Modern Day; September 18th; Parcia; Melissa
We stopped in front of a small door and Willow rapped his knuckles against the wood.
“Come in,” said a high, feminine voice.
It turned out that the voice belonged to a woman who looked to be in her fifties. She had frizzy gray hair that bushed out in every direction and glowing blue eyes that made her look like a raccoon peering out of a shrub at night. Her dress looked like it had been patched together with the pieces of a thousand other dresses. Every fragment was brightly colored and patterned in a way that made my eyes pop. She sat in an armchair in front of a lit fireplace in the center of the room. My eyes found the fire first and then went to her.
“Hello, Margrét,” Willow said.
He stepped into the room and I followed him timidly. The room was small, but it seemed smaller because of all of the furniture and the decor. Since it was underground, there were no windows and it was very dark. The only light in the room came from the fireplace and the torches from out in the hallway. There was a table against the wall that was piled high with ancient looking tomes and suspicious looking jars filled with miscellaneous objects. The walls were draped with heavy maroon curtains and the mantle above the fireplace was cluttered with vases of dried flowers and other plants. It was the strangest room I had ever been in.
“Hello, Willow.” Margrét stood up slowly and turned around to look at us. When she saw me, she raised her eyebrows. “And who is this beautiful young redhead you have with you?”
“This is Melissa. She’s my… Girlfriend.”
My heart leapt at the word. Margrét seemed pleased to hear it.
“Ah, so you finally found an elf that pleases you. I wondered if you ever would.”
“Actually… She’s from my high school.”
“Your high school?” Margrét looked visibly shocked. “Does that mean she’s… Human?”
“As far as I know,” I said.
“Well. I never would have suspected… There’s never been a human in the Underground before… I don’t know how to respond…” She was flabbergasted. “I… I’m sorry to be rude. My name is Margrét.”
She grabbed my hand and shook it roughly.
“It’s nice to meet you. It’s nice to be here. I feel honored.”
“You should feel honored. Willow either did a very smart thing or a very stupid thing in bringing you here. I’m starting to think it was the latter.”
“Because,” said Willow. “Because of my mother. She’s very strict when it comes to humans, I’ve noticed throughout the years. She likes us to be separated from them. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m afraid of how she will react if she sees you here.”
“Afraid?” I scoffed. “Why would you be afraid? What’s the worst that she could do?”
Margrét looked afraid at the thought.
Willow said, “I don’t want to know. She’s very powerful, but we don’t know how powerful.”
Margrét looked at Willow like he was an idiot and said, “You did tell her about everything, right?”
“Most things.” He turned to me. “I should tell you about the rock, though.”
I took the red and black rock out of my pocket and tossed it in the air before catching it with my other hand. Margrét looked like she was going to faint at my casual behavior.
“That thing is more powerful than you could ever imagine,” she said.
“Melissa, that is a teleportic Icelandic volcanic rock. There are very few of them, so guard it with your life. Its teleportic powers allow the holder to be transported to the destination of his or her wish. That’s not its only ability, though. If someone were to obtain every teleportic Icelandic volcanic rock in existence, that person would be powerful enough to obliterate an entire race from the earth.”
“Exactly like genocide.”
I didn’t want either of them to see it, but they were frightening me. Murder was a serious thing, but genocide… Genocide was something no one ever wanted to think about.
“Exactly how likely is it that this will happen?” I asked.
“Not very,” said Margrét. “But it’s always a concern. There are so many crazy people in the world and we don’t know what they’re capable of.”
“I can’t believe all of this is real,” I said. “This is so unbelievable to me. I mean, earlier today I thought the only thing for me to be nervous about was my first date. But supernatural beings and the possibility of genocide is a little more serious. Just a little.”
Willow put his arm around me and I resisted the urge to smile at his touch.
“Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing to worry about. It’s just life.”
“Yeah, well, life is a lot more complicated than I thought it was yesterday.”
“Oh, humans,” Margrét said, rolling her eyes. “You’re so unaware of the world around you.”
“It’s not my fault that I don’t know anything. No one told me before now! If only there was some way to predict how crazy life will get.”
Margrét’s eyes lit up.
“Actually, there is a way. That’s where I come in.”
“How do you mean?”
“Margrét is very unique,” Willow said. “She’s what we call a pselch. Pselchs are elves with the ability to glimpse the future.”
“Like a seer?”
