All Stories, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Magical Demise by Ailbhe Curran

Tick-tock tick-tock goes the Digiclock. My leg is shaking vigorously and I’m trying to get it to stop. My whole body jolts as I hear Siri’s voice. I didn’t think it’d be this soon. No time to waste in here I suppose. A lot of clients for them to get through to.

‘Next up for Reality Awakening session 1 is Ms. Isa Tinny. ‘

‘Did you notice? They’ve reconfigured her voice mechanisms so the tone of her voice changes each time she speaks to make her sound ninety-nine-point-nine percent human. Amazing isn’t it?’.

‘Next up for Reality Awakening session 1 is Ms. Isa Tinny.’

I did notice the change in tone this time. There was a certain impatient tone to Siri’s second calling.

‘You better move quick’.

I see my name flash red on the screen and I move cautiously towards the reception desk.

‘What is the reason for your visit today?’

‘Problems with magical thinking’, I mutter in defeat.

‘No need to worry, you have come to the right place. We are the world’s leading experts at Reality Awakening and will lead you on your journey towards a more productive, efficient and reality-grounded you through our advanced evidence-based solutions. Please walk down the corridor to your right and enter Door 4. Thank you.

Finally, a human. Someone who would really understand. I was hoping all the cut-backs wouldn’t have placed Siri leading the sessions. I felt bad for thinking that because I know Siri has done a huge amount to advance our society. I needed to remind myself of that. I walk slowly down the corridor to Door 4. The number four eases some of the caution in my footsteps; it always was my lucky number. The door opens abruptly of its own accord and inside I see a tall woman in a pinstripe suit, sitting perfectly upright on a chair – the only pattern amongst the whiteness in a room silenced of its colours.

‘Come’, she commands.

I walk in and perch myself at the edge of the chair across from her, leaning over my legs in an effort to stop the shaking. Above her head, I notice the gaze of a woman in a painting hanging on the wall. A young woman with neatly pinned hair, about my age, her body sitting upright on an armchair – arms folded neatly, resigned and content; my aspiration I wonder.

‘So I understand that you are here for ‘magical thinking’?’

‘Yes, you see…’

‘One step at a time please.’

‘Oh, okay, sorry.’

‘To begin firstly, when did the magical thinking start?’

‘Well, I suppose it started when I was a young girl. ‘

I look at her and she tilts her head, pursing her lips and sighing, as if she’s heard this pattern before.

‘My parents used to draw big houses on paper and I used to play inside of them, each room was an adventure, blank canvases of stories waiting to be told. Then, at Christmas, when the toy magazine used to arrive in the post, I opened a page and the toy’s world appeared right before my eyes. I played with them for days on end…even though to the rest they were just pictures on a page. I was their keeper and their worlds were also my own. I didn’t think I needed anything back then except imagination, I didn’t think I needed anything except…magic. ‘

‘But you’re not a child anymore. In fact, childhood has been identified as the highest area of risk for developing magical thinking disorder. It’s something we, as a progressive society today, are attempting to eradicate. And something you should be contributing to also, as a member of our society.’

‘Okay, I see…Well I suppose in my teenage years it never really went away. I…..’

‘You?’

‘I feel so foolish for saying it these days but I felt, I believed, that if I wanted my world to change for the better badly enough, if I prayed for it…that it would. I found…proof.’

‘Proof’, she repeats, as if begging me to tease out the truth in my proof so she could prove it a lie.

‘Well one day, when I was fourteen, I prayed so hard for true friends, real friends I could trust and the next day, it really was like a miracle. I heard that my name got picked to go on a school trip and…’

‘And what?’

‘And I found friends, people that understood me.’

I could feel a smile tease at the corner of my lip, forgetting myself…before remembering what had become of them.

‘Miracle? Mmm’, she hissed at me, and I pinched myself for saying what I did. How could I be so stupid? I tried to compose myself again. ‘Sshhh it’s okay, she’ll understand’, I told myself. It’s just the two of us. Siri isn’t here.

‘And what efforts have you made to challenge your magical thinking since then?’

‘Well I have been trying, really…honestly. I’ve completed the recommended tutorials, I’ve gone to the seminars listed by Siri, I’ve tried to move with the times but…’

‘But what?’

I could feel my blood rising, wondering what happens to the people who can’t be cured.

‘But no-matter how I try it just doesn’t seem like…enough. I’m walking to seashores, trying to find the remaining churches at the edge of town, hoping to find people, looking to feel something that never needs to be explained.’

‘Magic?’

‘Magic, wonder and awe without reason. I just want to go back I guess.’

‘Want to go back? That’s called nostalgia, a by-product of magical thinking. It doesn’t do well to dwell there. We’re moving on. We’re in a progressive society now. Progressive societies don’t dwell on thoughts and technologies of the past.’

‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said any of that. I suppose I just hoped that I could…I could believe in what I wanted to believe in.’

