“Yuuya, you aren’t seriously going to leave, are you?” My sister looked up at me, tears in her eyes. I smiled at her gently.
“Yes. There are many mysteries to be unlocked in our world, and there are still many to discover.” My sister smiled sadly at this.
“I just worry… you’re always putting yourself in danger…” She kissed my cheek, and I began to walk away, starting my journey. As soon as I crossed the first ridge, I wiped my face vigorously, getting rid of any trace my sister’s disgusting slobber had left. There was an old saying in my land that kisses were numbered, so save them for people you actually love.
The reason she didn’t want me to leave is because I paid her alcohol bills, stupid self-absorbed jerk. My good-for-nothing sister didn’t give a cow’s arse if I was in danger as long as I brought her money to quench her alcohol addiction.
The journey took longer than expected. To get to the glass realm, one had to either take a boat to enter on the south side, or walk to get in by the north side. I had chosen the latter, therefore I had to go through two valleys and several rivers to get there, adding up to a month and a half of travel. I had barely any money, so getting scraps one way or another was how food was obtained. I slept in old barns and bathed in the rivers, maybe catching some fish if I felt motivated enough to clean it.
All I had brought was a change of clothes, a waterskin, a handkerchief to hold food, a ball of red string, my glasses, and basic first aid supplies in my knapsack. Oh, and I also brought my sword. I was rather proud of that gleaming weapon with the mother of pearl handle. I had saved up and bought it with my own money when I was just a little boy living amongst the rolling hills. Back then, I dragged the heavy thing behind me as I searched for treasure and mystical beings. I never found any in those hills; only when I was an adult travelling to distant lands did I ever encounter riches or the supernatural.
Anyway, I was very close to the glass realm. Even ten miles away, there wasn’t a sound to be heard in the forest. It was as if the animals knew not to come close. Among the people of surrounding cities, the glass realm was taboo. You didn’t speak about it. And, for the most part, you didn’t think about it. But I had a thirst that was similar to my sister’s thirst for liquor. It was my desire to find out what had actually happened to that land.
I exited the woods and found myself on top of a slope. Looking down, I saw the glass city in the distance, the sun shining blindingly off the glittering buildings. In between was a large expanse of plains. It was green and yellow about a quarter of the way of the fields, and then abruptly turned to clear. I regretted not wearing shoes as I looked at the spiky glass plants.
I slid down the hill and began my long trek across the plains. To my relief, I found a path that went all the way through the fields. In the part that wasn’t turned to glass, the fields were overgrown with weeds and very tall grass. In the immobilized glass section of the plains, the fields were carefully tilled with fruitful harvests; pumpkins and corn and wheat.
When I reached the section where the glass started, it was as if time stopped for everything except for me. I warily kept walking, ignoring the lone cottages amongst the frozen plants, the crops not waving in the wind. At one point I got on my knees on the bumpy pathway and looked down through the clear glass. Underneath it, I could see worms and grubs, all turned to glass. The dirt, the roots of the plants, the birds pecking for bugs; they were all made of the same substance.
I got up and kept walking until I got to the outskirts of the city. I waited for a couple of minutes, wondering if I should enter. I had heard stories of people going into the city, brave adventurers such as me, adventurers that never returned. I figured that most of them had gotten lost, so I opened my pack and pulled out the red string, then started walking again. I unwound the ball as I went, leaving a red trail behind me. That way, it would be easy to backtrack.
In the shop windows, I saw people in the middle of sweeping or feeding a child or even painting. None of them had been frozen with an expression on their face that suggested that they didn’t know that they were in any imminent danger. They hadn’t known what was coming; now they were glass sculptures.
I made several turns and found myself, after a while of wandering around the city, in front of the tall staircase that led up to the castle. I dropped the red string, which wasn’t exactly a ball anymore, then clambered up the steps and pushed open the huge, rough doors. Inside, it was warm and the glass tiles were smooth against my bare feet.
If the legends were true, then the king of the glass realm was still here, unaffected by the curse upon the land. I stood in the middle of the main entrance and wondered which way to go. There were three staircases, each leading to a different part of the castle. Giant pillars held up the dome ceiling. The sun shone through glass walls and roof, making it warm inside of the castle.
I was about to climb up the far left flight of stairs when I heard a soft voice in my head.
Who are you? It asked, then repeated. Who are you? Startled, I stepped back, whirling around and trying to locate the unseen owner of the voice in my head.
“Where are you?!” I yelled. “Come out where I can see you!” I heard a noise, and looked to my right. By the banister in between the second and third staircases, on the second floor, was a figure. The person was too far away for my eyes to make sense of, so I pulled out my glasses and put them on.
