mystery incarnate

The black hood hung low over her face, shrouding her in darkness. She was working quietly, quickly; her hands flipped over the cards on the table, one by one, and she examined them closely.

His breath came heavily, his feet crunching against the dead leaves on the ground.

The warm flame of a candle lit the table she was sitting at, but the only other light in the room was the silver glow that dripped in through the window. She sighed, moving the candle closer to the cards.

His heart was pounding, he could barely breathe, but he was almost there, almost…

Suddenly she stood up. The old wooden floors creaked as she walked across the room. She paused briefly to examine an old star sheet that was taped to the wall; then she quickly strode the last few steps and opened the door.

A boy was standing there, his hand raised a few inches from where the door had been. His eyes widened slightly, but he struggled to control his breathing enough to speak. “Please,” he panted, “I need—”

“I know.”

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death by mermaid

The waves crashed violently against the sand, smashing into the feet of the young boy lying on the beach. He sighed and closed his eyes, wondering if he should just stay there until the ocean covered him up – if it filled his lungs and mouth until he burst, he would become one with something beautiful. And wasn’t that really what everyone wanted?

“Whatcha thinkin’ about, Sailor?”

He sat up in alarm, and she giggled, her silver hair blowing across her face. His eyes skimmed nervously up and down her body; she was young, 20 at the most, and wearing a too-big T-shirt and bottle cap necklace. A soaking wet blanket covered her legs.

“Who—I mean—um…” he swallowed. “I thought—I thought the beach was closed.”

She shrugged. “Didn’t stop you. Why are you here?”

“You’re not gonna tell my dad, are you? He’ll get so mad, I’m not supposed to be here, please don’t—”

“Hey, relax, kid! I’m not really supposed to be here either.” She smiled widely. “So tell me what you were thinking about before. You looked so serious.”

His neck was beginning to prickle uncomfortably. “Oh… nothing. I, uh… I’m taking a philosophy class in school.” He forced a laugh. “I guess it’s just kind of getting to me.”

“Ooh, philosophy. A smart boy, huh? Tell me more.”

“You know,” he stood up quickly and started to back away, “I’d love to, really, but dinner’s probably ready, and my dad will get mad if I’m late.”

“Wait, don’t go! Come for a swim with me first.” She reached towards him, smiling invitingly.

He shook his head and kept walking; just a few more yards to the street, a few more yards and—

“They all hate you.”

She spoke softly, but her voice was dripping with malice. “No one understands you, do they? No one cares. No one wants you.”

He turned around slowly. She was still sitting in the water, her cloudy grey eyes boring into him. “What?” he whispered.

“They just don’t get it. They don’t understand how special you are. You’re different. You’re better than them.” She suddenly smiled. “I understand you. I understand you perfectly.”

He suddenly realized that he was walking back toward her. Her smile grew wider.

“I even know what you were thinking about before,” she murmured. “It’s a beautiful thing, death. Mysterious. Inexplicable. Inevitable.”

He was standing in front of her now. She pushed herself further into the ocean, and he followed, struggling to keep his balance in the seething water.

“Do you want to come swimming with me?” she whispered.

Slowly, he nodded.

And suddenly her arms were wrapped around him, so tightly he could barely breathe. The blanket slipped away from her waist, and he gasped, but before he could cry out they were underwater. He kicked at her, his feet scraping against her scales, but she didn’t loosen her grip.

Water filled his mouth, and he felt like he would burst, but it wasn’t beautiful; his lungs were screaming and his head was screaming and the darkness was closing in as they swam down and

down and

d
o
w
n.

the intuition

Welcome to Intuition. Please choose your environment.

The Intuition™ had revolutionized the world. It was a computerized house straight out of a science fiction novel, and since its invention no one ever ventured outside. Why would we? At the touch of a button we could be at the beach, or on top of the Eiffel Tower, or in the rainforest. We never worried about sunburn – all our light was artificial. Our Intuition™ houses had no windows, but we didn’t care. We hardly ever saw our real walls anyway. Our ceilings turned into skies, our floors imitated earth, and there was even a ‘fresh air package’ (Buy now to get the freshest air available puffed directly into your house!).

We could talk to family and friends in our social room – their image would appear full size on the wall. Our kitchens cooked our meals for us, and our libraries read books to us. There was even a gym in every house.

I had been a preteen when The Intuition™ was invented. Always geeky and unpopular, I welcomed the social isolation it provided. Because I didn’t feel isolated. The Intuition™ created friends for me based on personal information I entered into the database. No one ever wanted for anything, and people quickly forgot the lives they’d had outside their houses.

