Mahō no Gakkō -School of Magic-
Nathan once told me a story.
“Shiera, do you know what Dianoct is?”
He sat down beside me on the bed, his face so thin I could see his skull. He’d been working later than usual.
“They say there’s another planet out there, Shiera. One with life, like ours.”
I could smell something unusual on him. He had the scent whenever he came back from long work trips. It was tangy and rancid, like rotten sweat.
“But dad, you’ve never shown me that through the telescope.”
“It’s just a story, Shiera. They say you can only see it on a full moon.”
I met his eyes and nodded. “What’s it like?”
“It’s full of magic and wonders, and lights coming from the ground. There was a queen who ruled over it and stopped evil spirits there from killing the humans.”
“Dad, that’s just some kid’s story!”
“And you’re a kid, aren’t you?”
I still remember his laugh at that moment. Back then, I didn’t understand.
“Well, Shiera, just listen to me, okay?”
I pouted. “Okay.”
“I got something for you.”
He reached into the back pocket of his khakis and revealed a small charm. Its silver sheen reflected the warm lamplight. In its center, a beautiful orange gemstone was set.
He pulled it away from my grubby hands with a smile.
“I’m not done, Shiera. Just wait a little longer, okay?”
“I want you to keep this charm with you. It’s supposed to represent Dianoct, the other world. While I’m not here, remember me with it, okay?”
I was so focused on the lustrous charm that I didn’t care.
I slid open the doors, the cold metal stinging my fingertips. A frigid gust blew through the entrance as I stomped through, shivering. I closed the doors behind me, ushering in the silence I was accustomed to.
My routine of calling out would have been in vain, knowing there was no one to answer me. I slipped off my jacket with a sigh, shaken from the onset of an early winter. It was only September, after all.
I wondered where Nathan was— he was normally home on Fridays. If he had been held up by traffic, I could understand, but I still felt a twinge.
Another voice lingered, subdued by the relentless wind outside. The door creaked open again, and my brother Kori stumbled in. He was talking on the phone with some of his friends.
“Yeah, yeah,” he responded. “I’m open Sunday.”
I watched as he awkwardly tried to slip his backpack off. Why he couldn’t have just set his phone down for a moment, I couldn’t guess. In his trivial effort, his bag’s strap knocked his phone out of his hand and onto the dull wooden floor.
He panicked and ran to pick it up, hurriedly checking it for any cracks. I honestly couldn’t understand him— the phone was so broken already, it was damn near impossible for it to be any worse.
“Alright, I gotta go. See you guys on Sunday,” he finished, tapping the ‘end call’ button and setting down his phone.
“All that trouble just to say goodbye?”
He met my glare and groaned. “Why are you pissed at me?”
“I’d ask the same of you.”
Our conversations usually went that way— meaningless, mediocre, rude. It was a rare day when Kori had something interesting to say. If he wasn’t my brother, I wouldn’t have given him a second thought.
“It’s because Nathan’s not coming home, isn’t it?”
He must have caught me off guard, because I turned away without a word. I hated when he pressed like that. For all I knew, he cared nothing for our father. He was even scrolling through his phone while we spoke.
“He’ll probably be here tomorrow. Life’s just like that.”
“Why do you care?!”
“Shiera, calm the hell down. He’s my dad too, you know.”
“You don’t act like it!”
“Ugh. Get over yourself.”
Meaningless, mediocre, rude.
“…It’s the full moon tonight.” I was surprised to find myself speaking.
“Oh, that’s why you wanted him home.”
“Well, he never is anyway. He’s probably out there getting laid by some-”
“You know dad wouldn’t.”
“Who’s to say?”
The room filled with silence for a moment. Silence was peaceful. Silence was calm. But not now.
The silence broke with the buzz of Kori’s phone. He looked at it tentatively.
“Nathan says he’ll be home tomorrow.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Time whizzed by, and after studying for a few hours, I noticed a glint of orange through the blinds. I was bored of studying, anyway, so I stood up and stretched my back. I could feel it crack as I extended my arms to the ceiling.