There stood a person with brown, wavy hair tied with a faded blue ribbon. His skin was fair and his eyes were dark and without light. He started descending down the stairs, his boots clicking as they touched the steps. He crossed the room and came to a stop in front of me. His deep, spellbinding eyes stared into mine. He was a little shorter than me, even with his boots giving him extra height.
Who are you? The gentle, monotone voice answered again.
I gulped and said, “I’m Yuuya. I’ve come to discover what happened to this land.” The boy blinked, and tilted his head slightly.
I am Alexandrine Peridot Lazhward, the king of this realm.
“Ha! So the legends are true!” I did a little dance. Alexandrine studied me carefully and raised a hand to touch my face. His fingers were warm, but not with the spark of life. He dropped his hand and I grabbed it to examine it. I was shocked to find that the entire hand was made of glass, stopping just past his wrist; his veins melting into the transparent material. I took a look at his other hand, and it was the same way. The king was…. turning to glass himself.
“What happened to this kingdom?” I asked lightly. Alex turned to face the window, which was nearly indistinguishable from the walls around it.
I can’t remember.
“Really?” How could somebody not recall something that important?
I just know my name, title, and that I’m nineteen. I can’t remember anything else.
“You just woke up one day like this?” I asked, unbelievingly. Alexandrine nodded. I laughed. “Well that sucks.”
“Never mind.” I waved my hand dismissively. “You should totally take me around the castle so that I can check it out.” Alex blinked slowly.
He held out his glass hand and I cautiously took it. It was frozen in a relaxed position, making it easy to grasp.
We climbed the far right flight of stairs, making me a little dizzy. It was a little unnerving to be walking on a clear floor and to be able to see all the floors underneath you. Alex tugged me along, occasionally stopping to point out chandeliers or tapestries that glittered stunningly from the sun shining through them. We passed glass maids, people of nobility, and even a young girl who was wearing a crown. As we walked by, I asked,
“Who is that? She kind of looks like you.”
Don’t know. Don’t know. He strode forward, blank eyes staring into space. I wondered why Alex didn’t speak out loud. Maybe he couldn’t? He had been living alone in that castle for about fifty years. Maybe he had forgotten how, and now had to communicate telepathically.
We got to another flight of stairs, these ones in a spiral shape. We ascended together, our hands holding in the middle, with his right hand on the railing. There were several windows on the way up, but they made no difference anyway. At the top of the stairs on the ceiling was a trapdoor; Alex turned to me, staring expressionlessly. He raised his right hand to the light, beams catching it in the most exquisite way.
I can’t open the trapdoor anymore. Would you do it for me? Warily, I let go of Alex’s left hand and placed my hand on the door that used to be made of wood. I pushed on the door, the glass hinges making a frightening squeaking sound. The room above was round, with a full length mirror, a window, a wardrobe, a chest, and a canopy bed.
I climbed into the room, and then pulled Alex up gently. The room was dizzyingly high, being able to see the spiral stairs and previous levels below. The ceiling of the room came to a point in the center, held up by massive beams. What fascinated me the most, though, was the mirror. Instead of being clear glass like the rest of the kingdom, the mirror was still reflective. I guess it had been glass anyway, so it hadn’t been affected. I admired my reflection for the first time in a long while. I humbly admit that I looked damn fine. I carefully brushed my white bangs out of my eyes a bit and smiled. Alexandrine looked up at me blankly.
I used to come up here and cry when I had just woken up and couldn’t remember anything. I quickly realized that the emotion was turning me into glass faster. It’s best not to feel. Alexandrine met my eyes in the mirror.
“How could that be true? Feeling is what reminds us that we’re alive.” I said, concerned.
Not for me. Feeling is what will kill me. I will stay alive and the same age as long as I don’t feel.
“Then what is the point of continuing to exist like this, without any emotions?” Alex turned to look at me.
I only want two things. To find out what happened to my kingdom, and not be alone when I inevitably turn to glass and die. I smiled a bit.
“I will help you.”
† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † †
That night, we slept on the canopy bed in the tower. It was freezing and uncomfortable, but at least I had Alexandrine to keep me warm. Lying on my back, I could see the dark sky and winking stars through the ceiling. He moved a lot during his sleep, surprisingly, creating a lot of awkward positions. Eventually he settled down on top of my chest, my arms clinging to him for any trace of warmth. His feet were glass as well, conducting the cold without the boots he had been wearing earlier.
I finally began drifting off to sleep, when Alexandrine began talking in his sleep. His voice was rough and scratchy from disuse. I was shocked at first, because I thought that he could only communicate telepathically. He started thrashing around like a fish out of water, so I held him to calm him down.
