Tag Archive: magic


Trigger.

They’re things I haven’t exposed myself to in months, maybe a year or more.  They hurt, every time.  It’s a cleaner wound now than it was, but just because the cut is cleaner doesn’t mean it doesn’t bleed.  But still.  It is, as I heard myself saying “The best art I have ever been ashamed to inspire.”  That’s probably overstating the case, because none of it is really about me.  I’m a bit player, a walk-on, walk-off, walk-on who affected outcomes at the time but was not a first cause of anything really much.

But do I know that?  I don’t know.  I’ll take that humility, that I am only the littlest finger of a muse, over being the muse entire for things that make the air around them cringe and bleed and sway.  Because she cut out my heart, and what if that’s something that only I have the blame for?

Everything is about a lot of other things.  These things are, at least a little bit, about me.  And as any good art does, they bring back sense memories and evoke a shadow-summoned grin at the remembrance of things that would never have happened, if I had been a little smarter, a little faster, a little better prepared to defend the things that mattered.

 

Transgress.

My brain is leaving me, a piece at a time.  I know it is.  I will not miss it as it goes, because I won’t remember what it is I’m missing.  Things just… fade, and don’t come back, until I can find a trigger to bring them to the surface.  The silver thread that ran through my life, birth to present, is gone, and will never be back.  It won’t kill me, but it is making me very different.  I live, not for the memories I will create, but for the experiences I can have in the present, because the memories may not ever be there.  It’s a roll of the dice.  And it’s a transgression to tell you this, because it shows weakness, and fear.  I am weak, and I am afraid, and I wish very much that I could have lost a leg, or an arm, or anything else.  But it will be what it must, and I accommodate.  I will not be frightened of the loss.  I am only frightened of hurting others by not being able to find the memories that mean to much to them.  I am frightened of the mayfly creature I may become.

So I tell stories, now more than ever before.  Story after story, to entertain and to leave behind a memory of me when my memory of my own life fades.  I tell them to anyone who will listen, who wants to hear, who will have a moment’s joy and beauty out of the things I have done with my life.  I do not want the things I have been, the things I have done, to die with my memory of them.

There was a woman, married to a man.  “Everyone involved deserved better out of me than they got.”  It’s the thing I say about that time, and it is still true.  Triggers fire bullets, and bullets ricochet.  Trigger a strong enough emotion, a strong enough physiological response, and you’ll remember the story.  If you can remember the story, you can tell it, at least as much as you can remember.

“It’s about falling asleep on someone’s breast when you’re too paranoid to sleep with anyone, and not knowing you’re asleep.  It’s about mourning armor that has spikes on the inside and on the outside.  It’s about her cutting my heart out of my chest, and sewing the space together with barbed wire.  It’s about having some piece of your heard sawed out and sewn over, so it won’t get burnt up with the rest of you.”

 

Transcribe.

These things are painful to remember, and beautiful, and irreplaceable.  I would not trade them for anything.  I gather them, frame by frame, and make a sparkling mirror mobile to help me remember the good, and how not to cut myself on the bad.  I would not wish forgetting on anyone.

And I will find out what happens in Split City before it becomes a memory lost in dust and dark places on the scans.

I will never forget love.  Even in the myriad forms it takes, as much as it stretches and deforms and makes a place inside you that begs to be filled and strikes out with venom and blades at the slightest touch, I will never forget love.  It is never quite what it seems, and it always seems both a little better and a little worse than it really is.

Let them be afraid

“They’re afraid of rumors and tall tales.  And I let them be afraid.  It makes my job easier.”  – Richard Kadrey, Butcher Bird

“We wear the mask that grins and lies, / It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes” – Paul Lawrence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask

 

When I look in the mirror, I flinch.

I should never have put it on.

This is all my own fault.  I should never have put it on, because now it won’t come off.

All I wanted was to be strong, and to be scary, just so I could get them to leave me alone for a minute.  And now it won’t come off.  I’ve tried everything I can think of, and I don’t know how it stays on.  Trying to take it off hurts, now, and feels like trying to pull off my own face.

