by P. Andrew Floyd (@pandrewfloyd)
Editor: Jeni Chappelle (@jenichappelle)
Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Magic always comes with a price. Luckily, that price is up to seventy-five percent off all weekend long at MagiMart, the one-stop shop for all your occult needs!
All her life, Taryn felt like an impostor. All her mother’s nonsense about some “prophecy” that couldn’t possibly be about her definitely didn’t help. She just wants a quiet, normal, mediocre life. Unfortunately, life ceased to be normal or quiet for anyone once magic went public. Now, ten years after she ran away from her family’s pushing, she spends her days as a member of MagiMart’s Conjure Crew, dodging promotions and troubleshooting wands and potions for “normies” who have no business using them.
Then every MagiMart product goes haywire and all signs point to it being part of that prophecy that’s definitely not about her. Taryn must decide between running away again and overcoming her self-doubt to find the cause before the defects escalate to the point of destroying the city. Starting over again does sound appealing, but she likes her friends and her city and might even be willing to fulfill part of that prophecy to save them.
FACTORY DEFECT is a humorous exploration of impostor syndrome while grappling for control of one’s destiny. It is a standalone novel with series potential that clocks in at around 100,000 words, and since much of it takes place at a shopping center during daylight hours, we’ll call it Suburban Fantasy (Adult Contemporary Fantasy). The novel is very much The Dresden Files meets The IT Crowd with an accessible voice that will appeal to fans of Mike Chen and Seanan McGuire.
My short story “Doorbuster” was published in the anthology You Want Stories? alongside Brandon Sanderson and Seanan McGuire. I have worked in (non-magical) tech support for over a decade and am excited to bring the craziness, humor, and hope I encounter on a daily basis to the themes and issues common in Urban Fantasy.
First Five Pages
THE NEW GIRL
All Taryn had to do was rediscover the lost art of teleportation in thirty seconds and she’d be home free. She couldn’t handle Bill again. Her least favorite customer had yelled at her for over an hour two days in a row. But of course her coworkers, Travis and Physics Cowboy, were nowhere to be seen. The cowards! They knew it wasn’t her turn.
So she took the only reasonable action left. She hid.
She grabbed the floppy pointed hat that matched her star-studded blue robes and covered her face with it.
Taryn knew she was being ridiculous, but Bill’s determined strides were still getting closer. She was going to have to suck it up, put on her customer service smile, and take solace in the fact that she would get sweet revenge on Travis and Cowboy later. She pulled her hat over her short black curls, put up her mental armor, and readied herself for the oncoming storm.
Bill slammed a heavy metal gauntlet onto the counter between them, grousing through a long gray-and-white beard. “This is a piece of junk!”
That was downright pleasant for Bill. Taryn relaxed. “Good morning, Bill. Thanks for choosing the Conjure Crew. How can I help you?”
Gesturing at the gauntlet, he blew out his mustache and sneered. “What do you think, Terri?”
Her eye twitched. Despite her name being printed in bold letters on her nametag, he always pronounced it wrong. It didn’t matter how many times she corrected him. Her headcannon was that he did it on purpose. In fact, the entire store was convinced he came in to yell at MagiMart employees because he had nothing better to do.
She glanced around for her coworkers one more time. The Conjure Crew help desk along the back wall of the MagiMart was empty. Well, not empty. It was littered with cracked cauldrons, broken staffs, imbalanced potions, snapped wands, and other wizardly accoutrements waiting to be repaired by MagiMart’s staff of “highly trained professionals.” But Travis and Cowboy were not working on any malfunctioning merchandise.
Taryn gave the geezer a forced smile and recited the standard script from training. “It looks like you’re having problems with your Hand of Omega.”
“Damned right, I’m having problems. You sold me crap.”
“If my Hand of Omega wasn’t working, I’d be frustrated too.” She wasn’t so robotic with all her customers, just the ones who berated her on a regular basis. “I’d be happy to help you resolve your issue today. What’s it doing?”
“It doesn’t work, that’s what it’s doing!”
She dug her nails into the laminate countertop. “I understand it’s not working, but to better assist you I’ll need some more information. How exactly is it not working?”
Bill’s eyes widened, and the veins on his forehead popped out. “Does no one here have ears? It’s faulty.”
“I understand that it’s faulty, sir, but how are you trying to use it? And for instance, does it not respond at all? Or is it doing something it’s not supposed to?”
“All of the above!”
