Wizard Mathews [A Short Story That Isn’t Really About Magic]

The Great Wizard Mathews, sat down and wrapped his cloak around himself. He thought, for the hundredth time that day, that his experiment had gone horribly wrong. He shivered a bit and flinched away from the noisy road, burrowing himself further in his cloak, and closed his eyes.

The Great Wizard was an expert of his field and an important man, where he came from anyway. His expertise was crystal balls, the kind that look backwards and forwards and over the world. They were simple things, really, crystal balls. It was all just an easy matter of tweaking with the chemicals and dimensions that made up time and space and then confining the tweaked bits in glass orbs. All quite easy stuff really, as wizarding went.

Mathews sniffled and then sneezed. The smoke down in his little corner was even worse than it had been walking around all day. He was quite sure he saw some poisenous matter drifting from the strange little gate in the ground. He pressed his old, wrinkled and once-respectful face against the dirty stone and tried with all his might to disappear from the place. What a fool he had been! He was so angered with himself that he bit his hand and beat his head against the wall a few times.

The trouble with Mathews was, he got bored quickly. He had been in the crystal ball business for some fifty odd years, a short time indeed for a wizard, and he grew so bored with fiddling and confining things in orbs that he decided to fiddle with time and space a bit more, only this time outside of orbs, and see what would happen. His first experiments were exhilerating – Mathews passed through time and worlds quickly, colors and sounds flashing by him until his head fair spun with it and his body felt invigorated and new with the energy of it.

Today though – Had it really all just begun this morning? – Mathews had thrown himself into the process with so much gusto, that he had gotten stuck. Stuck in one place, a place so different from his own world that he wanted to weep at its ugliness. The worst thing was that his powers seemed to be drained. He had decided that an evil spell must be on this place. He knew it in his bones. He saw other abandonned or lost wizards like him around the noisy, dangerous and smelly place he was in, also bereft of their powers. He knew them as his brethren because of their wizened faces, their cloaks and capes of all manner, their weariness at this world and most of all, their constant mutterings – stuff he reckoned must be spells. Well, would be spells if they’d worked- it seemed all the others had lost their powers as well.

Mathews tried to speak to the others, but most were so deep in dispair at their lost powers that they didn’t answer him. Some spoke in code it seemed, muttering low, but Mathews did not understand their code and alas, knew not how to go about cracking it.

So it had gone all day, and Mathews was now tired. Bone weary, even. He glanced up and saw a child look at him, from far away. He sighed, tried to smile at the little boy, and then lay his head back against the wall and slept.


“Robbie, come here! Stop staring at that old vagrant!” A woman murmured urgently, tugging at her young son’s coat, as the boy tried to go over to the wizard.

“But Mommy, Mommy, he’s a wizard! I saw a crystal ball in his pocket! I want him to teach me magic,” the little Robbie screamed in protest. His mother pulled him away, still screaming, and tried to explain about homeless men and vagrants and promised to buy him some ice cream. When Robbie wouldn’t stop screaming about the wizard, his mother dispaired and bought him a glittery plastic magic wand from the toy-store.

Robbie was content then, and agreed to go home without a fuss. But when he was tucked into bed that night, he wondered about the wizard and knew, for one clear moment before he fell into the deep sleep of children, that he was the only one in this world who would ever know that that man was a Great Wizard.


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