Marc had a magic stone. He knew it was magical, when he first saw it, because of its impeccable beauty. By some force, natural or supernatural, it had been formed into a perfect sphere, with sides so smooth that, though it was but mundane rock, it reflected the light and the world as clearly as any mirror. Indeed, it was so flawless that Marc wondered, at first, if he had imagined its perfection. Not even a single scratch marred its surface.
He treasured it not only because of its beauty, but because it made him feel secure. The rock, placed on a slanted surface, did not roll downward with the force of gravity, but in a direction manipulated by forces unknown and unseen by Marc. He didn’t question this: he accepted it as a sign, and as a guide.
Whenever Marc became lost, he set the stone down on a nearby surface, and it would guide him toward his next direction. It guided him home, when he lost his way in the woods. It guided him to a restaurant, when he was in a new city and seeking something good to eat. It guided him to his wife, and to their wedding venue, and on and on, until he relied more on the stone to determine the direction of his life than he did his own mind.
Marc did not mind this lack of autonomy. In fact, he favored it. He gladly turned over as many of his decisions as he could to the directions of the stone. He did not like to make choices, nor did he like to worry about becoming lost and directionless. With the stone pointing the way, neither of those things were of any concern. It made his choices for him, freeing him of the burden so that he could continue his life in peace.
For all that the stone meant to him, Marc did not reveal it to those around him. Even his wife, to whom he told his deepest secrets, did not know the true nature of the stone. She saw it only as a treasured keepsake, and his insistence on taking it everywhere as an endearing quirk of Marc’s toyless childhood.
The stone helped Marc pick gifts for family and friends, and they were always overjoyed with his selections. He developed a reputation as a thoughtful, generous gift-giver. This made him smile, inwardly and outwardly, despite the fact that it was not he who thought of the gifts. He gladly took the credit. After all, it was his coin that bought the gifts. Mostly.
In a way, it was the stone’s coin. Marc had more money than he should have, working his simple job at the local library, because the stone told him what stocks to invest in, and he quickly and easily accrued more wealth than he knew what to do with. This, his wife knew about, unlike the stone. He told her he was just lucky. That money which he didn’t spend on day-to-day expenses or on gifts for those he cared about, Marc stored away. At heart, he was a frugal man.
One night, Marc awoke to a thump in the night. It was the sound of something hard striking the floor of his bedroom. The haze of sleep fled from him instantly, replaced by panic, as he groped blindly at his nightstand, seeking his magical stone. It had rolled off and struck the floor.
Marc thrust the sheets away from his body and dropped to the floor, hands sweeping back and forth across the floor. His wife stirred within the bed, grumbling. “I’ve lost my stone,” he said, his voice high and strained.
Jae did not stir immediately into action, as Marc had. He spared a moment to peek over the edge of the bed, where a strip of moonlight from the window showed the silhouette of her form covered by the sheets. She had covered her face with her arm.
“My stone! It rolled off of the table. I can’t find it.”
Marc dropped down, putting his shoulder flat to the ground so that he could reach under the bed. He felt nothing but dust.
“I’m going to turn the light on.”
“Don’t do that,” Jae pleaded. “What time is it? Can we just go back to sleep and find it in the morning? It’s not like it’s going to go anywhere.”
Marc’s insides stirred with unease. She was wrong. He didn’t know what other rules the stone might follow. It always moved in a direction that answered his questions of where to go or what to do, but where would it roll if it fell, undirected?
Where would he go, now, if he fell, undirected by the stone?
“Cover your eyes,” he said. “I’ll only be a minute.”
He stood, then, and flicked on the overhead light. Jae groaned, though shed had already pulled the sheets over her head at his warning. The stone was nowhere to be seen. It was not in the room. Marc searched, picking up the day’s discarded laundry and putting it into the basket, and sliding back the closet doors in case somehow it had rolled through the barely-open crack. No. It was not there.
Marc turned off the light. The bedroom door was open, and so he went out, into the house, the wooden floor of the hallway creaking beneath his feet.
“Where are you going?”
“I have to find it.”
He didn’t find it. Not that night, and not the next morning, which came far too soon after a jittery, sleepless night trying to find rest amongst his worries. He searched the house high and low, moving furniture and clearing off every possible and impossible surface where the stone might have settled. He called off work for that day, so that he could continue his search, and when Jae came home, he had her search for it as well. It was nowhere to be found.
It was a magical stone. He knew that much, given its behavior. Perhaps it was the sort of thing that came into a person’s life for a while and then departed, mercurial, having fulfilled whatever purpose it was given at creation. He didn’t much care for the reason. He only cared that it was gone, and now he was lost as surely as the stone.
For a month or two, he felt like he was falling through life. The stone had been his only guide. He didn’t know how to find his way on his own, or so he thought. As he continued to live, he realized something: perhaps his own decisions weren’t as perfect as the stones, but he could make due with them. He could find his way home easily enough. If he listened to Jae, and to his friends, he could figure out what it was they wanted for their birthdays or for holiday.
It took effort, but those skills within him that had atrophied after years of neglect slowly strengthened, and Marc found that even without the stone, he could function. He felt complete in a way that relying on the stone had never instilled in him. At times, he felt a pang of regret, thinking perhaps his choice wasn’t exactly the right one, as the stone would have chosen. Yet overall, he was glad that it had gone.