Slightly Magical, 1

Fiction By Anna // 10/8/2009

Slightly Magical: The collected adventures of Nat and Elisabeth, pertaining to usbom and what they encountered because of it.

Elisabeth Browning had many plans for her summer, none of which included skydiving off the back of a giant eagle, swimming in shark-infested goo, or making pudding. As all these activities are highly dangerous and require at least five minutes’ notice beforehand to prepare and a split second afterward to emphatically decide you made a mistake, it is a good thing Elisabeth never had to face them. However, things even more bizarre and exciting than that were in her future.
This is how it started.

Elisabeth was running at one hundred miles an hour.
If Elisabeth was like the heroine in the exciting book you probably set aside to read this one, chances are she would be being chased. Stalkers from New York would be after her, or rabid lions would have escaped from a circus, or maybe the police would have mistaken her for a murderess. Perhaps she really would have been a murderess.
In actuality, however, Elisabeth was at a grocery store, and needed to get chocolate pudding (quickly!) for a party for her second cousin on her father’s side, who was turning one year old. Problem being that the party would start in precisely two minutes. (Not make it, mark you, but it. There is something altogether wild and sinister in venturing to make pudding that is quite tamed in the mere store-bought version.)
Before you abandon this story on the premise that it is a colorless, uninteresting tale about a one-year-old’s birthday and a tragic lack of chocolate pudding, I would like to ask you to wait about ten seconds for the big crash. Literally.
So, Elisabeth was running through the grocery store at one hundred miles an hour, the prized chocolate pudding in her hands. It was at that moment that she was slammed into by someone else, who was tearing through at a similarly dangerous speed (but without the pudding). They found themselves in a tangle on the floor, and Elisabeth couldn’t find her pudding even after she extricated herself. That is, until the boy who knocked into her handed the slightly smashed container back to her.
He had longish dirty-blonde hair that looked something like a pirate’s. Or maybe that, completed by his loose white shirt and knee-high, scuffed leather boots, was just the overall (and quite dashing) impression the skinny kid gave. He looked like something out of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, only real. But equally British.
"Oh, my aching head," he said, rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand. "Jolly rotten luck."
Elisabeth was still gathering her body parts from the corners of the store. "I’ll say," she mumbled, intrigued by the British accent and eccentric clothing. Her father’s father was British, though her father, like herself, had been born and bred American.
"I’m- sorry," he said haltingly, screwing his eyes shut as if he had a headache. "I’m… eh…" He looked hurriedly over his shoulder, and his face filled with alarm. "Sorry!" And he took off again, still looking repeatedly behind him.
Her second cousin’s birthday forgotten, Elisabeth dropped the pudding and went after him. "Hey, wait up!"
To her surprise, he ducked into the frozen foods aisle, under a shelf, and stopped. She ran up, sat next to him, and caught her breath. "What is going on?" she said. "Are you being chased?"
"Please," he said in a low voice. "You don’t want to be part of this."
"Why are they chasing you?" she persisted, his general silence in response convincing her that he was, indeed, being pursued.
His dark eyes, framed by peculiarly long lashes, twinkled with sudden mischief. "Well, you see, I’m slightly magical," he said in a frank but light-hearted voice.
"Elisabeth Browning," she said, sticking her hand in front of his nose.
He brought it down a notch and shook it. "I’m Nat- short for Nathanael- Bennet."
"Wouldn’t that be Nate?"
"Oh, buzz off."
"So, who is chasing you?" she began again, suspecting she was annoying him but too curious to care how nosy or rude she was being.
