Half a dozen people were standing in front of David’s store and holding signs. One read: “Magic is the Devil’s Work.” The protest had been going on for over an hour, and David was considering just closing for the day. Business had been slow anyway. Still, he wasn’t prepared to give in just yet.
Instead, he opened the door and sat down on the top step leading down to the sidewalk. When the protesters noticed him, they all stared at him until one man walked up the steps towards him.
“You need to shut down this . . . sinful place.”
David kept his voice even and mild. “What is the problem?”
“The occult. It’s Satanic. We don’t want Satan worshippers in our neighborhood.”
“I assure you, there’s no Satan worship going on here.”
“All magic comes from him.”
“It doesn’t. Indeed, most of it is just the harnessing and manipulation of natural energies that surround everything.”
David ignored the exclamation. “All I’m doing is helping people. No more, no less. I don’t force anyone to come here, and I don’t try to influence anyone’s beliefs. Helping people is good, isn’t it?”
“That’s how Satan gets in. He fools you into thinking that he’s helping you. Before you know it, you’re lost in his clutches. The Book of Acts tells us to burn books about magic. Exodus tells us to kill sorcerers.”
David sighed. “You aren’t listening.” Standing back up, he brushed off the seat of his pants. “Well, good luck with your protest. I’ll be inside if you want to talk.” He walked back into his store.
He had hoped they could genuinely talk and reach some sort of common understanding, but they weren’t interested. They had their beliefs, and nothing he said would change their minds. He knew people like this existed, but he hadn’t encountered them before now. Back home, everyone trusted and respected Samuel. Their traditions went back hundreds of years. But here, magic was either dismissed as fake or condemned as evil.
From the back room, he heard a crash. He rushed to the front of the store to find his window smashed and a burning pool of liquid on the floor. It smelled of gasoline. A simple spell extinguished the fire. Looking outside, most of the protesters were gone. Only one person, a young woman, stood out front.
David stepped outside again. “Did you do this?” He kept anger out of his voice.
She looked scared as she shook her head.
“Did you see who did?”
Nodding, she remained silent.
“Are you okay? I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to know what happened.”
Rather than responding, she ran off like she had been freed from some binding. He thought about running after her, but he didn’t want to leave the store unattended.
What were his options? He could shut down the store. What was the point of staying in business if he wasn’t wanted? But he knew there were people he had helped, and likely there would be more such people in the future. He was loathe to give up.
If he did keep the shop running, how should he deal with the protesters? Especially whoever tried to burn it down? All the truly dangerous stuff was in the vault in the basement, so they were unlikely to cause too much harm. But he wasn’t going to be able to do anyone any good if this sort of thing kept happening.
For now, he could strengthen the fire resistance of the building and its contents. That should buy him time to figure out his next step. Helping people was going to take more work than he realized.