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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Psychology · #2312395
Making choices at a painful moment
Why can't magic choose my path? I stand at a crossroads and the choices are hard ones despite my gifts. A millennium of living has taught me that a broad green avenue can lead to ruins and wilderness, while a stony path might open into sunlit uplands. But which is which, here and now? I need wisdom but the skies are grey and my mind and vision are fenced in by fog.

I think back down dusty paths, back to the pains of a marriage failing and love fading over centuries. Beauty became ugliness, my beloved Gretchen became 'that' woman, the one who loves to torture me with silence and then roast me with words of fire, depending on her mood. All the time the distance grew like an abyss lit by hellfire from deep below. I watched her party on the other side of the clifftops with strangers she did not introduce me to. My every word sounded like a shout to a person who might not be listening. Then finally one day she was gone from the other side of the abyss and there was no following her. It was over and all my years of faithfulness were as if for nothing. I felt like the hero who fought to the end of the losing battle. Or perhaps the soldier who was on the wrong side of a monumental war to end all wars.

People are laughing at me back down those roads. I do not wish to return, the pain is still too near, and the shock still threatens to overwhelm me. No, I must go forward but now I have reached a crossroads and the choice is unclear.

I am considering my options. The fog clears to one side and I look down the road on my right. It appears to be a suburban street, with houses set back from the road, some gated with expensive cars in the garage or parked on spacious driveways. The people are well dressed and smile at each other, though I suspect that these smiles are not altogether genuine and there are snarls also behind the masks they wear.

The fog clears on the other side also. The other road looks more run down but it leads upwards and over more difficult ground. White snow-capped mountains are rising in the distance and a thunderstorm is raging over one of the peaks. I watch in fascination as lightning bolts and thunder flash and sound from this distant place. My heart leaps with excitement and I feel young again, remembering runs along clifftops and storms at sea on a sailing boat reaching for the land surfing waves the size of houses on its way to the shore.

The suburban street reminds me of my recent life, of a mask of normalcy hiding secret powers. Did the masks smother our excitement at life? A witch and wizard drawn together by the flashes and bangs of hocus pocus and yet both also craving the anonymity of big posh houses with the high walls of smiles and success, hiding powers at first and boredom at last. Did our marriage die with that suppression of our true natures? We could have changed the world with our powers but we chose to hide from it in 9 to 5 jobs and evenings at dinner parties or watching Netflix.

The more I look down the suburban road the more I see my past. The more I see a fake world that is broken wide open now and which no longer holds the attraction that it once did. I turn to the stony way. But am I now too old to climb these mountains? Are my powers faded and my confidence lessened by my recent defeat? Can I still conjure fire from my fingertips and pierce the hearts of men with a single glance to reveal all their secrets? What mission can drive me now that I have lived so long? Will I meander from one random act of power to the next or will my life find a new purpose in the challenge of the hills? I doubt myself, wondering at the grey hairs in my beard the scars on my hands, and the ache I feel in my back at the prospect of a long climb.

When did I lose sight of God's larger plan for my life? When did my magic disappear into party tricks that pretended smoke and mirrors and achieved nothing except polite laughter from adults who wrongly thought they knew better and screams of delight from children who did not?

We sold our house when we split and so I carry a bag of gold coins like I would have done three centuries before. Except this time I also have certificates of verification photocopied onto my mobile phone tucked deep in the pocket of my multicolored robe. Now I look like a gay pride parade, but when I wove this robe it was just an expression of the color and beauty of what my magic could do. Cars hoot me as they pass me standing by the crossroads. Some yell abuse and some praise through rolled-down windows but none understand my rainbow is different and older. Its meaning is something that I also am only just beginning to remember again.

I finger the pendant around my neck. It was given to me by my father, also a wizard, a thousand years before. He lived his life fighting the dark orders of wizards, who use their powers for nefarious or selfish purposes. Were we hiding from both sides when Gretchen and I took our marriage into hiding in the suburbs? I hardly remember now, it was a while ago, but it is clear that I stopped fighting evil when I married it. My father also helped people, who were victimized by the dark wizards or attempting acts of goodness. He taught me to be good and I was for many years. But then I met Gretchen, a witch from a family of dark wizards and she was beautiful and she made me laugh and I fell madly in love with her. My father disapproved and my mother just cried when she heard the news. The marriage was happy, passionate, and fiery and then we moved to the suburbs hiding from the good and the bad alike and just wanting to be alone and normal but it killed us both and now we are apart again.

So is this my chance to rejoin the light, to start fighting for the good guys once again? To wander the world blessing people with magical acts of kindness, enabling the righteous and destroying those who serve the dark. Can I do that when I married one of those? I feel like a hypocrite, a man soiled by past connections. But I did not feel dirty when I met her, I believed that I could save her with my love and I felt complete in a way that I never had before. I was a fool perhaps but an honest one intent on goodness even in the worst decision of my life. I should have paid closer attention to the people around her, the company that she kept and the devastation that followed in their wake. In those last years, I saw what she truly was, an angry soul intent on destruction and only interested in herself. I found the limits of my love and realized that only God could save my Gretchen. I stepped back and she read it as a giving up and left me forever. Could I have been wiser, God only knows, but I tried my best and did it all for love.

She spat fire at me all through the marriage and I was often afraid for my very life but I had always thought my magic could save her, could change the color of her fire from red to white. Perhaps my arrogance was my undoing, some people simply cannot be saved, at least not by me. This wizard has learned the limits of his power and he has learned to pray. I think that makes me a better man, but time will tell. My confidence is broken and it is a humbler wizard that steps forward into the future now.

The fog has cleared completely and I notice a third way, unseen before, The road leads on straight ahead, it goes on for miles and there is a diversity of things along it. It is neither what I am leaving behind nor a distant memory of the challenges of childhood, it is a new path to a new place that I cannot quantify. The lights turn green and I cross the footway to begin my journey. I feel sparks on my fingers and fire in my soul as my eyes open to a brand new day. As I step onto the road the sun comes out from behind a cloud and my path is lit.


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