The heap was in the usual order—dangling above chaos as if by the tree branch of vague categorization. My apprentices (or unpaid interns now, blast the “synergy seminar” that Mr. Lexius had given) had them in piles. The snowbank of envelopes was mostly (and mercifully) white, though a few red and green ones peeked out and promised unwelcome entertainment. The traditionalists comprised the second stack, with vellum and parchment and one papyrus scroll (where do they even get papyrus nowadays?).
And between those two piles was the cage, of course, with the pigeons and crows and owls and one unfortunate fish floating in a hastily-conjured bubble of water (who’d either got caught up in the excitement or whose master missed the point by a fair mark).
And the odd packages (an award-winning distinction in this crowd). A dwarf had sent a stone tablet through the postal service, tracking sticker taped over his first-millennium runic script. The blood-letter from the ghoul commune out in the Yukon was scrawled on what I fervently hoped (in futility, of course) was not human skin. The Feds had a nice little note attached to that one, asking-but-not-really-asking for a visit. And that pretentious technomage from L.A. had sent another one of his mystifying electron-shadow-things, all flashing lights and quarks and Judeo-Christian-God knows what.
I leaned back in my chair as the printing press clacked on, red lightning from the rod on the roof powering the arcane crystal that made it go. Magus Tyrne swears that an outlet and an extension cord would work more reliably, but I’ll trade my robes for a suit and my staff for a PDA (whatever that stands for) before I admit the superiority of any municipal power grid over my conjuration circle.
The last pile was the smallest (yet why was it so heavy?). A letter from Mr. Lexius about the libel lawsuit from the northwest coven. Three years now (I didn’t even write the damned editorial, I just printed it) and those neo-sanguinites were still looking for defamation damages. And then there was another statement about rent on the tower ten days past due (I don’t care what the architect says about the viability of long-term occupancy for a building with no support structures, bound together by my will. It has to be a tower). A letter from my familiar in Africa brought a pang (sure, he’s still saying it’s just a trial separation, but it’s been over a year now. He’s not coming back).
I considered burning this last pile to ash, but with a flick of my wrist sent it into my drawer instead. I looked at the letters, started to sweep them aside, paused at one, address crudely lettered (print, of course; no one teaches proper writing anymore). The envelope shredded with a thought revealing the letter inside. I paused and…
My dad says there is no magic but I saw your paper and you say there is and so what is magic?
(Magic is waking up on a spring morning after a storm and standing at the window while the frost turns to dew and ozone hangs above the mist wait! no magic is touching the hand of the person you love for the first time and feeling the pulse of their blood wait! not that magic is standing in the rain at the gravestone of your best friend and blaming yourself for not weeping no not that! magic is when you stand in absolute darkness in your own room and know despite what you know that you are not alone no it is when you stand at the top of the tower and look down and down but)
(Magic is why you jump from the tower, and magic is why you survive the fall.)
Paper rustled, cork popped, quill scratched.
Billy, I wrote, let me tell you about magic.
I scribbled, and did not notice when the lightning press stopped.
© 2014 by Alexander Plummer
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