Author: (All stories)   12/17/11
  Bottled magic

Imagine that you could hold the pure essence of magic in your hands.
I know, you’re probably thinking, “But there’s no such thing as magic!” But just bear with me for a minute and keep reading.
Now, where was I?
Imagine you could hold magic incarnate in your bare hands.
That it could be bottled up and sold, to the highest bidder.
That it could be found on the street, in a gutter.
That you could walk into a store and see it in the window for sale, with a sign underneath proclaiming, Only $15.99!
I’m not saying this is true – only that someday, in the future, it might be.
Hopefully it will.
Because you don’t know what it’s like to hold the essence of magic in your hand, to pull out a cork stopper and breathe in its fragrance, to lift the bottle to your lips and take in a deep, deep draught, and feel its pure energy coursing through your veins, flowing to the very roots of your hair, inside your bones, making you feel like you have a million servants in front of you who will obey your every command, like you’re ruling the world, or that you’re God. And you don’t know what it’s like to take the ingredients needed to make it, and slowly go through the recipe, boiling some ingredients, crushing others, mixing when necessary, and pouring the final result into a little bottle, and then to look down on it with a feeling of pride. It’s mine, you think. I created this beautiful bottle of essence all on my own, and it belongs to me – only me.
I know how it feels, and I want others to feel it. Not only because of the glorious rush of pleasure it gives you, but also because the long-lost faeries will finally be remembered – and, slowly, they’ll have the courage to come back to us humans and we’ll talk and laugh like old friends again. And humans will have magic, and the ability to wave a hand and fly; or to speak a word and create a feast; or to jump into a lake and be able to breathe underwater.
I wrote of my experience in the hopes that people would begin to understand what it’s like, and begin the long and arduous process of bringing magic back into human lives.

To start off with, let’s have a little geography lesson.
I live on a planet that’s not too different from your Earth. We have seven continents – one for each pole, similar to your Arctic and Antarctica – and one continent right at the equator, called Gioxi where all the people are dark-skinned, hot, and play all day long in the continent’s numerous lakes and rivers. The two main continents – North Tradia and South Tradia – contain a typical Traid-man, which is, to you, the same thing as an Englishman. And we have an Orlaina continent – similar to your China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc. – where everyone speaks Orlaine and has dark eyes, dark hair, light skin and almond-shaped eyes. (I’m from South Tradia, if you’re wondering.) And the last continent – Faella – is the land of magic, of mystical beings that flutter in the wind, or sometimes in the water, and some that awaken at night to howl at the full moon, crystalline and rising above the horizon. This is the island that has disappeared, that is said to float around the world randomly, that some believe does not and has never existed. But the Fae sometimes come to visit, draped in transformation spells.
And occasionally, the transformation spell falls off, and in repayment for a kindness, the Fae will give someone a bottle of magic.
That’s how I met my first Fae.

It happened when I was fifteen, at home, doing my homework. (Yes, we have homework and school there, too. The dreaded work that all kids despise.) I was racking my brain to solve an algebra question (I stink at algebra; never could tell a variable from a constant) when I heard a knocking at the door. I assumed it was either my brother or one of my parents – they always forget their keys – and shouted, “Wait a sec! I’ll be right there!” But the knocking continued, increasingly insistent. When it got to the point that I couldn’t bear it anymore, I sighed and stood up with a clatter. Oh, well, I thought. Might as well do it later. And when I opened the door, I was extremely annoyed. A “what the heck are you doing” was making its way out of my mouth, but it died on my lips as I looked down and saw a person.
Or rather, a Fae.
Who was lying on her stomach and had two stubs coming out of her back, each one covered with feathers.

