Zhu Xaoshin and The Man of Clay

Contributor: Jack N. Waddell

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The little man made of clay stared lifelessly from his box toward Zhu Xaoshin.

``Ambulatus!’’ The word, once so strange, rolled easily from his tongue. Xaoshin waved his wand just so and gave it a flick at the end. His fingers buzzed and his wand flared with magic, motes of light and a cyan beam which struck the clay homunculus.

The little clay man wiggled his toes and then his fingers. He sat up and looked Xaoshin in the eyes.

Xaoshin inspected the clay figure carefully as it stood. Did its leg just shudder as it stepped forward? Were its movements balanced on the right side and its left? The form itself was perfect, of course. The homunculus would not have come to him otherwise.

``Dance,’’ Xaoshin said, and the little clay man danced to music Xaoshin could not hear. ``Jump,’’ Xaoshin said, and the little man leaped as though he had won a soccer match. ``Run,’’ Xoashin said, and the clay man jogged laps around his box.

Xaoshin nodded to himself and reached for a piece of twine from the stack of pre-cut strands that hung from his workstation. The homunculus struggled in his grasp as Xaoshin tied a loop around the little man’s legs. He placed the little clay man back in his box and shut the hinged lid. Beside him, a red light flashed three times.

The track beneath the box slid along, delivering the little man to the next magician in the line. A new box arrived. In it, a little clay man stared lifelessly upward, and Xaoshin stared back.

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