[Author’s Note: A 15 year old boy named Evan is making up a fantasy videogame during the day. At night, he has vivid dreams about his world and his plot, with his real life seeping into the story. This writing is meant to mimic the experience of dreaming– in intense detail, the sort that we don’t remember when we wake up–but also to complicate it, and to expand it into a full-fledged fantasy tale. The year is 2008. Also, this Evander is not the same Evander from Cadivel. Sorry for the confusion…]
Happy 80th birthday zaydie you look great for your age still a full head of hair who would’ve guessed? shouts surround calls to hug me, greet down the line: blonde cousins wearing skirts (in january?) sarah and mia hughug aunt molly and uncle poldy (oh my he has two heads why) bubba and zaydie HAPPY BIRTHDAY so good to see you so hungry where is bread; bread and butter tastes like chicken. Glancing. Continue down the line: aunt allison uncle charlie cousin tom duck back over to lindsey she mutters about zaydie’s hair—it really is amazing and oh my now it is growing
Shove food down eat it so good—chocolate mousse vanilla mousse pistachio mousse and uncle poldy’s two heads are having a very frightening argument cousin becca keeps putting bananas on my plate dad disapproves giving that frown of his about to go off on speech:
“I would like to hence declare the maleficent dowry of this occasion! In noblest honor of my father’s 80th birthday, President Barack Obama will henceforth enact today as a national holiday! Hurrah!”
seems obama won, weird, not one of dad’s usual cheesy poems nonetheless crowd goes wild poldy’s two heads really freaking me out lindsey tugging at me alex brought a guitar (he can’t play?) is that sarah naked with one of her boyfriends under the table jesus I just want more cake but aunts in the way BY GOD ZAYDIE IS DEAD HE JUST DIED ABOUT TO BLOW OUT THE FUCKING CANDLES—
Evander awoke gasping for air, tugging at his bare mattress, heaving for ample morning air. He tossed up and turned over and hid beneath the wool shield of a pillow before realizing strange nightmares could no longer plague him: morning had already begun to break.
He rose and gazed out the window. Incipience: the horizon reddened and softened by crepuscular rays beaming lighthouse brightness into crescent morning clouds. The peaks of rays lofted over the green mountain-backed horizon, bony like a dragon’s spine, curling a long forested tail across the valley. Lush woods adorned the countryside with a vibrant hue. Springtime magnolias dotting the pines sparkled with water drops. Warm spring zephyr filled his lungs and he felt invigorated, casting the nightmare behind him.
More dreams of family, he thought grimly. But his sunrise brooding was interrupted by sounds of conversation slipping through his door.
That’s unusual, he thought. After dressing in a brown robe and wooden sandals, he pressed his ear to the doorframe.
“He’s my boy,” the old man’s voice gruffly spat. His voice came in two tones: a rich rumble and a grafting quail. “You’re not about to take ‘im away from me. Need his help on the farm, you sees.”
A mellow female voice responded. “He was never your boy in the first place. You’ve used him as a slave and not much more. It is not a deed to take great pride in.”
Evander imagined his thick beard unfurling like vines, twisting wildly, hungry to strike like snakes. A coarse growl rattled the door. “Now! Youuuu! Who are youuuuu to accuse me of mistreatment? Old me, been growing tomaters here since before ye was born! Now! Get out! Now!”
The door swung open, leaving Evander awkward in the doorway. He looked at the scene: old Barrows and his forest of a beard, frothing at the lips, mouthing away a young woman. She appeared sixteen years old with short-cut silver hair, bright eyes and a humble, curious expression; she wore a royal blue tunic, a jade clip in her hair, and leather boots.
“Oh there you are,” she said calmly. “I’m Elincia. Nice to meet you, Evander.”
Evander bit his lip as he stood in the doorway. Old Barrows glared him down.
“Now my boy,” he grunted, “Have some braised beef and then let’s git to work for the day, you see? There’s tomater-pickin to be done.” He grimaced and whipped a hand through his beard and grasped and banged for the pot of beef.
“Evander,” the girl said. “I’d like you to come with me.”
Evander opened his mouth but only inhaled.
“Now listen here,” old Barrows said, scraping voice rising above the baritone, “I’m not going ter have to ask ye to leave again, am I?”
The girl slowly shifted her gaze from Evander to old Barrows, then flicked her eyes back. “You might have to.”
“Haaaaa?” blew old Barrows like a dusty whirlwind wrangling about metal bars. His head began to inflate to twice its size and his cheeks filled with magma and his thick furry brows shot out and sharpened into porcupine spines. “This boy is worthless for nothing besides tomater picking! You don’t want this little here shitstain! Haaaaaa!” Big furry toes burst through his thin sandals and his thick boulder head cracked the wooden ceiling. His nostrils billowed sulfuric steam.
Evander recoiled against the doorway, peering through the odorous umber smoke towards the girl as the sounds of old Barrows’ roars hacks and chops clamored.
“Come, Evander, quickly!” she said.