Naturally, I panicked. (I mean, who wouldn’t?) But just as I was about to open my mouth to scream, the Fae grabbed my leg and whispered, “No. Please don’t.” And I shut my mouth. I mean, the grabbing-my-leg part just freaked me out even more, but when she said “no”, I found myself obeying. She let go of me when it was clear I wouldn’t be uttering a single sound. “Help me in, would you?” she said. Again, I felt my body bend down and drag her over the steps, into the house, and onto the couch – without my wanting to. It was almost like I was being forced to do it. And I tried not to stare as the fey settled back with a sigh, and a strange bluish liquid dripped onto our couch’s armrest. Gee, mom and dad won’t be happy about that, I thought, then silently scolded myself. A Fae – a Fae – was in my house, with two feathery stubs that probably used to be wings, and was half-forcing me to do things against my will. And I was worried about the armrest? “Wait.” The Fae’s weak voice snapped me to attention. “Yes?” I hadn’t really noticed it before, but she really did seem ethereal. She was so thin and pale that she seemed almost transparent, and her white-blonde hair was so long and wild that it looked like it was surrounded by constant wind. And her sculpted elfin features, along with her pitch-black eyes, topped it all off. No doubt about it – she was Fae. And that meant she was magic. But I hadn’t really put two and two together yet, because I was focused on the Fae saying, “Would you make me some magic essence, please? That I can use to heal more quickly? I really need to grow my wings back – no way to get home if I can’t fly, and the energy I have left from the transportation and persuasion are only enough for more persuasion.” “Huh? Where do you live?” She snorted, a sound that made her seem less elfin and more…well, human, I guess. “I live in the place you call Faella, although we Fae call it home.” (If you haven’t figured it out yet, our Fae are the same as your Fey.) “So…” I slowly said, drawing out the vowel, “how do you make this ‘magic essence’?” Her eyes widened, as if in shock, but then something seemed to occur to her as she leaned back with a sigh. “Right,” she said, almost sadly. “You don’t have the touch of magic on these lands.” “Just tell me,” I said slowly, as though she were an idiot, “just what is magic essence?” My blood was at boiling point. Here I was asking a question, and she was treating me like an idiot. Or an outsider. Like she didn’t know that magic doesn’t exist. “What?” I must’ve said that aloud. Oh, well. Might as well get the point across. “I said, magic does not exist!” I shrieked at the top of my lungs. She rolled her eyes as though I was being the exasperating one. “Idiot,” she told me. “Of course it does!”

For a minute, I couldn’t believe my ears. “Excuse me,” I said slowly. “Did you just say that magic exists?” She shrugged. “Yes, and unless you want me to rot away on your couch, you will prepare me some magic essence.” She didn’t even need to add that part about rotting away, because as soon as she told me to make her some, I was walking to the kitchen to make some, like an obedient little puppy. “Okay. What’s the recipe?” She rolled her eyes. “Recipe? No recipe. You only need four ingredients.” She flipped a finger up. “Number one: Some form of bottle. Get one, please.” I found myself moving to obey her, without even a second thought. I rummaged through the cabinets and found a nearly-empty vinegar bottle. I dumped the contents down the sink. “Two: Water.” I turned on the tap and watched as the water filled the bottle. When it was almost overflowing, I turned the water off. “And?” She gave a little smile. “Come here.” Again, I obeyed subconsciously, but this time I noticed a little electric current – kind of – running through me. It vanished as soon as I arrived by the Fae’s side. “Yes?” “Number three, also known as the most gruesome ingredient...” With a grimace, she bit into her forearm, tore the skin away, and let her blood drip into the bottle.

I was frozen in revulsion and at the same time in awe of the bright blue liquid pouring from her arm. No, not liquid…blood. The gush slowed to a trickle, then to a few drops and stopped. “The blood of one who has been transformed by magic essence,” she said coolly, as if nothing had happened, “pouring from a cut until the blood flow has ceased.” She took the bottle from me – how all the blood got in and didn’t fall anywhere else, I have no idea – and surveyed it with a critical eye. “Hmm. It’ll do.” She looked up sharply. “This is the final ingredient,” she said curtly, “but it’s a secret of the Fae, so unfortunately, I must tell you to stand by those stairs and not listen.” This time, the moment I felt that tingle under my skin, I tried to force my legs still. It didn’t work. They carried me all the way across the room. By the time I’d stopped and turned back around, she was bent over the bottle, whispering into its neck. And then, right as she sat up straight and stopped talking, everything changed.
The room we were standing in had been replaced by almost-too-bright electrical light. It was energy incarnate, it was an unexplainable color, it was the essence of mystery and life and all sorts of unexplainable things – it was pure magic. I stared, transfixed, as the blinding light surrounding us became absorbed by the murky blue-grey liquid. Slowly, the potion’s color grew lighter and brighter, and more and more clear, until it was faintly glowing yellow-white and had little bolts of electricity running through it. And it sparkled with an etheral glow that I somehow knew only few could see. Right then, our surroundings faded back to my ordinary living room. “Okay,” she said, satisfied, and then lifted it to her lips and drank.

