A while ago, I was excited to have a piece of my writing published in an anthology. The theme choices were past, present, future, and I—always excited for the future—knew I had to enter a piece based on this one. And, as a fantasy writer primarily, I combined my love of looking forward with my love of magic. For some reason, I never thought of sharing it with you until today, when I was reflecting on that magical cafe that I wrote about and how cool it would be to sit and sip a magical drink.
Honestly, I really relate to the main character, Karin, and probably at the time, I was more writing about my own concerns for growth and the need for change and wanting to push myself further. Always. She, much like me (and perhaps like you too), is quite impatient and expects so much of herself and of others and the need to keep growing, and so too often looks too far into the future and wonders why she's not there yet. Me too. I think that's why the 'excited for the future' topic stood out to me.
I'd also love to know your thoughts on what magic drinks and treats you'd love to try if you could! I wish magic was around in society.
I was also thinking about writing a whole book based on Karin and her journey from here where she finally decides to step forward and grab her own life. What do you think?
* * *
Taste of Change
“Does it not scare you?”
Karin looked across the cafe table at her friend, Sayan, who was leafing through a history book with boredom written all over his face. “That people have no hope for the future, that they think the best has long since passed.”
The history book closed with a dull thud. “What gave you that idea?” He still looked bored. He'd lost the glint in his brown eyes.
“Alaric said so. He said people thought the best times were over and reminisced about the past, making no efforts to seek a better future. How awful, to think you missed the chance to live in the golden era so accept a life of boredom and toil without thinking you can change it. I don’t want that. I don’t want to get stuck.” Karin said.
Sayan raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “You listen too much to old Alaric. You know people think he’s mad.”
“There’s nothing wrong with him. People just avoid and dislike what they don’t know. They don’t understand his excitement to pursue the unknown. I think it’s exciting. All the other professors just focus on the magic of the past. But if everyone wallowed in the past and didn't embrace the future then no one would discover any new magic.”
Karin gestured to the history book they’d been issued to read for class. It was full of old spells and medications discovered long ago and one of the most discussed books in the magical education system. She knew any book written by old Alaric wouldn’t be thought of even half as much, even should he discover a spell to take someone to one of the moons.
“You’re exaggerating,” Sayan said, sighing again and pushing his dark fringe from his face. “People know that years ago our magic was nowhere near advanced as it is today. Basic incantations that took lots of effort and long prose to cast, and complicated, ugly potions.
“Today, our knowledge has increased and drastically improved people’s lives. They know this. This drink, for example,” He pointed at the still-steaming brown liquid fogging the sides of a thick blown glass with the heat, golden liquid spiralling like amber within. Karin leaned across the table to look. He continued when she looked back up at him to speak.
“These days, you can buy drinks cheaply at cafes and pubs, enhanced with magic and given drops of an elixir to suit your needs. I can buy herbal tea that cures a cold within hours or this hot chocolate with three drops of liquid inspiration to help me study even the driest of content. And that’s just in a cafe. Think of all the other things we have in modern society that ancient magicians, even magicians one hundred years ago, could never have dreamed of.”
Karin slumped with her head in her hands, her own book laying forgotten beneath her elbows. “And yet, somehow, people still think we’ve reached our limit and can go no further. All the great queens, magicians, and explorers are long since dead, and their dreams of discovery vanished with them.
“I wish I could go exploring as they did rather than sitting in a stuffy classroom listening to a professor drawl on about the glories of the past. What else can we discover? How else can we develop magic? Even with all this magic, somehow, we still can’t stop the wars or end the threat to the environment or halt poverty. I want to find out what else we can do.”
Karin regularly daydreamed about leaving university and discovering ways magic could solve all the problems in the world. But it felt so unobtainable when everyone else seemed content with how things were. Why didn’t anyone else want to push towards the future, too?
“So that’s what you’re really worried about. You’re so impatient.” Sayan said as if he’d figured it all out. Then he shrugged. “There will always be those who oppose change and linger in the past. But I don’t think that means humanity has given up and seeks to return there. Everyone is moving forward in their own way, though some may try to reject change.”
He took a sip of his inspiration-enriched hot chocolate and let out a small, happy sigh. His eyes brightened and a smile crept upon his lips.
“What your problem is, Karin, is you’re too much like old Alaric, though also his opposite. You seek out his mind and his ideas as they grow and expand your worldview, but you forget he hides in his home. You need the adventure that comes with the expanded worldview. Books can only teach you so much.
“If you want to see what humanity is doing to creep forward and avoid being stuck in stagnation, leave the classroom and get out there. See it and help push it into the future. There’s nothing wrong with leaving your studies for a while to see the world and the progress it’s making with your own eyes.”
“But I can’t leave! This is our home!”
“And there you have it. You’re just the same as everyone you’ve just moaned about. People who look to the past, revel in how great it was and how rubbish today is and refuse to take a risk for the future. This place you grew up in, safe with your books, your family, and your memories: it will still be here if you leave. You can come back afterwards if you want.”
Karin pursed her lips and sulked, feeling cheated. “Weren’t you disinterested in this topic only moments ago?”
“Not disinterested. You merely asked if I was scared. I’m not scared, I know where I’m going. But it sounds like this whole conversation about people not pushing towards the future is actually you trying to look for permission to leave because you’re too scared to decide by yourself.”
“You’re surprisingly cold, Sayan.” Despite this, Karin had to admit he was right.
“Says the woman who ordered the ginger tea with fire dust to warm up!”
Karin didn’t answer, pouting at her empty cup and letting the awkward silence sink in. She poked about at the discussion in her mind. What did she want from this life? True, she’d been feeling uneasy and frustrated, a lack of patience and a need to push further. She sought Alaric because he thought differently to others. Everyone else seemed too satisfied with a simple life and the same patterns, letting magic rule their life as they kept moving to the same tune. She didn’t want to move to that tune. She wanted to discover things and push magic further, like the old greats she always read about. And she always daydreamed of leaving home at some point, so why not now?
Sayan interrupted her daydreams of becoming a known and loved entrepreneur, a sorceress with a vision.
“Are you scared?” He asked.
“What I just said?”
“Of course. Change is scary. But I guess I’m also excited. I wonder what will happen in our futures and what we’ll achieve.”
“Things will always change and you can’t control that, but you can control how you react. If you’re not satisfied with your studies now and want to take different steps towards your future, then take a gap year. You can finish your studies when you come back. I’m sure the professor will understand.”
“Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“No. But I need to finish this boring tome before I finish this drink. This inspiration elixir only lasts until I piss. Your existential crisis is using all my time.” He flipped the book open again to signal the conversation was over.
Karin huffed but sat back in her chair and let him get on with his reading. The drink had brightened his eyes and he poured over the boring history book with renewed energy. She’d never considered taking a gap year. But, Sayan was right—as always. Karin moaned constantly about people living stuck in their same life and thinking only of the past, but she’d been doing the same. If she wanted to move towards the future, she’d have to take a leap of faith towards it. Maybe leaving home and exploring new things would give her the push she wanted.
She grinned and lost herself in daydreams of exploring unknown magics in far-away countries. Karin: the magical entrepreneur and discoverer of future magical technologies that brought the world into a new age of life and halted the global crisis. She could almost taste it: the taste of change. It was as real as the fire dust in the ginger tea that still lingered on her tongue.
* * *
Just as impatient as Karin and me for change? Make your own magic and go and grab your dreams.
Want to see what everyone else got up to in the anthology? You can check it out here on Goodreads!