"Alright," I moaned, "I give up."
"Better for you that you did," the man agreed.
Lifting two hands he clapped them together, and pulled them apart in a fine web of small lights that dazzled in the air. I barely noticed him dim the light of the sun. I didn't blame him for that though. He was very good at keeping my attention.
"I wager you a more visual learner," he began, ably manipulating the web of lights until they took the form of the stars. "So am I come to think about it…"
"What power is this then, if it be not magic?"
He man got up and paced the earth, looking ahead of me. His charm eroded into uncertainty. He too seemed to not have any idea of the origin of his powers. He curtly waved his hand across the sky and behind it the whole world disappeared into darkness.
"The men before us, whoever they were, had great power. They could do many things with it." Out of the floor of the darkness a nude buxom woman emerged, her skin glowing faintly.
"This power was not for them, I don't think. It was their doom, swallowed by false desires." With a wave the woman faded away, smiling as she did.
"And you are here? That's curious..." I watched him shake his head with bitterness.
"Me? I just want to fish." He paused, gesturing toward the rod. It was the only object in the room other than him that was real. "I just want some peace and quiet, that's all."
"Where do the fish come from? A man cannot eat a fish that is not real."
"Aye," the man replied sadly. "Madness nearly took me you know? I caught fish so big that I swore up and down that they were nothing but the product of hot vapors rising from my blistered mind. Nay, they were real. I found this out when I left one day. That time I caught the biggest fish I had ever seen. “So damn them all” I thought. “I'm taking this home, and none of you are going to stop me!” Sure enough I did, and bless me! It was real as any other fish."
"I wonder where they come from." I thought aloud, stepping closer to the water's edge. There they were, swimming below the surface, thousands of them.
"Long before our fathers, and theirs before, they farmed the little bastards I wager. Bloody brilliant, if I may say so."
I nodded absently, watching the fish swim blithely through the pool. They appeared so content, completely unaware of their predator. It must have been nice before the old man had arrived for them.
"So then I must keep this between us?" I asked, looking up at him. A thin, wrinkly smile emerged onto his face.
"Aye, between the two of us… As long as there’s no more of this magic talk. The world is very real, you know."
It was. I packed up my things and pondered the words the old man told me. In fact when I left I felt rather disturbed by the notion. Gradually things appeared to me as less than what they once were. They were robbed of their inner light. It was a cost that I weighed. I no longer desired to be trained in the secret arts, and for that I was ostracized. I only desired to fish with the old man and further discover the secrets of his mutable world. Before he passed, he told me the secret of how to get to the inner chamber, how to protect it, among other things.
I still go there today. I wonder how the place came to be there, how it functions. I took this to be a mystery, one that I could dwell in. Someday the truth will occur to me, but until then I am satisfied with my ignorance. Too much knowledge robs a man of his purpose. He must find his own way I think. Only then is he truly happy with what he finds.