Stories about Magnus: She Sleeps | The Way of Things

All relationships end. There are three ways: You leave, they leave, or somebody dies. It is the way of things.

"The Way of Things"

by Ben Johnson


Magnus' pale 17-year-old body shifted slightly, twisting as she moved her hand up to rest against the sleeping shoulder of the body that lay beneath her. Her head rested on Sonja's sternum, and she could hear the peaceful breath and slow pulse of the heart that was hers and not hers. She, by which she meant they, were doomed.

This would be the last time. Always tell yourself it is the last time. That way, when it really is the last time, it won't feel so bad.

She still had that warm halo feeling, and it made her feel insulated from the rainstorm that brewed outside and knocked repetitively on the windowpane. Was she in love? Damn it. This was going to hurt. You never wind up staying together with your first. Not that Sonja was her first, or even her first girl, but, Sonja had told her, she was her first.

Damn again.

The rain increased in volume as if to underscore the point.

Not that any of this high school stuff works out for anybody, Magnus consoled herself. There would be others, maybe even one or two more 16-year-olds (before she graduated, thank you), but there would not be any more Sonjas.

In her sleep, Sonja's body shifted a little, and Magnus smiled to herself as a single tear, always one after sex, rolled from her left eye, down her cheek, and splashed down onto her . . . her love.



Her apartment was messy. There was a bed, a stuffed chair, a desk and a dresser, all of which were draped with assorted shirts, pants, skirts, and underclothes in hues ranging from black to midnight blue with the odd splash of deep red for contrast. Styles ranged from t-shirts for industrial bands to business attire and, most interestingly, a thoroughly rumpled Chinese dress, silk the color of blood from the severed wings of fallen angels, hanging partially off one corner of the dresser. A digital clock on the desk read 6:28, or rather it would have read 6:28, but the actual clock display was buried behind a stack of dog-eared paperbacks.

The curtains were drawn to keep out the sunlight, but they were being ineffective. Like blobs of mercury, the light dribbled in onto the floor, slowly creeping toward the black fortress of solitude that was the bed. The approaching day rendered visible a swarm of dust motes that careened through the air like silent hornets.


Dawn has classically been described as rosy-fingered. This is something of a matter of opinion. The occupant of the bed would contest the classical metaphor, on the grounds that rosy fingers have a pleasantly erotic sound to them. Dawn is not rosy-fingered, she would say, dawn is middle-fingered. At 6:29 the middle-fingered dawn touched the edges of the black fortress of solitude. The occupant of the bed shifted slightly in her sleep, moving the covers up further, as if she were dreading something.

At precisely 6:29 and 58 seconds, Magnus awakened, shot her arm up in the air, and smashed it down on the digital clock, turning off the alarm a few fractions of a second before it started. There was a silence. . .

. . . summarily interrupted by a knock on her door.

"Go away!" Magnus shouted, and smashed a pillow over her head to blot out the noise.

The knocker was belligerent.

With a groan, Magnus threw a pillow at the door, muttered something about what she was going to do with a pair of fire tongs and a car battery which is perhaps best left to the imagination, and threw herself out of bed.

"Hold on, I'm naked!" Magnus yelled at the door.

She heard a jingle of keys as she stooped to pick up some underwear off the floor.

"Fuck you!"

The door opened, and Magnus faced away from it.

"That's why you should get up on time."

"Shut up, I'm through with your stupid hazing. Nobody in their right mind should be up before noon. Do people still see you naked every morning, too?"

"Just my wife."

"Oh? And just how does she feel about you coming over to strange women's apartments, and walking in on them naked?"

"Singular, Maggie, not plural. You're the only woman whose apartment I come over to and see naked."

"I'd slap you, but I think you'd like it."

"Whatever. Look, I brought you a new assignment. I'll just put the briefcase down here. Oh, and Magnus?"

"What?" she said, just in time to see Shen's body slipping back out her door.

"Nice tattoo," he said as the door closed.

There are times when people have to make choices, and this was one of them. Magnus grabbed her keys, and was going to chase that bastard down if it meant streaking half of Uptown. Growling, she made for the door, but by some strange coincidence, didn't see the briefcase Shen had left for her and tripped over it, which sent her body cascading down into the carpet with all the grace of a giraffe on roller skates.

Damn him.

Pulling her self up, knowing that there was no way she'd catch him now, she sat on the rug and popped open the case.


"Request denied," said Amber.

"But I'm telling you, I know this one! You've never made me do this to somebody I knew!"

"Her time has come, her thread is in your hands. This we have seen. You must do this Magnus; she has reached her time. As a servant of the Karmic Wheel (her voice carried the capital letters), you must—



Magnus turned and ran out, bitch-stompers clunking loudly as she went.