“Exactly,” said Margrét. “If you would like, I can crystal gaze for you. Then you would at least have a vague idea of how crazy life will get.”
“You can do that?” I said.
She got up and walked over to a cabinet against the wall and unlocked one of the glass doors with a key she pulled from her pocket. The cabinet was so full of various items that she had to press her body up against it to prevent things from falling out. She returned to us a minute later with a large crystal sphere in her arms. It had an intricately carved base that looked like it could have come from the Baroque period. She gestured for us to sit down in chairs by the fireplace and then pulled over a small table. After placing the sphere on the table, she scooted up her chair and looked up at me expectantly.
“How does this work?” I asked.
“Just a minute. Let me look at you. I need to analyze the person I’m gazing for.”
She stared into my eyes for a few minutes. I tried not to shrink away as she stared at me. It felt like she was penetrating my soul with her gaze. I was beginning to grow very uncomfortable when she finally looked away.
“Okay. Now give me your hand.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just give it to me.”
She grabbed my right hand and flipped it up to stare at my palm. She traced her index finger over the lines in my hand and nodded to herself.
“What do you see?” I asked.
“I can see what kind of person you are. I just need to have an idea of who you are before I look into the crystal.”
She reached out and placed both hands on the crystal, staring into its depths. I could tell that she had seeing eyes, so I believed everything she said. I wasn’t a skeptical person. I couldn’t be, after all that had happened to me. Margrét closed her eyes and I looked over at Willow to see how he was taking all of this. He didn’t look surprised at all and I realized that he was probably used to supernatural things, being a supernatural being himself.
Am I a supernatural being? I thought to myself. There are a lot of things about me that are very strange and that would be a good explanation as to why weird things happen to me all the time.
Willow saw me looking at him and reached over to squeeze my hand comfortingly. My heart leapt in my chest, as it always did when I interacted with him. And now I had even more reason to be excited around him. We were officially in a relationship. I didn’t know what to think of that. I was still processing the fact that I had friends for once.
Willow and I looked away from each other in alarm as Margrét spoke.
“What is it?” I said excitedly. “What do you see? Am I going to be valedictorian?”
As important as school was to me, that wasn’t really what I wanted to know. What I wanted to know was what was wrong with me. There were some days when I wondered if I was really human and now I was beginning to think that wasn’t a weird suspicion to have.
“I’m not sure about that, but you are definitely going to be making a lot of hard decisions soon.”
“Well, duh. I’m a senior in high school. Of course I’m going to be making a lot of tough choices soon.”
Margrét rolled her eyes at me.
“How very human of you to say. There will be two paths in front of you and you will have to choose one. Which path you choose will determine the rest of your life, so be sure you choose wisely.”
I didn’t say a word, but silently digested what she was saying.
“But that’s not all… No, I can see a person in your future who will be very important. You must tread carefully around this person. I cannot see any details about the person, but all I can see is that they are holding… They are holding… Oh no…”
“What is it?” Willow and I said the same time.
“This person is… They’re going to kill.”
My heart was pounding in my chest.
“Did you say kill?”
“Yes. I’m afraid I don’t have any more details. Crystal gazing is a very vague practice.”
I sat forward in my chair and said, “Is someone I love in danger?”
“It’s possible, but I wouldn’t worry about it constantly. If it’s written in your future, more than likely there is very little you can do about it.”
“I don’t want to think about this. What is one supposed to do with this kind of information?”
Willow touched my arm and I turned to look at him. He looked more worried than I felt, which I thought was strange.
“Come with me, Melissa. I have a couple places I still want to show you and I know they will calm you down. They always calm me down when I’m upset.”
“Goodbye, children,” said Margrét as we started to go.
The way she said it sounded like something an old person would say, but she didn’t look that old to me. Something occurred to me as we walked down the hallway.
“How old is she?” I asked Willow.
“I’m not exactly sure, but I think somewhere around five hundred years old.”
I stopped walking and Willow looked back at me in surprise.
“Did you say five hundred? Once again, I can’t tell if you’re joking or not.”
“I’m not. I know it sounds strange, but elves age differently than humans. It wouldn’t say that we’re immortal, but we definitely have longer life spans. For instance, my mother looks like she’s in her twenties, but she’s actually in her forties.”
“That’s actually really interesting,” I said. “I knew there was something strange about Margrét.”
