For my 10th birthday party, I jumped on a moon bounce, ate chocolate cake, pinned the tail on the donkey, and spoke with my grandfather, who has been dead since I was two.
I told the story for years, to my parents, to my friends, to anyone who would listen really. Everyone swept it under the rug like a stray toenail that flew away from the clippers searching for the sweet freedom of the wide world.
I hadn’t thought about it in years, it wasn’t until I was home for Christmas watching old home videos that the memory crept back in like a cold chill through the cracks of a loose-fitting door.
The words “Kyle’s 10th B-day” were written in sharpie on the CD-Rom that laid dormant in the attic for years waiting for someone to crave a hint of nostalgia strong enough to find the old DVD player and insert it into the port. Today was such a day. Now 30 years old, Kyle was half invested in the video and half immersed in his phone telling his girlfriend how much he missed her and how much he couldn’t wait to...
Kyle looked up from his phone and jumped. On the screen was a man dressed as a children’s magician staring directly into the screen. Too directly, the man smiled and waved as if he was watching Kyle sitting there on the couch. The magician then turned towards a 10-year-old version of Kyle and pulled out a small silver pocket watch, slowly swinging the chain back and forth in front of his eyes. The crowd gasped as Kyle swayed and was caught by his uncle as he fell into a trance.
Instantly, the memory returned, and Kyle was sitting by a fireplace across from his grandfather. The old man pulled a small silver matchbox out of his pocket, struck a match on the side of the box, and with practiced diligence lowered the flame into his tobacco pipe before shaking out the light from the match. Kyle could smell the tobacco and feel the radiant heat from the flames in the fireplace. The ancient wool sweater that was forever glued to the old man’s skin hung loosely around his arms. “Listen George, I need you to take care of a few things before I’m Gone.” At the tender age of dead, the old man called Kyle “George” for reasons unknown. The social norms of the world did not apply to him and the quiet comfort of indifference was pervasive in his demeanor. “Your father would kill me if he knew about this, but years ago I invested what should have been his college tuition in gold coins I purchased from a merchant in Dubai when I was stationed on the USS Missouri. Two months later I met your grandmother on a beach in Hawaii when we were docked in Pearl Harbor and the rest is history.. sweet voracious history” Kyle waited. Snapping out of his trance, his grandfather straightened himself in his armchair and began again, but before he could continue, the room began to sway, and a blur of images from the birthday party began to be mixed with the dim lighting of the room in which he shared a fire with his grandfather. Before being removed from the state of reverie completely, his grandfather tossed him the silver matchbox and said, “Remember George, your grandmother and I were a match made in heaven.”
Kyle reached into his jacket pocket and removed the small silver matchbox. Even now sitting alone at the age of 30 it gave him some form of comfort to think that the soul of the old man lived on between the small wooden sticks. He opened it once, then closed it to the satisfying *clink he had listened to so many times before when he was feeling anxious. He paused. “A match made in heaven” He looked down at the small silver matchbox and wondered how the word choice had gone unnoticed for so many years. He dumped the matches onto the cedar chest in front of him and furiously began searching through them. Nothing, nothing, nothing, and then…… clear as day, a match with numbers and letters carved meticulously into the side 38˚ 50’02.54” N 106˚ 38’41.39” W. Coordinates.
Every 10 years the academy selects a candidate to send into society with the privileges of a fully fletched warlock. To keep the power, they must convince one, just one individual, of the true existence of the magic bestowed upon them. Oddly enough, some logical explanation is always found, the foil to the prestige that was never truly an act to begin with. There are limitations on the challenge, and the rules as follows:
- The candidate must act in an entertainment capacity only
- No harm must befall any volunteer
- Death may not be cheated
Simple though they were, the rules made it strangely difficult to convince an individual of the true existence of magic. This case was no different. Chester had chosen the guise of a children’s magician, dressed as such in a cheesy top hat, white gloves, and a suit with tails, he strolled into the birthday venue of the backyard on Ash Street. He started by searching the minds and histories of the partygoers present, searching for some piece of information that yearned to be released from a distant relative long deceased or a dead pet longing to roam the earth again.
Lexi had lost her cat Milo while moving houses, he could bring him back for a day and let him run around the party. Too obvious. Ted was going to die unexpectedly in a drunk driving accident when he was in highschool, Chester could tell him about it in hopes that it might prevent it from happening. As if reading his thoughts, a small man in a suit appeared on his left shoulder visible to only himself. The small man cleared his throat then spoke in a deep clear voice, “In accordance with Subsection 3403.2.3 of the Uniform Magic Code, the time or method of death may not be altered, terms and conditions apply, see store for details, not valid in Kentucky, Vermont, or Arizona, the UMC is a registered trademark of magic stuff incorporated.” The small man in a suit disappeared in a puff of pink smoke. Chester frowned, guess that was out of the question too.