She wasn't sure why she had come. It sort of felt right, some how. Her voices hadn't tried to stop her, which meant that they were probably up to something, and her skin crawled at the thought of it.

There she was in the cafe across the street. She had grown up nicely. She was talking to . . . it was hard to tell, the person was mostly covered up by a giant "M" painted on the window. She had been remarkably easy to find, and Magnus wondered why she hadn't thought of doing this before. Their bodies were still connected from their earlier intimacies, and that had been... eight years ago, was it? Sure, Shen's briefcase had provided her with a hair clipping, but she was pretty sure she could just have used one of the old love poems she'd received back then—pack rat that she was, she still had them in a pencil box in her dresser. Between those two things, she just focussed on her tracking instincts, and it was like the whole world opened up around her.

Unless that was what this was about. She would learn not to seek out people from her old life because the only people she looked for were the ones she had to . . . No. She was not going to do it. Fuck the whole lot of them.

The woman, for there can be no doubt that it was a woman Sonja had been talking to, stood up. It was somebody Magnus didn't realize, and she found herself longing to know their relationship. Were they friends? Lovers? Ex-lovers-turned-friends? Business partners? Total strangers? The woman left. They hadn't kissed, so probably not lovers . . . assuming that Sonja was still as affectionate as she was back in the day.

She wanted to go see her. That was why she had come, was to see her. Only to see her. No talking, no touching, no being seen. Magnus' insides were bunched into knots.

Damn again.

This would be the last time.


Magnus was secretly pleased at just how well she was able to choreograph the scene. It was like something out of a movie where she was both co-star and director. When she slipped into the cafe, the little bells over the door didn't ring for some reason. She quietly ordered something, grabbed a copy of City Pages, and sat down exactly two tables away from Sonja, with the paper held so that, when Sonja would turn her head, she should just be able to make out Magnus' hair over the top.

When she felt Sonja turn, for it was more a feeling than anything else, she moved to turn the page, flashing, briefly, her full face from behind the paper. Had it worked?


Magnus put on her surprised face as she peeked around the paper. "Oh my gods, Sonja?"

They talked for nearly two hours before Sonja had to leave. At first, it was heavenly, but after the first half-hour, Magnus started to feel her little voices getting louder. This was so wrong. This was very, very wrong. She shouldn't be doing this. Not now. Not here. They wanted her to . . . No.

After Sonja had left, Magnus got up, went into the bathroom and threw up.


Why had she agreed to meet her? Perhaps it was the little voices. They made her do this. Of course, that would mean . . . But Magnus had wised up a little. She left all the tools of her trade at home. This would be the last time.

The Walker Art Center's sculpture garden was lovely. When Sonja came, they embraced, and started to walk about and muse upon the different things to see. The brick wall-thing, the giant spoon with a cherry on it, the flowers. Arm in arm they walked, and then, because the inevitable can only be dissuaded for so long, they achieved a long sweet mutual approximation of the lips behind a fountain.

"Dinner, my place, now," Sonja murmured into Magnus' ear, "Fettuccini alfredo, vegetarian style."

"Dessert?" asked Magnus, staring lazily off into some hedges.

"Only if you're good," said Sonja.

This would be the last time.

Sonja playfully nipped Magnus on the ear, and ran off in the direction of her car, and Magnus took off after her.

Suddenly, Magnus had a thought. What if they were testing her? Hadn't they expounded to her on the importence of free will? Dealing with "destiny" so often could make one forget that not all events were scripted out, at the very least, not scripted out as you thought they were. The voices in her head were singing. Yes! That was it! Sonja wasn't supposed to die! Magnus was not some cold-blooded contract killer who took out anybody her superiors pointed a finger at, she was a human being. She was going to go home with Sonja and love her with every last fiber of her being. She understood.

Magnus knew Sonja was faster, and damn if she was going to let that little tease drive off with out her like she used to do when they were kids. There were plenty of places where Sonja could trip.

"Whoa!" she heard from around a hedge, followed by the heavy thump of a person falling.

"Ha ha! Not so fast you little dy—

Rounding the hedge, Magnus saw Sonja on the ground, her body didn't look like it had exactly fallen in a good way, the red stain on the corner of the square fountain basin wasn't a good sign either.


Magnus instantly scooped Sonja's bleeding body up in her arms. She wasn't conscious. Maybe there was something she could do. She called on all her inner reserves. If there was any juice left in her, it was now being fed directly into Sonja's body. Her pulse, her breath, anything.


The voices seemed pleased. Against her will, Magnus glowed inwardly. The thought of it made her sick. She had done her job.

It was strange. As if she was pulling out of her body. She didn't feel sad any more. She knew, somehow-maybe it was the voices-that she would see her again. Karmic Wheel, and all that. She felt grim. Bitter. A little woozy.

She would never do this again.

This was the last time.

It was always the last time for her.

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