Exerpt from Adam Lawrence's fantastic debut novel - MAGIC BOX

Magic Box - Published by Kensington Gore Publishing is coming soon:

AMAZON UK AMAZON USA Magic Box Website version

Have you ever felt bored of your life?

Wish there was something more? You'll wish you hadn't.

 

Felicity Hannigan & Treymane Boen are shop workers in the local supermarket. Doing their best to navigate the social minefield's & responsibilities of modern life.

 

Unlikely heroes you might think. But when they stumble across a magical and enchanting secret kept hidden from the world for thousands of years, all that changes in the blink of an eye.

 

But all things come with a price. Tremayne and Felicity quickly find themselves well in over their heads – and when the fate of the entire world rests upon their unlikely shoulders, they have to think outside of The Magic Box.

 

Magic Box is the debut fantasy novel by Adam Lawrence.

 

Adam, who also is an accomplished artist and designer, is a young writer from Croydon, England.

 

Writing Sci-Fi, fantasy & horror is his life.

Felicity walked inside gingerly. Her shoes were silent across the old brown wooden flooring save for the patter of the rainwater dripping off her clothes. Like the dining hall there were several paintings hanging around the room but none as vibrant or dramatic as a vast landscape painting above the fireplace that was so vivid in colour it was like peering at a photograph. It was of nowhere she recognised, a beautiful and ornate old mansion beside a stream that seemed to move like fresh water. Driven by the shivering chills that stung her body Felicity approached the fireplace and sat down on the floor in front of it - feeling the warm heat soothe her bitingly cold hands.

 

Behind her she heard the study door close and movement beside her as Tremayne sat down beside her - sliding his jacket off his back and letting it crumple down beside him in a heap. "I hope you know what you're doing." he asked. Felicity smiled as she flicked her head, sending droplets of water around her. "Warming up is what I'm doing." she replied nonchalantly.  

Tremayne scowled. "You know what I mean," he whispered. "We don't know who this woman is - and let's not forget the house that looked run down but wasn't. This is seriously weird, we shouldn't stay here." Felicity rolled her eyes as she opened her palms to the open fire and could feel the warmth begin to fight down the chills. "Oh lighten up, Tremayne!" she replied. "Warm open fire and safety, what more could you want?"

"Cookies?"

 

She turned around from the flames to see Alexia sitting upon one of the plush sofas before the coffee table, perched right on the edge with her legs and arms tightly wrapped around her. She was staring intently at them; watching them with that same unblinking stare she had in the dining room as though analysing their every move.  

 

Felicity let her eyes drop to the coffee table where there was now a small plate of layered cookies of white chocolate and dark chocolate chips. Felicity frowned. Were they there when we came in? In honesty Felicity couldn't remember. Beside her Tremayne lunged for the plate, taking one of each type and tucking in merrily. So much for the distrust. All it takes to win him over is cookies. Felicity rolled her eyes.

 

"So," began Alexia - the excitement in her voice reminding Felicity of the four year olds that came into the store with their mothers buying the fizzy cola bottle sweets; almost too happy for what was happening. "Tell me everything. How did you get here? Why are you here? What do you do?"

Felicity absently noticed she had taken a cookie and had taken a bite, and suddenly felt uncomfortable at the array of questions and Alexia's intenseness. "Um," started Felicity as she swallowed a bite of the cookie down. Sadly it doesn't taste as good as it smells. "Well I'm Felicity, and this-" Tremayne waved his hand sending an array of crumbs across the floor. "Tremayne." he piped up through a muffled mouthful of cookie.

"We work at the local Croxfords store, just out of the woods here." Felicity motioned behind her back out the way they had come but Alexia didn't seem to follow, and instead just continued nodding absently and motioning her to continue. Felicity inwardly shrugged but couldn't help find Alexia's oddness slightly disturbing. Perhaps Tremayne's desire to leave was a better idea after all. Please. What are you, some kind of coward? It's just some weird woman. With a weird house...

"Well anyway, we got into a disagreement with some rather nasty people and-" Tremayne was moving and took another cookie from the plate. "Nasty people?" he asked incredulously. "They were more than nasty!" he corrected loudly as he looked up at Alexia whose gaze didn't waver from Felicity. It was almost as if she didn't see Tremayne at all.