Nathanael (or, as he would have it, Nat) seemed poised to answer, but stopped. "Who said I was being chased?" he said slowly.
"It was implied," Elisabeth said.
"Well, I’m not," he snapped.
His quickness only served to contradict his words, at least in Elisabeth’s mind. "You are hiding under a shelf of frozen asparagus," she said in a pointed way that guaranteed that only someone being chased would be crazy enough to consider frozen vegetables as an adequate hiding place.
"I’m not hiding!"
"Yes, you are!"
"No, I’m not!" he insisted futilely. He had the feeling his protests were rather feeble.
"Then what are you doing?" she demanded, exasperated.
"Uh oh!" he said, leaping up again. "Sorry, no time!" he called. "Splendid meeting you, aye?"
"Don’t you dare leave me with that old-fashioned English slang!" she cried, springing to life after him.
"If you insist," he said, shrugging. "I have to get out of here. Right now!"
So do I, thought Elisabeth. Who needs pudding?
So she raced off next to him.
"Are you absolutely certain you’re prepared to be involved?" Nat panted. She nodded, breathless, and he said, "Okay, then. Here’s my advice: if a girl runs up to us and opens her mouth, you run!"
"I- am- running!" she gasped.
They went out the exit and part way down the block when Nat hopped a fence and crawled under some bushes. Naturally, Elisabeth went under the hedge as well.
"Is this your home?" Elisabeth asked after a pause. They were both breathing hard.
He brushed leaves out of his hair. "You could say that… but I wouldn’t," he answered enigmatically.
"I would like to know what’s going on, if that’s possible."
"Well, I could tell you, but this would be a good time to show you," he said, grinning. He took her hand, and as they touched, it seemed to her that he began to grow. She, in fact, was shrinking. Soon she found herself in the palm of his hand, clutching his forefinger for dear life, and she was only about its height.
"What have you done?" she shrieked.
"You got yourself into this, as I remember," he said with a shrug that rocked her in a most frightening manner. "Didn’t I tell you I’m slightly magical?"
"I didn’t think you were serious!"
He rolled his eyes. "How much plainer could I have been? Could I have explained myself in any way that you would have believed me?"
"But you shrunk me!" she squeaked.
For a moment, he looked sorry. "I was hoping we would get temporary wings, actually. But I can’t control my magic. It’s rather spontaneous."
"Just on and off?"
He nodded. "It’s very convenient, I know."
"What kind of magic?"
"Mostly random," he explained. "Sometimes thing recur. Such as flying, which I’ve done several times. Three times I had super strength, and twice I could run at phenomenal speed. The most common one is a kind of cross between telepathy and uncanny foresight. I see things… usually small things… before they happen. Or I say something, and it happens."
"So you’re also slightly psychic."
"Occasionally." He paused, thinking suspiciously that she was taking this rather well. "I have not, however, shrunk anyone before."
"So, at certain times, you feel some magic coming on."
"Something like that," he assented.
"And if anyone touches you while your magic button is pressed, they become magical, too."
"Only until my own wears off, yes. I suppose I didn’t shrink with you because this is our first contact. Your body seems to have absorbed more magic than someone who has touched magic before."
She paused, but this proved to be too unimportant to comment on. "And what makes you think I wanted to be included in your usbom?!!" she cried, face turning red with shouting.
A look partly of hurt but mostly of confusion crossed his face. "‘Usbom’?" he repeated.
"Unexpected, sadistic bursts of magic," she mumbled. She had to repeat it so he could hear.
He looked highly amused. "Usbom. Kind of catchy. But I’m not sure sadistic is the word I’d use."
"But it scares me!"
"Then why not scary? Or startling? Or surprising? Or even spontaneous?"
"Because I chose sadistic!" she shrilled. "It packs more oomph and I said it! So there!"
So from that moment on they called it usbom- unexpected, sadistic bursts of magic.

