Short Story – The Leaky Roof

The tin roofs clattered and reflected the rain as though to throw the clouds own thunder back up into the sky. The endless staccato beat pressed down as rain poured out of the endless grey ewer of the heavens.

What god up there looked down and cried? Jack couldn’t say.

He could, however, pinpoint exactly who was responsible for the leak in his roof that mimicked the rain in a small steady beat, like a lone drummer. The endless drip echoed gently into the silver bowl he was using to catch it.

It was, after all, pure rain filtered through the barrier of a home’s protections and unintended by any man. There was a utility to such things. He would dutifully catalog it with the date, location, and all the rest of the indicators, and store it in glass. Much easier that, in the current times, than for his predecessors.

How many times had he heard a wizard tell about the difficulty of finding glass a century or two ago. Of course, in the same breath, they were just as likely to complain about how crowded most of the sacred sites were these days.

Not that Jack had that kind of power. Not yet anyway. Give him a century or two and who knew? As it was there was only one area of magic that he had any native talent for, Sympathy. Sure, he could do a decent ritual if you gave him time and let him keep the book to read from. He had a few dozen minor cantrips that he could cast if pressed. However, he could not pull off most of the classic spells without several minutes to shape and guide the spell. That was not so bad if you just wanted to clean the dishes, or defrost your car, but if you wanted to do any form of self defense magic, or deal with an immediate problem like a fire, it was not so helpful.

Sympathy. The law of contagion. It was a single power that went by many names, but what it boiled down to was simple. Like calls to like, and action calls to action. The classic example that is horribly wrong, but which everyone knows, is the voodoo doll. Do something to the doll, and it happens to the person.

Jack had reflected many times that it was for the best that people had no idea how to do actual magic of this kind. It helped that doing actual physical damage to another person via Sympathy was actually really hard. People were innately already at maximum sympathy with themselves. They were as they are. And even if most people had a ridiculously difficult time getting magic out of themselves, that did not mean they did not have any.

If Jack had really wanted to hurt someone he would need at least a month to gather power to do any kind of serious injury. And that would be all that he would be doing for that month. No other magic, no time to spend on other tasks, just that spell.

Objects, houses, and other inanimate objects were much easier. It was for this reason that most people who killed with Sympathy did so by destroying the objects around a person. Do that enough and something bad will happen to the person. This was a curse.

It was on the subject of curses that Jack was thinking now as he watched the drops collect in the bowl. As useful as the water might prove to be, he was not particularly glad about the leak in his roof. Or his landlord, Jim.

Jack suspected that he was at least partly to blame. There had been other problems that he had reported to Jim. And, when nothing had happened, he had fixed it himself. He did know a few spells after all, and taking a half-hour here or there to fix a problem was not too big of a deal.

However, Jim had never come to fix any of the problems that Jack had reported, and enough was enough. This was not his house, it was Jim’s. And Jim was going to regret that fact very soon.

First he did a small ritual around his phone. The next person he spoke with on it would be linked. Then he went and got the items that were associated with Jim. His lease. Various utility bills that Jim had given him. A small sample of water that Jim had left in a glass after having a drink of water at the house. The usual things.

He then repeated the single most common magic he did. He excluded himself. He left his connection to the other person, but every direction the spell could take back to him was excluded. This took him only moments.

Then he called Jim. He took the time to tell Jim about the roof leaking. Jim sounded like he sincerely cared, and told him he would get right on it. When pressed for an actual time or date that he would show up he evaded like the dodgeball world champion. So, par for the course. This time Jack took it a little further though.

“Jim, you promise you will fix it right?”

“Yeah, I promise.”

“You remember that I told you about a bunch of other problems, you never fixed those.”

Oh… yeah, I’m really sorry. I was terribly busy and forgot all about it, but I promise that I will get to it.”

You know that the contract says you will do this kind of stuff. It is your responsibility.”

“Yeah. I promise I’ll get it taken care of.”

“You will take responsibility for all the things that have gone wrong?”

“Yeah, I’ll take responsibility. Don’t worry I take care of it.”

And there it was. Jim was trapped by his own spoken promise, a contract he had signed, and by a promise repeated more than the rule of three. He was officially screwed. Even if another practitioner got involved it would be almost impossible for them to counter anything Jack did. There was reason people’s word used to be their bond. It was because bad things happened to them when they broke their promise to the wrong person. Jack had been more than patient, but it was time to collect.

He decided to give Jim the benefit of the doubt one last time and gave him a day. In the mean time he collected the water, he was going to need some of it soon.

The next day came, and lo and behold, no sign of Jim all day. Just more rain. He called him and could not get a hold of him. He knew he was dodging his calls. He had done it before, and Jack had been counting on it. Jim had now broken his promise to take responsibility by actively trying to avoid the problem. It was time to fix Jim.

The first spell to cast was obvious. A leaky roof for a leaky roof. Using Jim’s magical signature he focused it in on him. No need to affect any other renters he might have. With a certain vicious satisfaction Jack took three drops of the water that had leaked through the roof.

He laid out a silver mirror and placed the phone on it for a moment, transferring Jim’s essence to the mirror.

“By a promise broken, I break your house in mirror to my own.”

A single drop fell on the mirror.

“By a contract broken, I break your roof in mirror to my own”

The second drop fell.

“By bonds broken thrice and more, I loose the rain upon house in mirror to my own”

The third drop fell.

“Water that has fallen freely. I give to you another. Jim’s house you entered and Jim’s house you enter again. Threshold passed shall pass another. Enter freely by a protection broken.”

The next day came and there was no sign of Jim. He was not really expecting him yet. He tried calling him again and this time left a message about how Jim had failed to fix his porch light. Then he performed a ritual.

The next day came and he mentioned to Jim about how he had failed to fix the toilet when it had broken. Another ritual.

He was actually surprised that Jim failed to respond on the fourth day. He would have thought he would have been spooked by now. Oh well. Perhaps he should invoke something a little more invasive. This time he left a message about the wasps that had gotten into his bedroom because the screens had holes. He hummed a little merrily to himself as he did the ritual this time. He had not let loose with his magic this much in ages. He traded favors with other practitioners occasionally, but it had been a while.

The next day Jim showed up to the house bright and early. He looked at Jack a little wild eyed when he showed up covering in welts, but he fixed the roof. He even checked the screen, toilet, porch light.

When he left Jack thanked him for fixing the roof, though he did ask Jim if he would come sooner next time. A furious nod was his only reply. Jack hummed a little and went back inside to bottle up the last of the rain. He never knew when he might need it.

One thought on “Short Story – The Leaky Roof”

  1. It is a really fun short story. I liked it. The only negative criticism I would have is the rather lengthy exposition the story started with. It seems to be an explanation meant for a longer work of fiction. It is not that bad but it keeps the readers from being engaged with the story instantly. Still, a really fun story from an interesting concept.


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