But my face doesn’t look like this.  Please, don’t let this be what my face looks like.  I can’t be this… this thing I see, now.  It was only supposed to be for a minute.

I can’t live like this.  This can’t be who I’ve turned into, over one stupid decision.  Nothing that split second can be permanent.  That’s just not fair.  I can’t have turned into something like this, just from that one second’s fear and anger and shame.  One decision can’t make me a different person.  It just can’t.

But, I mean…

It’s not that bad, not really.  I can get used to it, if I give it a little while.  And it sure as shit does what I wanted it to do.  It makes them leave me alone.  It makes them leave me right the hell alone.

There are advantages to a face that makes people flinch, even if one of those people is me.

Who am I to turn down something that useful?  I mean, really, this whole thing has done me a favor.  I can be anything I want to be under here, and nobody will be able to tell the difference.  All they’ll see is this new face, and they’ll be afraid.

Well, let them be afraid.  They ought to be.

This might be the best stupid decision I ever made.  I hope it never comes off.  Let them be afraid.  Everybody knows monsters don’t get lonely.

Companion

The power of the companion is this: they walk beside you, for a little while.  It is an immense and awe-inspiring power, and one that is hard both to quantify and to notice, except in its absence.  Companions are the people who understand, even in pieces, the pitfalls and joys in the path you are traveling.  They have turned their ankles on the same rocks, and seen the same vistas of wonder and grace.  They empathize, in the most intimate possible sense, with your experience.

Companions are the company you keep.  Companions are the strong hand in the dark.  Companions are the laugh that harmonizes with yours.  Companions are the reason to keep to the path, or the landmark to indicate where the path doesn’t fit anymore, or both.  Companions are the descant to the melody of your life.

Cherish your companions, because they are all irreplaceable.  Tell them they are beautiful, because they bring out the beauty in your self, and let you see it from the outside.  Do not fear the love of companions, given or received, because it is living art.  Do not mourn overlong when they pass away from your path, because the beauty and love and art is impossible to steal, impossible to lose in any permanent way.

Companionship is one of the greatest gifts of being a thinking, social, empathic creature.  Companions are angels and demons in a human skin, flexible and fallible and fixed and fickle, just as you are.  Their lessons are indelible, and their faults are lessons too.  Learn what they have to teach, hear what they have to say, learn their song and add the parts of it that fit to your own.  Create and engage with them, taste the colors of their hearts.  The beauty you will gain from them, and they from you, is worth every risk.

And remember, in all of that, that you are a companion, too.  Companionship is your gift to offer, to anyone who resonates with it.  Do not forget the power of the companion, in yourself as much as anyone else.

Walking with a bowl

Once upon a time, O Best Beloved, there was a woman with a bowl.  It was a wide, round stone bowl, and it was her dearest possession.  This was a very once upon a time indeed, and she lived in a hard and rocky part of the land, where nothing would grow but gnarled little weeds and hard and twisted trees that gave no fruit.

There was, though, a small and lively stream beside the little shady building where she lived.  It had the clearest water you could dream of, and she carried that water out to the road every day in her beautiful, wide bowl.  It was a long walk to the road, but once she got there, she could trade the water for food and news and clothes.  The road always had traders, headed to the larger city, and she could trade her water to them, without having to go into the loud and dangerous city herself.

But of course, walking with a beautiful, wide stone bowl is difficult, day after day, many times a day.  The path was neither smooth nor flat.  And of course, you know what is going to happen, O Best Beloved, because it is such a beautiful bowl, and because her whole life depends upon it.

One day she falls, and the bowl breaks.  Her foot turns on a stone she cannot see, past the bowl full of clear water in her arms.  She and the bowl both go tumbling into the path.  She fares better than the bowl does, and is only scraped up a little.  The bowl, the beautiful stone bowl, is shattered beyond all hope of repair.

