I struck something invisible and ended up tumbling out of the magic onto the front lawn, landing in an awkward heap. Hey, it happens sometimes: in this case, May and Arston had probably changed the wards and I'd have to retune myself. Or, I thought, as I slowly sat up from my pile-of-trash pose and noticed the blinding glow, something more powerful is blocking puny magic like mine without thinking about it...
Arston must have heard my tumble because he came flying out the door, crouching instantly to help me up. He looked scared. Arston and I worked together at the labs - I was the one who had suggested him to May when her asshole boyfriend finally moved out - and we knew each other pretty well at this point. His body language was tense, tight; with someone else, he might have tried to play it calm, but he and I were too close for bullshitting. Besides, even the toughest of assholes would have been a bit unsteady in the middle of this.
"What the - fuck?" I managed, as I steadied on my feet. A column of light shot through the front corner of the roof, screaming up to the sky in a blaze of blinding white-green-gold. A softer - no, less-blinding; there was nothing soft about this light - glow poured from the windows of May's bedroom like thick cream, billowing into smoke-like trails of golden threads.
"I think this is why - this is why she's been sick," Arston said. His voice shook. "They say there are signs that it's coming on for months before it happens, right?"
"Maybe," I said, trying to firm my feet and ground myself. "We need to go in there."
"Fuck," he said, "I tried, it was - it's awful."
"If it's that awful for us, May has to be miserable." We'd made a promise, her and I, for our whole lives; I had to remember that. I squared my shoulders, took a breath, and walked up the porch to open the door.
Heat - no, something like heat, a force we could feel on our skin and blasting against our faces, that wasn't heat but was still something like opening the car door on a really hot day: the way it hurls itself into your face like a punch? It was that kind of feeling. It made me stumble a bit, and I heard Arston behind me hissing through his teeth. This was ridiculous.
Luckily May had lived here almost forever, so I knew my way around the house nearly blind; Arston and I were holding hands, as I led him through, up the stairs and down the hallway to May's room. Her door was shut, but that blinding light was pouring through the cracks. It wasn't behaving like normal light, noted the small part of my brain that wasn't panicking; it was like a fluid, streaming out into rivulets and waves, yet totally unaffected by gravity; and yet it occasionally shot out in bursts, like the beam from a flashlight. Whatever the hell it was, it was rich with magic. My eyes were watering. That not-heat feeling was even more oppressive up here; it was like stumbling through a swamp.
"May?" I called through the door, following it with a gentle mental reach: May?
I felt her, for one second, reaching back to me - Morgan - like she was reaching her hand out; I fumbled the grab, and then caught her, only to--
light whirling, spinning like wind, scrubbing the channels of my brain clean from thought like my nerves were being frayed; a power incomprehensible; to say it was larger than life was comparing a grain of sand to the planet herself;
My eyes were clenched and I realized I was gripping Arston's hand like a lifeline; I hoped I hadn't crushed his fingers. I struggled, focused on the feel of his hand in mine, and ground out between my teeth: "May!"
a flood of light like water pounding through my head, stripping my veins, pounding into me-- and underneath that undefined mass of power, a small familiar thread: Morgan!
I withdrew, stumbling back against Arston; he caught me, albeit by falling against the wall himself, but he managed to keep me upright and for a second I simply closed my eyes and focused on the strength in his arms and breathed. I was trying to put up my mental shields, because I had to get in that room. I could tell by the low murmur that Arston was doing the same; he always muttered his spells out loud.
"We have to go get her," I shouted. This magical push wasn't loud any more than it was hot, but it - took up so much of our senses that it felt like static from a TV on the hottest day alive. "Are you ready?"
Arston pressed his fingers to his head - firming up his shields - and opened his eyes. He held my gaze for a second, and then nodded. I took a step backwards, and he grabbed my hand again, for solidarity.
As one, we took the last couple steps to the door. I put my hand on the handle, turned it, and threw the door open before I had even registered the scalding heat from the metal burning off my skin.