A train whistled in the distance, like a warning to what I was about to witness. We can’t protect ourselves from the horrors of existence, a sudden or protracted death, and all the while I was walking the tracks, staring at the sunrise like one hypnotized by morning.
“Here. This is the place,” Mike said.
“I don’t see anything special; no landmarks.”
“That’s because it’s hidden. It’s 10,032 trestle tracks from the bar.
“You were counting?”
“Numbers are always significant in magic.”
Suddenly, Mike seemed unusually sober as he took a harsh left into the woods. I followed after him and was half worried we might get lost. We followed deer trails for five minutes until we turned sharply into an overgrown canyon. Bricks rose out of the earth; perhaps, ancient pillars, buried by time.
“This is the spot,” Mike said. He barely tapped the wall and it crumbled, revealing a staircase that rose into the heavens. Each step was as solid as stone, even when we left the forest floor and ascended into the sky.
“Do you see the world down there?” Mike asked.
“All of that can be yours and most men are driven mad by it, especially when they get it. The trick is to know you can have it and not need it.”
I couldn’t see the steps, but Mike could, and we ascended higher. I was standing in mid-air, suspended by nothing and Mike walked into a small room with a crystal pool at the center.
“This is Merlin’s Tower. Each year I come here to renew my strength and power, but the time has come to give up my life.”
“Why? Why would you give up your power and your life?” I asked.
“It takes on a repeat; you’re too young to know that; even with all the power under the sun, the fact that I can’t change people is the greatest disappointment. I can amuse them; I can control them; but I cannot accept their inability to accept themselves. They want things and they are driven mad by them, distorted by their desires. They kill for what they cannot have; maybe not literally, but murder is in their hearts.”
“Mike, are you okay? I’ve felt that way before, but usually I can solve any problem with a pizza and a good movie.”
“That works for a while, but once you have tasted power, it is harder to escape from the world; they come knocking on your door. I’m no longer going to baptize in Merlin’s pool; I’m getting out of this; I wish you the best young man; you are indeed the best.” And with that, he jumped into thin air. I glanced over the edge and he was gone.
To be continued…