She has walked this path every day, many times a day, her whole life.  She has worked hard, her whole life.  She will not give up easily.  So she returns to her little house, and gathers up everything she has that might be worth something to a trader.  Then she goes and sits by the side of the road, and waits.

It takes two days, but eventually she meets a man who has what she wants to trade.  He has a waterskin.  He has never needed her bowl, but he has traded for a drink from it anyway, and always been kind.  He trades her for a waterskin, so that he can still stop for a conversation with her (for he thinks her pleasing) and a drink (for the water is cool, and always a blessing).

The skin doesn’t work.  She doesn’t understand why, until she drinks from it, and then she has a fight with the man who traded it to her, and he beats her badly for the words she screams at him.  She believes he has traded her a rotten skin, something poisonous and foul.

The skin is fine.  The water is different.  It doesn’t feel the sun on its skin for hours walking to the road.  It doesn’t hear her voice singing as she walks.  It doesn’t lap against the sides of a beautiful stone bowl in the breeze and taste the air of a thousand miles around as it makes the journey from spring to road to throat.

Instead, it is trapped in the waxed hide of a dead animal, bound up in the dark, blind and deaf and dumb.  It is neither the living spirit of the spring nor the soothing medicine of the bowl, and it tastes of darkness and binding.  It is no wonder the traders will pay nothing for it.

With nothing to trade, the woman is starving.  She is alone, she has nothing left to bargain with, no trade left to ply.  So she begins to walk to the city, hoping to find an answer from the king there.  They say he is very wise.

She goes into the very center of the city, and asks an audience to see the king in his temple.  She is told that he is not seeing anyone today, and that she must go away and wait.  But she is starving, and she cannot wait, so she does a thing that is not good at: she lies.

She tells the guards that she had a dream.  She was a water-seller, and that she had a dream that her bowl broke, but that the king could fix it, and the next day her bowl broke.  She tells them she has walked to the city to see the king, to tell him this dream, because she is afraid.  She tells herself that it is mostly true, and that she is only trying to survive.

It is very, very frightening when the guards grab her by both arms and drag her inside, straight into the center of the temple to see the king and his priests.  Except there are no priests.  There is only the king, a man standing in front of his throne, staring at nothing.

The guards push her to her knees before the king, and walk from the room without looking back.  It is not quite a run, but the difference is very fine.

“Are you a dreamer?  I told them I needed another dreamer.”  His voice is a cracked drum, a whispering echo.

“No, lord.  I am not a dreamer.  I only told them I had a dream.  What happened?”

“I killed them.  They dreamed terrible things, and I killed them all, because I could not bear the madness of what is coming.  And now there are no dreams at all.  I do not know if that is better.”  He drops, boneless, to the beautiful stone floor.  It sounds like a bowl breaking.  He begins to sob, ragged and rhythmic, as if it is something he has done so much that it has worn a rut into him.

“I broke my bowl, lord, and now I am starving.”  The sound of him falling has reminded her.

“Good.  Starving is better than what is coming.  Go home.  Stay away from here.  Starve.  It is better than what is coming.”

The guards beat her, partly because she lied, but mostly because they were afraid of what was happening to their king and their world.  She did not make it home before she died.  Many of the people who lived to see what happened to their lands in the years to come wished they had not.

Once upon a time, a woman was walking with a bowl, and broke it.  A king could not bear the voice of his dreamers, and had them silenced.  But remember, O Best Beloved, that stories are music.

In the same land, where there was so much madness and pain that a king ordered a woman to go home and starve rather than see a dream come to pass, there was a voice from a hillside.  It waited, that voice.  It waited for a man named Diego, and it waited almost 500 years, but the blood of every dreamer in the land could not wash it away.

“Have you forgotten?  I am your mother.  You are under my protection.”

 

And now let me remind you, O Best Beloved, that all storytellers are liars.  No voice waits.  All voices want to be heard.  When the altars are broken, when the dreamers are killed, we do not gather at altars, and we do not speak our dreams to kings.  We drink from unlabeled bottles around fires in the wilderness, and we do not wait for the altars to be rebuilt.

