The Meaning of Magic
by Gill Kirk
Friday, 26 Oct 2018
Once upon a time a very normal toad lived in a very normal swamp next to a very normal wizard’s palatial shack. The toad was averagely fat and warty. The swamp was typically stinky and slimy. And the palatial shack was just as you would expect it to be: tiny on the outside, ginormous on the inside, immaculately filthy and disgustingly spick and span in every light-filled corner, every dust-free nook and every gleaming cranny.
So far, so normal, so boring.
Oh, the wizard? Oh, there isn’t that much I can tell you about her. She was about 752 years old, had built a palatial shack from the drinking straws and dental floss she collected from the city’s recycling centre over the years, and had been a fully-qualified wizard since she was about 8.
This, as you know, made her a bit of a late developer and one of the oldest in her wizardry class, but she didn’t mind. “Time is my friend; there’s no need to rush,” she would say when she returned from putting out the Great Fire of London, from healing people from the Great Plague, or from teaching Boudicca how to throw a spear.
So far, so normal, so boring.
One day, the toad suggested to the wizard that they should have a Hallowe’en party. I don’t know if it was actually Hallowe’en, but I think it’s safe to assume that it was. Then again, there was of course nothing to stop the toad from making this suggestion at any time at all. So perhaps it was the middle of June.
They realised - after a few days of decorating the house - that every halfway decent Hallowe’en party should always have a special ingredient. “I’ve never thought about this before, “ said the Wizard thoughtfully, as she waited for their guests to arrive, “but actually, every good Hallowe’en party should have -”
Yes?” said the toad, tapping this foot impatiently. “What should every good Hallowe’en party have?”
“Invitations!" said the wizard with a grin.
“Oh,” said the toad. And belched. Just to show how much he agreed.
The next day, all their friends - who had now had their invitations - turned up to the party: dressed in a stunning new black cape and with some extra special polish on her teeth was Vampira. Behind her was her best friend Zombo, who didn’t talk a lot but could be guaranteed to be the life and soul of any party. Then came minor royalty, their slightly raggedly friend, Pharaoh Bandage-Bum, and last but of course never least, was pale and delicate Spekky Spektral, white as a sheet as always.
Everyone settled down to play some games. Bobbing for apples, pin the tail on the headless donkey, hide and seek (which Spekky always seemed to win for some reason) and pass the parcel, with Pharaoh Bandage-Bum as the parcel.
And when the games were over, they all had lots of party food. You know, the same old boring, everyday Hallowe’en stuff: Scream-Cheese sandwiches, Ghoula-Hoops, sausage moles, Smelly and I-Scream… The problem was, that the Wizard worried that her friends weren’t having as much FUN as usual.
“What's wrong?” she asked.
“Oh, it’s a lovely party,” said Vampira. “But….”
The wizard looked at her friend with a worried expression on her face. What was the “but-” all about? Vampira looked awkward.
“Well,” she continued. “Arent we a bit - well - OLD - for Hallowe’en? And parties? And games? And I-Scream and Smelly?”
Zombo, Bandage-Bum and Spekky all scuffed their feet, feeling a bit embarrassed as the wizard looked at her friends in disbelief.
“Uh-oh,” said Toad.
“A bit OLD?” said the Wizard. “A bit OLD? I’m 752, you’re about 400, Vampira; Zombo, I have to say I have no idea about - and Bandage-Bum is quite literally THOUSANDS of years old. How on earth can we be too old for - for - FUN?”
One by one, her friends did a weird smile. A kind of, “ha, we knew you’d say this” smirk on their faces. Can you do this? A sort of, “we knew you wouldn’t understand” grimace. Can you do one of those? They might even have thrown in an EYE-ROLL. I bet you can all do one of those!
“Oh, my goodness,” gasped Toad. “They've stopped believing in magic!”
Wizard looked at her very ancient, very much loved friends and realised in an instant that Toad was right. That’s what had changed. That’s why the party wasn’t quite as much fun as it usually was.
But if Toad was right, and their belief in magic was fading, things couldn’t get any more frightening. She was unmistakably facing her worst nightmare and this was the most Hallowe’en of Hallowe’ens ever. Here was fear, big, massive, ginormous and properly frightening: Wizard’s friends were turning into ORDINARY PEOPLE!!!
“Yeah, magic’s for babies,” said Pharaoh Bandage-Bum and sniggered.
“Face it,” added Vampira - “you need to get modern,” and she took out her mobile phone and started pressing buttons and going all glassy-eyed. Zombo stared over her shoulder at the screen, his face all lit up from underneath by the light of the machine, and Wizard went cold with fear. Things were worse than she could have imagined.
What about Spekky, though - surely being a ghost, Spekky would always believe in magic! But Spekky was busy making ectoplasm love hearts with her initials and Pharaoh Bandage-Bum’s all slimily intertwined as she tried to get his attention by being the most cool ghoul she could be - (by completely ignoring him one minute and whispering “I love you” in his ear the next.)
