I ran out of the house as fast as my legs could carry me. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t…
Not only was it real, but I had it. So did that make me a witch or a wizard or…?
Or nothing. Magic didn’t exist.
But it did, because I’d seen with my own two eyes.
I slowed and looked behind me to see if Jeanie or Nicole were coming after me. I wanted them to rush out and say it was a giant joke and Marie was in on it and “Ha-ha. Happy birthday, idiot.”
But as the fall night darkened around me, I heard no voices behind me. Nothing except the random car door slamming or the rumble of a truck passing on the highway nearby.
Perhaps I’d just imagined the whole thing. Maybe I’d had a stroke.
There was a small park in the distance, and I marched toward it, waiting to wake up from this strange dream. The lamplights snapped on, and I jumped nearly out of my skin, my heart thudding wildly. I stared at the orange glow for a moment, taking a few moments to convince myself that the streetlights were on a timer, and not turning on of their own volition.
They couldn’t have been turned on by magic, could they?
“I’m losing it,” I whispered, covering my face with my hands.
I crossed the grassy park, headed for the swing set. I plopped down on the swing and leaned against the chain. After a moment, I began to swing back and forth, allowing my mind to go blank for just a moment. I took a deep breath in and out and stared at the empty suburban streets.
“Yer a wizard, Lexie…” I whispered to myself.
My head bobbled up at the sound. An older man stood on the sidewalk. He wore casual khaki pants and a polo shirt, and his salt-and-pepper hair was neatly trimmed. He stood under one of the street lamps, which gave him an almost angelic sort of glow.
“W-what?” I said, realizing he was still talking to me.
“I asked if you were all right,” he said, stepping out of the spotlight and closer to the swing set. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Have you ever questioned everything you thought was real?” I asked, for lack of anything better to say.
“Once or twice,” he responded with a charming smile. “Mind if I join you?”
I shrugged, and he sat down on the other swing beside me. I might have thought it strange, a middle-aged man on a swing set, but I didn’t have a clear definition of weird anymore.
“Want to talk about it?” he asked.
“I doubt you would believe me,” I said. “I don’t believe me.”
“That’s a tough spot to be in. Let me guess: did they tell you about magic?”
I nearly fell out of the swing. “W-wait, you know? Does everybody know?”
He laughed, his few wrinkles deepening with smile lines. “No, of course not. Just those of us who have magic.”
“A-and how did you know I have it?”
“We can tell,” he said. “You’ll get there, I’m sure. But I only assumed—teenage girl, looking the way you did, magical…”
I slumped lower against the metal chains. “I wonder what else people are lying to me about…”
“You know about the Easter Bunny, right?”
I sat up, wide-eyed. A man-sized rabbit existed?
“He’s not real,” the man finished with an amused smile.
“Very funny,” I said, clutching my still-pounding heart. “After tonight, I’m pretty sure I’d believe anything is real.”
“Magic is real. The Easter Bunny is not. How about we start there?”
“I can’t wrap my head around it,” I said, looking up at the stars. I might’ve still been dreaming, but this guy seemed real enough. “I mean, is science really science or is it magic?”
“I’d go out on a limb and say your understanding of science is sound,” he said thoughtfully. “Magic tends to stay within magical communities. Not too much gets out into the nonmagical lesson books.”
“What about gravity?” I said, lifting my feet from the ground and letting the swing do the work. “Does magic make the earth go ’round?”
“No, the earth rotates due to leftover inertia from when the solar system was created,” he said without missing a beat.
My feet thudded back onto the sand and I stared at him. I’d never been out-nerded before.
“Magic is more like another sense,” he said, slowly swinging back and forth. “It’s like an extra hand you wield with your mind.”
“Oh.” I frowned. “I don’t know what that means.”
“Here.” He flicked his hand and, in a purple puff of smoke, a thick book appeared in his hand.
My eyes nearly fell out of my head for what felt like the hundredth time that night. “How did you do that? What is that?”
“This,” he offered the book to me, “is a primer. It was used in the late seventeenth century for young magicals. Very basic, of course, but the best tutorial I’ve found to introduce magic.”
The most purple book I’d ever seen, it was well-worn, the edges frayed and water damaged. The title, Spells and Sorcery, Volume 1, was embossed in a gold lettering that almost glowed.
It was one thing to see puffs of yellow smoke and sandwiches, but something about this book was alive, and calling to some ethereal feeling dancing in the pit of my stomach.
I shook my head. Probably indigestion. “This is…”
“I…” Even though I was still in shock, curiosity was starting to take hold. That strange calling grew more pronounced the longer I held the book in my lap. So, almost compelled, I opened the book to the front page and ran a finger along the pressed pages. “Where’d you get this?”
“I’m a collector of old books—specifically magical ones. I’m sort of a history buff.” He paused and nodded to it. “Why don’t you take that with you and give it a read?”
Something in the back of my mind reminded me of a book that housed an evil wizard. I glanced at the book and shook my head. “I can’t possibly take this. It’s…I mean, it’s so old. Probably worth a lot of money.”
“Books are meant to be read, not gathering dust on a shelf. What good is the knowledge in here if I can’t share it?”
I stammered like an idiot and fired off a few reasons why I couldn’t, but he placed his hand over mine.
“I insist. Think of it as an early birthday present.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “How did you know it was my birthday? I mean, it’s not my birthday. Tomorrow’s my birthday.”
“Magic comes at the beginning of one’s fifteenth year,” he said, standing. “I only assumed they wanted to tell you before you woke up with it…”
“Would’ve been nice if they’d told me sooner,” I said, running my fingertips down the front of the book again.
“I have a feeling that book will help,” he said, nodding once before turning to leave.
“Oh, I’m Lexie, by the way,” I called to him.
He paused and turned back around with a curious expression. “That’s an interesting name.”
I grimaced. Not the first time I’d heard that. “As in Alexis, but…blah.”
“I prefer Alexis myself,” he said with a smile. “I’m Gavon. Get home before it gets too dark, okay?”
I nodded and opened my mouth to agree but he was gone.
Just…disappeared in front of my eyes gone. In a puff of purple smoke.
What was it about people appearing and disappearing in smoke today?
I ran my hands over the cover of the book absent-mindedly. My head was starting to hurt from all the new information crammed into it. But I could never say no to a book, especially one which promised to give me the answers I so desperately needed.
When I opened the book, I could’ve sworn the air tingled around me. Or that could’ve just been my imagination. But I definitely wasn’t imagining the way the pages glowed, giving me just enough light to read the first lines.
SPELLS AND SORCERY
YOUNG MAGICAL’S BEST COMPANION
SPELLWORK, CASTING, CHARMING, and MAGICAL INCANTATION, in an easier way than any yet published;
INSTRUCTIONS TO CAST VARIETY OF SPELLS; the history of magic and magical persons;
THE LETTERS OF POTION FOR THE un-MAKERS; a short and easy method of cataloguing the magical ingredients; care and feeding for magical herbs; methods of de-scaling a dragon.
LIKEWISE THE PRACTICAL CHARMING METHODS made easy;
And also prudent advice to young magical users and potion-makers; the whole better adapted to the world of New Salem than any other book of the like kind.
“Here you are.”