We cannot follow the steps of your dance, Lady.  Our hearts tremble at the pattern of your making and unmaking.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

We trust in the shadows of your song, knowing its melody is beyond us.  Our days are metered by the clack and hiss of your loom.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

Be gentle with us, your children.  Hold us warmly in your hands.  We beg you for light, for shelter, for understanding.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

Be kind with us, your acolytes.  Teach us when we err, guide us when we stumble, show us how to follow your world-shaking steps writ small.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

Be fierce with us, your disciples.  Bring us order in chaos in order, demand that we burn with you in the dark places, expect no less of us than we expect of ourselves.  Grant us discipline.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

To each of us, your children, grant the blessed, burning love we plead for.  We are yours.  We see you, and we ask only to be seen by you.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

Last words

(Author’s note: y’all know I’m not a verse kind of person, but this challenge spoke to me, so I will speak back to it.)

 

Last words

razor keys
revolving keys

You wrapped my fingers
around them
tight, so tight

Keeper of shadows
the last shadows
of words
ever spoken

I will keep the faith
I will keep the faith
I will keep the faith

by blood and bone
and pain and shadow

I will keep the faith

I will hide the shadows
your words cast

and protect the light
your life has left

you are missed
your faith is kept

Every human mind

One must get rid of the idea that educated and intelligent test persons are able to see and admit their own complexes.  Every human mind contains much that is unacknowledged and hence unconscious as such; and no one can boast that he stands completely above his complexes.

Dr. Carl Jung

 

Every human mind believes that it knows everything that is important  to know about itself.  Here’s the secret: we’re wrong.

That thing?  You know, that thing you think that you’ve  successfully distanced yourself from, that you’ve decided not to become, that you’ve worked so hard not to be, that you’ve spent years or decades denying and reviling and excising from yourself?

That’s not a secret to anybody but you.  Everyone else already knows.  They see it in you every day.  You are the only one who doesn’t realize that it is a part of who you are.

Here’s the corollary to that secret: it’s okay.  They already know.  They love you anyway.  They want to be around you anyway.

Today’s lesson, O Best Beloved, is that you are loved because of who you are, not despite it.  Stop fighting.  Stop denying.

Listen to the unconscious mind, which knows the things you are shouting at it to shut up about.  It’s very often smarter than you are.  It knows things about you that everyone else does – why don’t you want to know them?  Why deny yourself that information, and that acceptance?

Be who you are, as fiercely as you can.  Be all of who you are.  Stop being ashamed of the parts that don’t fit neatly.  Stop trying to make yourself into someone else.

I promise you this: if you will stop trying, so will I.

Sleep tight.  You are loved.  It’s okay to be loved for all of who you are.

La loba

I go out into the dark desert all the time now.  I still keep track of when it should be her time, la loba‘s time, just as the sun begins to fall deeply behind the mountains, taking its rest.  But when there is no sun anymore, what does it matter?  I go, and I go, and I go.

No supplies, no packs, no animals for this traveler.  Stepping from the scrub out into the cutting wind that howls across the desert, seeking invisible prey, I go.  I pray that if I am lost enough, desperate enough, last enough, la loba will hear my cries and take pity on me.  If I am lucky, she will sing me back together, so I can be a whole creature again.  If I am very, very lucky, she will sing flesh onto my bones, so I can be what I once was; so the wind will be forced to keen around me, not through me, and I can go home.

Because, of course, I can never go home unless I am a person again.  Everyone knows this.

 

I have gone out of the safety of the forest and into the desert a thousand times, a million times.  Every time I wake, I gather legs underneath me and walk.  It is the only task I have left.  I must find la loba, or convince her to find me, so that I may be whole again.

