Etta sank down into the white fluff, crushing it beneath her feet. She pulled her other foot up almost throwing it forward back into the snow, sinking and crushing again and repeated the process over and over as the small group made it’s way towards the edge of the forest. Some of the more experienced mages knew a spell that meant they could walk on the snow without half their legs disappearing into the cold drifts of white. She envied them, her boots went up to her knees, the thick leather water-proof but the snow went just over them soaking her trousers. She was using a good deal of her aura on a spell warming her body – she didn’t have enough physical energy to really keep herself dry as well as warm. The hike was hard work and she had to put everything she had into keeping up with some of the stronger mages as they hit the deeper snow.
The morning sun was filtered through the trees but made no difference, Etta’s warming spell was doing well enough, soon they would be out again and beyond that – who knew? Micah had an idea, this temple was close, he could feel the energy he kept saying and they all believed him.
All of them wanted to be in them, each of them had their own reasons, their own desperations.
She tried to move faster but as the were reaching the end of the trees the snow was getting deeper. She could feel it higher up on her legs, every step was getting hard she was getting slower. Even Ephraim was getting away from her now – the boy was barely taller than she, and spindly, but way ahead of her now. Etta was flagging.
She looked up from where her feet were stuck in a particularly deep drift to see Micah frowning at her.
There was a halo of light around him, and she blinked as it flashed in her eyes.
“Wow you’re pretty,” she muttered and he chuckled, he reached a hand out and she felt a tingle at the touch, coursing up through her veins, the spell spreading through her. She felt her body dry from the inside, slow but steady.
“Better?” he asked.
“It won’t last,” she said, trying to take a step forwards, wrapping her fingers around his. She felt his aura again, colder this time – sharper too, and Etta suddenly felt light, lighter and lighter, rising up and then she was on level with Micah and his smiling face, cheeks red from the cold and lips almost as blue as his eyes.
“There we go.”
She looked down at her feet on top of the snow now and smiled.
“Thank you, but you can’t keep both of these spells up,” she told him, “you can’t keep us both above the snow.”
“It’s fine,” he said, finally dropping letting go of her hand, and she unwrapped her fingers around his. “The temple is close, I promise.”
She nodded, and they started back towards the edge of the forest once more. Etta moved a little faster now she was gliding over the snow, not even leaving treads behind. Micah walked beside her now, the two of them catching up with the rest of the group.
“Why are you here?” he asked, words hisses on the cold air. “Why make this journey with me?”
“Why believe in you?” she asked.
“My friend is sick, I, I don’t know… no one knows how to heal her and so this is one of the few options I have left.”
“The fountain,” he said.
“If the temple is real then the fountain must be there too.”
“What if..” he hesitated.
“What if it doesn’t work?” she finished. “I don’t know.”
Micah took her hand in his, warm through their thick gloves and held it tight. She smiled at him again and tried to move a little faster through the snow with him.
“We’ll get there Etta,” he muttered, “we’ll get there.”
She nodded but pressed on harder, there was still a chance this wouldn’t work.
“Are you sure about this?” Kara whispered, ducking down behind a shelf as another guard walked by. Etta looked over at her from her seat on the stone floor shivering a little in the harsh breeze.
Looking back on this she was going to laugh. Laugh and brush it off as another adventure Etta had dragged her head-first into.
“It’s fine,” Etta murmured watching the guard tap his fingers along a shelf as he passed by, before heading out of the room. Her friend jumped to her feet, knocking Kara back until she lost her balance completely. She scrambled back up again in time to grab Etta’s wrist as she went to conjure up some magic.
“Didn’t you see the signs?” she hissed, relaxing her grip when Etta winced. “Sorry.”
“Yeah, but…” she paused. “you think that means no magic.”
“I think we shouldn’t be in here.”
“Look, this was your idea,” Etta said, starting to scour the library’s shelves, running her fingers slowly over the spines of the books, tracking a line through the dust as she did so. Kara grumbled as she trailed behind her, eyes darting around the darkness.
“Should’ve brought a torch,” she said. She could barely see Etta in front her, the odd spot of light pushing through the dirty windows.