I could see the glow go into her mouth, down her throat, and to her stomach – but then, instead of staying there, it spread outward towards her back. Almost like it was traveling in her blood. And when it reached the base of her wings, it accumulated at the ends where the wings used to be and grew brighter, and brighter, until it was glowing like a miniature super-nova. And then – this is the amazing part – it solidified. The light solidified into bone, then a layer of muscle and blood vessels was added on top, and when that was done, layer upon layer of skin grew on top. And then the pearl-white down sprouted out of the skin, and then the feathers – the big ones that you find at the beach or that you see people in old movies using as quills – grew out, and out, and kept growing until the Fae was on her hands and knees to make room for the massive, pure white wings that were now coming out of her back. And all the while, they glowed. They glowed just a little, so that you wouldn’t even notice it compared to the brightness of the light that was solidifying, but it glowed just enough to make you feel like you were seeing an aura.
And then it stopped.
The girl got up on her feet and flapped her wings experimentally – once, twice. The gust of wind they brought was enough to send the cushions flying off the couch and me almost smashing through the wall. I barely managed to brace myself against it. When the gale died and I mustered the courage to peek through my fingers, I was shocked to find the girl standing in front of me, staring into my eyes. “Oh, good,” she said cheerfully when she saw me looking back. “I can reward you now.” She stuffed the healing potion with a bit of fabric and tucked it into her pocket, then rushed into the kitchen, wings tucked against her back, and began rummaging through the cabinets. “Aha!” she said triumphantly as she held up an almost empty wine bottle. “This will do.” She went to the sink and emptied the bottle, then filled it with water, as I had done, and added her blood, just as before. And when the light came back as she was whispering, I was still in awe, but used to it enough that I could feel a tingle running through me as if I’d been electrocuted. I knew that I wouldn’t have felt it if I hadn’t gotten slightly more used to the light, and I was glad – because although I felt mildly electrocuted, I also felt strong enough to lift up a mountain, and energetic enough to run five times around the world and still have the energy to run a marathon. The light was gone too soon, much too soon, but I got over the grief I felt from its disappearance when the Fae gave me the bottle. “Here. Your reward.” I stared at the bottle in joy. “I get to have this?” I glanced up, and continued, “I get it all?” “Yep! Here. Take it. Then I’ll get to go back home.” I didn’t even hear that last bit because as soon as she said “yep”, I downed the whole bottle. The electrical charge I still felt from the light immediately intensified, until I felt like I was being struck by a lightning bolt. And as I looked around the room with what seemed newly opened eyes, I realized I could do things. I reached out a hand, and the couch cushions lifted. I willed them to land on the couch, and they landed with a plop. Ecstatic, I kept doing it – taking the objects that had been knocked out of place or broken by the gust of wind the Fae had made, and reparing them or putting them back. But it ended too soon – all too soon. As soon as I’d finished tidying up the room, the buzz dimmed, then vanished entirely. I slumped to the ground, suddenly exhausted. But I wanted more. So I looked up to the girl, who was also looking at me. But whereas I was looking at her with desparation, she was looking at me with shock. “What?” I asked, completely forgetting that I was planning to ask for more of the magic essence. “What is it?” She lifted a shaking hand and pointed at my face. “The magic…it…it transformed you.”

