a snowy cottage with a Christmas tree in the window

Christmas Magic

a Magic’s Key prequel story by E. D. Kastin

Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York

Thursday, December 24, 2009

“… behind the credenza,” said the voice called Alexandra or Alee, getting closer, “he dropped it there while you were spring cleaning, and you said you’d get it later.”

“Nothing for it but to move the whole thing, I guess,” the voice called Mama said. There was a sigh, and then a great scraping, grating sound, and the piece of furniture that had blocked off the little hole under the floorboards for so long slid away, and cold daylight poured in.

The key slipped a little further under the floor as a hand reached down and plucked up the large fluffy object that had arrived a fair while ago.

“Of course, it’s all dusty,” Mama said, “I’ll have to find another scarf for Charles. Do you have yours?”

“Yes, it’s on the table,” Alexandra told her. Their voices drifted away, two sets of footsteps fading into the distance.

For the first time in all the years since it had been dropped off in that house, the key wanted to come out. Something about the sunshine beckoned to it, rare and beautiful. It wondered what the voices would look like in that light. It had never seen the people who made the voices.

Carefully, cautiously, the key slipped higher, up the back of the credenza, over the top. It looked around. It had gotten so used to seeing nothing but shades of darkness that it had almost forgotten what chairs and tables looked like, but that was what lay in front of it.

On the table was a pile of crimson fluff, much like the—what color?—one that had been its neighbor until moments before. It slid closer. This scarf belonged to the small voice that had been around the longest, Alexandra. The key wondered if she looked much like the people it had seen, before it was hidden.

Suddenly, it heard footsteps approaching. After so long, being visible was an alarming prospect, so it dove for the first cover it saw: Alexandra’s scarf. It had only just barely hidden in the pile by the time the footsteps came into the room.

“Okay, scarf, check,” the Alexandra voice said, and it peeked out at her. She was smaller than it remembered people being, but encased in something puffy and blue. It ducked further into the fluff as Alexandra picked up the scarf and wrapped it around her neck. The key ended up by the side of her face. It had an easy enough time positioning itself to be able to see out around her collar.

She made quick footsteps out of the room, carrying the key with her. It looked around, taking in the rapidly passing furniture, the walls, the doorways. The place looked big enough to get lost in, so the key stayed snugged in with Alexandra.

After a bit, she got to a room full of other people all wrapped up and fluffed out, all talking over each other. They were the other voices the key had heard, five more small voices and two bigger ones. They didn’t stay there long, though. They all bundled out yet another door, down some stairs, and then out into…

It was white-rainbow, like someone had dusted the world in little flakes of mirror. It was soft, crunching and muffling footsteps. The key didn’t have to wonder long what it was, because multiple voices cried, “Snow!”

The key had never seen snow. Certainly not under the credenza, and not in those hazy years in and out of fingers and pockets beforehand. The key remembered its mission, but those early years were doused in shadows and lies, difficult to recall in detail.

It watched as the children ran around in the snow, picked it up, threw it at each other. One lump almost hit the key—the horror! They tried to make people out of snow, but even the key knew that was not how people were made. Even the key itself had not simply been formed and gained life. Its creation was lost in the darkness, but it remembered tears and deep magic.

The children never seemed to tire. They were herded back indoors when it began to get dark, the soft purple evening lowering over the snow-furred streets and balls of light beginning to appear in two long parallel rows in the air. The key watched them from the pile of their scarves as they ate, all together around a large wooden table. They talked and laughed and bickered, and the key was finally able to put faces to the voices it had heard for so long.

The small ones went off to put on their church clothes, but the two bigger voices, Mama and Papa, stayed in the room, fussing about with the tree that was growing almost as high as the ceiling in the corner and the footwear which was mysteriously hanging over the mantlepiece. After a long while, they came back, shiny and stiff and colorful and lacy, and began wrapping themselves up again. The key clung to Alexandra’s scarf again as she put it back on.

They all filed down the stairs again and out into the quiet-cold evening, murmuring about Christmas Mass. They piled into a car, and the key watched with awe as snow-frosted houses and trees and light-balls rolled by, all so still and sweet and solemn in the light that emanated from the small room they were moving in.

When they left the car and entered a pale block of a building, the key could barely pay attention to what was going on around it for staring. It had faint, far-away memories of a palace of air and magic, but this church was inlaid with color and supported by a deep richness that not even the home of emperors had matched.

There was singing, and moving about, but the key gave little mind to that. It was in a daze, so much splendor after so many years of darkness.
The key wasn’t quite sure it was cut out for the light. As the family drove home, it thought about the niche it had inhabited under the credenza, the comfortable place that had been its whole world for almost as long as it could remember. It wanted to go back there before the credenza was returned. It was not yet ready to do what it was there to do.

It was so lost in its own mind that when Alexandra unwound her scarf, it fell into her hand, warm metal against her chilly skin. She looked at it, eyes slow with tiredness, and it slipped through her fingers, hiding itself out of her sight before she could take a good look at it.

Her eyebrows were scrunched together, but she didn’t pursue it. She just dropped her scarf in the pile with the others and went to sit with her siblings, where they were all talking.

“Please?” one of the small voices begged, “For Christmas Eve?”

“Just one chapter,” the biggest voice, Papa, replied. “Which book do you want?”

Swallows and Amazons!” another small voice demanded, and as the key slid unnoticed along the baseboards and back under where the credenza would be replaced, Papa began to read aloud about sailing ships and adventures, and the key settled down and listened.


Published in New York City, New York by Eve Dorothy Kastin ❄︎ Copyright © 2021 by E. D. Kastin ❄︎ All rights reserved ❄︎ The moral rights of the author have been asserted ❄︎ This story is a work of fiction

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