“I am a torch.”
There was a spark, then a flash, and Etta turned around and grinned at her. A small ball of light floated on the edge of her fingers and lit up her bronze skin. It reflected off Kara’s own paler skin and she had to shield her eyes from it when her friend waved it in front of her face.
“Etta!” she hissed again. “Careful.”
“All right, all right.”
Etta turned back around, flicking her hand up in the air throwing the light. It settled above their heads illuminating the space around them enough for Kara to at least see her friend. And the titles of the books on the shelves.
“Kara, these are all…cooking books, recipes.”
“Magical recipes,” Etta said, taking down a book and flipping through it.
“Yes, but not what we’re looking for.”
“I don’t know, I kinda want to know what aura brownies taste like.” She showed the page to Kara who scanned it quickly.
“Oh, yeah.” She grinned at Etta, who cradled it under her arm. “Though we really should be lessening our crimes not committing more,” she added.
“It’s just a recipe book. We can mail it back when we’re done.”
“And the other book.”
Kara was satisfied with that. This had been her idea after all, and she had broken the lock to let them in. Now that she was in there however she wasn’t feeling too happy about it all. Etta always seemed to fall into these things more easily than her. Always had ever since they were kids. Kara had some ideas but Etta always had the follow through.
Etta led then through the stacks and into a little room towards the end.
“Okay, this is more like it.”
She pushed into the room, dust rising up into the air and she coughed as she walked through it. It was lighter in there, the moon brighter through the windows. She doused her own ball of light and started to search through the books. Etta was worried that if she touched some of the books they would fall apart and when Kara reached past her to take one she was tempted to stop her. Her friend moved slowly though, inching the book out from between the others. She skimmed over the title and slotted it back into place before Etta could read the it herself.
“Why are these locked up again?” Kara asked, pulling out another book, cracks deep in it’s cover.
“Because,” Etta said, with a huff, “there are books in here that can completely remove the aura from someone, completely remove the magic. It’s dangerous stuff from pre-magic revolution. Don’t know why they’ve kept them all this time though.”
“We’ve been preserving history for our entire existence,” Kara said. “Maybe for reasons like this,” she muttered but Etta heard and chuckled.
“What’s that one?” she said, the silver moonlight glinting on the golden edges of a book just above her. “Stopping The Magical Curse?”
“Sounds promising,” Kara said, “well, for us at least.”
“Some of these books are insane,” Etta said, stretching up to reach the golden book. She hooked her fingers over the edges of the spine and pulled, toppling back as the huge book came off the shelf. Kara wrapped her arms around her waist but both succumbed to gravity, falling to the floor. A puff of dust flew up and they started to cough.
“Oops,” Etta said, laughing, “you okay?” She sat up and gave Kara a hand to do the same.
“Yeah, fine, is that the book?”
“I think so, right title, same author.”
“Let’s check the index,” Kara urged, pulling the book towards them over the tiles. Etta lifted open the cover with a thud, running her finger over the information on the on the first page.
“This was only written like a hundred years ago.”
“It’s been sitting in this place for fifty years.”
“But I mean, in the grand scheme of things it’s hardly anything.”
“It was a weird time, the war, the after effect of that…” Kara drifted off with a shrug. “Let’s check to see if this is the book we need, cause I want to get out of here.”
“Me too, I think the dust is starting to get to me.”
“Did you take your antihistamines?”
“Yeah but this is much more than I can take Kar,” Etta said, sniffing. “Let’s just go.”
“What if it’s not in here?” Kara said.
“Then we’ll come back.”
Kara rolled her eyes at her, grumbling and Etta smiled.
“I don’t want to have a tail any longer than I need to.”
At that Etta smiled, looking behind her friend at the end of a long dark tail sticking out from underneath her top. It had taken them a little while to get it under control, before they could wrap it around Kara’s waist. Even now it swished back and forth over her hip.
“I said I was sorry.”
“I know, I know.”
She sighed and Etta frowned. They should’ve had someone come and reverse the spell, it would’ve been simple, quick. Easy.