"I can’t go home three inches tall," Elisabeth wailed. At least, it have been considered wailing if she hadn’t been smiling. The full implications of having met someone who was really and truly "slightly magical" had just hit her, and she saw adventure ahead like a ship on a horizon or trees in the back of a wardrobe.
"My finger is longer than that," Nat said.
"Irrelevant," Elisabeth said, letting go of it to wave off the statement. She almost lost her balance and decided she could do without elaborate hand gestures.
"I’m sorry this is an usbom so to your dislike," he said apologetically. "I will wear off in time."
"Soon?" she piped without much hope.
"I really couldn’t say."
There was a silence. So, I could be here awhile, Elisabeth thought, studying Nat’s fingerprint. Well, no matter. She hadn’t been too excited about that birthday party anyway. "I still have so many questions!" she said conversationally.
"Elisabeth…" he warned.
"Can I ask one, at least?"
He paused, possibly wondering how much harm one question could do. "One only," he said, then muttered, "I’m going to regret this entire stupid day. Bad, bad, bad."
"Who is chasing you?" she said for the second or third time, she couldn’t remember which. "To know why would be nice as well."
"Psyche is, at the very least," Nat said.
SIGH-key. Psyche. Elisabeth stored away the name.
"Possibly the professor too, although I don’t really know. My magic tips me off about Psyche, but Eric is invisible to me…"
He seemed to be rambling, and Elisabeth was drawing a blank. "You lost me."
"Well, you see," he continued, though she most emphatically did not see, "I can sense other magic, but not ordinary people. Thought I’m not sure scientists qualify as ‘normal.’"
"I really didn’t get much of that," Elisabeth admitted. "I’m trying to piece it together."
"It’s a long story," Nat sighed.
She stared at him and blinked. "And I obviously don’t have time to spare," she said, looking down at her tiny body.
"No need to use sarcasm," he said. "I really am sorry about that."
"I’m sorry, too. But all I gathered was that Psyche, whoever he or she is-"
"She," supplied Nat.
"She is magical, and Eric, whoever he is, is a scientist. And even those are connections that take some sleuthing and could be wrong. And I can guess why a scientist would be after you, but what would someone with magic have to gain?"
Nat unthinkingly answered her, even though it was her second question. "Well, some might just want to protect the fully magical society. Anyone who uses magic careless puts the rest in danger, and, as I believe I’ve said, I can’t control mine. But apparently I haven’t come under their radar… yet."
"But, Psyche-"
"Yes, Psyche." He sighed again, then shuddered. "Psyche is a siren, a very specific race of the fully magical. I’ve never let her get close enough to me to find out what she wants."
"And from what I’ve heard of sirens," Elisabeth said, squeezing his finger tighter, "I hope you never do."
"You hope we never do," Nat corrected. "You’re part of this now."
Elisabeth could feel the color drain from her face, and she thought she might swoon- or throw up. "Oh dear." And, she thought, finishing aloud, "We still have another problem!" She looked meaningfully down at her small body in comparison to… everything else.
Nat blinked. "What do you suggest I do about it? I’m hiding under a bush, for Pete’s sake."
"Usbom is basically useless," Elisabeth huffed, "if you can’t do anything with it!"
"I wouldn’t say that," said Nat. He was being cross and short, and Elisabeth saw she was wearing out his patience and shut her mouth.
He set her on the ground. "It’s passing now. Soon you’ll be normal."
She wanted to ask if he was absolutely certain, but bit her tongue. Soon she felt a tingling in her toes, and a lightheadedness. She squeezed her eyes shut, and to her surprise, she felt no different, only suddenly her head was rubbing the hedge and she felt slightly nauseous. She peeked to see that she was perfectly regular again. She gave a deep sigh of relief.
"Well, that was interesting," Nat said, speaking for them both. He seemed to have relaxed a little. "I’ve never shared my magic with a stranger before."
"I’ve never met anyone slightly magical before," replied Elisabeth. "It as… well, interesting would be my word as well."
He dipped his head, both acknowledging the truth of the matter and apologizing for its unpleasantness. Then, as if in the middle of a conversation, he said, "Whenever he goes back to Florida, I’ll find a way."
"What? Who?"
He looked surprise. "Your second-cousin Peter, of course."
Elisabeth opened her mouth and closed it again. "Did I…?"
He laughed, a trifle nervously. "Sorry. The psychic thing is happening again. I thought you said…"
"…That my second-cousin Peter was here from Florida," finished Elisabeth. "Funny, I was just about to tell you that I had to get back for his birthday party, and probably can’t get away until he leaves. That you might have to find me. Is that how being psychic works?"
"Slightly," he said with a hint of a smile. He held out his hand. "Want to try it?"
Instinctively, Elisabeth drew back. "Some other time- maybe," she said.
Looking disappointed, Nat put his hand down. "But you do want to experience more of this?"
She grinned, surprising herself.
He took that as a yes. "Promise one thing, and I’ll be happy to hang around."
"Sure," she said, without thinking.
"You won’t tell anyone about me. Or, at least, not the important stuff. No one else can know."
Elisabeth saw the seriousness in his long-lashed dark eyes and considered seriously the vow he was asking her to make. No good friends could know, no matter the temptation to include them and fulfill their wildest dreams. No parents, either- she was going to have trouble keeping something so big a secret from them. "What if I don’t want to lie?" she asked him warily.
His gaze was troubled. "I’m not asking you to lie. I’m just asking you to help me stay alive. I suppose you can tell your parents- if you must. If you’re sure they’ll take you seriously enough to spread it around, even carelessly or in joke. Because you mustn’t, of course, expect them to believe you. I could show them, but I’d rather not."
She sighed. "All right, Nathanael Bennet. I promise."
"Good day, Elisabeth Browning," he said, pretending to tip an imaginary hat.
She waved goodbye to the boy in the pirate clothing and backed out of the hedges in a crawl.
She hadn’t asked if Nat had a family, where he lived, how they would contact each other, or even how he became slightly magical in the first place. But her own parents (and second cousin) were waiting, pudding-less, and chances were she was already in deep trouble.
So she went back to the store for pudding and finally returned home to the birthday party. Everyone asked what had taken her so long, and she mumbled that she had been excited by something that had knocked it completely out of her head. Before anyone could inquire further, Peter’s three-year-old sister impatiently declared that she wanted to open his presents for him, and Elisabeth gladly sank into oblivion.


