Where Is MagicLand?

Stories of a land of magic abound. But are they real?

The storms this year have been even worse than usual. This means, of course, that survival hinges more on luck than things like skill, or shelter, or even the ability to wage combat with bandits, thieves, and marauders.

It doesn’t help that the Gath relentlessly hunt those of us who are descendants of non-augmenters.

Core image licensed from Shutterstock; image smashup by author

Maybe I’d like to be augmented. But it doesn’t matter. The days when regular humans could be augmented are long gone. Now, augmented humans are grown from scratch.

Eggs from a machine, wired and ready to go, fitted at birth through a combination of genomics and nanotechnology. Given to the Gath, not by sutures or blood implants like centuries ago, but inheritance.

A new species. Not human. Not machine. But a hybrid of some sort.

Legend has it that the first set of Eradications targeted descendants from both races who were not worthy of keeping alive in a world unable to support the billions of humans that crowded its sweltering, chemical-laced cities.

These legends hold that most of humanity was eradicated for the crime of not being within that tiny class of the most wealthy people who could afford augmentations to help survive climate change and the toxic stew that the world had become.



Charles Bastille • Jan 25, 2024

She looked across the lake at sculptures morphed from the ruins of old steel mills. Hammond, Indiana, she thought. That used to be Hammond. Her dad had taken her fishing here as a child. Wolf Lake had its charms during her childhood despite being in the middle of old industrial parks. The bluegill always looked fat and happy, even as they flopped on the …

Read full story →

Now, hundreds of years later, the Gath reign supreme, chasing the few human survivors who’ve endured this generational holocaust. And now, rumor is, there is a land where some humans are augmented with a spiritual power that matches every weapon the Gath can throw at them.

I miss women.

I haven’t seen one for two years.

Their dulcet voices, the lack of violence in their souls, their mannerisms. I miss all of it. I sometimes wonder if there are any left. They avoid places like this. This remains of a city, a place where a few survivors shelter from the storms and the fury of robots programmed by the Gath to hunt us.

So imagine my shock when I see an old woman sitting on a pile of mortar and metal, ruins from long-ago wars.

She is wearing a sleeveless denim vest that barely covers her chest, buttoned with one button in the scorching heat. And she’s knitting. Just sitting there. Knitting!

Her blue jean-covered legs are crossed. She is as thin as the rebar poking up from the debris surrounding her. Her hair is like a picture of cotton candy I had seen a decade ago, but dirty. When I approach her I can see grains of dirt and silt in her unkempt hair, which is topped by a man’s brown trilby hat. Her black skin is creased with webs of intricate lines.

She looks up and smiles at me with a shockingly perfect white set of teeth.

“I’ve come for you. We heard you asking for us.”

I put my hand on the hilt of my blade, which is always strapped to my side.

She looks unconcerned. Unprovoked. Her eyes return to her project, which appears to be a sweater of some kind.

She speaks as if she hears the question in my head.

“You’ll need it. It is a cold windy day today in Moria. The fog has rolled in early, and the sun will only shine on the southern hills for a short time before giving way to an unusually harsh northerly wind.”

I certainly don’t understand what she is talking about, or why she is here, and I tell her so.

“What is the importance of understanding in times like these? You asked for us. We have arrived. It is fairly simple.” She doesn’t look up from her knitting.

I look around. The rubble she sits in is a perch in plain sight away from the nearest set of shorn buildings. I don’t like being exposed like this. It isn’t only robots who kill.

“We are alone,” she says. “Nobody for miles. The Gath have been quite efficient here.”

I tell her that this is no place for an old lady. I try to be delicate with my words, but I fail.

She chuckles. “Do you wish to stay here? Or would you like to join us?”

I wonder how that can be so. How can I join them? Who is them?

“We are the people of Moria. So named after a great legend. A fictional one, I believe,” she says matter-of-factly. “As to how? You merely take my hand, and I will take you there. But act quickly. Scanning and search bots will be here soon. I like to avoid those.”

Is it the land of magic? I wonder to myself. This place she wants to take me?

“It is,” she says.

But I have no powers. I’m just a hunted animal. I am neither magician nor Gath.

“You will find your power. But you must come with us. There is no power here. In this wasteland.” She extends her hand and I take it, and I am instantly transported to a shining city of hills lit by an aura no human could create.

A boundary of beautiful white and blue light rings the sky beyond.

As she releases my hand and I look around, I wonder if I have died, and this is heaven.