Rohan Black lasted seven years.
He came to know the world by touch. His hands skimmed the trees as he passed through them, fingers dancing over the bark. And he reminded himself that he hated the roughness, just a little. Rohan had learned to keep a kernel of hate in him, for every little thing, so that he would not grow to love it.
At night he’d hear the fairies snicker, and in the distance, the weaving music of the dance. He’d head the other way are as far as he could without leaving the forest. He could find it in himself to hate this place, the woods that drew him in on fire, that were the reason for his curse. But Rohan feared that out there, in the world he’d left, there would be too many things to love. Love, the word made his chest tighten. A wicked word, or at least a word made wicked.
One day at dusk—he could tell by the smell, and the way the forest sounds shifted, and darkness felt different on skin, like dew—he heard a voice.
“What kind of boy wears a blindfold?” It was a girl’s voice, or so it seemed, neither quiet nor musical but loud, with a kind of electricity.
“Who are you?” asked Rohan, tipping his head in the direction of the voice.
She didn’t answer right away, instead began to move in a circle around him. The girl had a way of walking, seeming to touch the ground only with her toes, skipping over the surface of the world the way rocks skip over water. Rohan could tell, just by the sound of her movement, that she wasn’t human.
“Fairy,” he said, “don’t toy with me.”
“So harsh, your tone,” the girl chided, dancing in a circle around the boy, her fingertips skimming his shoulders, his neck. Rohan straightened. Her fingers brushed against his blindfold, and his hand shot up and closed around her wrist.
“Not that,” he warned. The fairy flexed her hand in his, and he let go.
“Why would anyone blind themselves in such a gorgeous place?” she asked, but there was a hint of something in her voice, a kind of bitterness, as if she could think of several reasons.
“Take it off,” she said.
“If I do, I’ll die.”
“If I take it off, I’ll see things. Eventually I’ll love them. And then maybe I’ll fall in love with them. And then I’ll die.”
The girl shifted her weight.
“A curse?” she asked.
“So you keep the blindfold on so you won’t fall in love with anything.”
“You keep it on to stay alive.”
Again he nodded.
“But what kind of a life is it?” She took a few steps back, and he could feel the weight of her eyes on him. “I don’t think you’re living, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Take it off.”
“You’re trying to trick me, Fairy.”
“I’m not,” she said, “and my name is Tye.”
“What do I care a Fairy’s name?” he spat.
She gave a half-choked laugh.
“What do I care if you live or die?” And with that he heard her turn and trudge off.
Rohan took a deep breath, and let it out as the night settled around him. Tricks, all fairy tricks, he thought, and found a large smooth rock to settle on. He sat on the edge and tried to find a seed of hate for Tye. For her voice, and her skimming touch, and the way her steps sounded like rain drops. He took each thing he knew of her and make sure he hated it, just a little. And then he went to sleep.
[To be continued…]