So when my Intuition™ malfunctioned, I was completely stunned. It automatically started to reboot itself, but with the amount of information it needed to retrieve it looked like it would take days to start working again. My house was suddenly white, windowless, and empty.

At a loss for anything better to do, I decided to go outside for the first time in years. I cracked open my front door nervously, and the house made irritated beeping noises, as though I was doing something wrong. I hurriedly stepped outside and shut the door. The sunlight hit me full in the face and I blinked, shocked. It felt so different then the kind I was used to.

I walked slowly down the street, taking everything in. It was silent. Everyone was tucked away inside their house.

Except for you.

You were riding your skateboard (how long had it been since I’d seen one of those?), doing amazing tricks, and laughing when you fell. From a distance the first thing I noticed about you were your cuts, some still fresh and bleeding. I couldn’t understand why you didn’t get them healed – your house’s first aid room would be able to smooth your skin over like nothing had hurt you.

When you got closer I noticed other things about you. Your black hair, blue eyes, milky skin – like Snow White without the dress. Your smile lit up your face, and your laugh lit up mine.

You looked surprised when you saw me, but you shook my hand anyway. I was nervous; I could barely remember how to act around an actual human. But there was a casual charm about you that put me at ease – you were calm, relaxed. And you talked. God, you could talk. It seemed like you knew everything, and there wasn’t anything that didn’t fascinate you. You told me what kind of plants were edible and how to imitate the sounds of birds so that they would fly right up to me. You taught me incredible card tricks (well, you tried to). You showed me tiny little robots you’d built out of stuff you found at the junkyard – you always wrote down one of your favorite poems to put in their heads so they would have beautiful thoughts.

Eventually I began to talk too. We talked about school; you liked history best, but I had always liked art. You asked to see my drawings, but I had thrown them away years ago, and now I couldn’t remember why I had enjoyed it in the first place. There was nothing I could make that the computers couldn’t make better. You frowned when I said this. Art is about emotion, you told me. It’s about pain and joy and things that only the living can feel. So I picked up a pencil and tried to draw you. I couldn’t capture your beauty, but you were thrilled when I showed you. You insisted I was making you look better than you really did.

Then you brought me to your house. It was nicely decorated, but there was dust over everything – it felt unlived in. At least until we got to your room. It was like heaven in there. There were books – real books, not the kind on the computer screen. There must have been hundreds of them, overflowing the bookshelf and in stacks up to the ceiling. There was an ancient mac sitting on your desk; you had found it abandoned when you were six, and miraculously you’d managed to make it function again. But what drew my eye was the huge piano. It was old, but well taken care of, and I could see how much you loved it. You’d been a musical prodigy – you could play beautifully before you could even talk.

While you played for me I slowly started to realize something. Your room had a window, and posters covering the walls. Your floor was covered with books and papers. The Intuition™ wouldn’t be able to function in a room like this.

“Your house is old school,” I gasped, stunned.

You laughed at my strange phrasing. “Yes, it is,” you replied. “Someone has to keep reality alive. I want my house to stay un-computerized.

“But…why?”

“Why not?”

“Well… the Intuition can give you everything reality can. You can go wherever you want without even leaving home. You never get hurt, you never feel pain. Why wouldn’t you want that?”

You looked at me strangely. Without replying, you pulled me downstairs and out the front door. You handed me a leather jacket and a helmet, and drove me away on your motorcycle. I had never been on one – I shrieked and clung to you, and even though I could barely hear over the wind, I swear you laughed and called me a wimp.

Eventually you pulled up by some woods, and started walking into them. I ran to keep up. The evening sun was dripping through the leaves, falling onto you and turning you gold.

When the trees got slightly less dense, you stopped. In front of us were bluebells, swaying gently in the breeze, and there was a beautiful smell in the air that a long-forgotten part of my brain identified as honeysuckle. You began to walk into the flowers, but I grabbed your arm.

“You’re not supposed to walk through bluebells,” I said. “They’re laced with charms and enchantments. Fairies get pissed if you mess them up.” I laughed as I remembered this, and you smiled, looking slightly surprised.

“I used to love reading about that sort of thing,” I explained. “Fairies, elementals, pegasuses. Pegasi?” I paused, considering, then shrugged. I knew you’d correct me if I stayed quiet too long, so I quickly finished. “I thought it was so exciting.

“Do something for me,” you said. “Think about your childhood.”

Puzzled, I tried to remember. I dug into my mind, finding little fragments, sunlit memories of perfection. I remembered baking with my mother and dressing up for Halloween (I was always a princess. People made fun of me for not being scary enough). I remembered my dad teaching me how to ride my bike, and the thrill I felt when I finally managed it. I remembered travelling, making friends with kids who couldn’t speak a word of English. I remembered constantly changing my name because I was bored with my given one. I remembered searching for fairy houses among tree roots.