“No, no!!! …… ….. trust me…… Spell will work!!......” I waited for him to say more, but no more words came; so I fell into a dreamless sleep.
† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † †
The next morning, I woke up and forgot where I was for a second. It all came back to me and I shot upright. Alexandrine was next to me, still sound asleep. I remembered what he had said the night before and shook Alex awake.
“Alexandrine! Wake up!”
Ugh….. He sat up and rubbed his eyes with his glass hands. What is it?
“Well, you were talking in your sleep last night and you said something about a spell working. Maybe it has something to do with everything turning to glass?”
Maybe… I grinned. I could totally figure this mystery out in no time. My stomach growled and I looked down at it.
“I guess I’m hungry.” I pulled my sack off the floor and grabbed a small amount of biscuit. I had saved food and water for while I was in the realm. I figured I had enough for about a week. I broke the piece and offered some to Alex. “Here, have some.” Alexandrine eyed the morsel a little sadly.
I can’t eat. Not that I need to anyway.
“What? That’s weird.” I put one of the pieces back into my bag and the other into my mouth. Alex swung his legs over the edge of the bed, and maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed like the glass had crept up his ankles a bit more. Deciding not to mention it, I said,
“Is there a place that looks like it could have been used for magic in the castle? Maybe a potion cabinet or something?” Alex nodded.
I’ll take you there.
Alex bent down to struggle with his boots. All that he could do was rub his hands on the sides of the boots to try and get them on. It was pretty depressing, so I reached down to help him. He relaxed his hands and sat up while I slipped the boots onto his stiff glass feet. I grabbed his hands and helped him up. He smiled at me a bit, causing me to blush; I let go of his hands, and turned away.
“It was nothing, y’a know?” I opened the trapdoor and helped Alex down, then joined him as well. I swung my knapsack over my shoulder and we began our walk to the potion cabinet.
We stopped at a large door that wasn’t any different looking than the others. Through the glass, I could see shelves stocked with jars and boxes. There was a table with a chair pulled up to it, and a large book on the table. I pulled open the thick door and stepped inside the potion cabinet, Alexandrine trailing behind. I flipped through the pages of the book, but the words had been lost when it was turned to glass, like raindrops falling into the sea.
“Hmmm…. Alexandrine, where did you wake up after you forgot everything?”
Well… Actually, it was here, I suppose. I nodded. He had woken up in the potion cabinet, where spells were cast, so maybe he had something to do with the glass curse? But.. what kind of king would do something like that to his own subjects? I looked over to Alexandrine, who was staring into nothingness with those blank eyes of his. No, he seemed too innocent to have done something that extreme. Besides, that still didn’t explain why he himself was slowly turning to glass and why he could telepathically communicate.
“Alex, are you sure you can’t remember anything?” I asked gently. Alex raised his eyebrows slightly.
Yes, I would have said something before.
We explored the castle for the rest of the day, but the only thing that I found of interest was one of the rooms I stumbled into by accident. The door had been flung open carelessly, and when I tripped over a glass rock, I had fallen into the room. It was a bedroom, obviously made for a little princess, with stuffed animals, closets choking from dresses, and a large canopy bed; like the one in Alexandrine’s room. I came to the conclusion from all of this that Alex did indeed have a sister. On the way back to the tower, we passed the little girl again. I hadn’t noticed before, but she had been frozen in the middle of running, a look of distress on her petite face. And she had been running in the direction of the potion cabinet.
The next four days progressed in a similar way, waking up early with Alexandrine beside me, except he didn’t have any more nightmares. Afterwards, I would eat a little bit of my rations and then drink some liquid from my waterskin. We would then walk around the castle all day, trying to piece together more information. We didn’t really find out anything else, to my frustration. I couldn’t help but notice that the glass on Alex’s arms and legs were slowly creeping higher as time progressed.
For what seemed like the hundredth time that day, Alexandrine and I walked from the princess’ room to her statuette to the potion cabinet.
“It’s no use. I can’t figure out what exactly happened. Maybe we should give up.”
No, please! I have to know what happened to my kingdom before I die!
“Alexandrine, why do you want to find out so badly? You can’t even remember your own sister’s name!”
I feel like it’s my duty. He looked up at my pleadingly. I sighed.
“We can search more tomorrow. Come on, let’s go to bed.” I took Alex’s hand, which was almost an instinct by then, and we began the walk back.
Agh! Alexandrine suddenly let go of my hand and dropped to his knees, clutching his heart with his frozen hand. It hurts! Yuuya, help me, please!