As much as she wanted to, Taryn did not slap her forehead. Nor did she slap Bill. As terrible as the customers could be, she didn’t actually want to lose her job. “How can it both not respond and do something—”
“Look, this thing’s supposed to focus curative energies. I wanted to see if it could cure my wife’s cancer, but when I tried to use it on her, nothing happened. I tried three times. Third time’s the charm, right? Wrong. Then not five minutes later, I heard scratching at my back door.”
Taryn pushed the palms of her hands against her closed eyes and rubbed them in slow circles. “I am so sorry to hear about your wife, sir, but as far as the random scratching at your door goes, I very much doubt it had anything to do with a faulty Hand of Omega.”
“I’m not some amateur, Terri. I may be old, but I know magic when I see it. How else do you explain me opening my door to see the last three pets I buried up and about as zombies?”
“What?” She stopped rubbing her eyes and peered at Bill through her fingers.
“You heard me. Do you know what it’s like to open the door to a trio of groaning zombie labradoodles? It’s damned disconcerting, let me tell you.”
“Oh, wow. I’m so . . . Zombies? Really? That shouldn’t happen.”
“Give the nice lady a cookie. Of course it shouldn’t happen. What do you think I’ve been trying to tell you?”
Taryn examined the Hand of Omega. An ancient tool used for healing, it looked like a typical medieval knight’s gauntlet and was covered in sigils and runes. The gold lining had inlaid designs, but those were all gibberish. The important, meaningful carvings were all in the silver palm.
“No, I mean it really shouldn’t happen. As in, it shouldn’t be possible.” She ran her fingers along the runes. “The Hand of Omega is regenerative to a point, but it only works on the liv—” There was an unfortunate flat-head screwdriver-sized dent across the rune for life that completely changed its meaning to death. “Aw, crap.”
Bill calmed, and his expression became worried. “That doesn’t sound good.”
Her gaze jerked back to Bill. “Oh, it’s nothing really. Just a suspicion. If you don’t mind waiting here for a moment, I need to do some quick research.”
Taryn didn’t give him a chance to respond before spinning around and pushing through the breakroom door. The Conjure Crew breakroom was made up of white walls, blue cabinets, and the same purple terrazzo flooring speckled with star-like marble chips as the rest of the store. The walls that didn’t have upper cabinets were filled with motivational cat posters. There were also several easels with half-finished paintings shoved into a few corners. Those were Taryn’s. She liked to paint during her breaks, but she hadn’t worked on any of them in a while. She would get into a groove and really like what was coming out of her brush then suddenly lose motivation. Hopefully a hiatus would help her painter’s block.
At the center of the breakroom was a blue table surrounded by six wobbly chairs, and in two of the chairs sat a couple of traitors listening to a small battery-powered radio playing pop music.
Taryn tossed the gauntlet on the table and glared at the two men. “You two are jerks.”
“You’re just now realizing this?” Travis’s piercing-filled tawny face remained glued to his phone. At least he was wearing his blue robes and floppy hat.
Physics Cowboy wore a black Crossfit shirt with the words Stronger Things made to look like the logo of a popular TV show, and he had cut off the sleeves to fit his massive arms. Cowboy slid his gaze from a giant open book of spells on the table. He was never not smiling, and his cheery Southern drawl somehow made everything he said sound chipper no matter how he actually felt. “Good morning to you too, boss!”
“Not your boss.” Taryn rested a fist on her hip.
“Yet,” Travis said to his phone.
Cowboy’s jaw-length sideburns shook as he laughed. “That’s just a formality, and you know it.”
“Still, it’s an important distinction.”
Their previous manager had moved up the corporate ladder a few weeks prior, and she had recommended Taryn as her replacement. It felt weird taking the position when Travis had been there longer and Cowboy had studied magic harder than anyone she knew.
She pointed at the gauntlet. “You’ve studied runes. What’s this say where the dent is?”
Cowboy didn’t even look at the Hand of Omega. “Come on, boss.”
“Not your boss.”
“You know more than any of us. I ain’t gotta check your work.”
“Just humor me.” Taryn rolled her eyes. They had no idea she only pretended to know what she was doing. Sure, she had gone to school for magic, and because her parents had mistaken her for someone with an actual destiny, she got a lot of training as a child. But as soon as she was eighteen, she ran hard and fast. Once out on her own, she stopped using magic cold turkey. Well, almost. Since starting at MagiMart, she hadn’t used anything complicated. A decade would make anyone rusty.
Cowboy shrugged and grabbed the gauntlet, rotating it in his hands. “Damn. Yeah, that’s one unfortunate dent. Life to death. No idea what it’d do though.”
She groaned. Sometimes she hated being right. “Apparently it makes zombie dogs.”