The potato hash was on the stove, as promised. It took everything in her to not rush over, with plate in hand, and steal away with every last ounce of food in the pan.
“Feel free to have as much as you like,” said Smoggit.
“Thank Grabbit,” she thought, as she walked briskly- very briskly- over to the stove.
She securely seized the serving spoon and scooped piles of potatoes onto her plate.
“I trust the spring was to your liking?” he said.
She cocked her head back in ecstasy.
“So much so. I feel like a great weight has been lifted from me,” she said.
With her free hand, she plucked at her robe.
“And this robe… it’s as good as new!” she added.
“It’s always nice to have a backup plan, you know, just in case this wizard thing doesn’t work out,” he said, with a wink.
“I do pray that won’t be for a long time,” said Pamela.
“We shall see,” he said, before patting the seat next to her, “but enough of business. It’s breakfast that we should be concerned with now. Besides, we have much to talk about, hash out…”
“Over hash?” she said.
“Exactly,” he said, with a chuckle.
She set her plate on the oblong table in the the middle of the living room.
“Please, dive in. I’ll consider it a compliment.”
She already had a fork in the air by the time he spoke those words.
There ensuing conversation was simple enough. He asked about her family and her village. He asked for stories of her journey. Then, he asked about her.
“How do you see yourself?” he said, interrupting Pamela as she answered one of his many cookie-cutter questions.
“Me?” she said.
“Plain enough. I am a sorceress of little renown. Meek in personality. Slight in frame. Nothing to tell, really.”
“You have the making of greatness in you,” he said.
“Ha! Well, if you say so.”
He shook his head.
“It is not for me to say. It is for you to know.”
He stroked his sinuous beard.
“By the time our training is up, you will either believe that, or I will have failed you as a wizard.”
She reeled back.
“Oh, I’d hardly say that. I mean, if you could teach me even some of the most basic levitation incantations or even a transformation spell, I’d be more than grateful.”
He leaned in.
“But that is too small a thing, Ms. Gausón. To change a rock into a butterfly, that is a task for children. To change the attitude of the heart, that is the endeavor of a master. You want to be a master wizard, do you not?”
Her eyes sparkled with an impetuous fire.
“More than anything.”
“All right. It’s settled, then. Tonight, at twilight, we will begin your training.”
He pointed down to the table.
“Thank me later. Right now, you might want to remove your hair from your hash.”
She looked down and, indeed, her luscious locks had cascaded down into her food. Her cheeks grew warm. He just laughed, laughed until she laughed too. Soon, the whole hovel was filled with joyful laughter.
At twilight, Smoggit lead them to a hilltop cradled in the midst of a sea of rolling hilltops. He arranged them about twenty paces away from each other. Then, he stood perfectly still in his spot. For a while, neither of them spoke. Pamela’s heart beat steadily and strongly in that moment, so strongly in fact that she was surprised that the whole world could not hear it.
“Breathe,” said Smoggit.
He himself took a deep breath.
“A suffocated student cannot be taught.”
She nodded and took a strained breath. Smoggit took another breath, slowly, methodically as if meditating on the individual oxygen molecules flooding into his lungs.
“In through the nose, out through the mouth.”
Pamela’s breathing slowed with each inhalation, more and more so until it finally matched the master magician’s. They stood there, breathing, for what seemed to Pamela to be an eternity (it was only about five minutes). At the end of that time, Smoggit shook himself off and clapped his hands together.
“Good. Let us begin.”
He rubbed his gathered hands.
“Tonight, in honor of the stars above us, we will make a little stardust of our own. Are you ready?”
She giggled nervously.
“I’ll meet you there then.”
He waddled closer to her, to the point where he standing right in front of her. He met eyes with her for a second, then he spun around to stand beside her.
He pointed up.
“My dear, if you’d direct your attention upwards.”
She tilted her head up. Together, they stared into inky-black space, speckled with a septillion stars.
“What do you see?”
She bit her bottom lip and answered.
“Constellations. Suns. I see beauty beyond words.”
“You know what I see? Death. A mere facade of what actually is, the most grotesque minimization of reality there ever was.”
Her brow furrowed.
“I don’t understand.”
He twirled his hand about, gesturing to the fullness of the evening sky.
“The light that you see, it has traveled hundred of millions of miles to get here. In that time, the stars that emitted that light have grown, even died. The star systems that housed them, even, may have vanished into some black vortex somewhere, never to be seen again,” he said, teary eyed, “that is why I say this is all a sham. As beautiful as it is, it is not true. To see the truth, you must look beyond it. You must reach across the heavens and embrace what actually is, rather than what seems to be.”
“How to I do that?”
“With your mind’s eye. Close your eyes and visualize this.”
She closed her eyes.
“Now raise your hands up.”
She raised her hands.
“With your unseen fingertips, stretch out to that place beyond the suns, that place where true beauty lies.”
She stretched her arms out.
“Farther, now. Farther.”
Her hands shook as she hit her physical limitations.
“Farther still. You are almost there. Reach and touch the glory beyond.”
She strained, so much so that beads of sweat began forming on her forehead.
“Can you feel it? Can you feel the heat of the supernova? Are you one with those far off constellations?”
“Almost. Yes. I can feel it. I can feel it!”
“Wonderful! Now, soak in its energy. Soak it in. Tell me how it feels.”
Pamela’s pale skin began to glow with an ethereal light.
“It feels… heavenly.”
“Good. Now, once you have collected all that you can, release that energy back into heaven.”
“I… okay… here goes….!”
Just then, a blast of light rocketed out from her fingertips. It erupted from her with such force that Pamela was knocked back. She floated through the air, then hit the ground hard, skidding several feet before coming to a halt. When finally she regained her wits, she looks and- beyond!- there before her circulated a cloud of lights, no bigger than a pinprick each. The cloud sparkled and swirled about until finally coming to rest upon the earth. She swooned over every minute of it.
It took several minutes before she gathered the sense to speak again after that.
“Wow! Did that come from me?”
“From inside you, yes. And from outside you, as well. True magic occurs when what is outside and what is inside become one. Today was your first glimpse of that.”
He set a soft hand upon her forearm.
“My dear, you will find even more amazing things than that, by the time we are done.”
She stood, slack-jawed, trying make sense of all that just happened.
“I can’t wait.”