“Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory. Doctor Seuss.” Abraham Dolan read the back of the postcard. There was no name, just an address from Remus. In the upper corner, Woody from Toy Story was giving him a thumbs up. Abraham frowned.
Besides the postcard being a highly antiquated means of communication, it was illegal to receive anything from Remus. The Information Embargo between Remus and Romulus was set to expire next year. Receiving this now would be considered a high treason. But what would someone from Remus want to do with him, the newest Scatterdoyen at the Emerald Tablet? For a moment worry furrowed his brow. Had someone punctured through his charms and learned of his true research into Chiromancy? His green eyes wandered over to an accumulation of cracked book spines and yellowing scrolls in the corner of his study. He whispered “revelen” and a soft purple light unzipped the edges of a previously hidden shelf that slowly extended out of thin air. The red book was still sitting on a white plush pillow. Abraham dismissed the spell and sat down in his reading chair, postcard still in his hand.
His cousin Noel knew of his love of Doctor Seuss. When he would visit Noel at his family’s farm, they would spent the summer nights reading to each other around the large birch tree while fireflies flashed secret insect messages above their heads. Noel told him one night that he was going to leave. His eager eyes bulged from a face fast shedding the round cheeks and double chins of youth. A lock of black hair ran between his eyes and down to the tip of his nose. “Why stay here?” he had said that night and turned to look up at a small black blot of a cloud partially covering the full moon. “Life is out there.” He pointed at the glowing satellite right when the quartz-shine of a farther moon began its eclipse. Already he had possessed the self-reliance and obstinate attitude of a young adult. “One world isn’t enough for me. I want to step foot on all of them, to taste exotic foods, too see breathtaking alien visas, to sleep where no one ever dared to dream before.” Abraham had begged to let Noel come with him, but was met with a curt response that he had never forgotten: “I read your numbers. You are a nine-a scholar and visionary. You will achieve great things, but nobody will know your face.”
Abraham put down the postcard, uncorked a bottle of Grenache, and poured himself a healthy amount. He sipped unconsciously, still in reverie of that seemingly important evening. Noel never explained how he was going to escape. Abraham had gone to bed thinking in the morning maybe he and Noel would go down to the pond and count the tadpoles. But when he awoke, Noel was gone and he had never seen or heard from him again.
Noel would sign his name, Abraham thought. He would announce himself and brag about his explorations of planets of unknown names. Remus was too close for Noel. Then who could it be? There was an old spell, an aeromancy invocation that could trace a message back to its source. He went to his card cabinet and opened a drawer. Inside were a pile of agates, each one a circular ocean blue rimed with a crystal mountain range in the middle caused by trapped gas bubbles. Abraham picked up the largest one, wrapped it nine times in quicksilver thread, and stood by the window. To the west, Remus hung in the sky like a stormy green ornament. Abraham spoke the invocation while tracing a caduceus on top of the agate. After the seventh time, the thread glowed powerfully and the rock transformed into a tiny pigeon. Abraham handed it the postcard and instructed it to find its sender and to come back to him by the twelfth full moon.
Then he returned to his wine, mulling over the state of magic in the 25th century.
- * * *
Leah put down the runes she was translating and sighed at the clock. Her rehearsal for Twelfth Night was coming up. Outside her window, the late afternoon traffic reverberated the jubilation of the end of the work week. She was going to be late. Leah glowered at her homework assignment. There was never enough time to be a student and an actress and have a life. Often the pressures felt overwhelming and Leah’s anxiety got the better of her. On her twentieth birthday, she sat amid six or seven lavender burning candles, the ends of her curls wet against her eyes.
But not today, she thought as she stuffed the ancient runes of Homar into her backpack and left the library. A crowd of young men and women in red robes passed her, slapping each other’s backs and re-living their recent victory at the sports arena. By the black and white checkered insignia on the back of their robes, they must belong to the Crossword team. Romulus University had a strong Crossword, Debate, and Chess club–which recruited students from all the major cities and gave them handsome four-figured paychecks–but the poor Go team was really left to be desired. Leah’s best friend and roommate, Ruby played on the Romulan Chains and often complained about how they received as much money as one student ticket to see the Crossword team play for their sport’s entire annual budget. But, despite Ruby’s protestations, if Leah had more time, she would try out for the crosswords. She had a knack for figuring out puzzles.
Which drew her to the study of Ancient Runes in the first place. After all the centuries that have passed, there were still mysteries in life and Leah dreamed one day she would solve one of them, became renown. It wasn’t the attention she sought, but the powerful sense of accomplishment that must follow what she imagined would be a lifelong quest. Yet the immediate sensations of the theatre called to her. At times, Leah wished she had no more desires than to wake up each day.
Crossing the street, she got into one of the student trains bound to the northern section of Wolf City where the important art structures stood. It was crowded as usual with men, women, and children, tightly sandwiched together, struggling to maintain their footing, yet reading books or cooking articles all the same. Two of the red-robed champions were still in high spirits toward the back of the train, their robes standing out against the common gray and taupe of the working class. One of the boys wore a rugged goatee that didn’t quite give him the royal look he was going for. His eyes, however, were a piercing sapphire.
“Is that the Twelfth Night you are reading there?” an elderly lady with deep lines in her face asked, looking up at Leah.
“Yes, Madame, I’ve been cast as Viola. I have rehearsal in twenty minutes,” Leah frown a little and shook the cascade of curls from around her face, “If I don’t get booted for being late all the time.”
“Viola? Really? Well, congratulations to you,” the old lady was as sweet as possible, “When I was your age, I once tried my hand at acting. Even then, I always got the old crone parts. It seems to be my natural destiny…to be old.”
Leah laughed low under her breath. She said, “I apologize profusely. It’s just that you said ‘When I was your age’. Do all older people begin their sentences that way?”
“When I was your age, I asked the same question. Now, it just happens like the sun rising every morning.”
They both shared a mutual laugh.
As Leah started to leave the train to make rehearsal, she felt a rough hand grab her shoulder. It was the boy in the red robes. His sapphire eyes glared at Leah with a bemused disdain.
“Stay away from Homar. If you delve any deeper, I cannot guarantee your safety.”
Leah shrugged out of his grasp. “It’s none of your business what I do with my time and how did–”
“The Order of Lunar Diamonds are watching. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Then he pushed himself past her and disappeared into the artisanal crowd of Tottenhill, North Wolf City. The Silver Needle of the theatre stuck the inky-blue sky like a dagger stuck under a giant’s jaw.
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