Sometimes I find creatures, torn and left naked and fleshless in the sand.  They are sad, pitiful things, and if I do not help them, the sand will eat even their bones, so nothing is left.  So I will hold myself this way and that, making the wind sing through me, and let them come together again, and be something whole, if not quite the same.  They say thank you, la loba.  I tell them, over and over, that I am not la loba, and please will they put in a kind word for me if they see her.  And they put their heads to the side, thinking I am crazy, and say yes, yes, of course.

I have not found anyone to help for a very long time.  It is lonely and alone, in the desert, but I pass the time learning the song the wind is screaming.  Maybe, if I can find la loba, she will give me ears to understand the wind.  Will I warn its prey, or help it hunt?  I do not know.

 

There is a place, on the far side of the keep, where the wind is loudest and nothing grows.  The sand is bold and carefree there, lapping right up to the foot of the sharp mountain stone.  I twist my ribs, my arms, and convince the wind to sing  a little fire onto the sand; just a few flames, to warm me and to tell the dark where I am.

Soon I hear footsteps in the dark sand, and a sliding noise.  Who would be out here, in the barest part of forever?  Who would come here but me?  I only spend time here when I have almost given up, and I am thinking of letting the sand eat my bones where no one will find them.

“Come, child,” rasps a voice like two wooden sticks out of the dark, “let an old woman share your fire.”

Shocked is not the word for it.  There is no word strong enough.  “Of course, lady,” I say politely, bobbing my head.  “What is mine is yours.”

She comes shuffling out of the dark, dragging a canvas sack that is gray with age and almost empty.  She is chuckling, a hollow sound like water in the back of a cave.  “It seems to me that what is mine is yours, also.”

“How do you mean, lady?  I would take nothing from you that was not given freely.”  I am afraid, now.  This search is all I have left; her mercy all I have to hope for.  What have I taken from her?  “If you think I have taken something of yours, please, have my apologies.  I will give it back, if I can, and do anything in my power to make amends.”

“How does one make amends for the theft of a name, child?  They call you la loba in the wild places, now.  They hope for your mercy in the dark.  You did not take it, but it is yours now, and no argument.  They know me not, hope for me not, but your mercy is their prize.”  She chuckles again, full of merriment.  “You are the only one left who hopes for me, and I came to see you to find out why.”

“Well… well, because, la loba, that is why!  Because, I beg you, sing me to life again, so I can be free and whole!”

“Who teaches the sand to shift?  Who teaches the wind to sing?  Not I, child, not I.  I came to find you, and to seek also your mercy.”

“M-mercy, la loba?  What can something like me do for you?”

“SING, child!  You know the way of it.  You see these bones creaking together, and you know how to build me a new life out of the sand that eats everything.  Sing, so you can have my sack, and we can both be free.”

 

There was nothing to say.  What to do when la loba, keeper of my dreams, comes to me as the keeper of hers?  So I twist my bones, careful, careful, because the wind cuts wild and high in this place.  She sighs like an old tree falling to rot, and collapses flat on the sand.

I am petrified, terrified that I will get it wrong, that she will be trapped and I will have no hope left.  So I keep bending the wind, squeezing it up between my ribs and out my mouth, forcing it up to a wild ululating wail of freedom and pain.

La loba‘s bones shift, and her flesh runs like water over the new shape.  A wolf, black as sand and glinting in the stars, shakes itself all over.  It dips its head to me, and lifts its muzzle to howl along with the screaming descant that the wind and I are creating together.  I feel strange, powerful, raging at the death of the world, for just a second.  Then the wolf’s howl dies away, and it runs off into the dark, invisible and soundless.

 

I do not go back to the scrub anymore.  There is no need to hide to sleep.  The sand covers me well enough when I do not want to be seen.  They still thank me, the creatures I find.  They call me la loba, and praise be to her singing.  I bid them welcome, and tell them that they owe me only one thing for rebirth.

“Tell the mountains,” I tell them.  “When you see the mountains, warn them that the wind is coming for them.”