Leaping back into his room he grabbed his notebook and charged through the house, thick smoke now blinding, reaching toxic cloaks to choke and seize. Evander heard glass smashing and wood tearing as he ran through the door; Elincia followed him out.
The mud-colored steam leaking out the windows and chimney formed a murky cloud over the humble wooden cottage and tomato gardens. Evander ran after Elincia to a grove of trees a suitable distance from old Barrows’ eruption.
“He’ll destroy the whole place,” Evander remarked.
“Seems like it,” she replied.
From this safe and tranquil distance they watched the cottage crumble, blasts of air and smoke ripping through strips of wood. It looked like a batty brown moth tearing out of a cocoon.
“Let me ask you again, Evander,” she said, honing her eyes–one green, one hazel–onto his, “do you want to leave this place?”
He glanced back at the wide valley and its curling lines of smooth stones, bright-eyed grass, flowering trees. Jays and larks crisscrossing the sky and clouds of butterflies whirling. The bright tomatoes like squat red haired mole-citizens peeking out of the dirt, clothed in green. The small shed overflowing with rusty tools. The miserable cottage and old Barrows, years of difficult labor, years of loneliness, braised beef, no family, tomatoes and tomatoes, tomatoes and tomatoes, old Barrows and no family…
“That’s good to hear,” she said wisely. “Now, follow me. You won’t be needing anything at all.”
So Elincia set out with long strides across the valley, aiming for the forest that reached south like a child’s hand for a dropped toy. Evander had to jog to keep up with her pace. They swept over the breast of the valley, leaping over rivers, zooming through lazy tall-grass fields sneezing in the pollinated wind. Soon they halted at the outbreak of dense wood, old deciduous trees planting their feet firm. Abundant heads of green tossed and rippled; chirps and scatterings of furry feet whooshed within. Gnarled roots plunged in and out of the dirt, sometimes waist or shoulder height, forming loops, spirals and bridges.
“Do you know where we are going?” Elincia asked Evander.
He shook his head.
“North,” she said. “Into the true Irigoy. For you live but on the southernmost fringes, nearby cruel Gaal. And the fringes of our lands are quickly becoming dangerous places.” She looked at Evander. “You are meant for more than a farm, Evander.”
Evander only blinked.
“But first we must clear the mountains.” She took off her satchel and searched it. “Aha!” She withdrew a small vial of clear liquid. “You must drink this first.”
She held it out. Evander tentatively took it. He uncorked and drank.
A fizzle grazed his tongue and throat as he swallowed; it had a sharp, bitter flavor. But the taste faded and was replaced by a peculiar feeling of lightness: all at once his head, chest, arms, legs, hands… he felt utterly weightless.
“Are you ready?”
Evander felt his mind rise and his eyes drift above the scene—dizzying fingertip whorls releasing torrid exhales—he felt sick to his stomach as if the breakfast he did not eat churned in and out and about him—and the two were quickly rising, rising, lifting, and Evander flapped his arms and burst above the trees, above the valley, into the sky.
Elincia swooped up after him and grabbed his hand as he spiraled madly around the trees, flinging towards coarse branches—“Steady now!” she called and pulled him up straight. “After me!”
She kicked and swam high above the trees. Evander steadied himself and flapped after, jolting at an awkward angle. Streaming air whipped at his ears and his stomach still felt queasy. Flight came exhilarating, whiplashing, stark bursts of windbirds that tore at his eyes with talons; yet the feeling of amazing freedom overwhelmed, gamboling life swooping to the blinding light of the sun.
“You’ll get the hang of it soon enough,” she shouted, “but we need to hurry over the mountains!”
Evander looked down. The trees looked minute, top-hatted figurines copied over the undulating landscape.
He glanced back towards the cottage. It was only a speck. Turning back towards Elincia, he kicked hard and shot towards her.
“There we go! Quickly now.”
She grabbed his hand and steadied him once more. Nodding, she kicked and pulled with her arms and soared towards the green coated mountains. Evander followed, drifting too far up, and then aiming too far down. Swerving around her, tumbling behind. Wind licked and twirled his body but soon he gained more control. They began to rocket through the sky, approaching the mountains. They reared like stony giants. Scarred gray bodies and spiky stone shoulders, marked with dots of scraggly trees inexplicable in the scope of jagged waste.
They approached the sheer mountainside with alarming speed. Elincia shot up and Evander followed, nearly scathing stone crumbs, dashing up, bolting higher, and then they cleared the face of the mountain. A new, immense valley and woods flooded out before Evander, a singing and dancing landscape that raced out unto the horizon itself. Yet immediately below the two were raucous peaks, brutal bayonet angles stabbing towards them, recessing into a vast field of spikes.
“Hurry!” Elincia cried.
They soared over the spiny deathtrap, wind blinding Evander and flinging tears from his eyes. Then all at once he felt himself begin to weigh, to feel the tug of longforgotten gravity, and a heavy stone pit dropped in his stomach and he plunged towards the fierce spikes below, tumbling on to his and back hurtling to his doom, gazing up at the azure sky and the shadow of the woman who brought him here.