Magic

The World Inside the Rain

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This post was originally published through Patreon on August 15, 2018.

Samantha steps into the rain with her head down. But even with her eyes set upon her feet, it’s impossible to look away. The world is gray and lifeless, the sky overhead smothered by ominous charcoal clouds. Yet there is also light, and it is that first and foremost which catches her eye, though she’d rather look away.

She glimpses her reflection in a nearby puddle, haloed by colors that can’t be be found in her own darkened sky, and jerks away.

But now, the sight is no better, for the rain has started to fall in massive pelting sheets, and the light that emanates from it is the same light from the puddle: blindingly bright and multi-hued, an impossible composition that always leaves her bewildered and disoriented.

Twirling the umbrella in her hands, Samantha hunkers against the storm and breaks into a sprint.

Most people, when they see the rain, see drab smudges of gray. But not Samantha. Samantha sees light, as if the rain is composed not of water but of thick shining shards of glass. And what she sees in the puddles that accumulate beneath her feet are often stranger, not only the reflections of her own world but the reflections of another—the world inside the rain—as if they’re not puddles at all but windows, made up of that same glittering glass.

It used to fascinate her as a child. In those days, the world exuded some mystical property that transformed everything, not only the rain, into something extraordinary, otherworldly. In those days, the rain was just one more mystery, one more miracle stacked atop a mountain of other miracles.

Then she grew up, and she learned that what she saw in the otherwise gloomy weather was not what other people saw. She reached the only possible conclusion she could think of: that there was something wrong with her mind, that if she wasn’t careful, madness would take over.

So now, whenever the weather turns dark, she looks away. She refuses to see what can’t be real, regarding the lies her senses feed her as an affront to her dignity. She stays inside whenever possible, and when she has no choice but to walk the sparkling streets in the midst of a storm, she keeps her head down, squinting whenever her vision strays too near a glowing puddle and focusing instead on the grass or the gravel, the asphalt or the cement, until she’s tucked safely inside a nearby building, away from that which she cannot—dares not—understand.

But today, the weather is rough, more so than ever before. The wind has transformed into the howling whistle of a nightmare made manifest, and the rain that cascades from the sky is like an omnipresent waterfall, with that other glittering world at its center.

Perhaps most disturbing is that it’s no longer just her eyes that register this alien environment but her skin. She feels the heat of a sun that can’t possibly be her own, and no matter how loudly she proclaims that “this can’t be real,” that “this can’t be happening,” both her body and her heart are beginning to suspect otherwise.

Samantha runs faster. To where, she doesn’t know. She only knows she has to get away. She is propelled by a raw and primal fear that pushes her further along unfamiliar streets and avenues, until she finds herself facing a flooded alley, the light so strong, so impossibly brilliant, it fills her vision like an ocean.

“This isn’t right,” she whispers. But, in fact, there’s a blossoming feeling in her chest that tells her it is right, that whatever fate or destiny she’s spent her entire life running away from has come to claim her at last.

Though the air is cold, the heat of the world inside the rain suffuses her skin. And when she strains her ears, she thinks she hears a voice, soft and gentle, calling to her from a distance.

“Come,” it says, tugging at her heart like a soul-magnet.

She steps forward, toward the flood in the alley and the light inside.

Don’t go, she thinks. None of this is real.

Then again, that otherworldly voice: “Come.”

And Samantha, though she’s feared the rain and what it might mean her entire adult life, is now caught in the gravitational pull of something larger than herself, something larger than the entire world. She no longer sees the drab and the gray, but the promise of another life, the fulfillment of a mysterious destiny she can no longer deny.

“Come,” says the voice one last time.

This time, Samantha listens. She backs away on legs like coiled springs, then leaps into the light.

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Genevier’s Special Power

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The angel Genevier stood with her back against the engraved cathedral wall, eyes wide. She could hear the demon approaching, could hear its wet chuffing breaths, its low malicious snarl. Like a lion stalking a lone gazelle, it followed her scent, and though she couldn’t see it, though the expansive cathedral lay blanketed in near total darkness, she could feel it closing in.

It was no easy feat to kill an angel, but this particular demon was strong, and Genevier was still young.

Her chest heaved with the effort of breathing. In and out, in and out. Sweat popped from her ebony skin like tiny sequin pearls, contributing to the scent that drew the creature closer.

The demon’s snarl rose in volume, and the cobbled floor began to tremble.

This is it, she thought. Just shy of a hundred years old, she hadn’t yet discovered her special power. Every angel had one, a defense mechanism that kicked in whenever they were at their most vulnerable. If she’d waited to enter the world until she was ready, if she’d given herself time to grow into her abilities, then perhaps she wouldn’t be in this position now.

