By Larry Hodges

Published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, Winter, 1989



"Crick!" came the booming voice. "Where are you?" Crick looked up from his lunch at the sound. It was Master Vogo again. Crick grimaced, and took another bite out of his sandwich. What would it be this time? Out to the bat cave for bat dung? Hunt down a mountain lion for its whiskers? Or something worse? All in the name of sorcery, Crick thought with disgust. He was getting sick of sorcery!




Yawning, Crick got up leisurely and strolled towards the voice. Master Vogo had had him running errands all over the place all day long, and the last thing he wanted was another one of Vogo's "trips."


"Yeah, Master?" he asked when Master Vogo was in sight. As usual, he was working in his laboratory.


The Master looked down at him from his great height. It always made Crick feel uncomfortable when Master Vogo did that. He was self-conscious about his own shortness, and the Master's contrasting height was unnerving. Even his nickname, Crick, was short for cricket, and referred to his lack of size. His real name was Ricky, but nobody had called him that in years.


"I have need to journey for materials, Crick," Master Vogo said.


Crick stared. You're going yourself? But you never leave the house! You are always too busy in the lab! He bit back the words just in time, and nodded.


"You wouldn't need me along, would you?" Crick asked hopefully.


Master Vogo stared down at him. His eyes, always icy, seemed to bit right down into Crick's soul. "You have done well enough on your other tasks, although I have noted a certain lack of enthusiasm. However, this time I must go myself. Alone."


"If there is anything I can do for you...."


"There is," Master Vogo interrupted. Crick collapsed into a chair.


"In my absence, you will have to watch over the house,'' Master Vogo said. "See that nothing happens to anything in my laboratory."


"Sure!" Crick exclaimed, relieved at his light duties. "Your lab will be safe with me!"


Master Vogo stared down at him. "I will trust you," he said. "But pay close attention: nothing must be touched! Do you understand?"


"No problem!" Crick answered. "Not even a breeze will hit it." And with that, he dropped to the floor of the lab, pulled out a deck of cards, and started a game of solitaire.


There was a crack of thunder and a flashing light, and Master Vogo disappeared. Crick yawned. Vogo always used special effects in his sorcery, and although he'd never used teleportation in Crick's presence before, the special effects were predictable. Crick concentrated on his card game. It was not going well. He stared at the card, and with a wave of his hand, a ten of spades became the ace of hearts. A moment later, he won the game.


After three years of apprenticeship, parlor tricks like that were all he had learned to do. He felt like a failure, despite Master Vogo's assurance that it took at least a hundred years to become a full Sorcerer. Crick didn't plan to wait that long. He was already fifteen years old, and was getting impatient!


He looked up at the shelves that lined the lab's walls. They were full of strange and colorful glass bottles, each carefully labeled in Master Vogo's clear handwriting. The shelves were high up on the walls, just right for one of Master Vogo's height, but just out of Crick's reach.


"I wonder what all the bottles are for?" he thought aloud. Although Master Vogo had never explained their purpose, Crick suspected that the many bottles were the result of years of lab work. It was the first time he had ever been in the lab without Master Vogo, and his curiosity was getting the better of him. He couldn't quite read the labels from the ground.


"Maybe if I stood on a chair, I could at least read what the labels say," he thought aloud. "I won't even touch them." He positioned a chair against the wall, and stood on it. He looked at the labels on the nearest bottles. Most were labeled with a single word.


"Invisibility," he read, starting from his far left and reading as he as he could see to the right.


"Teleportation. Thunder and Lightning. Rain. Explosive. Telepathy. Levitation. Enlarger. Solvent. Glue." He had never realized how powerful Master Vogo was! If all these concoctions worked, then his Master must be the strongest sorcerer on the planet!


He looked at the line of bottles again, and at the many more that were out of reach from where he stood on the chair. He had to try one out! This was his chance to practice some real sorcery! But he couldn't--Master Vogo had forbidden it!


But the red bottle labeled "Enlarger" looked compelling. It was what Crick needed! But Master Vogo would kill him! Maybe if he used just a little bit? But he would see the change in him, unless he kept the change very small. Over a period of time, he could even add more, and not be noticed. But how much should he use?


He glanced out the window. A butterfly was fluttering about just outside in the flower garden below the window. Crick had an idea.


He reached for the Enlarger bottle and pulled it down. He took the cork out of the bottle, and peered in. The bottle itself appeared to be clear, but the fluid inside was bright red. He carried it to the window.


"Yo, butterfly!" he called out in butterfly. Talking to animals, even insects, was one of the first things he had learned as an apprentice. He often needed to ask directions to find the many items that Master Vogo needed for his sorcery.


The butterfly flew over to him. Although it understood him, it couldn't answer, having no vocal cords. It fluttered in the air just inside the window.


"I have something for you," Crick said. He poured a very tiny amount of the red liquid into a test tube in his hand, and held it out.


The butterfly, hoping for something sweet, flew over. Crick suddenly threw the liquid at the butterfly, dousing it. Now wet, the poor insect fell to the floor, unable to support the added weight. It floundered about on the ground, trying to get back aloft.


