Issue #39, Honorable Mention #1

Carter Lappin is a Californian author. Her works of fiction have appeared in several literary publications, including Apparition Lit, Air and Nothingness Press, and Parsec Ink. You can find her on Twitter at @CarterLappin.

Unintended Magic

by Carter Lappin

With a flash of purple light and a clap of normal-colored thunder, two surprised-looking boys appeared in front of a unicorn. The unicorn, for its part, looked less than impressed with the display, continuing to chew at a pink-colored plant without any apparent concern.

The boys looked at each other, then at the unicorn. One of the boys was holding a very old book. Both of them were smoking slightly from their sudden transportation, green and pinkish-blue clouds of ash wafting from their clothes. Again, they looked at each other, the unicorn, each other. Back and forth. They were utterly silent for a long moment.

Then one of the boys reached over and punched the book-holding one, hard, on the arm. “What the hell, Brian?” He was, slowly, gaining an expression of panic. He bounced on the balls of his feet and said again, “What the hell?”

Brian looked at the book as though it were a live snake. “I don’t know!” The unicorn’s ear twitched in annoyance at the pitch of the boy’s wail.

“Why did you read it?”

“I don’t know! It was just there in front of me—and, anyways, this whole thing was your idea in the first place.” Brian shook the book in the other boy’s direction, then, seeming to realize what he was doing, dropped it hastily on the ground. It fell into the blue grass with a puff of sparkles. He wiped his hands off on the front of his shirt like he was afraid he’d been contaminated just by touching it.

“We both agreed to go into the wizard tower, don’t try to pin that one on me!”

“Nuh-uh, remember, when we were on that creepy staircase, I was like, hey, Brandon, I think this might be an evil wizard tower, maybe we shouldnt go in here after all. And you were like, no, dude, its fine, nobody lives here anymore, whats the worst that could happen? Well, guess what, Brandon? The worst happened!”

Brandon scowled. “You’re taking that out of context.” He looked at the unicorn again, which sparkled rainbow colors in the sunlight. “Besides, it’s not the worst. We’re just in fairyland or something. Fairyland is supposed to be nice.”

“Why would an evil wizard, in his creepy tower filled with even creepier human skulls, keep a weird book that magically teleports people who read it into somewhere nice like fairyland?”

“I don’t know,” Brandon said, a little nastily. “Why would anybody pick up a random creepy book in a random creepy evil wizard tower and then read it out loud for no reason at all?”

Defensive, Brian said, “I thought it might be something cool! You picked up that weird amulet thing and nothing bad happened, I thought it was fine.”

Brandon crossed his arms. “Dude, that thing was definitely cursed. It started bleeding. Didn’t you see me throw it out the window?”

Brian looked away. “No. I was reading the book.”

“It exploded on impact with the ground. I’m pretty sure a ghost came out of it,” Brandon said. “Literally everything in that tower was super, super evil.”

Brian looked around. The closest tree seemed to be growing cotton candy instead of leaves. “What does that mean for you and your idea that this is fairyland, then?”

They both turned to look at the unicorn again. It was still standing where they’d first seen it, chewing contemplatively on something that was bright blue. Its horn might have been glowing, just a little bit. The unicorn itself also smelled overwhelmingly of candy—though that could have been the scent of the surrounding fauna instead.

“Uh,” said Brandon. He scratched his head as he thought. “Maybe the evil wizard stole the book from a good one?”

Brian pointed triumphantly, shoving his finger in the other boy’s face. “Which would mean that it wasnt a terrible idea to read the book then. So I’m fine and everything is your fault after all. Okay, you’ve convinced me—this is fairyland.”

“Now hang on a second—”

Brian bent down and swooped the book up from where he’d dropped it on the ground. Enough glitter to fill a bucket came up with it, and Brian grimaced as he shook it out, trying to clean it as best he could. It didn’t work very well, with glitter mostly ending up stuck to the book’s cover, between its pages, and in the folds of Brian’s clothes. He tried to brush it off and succeeded only in covering his hand in a thin layer that stuck to his skin no matter how hard he tried to wipe it off.

“Look, it’s fine,” he said.

“It still teleported us,” Brandon pointed out, eyeing the book warily as Brian flipped through its pages. “I don’t think I would be holding that if I were you.”

“No, you’d just be convincing your perfectly innocent friend that it would be a good idea to walk right into an obviously evil wizard tower and start poking things,” Brian said, huffy.

“Again, you’re the one who read the book and made us teleport. I really don’t see how I’m the bad guy in this situation. Besides, when you find a wizard tower, you go into the wizard tower. That’s the rules.”

“Whose rules?”

“I dunno. Everyone?”

Everyone says that if you find a wizard tower you need to go into it? Everyone says that?”

“Uh, yeah, probably.”

“Brandon, I’ve never heard anyone except you say that in my entire life.”

Brandon shifted awkwardly on his feet. “I’ve definitely heard someone say it before. Anyways, can you un-teleport us or what? Fairyland seems nice and all so far, but I don’t want to stay here forever. Plus, I’m pretty sure that unicorn is looking at me weird.”

They looked at the unicorn. It looked back.

“Okay, yeah, good point.” Brian flipped quickly through the pages of the books, sending up clouds of sparkles as he did. “Um, I’m not sure exactly which page it was. It’s all in this weird language.”

“A weird magic language, apparently,” Brandon said. “Are you telling me we’re stuck here forever? What if things start singing? I cant sing, Brian!”

“Why would they sing?”

“I don’t know, it’s fairyland! The grass is sparkly and the trees are made out of candy and the sun has a smiley face on it! Why wouldn’t there be singing?”

Brian paled slightly. “Good point.” He started flipping faster. He stopped on a page, brushing glitter from it. “Okay, this is the one. I’m pretty sure.”

“Pretty sure is gonna have to be good enough. Start reading, book boy, and quick. All this magic stuff is starting to give me hives.”

“Oh, now you want me to read,” Brian said. Brandon punched him again. “Ow! Okay, fine!”

He read. The boys squeezed their eyes shut.

Nothing happened.

They opened one eye each. “Maybe—”

Another flash of light and they were gone, leaving no trace of their presence besides a couple of footprints in the sparkling grass.

The unicorn looked up. That was really weird, it said. Then it went back to its meal. A rainbow blossomed beneath its feet, and the wind blew in the scent of warm fudge.

Copyright 2022 by Carter Lappin