Aphelion Issue 296, Volume 28
July 2024 --
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A Wizard’s Lesson

by Stephen Faulkner

If you were to ask a wizard where he has come from, that person will not give you a direct answer because there would be none to give. More than likely the wizard with whom you had conversed would point in a general direction and just say, “Over there,” and leave the matter at that. The truth is that wizards, as opposed to witches or warlocks, are not of this world nor, even, of this dimension of time and space. To borrow a term from your science fiction genre of literature, we wizards have travelled here to your plain of existence from a “parallel universe” and can quite easily travel between your universe and many others in a twinkling of an eye. Your witches and warlocks, on the other hand, can only tap into the powers of a single universe which are extremely limited and governed by the laws of what is and is not natural for that particular world and its plane of existence.

Having said all that in way of preamble, I would now like to introduce myself.
I am Jondar, native to a dimension whose people accept what you might call the extraordinary or the magical as something positively commonplace. Also, I would like to dispel at least one of the misconceptions that the people of your world have of wizards in general. Actually, all you have in way of examples of persons of my talents are Merlin and the children learning their trade in wizardry in the books about the student named Harry Potter. Because of their unusual – for your world – powers, such individuals are represented as being held separate from the rest of the populous of the world and, as such, have very few associates, friends and the like. Where I come from, this idea of the solitary nature of the wizard’s life could not be farther from the truth.

I have many friends, associates, compatriots and loved ones that I am proud to call members of my extended family. True, some of these are not members of what we all call humanity, but that does not mean that I hold them in any less regard than members of my own race of beings. These friends, acquaintances, loved ones, et al, are seen as equals in my estimation as I, surely, am seen in theirs.

In way of elucidation, let me tell you a tale of an adventure I once had with a friend of mine named Barukha who is, extraordinary enough for your sensibilities, a rather huge bird of indeterminate species and origin. This Barukha had offered to take me on a flight with him in his dimension in order to lay witness to something that he believed I, who felt that I had seen everything possible, would find to be of a truly inconceivable nature.

“There is nothing that you can show me,” I said, “that I have not seen before.”

Barukha begged to differ and then immediately squatted down into an egg laying position with one wing extended to the ground for me to use as a ramp to his back. “Come, then,” he said. “And prepare to be both amazed and horrified.”

“Is there any danger of falling?” I asked when I was comfortably seated on his broad back between his great wings.

“You are safe,” he answered and spread his wings to their full span and he took off. With the wind in my face, we flew to the west, right into the newly risen, hazy orb of the sun.

After flying for some time and then as the noonday sun shone warmly on my face, the mountain range from which we had begun our journey was starting to taper off behind us. At this time, Barukha took a sharp turn away from it and shortly there was nothing but desert to be seen below us. Looking back I saw that the mountains, seeming to be on the very western edge of the world, ended in a series of palisade cliffs, dropping over five hundred feet to piled rocks at its base and thereafter there was only desert sand and chaparral. If I should come back this way on foot I would have to skirt around the mountains, a hundred mile detour at best, for I would never be able to scale those cliffs without complete frustration if I did not use my powers to lift me over their sheer façade of uncategorized stone. So flat and vertical were they that they looked for all the world like whitewashed walls from afar and so reach their summit without any exertion whatsoever.

From the end of the mountain range onward the flight was an endless wasteland of sandy desert terrain. The occasional dips and soars Barukha so easily accomplished were thoroughly exciting but the sights themselves were far from extraordinary. Left and right there was nothing but sand and sky. Even the occasional cacti here were not overly large.

Suddenly, without warning. Barukha ascended to a great height. The air was chill and my breathing came hard. “Look down there,” he said. “What do you see?”

The chaparral was totally gone. There was nothing to be seen now but barren land without even the green of chaparral or cacti to break up the monotony.

“Sand,” I told him. “Nothing but sand; all the foliage is gone.”

“Sand,” said Barukha thoughtfully. “Hang on. I’m going to take you in for a closer look.”

We dipped into a steep dive and leveled off at the altitude which we had previously held; about a thousand feet above the desert floor. “What do you see now?” he asked.

The “sand” which I had seen from the great height was not sand at all. Each grain was actually the top of a white haired person’s head. All were the heads of people herding like cattle, all moving slowly to an unknown – or perhaps a known – goal. Their numbers were countless and they spread out for many miles in all directions, packed like tiny quartz crystals on an endless beach.

“People,” I said, answering the white bird. “Millions upon millions of people.” I was truly awed. The sight virtually overwhelmed me. Barukha had not exaggerated; here, truly, was something I had never seen nor had ever considered at all to be part of the reality of any world. “But where do they all come from? And where are they going?”

