“Nobody’s interested in magic anymore,” Nathan heard his grandfather say time and time again. As a child he didn’t understand – after all, every day the news ran stories of people with thrilling and sometimes dangerous powers brought about by the Awakening, of legendary creatures emerging from the wilderness. One couldn’t even go to the store without seeing several “enchanted” children; those the media had dubbed “elves” and “dwarves.” Magic was everywhere, and it was on the lips of everyone he saw. Recently a fellow student accidentally set fire to the science lab when he discovered a connection to the world’s magic energy, and there was no question in anyone’s mind that it had returned in full force, certainly not after that fateful October morning the world would come to remember as “Goblinization Day.”
Perhaps his grandfather, a man whose trembling fingers could hardly hold a teacup, was in denial, Nathan thought as he grew. With all the changes the world underwent, he spent all hours inside, drawing the curtains tight against the harsh reality outside. Nathan felt sorry for the man who had helped raise him, determined as he was to reject all the awakened world had to offer. He still preferred outdated, paper currency instead of credsticks, loved the old Ford in his driveway that, as long as Nathan could remember, never ran, and waved away all of the conveniences of the modern age with a gruff hand-wave. To the boy he felt it would be like someone in his grandfather’s time rejecting electricity or shunning hot food on principle alone. He had never even been on the Matrix.
Though the struggles that gripped the world in the first half of the 21st century, the home of Nathan’s grandfather was a static and unchanging time-capsule. Analog clocks, an aged stovetop, a turn-dial microwave, and old lights filled with incandescent bulbs greeted what few visitors he allowed inside. He watched old-time movies on disks, abhorring even the idea of trideo or, heaven forbid, simsense. He spent his evenings reading dusty paperback books in favor of the modern e-displays on which most everything in the 2040s was written. He was alone in the world of the past, grumbling that all the magic had left the world – Nathan could not comprehend his grandfather’s mindset, seeing nothing but magic for himself outside every door and every window.
Nathan visited his grandfather less and less frequently as the years drew on, and with a heavy sigh realized he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen the old man when the certified datacom reached him, announcing his passing. Nathan was the only family his grandfather had left, after the ravages of the VITAS plagues, and with unenthusiastic shoulders he entered the house his grandfather had built, resting amid a neighborhood that no longer resembled the quiet community in which it was once a part.
With resigned apathy Nathan began to box up those things which might still hold value; he had no interest in much of the antique belongings but knew some collectors would pay for special or unique trinkets from a lost age. With a near-continual frown he emptied the dusty closets, pulling coats and jackets whose styles would never come back, shoes that hadn’t been worn for decades, and boxes filled with photographs. “How mundane,” Nathan thought as he pulled bin after bin of the old man’s memories, some faded beyond recognition.
Underneath an old trench coat, curiously not hung with the rest of the aged jackets, was however a box that gave Nathan pause. A simple cedar box, perhaps once used to hold cigars, simply labeled “Magic.” It seemed to have no latch yet was secured against simple prying, he found, and was far lighter than he expected. It was real wood, and even smelled faintly, though Nathan wasn’t sure he had ever encountered real cedar before, let alone handled real wood – plastiboard was far more durable and cheaper, especially since the Native Americans had closed off what few forests remained on the continent.
He carried the box to the nearby bed, turning it over in his hands. Sitting heavily next to the piles of coats he had extracted from the deep closet, he peered closely at the simple yet exceeding craftsmanship of the box. After leaning in close, he began to notice a small seam; the lid was not meant to hinge, but rather to slide open.
A smile creeping across his lips, Nathan pulled the top free, half-expecting the box to be empty.