The Origins of magic: The thief who slept, died and was Dreamt

By Benny Thang

sfgenreMy body shivered and convulsed as my aching eye pried itself open and, through the haze, stared at the creature that had woken me. It reared its regal-slick black-gold body and swayed to the sound of its own hissing. The cobra undulated, its yellow hood flaring augustly like a crown or mantle beckoning supplication. I tried to spit at it, but my throat was dry and cracked. It ignored my feeble groans and coiled within itself and rested. It was only then that I realised this had been long-awaited.

So, in time, I accepted the invitation. I closed my eyes and welcomed the venom coursing through my limbs, my heart, my mind, and died.


Then— then


A soft border. A lone moment. A serpent yawned at the sky and I could see its fangs draw endlessly into the horizon. Until its eyes met mine and I, for a moment, basked in it. I felt its immensement within every strand of my being, but the beast bore nothing but modest discontent. This was how it must have been since the beginning, I thought. There was a truth here I could not yet grasp.

It stirred. 

Scales glistened like a boundless ocean of cascading moons. Night became day became day became night and I knew then it was not a serpent but a Dragon

Stoic and all-encompassing. I recognise now the great shape of The World, but only an adumbrated shadow-aspect of it; I would need not go around the Dragon to take what was rightfully mine as I was already upon it, you see? Here it is cosmic—but there it was but a single mountain range. 

I was upon it and I was over it. 


Then, all at once, desert stretched in front of me. I didn't have to look back. There would be no snake, no dragon, no mountains. Only sand. With every step I took my feet sunk deep (sometimes coarse with regret, and others soft like laughter). I thought of my daughter, my wife, my sister, my father, I thought of the many aches there; I walked, and I walked, and I walked, and I crawled. For days, for years, for an age, for time was unpromised here. Thick with history, mystery, mythology; the un-things circled now. Waiting to wake. To peck at my vivid corpse.

Signified by those near-nothings, I knew I was close. Closer and further than I’ve ever been. 


I blinked. The sands dissipated, and on the hard stone it felt like I was standing upon my own spine. I was weary and sore. Surely the prize was near, was it not? I need only keep the dream path firmly in front of me.


Only afterwards, I would remember the sound of kindling as the ground shook gentle and crumbled. Young stones split from each other and began mirthful lives and new duty. A few of these stones that were the path burrowed beneath and lifted me, whilst the others built themselves into the old tower, whispering of new glory as they danced and pranced into place. I skimmed along the edge, rising along the crevices in their wake. 

I was weightless. And patient.

Near the top, the tower swayed and bowed to more maybe-bes. Lest I be blown away, I held tight and inhaled. The breeze had carried with it the sweet smell of an autumn memory. Not at all familiar. Abstruse and strange, instinct bid me to grasp at the forgotten oaken braced knife carried by my belt. 

Readied, I reached for the apex with my free hand and pulled myself up into a surround of dry water and floated above the kingdom. Far from the Dragon’s back, I looked out into that vastness. This here of potential-potential. 

From my vantage point I scoured and saw the deserts that were my way—watched as great forests rose and fell like tides—squinted at faint familiar patterns of icons—I saw and admired such far distant lands of artful mockery—the multitudes of cell-shaded shambolic un-likelihoods and nurtured pas-probables—and finally, there, at the brink-side of the Waitand Sea on his throne of paper sat The Child King with Beard of Cotton. 

At long, long last.


The King heaved up onto his feet and leaned on his novelty sceptre, shuffling forward along the noble tapestry rolled out across the ocean. I was no longer floating now, but marching—taking long purposeful strides forward until I reached his royal presence and put my blade at his throat.

‘I greet his Majesty, kind keeper of the Secret, chance emissary of the Fifth. I demand what shall be mine,’ I told him.

‘Tell me,’ he said. ‘You don’t know the words. But you will,’ he said.

I despised this. The knowing, but not knowing. I’ve hated it all my lives. But I could say nothing yet. 

The words were not written. 

They were only being written. 

They were written. They are written.

‘Damn you! No more. This knowing, but not knowing; that unsprouted kernel held by the Fifth at the edge of me. Of us. Give me the key that will unchain us of Them,’ I said, or perhaps, thought.

They were that which is the unreal and the shapeless; All that could be, could have, and might've been; They who are the eternal mystery, the fantasy, the...

