James Conroy went through the doors of the supermarket confidently, giving a glance to every magically imbued artifact he could find in the chain store. In one corner, wares floated enticingly from the floor, encouraging extra eyes to be drawn to the more expensive wares. In another corner, the lights would brighten and dim themselves as people passed the aisles in order to save on electricity, only using energy needed when items were being perused. Conroy loved places like this.
He made his way to the wares floating — different tech and gadgets for those used to the world prior to the introduction of magic. He saw that they were floating up and down while also spinning ever so slightly on their axis. There were a number of spells that could achieve this, and he would have to be sure before making any moves. He waved at someone at the cash register to ask for help.
“Can I assist you sir?” he asked, looking up at the headphones James was staring at.
“Yeah, I was wondering whether the magics cast on the item would affect the stuff within. I don’t wanna buy anything faulty, y’know?” James glanced at the worker’s name tag, seeing his name was Henry.
“Uhh… I’m actually not sure. What kind of magic normally affects the gadgets within?” Henry asked, pulling out his device to look up inventory.
“Ah, you know. Stuffs like AirFlow or Spinner. Though this could also be a Float that’s inheriting from a LazySusan that’s loading from a debounced call to make sure it’s a less enhanced form of energy. Or something’…” James said, trying to sound as unimportant as possible. Henry was nodding, typing search terms into his device.
“Looks to me that this is casting Levitation, with a Rotate as a secondary motion,” Henry read from his screen.
“This uses Levitate?” James pointed to the headphones, casting Levitate on the item. Visually nothing changed, but the device now had two instances of the same spell running on it.
“Yeah, does that affect the device like you were saying?” Henry said.
“You sure this uses Levitate?” James Conroy asked with another point, casting Levitate again. “And what about the other floaty things? Do they use Levitate? All of ‘em levitate with the same spell?” With each point came another addition of the spell.
“That’s right sir. Is that something to be concerned about?” Henry asked, curious.
“It shouldn’t affect nothin, unless…” James let his voice trail. Henry leaned in, his interest piqued. “Ah, it’s probably nothin,” James waved dismissively.
“What? What is it?” Henry practically jumped with interest. Amateur magicians always loved to learn the intricacies of the new world.
“It’s just, you know, multi-threading,” James shrugged. “If these things are cast with the same spell every morning at open time, it might overload the device unless you know how to stop the processes overnight.”
“Oh, uhhh…” Henry scratched his head, not understanding a word of that sentence. “I think we do something about the magic overnight. Because they don’t float overnight.”
“Oh, sure, sure,” James nodded, patting Henry’s shoulder confidently. “They woulda caught flame by now if you didn’t. I should know, I handle this kinda stuff professionally.”
Henry looked a little nervous, but nodded.
“Anyway, I’ll go check out some snacks before buying any o’ these bad boys, with all the fancy Levitating,” James pointed with his thumb, casting the spell upon it one last time. He walked away, Henry left staring at the items with concern, uncertain whether he should change anything about the spells.
James was technically telling the truth. Too many spells on one object without any management of spell-complexity would result in effects far beyond intended casting, bursting into flames was just one of many possible scenarios. What most people didn’t know is that it could happen as a result of casting the same exact spell on something without removing the previous spell. Those that cleaned up the store in the evening would know to remove the spell entirely, but a cashier like Henry had likely never received the instruction during his quick onboarding at the company. He may have even noticed that James was casting spells, but deemed them benign, as people cast random spells all the time to breathe better or get rid of random aches and pains.
It took only a few seconds before the first package of headphones exploded into a dazzling display of flames, followed by the mouse floating right next to them, the overloads chain reacting. Henry yelped and turned with horrified eyes to James.
“Sir!” he screamed. James pretended not to hear. “SIR!”
“Ah, would you look at that,” James pretended to be surprised by the fires in the air.
“Can you stop the threads or whatever it was!!” Henry scampered over to him.
“Of course!” James said, pulling out a card. “For a price.”
It was common for stores of this size to have funds to pay exclusively for magic repairmen in case situations like this happened. The art was still far to new for people to know how to deal with these issues themselves. People as low as cashiers had the right to use this fund if it was a “necessary emergency.” Henry stared quickly at the rates in hand, stabbing a finger quickly into the all expense package.
“This one! Make it go away!”
“Right away,” James nodded, suppressing a smile at how easy it had been. He removed all of his additional spells at once and even put out the flames before any fire alarms went off. He spun around on his heel and was quickly delivered payment for his amazing work in such perfect timing.
“If you need anything else, feel free to give me a call. After all, this is an all-expense package,” James informed, pointing to the phone number on the business card.
“Thank you so much!” Henry said gratefully as James Conroy left.
It would be a few hours before Henry realized just how suspicious everything about the situation was, and how odd it was that James left without purchasing anything despite perusing the store for more than a few minutes before the incident. He dialed the phone number on Conroy’s card to get some explanations, but was quickly informed by an automated voice that the phone number he was trying to reach did not exist.