They call her the green fairy.
She stands in a spun-glass manor, draped in shades of green and weaves her spell, intoxicating and confusing and bewilderingly enchanting.
Tonight, she wears bold peppermint green chiffon, contrasting blue polish and wings her eyeliner sharper than normal. It’s the last controlled thing about her, and she finishes the spell with an exhalation and an inhalation that are equally suggestive of a long time spent holding her breath. None of the people around her notice, they’re already under the spell. Enraptured, really, not that they can help that.
It’s not her fault either. She doesn’t know that she does it so neatly and efficiently, doesn’t always understand the power she holds in her curled-up palms or the way electricity sometimes crackles off her fingertips. All she does know is shades of green and sparkling glass and a crowd of people at her beck and call.
Here is the last thing she knew knowing, before she tried to know anything else: words were her magic. With them she could create magic, madness, chaos. Affect others like she was born to it.
(And of course, she was).
“You can do anything,” she remembers someone saying to her once. Did they say it though, or did she imagine it — learn a voice so well that she could pick out how it would place inflections on a word, create an aural visualization of how it would sound speaking to her?
“I know I can,” she whispers back, and blinks away a stray eyelash where it sits on the lower lid of her eye. To her left, someone rouses from the stupor – “did you say something?” full of concern and care and unsettling fascination.
She doesn’t need the concern though, so she forces a smile, angles her face to the light streaming in so it hits her at the best angle she can manage and lets her sparkling teeth and eyes do the work. She feels the recoil, rather than sees it, and that’s enough for her.
In a swish of green silk and green tea she stalks from the room, a snake looking for a new hunting ground. This is the problem of a manor built from so much glass: she has been roaming all over the place and seen everything already, there’s nothing new of interest. Right now all she wants is a new place to sit and drink tea, practice hissing the s that falls at the end of a word and biting each word from her tongue like they hurt her to speak.
The seventeenth room is the one she hasn’t visited in a while and so she drags in a chair, armful of cushions and curls up to drink. She’s mindful that she has done this before, but for the life of her she can’t remember where or when. When she visualizes the scene, she does so with a dreamy sort of quality to the image: as if she is viewing it through a foggy telescope, or reading the story through someone else’s eyes.
Living in someone else’s mind is not new to her, but she dislikes it all the same. It’s too disorienting, just a little too bewildering to try and separate her own thoughts from those that belong to herself and she wonders if they do belong to her once they are shared around.
Time to revisit the spell-room. Rejuvenated, she drags the furniture around and scuffs up the glass. It’ll mend soon anyway.
In the hour that she has been gone, chaos has formed. She claps, delighted as this new turn of events. So far she hasn’t yet been able to create it; every time she has tried has backfired on her and left her dismayed, doubting her own ability. It appears all I need to do is not try, she decides, and watches the way people around her rouse, movements slow and stiff.
Magic tastes bittersweet in her mouth, chasing a spoonful of medicine with chocolate and letting it melt slowly. Underneath, she’s elated at this new turn of events – too consumed with her newest plans that unfold as quickly as she thinks of them. Around her the air twists and thins, making it briefly harder to breath before she releases the air, lets it siphon back into lungs and watches the changes.
People leave her at her bidding, distracted and stumbling, euphorically disarrayed. Up on her little pavilion, she stands in blue-green silk and thinks to herself, I am magic given human form. She is alone now, and so she crosses to the one wood-paneled door, places her fingerprint into the scanner and steps through into the room she had built especially for this purpose. None of the others are ever permitted entrance, she prefers to keep all her secrets close to her in lockets bound shut with solid glue that only hardens up over time; cupboards protected with her blood or fingerprint and a single larger book that pretends to be Serious Literature.
(She doesn’t notice the change in the shade of green until she is calmed, energy drawing away from her body)
So she claws through all her supplies looking for something that will reboost energy because she can’t be magic madness chaos if she is low on energy. Crystals and potions and elixirs all get flung to the side and she comes across a bottle of something that she’s never seen before, doesn’t recall buying on any expedition she’s ever been on but that doesn’t mean anything because she has wandered the world so long and so far that it would be a superhuman effort to recall everything.
She takes the first shot and chases it with the darkest chocolate she can find, finding the warmth flooding through her body and chasing her veins with fire which she converts back to energy, sits down on the nearest seat to conserve herself. When the room stops spinning she lights a candle and a stick of incense, lets her eyes dart between the two to see which will collapse first under its own weight. For the first time, she understands how nutrition can be destruction.
At the next meeting, she passes around a tray of gleaming green shots in spun-blue glasses, waits for the magic to begin and tells herself it’s all on her, without ever lifting a finger.