“It is not known exactly where they come from,” said Barukha. “As for where they are going, however…. Up ahead is their final destination.”

Final destination?” I asked, not liking the sound of this phrase.

“I’ll circle in closer and you shall see,” he said. “It is not a pretty sight.”

We circled lower near a wide chasm that seemed to have neither a beginning nor an end, a deep fissure that stretched to the horizon in both directions. The hordes of people stopped there.

“This is the Bottomless Chasm,” said the great white bird. “It seems to be the entrance to the depths of Hell. Really, though, it does lead virtually to the center of the world where the heat is so great that it would burn a body to nothingness in less than a second.

I watched as the people at the head of the burgeoning crowd were mercilessly shoved over the precipice to their deaths in the Bottomless Chasm by the great pressure of the forward moving throng behind them. It was happening all the time along much of the length of the fissure.

“They come in hordes and pilgrimages from all over and who knows where to view this great wonder of the world, joining heedless throngs, being pushed along, all anxious for a look; like lemmings to the sea until they meet their eventual end.

I had my eyes closed. I did not want to look anymore.

“These, then,” said Barukha, banking back the way we had come, as if in a gesture to the carnage below us. “Are the fuels for the fires that turn the world on its axis.”

He banked again and once more we were headed in a westerly direction. The sun was at a westerly angle now; it was late afternoon and evening was approaching. We again passed over the chasm and its victims and once we were past a further clump of dunes and rock formations that shielded us from viewing the ensuing countless deaths below us, Barukha spoke again.

“We shall be landing fairly soon. Not too far past that next rise.”


I must have been visibly shaken after our flight over the site of the ultimate demise of millions of “sand people” for Barukha felt it necessary to comfort me upon our return to our departure point. The only real consolation that he could come up with, however, was to say that in this particular universe this was the reality. “It just is,” he said in a sage and even tone. “There is nothing anyone can do to change it.”

To a wizard, saying such a thing was tantamount to daring him to try. And so, try is what I was determined to do.

Barukha said a friendly goodbye and flew off to continue with his own life in this strange, harsh world.

I, though, had other matters to attend to rather than simply to return home.

I made sure to avoid the portalway back to my own reality so that I would not be sucked through by what I knew to be the laws of “eminent return” when it comes to travel between different worlds and their dimensions. A short way past that thrumming doorway to my own reality, I first tested my powers of affecting change in this one. It seemed that they were quite strong; I was able to turn a large boulder into an elephant, then into a bear and, finally, into a small suburban style house before returning it to its original form. Now, I thought, I was ready to begin.

I did not need Barukha to fly me back to where I needed to be; I had my own powers of levitation and acceleration for that. Hovering over the place where the uncountable thousands of people plummeted into the Bottomless Chasm that seemed to cleave this world into two halves, I closed my eyes and visualized a wall that would stop the people from going over the edge of the cliff edge to their deaths. And there it was, blocking their way to a sudden and fiery death. It seems, however, that they were intelligent enough to go around this obstacle and thereby find a new place to facilitate the end to their lives. Undaunted, I then willed into being two other walls, perpendicular to the first wall and going back first several hundred feet and then, when the people easily got around the end of those constructions and thus headed back to the lip of the immense canyon, I extended them further, then further, and still further. Soon enough it became apparent that I had not calculated the sheer determination of this seemingly never ending horde of humanity to bear witness to the sight of this wonder of the world and thereby be jostled, shoved and hurtled over its edge to their final flight to freedom from life.

I left the wall I had willed into being where it was while I puzzled over the problem and what could be a better solution to its elimination. With only a few minutes consideration I had what I thought would be the answer: if you can’t hold them back from the cause of their imminent demise, then eliminate the cause itself. So simple!

With but a word envisioned as if in a waking dream I rose high above the grisly spectacle. The chasm, I saw, did cleave the world in two, so whatever spell I wove would have to be the largest, most all-encompassing one that I had ever invoked. I wove many spells together into one, all aspects working together so that, once released, would the quell the fires at the bottom of the chasm then raise its floor to the surface of the world, thus closing the gap that split it in two to give entry to its inner core for the people that Barukha depicted as but sand (as if none of them had a face or personality or soul) to be the fuel for the spin of the world on its course through the heavens

With the deep growling and roaring sound of many earthquakes the limitless depth of the gash in the world slowly pulled its bottom to the surface thus stitching closed the global wound, bringing its two sides together in one seamless expanse of desert landscape. Then, with another errant thought I dissipated the solidity of the wall I had built and allowed the people their freedom to roam their world without fear of an unexpected, unseen and sudden end to all their hopes, dreams, plans and lives.