 

"It was my fault," he began. "Some people - some, nasty people wanted to hurt me. Hell I think they wanted to kill me; the drugged up freaks that they are. Me and Felicity we ran into the woods to get away from them and then we found this weird-" Tremayne paused. "We found your house, and... well,"

Felicity nodded as she nudged Tremayne to shut up. "And then we came inside because we figured we could use your phone to call the police. Sorry for the whole breaking in thing, we... well we didn't think anyone lived here. I mean I've lived here all my life and I never knew there was a house here."

"Not many people do." replied Alexia with a gentle nod. "I'm afraid you can't use my phone as I don't have one - I've never needed one." Felicity blinked. Okay the woman's an alien. How can she not have a phone? What is this, the house time forgot? Felicity reached into her bag and pulled free her mobile phone and scowled at the continual lack of signal. "No phone?" she asked as she shoved the machine back into her bag. This network is as good as gone. "I couldn't live without mine, I really couldn't. How do you keep in touch with friends and family without a phone?" Alexia's gaze seemed to falter for a moment as a flicker of emotion crossed her blank and overtly cheerful expression. "I haven't had any need for one." she reiterated while her tone implied it was not a topic she wished to elaborate on.

"So, what do you do at this Croxfords? I can't say I've ever heard of such a place." she asked swiftly changing the subject. Felicity again found herself scowling in confusion. The Croxfords store was a short walk away from here, it seemed ridiculous she didn’t know it was there.  

"Well I'm a shelf stacker and she's a checkout girl." answered Tremayne but Alexia didn't seem to understand what he was talking about. She looked at them like she was talking to a child, nodding in an over exaggerated manner but simultaneously coming across as far too excited for her own good. Hell she looks like she'll wet herself any minute.

"We're customer service, as Niall likes to tell us." said Felicity absently as Alexia nodded emphatically as though they'd announced they were something far more interesting like a doctor or a lawyer.

"That's wonderful." she said cheerfully. She gasped suddenly before placing a hand over her mouth. "I hadn't offered you any drinks!" she exclaimed loudly before falling into a giggle. "I've not had visitors for so long I do apologise for my lack of manners!" she motioned down to the coffee table with a free hand, her other finding the side of her head as she shook it gently with a stunned giggle. "Orange juice? It's awfully refreshing."

Felicity smiled and waved her hand. "Oh no, its fine don't worry about it." she insisted. Not had visitors for a long time? Not that it shows at all... Felicity found her gaze drawn down to the coffee table, where beside the cookie plate now sat two glasses of orange liquid - each with two ice cubes floating in the centre.

Felicity froze in place as she looked at the twin glasses. The cookie plate appearing from nowhere she could have explained as having not noticed but these glasses had not been there moments ago. They weren't there. They weren't there, but they're here now - how did she do that? Felicity reached forwards and with her finger and ran a line down the cold glass. The liquid shook about from her prodding finger and the ice cube rattled loudly against the glass, the gentle chink lost in the crackle of the fire behind her. Felicity's mind raced as it traced back every memory she had of the room. Maybe I missed it, maybe I just didn't see it? “Can you do that with vodka?” she breathed under her breath.  

 

As Tremayne took one of the glasses and took a healthy chug of the drink Felicity looked up at Alexia who appeared to have regained her composure and now sat back staring at them intently once more. "How did you do that?" she asked finally as her eyes steeled to Alexia's. The older woman looked at her quizzically, apparently not following. Oh no, you're not getting out of this one. Felicity nodded in the general direction of the orange juice and the cookie plate but didn't break her gaze. "The cookies and the juice. How'd you do it?"

 

Again Alexia appeared confused and a subtle, lined frown appeared across her expression as her eyes went down to see the plate and the juice. She opened her mouth to respond but paused - her eyes widening as she looked back up at Felicity. Her animated expression returned to a gentle smile. "Magic." she finally responded.  

 

For what felt like an eternity Felicity remained silent as she rolled Alexia's words in her head. Magic. Magic? Do I look twelve or something? Tremayne either wasn't listening or wasn't interested - or both, as he continued to consume the cookies and the orange juice that had apparently 'magically' appeared by themselves. Felicity shook her head as her mind argued back and forth. That said the house is a bit... odd. She's odd. Maybe she's actually telling... No. No, no, no. What she going to say next, that Narnia is in her closet? Nutcase. Tremayne was right we should have left. "Let me guess, that's why the house looks different from the outside." she asked sarcastically and watching Alexia nod in response. "Yes, magic." she repeated. Felicity snorted and nodded slowly. "Magic, right." she said snidely.

