I wrote this fairy tale for a friend. So I thought over the next several days, I’ll post it for you all to read, if you so choose.
The World on Fire
(A short story for Tye Cattenach created at odd intervals and with little logic but much whimsy, by Victoria Schwab).
Rohan Black was just a boy when he wandered off.
He was a passionate child, and he spent most of him time just trying to take the world in, as if he could open his eyes wide enough, or listen close enough, and stretch himself to hold it. And so one evening he sat on the fence by his family’s home, watching the sun sink down the edge of the sky. It seemed to set the nearby trees on fire, grazing the tips of every leaf, and haloing the woods. The world looked like it was burning. Young Rohan could not bear to sit still in the middle of the blaze, so he hopped off the fence, and headed straight for the forest.
Rohan tumbled through the places between trees, his bare feet sliding over moss and wet earth. Again and again he stumbled, all because he could not bring himself to look down. The forest around him and above him was as green as emeralds, flecked with sunlight, a world so alive and glittering that the young boy could hardly bring his eyes to settle on a single place.
And so he stumbled and tumbled and crawled deeper and deeper into the forest.
Now, the forest fey are wicked things.
The woods brim with life and fuel their spirits, and their dancing, and their mischief. And all who live by the forest know never to follow the sounds of music that seem to come from everywhere and nowhere. If you get caught on a thread of it, you must hurry toward quiet, and light, and sparser trees. For once it wraps itself around you, like the shimmering colors it draws you in, draws you deeper, into the darker parts of the forest.
It was growing late, and all the colors crept towards shadow, and Rohan was tired and lost, and so it is not surprising that when the music found him and began to weave around his arms and legs, he did not think to turn away. The music made colors behind his eyes, and it began to drag him through the trees. But to the small, lost boy the thicker woods seemed warmer, more alive.
And so he followed.
He followed the forest to the fairy ring.
Set in a circle of trees, on a floor swept clean of stones and sticks and paved with moss, the faeries all were dancing. The world around was dim but each wicked fey glowed with their own strange light, one that wound beneath their skin like fireflies. Poor Rohan watched, and found his body loosening, unraveling. His joints grew soft, and his eyes grew heavy, and he found himself slipping onto a rock and watching the dance. He was so hungry, and the music seemed like bread and honey and water and warm blankets all at once.
For the second time the world was on fire, this time with magic. It was a moment Rohan would have liked to last forever, but it stopped short when a stick-thin faery danced over to the boy, and laid her lips, without a word, on his. Rohan meant to pull back, for he didn’t like girls, was still too young to crave their touch, but before he could the fairy’s lips slipped away and he found himself looking into mischievous eyes. Eyes that were a dozen colors at once.
“Lookie you,” she said, and without another word she pulled him to his feet and took him onto the moss floor. He wanted to protest, to say that his legs were too tired, his arms were too heavy, but somehow all of it vanished from his lips and mind. He let her sweep him around the faery ring.
Just as he was sliding into the rhythm, the same way he had slid into the haze of it on his rock seat, again he was wrenched away. Away from peace and bliss and magic, as the fairy girl stopped hard and fast and Rohan ran into her, and winced. The stickish girl felt as if she was made of stones, heavy, sharp edges that dug into his skin. He rubbed his shoulder and looked up to see why they had stopped.
“How fun, how fun,” said a larger fey with painted black lips. He looked around but the fairy who’d danced with him was nowhere to be found. The music was louder and the night darker, so that every fairy glowed twice as bright, their edges blurring. His head swam.
“What’s this, what’s this,” said the fey, and Rohan couldn’t tell if she said everything twice or if he heard the echo in his head.
“A game, a game!” said the fairy, smiling her black-lipped smile. Suddenly there were others gathered round, and Rohan felt very aware of the fact the he was the only one not glowing.
“Let’s play, let’s play.”
“Play what?” he asked, finding his voice for the first time all night.
“With you, with you.” And when she said this Rohan took a small step back. He felt warm and he realized that the fairies were circling round, all glowing like match tips, and for the third time he felt like the world was on fire.
[to be continued tomorrow]