“Technically, there’s something strange about all of us.” He laughed. “I mean, we aren’t human.” We stopped in front of a door. This one was not as shabby looking and it looked like someone had sanded it recently. “This is Adam’s room.”
“Someone very special. He’s awesome.”
A voice inside gave us permission to enter when Willow knocked and my mouth fell open as the door opened. On all sides of the room, there were floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with beautiful hardcover books. Too many books to read in a lifetime, but I wanted to try. In the center of the room was a wide desk with two leather chairs in front of it and one behind. In the one behind the desk, there sat a wide shouldered man with red hair and twinkling eyes. He had three books open before him on the desk, but he closed all of them and stood up when we entered. I saw that he was wearing nice pants and a crewneck sweater, as if he was dressed to impress.
“Hello!” he said with a wide smile. It was the nicest smile I had ever seen and I found myself smiling back, just as I had with Cierra. “Please, come in!”
I was so distracted by the sight of so many books that I had to be steered toward a leather chair by Willow.
“This is my girlfriend, Melissa.”
“Very nice to meet you, Melissa. My name is Adam,” said the man, giving me a firm handshake. “How are you today?”
I was surprised that he had an American accent, since all of the other elves I had encountered had European ones.
He chuckled warmly – everything about him seemed warm – and said, “That’s not surprising. If you’re human, all of this would definitely come as a shock.”
“I just can’t believe it. I didn’t even know Parcia existed!”
“Neither did I for a very long time. I had to do some serious research before I found it.”
“It certainly looks like you love to read,” I said with wide eyes, gazing up at the endless shelves.
“That’s an understatement,” Adam said, laughing again. “I’m the scholar of the Underground. If anyone needs information on anything, they come to me. Oftentimes, I can supply information off the top of my head, too. That’s my ability: I have a photographic memory.”
“That’s fascinating! I wish I had that…”
“Why?” said Willow. “You’re already like the smartest kid in school.”
“Not the smartest,” I said, pointing my index finger at him.
He rolled his eyes and said to Adam, “Just because she needed me to help her out with Calculus a couple times. Besides that, she seems to know everything.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but Adam said, “I don’t doubt that. From one smart person to another, I can tell when I’m not the only nerd in the room.”
I couldn’t decide whether or not I was offended by being called a nerd by someone who was essentially a stranger to me. But there was something about Adam that made me like him instantly, so I didn’t mind that he was being so blunt.
“I won’t deny it,” I said.
I found my eyes wandering again, taking in the beautiful sight of all those books.
“Do you want to borrow one?” Adam asked, laughing softly.
“Yes,” I said without hesitation. “Is that even a question?”
I started to walk over to one of the shelves, but Adam plucked one down and handed it to me before I could begin to explore my options. It was 1984 by George Orwell.
“One of my favorites when I was your age.”
“I’ve always wanted to read this!”
“Well, now you can.”
I tried to contain my excitement as I clutched the book to my side and looked over at Willow, but Willow was already smiling at me. Sometimes it seemed like he was the one who could read minds, not me.
“I knew you would like Adam. Everyone likes him.”
Adam beamed and said, “I appreciate that, Willow. If I may ask, why did you choose to bring Melissa here? As I understand it, humans don’t usually come around to Parcia.”
I looked over at Willow and felt my heart stir in my chest as he said, “I really care about her. I felt like I was lying to her by not telling her everything about me. And Parcia is a really big part of me. I mean, for obvious reasons…”
“How did you know I was human?” I said to Adam, trying to ignore how emotional I was getting inside.
“Every elf knows about Parcia. It’s part of our heritage. I knew you were a human because you were so in awe.”
“What about humans?”
The three of us turned around and saw a lovely vision standing in the open doorway to the room. The woman filled the frame with her magnificence, as she was wearing a splendid white gown that seemed to give off rays of light. Her face was smooth and filled with youth, her cheeks pink with excitement as if she had just walked in to find herself in the midst of a celebration. Adam and Willow both stood up from their chairs, which surprised me. But, evidently, this woman was someone important.
“Nothing, Lady Catherine,” said Adam. I noticed that the smile on his face had widened so much that it looked extremely fake and almost unnerving. “We were just talking about humans in general.”
“Hello, mother,” Willow said with a blatant lack of enthusiasm. “This is my friend Melissa.”
