In the second decade of the twenty-first century, as the earth began to warm and the seas to rise, something woke from sleep. At first it was odd incidents here and there, but by the time that Elsa was a student at university, the Great Change was well underway. The poetically inclined called it the Return of Magic, and speculated that it was the world, Mother Earth, waking up to confront her unruly children. In any case, the manifestations became ever more spectacular. As usual the tales from the east were more extravagant; a field biologist of her acquaintance, returning from fieldwork in the resurgent forest of the Chernobyl dead zone, claimed to have seen Baba Yaga and her daughters, and repeated rumors of shambling things spotted in the mist beyond the barbed wire lining the interdicted shores of the river running through Chelyabinsk.
Of course, those things were no worse, in their way, than the horrors already documented in the medical literature, long before the Change showed itself.