When magic starts to return to the modern world, barely anyone notices. It doesn’t look anything like what we imagine. People don’t suddenly start developing magic powers, casting spells, or turning into elves and dwarves. In fact, people don’t really change at all, not at first. It turns out that the magic isn’t even here for us. It’s here for what we’ve built.
The change is slow, and subtle, and strange, as the magic works its way into our institutions. You mail letters to dead relatives, and the post office starts delivering their replies. Late-night bus routes stop at places never seen on any atlas. Libraries suddenly include subterranean archives where you can look anything you’ve ever forgotten, from the names of your favorite childhood books to the precise flavor of your first-ever chocolate chip cookie.
The people working at these places take the changes in stride. The letters from the dead just show up every morning, sorted and stamped and ready for delivery, so why not carry them? Bus drivers follow the maps they’re given without trouble, and learn to accept even small gold coins as more than adequate fare. Electricians get used to seeing warding symbols in circuit diagrams, while clerks at the DMV find a stack of forms for registering ghostly steeds as personal vehicles, and sigh in relief at finally having that particular bureaucratic headache solved. The firefighters are shocked the first time they see a giant of living water burst out from a hydrant, but after it rescues several of them from a burning building, they decide not to ask questions. They tell their stories to others, though, and soon word of the changes is spreading.
There’s no single moment of realization where everyone discovers that magic is real; the knowledge just creeps into day to day life a bit at a time, and society adapts. Cyber-safety programs teach people to never accept a file from the electric fairies without sharing one in return, and to never accept their Terms and Conditions without searching for the subsection on Souls, Forfeiture Thereof. Students leave offerings of coffee and boxed wine to petition the School Spirit for lower tuition or exam deferrals. Nurses learn the hours when Death stalks the hospital hallways, and keep bedside vigils in the children’s ward. They bring board games and cards for when the reaper is feeling playful, and well-worn baseball bats for when he isn’t.
There are problems, of course, like the vicious monsters of blood and fire spawned from age-old hate groups, or infestations of the writing many-mouthed worms that literally feed on governmental corruption, but really, they were already there before the change. Magic only elaborates on what we’ve made, good or ill, manifesting the latent modern mythology underpinning our society. It doesn’t offer solutions to all of life’s problem, but for a few hurting people, guarded by the concrete arms of a neighborhood come to life to protect its community, or flying away on wings of copper wire and fiber-optic cable, it’s exactly the change they needed.