Pain. Agony. That’s what greeted me back at home. My soul was too big for my body. My skin felt stretched. Some of it missing. Some of it felt like it was being ripped off of me right now, like, RIGHT THE FUCK NOW!


  Opening my eyes and seeing a few mangy stray cats working on my limbs and nose was not the best way to finish a journey from the birthplace of the universe itself. Magic roared out of me as I sat up. Instincts that weren’t there before manifested. I grabbed the cat eating my nose with hands sheathed in granite and crushed its skull. Blood, my blood, speared the other cat lunching on my leg. The pain, I couldn’t think. As the tidal wave of pain crested, my soul finished integrating with my body, the pain recalibrating my very being. I got up and stomped on the 2 dead cats just to make sure they were dead. Stumbling to the bathroom, I saw my face. It was bleeding profusely with black crud shot through the sides of the wound. Gripping the sink with my granite covered hands cracked the frame. My heart pulsed, and a wave of flesh magic rippled out. I blame the pain. I didn’t know what to do, but my body did. I grabbed healing for this very reason. I floundered about for a minute with my magic before I was able to put in a pain block on my entire body. Once that was done, the bleeding became my next priority. Threat assessment came second. I looked out of the bathroom. No cats. No dogs. Nothing but a bloody room. Where the fuck did the dead cats go?


  So, do I have to consciously heal or does the magic work automatically? I fumbled with my instincts as the onset of adrenaline hit. Shutting the door to the bathroom, I looked at the mirror again. I noticed that part of my nose was slowly regrowing. Checking my leg, the raw open cat bites were no longer gushing blood, in fact, they also were slowly growing back. Regeneration, check. I focused on my face and pushed the magic there. The pain block was on, but that still didn’t feel good watching my nose regrow. After doing the same to my leg, I carefully removed the pain block. More or less ok. I was suddenly ravenously hungry, but the smell of blood was doing its best to curb that. Through my flesh magic, I went from head to toe, checking each section of my body, making sure that I had no torn muscles or open wounds or internal bruising. Once that was done, it was time to secure my house.


  I conjured thin stone armor to cover my forearms and shins, and then did the same to my chest and back. I did a jumping jack to make sure it wasn’t too heavy and that I could actually move. Going back into the room, I checked every inch of it to see where the cat corpses went. I sat still for about 10 seconds, just listening for anything out of the ordinary. With nothing else in the top floor of my house, I was ready. [Breathe in, breathe out]. I moved the dresser back from the door, banished the stone on my hands, drew my .45 in my right hand and carried the K-bar in my left. Slowly opening the door, I peeked out to check the hallway leading towards the stairs. No cats. No bodies. Carefully, oh so carefully, I loudly tip-toed in my boots all the way to the stairs, clearing every corner. I leaned over the banister to check the stairs, all good. I wanted to do a shock and awe entrance to storm the living room, but the liquid courage wasn’t there. I was in the Army Reserve for a few years, but I was a desk jockey. We shot weapons once a year and did physical fitness tests. I had never deployed, never been in real combat. The elementary school dodgeball was the closest I had ever been to a firefight. I was not cut out for this, yet.


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