Elijah Brown

Real Magic

        I wake up to a fairy fluttering past my face, its body and wings shining like opal.
        There’s a floating piece of obsidian at the edge of the grass away from me. Shaped like an oval, and only a little bit shorter than me too. Even in the distance, I can see my reflection in it. It’s kinda obscured though, and I don’t go any closer to it. I don’t need to see how much uglier I’ve gotten, and I don’t really care how I look. I can already feel the acne on my face and the hair growing past my ears. Mom had said I needed a haircut, but I doubt she’s worried about that now.
        I carve another tally mark into the tree, which makes thirty-four. It’s pretty hard to tell day from night here, but it feels like a day has passed, so I mark it anyways. When I went to sleep, the sky looked exactly like that one Van Gogh painting. The one with the night sky—down to the last detail—giant and over my head. Since I’ve woken up, all the colors in the sky have started to blend together.
        It’s not the only change. When I went to sleep, I was in the middle of a giant green field. Now it’s just a single island with a tree in the middle. Probably big enough to fit five people max.
        I check my right wrist, the letter on it still legible. G.
        I still don’t know where the fuck I am. I stopped trying to figure it out a while ago. It’s just not worth the energy anymore. But wherever I am, it really has no rules. No level. I just have to be ready for anything, and expect nothing.
        I get up from against the tree and stretch, hearing a loud crack sound come somewhere in my body. There’s now a path of floating bricks that wasn’t there before; incomplete, with small slivers of space between where they float. I can’t be sure how stable it is, but I walk towards it anyways. Not a lot of other options.
        I test the bricks with one foot, slowly putting my weight on it. It moves down a bit when I do, but not that much. I put my other foot on and find my footing, wishing there was something to hold onto. After giving it a few moments, it still doesn’t give way, so I stop tensing my body and get a move on. The fog’s rolling in again—black and red in color—and I’m not gonna let it fuck up my vision.
        I stay on the middle of path as I walk along it, my arms out to my sides, like I’m a little kid or something. It’s impossible for me to fall off the front of the path. Bricks in the back of it float over and create more space to walk in the front. The island with the tree becomes smaller and smaller in the distance. Hopefully, I won’t have to see it again.
        I pass by a large, severed head. The one with wrinkled skin and long hair that I’ve passed by a million times, and the one that never stops changing the looks on his face. I don’t think he can talk. He opens his mouth to say something, but nothing ever comes out.
        I leave him behind, letting the shiver I get from seeing him run down my back. The bricks are forming another shape now, looking like one of those twisty staircases. I slow myself, but continue walking. I was hoping I’d get to go longer without looking down, but now I am. The blues and yellows of the sky are all around me, except for the way bottom. Down there its just a big black nothing. With the risk of falling, I’m not sure which is worse. Not knowing what I would fall into, or not knowing if I would ever stop.
        I walk down the descending stairs as gingerly as possible. Feeling the sweat on my forehead, despite the fact it’s actually kinda cold. My nose is almost numb, to the point that I can’t even smell anything. Not that I care what anything in this hellhole smells like.
        The path stops forming ahead of me, and I stop with it. In the distance, there’s stuff that looks like actual civilization. A giant castle and smaller, old-timey-looking houses. Straight out of a history book or something. It’s too far though. These fucking bricks have stopped moving, and there’s nothing in sight that could get me over there. I kick into one of the brick steps hard, leaving a reddish-brown streak on one of my Chucks.
        Down below, I see something that looks walkable. Like it could possibly take me somewhere else. It’s a giant, white square. What it actually is, though, I can’t be sure. I won’t know looking at it, and I definitely won’t know for sure until I touch it in some way. I wait until it rises higher to meet me. Not worth taking a leap of faith onto something that may give way.
        When I test it with my foot, it’s solid. And almost . . . gelatinous? I leap onto it and leave the bricks behind. My feet sink further in once both are on it. Feels kinda like a water-bed, which makes it harder to walk on. I try to get closer to the center, my legs flailing in every direction trying to keep my footing.
        I fall on my face. But before I can get up, I can feel something pushing on my nose. Pushing up from under. I get up onto my hands and knees, and see that the thing coming from underneath looks like a nose. The nose keeps rising, and I’m shortly able to see a forehead, a mouth, and dents in the face where eye sockets would be. On each side its face, I can see hands and arms slowly rising and trying to push out. Whatever this thing is, human or non-human, it can’t break through the white surface, but it’s definitely trying.
