There are a few things it helps to know about being around world-shapers if you expect to hang on to your sanity. The first is that you should let go of every notion that you think will keep you sane. The second is that you are in the presence of people who can rewrite reality if it doesn’t suit them. They don’t think the same way the rest of us do. Life doesn’t feel the same to them. I know these things now. Then, standing in a manufactured mist between Anuaxi, the teacher, and Axbelis, the student, I didn’t.
“I didn’t even suspect,” said Axbelis, and it was the first time I’d ever heard respect in his tone. “Your mastery humbles me to this day. Growing a new world in the form of a girl…” he whistled. “I assume you created her before Azminan.”
That girl had been my friend, Mirna. Anuaxi’s daughter. She’d been scared, blind and in pain, and then she was just gone. One moment trembling in my arms, the next, air.
“Yes, let’s discuss Azminan,” said Anuaxi, pulling me to his side while he spoke.
His daughter was dead and he wanted to discuss a ruined city. I stood in his shadow, mute and fuming, but recognizing my impotence against these men. I wanted to hurt them both. I wanted to hurl things and scream, or drop to my knees sobbing, but I did none of these. It would be useless. As I had been, trying to save Mirna.
“I found it this way,” shrugged Axbelis.
It was a small consolation, but the challenge in Anuaxi’s tone reassured me a little. When Anuaxi had arrived in the mist I’d thought he’d be able to bring Mirna back somehow, but instead he celebrated his daughter’s vanishing. He claimed that Mirna had never really been a girl at all, but a new world in its larval form. Whatever that meant. All I knew was that my best friend was essentially dead. No more. World or no, she wasn’t standing here beside me anymore. I needed her to be.
The grin Axbelis gave Anuaxi could have meant ‘would I lie to an old friend?’ or ‘oh, if you knew the secrets I keep from you,’ in equal parts. I was leaning toward the latter.
“I think she did it,” said Axbelis.
“Exasia?” Anuaxi raised his considerable eyebrows at the abandoned buildings framing us in. “She isn’t capable of destruction on this scale,” he said.
“A creative force could be this destructive if applied in the right conditions,” said Axbelis.
“What would it accomplish?” asked Anuaxi. “I don’t see her sitting atop the rubble.”
I watched Axbelis’ expression flicker with something like worry for a moment under Anuaxi’s penetrating gaze. It was satisfying seeing him squirm after what he’d done to Mirna. I didn’t care what Anuaxi said. In my mind, it was Axbelis who had killed her. Yet instead of that, here they stood discussing Exasia. She was Anuaxi’s other pupil, if memory served. Together, the three world-shapers had built the Council of Azminan, which had regulated this world for generations before – before what? I’d been here when the city fell and I didn’t even know what happened. When the wolves and myir had swarmed in and attacked, I’d fled with the children into the underbelly of the Northern Wood and watched as the adults protecting us dwindled in numbers. But that was it. No invading army marched in and raised a flag. The city seemed to have been ruined without purpose or real enemy.
“I admit I took opportunity where I saw it,” Axbelis admitted, “but the way this city fell… it had to be her work.”
“It’s tales of wolves and myir that reached my ears,” said Anuaxi, shifting subtly. “That’s your calling card.”
I realized that Anuaxi’s half-step had placed him between me and Axbelis. There was a tension growing between the world-shapers and it dawned on me how catastrophic a fight between two such men might be. Axbelis’ easy countenance darkened into a look of determination. I stepped away instinctively, inadvertently drawing Axbelis’ attention. The last thing I heard before the world went insane was Anuaxi muttering an unsavory word under his breath.
I had the impression of buildings reforming themselves, as if animated with sentience and ordered to attack. Thick brick walls slammed down at the men, doors gaping open like hungry mouths. Stones from beneath our feet lifted into the air and attacked like swarms of insects. Somehow, aware of all of this, I was not only unharmed, but somewhere dark. There was a feeling of immense space, and calm. Safety, of all things. And then, I was somewhere familiar. The room seemed odd after so much time spent away from it. Artwork covered the walls to the ceiling. It was our home. Mirna’s and mine. But Mirna wasn’t here. The sounds of the house were wrong. Too quiet, and empty.
I wandered from room to room, touching the art pieces as I passed. It took several rooms before I noticed the differences. They were subtle, but I found them, like clues being left for me. A wall color being different from before. The sounds of the house not quieter exactly, as I’d first felt, but certain sounds amplified. The clock. The birds outside. And then I came to the room with the chair. Mirna’s chair. It was magnificent. And I knew. I went to the front door and took a look outside. The neighborhood was similar, but not the same. It was how Mirna had perceived it. Everything was how Mirna had pictured it, without the benefit of sight.
Mirna had become a world, and her world-shaper father, to protect me, had sent me into it.Written by W. C. McClure www.wcmcclure.com. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. Comments are welcome at www.farsideofdreams.com. Oh, and if you want to show your support, tell your friends about this short story blog – and pick up a copy of “The Statues of Azminan” by W. C. McClure. Thanks!