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The dusty glass of an ancient lamp sparkled, and Bronwen jumped back.

Nikola rolled his eyes.

“The electricity is quite safe,” he said. “Sooner or later, you’ll use it.”

Sitting down in a worn velvet chair, Bronwen snorted.

“What for, Nikola? I have my magic wand and spells.”

Rummaging in the beaded purse, Bronwen pulled out a carved ebony wand adorned with basilisk feathers. She had paid many golden guineas for this part of the rare creature, which, according to legend, enhanced the magic. 

It was Tesla's turn to step back.

“Stop your tricks, Bronwen,” he said, “we’re in the workshop and not in the…”

Nikola gasped. A bouquet of snow-white lilies bloomed on a stone table.

Bronwen hoped Tesla wouldn't notice her blushing cheeks. Brides, walking to the altars in the Temples of Magic, loved lily bouquets.

“The flowers are stunning,” he smiled, “but your wand won’t make the mechanism I need.”

Nicola avoided saying this, but Bronwen knew what he meant. The High Council of Magic controlled movement between worlds. In any case, Bronwen doubted the spell was written down somewhere. 

The Council members might have possessed the needed words, but the young sorceress Bronwen could not access them.

Remembering the Council, she blushed again, and Tesla chuckled.

“You get embarrassed too often for a witch.”

“It’s just so hot here,” Bronwen muttered, waving her wand.

The shutters flew open, and the midday roar of New York rushed through the arches of the workshop. Sitting down on a wide windowsill, Tesla lit a cigarette.

“It’s worth staying here just for your manipulations with tobacco and coffee,” the scientist. “Anyone who delivers such seeds to our world will make a fortune.”

Sitting next to him, swinging her slender leg in a high lace-up boot, Bronwen stole a couple of puffs.

“It doesn’t work like that, Nikola,” the girl twirled a strand of blond hair around her finger.

“Magical seeds will not sprout in your world, just as wizards will not take root there. Judge for yourself,” Bronwen pointed to Broadway below. “Is our city similar to New York that you know?”

A tram shrouded in steam rumbled along the rails, a hawker on the corner pulled sausages out of the air, and a pair of griffins tumbled over the tiled roofs.

“They don’t look the same,” Tesla agreed. “However, judging by your team, you have already stolen some scientists.”

Bronwen decided to remain silent, doubting Tesla had heard of her late grandfather, the engineer who had built steam engines for the wizarding world.

“What happened once can happen a second time,” the head of the Council told her. “You are an excellent sorceress, Bronwen, and you have the power to make Tesla choose our world.”

“It won’t work that way,” she answered. “My grandfather fell in love with my grandmother and stayed here. The spell will only create an illusion of…”

The Council leader's fist crashed on the table, and Bronwen flinched.

“We can also condemn you to eternal oblivion,” the magician said. “We can find a hundred more girls for your mission, so get yourself together and finish your assignment.”

Bronwen could not cast the necessary spell, turning a person into a creature submissive to the wizard's will.

“Nikola will never truly fall in love with me,” she blinked away the tears. “There is nothing to hope for.”

“Bronwen,” Tesla’s concerned voice startled her. “Bronwen, what's wrong?”

She smiled.

“I was just thinking about something. But don't you like it here?”

It was Tesla's turn to snort. He waved a smoking cigarette.

“What will I do here? In our world, I have a real laboratory, not an alchemist’s lair,” he pointed to the lamps. “Your wands cannot recreate the equipment located here.” 

Nikola tapped his graying temple.

“You have metal and glass,” Bronwen said, but Tesla shrugged.

“Which are smelted by the dwarves. Thanks, but I prefer the more traditional work, so tell your magicians that I won’t stay here.”

The sound of his footsteps echoed under the rough stone ceiling. Bronwen learned all his moves by heart.

“He walks back and forth when he’s irritated,” she sniffled, “and when he’s thinking, he chews the tip of his pen.”

Tesla stopped in front of her.

“Don’t be afraid of our world, Bronwen. We haven’t burned anyone at the stake for a long time, and you can also work in the library.”

She looked away.

“All the wizards who had chosen your world returned home. Wait,” Bronwen slapped her forehead, “how could I forget about the library!”

The sorceress rushed to the door, but Tesla caught her hand.

“Explain what you’re up to,” the scientist demanded, and Bronwen pursed her lips.

“If you try to return to your world, then the High Council of Magic will doom you to eternal oblivion,” she sighed, “but there must be another way, and I will find it, Nikola.”

Rushing out to the crowded Broadway, Bronwen waved to the clumsy steam car chugging past her.


The bright lightning tore the stormy sky over New York, and Tesla shuddered. A sea of street lamps shimmered below, and he remembered another world lying very close by.

“Stretch your hand, and you will be there,” Tesla closed his eyes, “but I will not return to Bronwen, and she will not appear here.”

He did not expect the sorceress to use again the ancient spell she had found in the repository of manuscripts in the library. Tesla did not remember well what happened in his workshop afterward. He woke up on the floor of his familiar New York laboratory.

Somewhere nearby, a bird chirped, and Tesla perked up.

The tender wings rustled close, and Nicola decided he was dreaming. He often dozed off while working.

Snow-white feathers touched his cheek, and a graceful dove landed on his shoulder.

“Bronwen,” Tesla whispered. “Bronwen, is that you?”

The dove purred, and he once again told himself he was sleeping.

“Because I understand her,” Tesla stroked the delicate wing, “my poor girl. The High Council of Magic punished her for disobedience.”

“Will you remain a bird as long as I live?” he asked. The bird cooed, clinging to him.

“Please forgive me, Bronwen,” he hid the dove in his palms. 

The cold rain washed the tears from his cheeks. Not daring to move, he listened to Bronwen's heartbeat, protecting her from the storm raging around them.

The End


Nelly Shulman’s short stories appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. She is a winner of the three writing awards. She is a member of the Israeli Association of Writers in English.


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