He spotted Kyle. There was a sense of unrest in his lineage. Something that greatly wanted to be said but the chance was never presented. Gold. A hidden treasure and a secret that an old man kept hidden from everyone. This was perfect. He ushered the crowd over to the small makeshift stage he had created by standing on a picnic table in the center of the party. Chester started small, pulling doves and parrots and all kinds of bird-brained creatures from his sleeves. He even threw in an extinct species of dodo from Madagascar in a ditch attempt to make his task of making someone believe easy. All to no avail. He had to send the boy into the next realm, if only for a brief amount of time. A camera was turned on, and the magician waved and stared directly into the lens before removing the small silver pocket watch.
Kyle ran to his computer and typed the coordinates into Google Earth, the globe on the screen zoomed out and around moving towards the coordinates entered. The red pin dropped in the center of Brentwood National Forest approximately 20 miles south of his house. He printed out multiple views of the map, and carefully circled the red pin on each one. He grabbed a backpack, a headlamp, a shovel from the garage, a water bottle, and a wool blanket. The closest lot was 5 miles south of the pin at the start of a trail called Quaking Aspen Gulch. Kyle gathered his things and drove to the lot. The sun sat low on the horizon, and not one car shared the space with him. A metal sign swung loosely on a pair of chains in the wind that read simply “trail”. Kyle put on his headlamp, adjusted the straps on his pack, and began to walk. There was a chill in the air, and the wind through the trees caused them to quiver in a fashion true to their names. Kyle tightened the jacket he wore around himself and trudged on into the night. He broke a sweat and began to wonder if he was being naïve for following a trail that may or may not exist. He checked the maps he had printed; the red pin was at the end of a small stream that crossed the trail behind a large dark stone formation. He continued until he heard the faint gurgle of water. Small though it was, a stream weaved its way across the trail and downhill. He followed it until he reached a small well beyond which he could just discern the dark stones in the moonlight. He circled the well, ascended the small formation and stared down into an empty field where the ominous red pin on his map led. Emptiness. He descended to the other side of the formation and walked into the field to find a small hill of what appeared to be black sand.
It looked out of place in the clearing and had to hold some significance. He placed his pack on the floor, lowered the shovel from his shoulders upon which he had been carrying it, and began to dig. One foot, three feet, five feet deep he dug into the pile, yet on it continued down. A perfect cylinder of black sand in a field in the middle of the woods. “Beautiful” Kyle thought to himself. He began feeling foolish for following the vision of a child and decided to camp for the night and return home in the morning. He found a small crag in the rocks, spread out the wool blanket, and used his backpack as a pillow.
Kyle rose and stretched his limbs to an unexpected sight. Surrounding the clearing were the Aspen trees he had passed in the night. In the light of morning they were unrecognizable. Glistening golden leaves fluttered at the kiss of each gust of wind. A golden clearing. He walked up to the pile of black sand from the night before and noticed something in the light. The black mound was formed of small shimmering pellets. He picked up a handful and inspected them closely. He pulled the matchbox from the inside pocket of his jacket and placed the small sample of black sand on a rock nearby. The satisfying clink of the matchbox gave him confidence, and he smiled as he dropped the lit match onto rock. A small cloud of smoke danced up from the gunpowder he had just ignited.
Mouth agape, Kyle stared at the pile he had so carelessly destroyed the night before. As best he could, he placed the stray gunpowder back into a coherent pile above the rest of the black cylinder. He then made a small winding path of black sand leading around the rock formation back to the well. He removed his boots and shirt and waded into the pool until he was submerged up to his waist before pouring the matches onto the ground at the edge of the water. He found the match with the coordinates carved onto the side and kissed it before lighting the small winding powder trail. Kyle then hastily submerged himself completely in the pool as if his life depended on it, as it very well may. He dove as far as his ears would allow and waited. The water around him shook as if a giant had shaken the tank of a small guppy. He let the turbulent waves rock him back and forth and held his breath for as long as he could before returning to the surface. Small bits of rubble were scattered around the well. Not bothering to gather his things, Kyle scrambled over the rock formation and stared in awe at what lay far below him. In a crater the depth of a car, at the bottom of the rubble sat a small steel case, barely visible in the debris.
Carefully, he scurried into the crater and lifted the small case from the rubble. Engraved on top of the box, as if mocking the discovery, were the words “Hello George”. In a crater at the end of a forgotten trail in a forest that nobody cared to visit stood a man with more wealth in his hands than the Mega Millions jackpot.
Chester wiped furiously at the mustard stain in his tie. After failing the challenge, he had been forced to get a day job, working as a desk clerk at a bank. Deciding the tie was lost, he looked back up towards the spreadsheet open on his computer and paused. Something was different. He looked at his hands and snapped his fingers. The pile of IRS paperwork on his desk burst into flames. Chester smiled to himself. Kyle believed.