The necessity of ruin

“He was willing to ruin himself for whatever he was doing.” – Richard Kadrey, Butcher Bird

 

“What would you pay, to do the perfect thing?  Even better, what price wouldn’t you pay, to undo the wrong thing?”  His voice was a hissing, buzzing monotone through the tracheotomy hole in his throat.

“I don’t know about all that,” the barman said, pulling a pint and setting it neatly on a coaster, five seats down.  “It’d have to be something pretty important.”

“Ah, but what *is* important?  How do you know?” He tried to chuckle, finger on the metal opening, but it just came out like angry locusts carjacking a VW bus full of bewildered robots.  “There are philosophers who will go on and on about how everything is important, or nothing is.  They’re not willing to make value judgments, for fear of being wrong.  You strike me as the same kind of man, if you don’t mind my saying so.  Value judgments are a necessity of knowing the value of living, my man.  They may make you uncomfortable, worried that other people will think you’re wrong.  Well, when you’re paying the price, you can afford to tell the people judging your judgments to fuck right off.  This ‘everything’ or ‘nothing’ or ‘I don’t know’ will be taken off into the dark and pulled apart, pieces going everywhere, before they’re willing to make a choice.”  He took a careful sip of his whisky, and grimaced with pleasure at the burn of it.

“I think you may have had enough,” the barman said, trying to be the picture of polite nonconfrontation.  The man was obviously a ranter, and there’s nothing like a drunk ranter to drive off the other custom.

“That’s something I’ve heard quite a bit in my time, you know.  That I’ve had enough.  That I should stop.  But you see, there’s still so much of me left.”  He held up his left hand, missing the two last fingers.  “Three left on that one, and all of them strong and dextrous.  Worth quite a lot, to the right person, in the right moment.  All I have to do is find that person, that moment, and give them what they need.”  His lips peeled back in a fair imitation of a smile.

“But I see what you are after, and I will give it to you.  Your level of customer is quite safe for tonight, and all future nights, from my distressing you.  Have a lovely evening.”  He set a few bills down on the bar, whisky half finished, and walked toward the door.

“Hey mister,” called the man with the pint a few seats down, as he neared the exit.  “What’s your name?”

“I’m very sorry, son.  I don’t know anymore.  I made a bad bargain for it, once upon a time.”  Again, the fair attempt at a smile.

“What’d you get for it?”

“A kiss, my man.  A kiss.  From a Lady whose name no human mouth can pronounce.  And with her kiss, I got the ability to make choices that other people won’t.  Not a good bargain at all, but no good mourning it now.”  He turned the knob, and slipped out the door with a quiet click.

Outside, he circled the building, and stepped into the dark and incredibly rank alley behind it.  She was waiting for him there, of course.  She was always waiting for him, if he went looking.

“Regretting our deal already, child?”  Her voice was the wind blowing leaves down the street, steam hissing through worn and untended pipe joints.

“Since the second I made it, ma’am, and you know it well.”  He stuck a piece of tape over the hole in his throat, and lit a cigarette with a long slow drag that whistled and leaked out into the night.

“You may stop anytime you like.  I will give you back everything you’ve given away.  No interest, even, on the loan of the ability.  I have always been generous with you, and your ingratitude will not change that.”

“And have everyone else lose what I get?  No, thank you, ma’am.  I’ll keep on, just as I am.  You’ll pardon my impertinence if it sounds like I try instruct you, as it were, but I would take great pleasure in telling you what I’ve learned, and what I keep on learning.”  He blew a smoke stream up and into the air, away from her.

“By all means, child.  It was your education I had in mind when I made you the offer.”  Can steam sound smug?  Can a wind condescend?  This one did.

“You gave me the ability.  You didn’t give me the soul to make the choices with.  And nothing I give away has even a fraction as much value to me as it does to the people I give it to.  Who am I, to steal from them in such a way?  So you can keep asking, and I will keep saying no, on until the day when I have nothing left to say no with.  And I will be proud of every scar, even though it makes me a monster.”

