“We’ll be in the next room, okay?” Orion’s mother reassured him one last time before he heard the door close. He heard light footsteps on the stone floor walking in his direction. A rustling of fabric settled in front of him, and he heard an old man’s tired lungs wheeze lightly. Not out of breath from strain, but age.
Orion stayed quiet, listening to the man’s breathing. It changed pitch a few times as if the man’s head was moving up and down. Orion wondered what the man looked like. He was definitely old and his clothes flowed around him; it sounded like his mother’s dresses. His parents told him the man was a wizard. Orion’s imagination easily pasted a long robe on the lean image of a nondescript old man with a long grey beard.
“Why are you here?” the man’s voice was deep and smooth.
“My parents said you could teach me to use magic, Sir,” Orion said politely as he straightened his back. His mother told him to expect some sort of interview and to be polite. He was surprised it started so suddenly, but he did his best to follow his mom’s advice.
“That’s why they brought you, but why are you here? What do you want?” Orion hesitated. His mother always told him to be polite. His father always told him to be honest. It happened often that he couldn’t do both and needed to make a choice.
“I want to see again,” he said honestly.
“And you think you can do that with magic?” the wizard asked. Orion felt like it was a sincere question; at least as sincere as a teacher presenting a question to the class. He was interested in Orion’s answer without any judgement.
“Magic took my sight away,” Orion said.
“Magic is a natural resource, like metal. A needle can sometimes repair the damage done by a dagger, but there’s a lot of luck involved. In your case…,” Orion heard the old man’s tone shift down. “…it would be like a needle trying to sew a pie back together after taking a warhammer to it.” The wizard seemed to be fiddling with something near the fireplace.
“So, I’m unlucky,” Orion sighed.
“In this particular instance, yes. Very. But…,” Orion heard the wizard stand and move about the room. He kept talking though. “…life is not a single instance.” His voice traveled near Orion and the boy felt warm, almost hot air in his wake.
“I can give you a form of sight back, but it won’t be like what you had before. And you’ll have to endure great pain.”
“Yes!” Orion said eagerly, but then reconsidered. “What kind of pain?”
“Have you seen cows getting a brand?”
“You have a magic brand that can give me sight?!” If the branding was the only pain he felt like he could handle it.
“Not exactly. There’s nothing magical about it, but I can explain that later. The iron is cooling down,” Orion felt a burst of warmth in front of his face as if the wizard waved a heated poker around. “Do you want to see?”
‘Yes!” Orion repeated his eagerness. He felt a leathery, calloused hand lift his arm.
“This will hurt. Please don’t scream I don’t want to alarm your parents.” Orion nodded. Before his head finished its downward motion he felt pain. All levels of pain itched, burned, and shocked the back of his hand at the same time. He tried to flinch away but the wizard held his wrist with a firm grip; he was surprisingly strong. Orion clenched his eyes shut and gritted his teeth. He sucked in air through his teeth as the pain grew more intense.
Finally, the wizard released his hand. The pain still throbbed, but he felt the iron pull away. Orion tried to steady his breathing and heard the wizard sit down in front of him. He was disappointed he was still in darkness but wasn’t ready to give up hope yet. He cradled his wounded hand.
“How long does it take?” he asked. He heard the wizard chuckle in response.
“As much as you want it, it should already be working.” the wizard replied. “Your eyes are still closed.”
“Oh, yeah,” Orion said. Instead of opening his eyes all at once he wanted to take it slow. He lifted his eyelids at a glacial pace. He saw light filtering in through his lashes and grew excited. It looked like golden sunlight, but he knew the sun had already set by that time of day. He opened his eyes all the way and marveled at the sight.
The wizard he imagined to be bearded and frail was not at all. A clean-shaven, rotund man in an elegant robe sat in front of him smiling. He exuded a brilliant golden, ghostly aura with phantom vines and flowers. Long, forest-green vines wrapped themselves around the wizard and hovered around him entwined with the aura. Small flowers in various colors sprang from the vines, his aura, and some even appeared to be growing out of him.
“Hola, Estrella,” the wizard said with a smile. “I accept you as my apprentice. You may call me Mundo.”