I noticed that he didn’t admit to his mother that he and I were more than friends, but I also remembered him telling me what a horrible mother she was. It made sense that he would want to keep something like that secret from her. My heart started hammering in my chest for a reason I didn’t know when Willow’s mother turned her glassy gray eyes on me. Just like Margrét’s, they seemed to stare into my soul.
“Good to meet you, Melissa.”
I stood up and offered her my hand, but she didn’t seem to want to take it.
“It’s nice to meet you too. Willow has told me a lot about you.” I looked over and saw that Willow’s eyes had gone wide with meaning and I backpedaled. “His description of you doesn’t even begin to cover how beautiful you are in person.”
The words sounded creepy to me as they came out of my mouth, but from what I could see, it mattered greatly that I pleased this woman.
“You’re very kind, but compliments are not necessary. You sound American. Tell me, where has my son picked you up from?”
“America.” When I saw Willow’s face, I realized how sarcastic I had sounded. Sarcasm was just second nature to me, so sometimes I had trouble containing myself. “School. We go to school together.”
“Lovely. And what is your ability?”
I opened my mouth, but no words came out because I was so taken aback at her question. Unlike Adam, she really seemed to think that I was an elf.
“She can control fire!” Willow said. In his haste to cover for me, it was more like a shout than a statement. “It’s pretty cool, too. No pun intended.”
Adam chuckled, but the woman’s lips merely twitched at the joke.
“A pyro. How interesting.”
“Yeah.” I had finally regained my ability to speak, but nothing intelligent was coming out. “It’s not as fun as it might sound.”
“Fun?” Her eyebrows shot up her forehead. “Having abilities is far from fun. We elves are sick from the inside out and we will never be okay again until we are like everyone else. Of course, that day will never come.”
Wow, I thought to myself. That’s a different way of thinking about things. How cynical of her.
“I guess… That’s kind of true?”
“Of course it’s true. Everyone is just afraid to admit it.” She looked over at Adam. “And what are you two doing, disturbing Adam when he is hard at work?”
“Oh, I was just helping them work on a school project,” said Adam. When her eyes went to the copy of 1984 in my hand, he hastily added, “They’re studying dystopian societies.”
“Ah. In that case, I will leave you to your project.”
She backed out of the doorway and reached out with a pale hand to pull the door closed. We sat down again and my mouth fell open as I looked over at Willow.
“That’s your mother?! She’s horrible!”
He leaned over and clamped a hand over my mouth to shut me up.
“Melissa!” he hissed.
We waited in silence until we could hear that her footsteps had retreated down the hallway and then Willow removed his hand from my mouth and wiped it on his pants.
“Sorry,” I said. “But she is.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. But you really have to be careful around her. There are some elves who strongly believe that we should not be mixed up with humans and she’s one of them. I’m afraid of what she would have done if she had figured out that you aren’t an elf.”
I might not be an elf, but I’m certainly not a normal human.
“He’s absolutely right,” Adam said. “I wish he wasn’t, but there are always people who are afraid of differences and feel like they define us. Differences are important, but that is because they are what make us each unique. I’m honored to be an elf because it means that I’m more gifted than the average human.” He sighed and leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head. “I remember when I was a teenager, I used to feel like I was too ordinary. But then I went through the Change and suddenly I was special. I knew what my calling was: to use my abilities to help the race of elves.”
I realized that I had been absentmindedly picking at my cuticles while Adam had been talking. His words were stirring something deep within me, though I didn’t know what. There was one thing that had especially stood out to me.
“Did you say ‘the Change’?”
“Yes. Not every elf goes through the Change. Some are born the way they are, but others develop their abilities in a long and painful process.”
Long and painful?
“I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s kind of like puberty, but in a weird way. It’s hard to describe because it’s different for everyone. How was it for you, Willow? Did you go through the Change or were you born with your abilities?”
“I was born with them. My earliest memory was probably when I was around six or seven years old and Margrét showed me a Sudoku puzzle for the first time. I was done with it in less than two minutes. It came so easily to me. When I finished and handed it back to her, she just looked at me and then burst out laughing. I didn’t understand what was so funny because it had seemed so natural. Then Margrét explained to me how what I had just done was not easy for everyone else. It was supposed to be difficult. Now, I thought that was funny.”
Willow smiled fondly at the memory and I watched him as he stared off into space. I suddenly wished desperately that I knew every single little thing about Willow. I wanted to know everything from his past. His experiences, the people he had become friends with, the things he had learned, and the ideas he had developed. I also wanted to know his present, to become aware of what he was thinking.
