Ambrose Wright cursed and grabbed at the papers on his desk before they became airborne. Decades of magic were recorded there, but the weight of knowledge was no help against the breezes that blew through his window. The white haired man sighed and set a stray book atop the pile. It looked like another aggravating night.
Sometimes he wondered why he bothered with the work. Who believed magic existed in the twenty-first century? Not that he wanted the public to know, but a little recognition from his fellow adepts wouldn't hurt. If he could only finish the book ....
It was more than a mischievous breeze that held up his work. Ambrose rented the ground floor of the two-story house, but the one above was taken by a young woman with a fondness for music - played loud and at any time of the day or night. On bad nights it rattled the dishes in the drain rack.
Tonight was about average, he judged, or perhaps a bit worse. The dance beat's dull thump-thump-thump wasn't quite an earthquake - at least his wand wasn't bouncing across the desk - but it made him feel as if he were inside someone else's migraine. Life had been much simpler before Ms Waite had moved in a month ago; it had been quiet.
Patricia Waite was a student at Arbor University, about twenty years old, he guessed. She had dark, shoulder-length hair, rebellious brown eyes and an excellent figure. Her friends apparently called her "Pepper," which Ambrose thought would have been more fitting if she'd been a redhead. He had a weakness for redheads.
He hadn't said anything the first night; after all, she was young - things like that were to be expected on occasion. He'd set his work aside and devoted the time to various chores he'd been putting off. On the second night Ambrose felt it was necessary to say something. Compiling his notes - years of research into practical magic - was too important and after all, it had been after midnight. So he'd trudged up the outside stairs and knocked on the door until she heard him over the music.
Ms Waite's response had been brusque, but she had turned the music down. Unfortunately the next night it had been just a loud. After the third time she hadn't bothered to adjust the volume; in fact, he was certain she'd turned up the bass.
Calls to the Sheriff's office hadn't gotten any results either. The house was out in the country and by the time a deputy traveled the winding road into the valley she'd usually gone to bed - or at least turned the stereo off. At least after the deputy talked to Ms Waite everything became quiet again. Ambrose could hear the wind in the pines, the creek behind the house - all the night sounds he loved. But it was clear that, apart from stationing a police officer in the front yard, there was no normal way to resolve the situation.
No normal solution. Ambrose considered that for a moment. A paralysis spell and a good spanking, he thought with a chuckle. Very tempting, but probably too much trouble. It's a pity I don't know any spells to create silence.
A new song started. Ambrose frowned and headed for the front door. Perhaps this time she would listen to reason. For some reason he took his wand.
Patricia Waite was putting away her Geology homework when she saw the old guy from downstairs at the front door. He was looking through the glass and waving to get her attention. Guess he finally turned his hearing aid on, she thought.
She danced to the door through an ocean of sound. It was her favorite environment, but her neighbor didn't like it. Stupid - what good was music if you couldn't feel it?
"Yeah?" she shouted over the music.
"Can you turn that down?" he yelled back, brow furrowed in annoyance. "It's too loud!"
"Sorry!" She smirked. Her half of the house, her music. "I like it like this."
"Well, I don't!" His right arm flashed up, pointing at the stereo. There was a sudden pop, followed by silence. "That's better."
A wisp of smoke drifted from her stereo. Patricia turned back to face Ambrose and noticed he had some kind of stick in his hand. "What the hell did you do?" she yelled. "Throw something at it? Now it's busted!"
"Damn straight it is! I don't care what you listen to, but I refuse to have the noise disrupt my work and drive me out of the house!"
"Christ! Do you know how much that thing cost? And you blew it up!"
"Dynamite would have been quieter than your usual racket!"
"I though old people were deaf - and I don't care about your work!"
For a second, there was no expression on Ambrose's face. Then he smiled and Patricia wondered if she'd gone too far.
"Fifty years," said Ambrose in controlled tone. "Fifty years of research into magic. Theory, practice, spells, advice, warnings - all of it to be collected, organized, bound into a volume for future practitioners of an almost forgotten art. The work of a lifetime - and you don't care."
"Are you some kind of nut?" Magic, huh? So that stick was supposed to be a wand.
"Obviously I'm quite mad." His mouth twitched. "Driven insane by the wind and your music."