Kara didn’t want anyone to know though; didn’t want anyone to see.
Didn’t want to get Etta in trouble for trying to teach a non-mage a spell.
There were stupid rules that Etta didn’t care for, and neither did Kara, she knew but her friend loved her too much to see her magic taken away from her for something as stupid as trying to dye her hair. Though how that had ended with a tail Etta didn’t know. She was as shocked as Kara when it started to grow out of body, appearing under the skirt she had been wearing at the time.
“Oh look here – neutralising individual spells,” she said, tapping the chapter list a couple of pages in.
“This really is something that should be in normal books in normal libraries.”
“Duh. The regular kind of reversal spell is” she said, snapping the book shut. “But only older mages can do it. Takes a lot of aura, and I don’t have it. I may never have it.”
“Let’s go, let’s just get home and fix this,” she said, tugging the black tail and tucking it back into her jeans. “I can’t imagine going to work on Monday with this tucked into my uniform trousers.”
They made their way out of the room, Etta lighting their way with the same ball of light spell as before, flicking it up into the air quickly so she could hold the thick book with both hands once more. They didn’t see the guard on the way back through the old library, moving quickly through the dust and darkness before making their way back out into the barren courtyard.
“Okay, where did we park the car?” Etta said, looking around. Kara frowned and started walking away from her.
“Move Etts! I want to get rid of this thing!” she called back. Etta chuckled and jogged to catch up with her.
I can look after myself. I actually can. I can cook, I can keep the house clean and I can keep myself alive and dressed and clean. I can get up on time, I can go to bed at a reasonable hour. I am not completely incapable of doing any of these things. I can plan for the future and I can learn from my mistakes.
People treat me like a child sometimes.
It’s not malicious, in fact those who care about me most often do this and hell, I don’t even think they even realise they’re doing it sometimes and I let it slide most of the time without even feeling peeved. Sometimes though, more so as I get older and as I get better it grates on me. Because I know what I’m doing. I know how to do things – that isn’t the problem.
The problem is I don’t want to do things – and the reason behind that. So I don’t want to shower, or cook, or clean – not necessarily because I’m lazy (though I can be) but because I do not think I deserve this care (which also grates on me when people are trying to help me or look after me).
I don’t think I should be looked after, don’t think I deserve a good meal or a clean house. I struggle to get up on time because I don’t think I should bother – what’s the point right? I don’t want to go to bed, because then I have to sleep (even if I can) and I have to start over again. It’s the problem with depression – it sucks at your self worth so you don’t see the point of these activities. Activities that simply revolve around you. Other people have more worth to you than you own being. So looking after them is easier than looking after yourself.
While my mental health is improved I still struggle with looking after myself. Not because I can’t because I don’t completely think I’m worth it. If my wife weren’t here I doubt I would even do as much as I do now. I can manage a bear minimum under my own steam but everything after that is for her or because of her in some way.
My mother, my sister, my best friend Mel… many people have looked after me right up until a few years ago. For some reason I seem to project this need to be looked after when it’s not what I need. I need kicking up the backside in all honesty. It’s what I tell my wife all the time. As time has gone on my mental health has improved as well as my desire to look after myself but it takes time for that to sink in completely for everyone else I suppose. And I don’t blame them, nor would I ever snap, but sometimes, sometimes I just…I know what I’m doing okay?
When it comes to mental health and depression – what one person needs is not what the other person needs. So while I need a swift kick to get me to do the washing up, some people need more care. Hell, I used to have my sister clean my flat and my mother randomly left me groceries on my porch in the middle of the day because I’d still be in bed. That was my reality and on some level I am still being cared for but that does not make me incapable. Every little thing can be a struggle cause every little think can hurt or hinder in some way.
It’s odd the way it takes us but the reality is deep down we are capable people – we can’t do things not because we’re incapable but because it’s too hard at that point, we’re just too worn down by our own minds, our own thoughts, sometimes we don’t think we’re worth it or it’s worth doing. There are a million little things that cause mental health problems, a million different triggers, a million different reasons and rationales and requirements we have to get through the day.