“Stubborn, and proud, and short-sighted.  We will see.  I will come again, and we will see.”  The sound and sight of her drifted away, leaving him alone again.

 

Well and well, he thought.  Alone is not such a bad thing.  And I can still change things.  There are worse things to be than a ruin.

“If wishes were water, there would be no word for thirst.” – Traditional

The wishing well

Must wish you well

For here

And ever after

The wishing well

A willing slave

Makes your wish

The master

 

They’d rented a cabin, off in the back of nowhere, because there was so much family and so much to do, but who wants to deal with any of that right now?  They’ve been married, and when you’re just married nothing else really matters at all.  So they picked a place where none of it could bother them, where they could just be with each other and stay together, pretending that time never had to come back in.

The young lady running the retreat was very polite, very kind.  She explained carefully which paths to take to find their cabin, which was all ready for them.

“As you know, we’ve piped in for running water in all the cabins, but there isn’t any electricity besides the water heater and the main heater for the cabin.  No cell signals, no televisions, no computers, none of that silliness.  Just you and your companion, until the end of the week.  Have an excellent stay, and don’t hesitate to come tell me if there’s anything you need.”  Her smile was warm as she handed them the little tag to hang on the front of their door.  “Just to show it’s occupied, you see.  We don’t really need locks out here, not when we already know each other, do we?”

 

The walk up to the cabin was steep enough to put both of them out of their breath, get the blood up and moving.  They didn’t feel the autumn snap in the mountain air at all by the time they reached the door.  It said 4, just like on their little round tab, and they hung the tab on the hook over the number, giggling to each other.

She carried him over the threshold, just because.  And they laughed, and all lit up with love, they kissed and kissed until all the breath they could share between them ran out.  Then they separated for a second, and went off to find the bedroom.  After that, well, it went about as you might think, and some things are private.

The first day went about like that, too.  There was plenty of food in the icebox, a fireplace to warm drinks when they wanted to, a stream to cool them when they didn’t.  The second day they didn’t even notice going by.  They only noticed when it was time to light the lamps. The third day, even the lamps stayed dark.

On the fourth day, one of them looked to the other and said, “Let’s go exploring, my love.  There’s all this brilliant mountain we may not see again for a while, so let’s see it while we’re here.”

“Mmmmm.”  The other one looked thoughtful, then grinned.  “Indeed, there are a lot of places to explore the possibilities of, dear love.  Let’s find all of them, and see what possibilities there are!”

 

So they went out together, just after dawn, and set off tracing the paths that wound up and down the mountain.  Most of them were clearly marked – Cabin 5, Office, Private Do Not Enter.  Some were little more than game trails.

Well, these were mostly city people, and they’d forgotten two very important things.  First, that mountain paths are not like roads; they have a life of their own, and are not obliged to keep going at all, much less the direction you expect them to go.  Second, that out in the wild places, there’s not much around that cares whether humans can see or not.  So, if you’re going to be out after dark, bring a light.  If you have no light, be sure you can find your way back to some before the sun sets.

So, of course, they started trying some of the little trails, all strewn with crunchy leaves and moss, to see where these unmarked paths of adventure would lead.  When one petered out, they’d backtrack to find the nearest turnoff, confident in their hearts that this was people country, after all, and they’d find their way back soon enough.

But soon enough was when the sun began to drop sharply behind the shoulder of the mountain, and they began to feel a little alone and worried.  They called out, but no one replied, except the forest going deadly silent around them at the noise.

 

All was not lost, though.  They did find a larger trail, one that looked beaten down by many feet, that looked as though it must lead to familiar ground.  There was a weathered, overgrown wooden sign pushed flat into the undergrowth beside the turnoff.  In a flowing, delicate hand, it said Wishing Well.

“A wishing well!  It’s perfect, my love.  And we’ll be able to find our way back from there easily, I’m sure.”

“It… has a sign, at least, even if it’s an old one.  It can’t lead us any further into nowhere than we already are.”