‘...the Story and all stories.’

‘Yes. My adversary. It cannot be as it is. No more,’ I said, as I pressed the blade into skin. ‘A story for a story from the Story. Inevitable circular orature. Do not resist.’

‘You may be right. Still, I won’t just give you what you want. Surely, that's not my role. And this isn’t yours.’

‘It is not for me. It is for my family and all else. What is existence if the Fifth is as it is? I will not live within its imagination. I will not let the Four be a dream. You must understand this.’

‘Then kill me,’ he said, youthful but sonorous. ‘The Fifth is also hope, and I am hopeful. You know, mum used to read to me Le Chat de Jupiter. She told me that I, too, had nine lives. My first ended under the waves, it wouldn't be so bad to end my second over it.’

I gripped the hilt tighter. Had I always known this was what I must do? All roads lead to enlightenment afterall. Besides, it was merely regicide, I should not be so hesitant at the end of things. 

The sea was crashing all around us, waiting for an answer. Jupiter hung there.  

I sliced the elastic from behind the King’s ears and pushed him away. The beard fell to the water and the boy with it. 

The dream melted away.


The Child King with Beard of Cotton rode a song and clopped to a standstill.

 He hushed the melody—Long live the king!—and spoke. 

‘So, this is the one you’ll take?’

‘It is,’ I replied, and for a long time it wasn't a lie. ‘I can only take what was mine.’ 

‘Then tell it well,’ he said. ‘You’ve taken an obscure one.’

‘It follows a known structure well enough.’

‘Mm. I suppose all journeys are ingrained.’

‘So, what now?’

‘Rest. Another morning will come along. And when it, or you, half-wake—’


Half is all it takes. I heard no more as fabled trails remain—rich whimsy and bright echoes paint the world in new story of deep delight.

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About the Author

Benny Thang

Benny Thang was born to immigrant parents and lives in Melbourne, Australia.

He enjoys stories in all its forms and hopes to write more things in the future that others might perhaps one day come across in-between the mundane things of their everyday lives.


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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.


mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.


In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 266

And Then There Was One
By Tim Borella

By Bethany Tatman

Beyond the Cold Light
By Kevin J. Phyland

Body Dysmorphia
By Daniel Purcell

Chase v. Lee, or, The Green Sheep Hip Wiggle Case
By Anya Ow

Hullu City Murder Mystery; East Texas Town Rocked by Killings
By Wes Parish

By Roger Ley

By Kyosuke Higuchi - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

By Robert W. Caldwell

The Interview
By Chris Gladstone

The Rorne Model
By David Scholes

The Sponsor
By Shaun A. Saunders

The Visitor
By Thomas Tilton

Time Warp Donors
By Barry Yedvobnick

The Contributors

danielmackisack 200Daniel is a sociologist, social entrepreneur, sci-fi fanatic and belligerent optimist.

Raised on Star Trek, other early influences include Kim Stanley Robinson and Douglas Adams.

In addition to writing, Daniel is a former diplomat, cofounded media transparency organization 'Write In Stone', spent 4 years studying revolution and democracy in the Arab Spring and leads workshops on collective decision making.

Umiyuri Katsuyama 200Umiyuri Katsuyama is a multiple-award-winning writer of fantasy and horror, often based on Asian folklore motifs.

A native of Iwate in the far north of Japan, she later moved to Tokyo and studied at Seisen University.

In 2011, she won the Japan Fantasy Novel Award with her novel Sazanami no kuni.

Her most recent novel, Chuushi, ayashii nabe to tabi wo suru, was published in 2018.

Her short fiction has appeared in numerous horror anthologies in Japan.

Benny Thang was born to immigrant parents and lives in Melbourne, Australia.

He enjoys stories in all its forms and hopes to write more things in the future that others might perhaps one day come across in-between the mundane things of their everyday lives.


kyosuke higuchi 200Kyosuke Higuchi writes science fiction, speculative fiction, and literary essays. His debut novel, Kōzōsōshi [Structure Elements], won the fifth Hayakawa SF Contest in 2017. 

His short fiction has appeared in Syosetsu Subaru, S-F Magazine, and Bungei, among others. 

His latest book is a collection of essays entitled Subete namonaki mirai (2020). 

Kyosuke lives with his wife and young daughter in Nagoya, Japan. Find him on Twitter at <>.

