Amid hundreds of filled airplane seats, a man dressed in dark blue with a gilt-edged crimson scarf draped loosely around his shoulders – with grey streaking his hair at the temples – was sat next to a girl of eleven or twelve with jet black hair, her eyes glued to the iPad in her hands. Every so often the man glanced over at his younger companion, and his expression became a little sad each time. When the plane landed, the man and the girl got into a cab that took them away from the city and into the country, and the land began to turn desolate. Trees uprooted and lying like so many twigs. Rice shoots by the thousands torn up and lying in the water of their paddies. Whole groves of banana trees mowed down and laid to waste.
This didn’t escape the girl’s attention. As the land became more and more devastated, the iPad lay forgotten in her lap and she stared out the car window with her eyes wide and her lips parted in shock and horror.
The car eventually pulled up to what remained of an oceanside fishing and farming village. The huts and houses were utterly destroyed. The mud walls – formerly enforced with tree branches and bamboo – lay in pieces on the earth, and the roofs of straw and dried bamboo were torn off and scattered and broken.
As the man and the girl left the car, a group of men and women – by their dress, clearly not from the region – were walking through the village, speaking with the locals and offering words of comfort and reassurance. One of the men waved them over, with a broad smile.
“Stephen. Good to see you. There’s much work to be done.”
Stephen clapped the man warmly on the shoulder. “Good to see you, too, Jericho. And you’re right. We will do everything we can for them.”
The girl looked up at the both of them, determination and compassion in her eyes. “What can I do? How can I help?”
Stephen smiled at her. “Just remember everything I’ve taught you, Silva.”
Working as a team, the foreign men and women spent the next few hours using blasts and bolts of magic in different colours to lift broken walls into place and mend them, repair damaged roofs, rebuild fishing docks, salvage what crops that could be saved from the devastated fields, and empty the well at the center of the town of debris and mud and make the water in its depths clear and pure again.
By the time the sun began its downward descent toward the horizon, the foreign sorcerers and sorceresses were respectably tired and dirty, but the residents of the village were wearing smiles as bright as the midday sun and wringing the hands of the sorcerers and sorceresses with words of thanks and gratitude choked with emotion.
A little girl of seven or eight came running up to Silva and threw her arms around her middle, giving her a small pink lotus flower with a simple “Thank you.”
As the sorcerers gathered at the edge of the village in front of a huge spinning portal of golden light and scattering sparks, Silva tugged on Stephen’s sleeve.
“I had a great time…helping these people was…great. But why now? And why did we take the plane and not a portal?”
Stephen knelt down to look her in the eye. “It’s because you’re old enough now, Silvalant. You must never forget what else is out there in the world. We all come from nothing, whether you’re from here or from the States – no matter what walk of life. You must always remember that.”
Silva smiled at him with bright golden eyes. “I will…Dad.”
Stephen sat bolt upright in bed, his heart racing and gulping in air, fast and heavily. He ran both hands slowly over his face as an aching sensation took root deep in his chest, and he breathed deeply in an attempt to dispel it.
“Only a dream.”