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Last Call · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The Only Letter You Need is Bet
“Everything that's wrong with magic is because it has a mind of its own, and it hates me!”

The angel looked at Sarah with unconcealed disdain, polishing its glass from behind the counter. Its waiter uniform looked oddly appropriate on its frame, accenting the fact that in the end it was still a servant.

Sarah wilted a bit.

“Ye-you're right. Sorry. Er. It's not that it has hates me, that's..the...I'm justifying myself, ain't I?” The angel didn't need to tell her, so it didn't.

“Right. Er. The problem is that magic dislikes being exploited, unlike...unlike literally every other physical law that exists. Those are easy. Or at least, Bob said it was easy. That in the end it was all math, and so everything turned out exactly the way people wanted.”

Sarah looked wistfully at her empty glass. She was hunched over the counter, resting her head on her crossed arms, her eyes barely inches above the bottom. Fitting, that.

“I miss him. Wish he hadn't left me...”

The glass filled up with an amber liquid. Sarah looked up, but the angel's tiny mustache was as straight as its spine. Still, she was grateful, and drank deeply of the ambrosia, sloshing the liquid messily.

It would irritate the damned thing, but she didn't have much to lose anyway.

“Right. So. Let's get my thoughts in order for the big showdown. So. Magic; not at all like the vidya games. Not at all like the ErrPeeGees the nerds keep playing for some reason.”

She looked at the bar, trying to find some inspiration. The light was soft, more like a sunrise than lightning coursing through a wire. The walls were some dark wood she was too ignorant to recognize, but looked very classy.

The rest was hazy and indistinct. Maybe she in the concept of a bar, not in a real bar.

“Magic is poems, and artsy. Magic thinks like people, magic likes stories, magic can be bullshitted. I draw a magic circle, plop down the right dècor, say some words that sound like they should be right and out comes a demon! Nevermind that demons didn't exist until three years ago.”

The angel tucked its brilliantly white rag in its immaculate apron.

“Wrong. I studied law and passed the Bar exam under It That Lights the Lights, who is now He Who Lights the Fires, and your phrasing is wrong. You've left a loophole in what you've said so vast that all of He Who Is could pass through. Correct it.”

Sarah's brow furrowed.

“Ah! Right. Magic makes it so that demons had always existed...?”

The angel didn't reply, but it didn't correct her either.

“So. There aren't any actual rules in magic, because you've got to convince it of what you're doing every time you cast a spell, and it's not stupid. And it doesn't have to have your opinions on things.”

Sarah shuddered and held herself. This next bit was going to hurt. She looked at the angel's wings. They were fractals, the spaces between the spaces spiraling off into infinity, eternally similar to itself, each and every curve filled with mercy and love, none of it for her.

This time, it gave her a mug of hot chocolate.

“For example, I became a chaos mage.”

A pause.

“Because I thought it meant that I could do everything, be everything. Instead, it meant I'm an agent of destruction, and half of America is now...”


Sarah gulped. It all came down to this. Her last spell, using her own life and her own soul as lottery tickets. It'd surprised her to see an agent of God, but God was probably the only thing who could undo her fuckup.”

“Frankly, Sarah, it doesn't look good. Unless something extraordinary happens, every outcome is bad for you. You need a third option that just isn't there. I don't think you can grasp how bad Hell truly is, but my colleague made sure that stay in it would not be a fair price to pay to save all the people who died because of your actions.”

Sarah gulped, then took out her coin.

“Time for one last call, then. Heads, I go to Hell, but everything that happened because of me is undone. Tails...nothing happens.”

Was it just her imagination, or was there a glimmer of empathy in the angel's eye?

She threw the piece of metal into the air, flipping end over end.

The coin grew wings and flew away.
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#1 ·
Isn't magic considered wicked by most religions? That sounds like the kind of thing you'd look into before turning into a chaos mage and expect clemency from God.

I like the world you paint here of a world where magic is normal to the point where it's been bureaucraticised (and yet manages to let someone go through that system who ends up killing half the country). I wish we got more of that, instead both issues are left to simmer in the background.

I mean, I don't think I've really got a good grasp on Sarah's motivations here. What led her to become a chaos mage, how did she mess everything up? Why did nobody take actions sooner? Overall, while I like the framing, I don't find myself all too invested in the story as a whole.
#2 · 1
I appreciated this one for ending on a whimsical note. Funny, but also a little sad for her too.

and thankfully it's not a grand pompous twist full of deep emotion and vague meaning and everyone should discuss that hidden meaning in the comments right now ok I'm being a jerk.

It feels kind of poetic, and I don't see that enough in the writeoff. And to me, that almost redeems this story's many flaws. Sarah's character feels bland and ordinary, and I always cringe at "characters sitting in bar, spilling worldbuilding exposition." And despite all the exposition, I still don't really understand what the big decision is about. Though I guess this actually made the ending funnier because I wasn't expecting that.

and the point I'm trying to make here is, despite not really being gripped by the story while I was reading it (sorry), I still get it. I understand the meaning here, and it wasn't diminished by the ugly story construction. And constructing a story is a skill you get better at over time, but it's so rare to find that spark to begin with - a story that actually has something to say.
#3 ·
It’s a strange one. Where is she? What bar is it that angels tend? Is she already dead and she’s waiting in a sort of purgatory to know exactly what will happen to her soul?

She’s trying more or less to weasel her way out of damnation for destroying half of America?

Names for God are strange, but maybe they’re translations from Hebrew?

The whole story is not really grasping, as Haze correctly said, because having a character soliloquy present all the world building as well as that character’s emotions is really stodgy.

The end was a nice touch, tough. Is that the third option the angel mentioned?
#4 ·
Conflict right from sentence one. I like it, and it takes me a minute to realize the angel likely isn't real. At first I had a cognitive dissonance between both angels and magic existing. I don't get the "barely inches from the bottom" line. Bottom of what? The counter? The glass? Either way, that's not as unusual as the "barely" makes it sound.

Now I'm hitting a few editing misses.

Wait, the angel's real? And he condones magic use? I'm guessing he's an artificial construct now. I love the description of his wings.

I feel like this was a great world-building story without the world-building. I get just a glimpse at how things work, enough to understand the basics of her predicament, but just the skeleton of it. However, it's a pretty compelling situation. To me, the ending is vague, but I'm not sure it's the wrong kind of vague. I could think that since she described herself as an agent of chaos, it's just some random thing happening. Or I could think that the angel or God has given her that third option.

I mean, really the only things I can say against this is that it's suggesting far more world building than it can deliver, and it's OOC of God to have a world where this sort of magic exists, but the former, like I said, gives me just enough to whet my appetite, and the latter is a conceit I'm willing to accept for the sake of the story. Plus it's so vague what Sarah's actually done that it's hard to get that invested in her plight. What it takes to get to her position, how important it is to her, what she was actually trying to achieve when shit went down, that sort of thing.

Yeah, the bartender is cliched, but as an angel? You have me wondering whether that's his normal spot, or if he's taken the place of someone today, or if the bar is something he conjured up for her benefit. I don't feel like the whole thing is expository so much. Yeah, her relating past events, but the more philosophical discussion of how magic works helps to break it up. Not that such information couldn't also be effectively shown in practice rather than theory, but the fact that she's kind of still learning it at this moment does bring it over the threshold of being story action, in my opinion.

So I rather liked this one. Early in my slate still, but it's going up top for now.