Or to avoid getting through the day.
For all this griping I’ve just done there is one thing that’s important to note. I know they only do it cause they care about me, they love me. And they worry. I’ve worried the hell out of my mother and sister over the years, cause Melanie no end of panic, with suicide attempts and self harming and complete meltdowns of various kinds. So this is their continued care, and I love them all the more for it, appreciate it move now that I ever did back then.
Still, I am 33. I know where to put the trolley after I’ve finished with it!
She was always doing stuff like this, Kara thought, looking down into the teacup. “A storm in a tea cup, very funny,” she grumbled. Carefully she lifted the white mug and carried it back into her kitchen, placing it on the scratched counter with the other bits of washing up. Inside the mug the liquid swirled and light flashed every so often. She wasn’t sure she could hear thunder over the traffic outside though. Perhaps Etta hadn’t perfected this particular spell.
Not that it mattered.
Kara went to pour it away but changed her mind, taking one of the dirty plates and setting it on top of the mug. Out of sight, out of mind.
Apparently not. As she started to pour hot water into the sink the dirty blue plate came flying past her face, swishing her black hair into her face, smashing on the kitchen window before her. Bits of ceramic flew into her face and she squeezed her eyes shut as she ducked down behind the sink.
Behind her the mug was perfectly still.
There was no answer, and she called again, grumbling when Etta finally came wandering into the kitchen from the back of the flat, smiling at her friend.
“Everything okay?” she asked, leaning against the fridge.
“Do something about that will you?” She pointed at the mug standing opposite Etta. The young woman laughed heading over to it and picking it up. She swirling the insides around, drops of milky tea sloshing over the edges, the light bouncing around the room.
“Careful!” Kara cried.
“It’s perfectly fine.”
“It threw a plate at me!”
“Barometric pressure must’ve built up.”
“I really wish you wouldn’t mess around with the mugs.”
“You wanted to live with a mage.”
“No, I wanted to live with you. Not have weather in my mugs.”
Etta simply laughed again, brushing her bright hair from her face and spun a single finger over the mug once more. She picked it up again and showed the empty mug to.
“I could do straight sunshine next time? Maybe a heatwave.”
“Maybe you could just wash them up like normal?” Kara said. Etta laughed again.
“You’re no fun,” she said, before skipping off back to her bedroom. Kara frowned after her. They were closer once, the two of them but over the past few months things seemed to be harder between them. Their easy friendship had become strained; something that had little to do with the household chores. Maybe she wasn’t as much fun any more, but while Etta played with magic in her room, Kara felt she still had to live in the real world, with real responsibilities. Etta did too, but seemed to enjoyed it so much more now she had magic to play with.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be so bad, she thought, finishing the dishes. Maybe she could have fun too.
Etta felt bad for her friend. Since she had discovered an affinity for magic, her life had diverged somewhat from that of Kara’s. The two of them had been in the same position when they met years ago, and even when they started living together. Just two young women out of college looking to start their careers. Kara had started hers, had found a position at a good company and had made her way slowly up the corporate ladder. Etta couldn’t be prouder but while she herself had found a decent job too, things had quickly changed when she’d accidentally set the break room on fire at the paper company she’d been working for at the time.
Of all places, she grumbled to herself, running her fingers over a line in her book, the paper factory.
They had been understanding though, she had to give them that. It hadn’t been the first time, nor the worst fire. It was just part of the world. They were ready for such occurrences.
It had taken her a week to get all the foam out of her hair and still felt cold after the blast of water had hit her. Apparently they hired their own mage for fires. One who could conjure up a lot of water.
Etta was good with fire though, and electricity but water took a little more concentration. She practised with it the most, creating puddles in the garden and little storms in mugs. She loved this life much more than the one she was living before, the one she had been expecting with reports and human relations and managers meetings.
A life Kara still had to live.
Etta frowned at her book, demanding it make her feel better, but it only held more spells for creating water from magic and that really wasn’t going to help her friendship with Kara. She stood up in a huff, wondering if an apology would at least help diffuse some of the tension, some of the hurt of her earlier attitude.
