Stilvi kicked the damn thing. “Why won’t you work?” she cried out, both from frustration and from pain.
The broom stared back in silence, mocking her with its immobility and its refusal to start. It was last-year’s model, of course, Stilvi couldn’t afford the newer ones. She liked it a lot, having stared at it every day as she passed the shop on her way home. The broom had a nice copper exhaust that shone nicely, a retro-style grip for the gear-shift and a big honking aluminium cooler at the back. It was a machimagick obviously made with love, just like she herself was.
She sat down on the bench across the store she’d just bought it from and sighed, her hat thankfully covering up her crying face. It was dark and the street light shone over her, making her face even more obscure.
She heard the sound of footsteps on the pavement. Three pairs. She instantly knew who they belonged to, because of the pit in her stomach.
It was the last person she wanted to see her that way right now.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the flickering star,” Meanie No. 1 said, mocking her name.
Stilvi raised her head just a big, enough to see their legs under the rim of her witch’s hat.
“Yes! Come on, little twinkle. Fly. You can do it,” Meanie No. 2 said in a fake tone of voice.
“Just like this,” Meanie No. 3 said and hopped on her own broom. The small but efficient engine on its back purred and the broom hovered between her legs. She then held on the clutch and shifted gears, her broom gently lifting her up in the air. The smoke it let out was minuscule, and Meanie No. 3 gave them all a bit of a show by flying circles around them.
“What a machine!” Meanie No. 1 said, throwing her hat in the air in applause. The hat spun a few times and then fell back right on top of her head, even facing the proper way.
The Meanie No. 2 flicked her wand, its gears spinning and a small vial of yellow liquid bubbled in the base. A shower of sparks ignited from the tip and opened up in a delicate flower, a rose blooming in the sky above them. Passers-by stopped and marveled at the sudden show.
Stilvi felt even worse. The trio of Meanies casually flaunted their use of magick in her face, when they knew that she couldn’t possibly do any of those things.
“Leave me alone,” Stilvi said with gritted teeth.
“What’s the matter, mechano?” Meanie No. 1 leaned in, faking her worry.
Meanie No. 2 tsked. “Hey, don’t use that word. Even she doesn’t deserve it.”
Meanie No. 1 waved her companion’s complaint away. “I apologize for the slip of the tongue,” she said, her hand on her chest in mock sincerity. “Then again, that is what you really are, right? It’s obvious by the fact that you can’t even manipulate the smallest trickle of mana flow.”
Stilvi said, “No!” Then she deflated on the bench. Who was she kidding? The Meanies were right. She was machimagick. Trying to make another machimagick thing to work was preposterous. What was next? Making them? Minds would explode at the very idea.
“That’s what I thought!” Meanie No. 1 said, her hands on her hips and her feet apart, looking triumphant. “Let’s go,” she said louder, so that her flying friend could hear as well. The trio of Meanies went about their way.
Stilvi touched the gas throttle. She twisted it a few times, imagining herself flying up just like the Meanie No. 3 did just then. The air on her face, holding down her hat with the strap she had just sewn into it… She didn’t have the enchantment to hold it in place like the other witches, of course, so she’d have to settle for that.
Only, it seemed she had planned too far ahead.
Meanie No. 2 said something to the others as they were about to reach the corner, and walked back towards the shop. She checked back, the other two went out of sight. Then she walked straight towards Stilvi.
“What do you want? Came back to make fun of me some more?” Stilvi snapped at her bitterly.
“No… I… Um…” The Meanie bit her lip and looked around.
Stilvi said nothing, she just held her precious broom tight in her hands.
“My family has worked with sentient mechanos-” she stopped herself with her hand over her mouth. “Sorry! I’m so sorry, it slipped and I-”
“It’s okay,” Stilvi shrugged. “I deserve it.”
“No, what I wanted to say was that we’ve worked alongside them for years. And some of them have learnt to manipulate mana, if someone starts the flow.”
Stilvi perked up at that. “Really? How?”
“Like a spark, I guess. Basically, if someone lights it up, then you have the capability of learning to control it,” Meanie said, excited.
Stilvi eyed her cautiously. “This is just another prank. I don’t buy it. You just want to lift me up or something and then your buddies can laugh from their hiding spot as I crash onto a tree.”
Meanie chuckled at that. “No! I mean, yes, that is totally something we would do. But not this time, I swear.”
Stilvi looked away, gripping her broom. She mulled it over for what seemed like an hour, but was probably just a couple of minutes. “Thrice,” she said.
“Swear it thrice,” Stilvi said, meeting her gaze.
“I… uh…” Meanie gulped. Swearing it thrice was no small thing, even Stilvi knew that. The backlash alone was significant. “I swear it, I swear I’m telling you the truth,” she said, nodding deeply with pressed lips.
Stilvi tilted her head. She couldn’t believe that Meanie No. 2 was actually telling the truth, but there she was, swearing an oath. She presented the broom to her. “Here.”
Meanie’s face took on a focused expression with a deep frown. Then she waved her wand, the liquid bubbling and sparks flying from the gears, her focus on the broom.
“I knew you’d screw me over!” Stilvi spat out, balling her fists.
Then it happened. The broom’s engine made an angry grrrr sound like a pissed-off hog. It was nothing like the expensive model Meanie No. 3 had, but Stilvi didn’t care. This one was hers. Her eyes went wide.
Meanie No. 2 looked exhausted. “Put your hands on the handles, quick. You only have a few minutes to figure it out.”
Stilvi complied. She put her hands on the handles and inhaled deeply. For a moment, she felt nothing but the vibrations of the engine. Then, she saw it. Or rather, she felt it. It was as simple as knowing where your leg was, that innate awareness of how it was bent and where it was placed. That’s how the broom, no, her broom, felt like at that moment.
“I-I can do it!” Stilvi squealed out in delight. “I can feel it!” She hopped on the broom and it hovered between her legs, just like it was supposed to.
“Yeah!” Meanie said, apparently shocked.
Stilvi gave it a push, she spun the throttle towards her and made the engine even louder. To her delight, she flew a good ten centimetres off the ground.
Meanie laughed with excitement, and suddenly stopped. Stilvi had jumped off her broom and was hugging her tight, crying tears of joy over the witch’s shoulder. “Thank you,” Stilvi whispered, squeezing her even more.
Meanie stood there shocked for a while, then she put a caring hand on Stilvi’s back and hugged her as well. “Enough about this,” she said, pushing her gently away. “You’ve got some flying to learn, it’s not easy.”
“I know all the theoretical stuff, I’ve read them all in the library,” Stilvi said, wanting to hug the smaller witch again, but composed herself.
“Oh, it’s nothing like that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that you know the theory, but doing it is another thing. Come on now…” she prodded her.
Stilvi hesitantly climbed back on the broom and held it tight. Smiling wide at her new friend, she revved up the gas and braced for the acceleration.
“You’re sitting too far back,” Meanie No. 2 yelled behind her as Stilvi held on for dear life. The ground went by in a blur and the trees were becoming real big all of a sudden.
Stilvi crashed on the trees. Laughing, and putting her hat back on, she pushed the branches away and sat back on her broom.
Then she took off in the air.