The mage sighed and ran her fingers back through her hair, “Helluvan ask you got here. Y’know most mages’d laugh you right out their rooms – those as wouldn’t just call the police on you fer askin.”
The clent nodded, “I know how big – and how dangerous, and illegal – this is. I heard you were the sort to hear a body out before making a decision. Hear me, and if you choose to kick me out or call the cops then I’ll accept it. But if you agree, I can pay more than you’d make in a lifetime of magicking.”
“That’s a fair bit, my services ain’t cheap,” the mage said, one eyebrow raised as she motioned around the richly appointed room.
Even if this was just the showroom, and she spent the rest of her time in a hovel, the money spent on the lush carpeting, the decoration, even the ceiling lights, was nothing to sneeze at.
The man nodded, “I know, and I’m prepared to pay because I know they’re worth it.”
“Well then,” the mage smiled, her accent suddenly switching to something much smoother than the street cant she liked to use while getting the feel of someone. “Why don’t I drop my usual patter, and let’s hear your tale of woe.”
The client reached down the side of his chair to pick up the straw hat he had arrived in, twisting the brim between his hands as he spoke. His eyes brimmed with tears that streaked, seemingly unnoticed, through his makeup, as he recited his tale in a flat monotone.
“My son, Cooper, was the light of my world. I mostly ignored both of my spouses – husband and wife – my families, friends, everyone who couldn’t help me build my business. I set aside everyone at one time or another, even when I did love them. But not Cooper, or so I thought.
“We adopted him when he was 3 years old, just aging out of the baby phase most wannabe parents look for. They told us his parents had died, and nobody had taken him in, and the way he looked at us – me and my first spouse, the husband – when we came to an open day… He had this sunny smile, and he sang and danced with us, told jokes and stories, gave us sass, until we couldn’t bear leaving him there, feeling unwanted.
“I admit part of my reason for adopting was so my husband would be happy. I wasn’t bothered about kids, and we could easily afford for him to be a stay at home dad, with a nanny to help. What surprised me was how much I fell in love with our boy.
“I started coming home early, arranging meetings around his schedule, working from home – hell, I even reprised our work rules to allow parents more leeway and offer working from home for half the week for all parents. When satisfaction and reputation and output and money went up, I extended that to all staff, along with a payrise. I hired rota managers to ensure we always had enough staff on hand in the various buildings, and everyone without a physical need tobe on site could rota for home working. He made me a better businessman – that’s how I’ve always judged myself, you see. Even as much as I changed, I was still a businessman first, a father second, a husband third. Everything else came somewhere behind that.
“When my husband died – an unexpected aneurysm, nothing anyone could have done – Cooper kept me together. His nanny stepped in, became live-in full time, and made sure I remembered to come home and see my son after school, at bedtime, at his dance recitals. Everything. I married her – lived the cliche until Cooper was old enough to move out, when it became obvious that he was the only thing that kept us together. We divorced, she moved somewhere warm and sunny and remarried, and Cooper visits her once a year or so. He doesn’t talk to me much, only holidays and birthdays, when he fulfills his duty. I get why. Even while I was there, even when my husband still lived, I was never fully present. I took calls, had meetings, half-listened while I did business or made plans. I was never the father I should have been.
“I should have been a father first, then a husband, then a businessman. We would still have been rich, and none of us would have noticed being worth a few less billion. Instead, I hoarded like a miser and, without realising it, made sure my son always knew he came second.
“So here’s where I ask my question. I’m dying. I can live longer with treatment, but it’ll be painful and neither magic nor medicine can help. I don’t want a cure. I want a second chance. You can have every penny that I have right now, in exchange for returning me to a time when I can make those choices again.”
The mage sat back and steepled her fingers, studying the man, with his wrinkled summer suit, once-handsome face, thinning hair.
“What you’re asking is for me to create a new timeline, in which you become a better father. Do you understand the ramifications of what you ask?”
He shook his head.
“There are two ways to do this. One creates a new timeline, a new reality, leaving this one intact and giving you an identical world to make new choices in, without affecting this one. The other is to send you back in this timeline, causing ripples that will have unknown effects on this world – but will certainly leave me with less money than you promise.” The mage smiled tightly, “There are reasons this magic is forbidden. Both methods involve a tear in our reality, through which I transfer your consciousness into your younger self. Through this tear, Others will seek to emerge. Enough tears can weaken our reality entirely, allowing them to pull their own way through to destroy us all. My question is this. How can you tell me that a second chance with your son is worth that risk to everyone and everything?”
The client shook his head, “I can’t tell you that, only that it’s worth it to me. I screwed up what I thought love was, and I can only beg you to let me try again, and trust that your skills are enough to assuage the dangers.”
The mage frowned, her eyes locked onto his, remembering her own lost chances, the ones she could never get back. If given the choice, would she, too, feel that the danger was worth it?
She sighed and stood, shaking out her embroidered robe, “Take notes. You’re going shopping. I’m going to need…” she paused as she did a mental inventory of supplies she already had, “Chicken blood, salt, five candles, and a bottle of vodka.”
“Vodka,” the client asked, tapping at his phone, “For the spell?”
The mage shook her head as she swept regally from the room, “No, that’s just to make me feel better about ripping a hole in the universe.”
The client watched her exit door for a second, mouth open, then snapped it closed and scurried out of the street exit to find the required goods.
I hope you enjoyed the story! If you can share the link, I’d appreciate it. You can also leave a comment or drop me a message, I’d love to hear from you. And if you can, a donation via Paypal or a sub via Patreon would be a great help towards future, and better, endeavours!
Writing prompt used: