Most of us have a swirling mess within our souls: paint splatters, colors, impressions and oddities. We are filled with fear and uncertainty, the world within and without a mystery.
A special few have a more calculated design, a fractal pattern, ever shifting, complex and perfect. They see the world unlike all others. It makes sense in a way we cannot understand, both outside and in.
Within Emily’s eyes I see this pattern spiraling there, though she rarely meets my eye. It is as if she fears a look could steal her secrets, her eyes the open windows into her silent soul. Yet, she spares me fleeting glances. It’s more than she affords most people.
I don’t want her magic, I see the pain it brings her. Emily's gift is a burden, the way she sees the world, all in patterns. The clock on her mantle, the calendar on her wall, the seasons, the weather, the forest, the sky. They are her masters and she is trapped in their unyielding routine, a multi-layered cycle.
I come to visit her at precisely ten everyday. Otherwise I upset her schedule, her entire day. She lives alone, and without her mother to ease her through each transition, she's grown more rigid, more dependent on each marker through her days.
This rigidity of her has driven an ever widening wedge between her and the rest of the village. They need her for her special skills, her talents with herbs and the intricacies of the forest. Yet the restrictions she imposes have caused more than the usual grumbling. There is an illness growing within the village and turning away the sick is never well received. Until now, they have allowed her her quirks, for her talent is great, greater than her mother or grandmother before her.
That is why I came, precisely at ten. The need for her healing hand had grown beyond what her schedule will allow. I convinced the village to let me coax her out of her sacred place. I fear if they were to come in mass, desperate and hungry for aid.
Emily opened the door just a crack when I knock.
"Emily, the village needs you," I tried.
She shook her head, fingers working the edge of her apron, counting the stitches.
"If you do not go to them, they will come to you."
She shook her head again, a frantic gesture now, and spun from me to pace. I held the door open, but didn't dare to step inside. She paced back and forth, back and forth, counting the stitches, glancing from the calendar to the clock. When finally she calmed, she signed with a flutter of her fingers.
"It’s the same, the illness, as the Baker's children. Now we need more, much more of the remedies.” I answer. “They are all ill, all the children, my little one too."
She shook her head and paced once more. Her eyes glanced to me, their patterns swirling frantically, her fingers working to tell me what I feared the most. There is not enough. She produced a small pouch and pressed it into my palm. That is all there is, her fingers said.
"Then we must go," I insisted, holding the door wide. "We must find more."
She glanced my way and then to the calendar and shook her head. Before the door shut in my face, I thrust my foot in the way. Her eyes widened as she looked to me once more. Those dark eyes swirl in confusion and pain.
"Emily," I say, using the tone I learned from her mother. "They will come, and they will not care what your calendar says or if your supplies have dwindled."
She answered with more pacing, frantic, steady pounding along the rut she's made over the years. If I did not bring the cure they desired, tomorrow the parents of the sick would come, pounding on her door, disrupting her carefully crafted peace.
She would refuse to help, overwhelmed and panicked by their demands and numbers. She would surely go into one of her fits. It would all be over. They would blame her, claim possession once they saw first hand the curse that consumes her. They would burn her at the stake like her mother before her.
And I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I turned from her, pouch in hand. I had my own family to think of.
* * *
My entry piece for the Fantasy SmackDown, a user run contest and challenge held here at Wattpad.
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bit·ter·sweet: being at once bitter and sweet; especially: pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret. A collection of short stories I've written since joining Wattpad for various contests, challenges and publications. The...