It's a sad, lonely place, the ancient graveyard hidden in the heart of the Haunted Woods. No one really knows where it came from, but he guards it now, guards those who want to get in... and those who want to get out.
- The Neopedia
I didn’t think about him much, anymore. What would be the sense? I heard about him every so often; it didn’t interest me. I had everything to lose and nothing to gain from him. If he had ever wanted to see me again, he could have.
It was over and done with now.
But as it so happened, I was forced to think of him one last time.
I would never ordinarily have ventured so deep into the Haunted Woods, but I needed some clawmatoe to make Mrs. Nelson’s potion before the next day, and Spooky Foods was closed on Sundays. I was not unduly frightened, but the danger was legitimate. The leftovers of Hubrid Nox’s takeover still wandered the deeper reaches of the forest, especially at night.
I put on my coat and gloves and found a bag to put the clawmatoe in. As I left the house, Angela was there, dependably, to hold me up. “Where are you off to at this time of night?” the Kougra called from her porch.
“Haunted Woods,” I said coldly, not bothering to raise my voice.
“That’s a dangerous place, dear! Whoever knows what might – ”
“Why, then, let’s pray that I return safe and sound, shall we?” I started to walk again. She might, possibly, have said something else, but I didn’t hear it. I didn’t care to.
It was a cold, blustery winter night. The trees loomed up, tall, shadowy and unfriendly, almost as though they were watching me. Everything was bleak and cruel. And yet I had once walked down this same road, skipping and laughing in the wind, because –
There was nobody else on the roads, which did not surprise me. The closest place to find clawmatoes was in the old cemetery, far from where anybody could hear me if I should scream. I was a Faerie Kyrii all alone in the Haunted Woods, with nothing but a sack for her defense – and yet I was as safe as anybody, against the undead. In their eyes we were all equal.
It was as I passed the last lamppost and started down the winding path into the woods that I came to realize I was being followed. By what, I could not be certain. All I could do was hope that it was just a wayfarer or an animal. There was no use in turning back, not now; if it was one of them, it would not let me return to the village.
I could hear the low growl of something behind me.
A chill ran down my spine.
I kept walking, my eyes adjusting slowly to the dim moonlit path ahead. I was nearly there. I saw the twisted tree that I had once –
I saw the first tombstone and hurried toward it. If I could only reach it, I thought; and then I did, and sat on it, and took a shaky breath. And looked around.
There was nothing.
How weak I had been, how laughable! I had actually managed to convince myself that something was following me, only because I knew that something might. Now, where was the best place to find clawmatoe? It grew in dark, moist places. Perhaps the little area at the bottom of the hill would be a good place to start looking.
Then I felt a cold touch on my shoulder.
I leapt up with a shriek, and whirled around to see the hideous ghost of a Cybunny moving slowly nearer and nearer, the glint of death in its lifeless red eyes. I screamed, but there was no one to hear me. And in that moment I realized that if I died, here and now, there would be no one left to care.
As I stood there frozen, a blast of green light flew past my ear, sizzling the ends of my fur. The bolt slammed into the Cybunny with lethal force, and it keeled back, but it was not dead yet; one, two, three more times it was blasted until it gave a rattling gasp and vanished into thin air.
It was him.
He turned away sharply in midair to fly off, and I wanted to let him. Except I – couldn’t.
The Wocky paused and looked over his shoulder without much interest; then I saw the recognition spread over his face. It was not a pleasant or friendly kind of recognition. I wished I hadn’t said anything. I wish it still.
“Lucy,” he snarled. “What a nice surprise.”
“Just for a minute – why don’t – I haven’t talked to you in years.” Oh, I was stupid. It was like watching a helpless little petpet run straight into Balthazar’s jaws.
MAGAX hesitated, hovering, then lowered himself to the ground and sat on a tombstone. “What do you want, exactly?”
His eyes were narrowed; his voice was low, and cold as ice.
I looked into the distance, feeling the words rise up in my throat, with the memories that had lain untouched for what now seemed like the greater part of my life. Here was a thing so intensely personal, so deeply emotional, that my voice shook as I asked what would bring no pleasure to either of us, but I could not seem to help myself. “I want to know why you did it,” I whispered.
“What do you think?” he asked, somehow twisting it into something impersonal and businesslike.
“I don’t understand how you could have – ”
“For the joy of it,” he interrupted sarcastically. “I have a lot to do, so if you don’t mind, I’ll be going.”
“MAGAX, wait! Can I call you by - ”
“No,” he said flatly.
It was a funny thing. Now, when I felt that my heart was breaking, not a single tear would come. My voice was low and calm. “I’ve been miserable, you know. Every few days, it seems, I hear your name. I hear them saying, ‘MAGAX – oh, he’s the one who – yes, I don’t know how anyone could do that.’”
He was silent.
“I’ve been making potions and medicines for a living,” I told him almost conversationally, the way I might tell a stranger. “It isn’t much, but it’s something to live on.”
His yellow eyes, glowing in the night, seemed to pierce through my very soul and mock what they saw there. He had not always been like this, but now he was MAGAX. There had been a time when I shuddered every time I heard that hateful acronym. Not so anymore. I knew who MAGAX was.
No friend of mine.
I stood up slowly, brushing off my dress. “I was going to ask you to come back,” I remarked. “I had this silly memory, a sort of fantasy of the past, if you will. Oh, don’t tell me; I know it’s ridiculous. But I have to have something to think about occasionally, don’t I? Anyway, I see now what an idiot I was being.”
He was silent.
“Promise to think of me, sometimes,” I said.
He got up, slowly. “Don’t worry,” he said, and then he took off into the night.
It is an oddly liberating state, being without hope. As long as you are hoping for something, you have always the secret fear that it will not happen. My step was as light as my heart as I followed the path back to the village. The bag in my hand was filled and the potion would be ready by daybreak. I smiled at Angela and gave her a friendly nod as I passed. A cold, dead sun began to rise as I finished mixing.
For better or worse, whether I liked it or not, he was – and would always be – MAGAX: Destroyer.
Sometimes, it’s better not to know.