“What are you all doing? You’re turning into NORMAL PEOPLE!” wailed Wizard, but no-one paid her any attention whatsoever.
“I’ll make you listen to me!” she wailed. KABOOM! and she threw one of the gang’s favourite spells at her kitchen cupboards. Before you could look up “Abracadabra” in the dictionary, every single piece of glass in the house had disappeared. This was guaranteed to have her friends hooting with laughter.
“TA-DA!” she said proudly as jam dripped from the larder shelves, as the wind blew in through the windowless windows, as all her photographs fell from their frames and olives, pickles, gherkins, mayonnaise and milk oooooozed their way from the bottom of the fridge to the kitchen floor.
“Ta-da-what?” said Spekky.
“All the glass!” said Wizard, “all the glass has gone, look! I magicked all the glass away! It’s gone, you know the vanishing glass trick! It’s gone! I magicked it all away!”
“Yeah, right, whatever,” said Vampira, not even looking up from her phone.
Toad looked at Wizard in despair. Did they even SEE the magic?
Toad decided he would have a go. He breathed in and in and in and in until his big fat toad throat was so fat and swollen and massive and bubble-like that you’d think he was about to explode. And then he let out the most gigantic bottom-ribbett the planet has ever seen. The air went up the chimneys, and out the glassless windows and made everyone’s hair or bandages or ectoplasm stand on end with the sheer force of its energy, it was like a bomb had gone off. The house shook, the town shook, the country shook. Massive waves battered the coastline and the BBC issued an emergency weather warning. This was Toad’s magic bottom-ribbett and he only ever brought it out on special occasions.
What did it do, you ask? Oh, it was just magic because it was so powerful. And that’s the kind of magic that toads are famous for, as you already know, of course. It seems like a whole lot of noise and fuss with very little impact but its magic is in the massive and yet seemingly tiny changes it causes. For example, a dad in Weston Super Mare promised never to eat a Macdonald’s burger ever again. All because of this bottom-ribbett. This made him a much healthier human being and put an extra five years on his life! A teenage girl in Manchester got jolted by the aftershock, spilt a drink all over her application to work in a cafe, had to redo it and accidentally applied to become a rocket scientist and now leads Great Britain’s rocket science programme. That’s pretty impressive magic.
“Well? How’s that for believable?” grinned Toad when everything had returned back to normal.
“Meh,” muttered Zombo. “Can we go now?”
A tear rolled down Wizard’s cheek. She was losing her friends. They were changing. They obviously wanted to turn into ORDINARY PEOPLE and even thought the thought completely revolted her, made her mind swirl with worry for them, and made absolutely no sense whatsoever, she still loved them.
The tear made a noise as it slid down her face. It was a very fat tear. You know the sort. The kind that take a while to get together all their heavy weight at the bottom of your eyeball and then BURST over the edge onto your face, where - of course - the only way is down.
Down, down, down it slid, so, so slowly. If you were magic and you could look really closely you would have seen the room reflected in it, like looking in a rounded mirror: you would have seen Vampira on her phone, Zombo staring at it, too, bandage-Bum feeling his muscles and Spekky trying to get his attention and drawing slimy love hearts around him.
Down, down, down fell the tear, making a tiny but unmistakable noise like the sound of squeaky trainers on smelly feet going down a very old, very steep, and very wet playground slide: eeeee-eeeee-eeeeeeeee——eeeee-eeee-eeeeee.
And then PLOP. BOOM. Wizard’s tear fell. It was not very loud to human ears. You or I would probably not have heard a thing. But perhaps you and I are not as magic as we could be. Because Spekky, Zombo, Vampira and Pharaoh Bandage-Bum suddenly all KABOOMED awake - they sat up as if they had been electrified and zinged into action as if they had been zapped by the most powerful magic wand in the universe.
“Wizzy!” they yelped, and immediately ran towards her, “we’re here, we’re here, it’s alright, don’t cry!” and they wrapped her up in the biggest, loving-est, kindest, friendliest, weirdest, silliest and most magical hug any wizard could ever wish for.
“It’s OK,” said Wizard, “you can Go Normal, I don’t want to stop you, I won’t think badly of you; you’re still the same creatures underneath,” she said wiping her eyes with a smile and trying to put on a brave face.
“What’s that SMELL?” said Bandage-Bum.
“Where’s all the windows gone and why is the jam dripping from the shelves?” asked Zombo.
Toad grinned. “Well, isn’t it obvious?” he said, “We did some MAGIC!”
“You did magic without us?!” said the friends.
Wizard grinned. “Where there’s friendship,” she said, “there’s ALWAYS magic!” and she cast a spell to - Tidy the kitchen? Mend the windows? Get rid of the toady-bottom-ribbet smell? No, of course not - she did another spell to make the food dance around the house and into their mouths and then they laughed and partied until they all fell asleep, happy- and of course - magic.