A warm day in May, one week later, in Hailey's apartment, just past noon.
"Yeah, but what do you think it actually is?" Ian asked, as he casually tossed a ball of fire from one hand to the other. Hailey might have laughed at the image if it hadn't become so commonplace of late. Here they were, five normal college kids, and they could do magic! It was still mind-blowing to her every single day since they'd first discovered the page in her apartment.
"It's dangerous, that's what it is," Hugo said darkly, his eyes following the fire bouncing between his best friend's hands with abject suspicion. He'd been the only one of their group not to read from the page. He'd regarded it as something demonic, and told them all they were making a dangerous mistake.
None of them had paid him any mind. Not even Weston, who usually respected Hugo's opinions quite a bit.
"It's okay Hugo, see?" Jessica said. "It's just energy, same as everything else in the universe. We just have a new way to manipulate it. Like all the things we've been able to do with electricity over the last century."
"Right," Hailey said with finality. "Just like electricity. I mean, computers are practically black magic, aren't they? Do you have any clue how a computer works?"
"A bunch of transistors that flip rapidly from off to on when a current is applied and make calculations that get output," Hugo shot back. "Just because I don't have as good of grades as you two doesn't make me ignorant."
"So this is something else like that. Something's doing calculations somewhere with what we give it and making an output."
"Hugo, don't be that guy. Look," Ian said, pointing at Weston. "Weston, show him what you figured out."
Weston frowned. "Not really a show kind-of-thing."
"Oh come on, it's cool as shit. You figured it out, you should be the one to demonstrate."
"Figured out what?" Hailey said eagerly. She was always looking forward to the next bit of magic they'd managed to deduce. Ian and Weston tended to be the most creative of the four, while Jessica had the most raw ability. Hailey was neither talented nor creative, but she liked to think she made up for it with enthusiasm and dedication.
Weston stood and rolled his shoulders before he continued. "Goes like this, right? I kinda feel out the whole room, like it's a part of me." He closed his eyes and furrowed his brow, murmuring under his breath.
Nothing happened for a few moments. Hugo shot a look at Ian, but he just shook his head. Hailey knew better. Magic took time and effort for all of them, even Jessica. Nothing was instant, especially not something that apparently affected a whole room.
A full minute went by. Jessica checked her watch impatiently. Hailey curled up on the sofa, watching with interest as Weston relaxed his muscles and opened his eyes. He let out a slow deep breath. They all gasped.
His breath (and their own) was suddenly quite visible. In fact, the entire room was ice cold, like it was suddenly a winter night despite being the middle of May.
Hailey burst into applause. Jessica and Ian laughed aloud. Weston flashed his trademark smile—just barely visible at the corners of his lips—as he sat down again.
"Free A/C for life!" Ian cried.
"Wes, can you make it warm too?" Hailey asked excitedly.
"Probably," Weston answered, dabbing the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief. "Cold was just easier for some reason. It just feels like I'm drawing it in. Maybe if I try pushing instead—"
"That sounds right. I think you're just moving energy around," Jessica interrupted. "Temperature is just lots of energy in particular objects. So you're moving that energy into yourself, dropping the energy of the room and making it colder, while you get warmer." She reached out and touched his forehead. Hailey felt a brief rush of jealousy at the sight of the girl's hand on her Weston. Then she dismissed it as ridiculous. Her Weston? He'd be angry at the thought of it alone. She didn't own him. They weren't even really dating, even if they were sleeping together regularly. "You feel like you have a fever. Might be dangerous. Maybe you should find a way to redirect the energy into another object instead of yourself."
"Nah, I'm good," Weston replied easily. "Just feels like sunshine." He smiled at Jessica, who just rolled her eyes.
"Still, cool shit right?" Ian said, his breath still clouding the air, though the temperature was noticeably rising as the warm spring air floated in through the open windows.
"Awesome," Hailey said, beaming. "Wes, you gotta show me how to do that later."
"You got anything new, Hales?" Ian asked, looking at her with interest.
Hailey took to her feet, eager to show off what she'd been working on. "I'm still working out the kinks, but Jessica gave me a good idea. I've been trying to figure out a way to jump higher, right?"
Ian rolled his eyes. "Jump higher," he mumbled sarcastically.
"Better than your little fire tricks," Hailey shot back.