"Sorry about that, buddy," Crick said. "It's an experiment."


The butterfly didn't answer, and continued to struggle. Then it began to grow. Slowly at first, then more quickly. Soon its wingspan had increased tenfold. As it increased in size, its muscles became larger, and soon it was able to shake off the excess fluid. It struggled aloft again, and flew out the window just in time, as it was now barely able to fit through. Crick watched as it flew off, now the size of a small horse.


"Wow!" he said. He couldn't use the enlarger--it was just too powerful.


He got back on the chair, and examined the bottles again. "What would be a safe one to try?" he wondered. He was thoroughly intoxicated with these new powers. He had to try more. He spied the bottles marked Solvent and Glue.


What were they for?


He reached for the one marked Solvent, a green bottle. It was just out of reach. He strained on tiptoe, and just got his hand on it. He tried to pull the bottle towards him, dangerously off balance. He slipped.


He fell to the floor, the bottle falling next to him. It broke and green fluid poured out over him. He barely noticed, as he was busy cursing. He had landed on his side, and hurt his right arm trying to break his fall. He stood up, and stretched the arm.


The arm fell off.


Crick stared at it, dumbfounded. His arm lay in a heap on the floor, leaving a stump on his right shoulder. No blood flowed. Crick sat down on a chair in shock. His right ear fell off, and bounced on the floor before coming to a stop. Crick sat dazed.


Then his other arm fell off. Then his nose. He ran to a mirror just in time to see his other ear fall off, and stared at the hole where his nose had been. He returned to the chair just in time as his legs fell off, leaving him balanced precariously on his torso on the chair. Then his head fell off, rolling across the floor and giving him a thumping headache. It rolled to a stop against the wall, face down.


His consciousness resided in his head, but he seemed helpless.


A moment ago he had been standing up, and now he had literally fallen apart! Why had he disobeyed Master Vogo's order that nothing was to be touched?


The dirt floor dug into his forehead and lips. He grimaced distastefully, fully helpless. Or was he? His tongue still seemed to be in place. Closing his eyes in disgust, he stuck his tongue out, trying to push his head over to one side. The dirt stuck to his tongue, making him cough convulsively, but he had no lungs to force the air out, so all that came out was a slight sigh. He finally succeeded in pushing his head over on its side, and he was able to see into the room again.


It was cluttered with the parts of his body. His legs were broken into three parts: feet, lower and upper leg. His arms still seemed to be joined at the elbow, with hands still attached. He remembered the green liquid had doused most of his body, legs and head, but his arms had gone untouched. Not that they could help him now. He would have to just lie here until Master Vogo returned.


Crick shook with terror at the thought. His Master would kill him! He'd never be trusted again! He'd probably be sent back home in disgrace. No, he had to get out of this predicament himself.


He stared at his fallen nose. He was still breathing instinctively through the hole where his nose had been, although little air was actually going through, having no lungs. But as he went through the motion of breathing, the nose seemed to twitch, as if it didn't know it was no longer attached. On a whim, he tried to wiggle his no longer existent nose on the hole above his mouth. The nose on the floor wiggled. He still had control over it!


He looked at one of his feet, lying still on the ground. He made it wave its toes about, and convulse on the ground. He wasn't completely helpless--just mostly so.


He spied his arm. He waved his hand at himself, and moved each finger experimentally. Then he concentrated on his right hand. Using the fingers, he had the hand drag the rest of his right arm over to himself on the floor. He did the same with the left. But what good did it do him? An idea struck him. He had the two arms meet, and clasp hands. After a bit of practice, he got them to move together and rise up off the floor, using the base of the arms, where they had once met at the shoulder, as feet. With hands clasped, the two arms became a biped creature, able to walk about, unsteadily, on its two "feet." They fell over every few feet, but he was able to get them back up each time. With practice, he became proficient at walking them about the room.


It was strange watching his arms walk about on their stumps, like some sort of sorcery. He had them dance about and leap into the air, doing pirouettes on each stump. It was very interesting, but not very helpful. He had to go about getting himself back together again.


He walked his arms over to the chair where his torso still sat. Running the arms against the chair, he knocked it over, spilling the torso over. He groaned at the impact--he could feel its pain! Crick noted that he was still breathing. He walked the arms over, and gingerly placed one stump into the shoulder, trying to reattach it. It seemed to fit in, and so he tried to move the arm about from the shoulder. It started to move, then fell off again. It was no good--it wouldn't hold.


He desperately needed something to hold his body parts in place, but could think of nothing.


Then he spied the talking stone. He could call up Brenda, and she could come help him! He walked his arms over to the stone (which, fortunately, lay on the floor in the corner) and clasped it between his hands. He walked it over to his head, and dropped it by his mouth.


"Brenda!" he called. Brenda was a thirteen-year-old who lived next door about a mile down the road. She was apprenticed to Master Quinn, and often she and Crick practiced their simple parlor sorcery together. At the sound of her name, the talking stone should tune in on her.


"Yes?" came her voice from the stone. He could feel her presence.


"Brenda!" he whispered. He was unable to speak any louder without the lung-power of his torso. "I need your help!"