        There are others. Around it, all along the wide square, I see more heads and arms trying to break through, all drenched in white. I can see the imprints of their teeth down to the last detail. They look like their screaming. One emerges from under where I stand, grabbing onto my leg and shrieking. It’s the only one that makes a noise, and the noise it makes is almost painful to hear. Like my ears could start bleeding at any second.
        I struggle free from its grip and stumble past the others, stepping on many faces along the way. Panic begins to set in, giving me tunnel vision. Until I suddenly don’t feel anything under my feet, and I feel myself start to fall. I can’t tell which way is up, and I flail my arms trying to grab onto something.
        That does nothing. I feel myself fall. The air whipping past my face and forcing my eye-lids open. I feel myself short of breath. My face frozen and my eyes wide. Thinking, this is it. Until I suddenly stop, plopping hard on something that feels like sand.
        I roll over and sit up, holding the side of my head and trying to spit a bunch of it out. Most of it stubbornly stays stuck on my lips and teeth, which tells me its definitely sand. From where I sit, I see that it’s much more. It’s a giant river of sand. Up ahead, there’s a giant hour-glass the size of skyscrapers back home. I can see the waterfall of sand coming out of it, and the river that it leads into. All this wasn’t here a literal second ago, but now it is.
        There’s something in front of that waterfall too. Something that’s a large, rectangle shape, with light coming out of it.
        And voices also.
        I spring up to immediately start running towards it. Not a single word needing to be said. My feet strike against the sand, and I run until it hurts. Even with these noodle arms, the adrena-5line pumping through them makes me feel strong. It’s fucking hard to run on this sand, but some-thing in me keeps going. Seeing the small bit of light ahead of me, my legs carry on. Even though my breaths are hot in my mouth, and my sides sting almost instantly. I can hear my heart-beat in my ears, drowning everything else out.
        The strip of light ahead becomes closer. And closer. And closer. Until suddenly its within reach. I stretch an arm out, croaking desperately to the light as I stumble into it.
        I put my head down and run through, stumbling into a wall. On the other side, the open-ing shuts behind me. I did it. I’m here. I’m back in the box. The tight, cramped, and completely dark box from way before. I rest my head against one of its walls and struggle to catch my breath. I can guess my armpit sweat has changed my shirt’s color. (And I can definitely feel it too.)
        I hear a voice come from outside, grand and triumphant.
        “Let’s bring him out, ladies and gentlemen!”
        I hear a hand grab onto the handle. The door swings open, and I’m nearly blinded by the barrage of bright light that pours in. I step out of the box, and I’m back on stage. As my eyes ad-just, I can hardly see the people sitting in the crowd, looking like shadows. I can still hear the crowd though. I hear their clapping, their cheers, their oohs, and their ahhs.
        The time’s projected on a building nearby us. It’s the same day, and only two minutes have passed.
        “He returns!” the triumphant voice says. I turn my head and see that it’s the same man as before. Black tux, black pants, white gloves, and a large top hat. The box right behind me is the same one I remember. Purple with a bunch of yellow question marks on it. “Ladies and gentle-men, let’s give a hand to our volunteer!”
        The clapping returns, and I’m too tired to smile or wave. Too tired to acknowledge the crowd in any way. I trudge over to the steps on my right, letting my arms sway loosely. I got some words for the guy performing, but I’m not gonna say them now.
        “I hate magic,” I say under my breath.
        I walk up to Row G and make my way back to Mom, Dad, and Ryan. People smile at me as I shimmy past, but I don’t smile back.
        I sit back down in my seat between Ryan and Mom, allowing myself to finally rest. Ryan looks at me and smiles, bouncing in his chair, and still proudly wearing his top hat and cape. I force a smile at him. I’m not trying to give him any shit right now. Not worth being an asshole.
        On my left, Mom nudges me, and I roll my eyes over to her.
        “So how was it? Letting him make you disappear?” She sounds too enthusiastic about this.
        “Fine, I guess.”
        Mom laughs, trying to keep her voice low. “Man, you are such a teenager. Everything’s always just good or fine—”
        “Lookin’ a little sweaty there too, champ,” Dad butts in, with an annoying grin.
        “—Are you sure this wasn’t something more than that? Maybe a little better than fine?”
        I take a deep breath, closing my eyes as I exhale.
        “Nah, just fine.”