Falling, plummeting, hurtling like a meteor toward Earth. Jennifer waited for her heart-pounding date with gravity to near its inevitable end, then spread her arms like a bird. Unseen wings unfurled, and catching an updraft on the way down, Jennifer rocketed back up, higher and higher, until she was soaring, gliding, sailing across the clouds once more.

So, she thought, this was what it felt like to fly. She used to wonder about that when she was little. Now that she possessed her mother’s magic, she could do so anytime she wished.

Her mother.

A sharp pain lanced through her at the thought, and for a moment she faltered, her invisible wings withering with grief.

An hour ago, Jennifer had gone to visit her mother, who lay in a hospital bed with her eyes closed, tubes and electrodes attached to her arms, face, and chest. The now emaciated woman had beaten cancer once; she hadn’t been so lucky the second time around.

An hour ago, Jennifer hadn’t cared the slightest bit about magic. Indeed, all she’d known of it was the little she’d gleaned from books and fairy tales when she was a girl, and besides, there were more important things to worry about, like the fact that this was probably the last time she would see her mother alive.

When the woman spasmed without warning, Jennifer rushed to her side and held her in her arms, a stunning reversal of roles that might have given her pause were she not so stricken with grief.

“I love you,” she said, knowing this was their final moment together.

Then, without warning, her mother’s eyes opened.

“Child,” the woman said, the whites of her eyes now cobalt black. Terrified, Jennifer pulled back. But her mother’s hand had clamped onto her own like a vice so that she couldn’t move. “Child, it is time you received your inheritance.”

An unseen power filled her, a wild storm of energy and momentum that flowed from her mother into herself. Like a thousand volts of electricity, it raced across her veins, her nerves, surged along the length of her spine, then up into her brain, where it lodged itself and set an irreversible transformation into motion.

“The power of your ancestors belongs to you now,” Jennifer heard her mother say, not with her voice but inside her head. “Use it well, and know that I am always with you.”

When her shock wore thin and Jennifer looked down again, she saw a lifeless body, eyes closed for the last time.

Grief consumed her, but also astonishment and wonder. A special gift had passed from mother to daughter, one Jennifer had known nothing about, and it promised to upend her entire world.

“I love you,” Jennifer said once again. She gazed down from her place among the clouds, then turned and headed for the sun.

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Harold’s Stolen Book

Sergey Nivens/

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 23, 2019

The night was cold and Harold curled into his jacket, mist rising from his lips like dragon’s breath. Where was Michelle? She was supposed to have met him an hour ago, before the sun set and the world grew dark. What if… No, he wouldn’t think about that. She was late, that was all.

A twig snapped, and Harold spun. Just a rabbit or a squirrel, he thought. Nothing to worry about. Then someone touched his shoulder. Harold spun again.

“Jesus, Michelle. Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Sorry,” she said, the street lights above setting fire to her face. “I would have said something, but I wasn’t sure if it was you. I didn’t know if you were— Never mind. You have the book?”

Harold reached into his jacket and produced a thin, leather-bound volume.

“Right here.”

The two of them stared at it in silence.

“It’s so…ordinary,” said Michelle.

“Looks can be deceiving.”

“Are you sure it’s the right one?”

Harold rolled his eyes. “No, I just broke into a dark wizard’s apartment on a hunch and bagged the first book I could find. Of course it’s the right one.”

“And you’re sure you weren’t followed?”

“I don’t think so. Not unless he was invisible, and no amount of magic can accomplish that, whatever J.K. Rowling might have to say about it.”

Michelle peeked over her shoulder, then nodded.

“Good. You did well. Can I hold it?”

He peered at her a moment, uncertain. He’d gone through hell to retrieve this book and he wasn’t sure he should let it go so easily. Then again, the two of them were more than partners. They were best friends. They’d grown up on the same street, attended the same schools. She’d even been his first kiss. If there was anyone in the world he trusted, it was her. And so, after a dusty, bone-weary sigh, he handed it over.

Michelle cradled the book in her arms as if it were a newborn child. She held it to her breast, closed her eyes, pulled her head back, and took a long, deep breath.

When she opened her eyes, Harold leaped back. Her pupils had expanded until the whites were black as marbles, shining in a face that was too gaunt, too pale to have ever been human. How could he not have seen her for what she was?

“You— You’re not— Where’s Michelle?”

“In the place where all humans who meddle in the business of others go. In a moment, you’ll join her.”

The creature flashed Harold a wicked grin, then summoned fire and hurled it in his direction.

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