Again Alexia appeared confused at Felicity's obvious scepticism. "It is," she said quietly. "I forget that times have changed, I apologise if I have scared you." Felicity wasn't buying it. This was ridiculous. "So, what are you, some sort of witch?" Felicity asked pointedly as she motioned to the now empty plate of cookies. "Going to just make these reappear or something?" Alexia peered down at the empty plate as Tremayne pulled Felicity closer to whisper to her. "What are you doing!" he hissed just audible enough for her to hear. "Don't be so rude!" Felicity shrugged him off. She wanted an explanation for the bizarreness of the house and she wasn't buying it was 'magic'.

"I can do." responded Alexia nonchalantly as she reached down and waved her hand across the plate. As her hand crossed the surface of the plate the air between her open palm and the plate appeared to shimmer as though looking through a great heat, and as she raised her hand it was clear the plate was once again full of cookies. Felicity let a gasp as she fell backwards in surprise, her mouth agape and her eyes staring intently at the plate. Oh my god! That - She - Oh!

The plate was once again full of cookies of white and dark chocolate varieties and nearly totally identical to how it had been when it had first appeared. Felicity blinked as her mind replayed what she saw - the shimmer of air and the cookies almost blurring their way back into existence. Hell... must save on cooking time...

Felicity continued to stare at the plate as her mind tried to explain what she had seen. There was no denying it and no contending it - Alexia had 'magically' replaced the cookies. She let her gaze wander to Tremayne who sat mouth agape staring at the plate with the same expression of awe and shock that she now wore. That was magic... Oh my god! You always wonder how you'll react when things like that happen, when something truly unexplainable happens but when it happens... nothing prepares you for it... She shook her head and glanced away from Tremayne who appeared frozen in time and looked back at the plate - a subtle grin crossing her lips. That is some trick...

"I am sorry," said Alexia gently as she leant forward, her arms crossing across her front making her appear cold even though bathed in the flickering light of the fireplace. "I have not had visitors in a very long time and I forget that times have changed since parlour tricks like this were considered normal. I forget something I take for granted will appear shocking and even terrifying for you - it was a mistake to let you stay." Felicity looked up at Alexia who appeared so distraught at her words she looked like she would burst into tears at any moment. Considered normal?

Felicity paused. Alexia had shown them something that was truly unexplainable; something amazing and terrifying in equal amount. Magic, the subject of fantasy books and terrible films with elves and monsters actually existed in some form and something that Alexia even considered normal. It was amazing, awe inspiring and filled her with a sense of wonder but also filled her with a sense of dread. Its very existence undermined everything she thought of the world.

I'm a checkout girl. I spend my days on a till, dealing with brainless customers day in day out and waiting for something amazing to happen to change my life completely while knowing deep down nothing ever will. But here I am sitting in an impossible house with an impossible woman who can do magic. Is this it? Is this the moment that my life actually changes, that this is the game-changing moment in my life where everything gains meaning and direction? Felicity pondered whether she was reading into a plate of cookies too much and considered that it could be a trick, but was willing to put her ego on the line to find out.  

"I want to know more." she said finally, looking up at Alexia. "You can do magic. Okay, I'm sceptical but I want to know more about it." Alexia peered back at Felicity as though she had grown a second head. Her eyes narrowed. "I don't believe that would be appropriate. There were once strict rules in place about exposing those beyond a certain age to the world of magic - concerns that they would be unable to understand it, unable to comprehend it and the knowledge would consume them. The very fact I'm speaking to you is in breach of those rules." Felicity bit her lip. No, I'm not giving up yet.

"Oh come on," she said quickly as her hands found the side of the table. "You've shown us these things that are normal to you, show us the rest. Why don't we know anything about all this? How do you do it? God I'm full of questions." Felicity wanted more than just knowing the basics though and deep down she knew she'd not settle for anything less than knowing how to do it herself. If this was truly the life changing event she had so sought after she wanted to grasp it with both hands. Alexia however didn't appear convinced.

