Good morning! Today I’m going to share another microburst short story that I wrote recently. I am contemplating expanding this short story into a novel-length story. If you think I should, let me know when you’re done reading it!
“Now Lanie,” my grandma said, “I need you to remember that magic isn’t real. Promise me you’ll remember, no matter what happens.” I watched as she winked at me from behind her glasses.
“I promise,” I said, then she tucked me into bed and left the room. A little while later, I snuck out of the bedroom and downstairs, where my grandmother was reading loudly from a large brown tattered book. On the kitchen counter, I watched bottles of liquids float just above the countertop, dumping themselves into a large pot on the stove.
I knew it.
What I hadn’t understood that night was why my grandmother didn’t want me to know it was real. I had kept my promise since then, of course. I hadn’t talked about magic or tried to do anything magical since that night in her kitchen when I was thirteen. That was the night my grandmother disappeared. I had watched her make a bubbling concoction on the stove, and then she had poured the liquid into small vials. She loaded them into what could only be described as an old treasure chest, keeping out one vial, then locking the chest and swallowing the key. Afterward, she drank the vial and disappeared.
I never told anyone what I had seen that night. I ran back to my bed and cried for hours. When I woke up, nobody was home. Mom and dad came to get me; the police searched for grandma, but she was gone, and they asked me a bunch of questions. As they searched the house, not one person touched the chest. Even my parents ignored it. My grandmother’s house was locked up, and nobody ever went back.
Today is my twenty-first birthday, and I am about to enter the house once more.
Today, I accidentally set my hair on fire, falling out of bed. Strange things tend to happen around me. A few weeks ago, I dreamed I was eating pancakes. When I woke up, my kitchen was making stacks of pancakes without anyone in the room.
I have always had magic, but I don’t know how to use it. Grandma was supposed to teach me, but then the revolts happened. During the revolts, witches and warlocks were murdered in the name of the law for being different. My parents murdered them under the protection of police badges.
What would they do to me if they knew?
I’ve always been too afraid to find out, keeping my abilities hidden and not using them, hoping they would go away. Instead, they keep getting stronger.
Today, I was determined to get answers.
Standing outside the dilapidated house, I wonder if it will look the same. Will the chest still be sitting on the table, untouched and unseen?
I take a deep breath, slide the key into the lock, look around me one final time, and push the heavy door open. Stepping inside, I am pummeled by the smell of dried lavender and dust. I wandered around the house, breathing in the stale air and remembering my childhood.
On the table sits the heavy old wooden chest. I inspect it, trying to figure out why nobody else could see it. On the surface, it looks harmless, but when I place my hands on it, the chest starts to glow, slowly warming to my touch and emanating light from the metal panels holding the structure together.
A low humming accompanies the light, slowly increasing in volume until the entire room is rumbling. Then, with a loud POP, the chest unlocks itself. I slowly lift the lid and gasp.
Inside, there are four vials. I think back to the last time I was here. I watched my grandmother load dozens of vials into the chest, yet only four sit on the bottom. There is a note, which I read.
Drink one. I’m waiting for you.
I don’t think about it. I put the vial to my lips and swallow. My stomach churns immediately, and the world starts to shimmer. I close my eyes to stop the spinning.
When I open my eyes, I’m in a tall glass chamber in the center of a large room filled with people. All around me, curious eyes inspect me. I panic and scream, but nobody lets me out. There isn’t a door anyway.
An older woman steps forward and stands in front of me. I recognize my grandmother immediately. She watches me, waiting for something. She holds out her hand to the glass. I reach out, but the glass does not move. She raises her eyebrow, and I get the feeling I have to move the glass, but I’m not sure how. I look around, watching the crowd eye me with growing suspicion.
This is a test, and I am failing it. I panic.
I stop moving and close my eyes. Maybe I’m dreaming. If I were dreaming, I could move the glass.
I focus on breathing slowly, calming myself. MOVE! I think, focusing on the cylinder. I hear a gasp, then clapping. I open my eyes, and my grandmother’s smile fills my vision. I surge forward and wrap my arms around her.
“Lanie! I knew you could do it!” she whispers.
“Where am I?” I ask, pulling away from her embrace.
“This is the outer realm.” She says, gesturing around us. “Everyone here came the same way. We are all the magic that is left in the world.”
I look back at the space where the cylinder has reappeared behind me. “What if I couldn’t move the glass?” I ask her.
“You would return to the human world very sick and confused.”
“Don’t worry about that now.”
“What happens next?” I ask.
Grandma takes my hand and pulls me into the parting crowd. “I believe it’s time for me to train you, my girl.”
What did you think of Lanie and her world of forbidden magic? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Until Next Time,
Cathy Marie Bown
Don’t forget to grab your copy of A Covid Christmas Story, out now. Find it here!