So off they went, hand in hand, following the trail to the Wishing Well.  It hadn’t been in the brochure, but certainly it sounded romantic and a little thrilling.

It wasn’t a long trail, and it was very clear, easy on their feet.  They were tired, and relieved at finally having found a path that was more walking than climbing.  So they walked, and rested their lungs and hearts and legs, and talked of what they would do, when they went back to the real world.  It was just beginning to feel like being back in a human-run, human-friendly kind of world would be a bit of a relief.

 

The space between one step and another, beneath two arching trees all decked in orange and gold and crimson, brought them into the clearing.  It was startlingly warm, and felt almost like summer.  The sun was hiding itself completely by now, but a fat, bright, welcoming moon gave them plenty of light.

Sure enough, right in the center of the circle of clearing, there was a well.  It was aged red brick, with no roof at all.  Just a circle of brick, with the promising burble of water chuckling to itself in the deepness. There was a long, bronze plaque on one side, scribed in with letters so old and worn that they were almost illegible.

“Oh, let’s dip our toes in, do!  It’s so warm here, and my feet ache something awful.”

“You, my love, are brilliant.  That’s just the idea we needed.”

So they shucked off boots and socks, and sat on the ledge of the well.  The water just brushed up against the tips of their toes, tickling and inviting.

 

“It is a wishing well, you know, my love.  Make a wish for yourself, so we will have something to look forward to when we go back!”

“You know wishing on wells is silly, but I suppose it can’t hurt anything.  I wish for a long, long life to spend with you.”

“Oh, you wonderful, silly creature!  I wish for all our dreams to come true, together.”

And they laughed, and held hands, and enjoyed the feel of the water soothing their tired, swollen, hot feet, gently lapping against their heels.

“You know, this isn’t such a bad game, after all.  I wish for you always to be just as lovely to me as you are, this very moment.”

“Well then, I wish for *you* always to be as close to me, in heart and in spirit, as you are right this very second!”

Laughter then, a little tinged with the tears that come from too much laughter and not a little relief that everything will, everything must turn out all right, after all.  And the water felt so delicious and cool against their legs, that who could argue?

“Ah-hah!  I know the perfect wish.  I wish for both of us to be madly, desperately, hopelessly in love with each other, just as we are now, forever and ever and ever.”

“Hmmm.  I think we can manage that.  Then I, therefore, wish for everywhere we go to be as wonderful, and as amazing, as this moment.”

 

They embraced then, and kissed, and were madly in love and gleeful with it.  Then something happened, no one knows what.  Instead of the water kissing and lapping up against their knees, something happened.  A loose brick turned, or one of them lost their balance, or they were too busy kissing and laughing to stay perched on the wall underneath them.

She slipped into the water, him reaching after her, but she went straight down under, almost as if she were pulled by a deep river current under the rock.  He called and called for her, desperate, panicking.  He was stripping off his shirt to go in after her when she came back up.

Her hair was all slick and wet, plastered back to her head, kelp decorating her delicately, just as flowers had on their wedding day.  She reached up with both hands, the peaks of her breasts just visible above the cool, dark water.

“I wish for us, my love.  I wish for us.  I wish for all our wishes to come true.”

She pulled him down gently, so gently, so she could kiss him.  His eyes went wide with shock, then glassy with cold, and he did not resist as she pulled him down into the wishing well with her.  They slipped beneath the surface, invisible and silent.

 

Miles away, there was a small clink.  The friendly young lady at the desk looked over to the end of the counter, empty only a second before.  There was a bottle of dark red wine, chill and dripping.  Beside it there lay a little round disk of wood, burned with the number 4 on it, bone dry.

The young lady smiled, a friendly and welcoming smile.

“Why, thank you, Lady.  I am pleased to have been of service.”  And she opened the wine, and poured a small libation to the dirt beside the front door.  “To your very good health.”  Then she poured herself a glass, and lounged into the chair behind the counter, sipping thoughtfully, a pleased and carnivorous delight tugging at the corners of her eyes.

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