She missed the bus. That was Jane’s first indicator that the day would not go well. The second indicator was the looming rain clouds, but those were not Jane’s immediate concern. The bus pulling away from the curb just as she rounded the corner was much more upsetting.
“Damn it!” A passerby gave her a withering look, which Jane returned. The next bus wouldn’t come for at least another twenty minutes, by which point Jane would be well and truly late – unless she could speed things up a bit.
Time magic was fiddly at best, catastrophic and beyond at worst. Dr. Sinesh would be horrified to learn that Jane had attempted it outside laboratory conditions – but then, he’d also be horrified if she missed their symposium. Anyway, wasn’t she supposed to be a prodigy?
The first raindrops began to fall as Jane ducked into the corner shop and pretended to peruse the magazines. Under the cover of her raincoat, she extended her wand from its quantum pocket and began to murmur a Folding. Folding spells themselves weren’t too tricky, so long as your subject was within your line of sight. It got exponentially harder if the subject’s position in spacetime was unknown.
Fortunately, Jane knew her route like she knew the layout of her flat. She double-checked the bus schedule on her phone: assuming the bus was on time, it was currently near the sports centre. Jane kept that (admittedly hypothetical) location in mind as she finished the spell. Her wand flashed blue. Jane quickly tucked it back into its quantum pocket and joined the queue to buy a fashion magazine to account for her time in the shop. She also bought some candies; Foldings were especially taxing on one’s blood sugar.
She waited under the shop’s awning, counting seconds while the rain poured harder. She’d shaved twelve minutes off the bus’s travel time – hopefully not enough to draw suspicion, but just enough to get her to the college before the symposium began. Dr. Sinesh wouldn’t even notice she was late.
The first five minutes passed easily, but Jane soon grew antsy. The crowd of people at the bus stop continued to grow, all of them shaking off their umbrellas and griping good-naturedly about English summers and the upcoming work day. Jane had to hide her smile, thinking of how happy all these people would be that their bus was coming early. That was part of why Jane loved magic so much – not only did it make day-to-day life easier, it could also brighten someone’s day without them even knowing.
The joyous feeling began to ebb, though, when the final minute ended and still no bus appeared. Jane began to fiddle with the magazine, rolling and unrolling it. She was certain she’d said the Folding correctly; perhaps she’d gotten the bus’s location wrong?
Another minute passed. Jane wrung her hands around the rolled-up magazine. She’d certainly be late now. Time to admit her mistake to Dr. Sinesh and beg him to stall.
She took out her phone to text him, but as she did, it chimed with an alert. So did many phones around her. All of their screens bore a notice:
Bus 39 in multiple vehicle accident at Northern Bypass and Heathridge. Multiple injuries, 3 fatalities. 8:20 bus service canceled. Alternate routes advised.
A woman nearby shook her head. “Been saying it for years: that intersection’s a death trap.”
“Must’ve been speeding – Heathridge puts them ahead of schedule, doesn’t it?”
“And in this weather. Reckless.”
Jane lowered her phone. She didn’t even notice when she missed her coat pocket and her phone clattered to the sidewalk, its screen splintering.