This little gem came from a new, um, what-seems-to-be-a-novella-in-progress, about a woman, Gwen, who finds herself saddled with two MEAN and NASTY goats (named Masher and Blender) out of nowhere, followed shortly thereafter by their supposed keeper, Thjalfi, and some very strange postcards in her mailbox. It's a little rough, but I think it illustrates the nature of magic for Gwen perfectly.
I popped the lid of the garbage can and began digging through the mess. The postcard should have been on top. It had been the last thing I’d thrown away that morning before going out to the barn.
“What exactly are you looking for?” Thjalfi asked.
“That postcard from yesterday.”
Eggshells and wrappers from my frozen dinner last night. No trace of the postcard. I sat back on my heels, scowling.
“What’s so important about it that you’re digging through your trash?”
I waved vaguely in the direction of the table as I climbed to my feet. “It came in the mail again.”
I stared into the garbage can. “I can’t find the old one. But I only threw it out this morning. Ripped it into pieces first. Now it’s just gone, completely. And that new one is…” I shook my head and went to the sink.
Thjalfi sifted through the mail until he found the postcard. I washed my hands up to my elbows and turned to watch him, drying my hands.
“I see,” he said.
“It’s like someone dug it out of the trash and put it back together again.” I stepped forward to point at a corner. “It even has stains from the eggshells.”
He read the back and tossed it to the table. “I wonder what he means by this.”
“Well it’s clear what he means, but it isn’t what it said before. The other one said I should invoke his name and the goats would obey me. This one says he sent you. But it looks like it came out of my trash!”
“Yes,” Thjalfi said, still staring at the mail. “I see that, too.”
“How can that be, though?” I stiffened, spinning to look behind me to the living room. “He’s not here in the house, waiting? What is the matter with all of you that you don’t know how to wait until you’re invited in!”
“If he were here, I’d know,” Thjalfi said, catching me by the arm. “And he wouldn’t have bothered sending a note.”
“Then what the hell happened to the card I tore up earlier, and why does this say something different on the back of it?”
Thjalfi pressed his lips together, creases forming around his eyes. He pulled a chair out and pressed me toward it. “Maybe you should sit down.”
“I don’t want to sit down,” I said, jerking my arm free and glaring. “I want to throw whoever invaded my home into the pen with those damn goats and let them tear him to pieces!”
Thjalfi smiled. “No one invaded your home, Gwen. But if they had, throwing them in with the goats wouldn’t do you any good. That postcard is from Asgard. Tear it up a thousand times and it will still put itself back together on command.”
“But it can’t be the same. The message is different.”
He shook his head. “You think if it can put itself back together again, it can’t also be rewritten with some new note?”
“Paper does not glue itself back together, whether it’s from Canada or not.”
He laughed then. “Is that where you think Asgard is? In Canada?”
My face flushed, though I didn’t know why. I grabbed the postcard and stuck it in his face. “It says so on the postmark. Mount Asgard, Canada.”
“That is what the postcard says, yes.” He lowered my hand, working the card free from my fingers. “But Mount Asgard isn’t where this is from. It’s just a place it passed through, in Midgard. Asgard is someplace else entirely.”
“Are you some Fantasy nerd?” If he was, it made a lot more sense. The Gandalf on the stamp, the talk of Midgard. Wasn’t there a country in Lord of the Rings named Midgard? I couldn’t remember. I’d only seen it once. “The leather pants, the tunic-like shirt. Do you – what do they call it…? Larp? Like those people who dress up for renaissance festivals?”
He gave me a very strange look, his eyebrows rising. “What?”
“Never mind.” I cleared my throat and looked away. “Evidently not.”
“If you’d just listen, suspending your disbelief for a moment, I can explain everything.”
“With magic paper, Thjalfi?”
“Magic paper, magic goats, magic lands. Yes. And after Masher and Blender arrived unannounced, you ought to have at least begun suspecting that something strange was going on. You’re an intelligent woman.”
“Yes! And that’s precisely why all this hocus-pocus makes absolutely no sense!”
“All right,” he said. “Then how exactly do you explain it?”
I grabbed the postcard back from him and tore it in half, then in half again, and again. Then I crossed to the window, pulled it open, and threw the pieces outside. The wind picked them up, lifting them up like snowflakes, and I watched them scatter.
“I should go check on the chickens,” I said.
Thankfully, Thjalfi didn’t try to stop me.