What? I rushed to the washroom and stared at myself, absolutely petrified. “That’s…not right,” the Fae said from behind me. I whirled around in rage. “Take it back!” I shouted at her. I grabbed her arms and shook her. “Take it back! Change me back to normal! Do-it-NOW!” “I-I can’t,” she stammered. “Once you’re chosen by the magic, that’s it. It’s permanent.” I moaned and turned back to the mirror. “No…no way,” I whispered. Because the face that was staring back at me wasn’t mine. Oh, it was mine, to be sure. But it was different – my skin had paled until it was almost transparent, just like the Fae girl’s, and my already dark eyes had gone charcoal-black. And my features had gotten elf-like, and the tips of my ears were now pointed. And my hair-my hair! “This isn’t possible,” I told myself. If I kept telling myself that, surely it’d become true. “Honey, I hate to break it to you, but that’s really your hair. It’s white.” White! White hair! “This is pretty common among you Fae, isn’t it?” I said bitterly. “No,” she said in a bemused voice. “Actually, the only magic-touched who should ever have white hair is-” She froze. She was so completely still that I had to poke her to make sure she hadn’t turned to stone. “Are you all right?” “That’s it,” she finally said. “You’re coming with me.” And before I could even protest, she’d grabbed my arm, pulled me towards the door, and with a single leap, flew us both into the sky.

I screamed as we went higher and higher, barely higher than the windows in the nearby houses, then steadily rising until my feet were skimming the rooftops. All the while the girl was grimly clinging to my wrists, with her enormous wings flapping, and with us rising with every flap. When we got to the point that we were flying inside a cloud, I stopped screaming, because everyone knows there’s less air the higher you go, and I really needed to save my breath. “Don’t worry,” the Fae girl told me as we kept gliding, sometimes in a cloud, sometimes under, sometimes on top. Either way, I got soaked soon – although I wasn’t sure what happened to the Fae. “I won’t go any higher than this. What’s your name, by the way?” I managed to spit out a “Lily” before anything flew into my mouth. “I’m Tora. I know, sounds pretty ordinary, doesn’t it?” It did. So ordinary, in fact, that I forgot about how high up we were just long enough to stare at her in bewilderment. But then I saw how close the cloud above us was and squeezed my eyes shut again. “I’m taking you to Fae,” she shouted over the flapping of a nearby flock of geese. “I think that you’re in one of our prophecies, so I have to get you there soon. If you are the person in the prophecy, then you’ll”-“Wait a second,” I interrupted. “I’m not in any prophecy! I’m just an ordinary girl who goes to an ordinary high school and likes reading ordinary books, and who lives in an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood with an ordinary family in an…” I trailed off because something had just occurred to me. I read a lot of fantasy novels and – guess what? – this happened all the time. The heroine is told she’s special or whatever, argues that she’s just an ordinary girl in an ordinary school with an ordinary family living in an ordinary house, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But… “I’m not a heroine,” I said out loud. The girl – Tora – snorted. “And I’m a Fae, but my name’s something as plain as Tora,” she told me. “Come on.” I didn’t really see how her sentence applied to my situation, but I still shouted, “I’m not a heroine!” “Just keep believing that, darling,” she said – not unkindly, but not helpfully either. I could tell that she really believed I was the prophecy girl, and who was I to get her hopes down? So for the rest of that hour-long or so flight, I remained silent and she remained silent, too, picking up on my vibe. At least, I was silent until I saw the Island of Fae.

The moment I set my eyes upon it was the moment I understood why we’d never managed to discover it in all the time since it’d disappeared. The Island of Fae is an island in the sky. And as for why our planes never found it, well, I guess it’s because it’s really high up – and by that, I mean really, really, really high up, high enough that there’s pretty much no oxygen – and the bottom looks completely blue, like the sky behind it. “I’m going to be going really high now,” Tora warned, “so take a really deep breath and hold it.” I obeyed and she flew up. The moment she got high enough that I could actually see the surface of the island, I completely forgot about how high we were and gasped. The island was covered in a dome – an enormous glass dome. And the ground was pretty much all greens, blues and browns – the greens of course being the vegetation, and the blues as the water. And all the brown was either a tree trunk or a house. A house, built of twigs and branches and logs and whatnot. Tora swept into a little opening in the dome.

A door swished close behind us the moment we landed on the ground. An airlock. I bounced on the balls of my feet as I waited through the pumping out of air and in of oxygen. When the door to the island swished open, it was all I could do to keep from free-falling into this island that was so drenched with that mystical energy I’d felt as I’d been creating that bottle of invisibility essence – it made me feel like I was a god, like I could see a million miles in each direction but still see whoever was standing next to me, like I could blink and create an avalanche two mountains away, but also raise a gust of wind right where I was standing, or even cause a tornado halfway across the world. And that was just from creating one bottle of magical essence. On this island that was drenched in magical essence, I felt like I could just simply exist and create a planet fifty million light years away, already teeming with life. But Tora pulled me back just as I was about to jump out, and that jolted me back to earth. I was still plump with energy that was hard to understand, but it was manageable and I didn’t feel like as much of a god anymore. I knew that if I fell, I’d go splat on the ground and die, whereas before, I felt like I wouldn’t die if a hundred tons of bricks fell on me, or if my head was chopped off. I nodded to show that I was feeling rational again, at which point she picked me up and flew us both down. “I’m taking you to the Prophesier,” she shouted above the wind rushing by us. I looked down and immediately got dizzy – first of all, because we were going so fast; second of all, because everyone on the ground also had wings and they were all flitting around like crazy. I looked up and immediately regretted it. There were hundreds upon thousands of Fae flying there, and they looked like they’d crash into each other at any moment. I resorted to keeping my eyes squeezed shut. It seemed like forever until Tara screamed, “We’re here!” Thank god, I thought to myself as we suddenly dropped. How big is this island, anyway? I stumbled to the ground and got myself a scraped palm. Naturally, Tara landed perfectly – not a single scrape, leaf, or speck of dirt anywhere on her. She rushed past me as I pulled myself off of the ground. “Prasi!” I heard her call as she entered the building in front of me. “Prasi!” I peeked in the hut. Everything was dark. Then, suddenly: “Tara?” A small light appeared, and I saw the Prophesier of Faella Island.

I stared. And stared. And stared some more. A curt voice said, “You done staring yet?” I quickly looked down, but just as soon as I did, I felt an urge to take another look. Just one… I peeked. “Come on now.” I looked back down.
The prophesier of Faella Island was a kid. A six-year-old kid. With tousled black hair and normal dark brown eyes. And some weird sparkly wings behind him that looked like an aura. But – still! A kid? And a boy, too, at that! When I dared to glance up again, I was shocked to see him standing only centimeters in front of me. I almost stumbled backwards, but managed to regain my balance. How’d he get there? “Hmm,” he said, surveying my face. “Doesn’t look like anything special.” I immediately bristled up. “What do you mean by that?” I demanded. He ignored me and turned to face Tara. “Why did you bring her to me, exactly?” he asked. Tara was standing wide-eyed. “Prophesier! Don’t be mean to the Prophesied One!” I couldn’t help but let out a snort. Prophesied One? That only happened in books! “Do not disrespect the prophecies, girl,” the boy said with a fierce look in his eyes. “Do not. Understand?” I couldn’t help but laughing at that. “Prophecies? Prophecies? They don’t exist! There’s no way to predict the future, understand that?” He didn’t answer, just gave my hair a good, hard yank. “Ouch!” I grabbed the roots of my hair. Thank God. Nothing had fallen out – although it felt like half my head had gone with those few strands of hair. “What was that for?” I yelled, teary-eyed. “It’s not a wig then,” he said calmly, as if that had been his sole purpose. Yeah, right. “Look! I’m not this prophesy-person or whatever! I just want you to turn me back the way I was so I can go back to my old life! Is that too much to ask for?” He ignored me again. This time, he told Tara, “Bring some essence.” A shocked look came onto her face. “Are you sure, Prophesier? I mean, the prophesy said”-“But she’s not completely transformed yet,” he said, cutting her off. He lifted my chin and turned my face toward Tara. “See? Her cheeks are too chubby, and her chin is too rounded.” I couldn’t even protest about those comments, thanks to his vise-like grip on my chin. “And look at her back. No sign of wings.” Tara sighed. “Okay then. I’ll bring a bottle over.” “Be quick about it.” “Yes, sir.”