"More like senility," Patricia gestured at the wrecked stereo. This Gandalf wannabe wasn't going to scare her. "Magic or not, you're still going to pay for that, you old fossil - even if I have to call the cops!"
"They say if you have two problems, you can use one to solve the other." Ambrose laughed. "Let me prove to you that magic exists." He began a guttural chant, then reached out and tapped her on the head with the wand before she could back away.
"Hey!" Patricia stumbled and fell her knees. "What the hell?" She attempted to stand, but her limbs were stiff and she slipped onto her backside.
"You're lucky that I'm a Grey Magician," he said.
Patricia tried to push herself up, but her muscles barely responded. This is stupid, she thought. Magic isn't real!
"At best, a Black Magician wouldn't care if the spells were reversible." Ambrose gave her a gentle smile. "But I have principles - if not unlimited patience."
She gasped as an unseen something slipped beneath her tee-shirt. It felt like a velvet-gloved hand, trailing along her sternum. As it began to rub her stomach another joined in and then more. She froze, a startled expression stuck on her face, unable to stir. Within moments, dozens of invisible hands were at work under her clothes, sliding across her skin, transferring their warmth as they caressed every helpless inch.
Distracted, Patricia was vaguely aware that the familiar tightness of her bra had faded and her clothes seemed much looser than they should. Was everything around her getting larger? Just then, two of the hands began to toy with her nipples, tweaking them, teasing them erect and jolting her out of the warm daze into which she had slipped. Despite herself, she found her body responding.
She felt as if she were bathing nude in hot August sunshine. The parts of her body she could see - her nose, one knee and the tips of her breasts - were growing darker, almost metallic. For a crazy moment she wondered if the hands were rubbing suntan lotion on her. A hand passed across her eyes and left her with sepia tinted vision.
Whatever was happening began to accelerate; the room seemed to recede, her clothes grew baggier until they swallowed her up. The tee-shirt collapsed over her like a white wave.
The hands stopped. One of them gave her a last tweak and then she was alone, buried beneath her clothes. Unable to do anything else, she waited.
A giant hand reached in and picked up her helpless figure. She was extremely conscious of the thumb that pressed against the hardness of her nipples and the finger that curved around her buttocks.
I'm ... I'm the size of a doll! she thought. There was no way to hide herself from his amused gaze.
"What a pretty bronze nude I've found," chuckled Ambrose. "Very decorative - I'm tempted to keep you like this. Would you like that?" His thumb slid gently across her breasts.
"I imagine not. So here's the deal - you'll stay like this until I've finished my work. With peace and quiet, that should be no more than a few weeks. In the meantime, I have a job you can perform in your current state." He chuckled. "My little Pepper Waite."
When the sun came up, Patricia was perched on top of a stack of paper, her face still bearing a surprised expression. She'd watched Ambrose work until what must have been late - the clock wasn't visible from the spot he'd placed her the night before - and watched him still after he'd dozed off in his chair. Apparently miniature bronze nudes didn't get sleepy.
Ambrose yawned and raised his head from the desk. He stretched, looked around and yawned again. His bleary eyes turned to Patricia's side of the desk. "A good night's work," he said, picking her up to leaf through the papers.
He suddenly noticed Patricia. "Hmmm - now how long have I had you?" He turned her upside down and caressed her buttocks with one finger.
Hey! Stop that!
"No maker's marks; very fine work though."
She found herself flipped back upright as he continued to examine her figure. The meaning of his words started to sink in.
"Drat this memory of mine." His finger ran along the underside of her breasts. "Aha - Uncle Jack brought you back from France, back in, what - '46? I must have dug you out of his old trunk last night when I was cleaning up - or was that last week?"
What? thought Patricia. No, you old fool! I'm a real woman, not a statue! You've got to remember!
Ambrose put her back on the manuscript. "No matter - I have a feeling you're my good luck charm." He tickled the underside of her breasts once more and then rose with a sigh. "Have to add you to the will - I'm sure Kate would love to have you when I'm gone."
He staggered towards the kitchen. "I just hope I can finish the book before then."
Ambrose turned on the coffee maker. Brought her back from France, indeed, he thought with a smile. I'll just keep her like that for a day or two. His fingers recalled gliding over her curves and twitched.
A week at the most.