"There are reasons why you don't know about it. Reasons why it was hidden - I can't say I'm sure it's a good thing to explain them to you."

"But we're here, we've seen it. You can't just let us leave without telling us anything."

"You should leave. The information could be dangerous to you."

"No, look. You want company so we'll stay and listen to you. Just explain it to us. I want to know about it, I want to understand it... please..."

Alexia frowned and with a long sigh she leant back onto the sofa as her eyes peered up towards the ceiling. Felicity glanced at Tremayne who looked positively confused and she could tell by his expression he was unsure as to whether this was all true or Felicity, and indeed Alexia had gone crazy. He clearly didn't want to know even if it was all true, that much was obvious from his defensive posture. Felicity however didn't care whether he did or not - she did. I can't bear to stay at that stupid supermarket for the rest of my life. It may have been a trick and Alexia may be a trickster but I'm willing to risk looking stupid for the chance of a better life.

"Okay." said Alexia finally as she leaned forward. "I'll tell you what you want to know. I'll tell you about the world of magic, the world that time forgot because it had no choice and the burden we all carry as a result. Give me a moment to collect my thoughts." As Alexia leant back upon the sofa and closed her eyes Felicity couldn't hide the grin sweeping across her expression. Now for the fireworks.

"You're really buying into this, aren't you?" asked Tremayne as he leant across to her with his voice hushed even though Felicity was sure Alexia could hear them. She nodded cautiously as she sipped the icily cold orange juice. "I guess so yeah." she said softly as she placed the glass back onto the table. She had never been the kind of girl to be interested by something like this or even think it possible. Her world was one populated by her mobile phone, celebrity gossip and a cupboard full of very expensive clothes - the very idea she was here in an ridiculous house talking to a woman that could do magic and finding herself believing in it was one that only hours ago she would have ridiculed as impossible.

But it was the house, the cookies and the juice that had begun to make her think outside her comfort zone. There was no explanation for the house that appeared neglected and run-down on the outside and was a totally different house inside; furnished, well-kept and beautiful. And let's not forget Tremayne couldn't even see it outside. But I did. The juice she could have explained away as simply having not noticed on her way in, but the cookies - the cookies appearing right before her eyes - as if by magic, she couldn't. She couldn't believe she was even thinking it, but could it be true? Could it be magic?

"I don't." said Tremayne and interrupting her thoughts again with an unsubtle whisper. Felicity found it odd that he didn't, considering his fascination with all things geeky this should have been straight up his street but instead he looked more nervous and uncomfortable. "Then how do you explain it, genius?" she replied snidely. "How'd you explain the juice, the cookies - and let's not forget the house." Tremayne shrugged and leant to his side on the table, picking up one of the cookies and breaking a small part off. "Not sure." He said as he popped it into his mouth. "But it ain't magic. Magic isn't real."

Felicity snorted. "Of course not, that's why you and your flatmates pretend to slay dragons on Wednesday nights. What's it called? Dull and Dorks?" Tremayne flicked cookie crumbs at her and spraying her with a rain of tiny chocolate chunks. "Dungeons and Dragons." he corrected. "And with that we know the magic isn't real - it's only a game." he motioned towards Alexia. "She actually believes it's real and weirdly so do you." Felicity shrugged and picked up a piece of cookie to hurl at him absently. "I don't know what to think." she said distantly as her gaze returned to Alexia. "I don't know. I guess I'm just curious."

"Can't we be curious another time?" pleaded Tremayne as he fidgeted. "You might have forgotten about Kieran and the others but I haven't - I need to call the police. Or leave town." Felicity glanced at him to see his eyes still puffy from his tears and his posture weak and defeated. "Because that's what I'm going to have to do, isn't it?" he continued rhetorically. "Everyone who crosses the Websters leaves town. Or just disappears and there's no prizes to figure out what happened to them."

In fairness to him he wasn't too far from the truth - she remembered the story of a guy called Daniel who had crossed Kieran over some cash, a lost bet or something she never really listened to the details but he disappeared for quite some time. Turned up dead in the river several weeks later, stabbed. The Websters aren't people you cross without gaining a lot of trouble in return and Trem's right - Kieran won't let that punch lie.