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” They didn’t listen. Of course not. The Prophesier’s word is law, isn’t it? “I’m not drinking it! Give up already!” Yeah. Basically, they were trying to pour some of the magic essence down my throat. I’d almost given in (I’d do anything to get that feeling of power back) but something told me that if I drank this, I’d never go back to normal. So I resisted. “Stop it!” “Wait, everyone!” The three Fae surrounding me froze. The water-nymph looking one turned with one hand still on my chin, and the wood-nymph released her hold on my arms, while the bird-man dropped my legs. I landed on my backside with a thump. “Oh, thank you,” I said breathlessly to the person who was walking towards me. “I thought they’d never-” I froze when I saw the contraption that the person was holding in his arms. Not the person – the Prophesier. “Hold her still,” he commanded. I was smart enough to have already tucked up into a tight ball, but not strong enough to stay in that ball. The three Fae easily pried open my arms and legs. The bird-person held down my right arm and leg, while the wood nymph held down my left arm and leg. The water nymph just crouched by my head and held it still. I lay still, petrified as the Prophesier laid the machine over me. “Tuck this into her mouth,” he told the water nymph. It looked like a very narrow funnel on one end of a tube. My eyes followed the tube, all the way back to another funnel, where the Prophesier was already pouring in another bottle of magical essence. I immediately clamped my mouth shut, but my captor just held my nose until I opened my mouth – drat those stupid survival instincts – and then inserted the funnel. “Ready,” she called. Essence immediately began to flow down the tube…down…and into the funnel that was already inserted in my mouth. The moment the last drop passed my lips, the funnel was pulled out of my mouth and it was clenched shut, along with my nose. “Come on,” the Prophesier whispered into my ear. “Swallow. We’ll let you go as soon as you do.” I resisted for as long as I could. But, unfortunately, I was not blessed with the gift of being able to hold my breath almost indefinitely, and so I swallowed less than thirty seconds later. The very instant I did was the instant that everything changed.

This time, it wasn’t just a buzzing feeling. It was a full-on, raise-every-single-hair-on-your body blast of electricity. I felt like if I spent another moment in it, I’d be burnt to a crisp – and yet, as time passed, nothing happened to me at all. And there was a burning in my back, on my face, at my fingertips – everywhere. Somehow, I knew that the magic was filling me and changing me so that, once it was done, I’d somehow reflect the image of magic in the form of a human being. And I felt like it was happening, too. The burning was my body rearranging itself to fit the magic’s image. By the time the entire process was over, I felt like I was an entirely different person, like I had been in a coma for a long time and was now coming out with partial amnesia. And then the burning was fading, and the electric shock I was getting got lower and lower until it was easily dismissible, and then I woke up.

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the Prophesier above me. “Are you okay?” he asked anxiously. I blinked slowly. “Yes.” I sat up and he moved aside. “Are your wings all right?” was the first thing that came out of the water nymph’s mouth. She shook her own transparent wings as if to make sure they were fine. I nodded. “Yes, I think they are.” “Open them up,” the wood nymph urged. “Just so we can make sure.” I frowned. Somehow, I knew that it wasn’t to make sure that my wings were fine. They wanted to verify I was a person from…a prophecy? Oh, well. Might as well do it anyways. No reason why not. So I slowly lifted up my drying wings from where they’d been folded against my back and opened them up. Somehow, I knew that when fully opened, they’d be small and light – kind of like duck feet, I thought vaguely. And then they were fully opened. By now, a crowd had formed around me. I heard lots of gasps and sighs of admiration, but there was also some disappointed mumbling. I heard a few people say, “Is this really the girl from the prophecy? Her wings are so…small.” “Lily.” I was jolted back to reality. “Prophesier.” He smiled a little and said, “Please, call me Ortumer. Show the true form of your wings now, why don’t you?” I shrugged. “Sure.”

