Changing Colours and Growing Wings (A short story)
THERE IS a world that cannot be seen, but just because it is not visible, doesn’t mean that it’s not there. It is a million miles away, yet so close that if you reached out your hand, you could almost touch it. It is a fragile place, so much so that to even whisper its name would be to risk its very existence. It is filled with unimaginable beauty, but the horrors and pain that lurk within its realms could be responsible for a lifetime of nightmares and sleepless nights. For the beings that call this dimension home, it is a dangerous life, but one that is filled with so much joy and happiness that if someone were to experience it for just one second, that second would be followed by an eternity of hopelessness, as nothing would ever come close to it again.
At any one time, there are an infinite number of stories and lives being played out in this world, but to tell them all would be an impossibility, and so this is just one of those stories.
The story of Marchaos and Constance.
It is an endless place, this world, covered in vast, swarming purple oceans, gargantuan valleys and rolling hillsides, forests of the deepest browns so thick that they seem almost impenetrable. There are mountain tops covered in silver snow that stand so tall they that they could touch the heavens. And there are meadows so lush with the greenest grass that they could be paintings, and so wide that they breach the horizon and beyond. And it is in one of these meadows that our story begins, with Marchaos...
Marchaos was a quarter aged being, with a shock of golden hair, yellow during the day although it had a tendency to turn a woody brown in the evenings. His eyes were a deep purple, like the oceans he loved to swim in, and although he was by no means the biggest and strongest of his kind, he possessed something that many others did not. Quite what that something actually was, he wasn’t always sure. But the problem that Marchaos had was that his wings had never fully developed. Unlike those around him, whose wings had grown large and beautiful, tinted and laced with glorious colour, and enabled them to fly and soar over the world’s shiny mountain peaks, glittering seas and dense forests, his had for some reason stayed small and fragile. They were weak and blackened, and Marchaos had never managed to find enough strength in them to soar with his fellow beings.
This caused him immense heartache and pain, and although he pretended to be happy and confident, he knew deep down that until his wings grew, despite all the beauty and colour that surrounded him, his world would always be a dark one.
But one day, whilst lying on the grass of one of his world’s lush green meadows, looking up at the epic violet sky and wishing he could be up there, everything changed. Something happened to him that made him feel like he never thought possible.
He met Constance...
He saw her in the distance, and although she was far away he immediately knew that it was her. She was, as always, picking flowers from the meadow and putting them in her basket. He had known who Constance was for about two years now, which in this world, where the concept of time was radically different from our own, was closer to two hundred years. But never had he managed to muster up the courage to speak to her. You see Constance was one of the most beautiful beings that Marchaos had ever seen, and her wings were large and glorious. And oh how she could fly! The times he had watched her soar through the golden clouds, her hair changing colour and her always stunning dresses glinting and shimmering in the sun's. A being like her would never look at a monster like Marchaos!
And that is why he had always watched her from afar. But that day something within him felt different. Perhaps it was the fact that he felt he couldn’t possibly get any lower than he already was, so what did he have to lose?
And so he took a deep breath and began walking towards the beautiful creature in the distance...
It must have taken him only a couple of moments before he reached her, but to Marchaos it felt like an eternity. She looked up at him and their eyes met, and at that moment his heart felt like it might pop.
The closer he got to her the more of her beauty he was able to take in. Constance was a small and delicate being, but she exuded a strength that Marchaos could only admire. Her hair was as red as the dawn, her eyes greener than the lushest of grass. Her dress was embroidered with flowers, it shimmered and shone in the light of the world’s two sun's, and her skin was as soft and smooth as silk.
But what would he say to her? A million different words started running through his mind, but suddenly his throat shrank and all he could manage was a mumbled and practically inaudible, “Hi.”
Constance looked up at him from where she knelt in the meadow with a look of bemusement in her green eyes.
“Hi yourself,” she replied.
“Umm, picking flowers I see?” Marchaos said nervously, immediately feeling like a fool.
“Indeed,” Constance replied.
Marchaos laughed awkwardly before introducing himself. “I’m Marchaos,” he said.
“I know,” Constance said, standing up. She then said something that lit up Marchaos’ face, something he never dreamt in a million years she would say.
It was, “Would you care to help me pick these flowers?”
Marchaos was elated. “That would be most agreeable,” he said with a smile.
“Most...” Constance said smiling back at him, and she held out her hand.
Marchaos took it, and as he felt static running through his fingers, he knew that nothing would ever be the same again...
That was the start of arguably the best day of Marchaos’ life, and remember that the passing of time was very different in this world, so that day to us would have felt more like four or five months.
They spent the entire day walking hand in hand through the meadow, filling up her basket with hundreds of flowers of all different shapes, sizes and colours, some so vibrant and beautiful that they could never possibly grow in our world. She informed him that she was going to use the flowers to make the largest and most breathtaking painting ever made. She expanded his mind and opened his world up to endless possibilities. For example, Marchaos had always been wary of eating the meadows wild berries and fruits, but Constance taught him all about them and which ones were delicious, and by the end of the day he loved them all. They talked and laughed, and Constance made Marchaos feel good about himself for the first time in decades, and she never once mentioned his wings. She turned his life upside down and lifted the darkness that had been blanketing him for so long. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt so happy...