“Did you ever get hurt?” you asked. You were holding my hands by this point, and you stepped closer to me.

I remembered the time I fell off my bike, getting a surprisingly large scar on my leg. I remembered falling out of trees, and getting skinned knees. I remembered getting calluses on my hands from trying to get all the way across the monkey bars. It hurt a lot, but I was so proud every time I got from one side to the other.

Our foreheads were touching now. “That’s why I don’t want the Intuition,” you breathed. “If you never feel pain, happiness doesn’t exist.”

Your lips brushed against mine. You smelled like old books and laundry that had been dried in the sun. It was a homey, comforting smell. And it was real. You were real, the flowers and the sunset and the fireflies that were beginning to flicker – it was all real.

“Please don’t disappear back into your computerized life,” you said, looking into my eyes. “Come live in the real world. With me.”

A smile danced on my lips, and I wrapped my arms around your neck.

“If you insist.”

make a wish

i) Her mirror is wrong. It reflects her backwards, the way other people see her; but she really doesn’t want to know how other people see her.

ii) There are dead flowers in the vase next to her bed. She picked them one day in an attempt to cheer herself up, but now they’re gone and there’s nothing to replace them with. So she leaves them there, hoping they make her room seem artistic.

iii) Endings scare her more than anything. When she sees something beautiful she cries, because what’s the point in being beautiful when you’re just going to disappear? She thinks that nothing matters, and nothing ever will.

stop. breathe. start over.

i) She sits by the open window every night and listens to the stars twinkle.

ii) She catches fireflies in the backyard, just like she did when she was a child. She makes wishes on stars and dandelions and eyelashes, and she plants new flowers. Sometimes, she thinks, beautiful things will just never disappear.

iii) Tomorrow she’s going to watch the sun rise and the moon set. And she’s going to realize that ‘end’ and ‘beginning’ can sometimes mean the same thing.

it’s like fairytale love

“Hey. Wake up.”

“Mmmph. What?”

“Do you love me?”

“Is this a trick question?”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Yes, I love you. …What’s wrong?”

“I’m just wondering why.”

“Why what?”

“Why you love me.”

“Oh, God. Please tell me we’re not actually having this conversation at three in the morning.”

“We’re not actually having this conversation at three in the morning. Why do you love me?”

“There is no why. I just do. That’s like asking… that’s like asking why I like breathing, you know? People just like to breathe. And if they didn’t like breathing you’d just have a bunch of really depressed people doing this thing they hate. Or, y’know, the entire human race would just suffocate to death out of pure stubbornness.”

“…So you’re saying that if you didn’t love me, the human race would become extinct?”

“Something along those lines. Can I go to sleep now?”

“Okay. …Hey, wait, no! Wake up.”

“Oh my God, what?”

“I love you too.”

the colors of fate

She weaves the threads together with her long fingers. She never pauses, never rests, but her eyes don’t droop – they focus intently on the shimmering strings in her hands.

The air around her smells of old books and moonlight.

She smiles as the string turns pink in her hand; threading it expertly through a different piece of thread, she watches the pink spread. As it touches the other strings, it rapidly turns them into purples and blues and greens. The colors change smoothly, seamlessly, and they never stay in one place for long.

Her fingers are stained with the colors of peoples’ destinies.

Breathing deeply, she continues her tireless weaving. Occasionally she cuts a string; occasionally she adds a new one in. And the colors change and change, forever twisting through her hands.

Telling their stories.

tiny sinking feeling

i have this tiny sinking feeling that maybe i might love you.

oh.

is that going to be problem, do you think?

i’m sure we can work around it.

what if i don’t want to work around it?

then maybe it’s a problem.

why can’t we talk about it?

isn’t that what we’re doing?

it’s not quite what i had in mind.

oh.

you keep saying that.

what do you want me to say?

tell me why you don’t love me.

i think i like you too much to love you.

i don’t get it.

it’s just… people are so fragile. you know? there’s a million things that could happen to you. you could walk off one day and never come back. and i would never see your eyes or hear your laugh or smell your hair. and then there’s spiders.

…spiders?

if you died who would kill the spiders in my bedroom?

what does that have to do with me loving you?

i don’t know. am i rambling?

maybe. keep going.

i’m scared that i’ll freak you out.

why?

because i want to tell you that i don’t love you. i love the way you smile and i love the things you talk about and i love the way you look at me like i’m the only person in the world and i love the sound of your voice but i don’t… um… i don’t…

what?

crap.

what is it?

i have this tiny sinking feeling that maybe i might love you too.