John Constantine's Notes From The Field
This hasn't been my day, mate.
I didn't mind waking up hung over. Really, I didn't. Been there before more times than I can count. Didn't mind the premonition that sent me halfway across London in search of Tim Hunter, either. Two Tims, actually. Him and the Other. Thought that thing was supposed to be dead.
Wasn't dead. Alive, barking mad, looking to blow up Tim, yes. Dead, no.
Anyway. Doppleganger breaks out the big guns, magic blasts about as subtle as a bag of hammers. Tim fights back, of course, but you try fighting through your own shield sometimes. Didn't work, not w/the Other pouring it on like there's no tomorrow. Doesn't look like Tim's going to last much longer, so I think: John old boy, is it just me or could one half-brick in a sock bring that nutter down? Not like he's watching you right now.
Well, I found my half-brick and I had a sock to spare, even had brass knucks in the raincoat just in case, but the damn thing is that Tim saw me. No poker face at all, that kid. The Other sees it and turns around just as I'm getting ready to crack him one. I'd swung the sock and I SAW it connect, but the bastard got one blast off before he hit the paving. Would've called it a bloody stupid way to die, only that would've required me to, y'know, die.
It hurt. A LOT. Knocked me back so hard I thought for certain I'd break every bone I had in me. Think I bounced off the pavement three or four times- not sure. YOU try remembering something like that. Next I know some wanker in a Ford Anglia's bearing down on me, both hands on the horn. Dunno how I got out of the way but I did- got as far as the kerb before the ol' knees gave out. Figured I'd be all right if I sat still enough.
That's when I realised I should've heard something. The battle, maybe- who knew, maybe the Other'd got up just to spite me. Maybe Tim, come to see what happened. Didn't hear any of that, so I pulled myself together and had a quick look-round.
No battle signs anywhere. Nothing. Should've felt something, I figure- magic's like that even after it's over, it hangs in the air. But no, not a trace of it. Nor anything blown up, neither- hell, it wasn't even the right part of town! At least it didn't look that way. Got up to look for a phone booth, and I'm halfway through dialing Tim's number when I realise nothing's broken. I'm not even bleeding.
And it all starts feeling like I'm chewing on tinfoil. Bloody phone wouldn't let me ring Tim up (bad sign #1). Said the number didn't exist. Tried again, got the same message. Tried looking in the phone book on a hunch... nope. Bill Hunter's not there. Neither's Frank Chandler. And, to top it off, neither's John Constantine.
I'm in London right enough, but it sure as Hell isn't MY London. I don't exist, seems like. Went looking for my flat- it's not there, it's not even the same building. Found myself an alley and tried whistling for answers, but the summons got nothing. Literally. I did it right, even w/most of my kit back with Tim, but nothing answered- not Hell, not Heaven, nothing at all.
Fuck this shite, I'm going for a walk and a smoke.
Constantine covered his face with one hand. Christ, was there NOWHERE in this joke of a London where a man could smoke in peace? Every bloody time he tried to light up he got looked at like he was some kind of paedo. Did they not smoke here, or something? He hadn't seen so much as a single fag-end in the street... they sold the things, he knew that, he'd spotted an advert on the side of a bus, but that was about it. Right, he thought with a shake of the head, I've been magically transported to another dimension's London, and it's one where the NHS won.
It might have been funny, if it hadn't been such a royal pain in the arse. This alternate London, that is. He didn't like it much, and it looked as if the feeling was mutual. When the cash machine rejected his card, he'd dropped a small spell on it- nothing fancy, just a little persuasion. It ended in a chewed-up card spewed all over the pavement. And a monumental new headache, and a curdled feeling all along his nerves saying clear as day that he shouldn't try magic again any time soon.
That worried him. Yeah, he'd taken a full-on blast from Tim's doppelganger, but it shouldn't have affected him like that.. No magic and no money, what could be better? Oh, right, the part where he didn't actually exist here... dammit. All he wanted was a drink and a smoke, and the drink could wait.
