"Chico, we don't have much time. We have to pick up your brother at school."
He's nosing around for something interesting. "Just a second, mamá."
His mother taps her foot.
In this second-hand store, something always turns up. Something he can take apart and put back together and make something much more interesting with— He grits his teeth and digs deeper into the bin of plastic toys. Something, something. There must be something there. Something.
"It's always one more second this, one more second that. We have to go, honey!"
"But I'm telling you, mamá, this time—!"
She sighs. "How old are you, chico? I'm counting. Uno. Dos. Tres..."
Finally, his fingers close around a large round object. Perfect. He pulls it out of the bin and darts to the cash register, not knowing what it is, yet. He plonks it down and it's black with a streak of white - no. A white circle and a black number 8, with a twenty-sided blue dice called a icosahedron, or a d20, covered in the faces of little blue triangles. His fingers tingle, his heart racing in his chest. A magic 8-ball. Those are rare these days.
"Diez y uno. Manuel!"
"That will be three dollars," says the cashier with the blue plait, flipping it over her shoulder.
"Diez y ocho, diez y nueve, veinte...."
He fishes in his pocket and hands over the change. The cashier takes it and gives him back a quarter, saying, "Have a good day."
"Thanks!" He beams at her and scampers onto the bright sunlit street. "I'm here, mamá."
"What have you got there? A magic 8-ball? Ay, díos mio, Manuel. Those magic fortunetelling things are not good for you. Better to stay away from such things. What if—"
"It's for taking apart again, mamá. I want to see the insides." This wasn't strictly true; Manuel had no idea what he wanted to do with this object. Yet.
She relaxed, a little. "I just worry for you, mijo."
"I know, mamá." Manuel bit his lip. Now that his mother was appeased, he could take a better look at his find, and he looked down at the 8-ball in his lap. A small blue triangle floated its way to the window, landing on a corner, and Manuel laughed. He shook the ball again, and looked inside, through the dyed water filled with sparkling gold glitter.
"I'm looking for something," Manuel whispered to it.
WITHOUT A DOUBT, the 8-ball promised.
He shook the 8-ball. CONCENTRATE AND ASK AGAIN, it said.
He sighed, gathering his thoughts. "Sometimes I just want to know. There's this special sense I have, sometimes. Am I really special? Is there something I can do for the universe?" He shook the ball again. It seemed to mysteriously warm in his hands.
SIGNS POINT TO YES, read the 8-ball. The flecks of gold flashed. KID.
Kid? Did he read that right?
"I want to help." Manuel bit his lip. "What do I do?"
REPEAT AFTER ME
Manuel's brow furrowed.
IN LIFE'S NAME, FOR LIFE'S SAKE
"In life's name, for life's sake," Manuel repeated.
I WILL USE MY ART IN THE SERVICE OF LIFE
"I will use the art for the service of that life..."
ACROSS TIME IN ALL PROBABILITY
REJECTING ALL OTHER USAGES
I WILL GUARD GROWTH & EASE PAIN
"I will guard growth and ease pain..."
I WILL DEFEND WHAT LIVES WELL IN ITS OWN WAY
I WILL CHANGE NO OBJECT, CREATURE, OR SYSTEM
UNLESS ITS GROWTH & LIFE ARE THREATENED.
I WILL SET ASIDE FEAR FOR COURAGE, DEATH FOR LIFE
WHEN IT IS RIGHT TO DO SO
FOR ALL ETERNITIES & INFINITIES
"For all eternities and infinities," repeated Manuel, frowning again. "Now what?"
YER A WIZARD, HARRY.
"My name is Manuel. And what do you mean, a 'wizard'? Did someone stick some kind of artificial intelligence inside of you? But that dice looks just like normal blue plastic..."