A side door shattered in a spray of wood chips and metal. A moment later, a pair of smoldering red eyes appeared, flooding the abandoned nave with an unholy light. The demon’s breath hitched, then deepened, a sickly, baritone rumble that shook the stone walls, sending portraits of long-dead saints raining to the floor.

“No,” Genevier breathed. “I will not let you take me. This is holy ground.”

But the demon paid her no mind, only crept forward toward the altar, anxious for the kill.

Genevier tipped her head toward the arched ceiling, not wanting to look that horrible creature in the eye, and closed her eyes to pray.

All at once, a quiet stillness filled her heart, carving out a space where she could take refuge. Within this unexpected sanctuary, Genevier discovered something she hadn’t experienced before, an interior light that, once seen, could not be unseen. It smothered the darkness, and though the demon was nearly upon her, she couldn’t help but marvel, fascinated by the power she perceived in this otherworldly glow.

Tentative, not because she was afraid but because the noble light demanded reverence, Genevier reached out to touch it.

That was when the song overtook her.

Genevier had no idea where it came from, only that it took shape within the deepest part of herself and radiated outward like the astral light of a star. It flowed through her heart, her mind, and finally through her lips.

Transcendent. Unearthly. Beatific. The sound was like nothing Genevier had heard before. It was all at once a part of her and not, a composition of distinct selves that shook the foundation of the cathedral.

The demon stopped inches from her face, cocking its grotesque and bulbous head. Its noxious stink rolled over Genevier like a poisonous cloud, but her song cut through it. Rising in both pitch and volume, the cathedral was soon trembling not only in time with the demon’s fetid breathing, but to the empyrean strains of Genevier’s song.

A dialog took shape between herself and the world surrounding her, an imperative that neither the living nor the non-living could ignore. A melancholy twang, and the stone cobbles rose from the ground to bind the demon’s feet. A desperate trill, and a series of pews flung free from the nave to form a makeshift cage.

The demon roared in a feral rage, but no matter how hard it struggled, it was stuck and couldn’t reach her.

The song reached a passionate, Earth-shattering crescendo, and with it, the most potent of commands was formed: a summoning.

Where there had once been only cold and lifeless stone, there was now fire. It surged into being inside the demon’s prison, just as hungry and eager to feed as the demon itself. The creature cried out, no longer out of rage but out of a blind and animalistic fear. The hunter had become the prey, and as the fire grew, as it made a holy sacrifice of an unholy beast, Genevier could only watch with mute astonishment.

Genevier had found her special power.

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Simon

Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 24, 2018.

I am trapped, and I am afraid.

Once I thought myself invincible. The world was a great shining wonder, a rich and sumptuous banquet of which I partook every day. I loved the world, and for a time, I thought the world loved me. Now I take stock of the suffocating darkness surrounding me, of the narrow, moldering walls that keep me penned inside, and I realize, as Jesus of Nazareth must have realized the night he was betrayed, that this love is a lie, that the world will use you up until it’s sucked you dry and then crucify you for your troubles.

I kneel before a barren stone floor, search it with feral, calloused hands, and pick up a loose stone. I close my fingers around it as if it were a crown jewel, then lash out, striking the wall.

Flecks of light pierce the darkness. They are something for my eyes to grab onto, something to anchor me in this world of everlasting night.

I strike the wall again.

Again.

Again.

I scrape and scratch until I’m gasping for breath. Then I sink to the ground, suddenly silent and languid, a hollow, hopeless shell of the man I had once been.

Just before I fall into a fitful sleep, light once more enters my vision. At first I shake it off—just another dream, I think, or perhaps I’ve gone mad—but the light blossoms, expands, until my closed eyelids glow like bright red coals.

I try to open my eyes, but the light is too painful. My heart beats faster, and I turn inward with fear.

“Simon.”

The name echoes through my prison like a bullhorn. My name. Long has it been since I’ve heard its syllables uttered, and I feel myself pulled to it like a moth to the light.

“I summon you, Simon the Banished, for the world has need of you once more.”

How many times had I myself called on forbidden powers to accomplish my bidding? Now, it seems, the tables have turned, and as the words of a stranger’s spell ensnare me, I try once more to open my eyes.

The light still hurts, but not so much as it did before. At last, I manage to squint. I am surrounded by bright, blinding gold. It illuminates the cold stone hell whose walls I’d never actually seen before today.

My eyes widen, and my pupils adjust. My prison has faded, and in its place I see first an outline, then shapes, then finally colors: an entire world outside the dark, a world of living, thriving things.

“I call on thee, Simon. Come and be part of the world once more.”

I do not know who’s summoned me or why, only that I will soon be free, that the place where I was imprisoned no longer holds any power over me.

I break into an exultant grin.

I gave much to the people of the world, yet they bound me in chains. Now, they will learn to regret it.

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