It took a moment to realise his feet had chosen a course of their own; he was standing at the entrance to King's Cross. Well, he figured, why not? The station was as good a place as any if he wanted not to be noticed. It'd give him time to think. And if this London were anything like his own, they'd be so crowded that no-one would have time to do more than glare in passing should he light up. He made his way in, past the Left Luggage and through the increasingly thick crowd. Train must've just arrived, then; one more bit of camo where he needed it. Annoying camo, but still. The more there were of them, the less anyone would bother to notice him. Now if they'd just get their bloody elbows out of his ribs! "Gerroff," he muttered to the woman who'd just trod on his toes. She snapped back at him, but he didn't hear. He'd caught sight of something...
The ash tray. The sodding wonderful ash tray.
It stuck awkwardly out of the side of the divider between platforms nine and ten, looking as if someone had jammed it on as an afterthought. John didn't care. It existed, didn't it? Where there was an ash tray, you were expected to smoke, weren't you?
He stepped out of the way of a young woman with bright pink hair, into the shadow of the divider. Right now he didn't care what kinds of looks he got as he lit up. He closed his eyes, inhaled, leaned back against the barrier-
And fell through.
"Bloody hell!" Caught completely off his guard, John flung his arms out, grabbing for anything that could break his fall- there! It took him a second to realise he'd latched on to someone's arm. "Didn't see y- oh..."
For the arm in question belonged to a great bearded man nigh onto twice John's own height. Moleskin overcoat aside, he looked like something that might've wandered out of Faerie. Certainly no pure human could be that big without magic being involved. Letting go immediately, John gingerly tried to right himself. "Sorry about that," he said, wincing.
"Nah, 's all right," said the huge fellow, with what was probably supposed to be a disarming grin. "Shouldn't've been standin' there anyway, I was blockin' the entrance- here, are yeh all righ'?"
John wasn't listening. The abbreviated fall hadn't done his head any favours. Skull bones he didn't know he had were throbbing at him angrily. "Teach me to bring a brick to a magic fight," he muttered.
The monstrous man tsk'ed, clapping a hand the size of a dinner plate on John's shoulder and setting his knees to swaying. "Well, that was right stupid of yeh! What'd yeh go and do that fer? Nah, never mind- c'mon." Before John could offer more than a token feeble protest, he was being steered towards the divider again. "It's safe if yeh sit over here- g'wan, sit-"
"Thank you," John said faintly, and let himself slump against the brick. After a few moments his vision quit swimming, and the hammering in his skull died away a little. Carefully, he reached up to run a hand over the worst points of pain.
"Y'don't look like yeh broke anythin', if that's what yer after," said the stranger's voice. "Think y' could stand?"
"Not just yet." John took a few deep breaths, staring fixedly at the concrete between his feet. He could feel the enormous stranger looking down at him, and didn't much care. Pain tended to concentrate the attention marvelously. "Give me a minute."
"A'right... say, are yeh sure you're supposed t' be here? Pardon my askin', bu'... "
John shook his head and instantly regretted it. "I'm not," he said when the pain receded. "Supposed to be here, I mean. I'm afraid I'm lost-" He took another long breath. "You're some kind of giant, aren't you? Not medically- I mean by ancestry?"
The big man took half a step back. "Here, how'd yeh-"
With a sigh, John leaned his head against the divider. "I'm not blind," he said wearily, "just lost. I'm a wizard of sorts. My name's John Constantine."
There was a long silence. Then the man nodded. "Rubeus Hagrid."
John's lips curled into a faint smile; he looked up at the other man. "Pleased to meet you, Hagrid," he said. "Now, if you don't mind, my arse is going numb. Got somewhere else we can talk?"
Definitely in entirely different universe. Bugger.
Big hairy fellow's name is Rubeus Hagrid. Says he's Keeper of Keys and Grounds at a place called Hogwarts. Gave me very strange look when I said 'where's that?', asked if I was sure I was a wizard. Thought of demonstrating, but nerves still too curdled even to try. Told him I sodding well knew he was part giant just by looking, didn't I? King's Cross no place to explain things anyway. Hagrid agreed, said 'Leaky Cauldron' would be better choice.
Leaky Cauldron bit of a walk from King's Cross. Turned out to be v. small, grubby pub between WH Smiths & Tooting Records. Hagrid spent last bit of walk trying not to look like he was watching me. Turns out 'muggles' (local term for people who can't learn magic) don't even know it's there. Since I walked up to the door and asked 'are you coming in or not', Hagrid much relieved.
Wizards smoke if the smell here is anything to go by.
