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Lynette Mejía writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror prose and poetry from the middle of a deep, dark forest in the wilds of southern Louisiana. Her work has been nominated for the Rhysling Award and the Million Writers Award. You can find her online at lynettemejia.com.
The magician wobbled a little on his bar stool.
"Ask me what I did for a living," he said. Somewhere deep inside of him a small voice was shouting to shut up, that he sounded like a fool, but he ignored it. His plane was likely delayed until morning, anyhow.
"I already know what you are," she answered. Her pale skin seemed to shimmer a little in the murky atmosphere of the bar. He liked the way the dim light played on her features, rendering half of her in shadow.
"And what is that?" His words were slurred. Was this his fourth whiskey, or his fifth?
"You're a magician," she said, as if it were obvious.
"Was," he corrected, finishing off his drink. Then, curiosity piqued, he asked, "How did you know?"
She smiled. "It's your hands," she said. "Long fingers, very deft. Good bones. You have a lot of potential."
He snorted. "I've been in the business for more years than you've been alive, Miss. I doubt there's much you could teach me."
"Fifty years of third-rate casino tricks and backyard birthday parties," she said. "Is that really the magic you dreamed of as a boy?"
"Of course not," he answered, hating her for saying it aloud, "but it paid the bills. I had a family to feed, something I'm sure you know nothing about." He motioned to the bartender, then pointed to his empty glass. "But that's all over now."
"Then why are you here?" she asked.
He snorted. "Because I've got a flight to catch, same as you. Same as everyone. We've all got some place else we want to be."
"Yes," she said. "But why are you here--in between?"
"In between what?"
She looked at him as if he were a child to whom she'd had to explain some simple concept for the thousandth time. "Why do you think airports are built where they are?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Cheap real estate, I imagine. The chance for politicians to make a little extra graft on the side."
"No," she said, impatiently, "because they're hubs, William, liminal spaces, and not only for your kind. There are other ways to travel besides great big ridiculous metal eggs, you know."
He blinked. "I don't, actually," he said.
She turned on her barstool to face him. "Yes, you do," she said. "You're a magician."
Suddenly he felt ridiculous, and overwhelmingly tired. What had possessed him to sit down next to this woman and start up a conversation? He'd come in just wanting to drink while he waited for his connection. Anything to keep from sitting there in those hard plastic seats along the concourse, watching tearful goodbyes and joyous reunions playing over and over again like a bad movie on an endless loop.
"I said I was a magician," he answered. "Now I'm just old. If it wasn't for that storm out there, I'd be on a plane right now headed to Tucson to live with my daughter, at least until she gets tired of me and sends me to an old folks' home. I was a magician, and I was a good one, goddamnit, but that was then and this is now. And right now there's nothing left of me that matters anymore."
She swiveled back around and was quiet. For a few moments the two of them stared at the bottles arranged on shelves behind the bar. In the spaces between them he saw her image ripple like a mirage, the silvered glass reflecting her luminescent skin and glittering, diamond-like eyes. For the first time he noticed that the noise of conversation and the clinking of glasses surrounding them had dwindled until it was barely audible, as if someone had turned down the volume knob on the whole world. He worried that he might be drunker than he thought, or, worse yet, passed out somewhere and dreaming.
"Why are you here?" he asked, finally.
Her voice reminded him of the gentle rustle of wind through the trees.
"I'm on a recruiting mission, after a fashion," she said.
His heart began to ache inside his chest. He couldn't believe it and yet he longed to, as a distant memory arose of his mother's voice before she'd died. It was the day she'd first discovered him searching for a rabbit inside an old mangy top hat he'd found at the back of her closet. They'd been fairy stories, then, about her family's connection to the Tuatha--stories meant to encourage a small boy's passion. How he'd dreamed of magic and all its possibilities; of changeling children spirited away to a land where no one grew sick and no one ever died. He'd waited for her, day after day, year after year, until the magic had become mere trickery and his memories of her face had grown faint and distant, like a dream of someone else's childhood.
"But I'm old," he said, his voice full of longing and regret. "I'm already old." He bowed his head as hot tears threatened to spill onto his cheeks.
"In Tír na Nóg, no one is old," she said, taking his hand. "And you were wrong, William Murphy. Much of you still matters. Much indeed."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 2nd, 2015

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