‘There’s no believing to it. There’s truth and there’s falsehood. But do not be afraid. We are here to support you. You clearly have a vivid imagination but that indeed can be a great curse. In fact, it is unnecessary these days and no longer serves any benefit to society. After all, technology now leads our new innovations, practically eradicating the need for ours. It has the input of all human innovation up to this point and can collate this information to create new innovations which would be impossible for us to achieve. It’s only a matter of time before human imagination and human error becomes completely obsolete in society. In time, imagination will be eradicated by natural technological selection and then space will emerge in our minds which can be spent on more healthy and helpful endeavours. But in the meantime, I’ve developed a series of app-based products and programmes to support your imaginative outreach in a more structured reality-grounded way.’

I force a smile and nod agreeably. I hear my inner whispers – ‘Don’t show your fears. Show control or they’ll take you. They’re stronger than you are now’. My heart is starting to pound so loudly in my chest I can barely hear what she is saying now in between her pale dry lips. Imagination….eradication….progress….reality. I was wondering why I came here of free will, or whose footsteps truly led me to this door. As she starts loading up the IProgress app, I try to focus on the unmoving picture amongst the haze, hoping for a slow-down. But the girl in the painting is distorted somewhat, a twisted memory from before. Her dark hair has fallen to her shoulders in a maze of tangles, her eyes pleading at me and her mouth open, as if she’s mouthing a warning or shouting in distress, trapped behind her glass pane. Underneath the picture I notice that the eyes of my counsellor have turned blood red as if they’re lasers, scanning the room. I start to wonder if she is indeed real or a figment of some technological trick. I press my eyelids shut and open again, hoping to veil my magical thoughts. I must be wrong – I do have magical thinking disorder after all. Yes, that must be it, all well again. I take a deep breath, telling myself that I’ve done the right thing coming here.

She places the IProgress in my hand.

‘Complete first step’, she orders, the earlier smiles now all tightened behind her porcelain-shaded skin.

I glance down. ‘Step 1’ it reads – ‘Logic, Truth and Trust’. I look up and the girl in the glass pane is still screaming. Outside the window a butterfly of all colours is oddly banging at the window, her flickering wings begging me to join her on her flight. Imagined, probably, but still enough to show me what is real.

‘Just like magic’, I whisper.

‘Please repeat?’

My hands start to clench. I still knew enough to know that something wasn’t right here. Even though I couldn’t quite explain it. I had no real evidence. And I did have a diagnosed magical thinking problem after all. Still, I needed to get out.

‘I’m getting out of here’, I snap.

‘I don’t think that’s wise’, she responds in that coarse neutral tone of hers.

I shoot up and race out of the room to the front door.

‘Let me out!’, I scream.

‘Please scan Siri to exit’.

I press my phone up against the scanner and rush out, the fresh air feeling like the only thing I now knew was real. I try to cover my ears from phone Siri, who is shouting about reminders and map trackers for return, all the motivational points I earned. My heart is racing wildly again. Those pills Digidoc gave me aren’t working so well. Oh dear, I was done for now. I cover my mouth but it’s too late. I’d forgotten. Phone Siri had it all on record anyway – the moments emotion over reason took over like now, the moments I started to believe things that probably weren’t real. Evidence of my downfall. I try to breathe slower, rocking back and forth and whispering, ‘reason over emotion, reality over magic, reason over emotion, reality over magic’. Siri pipes up again.

‘Please return to centre immediately for emergency session so that we can continue to support you’.

I look down at Siri in my hand and I don’t quite know how to leave her. The doors open for me and I stare at the others for a moment, compliant inside. They all sit patiently at their spots in the manufacturing line, awaiting their own magical demise.

Ailbhe Curran

5 thoughts on “Magical Demise by Ailbhe Curran”

  1. Ailbhe–
    Your style is brilliant. The idea of imagination made obsolete by works of imagination, the rise of “minds” like “Siri” and “Alexa,” is scary and perhaps inevitable. Creating the bomb was a suicidal sort of thing to do–committing self murder of magical thinking falls in line with that. Maybe a comet the size of Wisconsin should drop out of the sky the day that becomes fact.
    Leila

    Like

  2. Hi Ailbhe,
    I hate Alexa – She’s a cow.
    I am not that aware of, well, anything but I do know of Siri due to an episode of ‘The Big Bang’ so there may be more like me. (God fucking help them!)
    This is very clever and I do wonder about individuality and imagination and where we are headed due to so much perceptions (??) being shown to us through all sorts of media.
    The message is excellent and it even overtakes the superb story, and that was a huge reason to publish this clever piece of writing.
    Hugh

    Like

  3. Alibhe -This gives me a new version of magical thinking. Usually I associate it with changing history. I didn’t really run over that pedesrian (example), I can get my brother to love me. Another form could be about the gods that rule the world and control me.

    I like your version much better. I’ll win the prize and true love (or whatever is important to you).

    Like

  4. A very modern and philosophical piece that works really well. Did a great job of portraying, in a highly original style, the way in which these kinds of software are playing such a huge part in our lives.

    Like

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