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Aeon 1: 20 Years Late

The rune that Tan sent was easy to install. Since it was part of a message, there was no need to copy it into Aether. When Jove touched it, there was familiar option to install the app. The reader was very bare bones, and Jove settled into his hospital bed and began the first chapter.

Life is not always fair. James was destined to become a supernatural warrior. He was born to fight the enemies of Avalon. Under the mantle of Aeon, James was to wield magics stronger than any that had come before him. The problem was that he was destined to do so twenty years ago.

“James!” His overbearing boss shouted. The large warthog was dressed well although he was blissfully unaware that everyone could see the stain on his shirt from his chinese food lunch.

James snapped back to reality and sat up. “Mr. Trevino. I was just-”

“I don’t pay you to ‘just’, I pay you to work.” The warthog grunted. “You better have those reports by the end of business today.”

James watched him storm off. The fox sighed, and punched a few keys on his computer. The black and green display showed the printout was prepared and sent to the printer. The nearby dot matrix started to spit out paper.

“Why don’t you let the computer do the math?” The jaguar who asked, Leon Strong, had been friends with James for over twenty years.

James tore the feeder sheets from the printer. “The program screws up one out of every six accounts. It’s easier for me to just do them all than to double-check everything it does.”

“Do you want help?”

“Won’t you be missed on your own project?”

“Nah, Trevino doesn’t need that for another week.” The jaguar grabbed a hand calculator and pulled a second chair into the cubicle. “You know he’s been wanting to give you a final written notice ever since you went ballistic on the Kent Account on Monday.”

James blushed, “That wasn’t my fault.” He didn’t want to admit he had let himself get baited by the client’s representative, a brown bat who had an attitude.

“What did he do?” Leon asked. “I heard you almost decked the guy.”

What could James say? That the rep said James was wasting his life and his destiny, or that he said James didn’t believe in anything? How could James explain the words were so painful because he still believed? The words hurt because he still thought magic was real. That despite ten long soul-sucking years of work at the same dull company, his spirit was not dead. The hope that refused to die knew how to hurt, how to scream for its survival. He managed to say, “It wasn’t like that.”

Leon didn’t press the issue. He just kept working on the report in silence. Eventually he took a deep breath and sighed. “Well, how about some good news?”

“Sure,” James mumbled, still a little lost in thought.

“You were right. All those years I said you were foolish to believe, I was wrong.” He smiled, “I met someone last week and it was love at first sight.”

“Don’t tell me you’re a romantic now.” James put down the report for a moment. “You’re the most skeptical person I know.”

“That was the old me. The new me owes you an apology. I should never have laughed at you.” The jaguar sighed again. “Not when we were twelve, not ever.”

“When we were twelve?” James tried not to panic. The memory of his confession about magic to Leon when they were kids flashed before him. Leon had teased him about it for years. James had never told anyone else about his belief. He’d been too afraid of the reaction.

Leon nodded, “Iris opened my eyes about what you said. I hope that despite what I did, you still believe.” He shook his head, “I’m sorry.”

James just looked at his friend. He had known Leon for twenty-five years, and had accepted that Leon simply did not believe in magic. To see his friend talking about it felt almost like a betrayal. James had to make sure he heard that right. “Iris convinced you magic was real?”

“Yeah.” Leon nodded. “It’s kind of-” He didn’t finish the sentence.

To understand the sting of those words, it is important to note that while Leon didn’t believe in magic, he was a loyal and trustworthy friend. Leon had, on more than one occasion, said he trusted James with his life. Five years ago, Leon had pushed James out of the way of a car and been hit by it himself. Leon and James had grown up together, learned together, went to college together. All the while, Leon could not take James’ word that magic was real, dismissing any possibility of magic whenever it had come up. Yet here Leon was, explaining that he believed in magic after one week with some new girlfriend.

James pulled his fist back. He didn’t remember throwing the punch, but blood from Leon’s nose was on his hand. The anger was still there but it was quickly eclipsed by the shame that he had just punched his best friend.

“What the hell?” It was Mr. Trevino; He had seen.

Flight was never a strong instinct for James yet he found himself halfway down the stairwell before he realized he was running. He could clearly remember the anger that the warthog had but he could not remember Leon’s reaction. His mind could not accept what he had done. This was all wrong. James was destined to be a warrior, a true hero. He had missed his destiny and it haunted him.

James burst out of the building into the parking lot. He ran to the edge to collapse under the only tree the company left standing nearby. Reality felt different here.

No one was around. No one was heading out of the building to see if he was okay. They were probably all making sure Leon wasn’t hurt, and Mr. Trevino was drafting up the firing paperwork. No, the warthog was signing the paperwork, he had it drafted on Monday.

Tears came. Not the sobs one might expect, just tears that refused to be contained inside James’ eyes. James shivered as he realized what had hurt the most. Leon’s new girlfriend had succeeded where he had failed. Maybe he didn’t believe in magic as much as he thought. He sat there for what felt like forever. He took a deep breath and said to no one, “It’s not fair.”

“No, it’s not.” A familiar bat had walked up. “We’ve lost a lot of time, but the spark inside you isn’t dead.”

James stared in disbelief at the representative from the Kent account. “Who are you?”

“My name is Daniel Wyatt.” The bat crouched by the fox. “I’m here to offer my services as a mentor. Assuming you still want to use that spark.”

This had to be a joke. “What spark?”

“Magic, of course.”

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