Hagrid bought drinks. Said they don't take muggle money here & showed me a few coins. Apparently magic common enough here to have separate bank issuing money for use in related transactions. Spent next half-hour explaining where I came from, how I got here, nature of magic at home, etc. Summonings & rituals don't work at all, not for anyone. At least, as far as Hagrid knows. Magic here involves waving wands- actual wands- & shouting in ridiculous Latin. In fact, vocabulary of magic-users overall sounds like it was made up by nine-year-olds. Probably the same kids who came up with this 'butterbeer' stuff-
Speaking of kids. 'Hogwarts' = entire public school full of kids too young to drive or drink being taught magic as if it were safe as maths. Headmaster is one Albus Dumbledore- Hagrid calls him greatest wizard alive, says he can figure out how to get me home. Slight problem: will either have to visit this school, or stay here and send message to Dumbledore via owl. As in bird.
Owl. I ask you.
Any road. Still got no money, no magic, no friends, but Hagrid can get me to Hogwarts to talk to this Dumbledore once he's finished his errands in London. Looks like I'm in for a train ride.
John glanced out the window at the countryside rolling by. It looked green and blurry with the occasional blodge of brown- in other words, exactly the same as any other bit of English countryside he'd ever seen from a train. That was something, at least.
He turned back to Hagrid. "So let me see if I've got this straight," he staid, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. "You've got enough people here with the capacity for magic that you've got an entire government just for them."
"And you've had a formal system of magic for at least a thousand years, since that's how long the school's been in existence."
"Well- there was magic an' wizardin' folk long before Hogwarts-"
"I know that. What I'm trying to get clear on is: in all that time, with all those people doing magic left, right, and center, no one has had any kind of contact with the powers of either Heaven or Hell?"
"Not that I know of," said Hagrid, "bu' I didn' do so well in History o' Magic."
"Even so, you wouldn't've forgotten something like that. Once that lot starts interfering in human affairs, there's no getting them out."
Hagrid considered this, then shook his head. "Nope. Don' remember ever hearin' of it. That kind o' talk's fer Muggles, not the likes of us."
John eyed the gamekeeper for a moment. "By 'the likes of us' you mean-"
"Wizardin' folk. Wha'd you think?"
"Well, it's not as if you see the people of Faerie talking about- here, what's so funny?"
For Hagrid had burst into a deep, riotous laugh that all but filled their compartment on its own. One great hand wiped at the tears that started to stream from his eyes. "Faerie. Did yeh really- yeh don't- gallopin' gargoyles!" He gasped for breath, visibly fighting down the laughter. "Why, y' might as well ask if I was part elf!"
John quirked an eyebrow. "Where I come from they're more of the same," he said mildly. Under other circumstances he might've been irritated, but he sensed that the giant meant no offense by his laughter.
With a visible effort, Hagrid pulled himself together. "Fairies," he explained, "don' get much bigger'n me fingers." That's still one bloody big fairy, John thought. "Look like people, really, 'cept fer the wings. They're 'armless, mostly- we bring 'em in for Christmas, they glow an' they'll sit pretty fer hours if y'ask nice-"
"Fairy lights," murmured John, thinking of the strings of bulbs that erupted on every house for miles at the dark time of year. Hagrid nodded.
"Yep, that's them. An' elves, well, they're house-servants mostly- yer old, old pureblood families, they have 'em sometimes."
"Pureblood? What, full human?"
"Nah- pure wizard blood. No Muggle kin anywhere." Hagrid's expression grew sour. "Bin causin' a lot o' trouble lately... anyways, elves're mebbe so tall-" He indicated a creature not much higher than John's midriff. "- an' no harm to no one, less'n they're mistreated or their master tells 'em ter do summat nasty."
"Master." John shook his head, thinking of Tim's troubles with Faerie. "Do they fix shoes, steal babies, that kind of thing?"
Hagrid's face grew thoughtful. "Well- babies, I dunno, bu' they'll fix shoes if their master asks 'em."
"Where I come from, things are… rather different." Titania would explode at the idea, John silently added. He glanced out the window again. "Sounds to me like you've got it easy, by comparison. No sign of Hell, nor Heaven, nor Faerie..."
"I dunno, John. There's plenty o' problems here, y' just ain't seen 'em yet."
"Oh?" He tore his gaze away from the window. "Such as?"
"Well... " Hagrid fidgeted. "There's a war on..."