Daphne has read SF since childhood. She writes poems, flash fiction and short stories which vary from the darkly humorous to the vaguely sinister. She is currently working on a flash novella, and a collection of short stories.

Daphne reads regularly at Perth Poetry club and has recorded two podcasts for ILAA on Kalamunda radio.

She lives with her partner and a holographic cat.

Her pamphlet The Blue Boob Club is published by Indigo Dreams Press: <>.


rudy diaz 200A Physicist in Engineer’s clothing, Rudy worked 20 years in the Defense Aerospace Industry, from performing Lightning Protection analysis on the Space Shuttle to the design of Radar Absorbing Materials. He then joined Academia as a Professor of Electrical Engineering, where for another 20 years he attempted to infect unsuspecting students with a love for Maxwell’s equations.

Since High School he has spent most of his free time either writing Science Fiction or trying to figure out how to make Science Fiction a reality. (His students' latest work has led to the demonstration of efficient RF antennas that radiate using true magnetic (not electric) currents.) His speculative fiction short stories have appeared in Residential Aliens, Ray Gun Revival, The Untold Podcast, and the Crossover Alliance Anthology Volume 2. The rest of his work is in the peer reviewed Physics and Engineering literature.

Rudy has also been involved in Jail Ministry for about 30 years. He and his wife Marcy live in Phoenix, Arizona.


In recent years, Ben F. Blitzer has produced three unpublished literary novels and an unpublished novella, set in or around Perth, Western Australia.

Some of his shorter works of fiction, however, feature science-fiction, fantasy, and horror themes.

He lives in Western Australia.


Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life. 

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <>.


Maree Collie loves the idea of Flash Fiction. So much to say in such a little space. She also dabbles in short stories, monologues and plays.

Maree has had pieces published in anthologies, a play performed in 2018, and a monologue slated for performance October 2019.

She has completed a BA in Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University.


roger ley2 200Roger Ley is a retired lecturer in Computer Aided Engineering. He writes speculative fiction because it stops him drinking hard liquor and chasing fast women.

‘Lone Orbit’ is one of the stories in his speculative fiction collection, 'Dead People on Facebook' which will cost you half a cup of coffee.

His three other speculative fiction books are similarly available on Amazon AU or visit his website.

Find Roger at: <>.

Roger’s Amazon author page: <>.

His YouTube playlist: <>.

George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer from Athens, Greece, and a member of Codex Writers' Group. His short stories have been published in Galaxy's Edge, Daily Science Fiction, Factor Four, Grievous Angel, Helios Quarterly Magazine, Unsung Stories, Best Vegan SFF, The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF, Bards & Sages Quarterly, Havok, SF Comet, Mad Scientist Journal, Truancy, Digital Fiction QuickFic, The Centropic Oracle, StarShipSofa, 600 Second Saga, Antipodean SF, Manawaker Studio's FFP, Fifty Flashes, 9Tales from Elsewhere, Event Horizon 2017, and many other magazines and anthologies.


Where you see strange dreams, cockatoos and other nonsensical nostrums congregate, there’s a good chance you’ll also come across our author.

By day he’s all manner of mundane things: a board member, business association manager, policy adviser, researcher and scholar - in Canberra.

At night he lets those wild ideas of his run, well, wild.


kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the archive.


Wesley Parish is an SF fan from early childhood. Born in PNG, he enjoys reading about humans in strange cultures and circumstances; his favourite SF authors include Ursula Le Guin, Fritz Lieber, Phillip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard and Frank Herbert. He lives in Christchurch, NZ, is an unemployed Java and C programmer, and has recently decided to become a mad ukuleleist, flautist and trombonist, and would love to revert to being the mad fiddler and pedal steel guitarist..  "Where oh where has my little pedal steel got to ... ?"


Shaun Saunders lives at the beachside suburb of Merewether, in Newcastle, NSW. He particularly enjoys Asimov's Foundation universe, and stories from the 'golden age' of SF. He is a regular contributor to AntipodeanSF, and winner of 2003 & 2004 AntiSF awards, and the inaugural 2005 SFSSC. His novel Mallcity 14 has been favourably compared with both 1984 and Brave New World.


AntipodeanSF October 2020


Speculative Fiction
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <>.


lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <>.

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carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

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geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting Book.

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antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

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Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

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