Changeling Wars: Misummeria

The year is the 2030, and mankind has never faced a greater war. Your own children may be the enemy. Your own parents may not be all they seem. And you are the weapon, if you didn't know.

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2. No angels

"Cas?" I call, she quakes. Her childish laugh shatters into the forest floor and her eyes are diamonds. We're alone in our paradise; two little creatures running our feet along the earth's crust. We're surrounded by the gentle trickle of waters as it baptizes the murky riverbed; blessing the souls of who might have fallen there. "We have to go home, it's not safe-"

"Don't be so boring, Liam." Her voice so matter-of-factly tells me off as she skips around. I don't know why she loves it here the way she does. "It feels like home," She says, lying her head down amongst the golden leaves as they crown her head of blonde hair. Cas shimmers in the sunlight that pokes through the trees, each a spotlight for the leading role on their stage. But Cas doesn't need their light, she creates her own brilliance. I watch her twirl around, dart through the oak skyscrapers and haunt me like a ghost. She's infectious; she makes you want to be that free. Reason escapes me and all I can do is follow her, ignoring every sense in my body that tells me to retreat.

"It's perfectly safe here, Liam. Come on," She grabs my hand and pulls me gently along, and in that small form of contact I swear my whole brain has melted out through my ears and left me her devoted dummy. We're only kids, Cas is eight and so am I. Mum calls us puppy love as she adjusts my hat on the way out the door, and dad finds it cute when I tell him the agony of being in love. It's impossible to love wild things like Cas; at only eight I know this all too well. We've been friends since the womb - or so our parents say - but as long as my memory stretches back the entirety is Cas.

Casiphia, when she's late for dinner and her folks are cross. Cassie, to all the girls at school who rhyme about how we kiss in trees. Phi-phi , grinning with a gap tooth aged five. I feel like a sideplot in my own life, but I don't even mind because with Cas it's like she can turn the world into whatever we want it to be. One day we're pirates; and she hates being the captured so instead I have to walk then plank. The next day we're a fairytale and I cringe because she forces me to be the damsel in distress, and giggles as I wear her tiara and her mum's eyebrows raise so far up her head I swear they'll run along her spine.

I'm in love with Cas, and she's in love with the forest. We're a sad line of love that isn't returned, or maybe the forest loves her too because whenever she's around the air seems to warm and sends an orange glow around that lights it deepest corners. Welcome, Casiphia; it seems to say; Welcome home.

We have wondered too far, I know. The trees all seem to twist into arms that could reach out and grab you, and catch on the light with grimacing faces that cause the hairs on the back of my neck to suspend. Cas is still fearless, her polka dot petticoat clashing against her hair the color of  gold that glints silver. She turns to give me one more look and she knows I can't refuse her when she does. Her eyes are like a picture I once saw of a sea after a storm. Pale blue and icy, but still raging miles down. There is chaos beneath her eyes. The kind of chaos that should be avoided, but that doesn't stop you charging straight into its heart. A river I've never come across before is two metres away from us, sparkling as though it's trying to attract us with something shiny. I almost think Cas will run and plunge into it's icy arms, after all it wouldn't be the most reckless action Cas has done on our many adventures. She never seems to be able to live in the world where we aren't pirates or princesses, and that the pages of our lives could end in tragedy and not with happily ever afters.

Suddenly, she stops. My heart races. "Do you hear that?" She raises a finger to her pouted lips with an expression of wild amazement. "Hear what?" I whisper, but she still shushes me all the same and frowns. 

"The faeries."

If I wasn't in love with her, I would have never followed her into the forest. If I wasn't in love with her, I wouldn't stay beside her. Saying you can hear faeries is like saying you see death itself. We're so alone, so vulnerable. I want to tell her she's crazy, and if there were faeries here that they wouldn't like her pretending she did hear them and we'd pay. Instead, I say nothing. She falls softly to the ground, and finds a ladybug to her delight which she picks up gently and examines, smiling as it crawls across her small pale fingers. "I like the faeries." Cas sighs, letting the ladybug escape as she lowers it to the floor. It scatters red through all the ambers. "I don't they're as bad as the teachers say, Liam. I think they're beautiful."

"How would you know? You've never met one." I blurt out, still standing uncomfortably and never letting my eyes off her for the fear I'll catch sight of a winged figure in the bad. I keep my legs fluid in case we need to run. 

"I know they are. Lily told me they all have different colored wings and they wear flowers in their hair. Isn't that lovely?" Her eyes are alight with images of the faeries she likes to believe in. Happy, girly, and friendly. Three words better used to describe a snake than a faerie.

"They're dangerous, Cas." I defend the words of our teachers who spend their days drumming fear into us kids. Why would they tell us something that wasn't true? 

"You don't give them a chance!" She stands up to face me. "No one does!"

"We don't know the whole story yet, Cas. We wouldn't be scared of them without reason." I try my best to calm her with reason, but she's set on the idea she's right and the whole world is wrong. She kicks into the leaves that flutter into the air for a moment and bite the dust in another. I can hear her frantic breaths of frustration and pretend I one hundred percent know she's not truly mad at me. 

"They might not be angels," She adds, I listen intently as I always do. "But neither are we. I don't think angels exist, really."

"You're wrong, Cas." I think that's the first time I've ever said she was wrong. Her face screws altogether in a form of anger. "The world is full of angels." I mean people like her, but she doesn't seem to catch on. I let out a large breath that clears my lungs.

"So you believe in angels, but not good faeries? You're weird, Liam." Finally the conversation becomes lighter again and I almost want to let out a "Phew" before a shadow appears over where Cas is and it's not her's and I can fill my mouth going dry as it tries to scream. The shadow can't be Cas', because that shadow has wings.

Cas doesn't scream. She smiles. 

 

* * * 

All too soon the memory that became a dream ends, and it takes blissful seconds for me to remember my fate. I'm not eight, I'm sixteen. I feel the sticky feeling of blood I forgot to clean along my palm as it stains the sheets and it's the wings digging into my back that remind me I belong to the same species as the demon of my dream.

I shudder, and try to sleep again praying I can submerge myself with the past Casiphia for a dream longer because I remember the real Cas doesn't exist anymore. I can't remember how she really disappeared, and my imagination does as it always does and fills in the gaps my memory couldn't. Casiphia quickly wittered down through the years to sobs and sore temples of frustrated adults, until she wasn't mentioned at all. For all I know, Casiphia was a figment of my imagination herself. 

I tell myself that couldn't be true, but I can't distinguish reality from nightmares anymore. And Cas being as beautiful as she was can't excuse her from the fact she was a nightmare. Nightmares nest in a deepest fear and forces its dreamer confront them. If only I had her by my side now, and I might begin to know how to start facing this one.

As I begin to drift off, the streets become live. I can hear mobs of people, a crowd around the size of our town by the many voices all as one. There are screams and flashing spotlights and cheers of hate or victory I can't decide. 

"This is it." I groan, hardly convincing myself I'm upset I'll be discovered. Whether I'm talking to the fictional Casiphia that skips and giggles in my brain, or just myself I don't know. "They've found me." I wait for their arrest willingly and the whole house becomes a host to echo the sirens and lights blaring outside, attempting to reveal the guilty hiding within.

 

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