The creature had been running. The hot desert sands burned
through his coarse leather shoes. The suggestion of a city in the
distance seemed so real. Knowing he would not survive disappointment,
the beast slowed his pace, keeping his eyes fixed on
the heated sands. Time now separated him from disaster, but she
might follow. Tangled in paranoia, he found a second wind and
bolted forward… toward a dream… toward hope.
Magic looked down at his swollen feet as he sat on his bedside.
Dim light entered the dusty interior of his once-grand bedroom
from a gap in the heavy curtain. A small stream of bright sun
escaped the drapery and pierced the gloom. It was just another
day, just another chance. Yet today might be special. Today might
be Magic’s last chance. At least he could dream. Magic had always
believed in the power of dreams.
The young man could not remember how long it had been
since he last considered his appearance. Staggering to rise, he
studied his reflection in the dust-covered antique mirror. The man
who stared back had become thin. His beautiful blond hair had
become long, tangled, thin, and neglected, matted from months
of agitated sleep. There were gray circles under dark-blue eyes,
and his face wore the stubble of a light beard. A grimace crossed
Magic’s lips at the thought of how he had changed. In days gone
by, he had been called pretty enough to be a girl. The man who
grimaced in his reflection appeared to suffer from some internal
stress. What demons danced in this mirror man’s nightmares,
Magic denied knowing.
Turning away, almost sickened by his own reflection, he chased
negative thoughts from his mind. It was a new day. He rose,
passed the large oaken desk, and headed to the shower. Maybe
the water would clear his mind. Perhaps he could wash away the
changes that had taken deep root in his life.
The computer in the darkened corner of his room made a slight
sound, indicating a demand for his attention. For the moment, it
could wait. For the moment, he would allow the torrent of warm
water to pour over him and let him forget everything.
Life had a way of letting the mind drift only so long. The
phone was ringing, the computer signaling, the doorbell chiming,
all as he exited his shower and hurriedly dressed. He knew the
day was not going to be pleasant. Magic stumbled, numbly steeling
himself with the endurance he must find within to survive.
He must live now—one minute at a time.
Finally dressed, he swung open the door, ignoring both phone
and computer. There on the steps was Oliver Scheen, known to
him as simply Scheen, smiling in warm greeting.
“Come on in, I’m almost ready,” Magic called over his shoulder
as he turned away to locate his special shoes.
Scheen entered,his smile fading as he watched Magic stumble. Knowing how his
friend struggled with illness and medication was the most difficult
thing Scheen had ever faced. He had seen his own troubles,
was no stranger to them, but this was Magic. This was different.
He was taking Magic to the hospital again today.
Scheen scooped up the shoes in one large hand, turned to
scooped up Magic in his free arm, then carried them both to the
chair. The large man knelt and put Magic’s shoes on him, grinning
up into his face.
“Just thought I’d hurry things along a bit.”
“I know you just can’t wait to get back to the game.” Magic
smiled the words. “I know how you feel about it, but…let’s do
this. We can go back to Salandra as soon as it’s over.”
Yes, Scheen thought, keeping his desires silent. He could
not stifle his urgent need to return to a world where Magic was
whole, to return to the game, to see his friend well. He lived for
it. Scheen put out his muscular arm to steady Magic as they left
the security of his home, climbed into Scheen’s blue luxury sedan,
and threaded the path toward the treatment center. They would
soon be hurrying back toward more pleasant things, toward the
game, toward their roles in the world of Salandra.