I did a sort of releasing motion with my mind, and then the electrical surroundings appeared. I ignored it – I was already filled with so much buzzing that a little bit didn’t really affect me – and focused on concentrating all that energy into one shape. One form. And when the landscape turned back to a forest and a hut nearby, my wings were different. They were made of lightning, and when I flapped them a bit, sparks flew all over the place. A few people caught them, and I could see that a single spark had the effect of ten bottles of essence – they buzzed with magic upon contact with the sparks. I picked up a spark and dropped it into a bottle of water that was offered to me. The water immediately sparkled like magical essence. I changed my wings back – they were too much of a bother – and then was startled to hear Ortumer say to all the other Fae, “This is the Prophesied Human. This is magic incarnate. She will bring magic back to the world.” And I knew that I wouldn’t be leaving the island for a while.

The following period of time was a blur. I created magical essence bottles with the sparks from my full-form wings, talked to the Fae, had fun with them, pretty much. I remembered healing a sick tree nymph, and cleaning a muddy stream so that the naiad family that lived there would get healthy again. But the one thing I remembered most of all was a mermaid. She was pregnant, and there was an enormous fuss about it. When I inquired why the entire island was throwing a party in her honor, I was told that, since magic-touched were almost immortal, few ever had children – and the few children that were born were revered, since they were the only children the Fae would see for a long while. And it was true. In all the time I spent there, I met over ten thousand adults – but that pregnant mermaid was the only one I met, and I saw only ten children at the most. But what brought me back to a more human-like sense of the world was the death of Tara.

“What?” Ortumer was sitting in front of me with a grim face. “Tara’s dead?” He nodded curtly. “Yes. She died of old age a while ago.” I was still struggling to process this information. “But…she wasn’t that old, was she?” Tara had been my best friend for the entire time that I’d stayed here. She couldn’t have died of old age. I’d hardly spent a year here. How was that possible? “You are the only truly immortal Fae. All others – including her – have a lifespan of fifteen thousand years or so. Tara was about two hundred fifty – just on the brink of adulthood – when she brought you here. You’ve been here for about ten thousand, two hundred years.” His voice was kind, but I didn’t feel like being kind to him. My voice was ice-cold when I finally spoke. “I’ve been here for over ten thousand years.” I could tell that his nod was forced. “Y-Yes,” he stammered. “I-I mean, we thought you knew, so we never mentioned-” “You knew fully well that I didn’t know!” I yelled at him. I was so mad that my wings unconsciously unfurled behind me. This time, instead of being ocean-blue, they were red-yellow – the color of fire. Ortumer glanced at them with worry in his eyes. “Yes, you did – I mean, no, I didn’t know! I mean, we might be wrong! Us Fae perceive time differently than humans do, so ten thousand years for us might just be ten years for them!” My blood ran cold. “Them.” Ortumer froze, suddenly realizing his mistake. “I-I didn’t mean them, I meant”-“Them. I’m not human anymore, am I?” “You are, you are, you are!” He was desperate. A fool could see that. “Let me go.” His head snapped up in shock. “What?” Í continued with a hard voice. “Let me go back to the world of humans.” My words carried the hidden threat of an unspoken or else. What that “or else” was, I had no idea, but I knew that it wouldn’t be good for this island or its inhabitants. But it was clear that the Prophesier had an idea of what that “or else” could be, because he finally told me, “Fine. You can go back.”

“Just remember…when you come back – if you come back – don’t destroy the dome, no matter what.” I turned to see that the speaker was the mermaid who’d been pregnant not too long ago. She was sitting on a chair, bouncing a happily burbling baby on her hip. “Why? What’ll happen if the dome breaks?” I asked curiously. The answer was enough to make me want to coat the glass with three more layers of diamond. “The vacuum locks aren’t only so that we can breathe, you know. This island survives on magic, but the magic in the air – all around us – is like dust. If we open up the dome, our oxygen escapes, but the magic surrounding us right now will also be dispersed all around the world. Everyone in the world would become slightly magic-transformed, and have a slightly longer lifespan, and we’d still be Fae, but our life-spans would be reduced to that of a human, and each following generation would be less and less magical. Soon, we’d be no better than the other magic-touched humans in the world."

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