I always knew that gym class was state-supported torture, Timothy Hunter thought. After all, forcing us to play football outdoors in this weather is clearly cruel and unusual punishment.
Tim hovered on the outskirts of the game. Sports—other than skateboarding—were not his strong suit. He felt foolish in his gym outfit. Gooseflesh covered his skin, and his baggy shirt only emphasized his lack of muscles. His father said Tim was undergoing a growth spurt and that it was typical at thirteen years old to do so. But it made his arms and legs gangly; and his skinny wrists and ankles were always poking out of sleeves and cuffs.
To make matters worse, Molly O'Reilly's class was running laps around the perimeter of the playing field. The last thing Tim wanted was for her to see him miss a pass or trip over his own shoelaces. Not that she was impressed by sports types, but he still didn't want to look like a dolt. So he tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible. He didn't want anything he did to be interpreted as an invitation to his teammates to send the ball his way. As he hung back, away from the others, he realized he might be more conspicuous on his own. Uh-oh. He was right. Molly saluted to him as she jogged by. Her curly brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail that bounced in rhythm with her feet. She was fast, he noticed, and she wasn't even breaking a sweat.
He didn't want to insult her by not waving back. He pushed his glasses up to the bridge of his nose and then lifted his arm. He held it close to his side and only moved his hand back and forth. Sort of how the Royals waved as they drove by in a parade. He used as little movement as possible so as not to attract the attention of his teammates. He glanced over at Bobby Saunders, who had the ball. Safe, Tim thought. Bobby never passes to anyone.
Tim went back to daydreaming. His mind was so full these days—how could anyone expect him to concentrate on something as ordinary as a silly football match? So much had happened to him, and he was still trying to understand it. Not too long ago, Timothy had been pretty much like any other thirteen-year-old boy in aLondon council home. Then four strangers arrived and informed him that he had the potential to become the most powerful magician the world had ever seen. Heavy stuff. Needless to say, things changed pretty radically after that.
These men—the Trenchcoat Brigade, as he called them—took him to other worlds. The one known only as the Stranger brought him into the past. Tim witnessed the sinking of Atlantis, saw ancient civilizations, and even met Merlin. Then John Constantine took him to America and introduced him to other magic types of the present day. Tim's favorite part of the trip was meeting Zatanna, a lady magician he had admired on TV. She turned out to be even cooler in person. Next, it was on to Faerie, a magical realm that seemed straight out of a storybook.
Faerie had been amazing. It wasn't just that it was probably the prettiest, most spectacular place he'd ever seen. It was where he felt like magic was real. More than that—that magic was natural, everyday, and ordinary but in an extraordinary way. He had met talking animals, nasty little creatures, and beautiful fairies who could fly and sing, and even the air there made him want to dance—if he were keen on dancing.
He almost wound up a prisoner there, when the Queen, Titania, tricked him into accepting a gift. But he managed to find a way out and was able to return home. Then, of course, no adventure would be complete without an attempt on one's life. And Tim had been there, done that, too. His creepy tour guide, Mr. E, took him into the future, to the "end of time," and then turned on him and tried to drive a stake through his heart. It was a bizarre miracle that Tim had made it back alive.
Throughout all the journeys, it seemed like there were always people trying to kill him or take his magic. John Constantine, the bloke Tim liked best of the crew, had explained that Tim's magic could go either way—good or evil—and that there were powerful forces who wanted to be sure his magic went the way they wanted it to—or didn't go at all. In other words, if Tim wasn't going to work for the bad guys, they wanted him dead!
Am I still in danger? Tim wondered. Since the Trenchcoat Brigade had deposited him at home that rainy night a little over a month ago, exhausted and confused, nothing unusual had happened. In a strange way it was a little disappointing. Now what? What do I do with this information?
Even though Tim had spent the whole time scared stiff, it was the most alive he had ever felt. Maybe because so many times I thought I was about to be dead, he reasoned.
Tim thought about things he'd seen and magic he'd done. When they first met, Dr. Occult, the one who had shown Tim the land of Faerie, had turned Tim's yo-yo into an owl. At the end of time, when Mr. E had attacked him, Yo-yo flew in front of the stake that had been intended for Tim. Yo-yo's sacrifice had saved Tim, but killed the owl. Back at home after the Trenchcoat Brigade had left him, after Tim had rejected magic, frustrated and disappointed and alone, Tim had managed to somehow turn his yo-yo back into a bird. How did I do that? he wondered.
But the bird had flown away. And Tim missed him.
A movement overhead caught Tim's eye. He squinted up and saw a large bird circling above him. "Yo-yo?"
Excerpted from The Books of Magic #2: Bindings (AER) by Carla Jablonski Copyright © 2006 by Carla Jablonski. Excerpted by permission.
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