“It’s alright, I’ve got you!’ I bent down and picked up Alexandrine before running as fast as I could to the tower. Alex shivered in my arms, and for the first time it struck me how tiny and fragile he was. He was kind of heavy, his feet and arms dangling as dead weight. I scaled the steps in the spiral staircase two at a time. I set him down when I reached the top and opened the trapdoor, then lifted him up and pushed him through the opening. I heard scuffling sounds and I saw Alex struggle to move his body away from the opening. I heard the creak of the door falling and watched in horror as it slammed shut on Alex’s glass calf. I curled up in a ball and covered my head as shattered glass rained down on me like clear knives. I heard Alex yell weakly in that ragged voice that I had only heard once before. Once the broken glass stopped falling down, I immediately stood up, ignoring the sharp pain from the cuts that it had inflicted. His boot lay on the ground beside me, abandoned and unnecessary.
I swung open the door again and climbed into the room, not bothering to avoid the razor-edged glass covering the ground. Alexandrine was in the fetal position, coughing and shivering wildly. I stood up, feeling glass penetrating my feet, and picked up Alexandrine. More pieces of glass broke off of the stump just below Alex’s knee and fell to the floor, splintering into shimmering dust. I picked Alex up again, my arms shaking, and laid him on the bed.
I sat down next to his pale form and wiped the unwanted tears from my eyes. My bare feet were dripping blood all over the glass floor and sheets. He lay there beside me, sweating profusely and shivering.
Yuuya… I’m remembering, but I don’t want to… It hurts so badly.. I held his warm glass hand in mine, although I knew that he probably couldn’t feel it. The glass was past his elbows then, and it was only growing. Alexandrine’s eyelids fluttered and his breathing was shuddering and strained. I was born into this kingdom of Queen Tourmaline and King Soman. They raised my sister and I in this castle.
So he did have a sister.
My sister had a disorder, though, and couldn’t speak… He took in a shaky breath and cried out in pain. Oh, Artemis, it hurts so bad. I- I don’t want to remember… I brushed his bangs off of his forehead. I’m so cold…
“Sh, sh, it’s okay….” I rubbed Alex’s arm gently. The glass was going up his arms and legs at an alarming rate, making me nervous. What would I do if he died?
They said horrible things about her when she was right there, as if she couldn’t understand them. Even my father did the same to her. That’s why I murdered him… I was crowned king the next month, and the only reason I accepted my position was that I knew I could help my sister…. Find a way for her to communicate somehow…. Alexandrine coughed violently, blood dripping off of his lips. I reached over and wiped the crimson liquid away gently. The glass was now spreading across his torso and neck. The tips of his hair were joining together as they transformed into the translucent substance.
I started studying magic, locking myself in that potion cabinet for days on end, pouring over spells. Finally, I found the right one…. The one for telepathic communication… I read the spell over and over, making sure I had all of the ingredients and knew all of the words. I guess my sister overheard maids talking about it or something, and that’s why she was running out of her room when, when….. When I turned everything to glass… The spell went wrong and turned everything and everyone in this kingdom into glass. Even my beloved sister whom I had been trying to help. I woke up with my memories gone and the ability to converse without using my mouth….. I failed as a king….
“You did not fail! You clung to life for all of these years, staying in this castle just to find out what happened..”
Another cough racked Alexandrine’s body, with more blood following.
I’m dying, Yuuya... I can…. feel my lungs... turning into glass…. I felt unwelcome tears well up in the corners of my eyes and slide down my cheeks like my heart was melting and pouring out of my eyes. Thank you…. for being here….. Alexandrine smiled at me, life finally entering his features, even though he was an inch from death. Glass crept across his cheek like frost and he closed his brown eyes as a tear rolled down his face. A final breath escaped his lips, and King Alexandrine was dead.
My clammy hand let go of Alex’s and I covered my mouth, sobbing. I swallowed my tears and kissed his smooth glass forehead. Standing up, a little shaky, I grabbed my knapsack and slipped through the trapdoor. I took one last look at the glass angel and then shut the door with an ominous slam. I again ignored the scattered shards across the floor from Alex’s leg and started down the stairs, a lump in my throat. About halfway down the stairs, the castle began falling apart. Glass beams fractured and fell around me, but I kept trudging on, numb to everything around me. People’s bodies split apart and shattered and I just kept walking. I left the castle and walked down the crumbling steps to the town, which was falling like Pompeii. I followed the crimson thread that I had left only days prior, although it felt like years ago. The string was the same color as Alexandrine’s blood, I thought grimly in my daze.
When I had walked out of the city, through the fields, and up that hill, I gazed upon the fallen city. It was like a tomb for the king.
Salvum fac illa tibi ad oscula amare.
Save your kisses for those you love.