from the scuffed-up top suckers on a stump. They climbed rapidly into the air, poking at the ceiling, and finding their way into my shelves. If that wasn't enough, the base of the table, which I spent extra time applying stripper to, had taken root in the concrete. Thick tendrils of rough oak split the floor to find their way to the dirt beneath.
Protective circle or not, I had a tree taking root in my garage.
It didn't take a master carpenter to know that wasn't going to go over well with Porter.
"Yeah. So, honey, you're going to need to park under the tree out front."
"We don't have a tree in the front."
"We do now."
I shook that conversation away and pushed up my sleeves. I was a Magician. A little Magick, and I'd have the whole thing under control.
It looked to me like we had a minor case of Reliving Wood. Not common, but also not unheard of. It happened when a little Wild Magick in the living tree got caught up in the fibers and refused to let go. The finish must have trapped it in there, and like a fool, I'd removed that finish, then given it a kick start.
Tree branches knocked jars of nails and old batteries from the walls in their willful expanse. It wouldn't be long before the monster reached its prior size, and given the current rate of progression, I was pretty sure it would eat my garage in the process.
I ducked a set of leafy branches and grabbed the chalk. I needed a little more serious Magick if I was going to get this thing under control. A strong limb rammed into my wife's bike and rang the bell on the handlebars before snapping the wheel clean off.
"Gene? You okay out there?"
"That sounded like my bike."
I ducked another branch, then danced around swelling roots. "Nope. You must be hearing things. Just me and the table."
"Do you need a hand?"
I shot the chalk lines across a bare patch of concrete.
Circles within circles, and each one chasing the other. It was a simple sigil, but powerful in the right hands, Rotingo's Rounddown.
Excellent at killing off vegetation and unwanted weeds, the sigil was designed to take my Magick and rot the roots of nearby plant matter. It wasn't something I used often. Maybe once or twice when we needed to clear a stretch of the yard, but certainly not a complicated stump of Reliving Wood.
I pressed a hand against the confusing pattern and released a little of that cosmic power swirling in my chest into the design. Like a magnifying glass focuses the light, the sigil focused my power into a plant-killing wave of creeping black. The rotting force spread out in all directions, oozing over roots and up the newly formed trunk. I dusted my hands off and took a second to admire the rapidly darkening tree. "Sorry, big guy, but this is where Porter's car goes and I---"
A thick and dying branch swung around and hit me solidly in the head, sending the entire garage sideways.
I opened my eyes what felt like only moments later, but it must have been long enough for the rotting tree to go decidedly on the offensive. The blackened trunk had swelled to many times the size it had been earlier, and those branches that I'd thought would have rotted themselves to dust were now far too busy pulling whatever jugs and bottles they could find off my shelves.
A glass jar of old motor oil hit the floor and shattered.
The door to the garage swung open and my wife stuck her head out. "Gene, I heard the crash, are you–Holy hell!"
"Right. So, we might have a little problem. Nothing I can't solve. Just a little Reliving Wood with attitude."
Attitude was right.
The oak sent new shoots past Porter and into the kitchen. I couldn't see what it was doing, but judging by the crashing and the sound of water, ruinous destruction seemed like a solid guess.
My wife popped her head out from beneath the branches. "Gene!"
"I'm working on it."
Porter turned around to inspect her kitchen. "Unless your skills extend to cabinetry, work faster!"
"Right. On it." I didn't make it much past getting to my feet before the rotting tree turned its attention back my way. I dodged a couple of branches, but didn't pay attention to the roots, and that was what tripped me up. I lost my balance and ended being pushed against the far wall, where precariously positioned jugs of who knows what landed on me.
The roots didn't waste a second pushing their way over my legs and up my chest to get a taste of what I was covered in.
"Porter, I've got an idea."
"It better be a good one. It just figured out how to remove the faucet."
"Grab these jugs and the hose, then get to the edge of the yard, down by the street."
"And then what?" My wife's head popped up from behind the branches again.
"Then dump them all in that open spot where we can't get a damn thing to grow and run like hell."
"Gene, your arms, there are roots all over your–"
"Jugs, water, running like hell."
This wasn't my wife's first encounter with my world, but it was the first time I'd brought Reliving Wood to life in the garage. It would be a while before I lived this one down, provided I survived it to begin with.
Porter grabbed the jugs and raced past, the hungry wood following her. She dumped the contents by the street exactly where I'd told her, then doubled back to get the hose.
Now it was my turn.
Angry roots squeezed my arms and clung tight to my legs, but I still reached for my Magick. I didn't need much, just enough to make the yard look a lot more palatable than my chest. I closed my eyes and let the Magick go, imagining what I wanted to happen, and hoping this time it actually would.
I sat at the kitchen table with my daughter's tablet, a couple of bandages, and a healthy respect for the massive oak now enjoying a second go at life in our front yard. "I can totally fix a faucet."
My wife shook her head. "No, you most certainly can not."
"But I just finished watching the first three minutes of a–"
"Right. I'll watch the whole thing, then fix it."
Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this "Micro Marty," be sure to check out Tales of Weird Florida and the adventures of Eugene Law in Dead Set. - Marty