 

Magic, Alexia, the impossible house and even the damned cookies paled into insignificance as her mind shifted to more real matters. How am I going to sort this one? Maybe I can talk to Kieran, or his battle-axe of a mother before they decide to do anything stupid or rash. Also have to take into account it's not just him in danger - I was there and I saw everything, I could implicate Kieran if anything did happen to Tremayne. Oh god, what have I gotten myself into this time! Felicity found herself biting her lip in thought so hard she had drawn blood. She could afford to leave town but she didn't really want to, knowing the Websters had fingers in a lot of pies generally meant running would only delay the inevitable. I can't just leave Tremayne either, I can't just let him fall victim to that idiot. What am I going to do!

"I'll think of something. Don't worry about it." she said calmly and found herself wishing she believed her words a little more than she did. Tremayne's apathetic and defeated expression didn't seem to either and he seemed more resigned to his fate than anything else - flitting erratically from coming across panicky and terrified to sluggish and defeated.  

Tremayne sighed as his face fell into a grimace of sorrow. "I don’t know what to do!" he wailed. "Even if I started running now it's not like I've got the cash to get very far or buy them off me. They're never going to let me go, my life's over-" Felicity grasped his arm again tightly. "Shut up already!" she barked quickly. "I'll think of something leave it to me!"

Tremayne fell silent but she knew he wasn't going to let up. In many ways Felicity couldn't blame him as he was right, Kieran wouldn't let getting decked out by one of his many victims without dishing out some hefty reprisals either through his own movements or his family of thugs. I don't really know what to do. I don't know how to help him out of this one. Felicity closed her eyes. She didn't want to even bear thinking about what Kieran's thugs would have done had they caught up with them in the woods and now with time to go and think about it their plans of hatred would only deepen. I'll have to talk to them, I'll have to -

"I'm ready."

 

Felicity opened her eyes and looked up at Alexia who now stood behind the sofa and was peering down to the pair with an almost resigned look - somewhere between excited and terrified. Eager for the distraction from their very real problems Felicity was only too eager to advance the proceedings. "Okay," she began with a cough. "Magic. How can you do it?" Felicity's mind ridiculed the question as the weak query hung in the silence, overshadowed even by the occasional crackle of the open fire. Alexia smiled. "I'm a Mage of the Third Order." she said clearly with a confident and proud tone. Her smirk widened as though remembering a distant and fond memory. "Third of five, we were charged with protection of the land; our skills lay in offensive magic - destructive forces of flame and arcane."

"This is ridiculous." muttered Tremayne as he reached for another cookie and interrupting the silence. Felicity licked her lips as she watched Alexia's expression. She had no doubt Alexia believed what she was saying - But do I? Felicity couldn't say. It sounded positively ridiculous, just as Tremayne had quipped. Felicity cleared her throat again.

"So, you fought? Like a soldier? A magical soldier?" Alexia nodded and motioned to a heraldic coat of arms embroidered into the fabric of the curtains - an ornate gold griffon clutching twin stones, one blue and one red. "That was our emblem, our crest which we carried into battle. It was in defence of the land and learning more about magic in general although I am no scholar. I was a soldier, as you say."

"So what did you do?" pressed Felicity as a sarcastic grin crossed her lips. "Make cookies and juice?" Tremayne sniggered as Felicity continued, egged on by her friend’s laughter. "Were you like a magical tea lady or something?" she choked a laugh down as she watched the fondness fall away from Alexia's expression like a stone. Odd she was but she was no fool - she knew Felicity had little respect or belief in what she was saying and her distaste for it shone through. "This won't work." Alexia complained as her arms crossed her chest.

"Of course it won't," snorted Tremayne. "It's a load of rubbish." Felicity couldn't help but find herself in agreement. This was an impossible house with so much left to answer but Alexia was living in her own dreamland. This is one nutty woman!

"Okay." said Alexia firmly. "The only way I will make you see; make you understand, is to show you. You must understand what happens will not be real - it will not hurt you, and at any point if you are scared let me know and I will end this discussion." Felicity was too busy chuckling to listen and neither was Tremayne - both far too amused at the idea of a magical tea lady.

"Can you make other things?" asked Felicity as she pointed at the cookies and ignored Alexia. "Can you make like, doughnuts - or cheesecake?" Tremayne cackled. "Pastry-mage!" he roared. Alexia seemed to shrug and her eyes closed slowly as her hands rose upwards while she mouthed words to herself.

