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FRIDAY FICTION : GOLDEN FLAMES
“It’s not that I don’t see them, Adana,” Carris folded her tall frame onto the worn seat cushion beside her grandmother’s feet. “It’s that I see too much of them and I do not know how to heal it.”
Her Adana–grandmother in their native tongue–did not answer right away. She continued to crunch on the tart fruit seeds in the gilded bowl cradled on her lap. She offered the bowl to Carris, when she was finally comfortable on the floor.
“Seeds?” her Adana rasped.
Carris hesitated, then took two. She tucked one of the rounded pieces in her mouth and rolled the other between her hands. “I just–it’s hard to see it and now I can’t unsee it, you know?”
“That depends on what you are seeing, child.”
“Too much, Adana. Too much.” She crunched on the seed, shuddering at the sharp bitterness that filled her mouth. “I-I see the colors. The shadows that stalk them. I see how their days merge into loops and then everything stops. How they’re stuck. How they’re unstuck. Whether they’ll ever be more than they are and it–it hurts.”
“Yes! All of this–this stupid potential!”
Adana nearly smiled. She offered the gilded bowl again. “And how, dear one, is potential–stupid?”
Carris ignored it. She continued to crunch away on the bitter seed, shoulders hunched forward. “…because they don’t see it.”
“They don’t see it or they don’t see it the way you want them to see it?”
“…that’s not fair, Adana.”
“Life is seldom fair to those of us who see all,” Adana said, placidly. She plucked two seeds from the bowl and chewed in contemplation. “You have not meddled?”
“Adana!” Carris twisted around to stare. That was the one thing, forbidden to them. The price of being able to see. “I have not!”
A smile did surface then, a tad faint, a bit worn around the edges. “Sometimes it is tempting.”
Carris shuddered. “It’s also devastating. I couldn’t–I couldn’t ever.” She popped the second seed in her mouth and reluctantly bit down. the bitterness wasn’t so bad this time around. She leaned into the touch of her Adana’s weathered hand, stroking her hair.
“Sometimes we say things we don’t mean. Sometimes we help where we’re not wanted,” Adana explained. “Just because we can bring light into the lives around us, doesn’t always mean they are reading to step out of the darkness. We give a piece of ourselves every time we reach out and eventually, there is-”
“Nothing left. I know.” Carris said, softly.
“An everlasting flame does not die,” Adana said, calmly. “It merely continues to burn brightly through the ages, lighting and re-lighting all that come to it. The danger is when we have not chosen our roots carefully. Learned how to fan our own flames. Dared to burn bright, even if it causes those close to us to shy away.”
Carris tipped her head to the side, resting it atop her Adana’s knee. “…I don’t want to be alone.”
“You already are.”
“…I don’t like it.”
“You do not have to like it.”
“But it hurts!”
“Pain is temporary.”
“Stop treating me like a-!”
“You are still a child, Carris. Still a child. There is much you need to grow and learn of. Your mother begged me to keep you here for a week. She thought it would do you some good. You cannot hide away from the things you do not wish to face and expect them to shrivel up and die. Problems remain problems until we confront them.“
“What if I don’t want to confront anything? Why does it always have to be some sort of battle?”
“Sometimes, it is also doing nothing to stop something from falling apart,” Adana said. “You either give in or you give out. Giving up, is not an option afforded to us. You know this.”
Carris curled her toes into the dirt floor beneath the seat cushion. “I just want it to be over with—I-I made such a mess of the whole thing and the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got. I didn’t even realize how bad it was.”
“Unfortunately, the price we pay for this gracious luxury is the pain of the transformation you will endure.” Adana plucked a seed from the bowl and tapped it against her granddaughter’s lips until it was accepted. “It only hurts because you genuinely tried.”
Carris shuddered. A fierce chill crept over her body and she shivered, violently. “I-I just wanted them to be–to be happy.”
“Even at the expense of your own self?”
“They were so miserable and-!”
“You cannot drown yourself to save others.”
“I wasn’t drowning!”
“No, you were only trying to.” Adana’s voice grew sharp and harsh. “You were only working yourself up in the sort of state that I warned you to never fall prey to! This is a cruel and vicious world and you are naught but a helpless child in this form. You nearly died–for what?”
“Yes. They. Who are they? Why are they? How dare they?” Adana raged. Flickers of golden light seemed to slip to her fingers, falling from her thick, silvery hair. “How dare they try to take you from me? They destroy what they do not understand and they break what is more beautiful than their ugliness. They do not care.”
“…do I–must I go back?”
Adana was silent. She chose another seed from the bowl and fed it to Carris. “Do you wish to return?”
“…to the world–that world–maybe. To them, no.”
“You need only go where you feel wanted.”
Hot tears burned at the corners of Carris’ eyes and she choked down the fourth seed, even as her throat began to tighten. She’d known this would happen, but it didn’t make it any easier. Great big heaving sobs wracked her slender frame, as she bawled openly into her grandmother’s lap.
It was one thing to realize the words for what they were and another thing, entirely to understand the weight of them in proper context. Adana was right–she knew where she felt wanted. Knew where there was strength, power, beauty and grace.
All the right things, there before her, in the light.
None of it in the shadow.
“Shhh. Don’t fight it. Don’t fight it.”
“I just–it–aughh!” A horrible scream tore from her lips as the first wave of transformation registered. Carris jerked away from the gentle hands soothing her. She scrabbled on the floor, head banging into the dirt as her back began to stretch and bulge.
It was a grotesque and uniquely horrifying sequence of stretching, twisting and popping as her true form tore through an ill-equipped frame of her temporary human body. Long, flowing hair that filled the floor of the meditation hut. Glittering, tattoed skin that reflected every star in the visible night sky. Piercing, golden eyes, set in a sharp angular face.
Lips drew back and a guttural snarl echoed eerily in the hut.
Adana merely set the bowl aside and rose to her full height. There was a twisting, shifting flurry of color, before the bright robes became brilliantly colored feathers of rich pink, gold and sky blue, an accent to her own true form. She cooed softly in answer to Carris’ wary snarl.
Confusion registered briefly in those glimmering golden eyes, before Carris accepted the proffered, glittering hand.
Her Adana only smiled, leading her to the door of the hut. “The first step of any change,” she whispered, her voice soft and musical. “Is realizing that you must be the one to change.”
A/N: Thanks for reading! This was a start to a NaNoWriMo novel that never quite took flight on its own. I thought it was just the right season to dust it off and bring it to life. Carris and her Adana, are dreamweavers, who have the ability to see the potential of everyone around them, but can’t explicitly meddle in their affairs.