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Dec 03, 2021 2:43 PM
Quentin and Dahlia interview for graduate school- tyrians and storms in The Magicians
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Quentin Coldwater was not good at much. If you asked his elementary school teachers, they might say Quentin was good at reading. If you asked his mother, she might say that Quentin was good at breaking precious things. If you asked his therapist- well, Quentin didn't have one of those at the moment, and he wouldn't have thanked you for trying to talk to them anyway. It's hardly anyone else's business what his therapist thinks of him. They probably all pity and despise him in equal measure. The things that Quentin wasn't good at outnumbered the stars in the sky. He's not good at talking to people. He's not good at dressing himself. He's not good at turning his assignments in on time. He's not good at being the son his dad deserves.

If you asked Quentin what he was good at, he could scrounge up a few: he's good at remembering minute details that others forget, he's good at close-up magic, and he's good at pretending to be okay. Today is a day that will challenge all of those skills. Okay, admittedly, he doubts that Yale cares much about close-up magic, for all that his essay about it netted him this interview. No, today is about impressing an alumnus with facts and figures that he's memorized about their philosophy program, and not showing any signs that he's as crazy as he feels right now. He's Quentin Coldwater, which means he's a talented, ambitious, promising applicant, and not any of the other things that being Quentin Coldwater means.

"It's only the alumni interview. It's only Yale."

He's aiming for flippancy; it doesn't land.

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"Only the first step into the rest of our lives." She doesn't really try for flippancy at all. She needs him to be serious about this, anyway. Get his head together. "If you're going to freak out we should stop and do it right here. Then you'll have it out of your system and you'll get this shit done."

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“I’m not freaking out.”

He’s not.

“Do I seem like I’m freaking out, to you? That’s a little availability heuristic of you, Wicker, I thought we’d graduated past Psych 101. It’s just the one thing standing between me and grad school on the one hand, and me and abject poverty on the other.”

Both ways lies financial instability, obviously. A Bachelor’s in Comp Lit and a PhD in Philosophy won’t do him any favors on the job market. He probably shouldn’t say that during the interview.

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"Oh, no. You seem very calm. The most amount of calm a person can be. And, please, you're as far away to living in the gutter as I am. It's not in my mom's interest to have me hanging around with the lower class. She'll keep shelling out money for as long as she's in the public eye. And then some."

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“...thanks, Jules. I’m glad to know I can mooch of your mother’s boundless compassion for useless layabouts.”

Despite himself, he feels better. Jules always knows how to get him out of his head- half the time, because she can’t see why anyone would want to be in there. He’s long since given hope that they’ll be anything other than friends- or not, since he keeps thinking about it- but he’s glad they have this.

”They’ll probably take anyone halfway conscious for philosophy. I’m as good as in,” he asserts, trying to will it true. He doesn’t need another failure under his belt; he’s running out of notches.

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She straightens his jacket and brushes the hair out of his eyes. "That's the spirit. You'll run circles around them. You've been preparing for this since you could string a sentence together."

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He closes his eyes. The wind is biting, his shirt itches, but he is going to ace this interview.

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He takes a sip of his coffee, and knocks on the door to his future.

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After a respectful pause, the future does not answer. He knocks again, more tentatively.

"It's Quentin Coldwater, for the grad school interview?"

Calling out through a closed door doesn't much help. Maybe he went out to do something more fun than interview two nerds. Maybe he's having an orgy and can't come to the door. Maybe he's died of a sudden and rare condition and they'll have to call 9-1-1. Do you call 9-1-1 for things like that? Quentin isn't sure. He knows what to do in case of fire or flood, he memorized those emergency plans when he was 9. He's not sure about dead bodies.

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...Julia knocks herself, more firmly. They are not going to topple all her hard work. All the time and energy she spent to build Q up to be his best self. It's unacceptable.

Or she could just try the door. They had an appointment. She will not be left waiting.

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The door opens, creaking slightly, as the doors of houses of this type do. The house is lit with natural light, which on a day such as today means poorly lit, but the colors make the place warmer and cozier than the city outside.

