The Axedental Antecendent
by Jill Corddry
You know that saying, when you have a big decision to make, that an axe is hanging over you? I used to say it all the time. But you know what? That feeling is nothing like having a literal axe hanging over you.
Let me back up a little bit––or a lotta bit––while I can.
See, about five years ago, something happened. No one ever fessed up to the hows or the whys. Or the whos. Names were bandied about. Blame was thrown at anyone who reeked of involvement. But in the end, it was done.
Actual real magic. Not advanced science and technology that we simply couldn’t understand. The best minds got right on it and proclaimed it, definitively, NOT SCIENCE.
Sounds pretty amazing, right? And maybe at first it was. But ultimately there was nothing amazing about it. Think of all the scariest bits of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings mashed up with all the scariest bits of EVERY NIGHTMARE YOU’VE EVER HAD. And that was the G-rated stuff.
It was all there. In our world.
The fissure––most only saw it on TV––glowed an inviting golden yellow, a sunny split through the very air. Until something unnatural pushed from their world into ours. Then it spun poison greens and angry oranges. And like watermelon seeds, it spat them out into the Badlands of South Dakota.
Didn’t seem like any of them were happy to be here at first. Most of the creatures were in rough shape. Bleeding wounds and otherworldly injuries that no doctor here could even explain. And they weren’t talking much, not in any way we could understand.
A refugee camp of sorts was set up. Nothing fancy, but it wasn’t like anyone here even knew what they were, let alone how to offer up help.
More fissures opened up around the globe.
More creatures poured into our dimension. It seemed any point where the ley lines (long ago dismissed as so not being real) intersected held the possibility for entry. They were reasonably content to stay where they landed. For the most part. To heal. To rest. To recover and plan. They said as much to our world leaders.
And maybe they would’ve gone home if we’d just let them be for a while. We’ll never know.
Ireland was the only country that seemed to not only know what all of these creatures were and how to help them, but to welcomed the interlopers with open arms.
It was the first country to fall. The first to fully give itself over the magic. The fae were home, and Ireland was beside itself with joy.
Here in the good ole suspicious, God-fearing US of A, a wall was put up around the fissure. Not that some of the creatures hadn’t already left the camp, but it was an effort to control the ones still there. The majority demanded it, “they” claimed. Or something like that. And really, I don’t know what good “they” thought it would do. Everyone in Ireland tried to tell them. Tried to warn them. Just don’t.
But if you do, use iron. Use brass. Use crystals. Seriously, just go online and do a Google search. It’s all there for you.
But no. Concrete and bricks was apparently going to be good enough to hold a couple thousand magical creatures. Many with wings. You know, that they could fly with. These creatures had MAGIC! Nor were they dumb. And they didn’t like the wall. Still, though, they waited until it was done, until the last gates were installed.
And they blew the wall to hell. Or something. It was there one second and gone the next.
That’s when things got bad. Or worse, really
When the wall fell, the army fired on them. Bullets and such things. Tanks and bomber planes. All of it had been waiting in the wings. Most of the creatures were immune to the effects of human weapons. Some died though. And they’d already been through enough in their world. And they’d had enough of humankind by the time we stopped dropping bombs on them.
Their retaliation was immediate. We lacked any ability to fight them off. With mere words or a look they could turn a person into stone, into a frog. Into nothing.
Still, we gave it our best. It was actually surprising how long we fought and lived. Weeks went by. Most hid where they could, hopeful it would stop before they ran out of food and water. Or that the world would just end and it would all be over.
Entire cities were destroyed, returned to nature. Whim by whim, the faeries had their way with the country. The grasses grew across the plains in great pink and orange swaths one minute, and then another faerie would fly by and turn it to brambles and oily ponds of malice.
We assumed it was happening all over the world, but it wasn’t like the internet existed any more. No more communicating with anyone who couldn’t hear you shout. And if you shouted, you’d best be ready to fight, because they didn’t care if you thought magic was awesome. They were going to make our world into theirs.
Then the witches appeared. Not otherworldly witches. OUR witches.
It was a whole new world after that. Somehow a few hundred witches (and warlocks, because holy crap, they kept reminding everyone about that) held off and defeated thousands of faeries and gnomes and just all of them. They forced them back through the fissures, sealing them once they were certain every single creature was gone.
Slowly, we learned this happened all across the globe. Witches (and warlocks) from around the world joined forces, using mirrors and magic to communicate and plan a coordinated attack.
Our world was ours again.
Except it wasn’t. Now it belonged to the witches.
Magic was back in our world, and they weren’t going quietly.
At first we were all grateful, right? Like, thanks for saving our lives and all. But they wouldn’t return control over to the dregs of the governments, going so far as threatening to open the fissures again.
So that was an adjustment.
Other than the magic and the witches, life mostly got back to some kind of normal with a year. All those extra trees replacing the big cities cleaned out the air. And with over two billion humans wiped off the Earth, resources weren’t stretched quite as thin. It was all very sad, of course, but we got used to the new normal.
Honestly, lots of things were better under the witches.
But all good things must come to an end.
Some guys decided they’d had enough of all the free energy, clean air, and plentiful food, I guess, and tried to overthrow the head witches. Didn’t go so well for those guys. But it started an anti-witch/anti-magic movement. Mostly in the more isolated areas at first.
Then they outlawed magic.
It was dumb. Like, you might as well outlaw sunshine. Whether you like it or not, those fissures and those creatures brought the magic to the world. And the witches knew how to use it. But they, like, were happy to teach anyone who showed the ability.
Still, the movement continued to spread. Anyone using magic was jailed. Sometimes there was a trial. Mostly they were killed. Neighbors accused neighbors. No one trusted anyone. Even looking at someone wrong could get you arrested.
(Can you say history repeating itself? But this time the magic and witches were real! No one doing the jailing and killing liked being reminded of this…)
America was divided: magic and anti-mag. The mighty Mississippi separated the Believers from the Truthers (as they dubbed themselves). The golden west, home to more natural magical springs, refused to yield to the darkening threat of the east. A barrier was constructed, one of magical energy, that kept the pollution on their side of the river. Of course, “they” claimed the west kept other things like rain and sun from them as well.
Other countries began to take sides, following one lead or the other.
It was either a bad time or a great time to be a witch.
All anyone could seem to agree on was that all the troubles––for the whole world––started when that first fissure opened fifteen years ago.
Then someone went and found a notebook among some rubble in an old college laboratory.
A notebook with my name on it: Dr. K.P. Zahner.
My notebook with its formulas and equations dealing with multi-dimensional universes and quantum theory.
And how to open a doorway or bridge to another world.
Along with a few sketches of faeries and monsters.
No one believes that it was just a theory, existing only on paper.
No one believes that I thought all magic was a load of hooey.
No one believes that my daughter added the drawings because my notebooks were boring.
No one cares that my daughter died trying to hug a brownie.
No one believes that I didn’t actually open the fissures.
They’ve found their scapegoat.
So now there’s a literal axe hanging over my head.
At least it brought both sides together, uniting them under one joint enemy.
And if these are my last words, I can only hope the world can now begin the long process of healing itself. With, or without, magic. That’s up to you all now.
I know that I believe in it. All of it.
At least for the next few seconds…
Image by Mark Strobl