I was about to turn in the air and leave these multitudes to the wants and wishes of their sundry selves when a deafening screech as of metal dragging harshly on metal rent the air about me. And with that sound came another. I looked down to see all the people, who I had previously assumed that I had saved, had fallen as if they had been in a vehicle that had come to a sudden, precipitous halt. They squirmed and crawled and then each of them rose to his and her feet, all of them raising their eyes to the heavens as if they could see me (but since I was, to them, merely a misty part of the air above them, I knew that they could not) and they began to pray to their god or gods for guidance, for succor, for answers to the question of what had just transpired.

And I wondered the same thing myself. Soon, though, the resolution came in the form of the cessation of one of the fundamental laws of nature: gravity began to loosen its hold on all things, inert and animate alike, so that everything that was not attached to the ground slowly began to float above the surface of this world that I could only assume was called Earth.

I rose myself higher in the air and studied the motion of the planet through the cosmos. I was aghast to find that there was no motion at all, no spin and turn from west to east, no subtle wobble on its axis. The world was still as a ball of mud sitting on a flat plain with gravity still holding it in place. Now, though, there was no gravity, no motion and soon the sun would bake this side of the world until all its area, not just this one small expanse that I now saw and studied, was all baked and barren dessert with nary a shred of life left on it. And the other side of the world would be but a frozen wasteland. And with gravity no longer holding all to the face of the earth, then the air itself would soon be wafted away into the ether of the void that surrounded it.

My braid of spells had worked all too well. I not only had closed the Bottomless Chasm but, in so doing, I had also closed off the source of its fuel and so had stopped the turn of the world, the pull of its gravity which had peeled away the tropospheric atmosphere for the living to breathe in and convert into the energies of life. All that I had done was to create a dead ball of rock and metal hanging limp and lifeless in space.

It took some time to reverse the spells I had woven and get the world back to where it once was. As I did so, there came a great cry from far off. As my new spells took effect I then turned to look in the direction of the loud, impassioned voice in the distance and saw the shape of Barukha coming down upon me in a rage whose scope I could not fathom.

“Do you believe yourself to be a god?!” he asked angrily as he landed only several yards in front of me so that I had to look straight up to find his face. I cowered slightly as I said no, of course I did not.

“But you couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?” he cried out to me. “You could not see that what had been created and put into action so many eons ago was the right and true way of this this place? This world? This reality?”

“But they are human!” I argued. “And they were dying by the thousands, by the millions…!”

“They are sand!” he shouted. “They are the fodder that fuels the world’s motion. That is what they were created for. They come from all corners of the world, each of them generated from the dirt and dust of the floor of the earth and set into motion to come to this place, this chasm, this entry point to the place of their immolation.” His voice began to lose its angry edge and he became more modulated in his speech. “This world is what you might call a perpetual motion machine; it creates fuel from its own skin, gives it legs to transport it and burns it in its central core to keep its motion in the heavens constant and fluid so that all remains as it always had been from time immemorial.”

“But their intelligence, their personalities, their souls…?” I said, still attempting to argue in behalf of the Sand People.

Barukha made a guttural sound that cut off my rant. “They have none,” he said. “They are but mindless automatons, set in motion to seek their only consequence, the only purpose in their short lives.”

“But they live...” I tried again. But Barukha cut me off once more.

“The only purpose,” he repeated simply, then waited to hear what more I had to say.

There was nothing I could say. I rose in the air until I was at a level with his face, his avian eyes. I sighed deeply and raised my arm in a gesture of fare-thee-well to my friend before I flew off to seek the portal to my own universe, to a world that, for me, truly made sense.


It seems that what I had said at the beginning as to what this was to be all about had turned into something totally different. The magic of the written word, it seems, has gotten the better of this wizard. I do apologize for misleading you. I started out to prove that a wizard who is a denizen of my reality is a person who has many friends and acquaintances and to prove it I wanted to relate a story of my being with one such friend on a strange adventure. I had totally forgotten that this story, truthfully told, did not portray me at my best.

Please note that in the paragraph above I used the phrase “truthfully told,” and the story related certainly was that. I would hope that you would see me in that light – truthful – no matter how I come off in the story itself.

And every other wizard that I know would say that I am certainly very, very human, indeed. That is, of course, if it were possible for you to ask a wizard.


© 2023 Stephen Faulkner

E-mail: Stephen Faulkner

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