Day two of The Cramps Birthday Week! :) A birthday wish comes true.
|My parents never really went in for the whole birthday celebrations thing. Or for noticing my existence overly much. So, on my fifteenth birthday I got myself a cupcake from the store. My parents were in the living room with the television much too loud, using it as a shield to drown out each other’s voices. It wasn’t hard to sneak past them and up into my room.
I’d found this candle in a box of junk I’d had pushed to the back of my closet from when I was a kid. I placed it into the top of one of the cupcakes, struck a match, and lit it. Smoke curled from the end of the match once I’d shaken the flame away and I watched it swirl upward in the light cast from the small candle flame. It wasn’t dancing, that flame. It was still and seemed to be reaching skyward with single minded purpose. Like it had a dream.
I caught my reflection in the mirror across from me, more shadows than light. I looked otherworldly and strange. I looked down and made a wish that has probably been made thousands of times. Millions. Simple, really. I just wished to be anywhere but here.
I ate my cupcake, sullenly, and in the dark, and then crawled into bed. When I woke up it was because I was cold, deep down in my bones, and sort of damp. Hard ground beneath me and a smell of crushed leaves. I shot up to sitting and realized that I was damp from dew and cold from the chill of the earth underneath me. There as a haze of mist making it hard to see much beyond a ring of about 15 feet. At the edge of it was a rock, two or three feet high, and sitting on it was the strangest creature I’d ever seen. Foxlike, but not quite, standing on it’s two hind legs and wearing a pointed leather hat and a cloak crafted of leaves and wheat stalks. She held a small staff with a gemstone tied to the top of it.
“It’s about time you used that candle.” She grumbled, “I left it for you years ago.”
“What?” I asked, still trying to catch up with what was happening. I blinked hard, thinking that if I did, I might wake up. I mean, this couldn’t be real, could it? It didn’t dissipate and honestly, I felt too cold for this to be a dream. “Where am I?” I asked.
“Why did you finally light it?” she asked, obviously not interested in answering my question.
“It,” I paused, thinking back to my home and my parents and my reflection in the dark. “It was my birthday.” I said.
“Ah,” she said, succinctly and the she grinned showing a row of small sharp white teeth. “Surprise.”
She hopped down from the rock and said, “Come along, then. I’m to take you to the court. There’s someone who wants to meet you.”
“Who?” I asked.
She didn’t answer, just walked down a beaten path through the trees. The misty haze was clearing, the longer that we walked and I began to hear quiet strains of music. A harp, I thought, and a flute, or a whistle. The notes cleared and sharpened the closer that we got to them. A string of women danced past us on the path hand in hand and swirling, their white dresses flashing. A toad on a rock next to the path tipped his hat and wished us a good day. After just a moments hesitation, I returned the sentiment. We got to another clearing in the forest and at the edge of it were the musicians. A woman on the harp with long golden hair and wings flowing out behind her like gossamer. And the pipe player, a satyr, stomped his cloven hooves, keeping the beat and dancing wildly among the crowd of revelers.
“Do you know where you are now?” my companion asked.
I swallowed. “The otherworld? The realm of the fey?”
She nodded. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yes.” I said, my voice sticking in my throat a little.
We stayed at the edge of the ring and for a long time no one took any notice of us. I watched and watched, there was so much to see and I listened to the music. Listened so hard that it crept up into me, until my foot was tapping and then I was dancing too, swirling in among the madness of it all. I danced for hours round and round until a hand reached out and stopped me mid-turn.
The hand was shaped from twigs and ivy. My eyes traveled up the arm to look into the eyes of this new creature and what I saw there was my own eyes looking back at me. She drew me aside and told me what I’d started to suspect part way through the dance. I’d heard the stories. I’d sucked up fairy tales like they were air through my whole childhood. It all made sense, my parents distance from me. The coldness and the silences. They didn’t understand but suddenly I did.
“You were a changeling.” She said. “You are mine.”
It didn’t take much to make a believer out of me. I looked down at my hands and they had changed. Twigs and ivy. I felt like myself for the first time. And I felt free.
I looked up into the face of my mother. “Why?” I asked. “Why did you do it? Leave me there?”
She shrugged. “It is required, to keep the balance. To keep the worlds connected and to keep the doorways open, there must always be some of us out there and some of them in here. We have done our time and it falls to someone else now.”
I took her hand and laced her fingers with mine. “Dance with me?” I asked.
And we did.