Painting Pictures

Malrick has an overactive imagination. His mind involuntarily turns ordinary walks into treks through a mystical forest and boring classrooms into ancient chambers and caverns. He spends his time hiding from others. But then Malrick meets a girl named Rule who teaches him that what he sees isn't delusions, but a gift that he can learn to harness. But Rule isn't all she claims to be, and with his parents convinced Malrick is nuts, Malrick will need to unravel the truth of wether he has a wild imagination, a rare mental disorder or a magic gift. And doing so just might mean he will need to stop hiding and trust a girl he barely knows.


8. Rule

Chapter 8




A sudden surge of elation ripples through Rule as Malrick declares his agreement. She’d succeeded in her first real mission. Sure, it’d been nothing outrageously hard, but this was the first time she’d left her home behind and been truly alone to accomplish her task. Before, she’d been put in a group with several weaker Illusionists to accomplish an assortment of rather basic tasks. This was only a taste of the challenges she may be given in the future—and she has to say, it’s delicious.

“Great.” She grins, helping Malrick to his feet. He sways, and she steadies him, her heart fluttering like a bird set free of its cage. She’d accomplished what she’d set out to do, and in record time. 

“Yeah...” Malrick half-sighs, gaze growing distant as if he’s pondering something truly puzzling. “Great, isn’t it? Magic—or whatever you’d call my Visions. It really is great. Amazing, actually.” His tone is full of disbelief, as if he’s still not convinced everything Rule told him is true. But it’s also full of joy. At the prospect of others like him, people who understand him, and at the prospect of power. She can tell already that he lustd for it, to strengthen and control his ability so it becomes a weapon he can wield, not an unpredictable weakness that can strike at any time. 

She doesn’t dare think of the future and what it may hold, how life will be for someone like Malrick at Woodpaige. Though the students there are a mixture of recruited and enrolled, most Visionaries were taught from a young age they were nothing special, that they were less. Mortal, mundane doctors slapped many names on the Visionaries, some saying it was simply imagination, others rattling off mental disorders to concerned parents without any real decisive diagnosis. Visionaries who’re like Malrick never fit in, because they’re never able to accept what they have is a gift, not an ailment. 

As if sensing her train of thought, Malrick suddenly frowns. It’s an expression that makes him look unappealing, a mixture of worry, sadness and apprehension. 

“How w-would the other students treat me?” He asks, his stutter surprisingly tame as he grapples with keeping his voice excited, not wanting to betray his nerves. Rule can tell there’s a deeply engraved fear in him, a fear of how people see him. He wants so desperately to be liked, he’s terrified of rejection. In a way, she realizes, she is as well. She’s afraid of her father’s rejection, he’s afraid of being rejected by his peers. 

“That’s up to you,” Rule answers truthfully, growing pensive. “How people see you and treat is a reflection of how you project yourself to them. If you act scared, like prey, than they immediately become predatory. But if you exude confidence, self-assurance, than they’ll respect you.” 

“What if I d-don’t want to b-be respected. What if I w-want to be admired, to fit in?” 

“Than you must be confident and humble, and kind. I don’t know, Malrick. You’ll have to figure that out yourself. I can’t help you.” Rule sighs, her thoughtful mood passing and leaving her suddenly impatient. “Now I have to contact the administrators at Woodpaige and my father.”

“I have more questions, about Visionaries—” he starts, but Rule hurriedly cuts him off, ignoring the pain flashing in his eyes. 

“Ask me later. You can leave and go pack whatever you want to bring. We’re to leave as quickly as we can.” She announces, startled by how abrupt her words sound. 

She hadn’t meant for her words to sound dismissive, but they had nonetheless. Looking hurt but not saying anything, Malrick sees himself out, leaving Rule alone in the small bathroom. 

Any more days living like this and she’d go crazy. It’s not the being alone part, or even the fact the house is old. It’s the persistent nagging voice in her head, constantly asking if her father would approve of her success in the mission. Nothing was ever good enough for him. She wasn’t good enough, her mom wasn’t good enough, no one was ever enough to please him. Yet here she was, desperate to receive his approval. 

It’s all she’s ever worked for, ever since her powers started developing. She never even came close, even when she pushes herself so hard she thinks she might die. Not strong enough. Even when she trains every day, sometimes three or four times a day, before school, after school, before supper and after supper, she’s not trying hard enough. Never enough. Be it skill, strength, smarts. Never enough. It’s a weight she carries with her everywhere, only ever able to ignore and never to be free of. She’s the strongest Illusionist at Woodpaige, with also makes her the strongest known Illusionist in the world. Her teachers, classmates and principles never let her forget it, but if she even tries bringing it up to her dad he dismisses it. He doesn’t care. 

What’s worse though, is her mother’s pity. Sure, she puts on a cold glower just like Rule’s father, but the harsh set of her mouth isn’t reflected in her eyes. Her eyes are sad, pitying, and it makes Rule feel so incredibly small. Her father’s belittlement was a whole different kind of torment, and her mother’s is the most painful kind there is. She’d rather be hated and disapproved of than pitied. 

Time loses its meaning, and suddenly she’s drifting off to sleep on the bathroom floor, half-formed Illusions filling the air around her, only to dissipate like fog retreating back out over the ocean. Tears fall from her eyes. Brought on by the soul-crushing knowledge her father will never, ever praise her. She’s sick of being strong, sick of holding everything in. So tonight she takes advantage of her solitude, and lets herself fall apart. 

She doesn’t have to worry about anyone seeing her vulnerable, seeing she’s weak and scared and so incredibly tired of trying to be perfect. Her fellow Illusionists—Visionaries and Illusionists don’t always mix well, each thinking they’re better than the other—regard her with a mixture respect and envy. She has no real friends, just people seeking social bragging rights. Almost like she’s one of those characters in costume at an amusement park, the ones every little kid wants their picture taken with so they can go and show all their friends. 

The only difference is, her costume is her confident air, her masquerade of perfection, instead of a whimsical cartoon character. Sometimes though, she wishes she was just a character. 

She wishes that her life was nothing more than a fictions tale. 

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