The Forgotten Spell
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats
The Forgetting Spell
John Wickham woke, as he always did, certain he was a magician. Today, like always, he would, again, find new means to convince himself that he was indeed one. He was never shy of exaggerating the smallest occurrences, making them seem magical when they weren’t. John would see a feather floating before him, and think, "I made that happen". Sometimes he would flash his hands at something and gasp at whatever came next. And every time he did that, he seemed to grow more confident in his ability to conjure magic.
Today, he arose from bed, flicked a wrist at a pile of magic history books in the corner of his room. Saying a few nonsense words, John watched incredulously as a gust of wind blew through his window and toppled his books. Next, he stretched a hand at his bedroom door and watched, again, with wide eyes, as the door swung open.
“The magic is strong today,” he said to himself. “Might as well, go out and share this experience with others.”
So he donned his historical wizard hat, tied his pointy wizard shoes, grabbed his long overcoat, and headed out into the streets. And every time he did so, he would walk half an hour to the town square, stand on a bench at the center of the square and urge passersby to witness something special. John believed his magical aura to be the major reason why people stopped to watch him; but in truth, the dwellers of the town knew him all too well, and loved to watch his nonsensical acts because they were amusing.
John, of course, didn’t know this. He was determined to ignite the long lost spark of magic. England was a country built on a long history of magic, John believed; and he was destined to restore it to its former glory. When a respectable crowd had assembled, John set down his hat and began to speak words of magic.
He whirled his hands every which way, in search of a magical spark. But none came. Still, he spoke more tongues, whirled his body in weird shapes and waited patiently for something to fall amiss, so he could say, “Aha; that is the work of magic!” But nothing happened. And the crowd began to laugh at John’s awkwardness, amused at how foolish a person could act to summon magic.
Alas, the crowd’s patience ran thin and one by one, they began to depart. John who had his eyes closed the whole time, opened them to witness no one left watching but an old man, dressed in finery, holding an elegant white cane. This queer man, who was clean shaved from head to chin, nodded at John’s demonstrations and gave him an elaborate applause. Eventually, the clapping turned to tutting, and the old man, like the others, turned and walked away.
At that moment, a strong wind blew. It shook the trees in the square to the bone, and innumerable petals began to fall from many branches like they would in autumn. Because it was summer, John considered this a great magical accomplishment, and beckoned to the old man to witness his work.
The old man stopped in his tracks, stared at the swirl of petals around him for a time, before tutting yet again.
“What,” said John, slightly hurt, “You don’t like my magic?”
The old man studied John for a moment, weighing his response. He rubbed his head for a second before approaching John sinisterly.
"You're right," the old man said, "Magic is real…"
“Don’t indulge me,” said John, disappointed.
“Oh, but it’s true. Magicians exist…”
“Well,” said John, suddenly feeling a rush to his cheeks, “This is what I tell people, but no one believes me.”
"…but you aren't one."
John’s expression turned sour suddenly, but the old man held a hand up, motioning that he wasn’t done talking.
"Magic," the old man continued, "has come and gone..."
This led to a lecture about magic history; about the tale of the last great magician who had been so mad with power that he, unknowingly, burnt down a town in Yorkshire. Now, this story had some truth in it, because, a few years back, a Yorkshire town did, in fact, burn to the ground, and quite a number of people died. But that was a long time ago, and John didn’t really care much for burnt towns and dead people.
So he asked, "What happened to the magician?"
"He fled; swore never to practice magic again. But—listen close—he left behind a spell lest his good works be forgotten."
"A spell for what?"
"A spell to reignite magic," said the old man.
Anyone in their right senses would question the truth of this story. Not John; John was driven by magic.
"Where can I find this spell?" he asked the old man.
"Right here in London. In Epping Forest, it is believed; underneath a black rock just by a hill pond. This rock, they say, only reveals itself to magicians. But you must read…"
But John didn’t need to hear more. He jumped off the bench and launched a speedy expedition into Epping Forest. He was out of earshot and could not hear the rest of the old man’s last words.
Fortunately for him, this forest wasn’t very far from his home; and he wondered why he had never come upon such a stone.
On his journey, he saw portents showing he was headed the right way. It felt, to him, as though he had wandered this path a million times—as though he had pursued this black stone, every single day of his life. As though the occurrence was all scripted, John soon came upon the pond and the black rock that the old man mentioned. He hastily pushed away the rock, clawing at whatever lay underneath.
Lo and behold, there was an old vellum parchment buried under the rock. Scared of being found in possession of something this powerful, John ran back to his home and waited until nightfall to unravel this mysterious document. He found to his bemusement some words inscribed on the vellum. What shocked him more was that the handwriting resembled his.
“This is the work of magic,” he said, admiring the inscription.
These were the shortest spell words he had ever read. So, he cleared his throat, took one long deep breath and read out the words.
"Cigam Tegrof Tsum I."
At once, he turned dizzy; his surroundings faded; and he crashed to the floor, falling into a trance.
The following morning, John woke, as he did, certain he was a magician… John could remember nothing of yesterday, not even the old man’s last words which were “Read the spell backwards.”