I checked my watch— the screen displayed ‘7:33 PM’ in its blocky font. When I pushed my chair in and opened the door to the back porch, I was met with a frosty slap. Though the temperature wasn’t that cold, the wind was. I didn’t bother donning my jacket.
I stared out into the sun as it dipped below the sea of land. Its glow reminded me of something. I instinctively reached for my pocket.
The charm still had its metal shine after many years, though it was worn and smudged. The orange gemstone embedded within still sparkled majestically, as if placing a tiara on my forehead, proclaiming me as royalty. The sun was out of sight now as I clutched the amulet in my hand.
Remember me with it, he’d said.
Hard to remember someone who always forgets about us!
I brought my hand up and chucked the amulet at the ground. It slammed into the wooden planks with a resounding ‘clang’. I could taste my own hatred on my tongue.
It took me a few minutes to properly assess what I’d just done. When I did, however, I was quick to locate the dented charm. The gemstone was scratched and dirty, which ripped a hole in the bottom of my stomach. I quickly tried to rub it off with my shirt.
When I took the brim of my shirt off of the stone, I noticed something. An arrow of sorts had formed inside of it. Inside. I turned to get a better look at it in the moonlight, but the arrow turned, too. It was a bright white against the orange stone, as if the moonlight were striking it at an odd angle.
I caught a glimpse of Kori as he turned the corner. I quickly pocketed the charm before he saw it.
“Shiera? Why the hell are you outside?”
“Why the hell does it matter to you?”
Kori groaned again. I mimicked him as I walked back inside.
“Oh, it’s about that Dianoct thing, isn’t it?”
“No! Go away!”
I stormed to the basement and slammed the door behind me. I took deep breaths, though rarely did they ever calm me down. Kori always treated me like an afterthought, and it pissed me off. We were twins, for God’s sake. Why couldn’t he act like it?
I pulled the charm from my pocket again, but the arrow wasn’t there anymore. The basement had a single window, through which moonlight streamed. I shuffled over and held the stone up to the light. Sure enough, the arrow reappeared, this time in a new direction.
I turned in the direction of the arrow— it was pointing to our storage room. I reached out and turned the door’s handle, and…
I let go.
I didn’t know why, but I knew I needed Kori here.
“Kori! Get down here!”
My voice was strained, but I heard the basement door open and knew he had heard me. He snarled at me.
I twisted the handle and pushed it open, still looking at him. I wanted to gauge his reaction. His face went from confusion to shock.
“Shiera, what the hell did you do?”
I turned around and gaped at the scene behind me. It wasn’t massively impressive, but that wasn’t so important. I was more impressed that our storage room had been turned into a decrepit stone bunker.
Without saying a word to Kori, I stepped in and looked around. He kept on saying useless words, trying to understand what was going on with what little brain power he had. By the time he stopped trying to reason, I had already found a ladder.
I climbed up each rung tentatively. Rust covered the surface of some more than others, and tetanus would not suffice. There was a hatch above me with a twist lock, which was similarly rusty.
Despite Kori’s complaints- “Shiera, what the hell! What are you doing?! Are you an idiot?!”- I twisted the hatch as hard as I could. Flakes of oxidized iron snowed from the lock, but I managed to grip it just tight enough that it creaked and clicked open.
“Are you coming or not?” I growled.
“Why the hell would I-”
“Is that a no?”
“I’ll go, but what the hell, Shiera?”
With Kori approaching behind me, I pushed open the hatch with all my strength. When it flung open, I saw the night sky. Stars speckled it like astral seasoning, but even having studied the stars before, I couldn’t pinpoint a single constellation.
I climbed out of the hatch like it was an open vault and clambered to my feet on top of the rough stone. Kori soon followed behind, but I barely noticed.
The ground was broken by massive fissures, interconnected by roads and bridges. Sunlight burst through the fissures like heavenly beams, brightening the void above. The clanging of swords and the tang of blood stung the atmosphere.
I faltered on my feet, and when Kori saw it, he stood completely still.
The light, the stars, the war, splayed in front of me like a mural, brought only one word to mind.Dianoct.