LotSF: On the Inside

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I sat alone at the edge of the river, sitting on a thick cushion of soft moss and fiddling with my boot laces while I waited for Nolan to come back. He had gone to talk to the chieftain without me. We had both decided that it would be better for him to talk alone with the sprites so that he wouldn’t have to translate for me. They were discussing the situation with the wounded lily-slips and were going to try to figure out how I could help, even though I couldn’t see any of the small folk. Before they’d gone off to talk, the chieftain had explained my condition to a seeress and requested that she come see me tonight. Nolan had thanked the chief on my behalf and then walked off without saying a word more.

And so I waited for him, the only person here I could see and talk to, while the sun started to set and rich golden light poured over the world. I stopped playing with my laces and held my palms out, letting the liquid gold settle in my hands like magic. I curled my fingers closed and the sunlight squeezed out, leaving nothing but shadows in my fist. I opened my hand again and the light flooded back, warm and happy on my skin, and I wished that I could hold onto it. That I could put it in my pocket and carry it with me. There was something special about this warm golden light. I felt as if it would help me understand, return my magic to me, if only I could capture it and put it inside my soul.

But it always slipped away, evading me.

I lowered my hands and buried my fingers in the moss, wondering if the earth would help me where the sun did not. I wanted to make myself small, small enough to hide in the moss and become one of the small folk–the smallest I could possibly be. I used to be able to talk to the moss, in a way. I had been able to hear its thoughts, those tiny little ideas that shivered through its roots and seeped through your skin. I’d learned quite a bit from the moss: the way sun changed its light at the beginning of each month, the way pollen travelled when there was no wind to take it, the way bark grew on a tree sick with mourning. Moss was wise and observant. I wanted to become the moss, so I could be wise and observant too.

But just as the sunlight had not allowed itself to be captured, neither did the moss accept me in its arms. I was stuck in my body, blind and deaf and clumsy, no longer a part of nature like I was when I had magic. Winter had stilled my blood and stripped me of life, like a leafless tree, but even with the coming of spring, I had not been renewed. I’d been left crippled and withered, separate from all that I loved.

It had been a long time since I’d felt bad enough to want to cry, but this was one of those moments.

Yet still I held it in. I poured it into the new magic inside me, an insidious magic that writhed and twisted in my gut like a serpent, consuming my old magic and turning it foul. This magic had grown in me through the winter–I’d felt it ever since it was just a small seed–and had swelled until it consumed every part of my living soul. This blight was a kind of life, in its own right, but it was a sickly life. Only I knew it existed–I hadn’t even been brave enough to tell Nolan.

Most of the time, I could ignore it. I could shove it down into the very bottom of my stomach, turn it into a cold, hard stone that sat heavily in my gut. Most of the time, it was dormant, passively absorbing all my good magic into its vortex. But sometimes I could touch it, use it like my old magic. The first time I used it, I almost didn’t realize that I was tapping it. For it wasn’t any new magic–it was a magic I’d always had, that everyone had within themselves in some small amount.

It was anger. Raw, merciless anger.

And it was eating me alive.

Faith came up behind me, putting her nose on my shoulder and tickling my cheek with her warm breath. I smiled and stroked her nose, thankful that she had come to interrupt me from my sickening thoughts. I petted her for a while and she half-closed her eyes with sleepy contentment. “Can you see them?” I murmured to her. “Can you hear their voices?”

She opened her brown eyes and stared at me, but didn’t answer. She didn’t know how to answer. I wondered dreamily if she could see and understand the small folk. If I became a horse, would I reclaim the magic I’d lost? I had no way of knowing. Faith had no way of telling me.

Together, we watched the last of the golden light fade away until shadows started to fill the world and the forest creatures began to prepare for night. It was as the earliest stars were appearing in the sky that Nolan returned, a ward against evil drawn on his brow.

***

I’m afraid to say I’ve been channeling a bit of that inner anger today–this evening especially. I get very frustrated when I have too many things to do and not enough time to do it–especially when most of that is schoolwork. So I’ve been a bit snappish today (sorry, April!) and I can’t say I’m proud. It’s even making me feel physically sick, but that might also be the stress.

So I’m going to try to let go of that and not get too wound up about my work. I’ve managed to handle everything thus far in my life, so I’ll be able to get through this too. To think it isn’t even exam season yet.

Happy first day of fall!

Have a good night, everyone.

What makes you angry?

May your anger be mild and fleeting.

-Alex

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