"What did you figure out?" Weston interrupted before they could start bickering.
Hailey cleared her throat. "Well, I was watching Jessica play a game, and the game had a thing in it where they could jump twice without touching the ground, right?"
"Double-jumping," Jessica supplied.
"Yeah, double-jumping. So I decided to look into a way to just jump again. And I thought, well, that's a lot easier than trying to fling an entire me through the air right? No awkward coordinating trying to move my whole body at once."
Hailey planted her feet and tensed. She'd been preparing for this all morning, while Jessica looked on and offered encouragement. She stretched out. They weren't sure at all if being limber and loose was actually beneficial to performing magic, but it didn't seem to hurt, and definitely helped make it less painful when experimenting.
"Get on with it," Ian catcalled. Jessica shot him a dark look, and he quieted up. Hailey didn't mind though. If anything, she was determined to get it right just to shut him up.
Hailey grinned at him, then jumped straight up. As she did, she focused her mind on the air around her feet. She could feel it brushing against her socks, and suddenly wished she'd taken them off. She felt as though she could sense and control the air more directly if it were against her bare skin. Still, the sensation she felt was enough.
Hailey began to gather the air together with a quick murmur, pushing every element closer together into a dense pocket. There was a whoosh as the rest of the air in the room pushed inward to fill the gaps from what she'd taken under her control.
As Hailey reached the top of the arc of her leap, she shifted the tightly packed air she'd gathered to rest directly under her feet. Every time she'd attempted it that morning, she'd lost control, sending her pant legs fluttering as the block of air burst and her feet back to the ground ignominiously to stumble around.
This time, her feet touched the suddenly solid air. For a moment—for a brief, glorious moment—Hailey appeared to be standing on thin air. Ian gasped. Weston gasped. Jessica let out a squeal of delight.
Hailey promptly lost control. Her foot suddenly found nothing to grip, and her legs twirled out in odd directions. She fell forward, face first into the sofa.
She felt like she'd just sprinted a mile. She was panting heavily, finding it exhausting to even turn over on the sofa to face the ceiling. It didn't matter. Hailey could have been paralyzed and she'd still have felt utterly exhilarated by what she'd just experienced. She'd stood on the air itself. She might not have been able to jump off of it like she'd planned, but it was far more than she'd ever managed before.
Hailey burst into laughter. Joyous, intoxicating laughter. Her friends, who'd been looking deeply concerned by her tumble and subsequent collapse, let smiles break across their faces as well. Hailey was infinitely grateful that she'd stumbled across such a discovery as magic alongside her four closest friends.
She only counted three faces floating above her. Someone was missing.
"Where's Hugo?" Hailey asked, struggling up to a sitting position on the couch—though she quickly adjusted that to a leaning position against the stack of pillows at the end. She still felt too drained to even support the top half of her own weight.
The other three glanced around, confused. "I guess he left while you were jumping," Weston said.
"He seemed really mad," Jessica said doubtfully. "I should go talk to him."
"Nah, he's just confused," Weston said. "He's afraid of it. The rest of us dove right in and he's just being cautious. It's not that unreasonable. The whole page reading thing was a bit much."
"You got scared of a bit of paper, Wes?" Hailey said, laughing.
"Hey, when you start muttering in languages you don't know, it's a bit creepy."
"Still, is this going to be a problem?" Ian asked, his brow furrowed.
"Problem how?" Hailey asked.
"We know how to use magic," Jessica answered quietly. "A lot of people would kill for that. A lot of governments too."
The thought sobered them all up a bit. They were silent, the last bit of chill from Weston's earlier spell still tangible in the tension that permeated the room.
"Hugo wouldn't tell anyone," Ian said emphatically.
"No, of course not," Hailey agreed.
"He knows how important staying quiet is. Even if he doesn't want to use magic himself, he's not going to turn in his friends."
"What if someone else does?" Weston asked.
"Like who? There were only five of us there. No one else even knows magic exists."
"We sure about that?"
"Well I'm not going around tossing fireballs down the street, are you?"
"So let's just assume no one else knows about magic. Keep it to ourselves," Ian declared.
"Yeah," Hailey agreed. "Keep it to ourselves."
They all sat down with her, a group of four friends sharing the biggest secret they could possibly imagine. Hailey put one arm around Jessica and Weston both and gave them a hug. She smiled.
"I want to try that again."