But I can’t read his mind. I won’t. That would be wrong on so many levels. But I want to so badly… But I won’t! If he knew, he would feel betrayed! I don’t want him to feel like he can’t trust me around him, especially when he’s just starting to open up to me about important things. It’s much better to find things out from people directly than indirectly. It’s more personal that way.
And so I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t read Willow’s mind. Not yet, at least. When the time came that we were completely trusting of each other and completely happy, I would let his thoughts into my mind. But only that one time. That way it would be special and personal and I would never invade his mind again.
“It’s funny to think about you as a little boy,” I said.
“Why?” Willow asked, coming out of his daydream.
“Because it’s funny to picture you all little and innocent. It’s funny picturing anyone that way.”
“I guess you’re right.” He smiled. “I can picture you as a little girl, all curled up with a good book. Your hair in pigtails.”
My heart jumped. He had breached the subject that I had been afraid to think about.
“Not pigtails. Never pigtails.”
He chuckled when I looked at him with a great deal of seriousness in my expression.
“Why not? You would look cute that way.”
“No I wouldn’t.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Yes, you would.”
I shook my head vehemently as he leaned forward, but I wasn’t able to squirm out of reach before he had grabbed ahold of my hair and was pulling it out of my face into two ponytails on either side of my head. I tried not to cry as the smile faded from his face and his lips parted in surprise at beholding yet another weird thing about me.
“I told you,” I said. “I told you I can’t do pigtails. It wouldn’t be a good idea.”
He frowned, still leaning over me with my hair clumped into his fists just under my ears.
“I still don’t see why not.”
I stared at him in disbelief. Was he not seeing my abnormally colored eyes? Was he blind? He was a smart kid. It wasn’t like he was stupid or anything. And yet, here he was gazing at me like I was a red rose in the center of a bunch of weeds.
“Are you… Serious?”
He kissed me gently on the nose and then let go of my hair, leaning back in his chair. I glanced at Adam as a blush spread across my face and I saw that he was watching our exchange in amusement.
“That’s very rare, you know,” he said.
“What is?” I asked.
“I thought there was a name for it!” Willow snapped his fingers. “I couldn’t remember what it was called.”
“I know all about being abnormal…” I said, putting my head in my hands.
I felt so embarrassed about both Willow and Adam, a complete stranger, seeing my eyes. There was a reason why I parted my hair the way I did. I realized that I was alone in a strange place with two men I hadn’t known for very long. I trusted Willow and Adam seemed trustworthy enough, but I was a little uncomfortable anyways. It had been nine or ten when I left home and I had been here a while, so it had to be very late or very early. Amber would probably notice I was gone if I didn’t go back soon.
“Everyone is abnormal in their own way,” Adam said.
I agreed with him, to some degree, but I needed to get out of there. I stood up abruptly.
“I have to go home now. I need to get some sleep.”
“You’re right,” Willow said, standing up next to me. “You should go get some sleep. Especially since you weren’t feeling well earlier. I’ll take you home, if you want.”
“You really don’t have to, since I have this.”
I took the teleportic Icelandic volcanic rock out of my pocket and held it out. Adam raised an eyebrow, his eyes moving rapidly between us.
“Well, at least let me… Come on.”
He looked slightly impatient with me, but I let him take my empty hand and pull me from the room.
“It was nice meeting you!” I called over my shoulder to Adam and he gave a little wave in response.
“What? What?” I said, a little annoyed that Willow was making such a big deal out of me leaving.
He just looked at me and I could see that there was something he was having trouble getting out, so I gave him a minute to sort out his thoughts. But he didn’t need a minute and he didn’t seem to be sorting out his thoughts, because he grabbed my face and kissed me. I wasn’t expecting it at all, so when we surfaced, I found myself gasping for breath. There was something about this breathless kiss that I found a little arousing and I felt embarrassed.
“Have a good night, Melissa,” he said.
I squeezed the rock and pictured my bed and suddenly I was spinning through space towards it. I collapsed onto my bed, pulled my sheets up to my chin over my shoes and clothes, and closed my eyes. I didn’t know whether I was trying to block out the memory of what had transpired earlier or whether I was genuinely tired. Either way, I ended up falling asleep with all of my clothes on and the teleportic Icelandic volcanic rock sitting in my outstretched hand.