Photographs by Garry Armstrong

“Dead men don’t ride roller coasters,” said Gill Grissom on CSI.

I turned to Garry. “How would he know? Has he been talking to dead guys?”

“Well,” said Garry, “I haven’t been chatting with any dead people.”


So I got to thinking. If I were  dead, what would I want to do? Would I be inclined to haunt the living? To take revenge for insults real and imagined? To repeat activities in death I loved in life?


Would I want to travel the world, to see it without airport security? Pass eternity in the great libraries of the world, absorbing all the knowledge I missed in life? I haven’t the slightest idea what a dead person might want to do, assuming anyone gets a choice about post-life activities.

I believe — without a trace of evidence to support my belief — that whatever one does after death is not a choice. It’s a mandate. Whether it’s God or the Devil or Karma or absolute nothingness, it’s not a multiple choice quiz.


You reap what you’ve sown and, you don’t get to return to tell your friends what happened. On or off the Internet.


It’s a matter of definition. I say, magic is nowhere — or magic is everywhere. 

I prefer to believe it is everywhere. When I click the lights and a room is illuminated; when I flip the switch and the coffee begins to brew; when Amazon delivers and packages appear neatly piled by my back door. That’s magic.

Magic circleWhen the winter snow melts and the earth wakes up, bringing green leaves and flowers, nothing else can explain it. It is magic. I count on it.

Ultimately, when I turn on my computer and connect. I write, you write. I read you and you read me. That is magic. How is it possible for you, on the other side of this spinning globe, get my messages in real time?

circle of life teepee door

Just because we don’t stand in a circle and chant, we might as well be doing that. I understand about as much of how my computer uses all its written code to do what it does.

Chrysanthemum autumn

Why should all that “code” (read “magic”) make it work? I know how to write code — not well, but enough to understand its intent. That said, why do computers obey such writing? These codes?

British author Arthur C. Clarke formulated three laws:

  1. When a distinguished, but elderly, scientist states something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

My Corollary to Clarke’s Law: Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

Life is magic to me. All of it.


In another life, I was an astrologer. I drew horoscopes and wrote an astrology column for a couple of newspapers. I was pretty accurate.

I was at my best reading for strangers. The less I knew about the person for whom I was reading, the better reading I could give.


I also sometimes read Tarot, but cards made me uncomfortable. In a horoscope, you only see what you look for. Almost never does something jump off the page and scream at you.

Tarot is different. Not only do you not always see what you expect, you will see things you wish you hadn’t.


Like death. That first time it happened, I almost jumped out of the chair with shock. I knew –100% — that the man smiling across from me would die in six years. He was young, just 32. He had already had a serious heart attack, but seemed to have recovered and was living a careful, but normal life. Not employed … he wasn’t up to a daily grind … but he was raising his boys and enjoying life. Laughing in my living room while the kids played outside.

“Read for me?” he had asked. I acquiesced.


So, I did a progressive reading for him. That’s where you use the “summary” card of each spread as the foundation card of the next reading. In the seventh layout, I saw him dead.

“I’m too tired to do this any more,” I said. “It’s just gibberish,” and I gathered up the cards and refused to say more. He died exactly when I’d seen. I could not go to the funeral. I couldn’t even explain why not.

I tried reading again after a while, but I started to see things. Secrets. Stuff I didn’t want to know and certainly would never tell. I learned things about people that changed the way I felt about them.

You can run, but you cannot hide. The client always knows when you aren’t telling them something. We have “tells.” Our pupils dilate. We become pale. Our muscles stiffen. We shift in our seat. They know.

I quit reading.


I don’t believe in telling people when they are going to die. Someone told me many years ago that this year — my 68th — would be my last. I don’t believe it, but it’s stuck in my head. Niggling, nagging, bugging me.

It’s a bell that will never unring, but I’m doing my best to hang around.


Last night, I explained to Garry about house elves. He isn’t a big reader of fantasy, as I am, so some of this stuff hasn’t gnawed at the edges of his consciousness.

I told him if we were to leave milk and cookies out, the little folk would come to our house. Overnight, while we sleep, they would clean, scrub, repair, and cook. Fix the roof. Clear the snow. When we got up the next morning, the coffee would be ready along with delicious, fresh baked goods.

solarized art effect horizontal kitchen

He looked at me. I think he wasn’t sure if he had heard me. “Is this like, real, anywhere? Has this actually happened somewhere?”

“No,” I said. “Only in folk tales and myth. And Harry Potter. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? We could leave out milk, cookies, and an old pair of socks. Just in case.”


One eyebrow went up. “And something that already lives here would surely eat it. And Bonnie would abscond with the socks. Our kids would be sure to leave us something. Probably not fresh baked goods … or a clean house.”

Just for a second or two, I had him. Myth and magic live. So much better than reality, aren’t they?

Daily Prompt: Think Global, Act Local – “Think global, act local.” Write a post connecting a global issue to a personal one. Because magic is definitely global.


Pleased to Meet You – Write a post in which the protagonists of two different books or movies meet for the first time. How do they react to each other? Do they get along?

skin game jim butcherDowntown Uxbridge. Late morning. Autumn. We would have met in a bar, but there are no bars in downtown Uxbridge. There are no restaurants either, unless you count Domino’s Pizza, which I don’t. There’s a take-out Chinese place, but not much of a place to sit and chat. The place I used to go a few years ago changed ownership and they no longer serve breakfast, just lunch. So … Dunkin Donuts it is. Everybody likes coffee.

They strolled in together. Even though they hadn’t been formally introduced, I think they knew each other. The funny vibe witches have, that both of them have. And all the leather gear, the spells in their pockets. The big gun on Harry’s hip. The splat gun on Rachel’s.

“Harry Dresden?” I said to the tall guy in the long, black, leather duster. He nodded. “I’d like you to meet Rachel Morgan.” I turned to the gorgeous red-head in the tight leather battle gear.

They looked each other up and down, appraising, obviously liking what they saw. “Hey,” said Rachel, “Like your wand.”

“Love your splat gun,” replied Harry.

UndeadPool kim harrison

Before I got a word in edgewise — something that rarely happens to me — they were talking shop. Spells. Magic circles. Wards. Dogs. Then they were laughing about spells gone wrong, the time Harry wound up dead. The time Rachel was turned into a ferret. How difficult relationships can be in the supernatural world … and how to avoid banshees. They exchanged cards. Harry pointed out that he is the only Wizard in the yellow pages. Rachel mentioned how she had saved the world … and not just once. Harry, feeling competitive, countered with an anecdote of how he had saved the world multiple times which segued into the story of how he had ridden that Tyrannosaurus Rex …

It was the greatest brunch I ever shared, and over too soon. They walked out arm in arm, still talking up a storm.

And I went home to the computer, to write the story.


NASA's own time machine

NASA’s own time machine

Formulated by the British author Arthur C. Clarke, these three laws — especially the last one — are accepted as science fiction “fact.”

Clarke’s three laws are so ubiquitous in the literature, they are (with Asimov’s laws of robotry), the basis of many stories by a wide spectrum of authors in the science fiction and fantasy genres.

For your enlightenment:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Murphy’s Corollary to Clarke’s Law: Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.