Do You Believe In Magic: Part One
A little Lupe fell down a well
What happened next, I dare not tell
- Tony Tipperton, Tales for Tiny Tykes
The road was long. Too long, Elwin thought. Other kids at school walked one, maybe two miles to school. Most of the kids had parents who carried them or else hired carts. Maybe one or two of them had to ford a stream. But none of them had to walk along this long, long, long road. Miles and miles, who knew how many miles. Elwin certainly didn’t. The kids at school said it was ten at least, since he started walking at 5 in the morning and everyone knew you couldn’t walk more than four miles in an hour and you were just lazy if you walked less than two. Elwin didn’t know. But ten sounded about right.
Elwin had worn his backpack for the first hour on the trudge back home from school, but soon his shoulders started hurting and he took to dragging it behind him in the dust. He only kept a few pencils and a sheaf of papers in there anyway, so there wasn’t much to lose if a strap broke. His important things, he kept in a special drawer at home or in the depths of his desk at school. The backpack, despite not being filled with much of note, was heavy in Elwin’s little Lupe hand. Heavy with memories, he thought ruefully. Heavy with pain.
It’s not that Elwin was a particularly morose child. He saw life through glasses that, if not rose-colored, were at least lightly pink. He left his little home every morning the same way: smiling to himself at a crazy dream he had had, munching on the soft apple his mother had left on the counter (if it was Wednesday), and thinking that today might finally be the day he convinced someone to read one of his stories. The thought put a whistle in his thoughts every morning. It was hope. Always hope.
But this tendency towards optimism couldn’t stop the reality of his situation, which was simply this: he was a writer in a school full of students who couldn’t care less. To begin with, he was already the outcast, walking ten miles to school in shoes that didn’t fit and carrying a bag that looked as though it could barely carry the air inside. Add to that an introverted disposition, a perpetually ink-stained thumb, and a binder full of creative musings, and you had a recipe for a relatively miserable eight hours.
It was that the end of one of these eight hour shifts that Elwin now found himself stalking slowly home from. The day had been relatively standard, all things considered. Classes had been rote, lunch had been minimal, and stories had been written, but there had been…an incident.
An incident. Elwin kicked a pebble at the lackluster choice of words. More like a catastrophe.
He had dared today. Hope had finally matured for long enough and broken through to bravery. Before, he had contented himself with mild attempts at coercing classmates into reading his literary works, but today…he had asked Sandy Reynolds. Beautiful, brainy Sandy Reynolds. Sandy Reynolds with the Cylara backpack and Jeran notebook cover. Sandy Reynolds who had once asked the geography teacher why we had run out of worlds to explore. Sandy Reynolds who maybe, just maybe, would be interested in a fascinating little story about Lord Darigan’s softer side.
“What in Fyora’s name is this? Do you want me to give you feedback on this? Alternate history? Everyone knows Darigan is evil, come on. And who is this…Garholmar Thunderhooves? Did you just make up someone to place in his court to show off how creative and original you are? I guess I can edit for clarity if you…if you really want. But…honestly, you should probably not do this. Like, ever again.”
Elwin shut his eyes against the hot tears he felt welling up inside at the memory. That had been his best work yet! Garholmar Thunderhooves was a Uni with a touching backstory and compelling character development, Darigan was a sympathetic character, and Sandy was…adventurous. She liked Cylara, for Fyora’s sake! But she hadn’t liked the story…the story he had worked so hard on. The story that –
The story that has no basis in reality, no research, no credible characters… As this thought crossed Elwin’s mind, he felt his fingers reflexively loosening their grip on the backpack. No dynamic plot… They weakened even more. No emotional connection. Only the tips held on to the frayed strap. No adventure. His fingers finally slipped off the strap, and the backpack fell lightly to the ground. Elwin didn’t even look back at his threadbare bag, filled with nothing but a few pencils and a sheaf of papers, covered with the story of Lord Darigan and his faithful advisor, Garholmar Thunderhooves. Nothing important. Nothing worth turning around for.
When Elwin got home just as the sun was setting over the lonely forest near his house, he found exactly what he expected he would find. The lights off and a note pinned to the door. Mother was gone, it seemed, which usually meant she was gone for several days. A week at most. It was strange that she wouldn’t have said something in the morning as she murmured goodbye to him from her bed, but it might well have been a surprise to her as well. Either way, the note was there to be read.
I had to run off to Neopia Central for a little bit. You know how it is. There’s food in the cupboard, I think, and enough apples to last you at school until I get back. They say it’s not going to be more than three days this time, so I should be back by Saturday. I might spend an extra day in the city just because I haven’t gotten to in so long! I know you’ll be okay by yourself, my big Ellie.
I love you,
With each word, Elwin’s stomach felt sicker and sicker. The first line had been insult enough; Ellie was a girl’s name, and everyone knew it. Mother knew it most of all, but she called him by it anyway. He suspected that she had always wanted a girl but got him instead. Of course, there was no proof of that other than that horrible nickname.
There was a girl at school named Ellie, even! A little shrimp of a Buzz named Ellie Rigby who somehow got wind of the fact that Mother called him by that terrible, terrible slur and made sure the entire school, students and teachers alike, knew that Elwin’s real name was Ellie. He’d never been able to live it down, and the name struck a chord of horror in his soul every time it was mentioned.
But that was just the beginning of the letter. As it ran on, Elwin felt alternate pangs of fear and lulls of apathy. Mother had gone off for stretches like this before, but at least in those instances, he was sure that there was food in the house. Now, there was merely the thought of food in the house. And maybe enough apples for three or four lunches. Elwin was no stranger to hunger, but still…he never liked it when it happened.
“Well…” Elwin couldn’t finish the thought. He didn’t know what to say. Whatever it was, it surely wasn’t something he was going to say out loud and give credit to the playground rumors that he really was crazy. Instead, he just left the note on the door, wrenched the door open, and stalked inside. Other than the lack of Mother, the house was exactly as he had left it 14 hours before. Dark and silent.
He rummaged through the cabinets in the kitchen and found that there was indeed a few morsels of food to be had. If he rationed the half-loaf of bread, the three slices of cheese, and the indeterminate leg of meat, he might actually get a meal each day. Disgusted, he shut the doors without touching any of it.
The light was fading fast outside, but Elwin had something else that he wanted to do before he turned in for the night. He only hoped that Mother had not forgotten this last, sacred ritual. Straining his eyes against the impending darkness, Elwin scanned the countertop for a small pile he knew would be there. Or hoped. Or dared.
And then, he saw it, glinting faintly in the last half-rays of the sun shining through the kitchen window. Three golden neopoints sat stacked on top of a scrap of paper with a short note written on it.
Your wishes. Love, Mom
At least all rosiness wasn’t gone from today’s world. Elwin daintily lifted the top point from the stack and ran outside, silently praying to Fyora that he’d have enough light left to find the well. It wasn’t a long walk to the well, and the path was fairly well-marked, but there were no lights along the route, and he didn’t want to bumble along in the dark if he didn’t have to. He had enough to deal with as it was.
As luck would have it, the sun peeked over the tips of the trees just long enough for him to find the ancient wishing well a few minutes from his house. It had been built who knows how long ago by some long-lost pet for reasons known only to the sands of time.
That’s a good start, Elwin thought as the features of the well came into focus. Sands of time is a good line. Deserts, oases, ancient civilizations…Mysteries…Magic? He’d never written about magic before. He’d always preferred stories of real derring-do as opposed to getting out of a tough situation through easy magic. Even if the stories ended badly, he had always thought that was a better way to go than giving up control and letting magic take the lead. He’d never had any use for magic in his own life, so why should the stories? But still…the well…
He came upon it, then, the wishing well that had been a staple of his daily life for as long as he could remember. He no longer knew whether he had been the one to ask for a neopoint to throw in or if Mother had simply given it to him. He thought that it likely no longer mattered, since the wishes were so ingrained in him. None of them had ever come true, of course. The new bike, the new backpack, the stopped bullying, all of it. He knew they would never come true, he knew it years ago. And yet every day, he came out to the well and threw in a coin and wished for a wish he knew would never come. But Elwin did it because it was all he knew how to do. Just like the ten mile walk. Just like the writing. Just like tucking Mother in every night.
“I wish,” he started gravely. He paused, thinking for something new. “I wish for adventure. I wish for a life away from here. A life like the ones I read about.” His voice started cracking. “I wish for life on the Cyodrake’s Gaze, on the Space Station, in Geraptiku. I wish for a life where I can have fun and meet my heroes and never have to walk ten forsaken miles to school every day! I wish for adventure! I wish for the Lost Desert and for Neovia! I wish for the Obelisk War and fighting pirates and the Sway and I wish for something else!” It all came tumbling out, the whole day’s agony in a torrent of words that stopped being a wish and became a plea to something higher than himself in a split second. He wished and he wished and he wished. He wished for Gorix, for Roxton, for Kanrik and Hanso and even Scarblade. He wished for so long and so loudly that he started going hoarse. But it all ended with one desire. “…I wish to be gone from here.” It was mumbled so lowly that only the neopoint clutched in Elwin’s hand could have heard it. But it was said.
He looked at the point in his hand for just a second longer before flicking it into the deep stone pit. He heard it tinkle off the stones as it made its way ever downward. He didn’t, however, hear the tell-tale CLINK that meant it had landed amongst the rest of the pile lying in wait at the bottom! On any other day, Elwin would have shrugged his shoulders and given it up as a lost wish, but tonight was different. He had to know that it landed down there. To this end, he leaned over and tried to peer down. But the light by now was so dim that he could barely see anything. He stuck his head even further in the well, his shoulders now brushing the stone rim of the well.
What am I even doing? There’s no possible way I could see my coin! I must be more tired than I thought… Elwin shook his head and prepared to draw his shoulders out of the well, when he suddenly felt his feet slip underneath him. His legs gave way next and he tried to lean backwards away from the pit, but it was too late. With his head and shoulders already over the edge, the sudden loss of balance sent Elwin plunging headlong into the well, down, down into the wishes and away from the setting sun of reality.
To be continued…