Etta turned around, saw a glimpse of Kara in her open doorway seconds before something cold and hard hit her in the face. Her friend laughed, long and hard and for the first time in months, as bits of ice started to melt and drip from her face, a cold drop of water settling on the crook of her nose. She blinked the tiny fragments of the cold from her eyes and glared at Kara, who was looking around the doorway, giggling.
That’s the Kara she remembered.
“I deserved this,” Etta said. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re not the only one who can create snow and fire and electricity you know.”
Etta wiped the snow from her skin.
“Next time I’m putting a snow storm in a bowl,” she said, with a grin.
“Next time I’ll fill a bucket up with water.”
Etta laughed at that, their friendship wasn’t broken she realised just needed a little patching up.
She supposes she’s sat there more than once or twice telling lies to passers-by, acting honest and innocent but she’s not too sure. It’s been a long time, drawn out by the cold and calculating way in which the world has treated her. Now she’s left to sit and suffer and she does not regret a single night, a single lie, a single person who has skimmed through her, sat on her, or ignored her.
Because now is the same as before.
Now is as raw and as honest as it’s ever been.
She was young once, a person with as much sense of right and wrong as any. It quickly became twisted before her very eyes. She heard it all wrapped around good intentions – dirty machinations that seem so innocuous at first, that she was oblivious to at her best. She doesn’t remember much from before. When all seemed good and right and light.
If it ever was.
When she sleeps she slips through the bars of her cell, something created of her own errors; horrors that are hers and hers alone.
Her only redemption is that she is alone. She has taken no one with her, corrupted no other souls; neither before nor after.
She doesn’t remember when it started, nor when it finished. She just remembers the times in between when, sleeping on the bare strips of wood, shivering in the summer and getting lost in the fog of winter. She spent night after night surrounded by her own frozen breath and nothing else. No one else. Even in spring it was already over even as the rest of the world around her was beginning, renewing, restarting. For her it was always the end. Always over.
She grew icicles on her arms and spider-webs spread over her sides, fine strands of ice and web that covered her completely as time passed. A single movement would break everything, ruin the nature’s hard work and when she sat up the next day everything fell away to the floor, melted and muted into the earth once more only to start again when she lay back down, closed her eyes for another night, another week, another amount of time she barely noticed. She was barely aware she even moved sometimes.
She wasn’t alive, nor was she dead.
Just a ghost of an existence, taken from a woman who would not care for her, a father who could not care for her. Left to lie and be lied to. She was found here, she thinks, she’s not sure. But there’s no one to answer her questions, to prompt her memories, to even correct the few she still has a tenuous grasp of. Some are stronger than other, but still in pieces; lying to her mother, running away from her brother, sleeping in the same bed as another girl, like herself, small and blonde and not quite alive…
Somewhere, deep inside she remembers laughing.
Laughing at someone maybe. Cruel shakes of her body, amusement at misfortune rather than humour.
She was the person who had left her there, alone on the bench, asleep and at the end. No bad guy, no villain, no one person responsible for why she was here. No one person responsible for the person she had become, the person she always was. Just her. It was always just her.
It would always be just her, no matter what. Just her and the lies she’s told.
She won’t be telling lies any more.
She doesn’t care.
588 words. Random prose.
N.B – I don’t know the origin of the picture – I tried to look – so if you know so I can correctly credit it, let me know.
There are a lot of cats in my village. Molly is new the village and completely adorable. Also completely daft. She’ll drop down in the middle of the road for you to fuss her, try and come into the house behind you, will follow you down the road. She’s very sweet.
So my wonderful wife Kate Ellen tried to take on a van on Tuesday morning.
You know how I said my life is really odd. Well, a lot of things tend to go really wrong sometimes too. So while she has this eye-patch on she gets hit by a van.
She was fucking lucky.
It was the first thing the doctor said to me. She was lucky.
