Author : Samuel Stapleton

She shuts the door hurriedly behind her. Gently sets her pack on the floor.

“Raey, you were supposed to be back hours ago. Why wouldn’t you answer your comm?”

She freezes, too caught up in whatever she’d been doing to have remembered to craft a believable lie. She goes with the truth.

“I was in the Unreachable.” She says without turning around.

“How far down?” I ask.

“Furthest I’ve ever been. Couldn’t get a reading, no comms. Sorry.” She doesn’t sound sorry.

“And? What good that do you? What good does it do us?” I prod.

“I can prove it. Finally. Seymour, I can prove that magic isn’t real.” She says. I put my head into my hands.

“Christ almighty Raey – how many times…you promised me you were done with this!? Plenty of people can use magic nowadays. It’s as real as anything in the Rebuilding.”

“No just listen, actually just look.” I wait patiently as she unzips the bag. Slowly, she pulls out an object wrapped in cloth scraps. Bits of grey dirt and yellow sand fall to the floor.

“Magic isn’t real. It’s a lie.” She starts.

“IT IS REAL.” I yell.

“IT ISN’T. IT’S NOT MAGIC.” She screams back at me. There’s an awkward silence.

“Babe I love you, but we can’t get wrapped up in this again. You and I have seen what magic users can do. I know what you can do. You saved me. Healing wounds, reading minds, moving objects, interacting with tech.”

“Babe,” she retorts, somewhat mockingly, “I know what I can do. I’ve felt the fire in my veins like every magic user. All I’m saying is that there is a better explanation. You know why everyone believes it’s magic and that it’s unexplainable? Because that’s what we’re told. And no one has the time or energy to question the way things are because the world went to shit and has never come back.” I shake my head and sigh in frustration.

“No one but you.” I say quietly. “No one questions it but you.” Another silence. Less awkward this time.

“Fine.” I concede. “Show me.”

She smiles at me and I feel my chest crack in half. In one swift movement she unfurls her treasure and holds it out into the dim lighting of our makeshift bunker. It’s long. And thin. Partially reflective. Glass. A long tube perhaps. Hollow, but sealed at one end like…like a container. I wait for her earth-shattering explanation.

“Seymour, there was a whole room of them. Thousands, scattered everywhere. Cartons and cartons of them. I took pictures. The dates, the dates on the cartons Seymour look…” She trails off as I look at the images. Close-ups of blue boxes. Expiration dates of …nearly 90 years ago. My heart sinks.

“These are from before the Collapse?” I whisper.

“No Seymour, these are from the year of the Collapse.” She holds the broken vial up to me. On the surface of the glass I can barely read the tiny print:

Ilaria Pharmaceuticals

For Use in Humans Only – Trial Version

MAG1.K© Nanoes

She doubles over suddenly. And starts screaming. I’m down by her side in an instant, trying to figure out what’s wrong.

I hear her struggling to speak.

“Babe.” She chokes out, “…run.”

At the exact moment that her arm reaches out and closes around my neck with inhuman strength I recall the recent reports of magic users psychotically killing non-magic plebs.

“I love you Raey.” I gasp out.

Then like magic, my world goes black.

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