Fantasy has always been my favorite genre. I very much want to live in a world where magic can change every circumstance, help and heal and strengthen. As a kid I always played pretend and imagined a world where magic was normal — that my life growing up in suburban Houston simply hid it from me and one day it would show itself.
Naturally, fantasy books were what I gravitated to. Systems of magic and whole worlds that were just more intricate and incredible than mine. I had the power to create the world that I wanted to live in, especially as I tried to read more fantasy. I was introduced to Harry Potter in fifth grade, and you can only imagine what that did to me. And then the Lord of the Rings movies came out. I found Francesca Lia Block and Weetzie Bat. I even avoided Game of Thrones for a long time because there wasn’t enough magic for me.
I was a kid who wanted to feel powerful, like I could enact change somehow, and didn’t get that from the neighborhood and life that I lived.
I wrote stories set in these worlds almost obsessively as a kid, and hid them away, too. Writing was the only thing I ever truly felt like I was good at, and yet wasn’t ever brave enough to show off my work. Even as I started spending more and more time on the internet, that was anonymous. I could shield myself with a username and a fake location.
And then somewhere around high school it stopped. I stopped writing magical little stories just for myself, and I’m still not sure why. Homework, marching band commitments (oh yes), fear — there’s tons of totally logical reasons. I still consumed the books, with the Harry Potter series still going and everything.
Then I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and I haven’t really been the same. It’s years later, even. The book came out in 2011 (oh god it really has been that long) and I’ve been chasing the high I got from it ever since. V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic books have come close, but nothing filled me with such yearning to live in a magical world like The Night Circus did.
I mentioned in my first #FictionFriday post that I wanted to use this space as a place to get back to writing my own fiction. I miss it, honestly, after spending years doing mostly newsworthy writing of the Liverpool variety. This is not a complaint about that, either. So this week’s Fiction Friday post is going to try and get back to a little bit of what I loved in the first place — creating a world of my own.
I don’t know where this is going or what’s going to come of it, but it was also inspired partially by a tweet thread by author L. D. Lapinski about what the world might look like, in a good way, in 2035.
It was so soothing, this wonderful world where we could all look after each other. Sounds fantasy enough to me, right now. So let’s hang out there for a while.
It took some time but magic finally came back to Los Angeles.
It had always been there, drawing people in from all over the world, twinkling in the hills and the valleys, reflecting off the water at the beaches.
It was in the waves of heat from the asphalt, the warmth of the winds through the trees in the mountains, the islands of communities and streets that defied any systems to bring you to where you had to be (or keep you from going where you shouldn’t). The palm and Cyprus trees swaying, jasmine every summer as the heat dissipates with the day.
It was always there because the creators were always there.
People had always done magic, especially in Los Angeles, bringing art to life. The world just needed a shift, a longing for help, to bring it back and make it tangible. Even as it came up, roots pushing up sidewalks, spilling onto streets.
The world shifted through 2020, as the world became more compassionate. Magic, encouraged by love and kindness, sneaks through, seeping and pushed outward. It bubbled forth like the old tar pits, and there were only a few who knew what to do with it.
There were magic users who didn’t even know it, didn’t become creators until magic came back. There were the people who had always done it, always used sigils and herbs and the phases of the moon to try and influence the world around them. Sage and cedar smoke twisting around offering bowls. Setting up crystal grids and reaching out for that energy at the very furthest of their fingertips, lighting candles and begging the flames to give them some guidance.
There were the people who felt the warmth lingering from the sun of the day, radiating from the ground and swirling with the jacaranda petals when the breeze would pick up. A deep breath, a sigh, and a wish that they could do something with this hope — share it with the world, that feeling of content that came with experiencing a summer night. Holding it in their chests, a warm little star passing along secrets to keep going.
You could feel it, driving up the hills through Griffith Park as the sun goes down, knowing they’ll close the gates any minute and make you park on the side of the road. But on a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean, and lay in the grass as the stars fight their way back through. The smog is almost gone, and maybe it’s been missed, even as some people are able to use that bit of magic to heal the asthma that came from it. The moon is so bright that finding a spot on the grass to stargaze isn’t hard, even as the lights from the observatory are off, bathing everything in silver.
It’s in every fruit tree in every yard, oranges and lemons and nectarines and apricots and plums. Rose gardens outside the big houses hidden in the hills, perfume in the streets. It blooms with every desert flower and succulent, coaxed into life by those lovers speaking and spilling water to bring them to the sun. Every vine, every ivy crawling up walls and down through windows. Even as the people stayed home, retreated to protect the world and themselves, the Earth made sure what we left was protected.
Sure, there was warmth, as the sun had less fighting it and the air softened. There were milder winters, as the desert came back. The palm and Cyprus trees kept swaying.
No one ever really chose Los Angeles. It drew you in, if you were meant for it, whether you liked it or not. No one ever thought the city was easy, either, as it forced you to learn its magic before using it. The freeways would shift, slithering through the city like concrete serpents, and exits and entrances would move from where they were last. The invocations that would come with navigation would have to be earned, sometimes from that desperation of just wanting to get home.
There were people, drawn to kindness and newness, with all the energy and devotion of old friends. Here one minute, a puff of smoke the next. Texts, glowing with symbols of summoning, pushed down the queue and forgotten. Sounds of laughter and plans, gatherings over drinks and breakfast, basking in the trees on patios and fairy lights on rooftops. The power of community, shared passions, tethering people to those they were meant to find. Everyone is connected by a golden thread, after all. These roots grow beneath every street that brings you to each other.
This magic came out of desperation. It was there, through protests and pandemics, as the city endured shutdowns and the people found new ways to create and connect. When the city needed healing the most — it was never overnight. It took years, crafting the threads, the roots stretching from the developer’s homes of the north Valley, to the edges of the beaches, pushing through South LA and the end of the county..
It had always been here, drawing us all in. It came back just when we needed it most.
It was nurtured by those who had always been here, the families and communities who built the city. Ancestors of the sands, carving through the canyons for a place to themselves, shielding themselves in the Valley. There had always been magic here, they’d tell you, We just needed to find it again, know how to recognize it.
There’s bent oak trees that would give you their secrets if they could, having seen the city shift through generations. Shading hidden driveways and twisting dirt roads, running along stone cliffs, before opening up to the ocean ahead.
It’s everywhere, it will be everywhere, and may fade again. But this city is magic, down to the roots that stretch searching for groundwater.
It is here for every rebirth, every shift, and every change, as the magic in Los Angeles calls to those who would use it best. Just a little push, a quiet whisper on those hot Santa Ana winds, the jasmine bringing you in.