"Can you speak up?" she said. "I can barely hear you."


"I can't talk any louder," he whispered. "I'm in trouble!"


"I'm a little busy right now, so you'll have to get out of the rubble by yourself," she said.


"No, you don't understand!" he exclaimed/whispered. "I'm falling apart!"


"Well, calm down!" she answered. "You sound like you're going to pieces!"


"I am!"


"Then go see Dr. Bloyd, the psycho-sorcerer." Her presence started to fade away.


"I mean I really am going to pieces!" he said.


The presence came back. "Is this because I didn't invite you to my birthday party last week?" she asked. "I told you I was sorry, but it was kinda private, and--"


"No, that's not it!"


"Oh, good. Well, I'll be seeing you." Her presence left.


"Brenda!" But it was too late.


He stared about the room at his scattered parts. Then he shuddered. When his body had fallen apart, some of his clothing had fallen off, leaving embarrassing parts showing. Maybe he was glad she hadn't come!


He eyed the bottles still lining the room on the shelves. Maybe one of them could help. He couldn't see any of them from down on the floor, so he struggled to remember the ones he had seen before. Invisibility, Levitation, Glue--what was glue doing up on the shelf? It didn't seem magical. But it was just what he needed right now!


He walked his arms over to the wall again. The chair was on its side now, so he couldn't use it to boost the arms up. He spied a wire coming out of the ceiling. The electrical cord for the ceiling light!


Hurray for modern technology!


He set his arms to work going up the cord. It was hard work, as they had to pull themselves up with their fingers, pulling the heavy arms behind, but they made it to the top, and jumped off onto the shelf. He walked them over to the blue bottle that he remembered was marked Glue. He clasped it in the hands, and then stopped. How was he to get it down? He couldn't climb down the wire again, not while holding the bottle. There was only one way. Clasping the bottle between the hands tightly, he jumped.


He grimaced as his arms hit the floor. That hurt! But the bottle was intact. He walked it over to his head, and examined it. Sure enough, it was the one marked Glue. He walked it over to his torso, and leaving it there, had his arms drag over a leg. He pulled the cork out of the bottle with his hands, and poured a small amount of fluid onto the leg sockets. He jammed a leg into place, and then moved it experimentally. It held.


He put the other leg in place, using the glue, and then his right arm. They all held. He picked up his left arm in his right, and after applying the glue, jammed it into place. He got up, and walked his body over to his head, and picked it up, jamming it into place with glue. It was on crooked--the room suddenly seemed slanted--so he pulled it off and put it back on more carefully. Then he walked about, gathering the scattered parts of his body, and replacing them. Soon he was whole again. He set about cleaning up the mess he had made from the broken Solvent bottle, whistling cheerfully.


He heard a sound of thunder, and a flash of lightning, and Master Vogo appeared in the middle of the room. Crick sheepishly waved at him. The Master looked about the room. All seemed in place, except for the chair that still lay on its side, and one missing bottle from the shelf, as well as one now empty. Crick couldn't tell if his master had noticed anything wrong. The Master peered down at him.


"Did you touch anything while I was gone?" Master Vogo boomed.


"No sir!" Crick replied.


"And I presume you know nothing about the giant butterfly that ravaged the city today?"


"Giant butterfly?" he gasped.


The Master stooped down to eye level with Crick. "Do you really wish to be a sorcerer?" he asked.


"Very much so!" Crick exclaimed, now afraid. Well, at one time he had.


"It is true that I haven't trained you as adequately as I could have these three years," Master Vogo said softly. "I have been so intent on my work that I haven't paid enough attention to your training. "But I want you to promise me one thing."


"Yes, Master Vogo?"


"Never lie to me."


Crick stared down at the floor. Then he looked up at Master Vogo. "I'm sorry. I did lie. I disobeyed you, and used some of your bottles. It's just that, well, I really want to be a sorcerer, but I never seem to be able to do anything. It was my first chance to do some real magic."


Master Vogo nodded his head. "It's time you started advanced training," he said. "Are you interested?"




"We're going to need supplies," Master Vogo answered. " Let's see, lion whiskers, bat dung, eye of dragon--here, I'll write you a list, and as soon as you get the ingredients, we'll begin."


"All right!" Crick said excitedly. As soon as Master Vogo had written the list, he snatched the paper and started for the door. "I'll be back in just a few hours!" he said.


"And Crick?" Master Vogo said.




"Before you leave, could you put your nose on right side up?"


Crick felt about his face, and found his nostrils were on top. He sheepishly pulled off his nose, and put it back on right side up. His feet were killing him, but in his rush, he had barely noticed them. But now he glanced down.


He had instinctively put his right boot on the right side, the left boot on his left side. Only, only--his legs were reversed! His big toe was on the outside! He had put them on the wrong side! They were much heavier than a nose, and he would have to get a new supply of glue. He hoped he could get some without having to ask Master Vogo.


"When you get back with the ingredients, the first thing we'll make is glue," Master Vogo called out to him, smiling. "Now hurry up!"


Crick didn't even bother to change shoes.