My day sort of went like this: I hadn’t slept well, and I didn’t have work until half one in the afternoon. Kate Ellen left at seven am – I don’t even remember her leaving, I slept through that as I often do when she leaves that early. The combined attention seeking from the cats and the chickens was hard to stay asleep through so I put my headphones.
And slept through sixteen missed calls and a police man knocking on my door.
I work up to find said policeman in my bedroom.
That didn’t freak me out too much (everyone is telling me that waking up with a strange guy in the room would freak them out). What freaked me out was that my wife had been in an accident. I think that supersedes pretty much anything else. He drove me to the hospital (after I put clothes on) and told me what happened.
Kate Ellen ran off her bus and ran across the road to catch her next bus. She came out of no where and the van driver didn’t even see her coming. With that eye patch on, she probably didn’t see him coming either. He was going around 30 mph, and it happen outside the ambulance station in Aberystwyth. She was lucky.
We were lucky.
She doesn’t really remember what happened. In fact she doesn’t remember most of Tuesday. They took her up to Intensive Care and they really looked after her up there. She’s on a ward now – and right this second – fast asleep.
I have never been so scared in my life. If I had lost her…this could’ve been so much worse. I live a very specific life that mostly revolves around my wife. She’s keeping me going. We keep each other going. To lose that…I don’t even want to think about it.
The cats are going batshit insane.
The first night was the worst, they went bonkers running around the place. They didn’t settle when I did, running in and out of the bedroom. They calmed down a little after that first night, Mr. Brown decided what he wanted to do was sleep on the envelope of her things that the hospital gave me after the accident. This is how he is showing me he misses her. They sleep with me at night instead of in the living room. Last Mr. Brown got into bed with me, Pogo slept next to me.
I’ve hardly seen Merry. I see her at breakfast and dinner, but she stays on the wardrobe watching and waiting for her to come home.
It’s hard to explain that it’ll be another week at the very least.
I’ve spent most of every day sitting in hospital watching her sleep and breathe using the hospital wi-fi that one really works in certain places, especially next to windows. I brought her own laptop in too, so she can watch films and so on while she’s awake. They’re being pretty good to me. Plus there is free tea.
Leaving though is awful.
It’s pretty much the most distressing thing I’m going to do in my life – leave my wife in the hospital and go home. I felt awful yesterday though cleaning the house up a bit helped. I’d been alone three days and it had all gone a bit nuts so I got on top of some of it last night.
They’re only a month old and last week we let them out of the coop for a peck around the garden for the first time. We shut the other three chickens up in the coop and they had an hour or two in the yard. It went well so we did the same the next night, but with the all the chickens in the garden to see how it went. And I suppose in a way it went well enough if you discount the fact that something tried to take one of the chicks.
So I’m watching television and Kate Ellen cries out for me to go outside and she sounds really distressed so I jumped up, wrestling with my trainers, and I ran outside. One of the chicks, Krem, was hurt and when we caught her it was pretty horrifying. Feathers had been ripped out as well as some skin, there was a lot of blood, we were freaking out.
Krem was fine.
Well, as fine as you can be when you’ve been attacked.
He actually didn’t go into shock. He’s was still running around the garden, still eating and drinking and preening. He didn’t seem to have even noticed anything was wrong. We managed to get hold of him, take him inside and clean him up. Once we had managed to do that I noted only a centimetre of skin had been ripped off, his croup was fine not damaged at all just bald now.
Now he’s living inside, sleeping in a spare hamster cage while the cats time share access to the front half of the house. The cats are scared of the adult chickens but they fancy their chances with the chicks. They’re bitesized after all. He obviously doesn’t like to be in the cage, and I don’t like leaving him in there so I’ve been getting him out and letting him sit with me on the sofa.
He fell to sleep in my hair.
Now he’ll only settle down when he’s tucked under my shirt, or my chin, then I can put him in the cage and he’ll sleep for the night. He gets upset when I leave the room, or when I can’t hear me. I don’t even know how these things happen to me really. One minute I’m watching Stargate SG-1 on Netflix before dinner and the next thing I have a chicken sleeping under my top, while my wife sits next to me with an eye patch on because Krem scratched her cornea on Sunday morning.