She gets under their skin oh-so-easily, winding her way through narrowed veins as if it’s her home and the body beside hers is her birthright. Sometimes she collects people for prized qualities: gemstones for eyes (so easy to recreate in blown-glass homage) and silk, velvet, gossamer for dressing.
When they whisper about her, they say that she is potent, intoxicating. Ten minutes in her company is all they need to stumble, lose sight of all around them, bewitched. Fifteen minutes is all she needs to make the worst of ideas seem good, and she does this with the softest charm she can muster.
“Quit your job,” she tells one person. It’s a job he likes well enough, but he isn’t happy there. He just doesn’t know it yet. She tells him to quit, and so he does. Later he will thank her for an epiphany he didn’t want, bring her expensive gifts he can no longer afford and if she’s feeling charitable she will keep them, but the shade of green is always a touch wrong when someone else buys for her. The green is her colour, the one that she always mixes up and creates with the most time she can afford.
(If she can’t afford time, then she runs to make chaos making time)
At her best she’s persuading someone to do the things they need to do in order to be happy; at her worst, she creates chaos and steals happiness for her own. She’s loving, generous and so caring for all around her, but on the rest of the days she is dreadfully selfish. When someone else is happy it’s like an open invitation, one issued just for her and so she works her magic, lays out all the charm she can to feast upon and takes it in claws designed just for this occasion.
(Talons, she doesn’t like. Sounds too close to a creature of prey)
On her best days she lays out the warning, just how selfish she is. None of them ever listen, and so she takes it upon herself to teach them in the worst way she can: with sharp biting words and cruel affection, time burning her cold. They all turn out like her, because they are her protégés and she loves them so.
Some of them stay, enshrouded in sparkling glass with her and leave when the magic falters, shattering windows and denting walls. It takes all her magic and focus to repair them to their original icy décor, and by the time she has restored her own energy from this some of them have gone. She doesn’t look for them, because it’s easy to find and ensnare someone new.
Her magic wears off, and everyone leaves one at a time. Too absorbed in designing her newest spell, she doesn’t notice until she’s preparing a new cauldron of her favourite elixir and she doesn’t have to tune out the hum of background chatter. Cautious, unconcerned she makes her way through the rest of the house, brushing her hand over furnishings as though they will ground her to the flooring.
No-one is here now, not even the most insecure people she’d collected and lavished attention upon. Alone in the glass building, she paces, barely making a sound in the way all her surroundings absorb attention. She is here and she is older than she remembers, older than she thinks she should be and alone isn’t the way she needs to describe herself right now.
Her control begins to wane, and magic floods from her fingertips, electricity clashing through the air and if she listens hard enough she is sure she can hear storm clouds in the distance. Glass around her begins to scorch, faded gray marks turning dark black as she watches, and the warmth in her body begins to intensify. For the first time since she got proper control, her magic hurts her and she shrieks, feeling like it’s trying to fight her intent.
The glass explodes all around her, tens of thousands of tiny crystals lying around her as she’s crumpled on the ground. Under the moonlight they’re kind of pretty, and she scoops up a few pieces – they might do for a new jewellery set, if she stains them and refines them until they’re smoothed out.
Above her, or below her, she doesn’t know which way is up any longer, the moon is rising to its highest stage of the night. She’d almost envy it, but something clicks first. Her magic is gone; the power she could summon from the earth siphoned away back into the earth. This, she had thought, was a legend among her kind. On the rarest occasions she had heard people tell of something like this happening, one person losing her power and another gaining it. One person losing her wings, another gaining them.
She lies in the ruins of her manor and thinks about the new girl who will come into her wings at midnight, screaming in pain and unable to understand the magic crumpled in her veins, just waiting to be unleashed.
(She does not think about the immortality she has lost, nor does she inspect her body for the first signs of aging. It’s only been an hour – it will come later)
Already, she knows, the rest of them – all those people she doted upon, all those she loved – will begin the process of forgetting her. it’s how the legend works in the cruellest way, giving and then taking away. Those who try to have it all do win, but they lose it all that much faster, and when they do lose it – they will remember in perfect recall everything that happened. She has another century of remembering, but the others have a decade before they forget.
It won’t take long now.
Sarah Little has an ever-running mind, which makes writing the perfect occupation. When she isn’t trying to slow her mind, she blogs, amuses colleagues with writing adventures, and looks for shenanigans. Her work has appeared in Effervescent Magazine and is forthcoming in Halo Literary Magazine. You can reach her through https://tuckedintoacorner.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @tuckedinacorner