Black Magic

I took another drink of whiskey, letting it warm my stomach and dull my magic. Losing control now would be disastrous. Now, when I was so close to the semi-finals. The Miss Galaxy title was everything that I had left. That and the cash prize it promised.

I waited off-stage while a lovely Deltan attempted to play the lyre. She must have been nervous because her extra tentacle kept tripping her up. I would be on stage soon, singing that stupid song. I mean, it was by far my strongest song. The only talent I had these days, now that I’d found a way to dull my magic.

The Deltan must have reached the end of her performance because the crowd cheered. I could never tell with alien music. I watched in horror as she glided off the stage. The crowd was waiting for me and it made my stomach churn. I took one last drink to soothe it. Why did I ever think it would be a good idea for a witch to go on stage singing about old black magic? I must have been drunk when I filled out that form. That song gave entirely the wrong idea about witchcraft.

“And now for a real treat, ladies, gentlemen, and other folk,” the announcer said. I braced myself. “All the way from Earth, we have a real talent here. This is the first time a human has made it this far in our contest. Please, everyone here at Janis Spaceport, give a big cheer for Eliska!”

And then I was walking on stage. All of my concentration was taken up by just remembering not to trip. The other races made walking look so much more graceful. I felt like a giraffe who’d been stuffed into a tutu.

I reached my mark, took my microphone, and waited for my cue. Only then did I look out at the audience. This was the social event of the season on Janis, and every alien had turned up in black tie or the equivalent. It was hard to tell who was wearing gems and who was just of a race with gems embedded in the skin. Right up front, just as the music started, a young human man in a reasonably good tuxedo caught my eye.

I looked away. I had to or I would have exploded right there on stage. Literally. Pent up magic can be a dangerous thing when it comes into contact with strong emotion.

I started singing that damn song. I had no other choice. I could walk off stage now and lose everything, but I couldn’t go back to Earth. Not anymore.

Witches. They’re a vindictive group. You accidentally wipe out one little village and suddenly you’re labeled a bad witch for life. Black magic. I was singing about it and I’d never touched the stuff. It wasn’t my fault. It’s just that emotion and magic don’t mix so well.

That whiskey bottle was waiting for me as soon as I got through this song. It would help the magic. That kid in the front row wasn’t anyone. I didn’t even know him. But he was the first human I’d seen in months. I’d used every last piece of copper I had getting as far from humanity as I could manage.

I had to win this. I had to earn the money to stay off of Earth. Because once I can’t afford passage or rent, I’ll be deported home. And the head witch will hunt me down again. So I poured every bit of magic I legally could into that song. I’m not a bad witch, but a little bit of magic can go a long way when you’re desperate.

Dianne Williams lives in Lawrence, Kansas. She grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and classic science fiction. She once dreamed of being an astronaut. Or maybe a lawyer. Or an artist. She settled for being as many of them as she could all at once through fiction writing.

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