Setting

(Told from the POV of Meliana Lucas)

When I was a little girl, the city of Athanoria was not far away, but it wasn’t for us. It was near the eastern edge of what was then Rezarta, where my family could only be tourists. It was the stronghold of American magic-handlers since just after World War II, and while non-magical people couldn’t be kept out, even those who’d been there since before Arturo Reza took the place over were never really welcome. Athanoria was Rezarta’s cultural center. My mother recorded her music at a studio in Athanoria, and they liked her there, but it never could have been our home as long as Rezarta was what it was. As brilliant a musician as my mother was, and as skilled a writer as my father was, we were still mundane.

All that changed with the Magical Resettlement Act of 2002.

Our dear friend Scanlon Ness—he’s more like an uncle to me and my brother and sister—has insisted for years that Rezarta was an inherently unstable community. “An untenable situation” was how he described it, due to the Rezarta leaders’ unwillingness to engage with the vampire situation in the rest of the country and the mundane government’s lack of interest in the activities of the country’s magic-handlers. One way or another, he told us, Rezarta would have eventually fallen apart, and its process of falling apart would have created a good deal of ugliness for the rest of the country.

The way the colony, a decentralized, amorphously governed area spanning much of southwestern New Mexico and part of southeastern Arizona, ended up falling apart was by declaring its secession from the United States on Christmas Day of 2001. Not only did President Miranda Hutchinson send in the military and successfully break the secession, she signed the Resettlement into law and it is widely understood that she basically wrote the act from scratch. With the Magical Resettlement Act, the Hutchinson administration forced over 90% of Rezarta’s magic-handlers to pack up and spread out to the rest of the lower 48. They didn’t like that, there was some fighting before the situation was resolved, but they did eventually move out, and nowadays the country’s magic-handlers get along very nicely with their mundane neighbors and there are far fewer people dying in vampire attacks.

Scanlon says maybe the Resettlement could’ve been managed better, but it had to be done, and it could’ve gone a lot worse. Since the magic-handlers had to leave, Rezarta is now called the Area Formerly Known as Rezarta when we’re feeling witty, or post-Rezarta when we want to be brief. Athanoria is still a city, but it’s become much poorer and less organized since Rezarta was taken apart.

It’s also become my new home. Most of the former population was forced out after the failed secession, and lots of musicians, filmmakers, writers and artists have moved in. The city was full of art galleries, theaters, studios and other creative space to begin with, and now the rents are much lower, so it’s an ideal place for young artists to build their careers. I’m not sure I’d recommend it as a place for families with young children, but for those of us with lots of energy and little money, it’s amazing. When my partner Clarice and I finished high school and agreed that we had no use for the college experience, we moved out here, and now we have a lovely apartment and a studio space where I make all sorts of art. My family is still nearby, and Scanlon sometimes visits us when he comes to Athanoria for research.

It would have been nice to be an Athanorian while the magic-handlers were still here, but I was only in middle school when the secession and Resettlement happened, the magical city was a much more expensive place to live than what we have now, and while I might have been able to live in the magical city, it would never have let me feel at home. Since we’ve moved on from the upheaval of the Resettlement, maybe some of the country’s magic-handlers will move back here and make themselves at home with us mundane Athanorians. I hope they do, because the departure of the magical population from Rezarta created a sort of vacuum, and a lot of unpleasant elements rushed in. I don’t feel unsafe as long as I can come home to Clarice, but there were hardly any vampires present in the magical city, and there are a lot more of them now. When magic-handlers are present, they do certain things that make the area an inhospitable environment for vampires, but the most we mundanes can do is be careful of how we answer a knock on the door at night. Some crime organizations have gotten comfortable here since the magical population departed the area, but even without the organized crime we’d still have vampires among us.

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