Oh, I love this! Great job,

Oh, I love this! Great job, Anna!

Erin | Thu, 10/08/2009

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

I love USBOM

Uncontrollable, sadistic bursts of magic? I love it! Does this have something to do with Nate-Dude? Try capitializing it like this--USBoM, so that it looks a little crazier. For  example, I could abbreviate Tears of a Dragon as



or ToaD.

Doesn't the third look more intersting?

Julie | Thu, 10/08/2009

Formerly Kestrel

oooh, fun one! I

oooh, fun one! I hope you hurry up and write the rest.

"Because I chose sadistic!" she shrilled. "It packs more oomph and I said it!" I have a feeling I'm going to like Elisabeth. :-) Though... finger isn't longer than three inches. But I guess I'm a bit smaller, overall, than the average usbom-using, pirate-y looking, slightly magical teenaged boy.

Annabel | Thu, 10/08/2009

Nat reminds me of Peter Pan.

Nat reminds me of Peter Pan.

Kyleigh | Sat, 10/10/2009


:0D Love it! I'm glad you posted this, because I absolutely KNOW its going to be a rollicking fun adventure.

Heather | Sat, 10/10/2009

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

"Only someone being chased

"Only someone being chased would consider frozen vegetables an adequate hiding place..."

:D This promises to be fun! 

Mary | Sat, 10/10/2009

Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

Erin: Thanks for asking me to

Erin: Thanks for asking me to post it!

Kestrel: But are you pronouncing it "toad" or T.O.A.D? That is the question! :) It actually has nothing to do with Nate-Dude, btw.

Annabel: Well, I'm glad you aren't a usbom-using teenage boy. They can be so irresponsible, you know. :)

Kyleigh: Really? Huh. I confess I didn't see that coming, as I hadn't come in contact with Pan while writing this.

Heather: I hope it will be, if I ever write everything I want to say!

Mary: I... I... too much pressure! JK I'll try my best!

Anna | Mon, 10/12/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief


I'm going to like this! Elizabeth is an entirely interesting & fun character and Nat seems like a trouble-magnet!

Sarah | Tue, 10/13/2009

"Sometimes even to live is courage."

Blogging away!

:) Thanks!

:) Thanks!

Anna | Tue, 10/13/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief


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