What happened next was so jarringly impossible it was a moment that would remain with Felicity forever - the world itself began to melt. Both Felicity and Tremayne stopped laughing almost instantly as the change took hold. The walls appeared to change material to a watery, jelly-like substance and begin to peel away as though water rolling down a cold glass on a hot summer's day. The red wallpaper began to lighten and tumble down like falling leaves and even the fireplace itself - with its roaring fire began to rip away as though the fire was a solid block of melting ice.

The only constants were the coffee table, the mat that Tremayne and Felicity were sat upon and the red sofa Alexia stood beside. Everything else in the room began to fall away as though it were the fading remnants of a dream. Even the floor around them began to change as grass forced its way through the wood - the floorboards themselves tearing away strand by strand as they were eaten up by earth. Felicity squinted as the entire ceiling tore  open and slipped away like an unfolding plant and let in beaming hot sunshine and a cloudless blue sky shining overhead.

Felicity watched as the melting walls slowly began to descend into the floor as long grass and mud began to consume the once polished wood - the very material collapsing and disappearing as though it had never been there at all. Her vision began to adjust to the instant shift in light from the beaming sunshine and she could suddenly feel the warmth of it cascading down, replacing the crackle of the fire that now had melted away completely. Felicity froze. What in the name of all that is holy just happened?

 

They were no longer sat in the study of the old and impossible house. Instead the mat, the coffee table, the sofa and the three of them now sat in the middle of a dirt path lined with long grass on either side - a vast field with the hot sun beaming down onto them from a beautiful summer's day overhead. Felicity's mind was silent - there was nothing for her to say, nothing for her to think as she peered about wide eyed and terrified. She could feel the breeze blow against her face - a cooling and gentle sensation breaking the now already-muggy heat from the sun. She could smell the flowers, the strong smell of spring and already her nose itched with the onset of hay fever. This is impossible.

My eyes must be lying. My eyes are lying. My senses are lying. "Oh my god," she breathed, her voice hoarse and her mind full of so many questions she couldn't even begin to separate one from the other let alone speak them coherently. She glanced at Tremayne who sat mouth agape in a mixture of utter terror and total awe.

 

She watched a fly or a wasp - she couldn't quite make it out fly close to Tremayne who ducked and waved his hand away. She heard the buzz and saw it move like a proper bug and watched it fly off overhead before disappearing over the wall of long grass. She reached down beside her and took a handful of the sand that now sat in place of the former wooden floor they previously had been sat upon and felt the texture in her hands. It was sand, moving and crunching in her hand and sliding out in billowing clouds from her fist. I must be dreaming.

Alexia was smiling smugly as she waved her hands up at the surroundings while her face peered at them expectantly for a response. Felicity looked up at her gaze but found her words so jumbled and her mind so confused and terrified she didn't know what to say. "Am I dreaming?" she mumbled. Alexia stayed silent and shook her head, her blonde locks glowing like a flaming halo around her head. Felicity glanced at Tremayne who was near hyperventilating as he peered about the dirt track. "The house?" he exclaimed breathlessly.

"I know," Felicity replied

"The walls?"

"I know."

"The woods?"

"I know, Tremayne... I know." She mumbled.

"But... but... This... no?"

"I know..."

"Must be dreaming... got to be dreaming.” Tremayne muttered to himself quickly as his voice began to rise hysterically. "I'm going to wake up! I want out! I want-"

 

Felicity swung round and clipped him round the back of the head with a speed that brought his sudden outburst to a crashing halt, coupled with a yelp of shock. "Hey!" he barked as she shot him a stern glare to silence him. If this was a dream then this impossible house, with its impossible woman and impossible magically appearing field would be nothing more than an interesting topic to discuss over the checkouts tomorrow morning.

Felicity grimaced and felt the onset of guilt and her cheeks reddening as she remembered only moments ago she had ridiculed this woman for claiming to use magic. But if it's not a dream and its real then how did she do it? "How?" asked Felicity as she looked up at Alexia and squinted through the bright sunshine. The blonde Mage smirked as her arms rose high as the breeze picked up and took her hair in flight - her long blonde locks flailing behind her like a blazing fire. "Magic!" she called extravagantly.

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