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"Hello? Quentin- Quentin Coldwater, and Julia Wicker...we're supposed to be here for an interview..."

He steps inside. When Julia decides to push through boundaries, it's usually safe to follow in her wake. He looks around with mild curiosity; whoever invited them here today liked his essay, which, given that it was a rambling mess on close-up magic and fantasy literature of the mid-20th century, means that Quentin kind of wants to meet the guy.

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The house feels out of place. The air itself smells musty, of parchment and mothballs. The decor consists of the kinds of antiques that older Americans use to clutch onto the last gasps of a dying way of life; no sign of a radio, let alone any technology more modern. And of course, there is the clock.

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Quentin approaches the clock, all curiosity about his interviewer forgotten.

It's exactly how he always pictured it- and the two rams, that can't be a coincidence. How common could that kind of detail be? He's never studied clockmaking before, maybe it was all the rage after the American Revolution, but he's the one looking at it. His hand reaches out before he thinks better of it, an aborted gesture to pry it open in search of a secret door to Fillory.

"Jules, look at this..."

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Jules is a little busy looking for signs of life, actually. It doesn't look like this place is interview-capable. Especially not for Yale. But she does follow him to the clock.

"What is it?"

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"It's the clock, Jules, it's Diggory's clock! You can see the two rams, Ember and Umber up top, and look, the- it's frozen at the same time as in the books..."

He checks the side of the clock, looking for the etching that Charles and Fiona would have left. Just at the height of a young child...he bent down to see it, reading aloud the familiar words.

"None could say how life under these trees was different from in any other forest. Perhaps, the difference between here and there was that, in Fillory, the flowers held poetry within their petals, that the streams babbled sweet ballads, and the caverns echoed with forgotten legends. That green-and-gold land, filled with veins made rich with stories, the most precious material of all."

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"Well. I guess it makes sense that they're a huge nerd. They did like your essay." She takes a closer look at the clock... does it open? "Must be worth a fortune."

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"It wasn't about Fillory, I keep telling you that, it was really about how close-up magic lets us believe in the power of illusion long past when childhood innocence gave us that luxury, which is a critical part of retaining our faculties of reason in a world full of interconnected systems of-"

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His nonsensical rambling is interrupted as the clock does open, easily, under Julia's hands. There's a slight click. 

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- Julia stills and looks over at Q.

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"Oh my god. I- Jules..."

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He stops, and takes a deep breath, and he bows theatrically.

"Well, Jane, I think it's about time we got going, wouldn't you say?"

The affected British accent is very poorly done, hardly his best work, but Quentin is beyond caring. He steps into the clock.

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It should be a tight fit. Quentin is not the tallest person, but he should be much too tall, and the clock much too packed with the mechanisms it needs to run- but instead of any of that, there is a long hallway, with bright, natural light at the end of it.

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Julia follows in after him! She is not going to miss out on this. Not on her life. She grabs a hold of the back of his jacket, who knows how actual portals to different worlds work, she's not going to lose him now.

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It does cause him to stumble slightly, which causes the seed of doubt to take root in his mind.

He just started a new course of meds. This could be side-effects. Or maybe- she's still with him, she's following, so it could be bigger. Neurons misfiring, while he's dying, or a gas leak playing havoc on his already-fragile mental state-

He keeps walking. This is Fillory, not Columbia. This is something he might actually be capable of handling.

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As they reach the end of the hallway, the light grows brighter. It's brighter than anything they've ever seen, on Earth. Yet somehow, not too bright.

The air feels different, in Fillory. Every person that read the books remembers the descriptions of the place, with foliage so green, greener than anything found in nature, with golden light so bright that it nearly blinded the viewer, but somehow still soft, gentle, and forgiving. The air smells of flowers, but only just enough to evoke a feeling of comfort and pleasure, not enough to distract or overwhelm. The woods are familiar, comforting in their normalcy, yet so filled with an unearthly, uncanny palette and aroma that the mind races trying to catch up to reality.

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