“There have been few things in my life which have had a more genial effect on my mind than the possession of a piece of land.”
— Harriet Martineau
“This house is an enchanted little home. As you can see, the wallpaper is different in every room and changes colors every hour.”
The couple gave little impressed oohs and nodded.
I suppressed a sigh. This was taking forever. It was already mid-afternoon, and I still had one more house to show them. I had been rather hoping to get home early tonight. I checked my watch — cell phones were useless in my line of work — and mentally cursed.
“We saw a house that changed color based on your mood, but we thought that was a little invasive, right, dear?” the man said, cooing at his wife. She gave a bland smile.
My own smile tightened, and I tried to keep the exasperation out of my voice as I said, “Yes, mood walls. Quite popular in the sixties. The Creator of this house” — I gestured vaguely — “was going for a more aesthetic theme. Purely ornamental, not functional. This is why the electronic appliances work.”
“Funny how Magic interferes with such things,” the woman said, moving away from her husband to enter the kitchen. “I hated not having a proper fridge in our last place.”
“Oh, you’ve lived in a Magical home before, then?” I asked, intrigued in spite of my rapidly draining patience.
“Only for a month,” the man said, poking the wallpaper, which was currently a vivid cerulean blue. “Rental vacation place. More of a test run, really, to see if we were ready to actually buy an enchanted house.”
“It was quite a lovely cottage, but the kitchen was entirely magicked. Everything cooked and cleaned itself, which was nice, but we couldn’t have a fridge or microwave or anything like that. Just fruit and vegetables. All fresh, all the time,” the woman said, coming back into the main room, shaking her head.
“The Creator was a health nut,” the man added in a low whisper. He wagged a finger around his temple in a lazy circle.
“Most Creators tend to be very connected to nature,” I said carefully. I despised these type of people, all Tech-obsessed and modern, yet still wanting to live an old-fashioned, Magical home. The man nearly cried when I told him he had to leave his phone in the office. But they were being quite generous with their budget, and my commission would be exponential.
“Yes, well,” the man said, clearly not wanting to get into this discussion. “What else is there?”
“Of course. Right this way.” Back in professional mode, I led them through the rest of the house.
It was a typical enchanted home in my rather experienced opinion. Three bed, two bath, all comfortable and roomy without being excessive. The color-changing walls were a nice touch, as they were appropriately themed given their respective rooms. The kitchen had a palette of bright pastels, and the bedroom was a muted collection of reds, pinks, and browns. The stairs couldn’t convert into an escalator — again, the Creator’s disinclination toward functionality — but they too changed color with each step. It was overall a very colorful house, which was about the extent of its Magic. The kitchen was modernized with Tech appliances, with an electric stove and oven, a dishwasher, a fridge (!), and microwave. The plumbing and gas lines were all up to code, the air conditioner — a true rarity for these types of houses — worked, though unnecessary during this season, as the windows let in a welcoming breeze from the nearby ocean.
It was a place especially chosen with this particular couple in mind, as it would allow them to use whatever Tech they wanted and still be able to claim the elite status of living in a Magic home. I was fairly confident they would at least heavily consider the place, especially given the high levels of Magic other enchanted houses tended to have. Some were entirely magicked and automated, where the residents never had to lift a finger to do anything, while others were customized for hobbies or professions. A Magic painter house, for instance, would be filled with canvas walls and faucets full of paint, and a writer’s cottage would have ever-changing book quotes on the walls and a never-ending library. Enchanted houses were intended for the creative and imaginative, which is why business and industrial types focused more on Tech and lived in the cities and suburbs rather than the rural country. Math and science people drifted somewhere in the middle, having Architects Create houses like this one, a blend of Magic and Tech.
“It’s perfect!” the woman exclaimed when the tour was over, and we were standing in the backyard. The ocean was a soft roar of blue fuzz in the distance, but the air was pleasantly salty and fresh.
“It is rather nice,” the man begrudged. He was looking at the list of specs I had given them earlier. “The Tech isn’t state of the art, though.”
“It’s an older home,” I said, more cheerful now that we were nearly finished. And I did love touring Magic houses, even if I’d seen them many times before; the level of creativity and love involved was always a joy. “The Tech and Magic were most likely installed at the same time.”
“Hmph. A complete overhaul would have to be done to update it,” he said, more to himself than me. “Can’t be done, obviously. I don’t know. Maybe another place would be better . . . ”
I smiled and said nothing. I knew this game. He was trying to get me to haggle with him, express enough disinterest to get me to lower the price. Buyers always forgot it wasn’t up to me, but the owner. And I didn’t need the commission that badly to stoop to such measures. I was fairly good at my job, and this house was a hot item; if not them today, then someone else tomorrow. But I knew I had them.
“Oh, but Max, it’s wonderful. So colorful and look at the view!” the woman implored, gesturing at the far-off beach.
“Pretty colors won’t help us get any work done.”
The woman threw up her hands in exasperation. It seemed to be a practiced movement, and I sensed they had had this argument before. “You said it was fine! That’s why we chose this area! It’s close enough to the city for a decent commute, and this house doesn’t have too much Magic that we can’t use our Tech!”
“I know, I know,” Max said, looking uncomfortably from me to his wife. “It’s just . . . I dunno, I wish it was fancier.”
She sighed. “You know that would be either all-Tech or all-Magic. Fancy is inclusive to one or the other and in any case, it’s subjective.”
“Don’t use big lawyer words at me, Winnie,” he scolded, but a small smile played on his lips. “I’m sorry, you’re right, this place is pretty great.”
She accepted the victory by flashing him a grin and then turned toward me. “Are there any other places like this?”
“Not really,” I said honestly. “Tech and Magic houses are complicated to Create and usually have to compromise in some way. This house is pretty low-Magic, hence the level of Tech. There’s one place going on market that’s Blended, but it’s low-Tech, probably similar to your vacation home. Automated stairs, rotating walls, and the like.”
That last bit was a lie; I had sold that place last week, so it wasn’t available, but they didn’t know that, and I figured they wouldn’t be interested.
“Ugh, no thanks. If we have to live in a Magic home, then I’m glad changing colors are the extent of it,” Max said.
“Some of your clients might enjoy it,” Winnie said slyly.
“Yeah, and drive them even further off the deep end.” He rolled his eyes. I remembered him mentioning in our earlier introduction that he was a psychiatrist.
A lawyer and a psychiatrist. A true power couple.
I could practically see the dollar signs dancing around their heads.
“Just to be certain, I think we should look at the other house. On the hill,” Winnie said. She turned to me. “We still have time, right?”
“That’s the all-Magic one,” Max interjected before I could say anything. “I thought we agreed on Blended only.”
“C’mon, just a look. You know you want to. It’s the one that looks like a haunted house. Think how fantastic it’d be around Halloween!”
A slow smile crept across his features. “That does sound awesome.”
I gazed at them with renewed interest. They hadn’t struck me as Magic-enthusiasts in any way, let alone for one of the most Magical holidays of the year.
“I know it won’t work because we can’t have Tech, but we’re already here. Let’s just check it out.”
“It’s only twenty minutes away,” I said helpfully. It was getting late, but there was still enough light for a decent viewing. And I had given up on going home early; a sale was a sale.
Max shrugged, grinning. “All right, let’s go.”
I wrote this almost exactly two years ago, February 2014. It was based off of this prompt. I never finished it, so I’m hoping that by publishing it here, I’ll finally be inspired to complete the harrowing tale . . .