But in a world with such a perfect equilibrium, and yet in other ways so fragile and imbalanced as this, things could always swing in an instant. After all, there cannot be joy without pain, and unfortunately for Marchaos and Constance, a dark cloud was looming over them...
The world’s two sun's began to set, bathing the meadow in a warm orangey glow. Marchaos and Constance lay on the grass looking up at the changing skies, and it was Constance who noticed it first.
“What is that?” she gasped and pointed heavenwards. Marchaos looked in that direction and suddenly a cold chill enveloped his entire body and it felt like his heart had stopped dead.
“Oh, please no...” he whispered.
Racing towards them at an alarming rate was a thick, black mist, like a swarm of flies a billion strong.
“Come on, get up,” Marchaos told Constance, grabbing her hand and pulling her to her feet.
“What’s going on Marchaos, what’s happening?” Constance said, panicked. The mist was now looming larger, coming at them with terrifying speed.
“Run!” screamed Marchaos, but it was too late, the black cloud had surrounded them. Suddenly there was a monumental, ear crushing bang, a sonic boom, like a thousand claps of thunder in unison. Constance screamed and put her hands over her ears. Everything turned to darkness for a few seconds, and when the mist cleared and the light returned, Constance was shocked to see that Marchaos had not gone, but the complete opposite.
There was now two of him...
Constance’s eyes were agape with utter astonishment, and she stared before her in disbelief. Marchaos had quite literally, impossibly, split into two. However, there was something very different about this second Marchaos. He was taller for a start, in fact, he was noticeably bigger in general. His eyes were a dark threatening shade of red, and whereas Marchaos’ wings were small, black and useless, this second Marchaos possessed large powerful wings.
Wings that were made of fire...
“What’s going on Marchaos?” asked Constance in alarm.
“There is no Marchaos!” boomed the fiery winged being in a voice so loud it could have been heard for miles, “I am Chaos! And this pathetic creature here is Marcus!”
The being that had once been known as Marchaos, but was now just Marcus, cowered in fear below the creature called Chaos.
“I don’t understand!” Constance said, turning towards Marcus, “is this true?”
“Yes,” replied the creature now called ‘Marcus’ despondently, “I’m so sorry Constance.”
Suddenly there was an almighty flash and Constance looked down to see that the basket of flowers that she and Marchaos had spent so long picking had vanished.
However it hadn’t gone far, Chaos now held them tightly to his chest.
“My flowers!” cried Constance.
Chaos then began to beat his fiery wings, forcing Constance to turn away as scalding hot air was fanned into her face, making her eyes sting and water.
The flaming monster then rose up into the air, laughing and cackling evilly. Constance began to flap her own wings, in a vain attempt at retrieving the stolen flowers, but Chaos roared at her, and she was momentarily turned to stone. Constance and the being now known as Marcus could only watch, helpless and powerless to do anything, as Chaos flew off into the twilight skies, headed in the direction of a monolithic silver peaked mountain on the horizon. Before long he was nothing but a flaming red speck in the distance, although his insane, malevolent laughter could still be heard, long after he had all but vanished...
Constance turned to Marcus, “What just happened Marchaos?” she said forlornly.
The being before her looked back at her with sad, desperate eyes. “I am not Marchaos, I am Marcus, and that monster was Chaos,” he replied, his expression one of guilt and shame, “Chaos is the half of me that I have been battling for many years. Whenever I’m happy, Chaos turns up to bring me down again. Whenever I do something good in my life, Chaos is never far behind, he’s always ready and waiting to destroy everything that I have worked so hard for. He is the self- destructive side of my nature, and I should have known that it wouldn’t be long until he reared his ugly head.”
“Why did he take my flowers?” asked Constance.
“Because that’s what he does, he causes the people I care about pain,” came the explanation from Marcus.
“Then you must fight him!” Constance said.
Marcus looked away from her in shame. “I can’t,” he said sadly.
“And why not?” Constance demanded to know.
“Because he’s too strong for me!” wailed Marcus in despair, “he’s not only the bad and evil in me, he’s also the strength within me. You’ve seen his wings, and you’ve seen mine. I’m pathetic...”
Marcus held his head in his hands and began to weep. Constance looked upon him in pity. “Well, I guess there’s nothing more to say...” She said, and she started to flap her magnificent wings and slowly she rose up into the air.
‘Goodbye Marcus...” she said sadly.
Marcus looked up at her, and he noticed that in the days fading light, her hair had changed from a fiery red to a warm golden yellow. A single tear rolled down her soft cheek and fell towards the grass. Marcus held out his hand and caught it, and as it splashed against his palm, he whispered,
And with that she gracefully soared away into the impending night, and Marcus could only watch after her…
Teary eyed and filled with regret.
A billion gleaming stars gazed down upon Marcus, as he sat in the meadow, cutting a forlorn and lonely figure.
His thoughts were dominated by Constance, how much he had hurt her, and loathing for Chaos. Most of all though it was himself he hated, for once again allowing the other half of him to destroy the good in his life.
Time passed slowly on by, as it did in this mystical land, and eventually Marcus’ thoughts were interrupted by a voice.
“You’re pathetic...” it said.
Marcus looked up to see a figure hovering above him. It was a woman, and it was hard to make out her features in the darkness. In fact, had it not been for the glowing light from the world's three moons, she would have been hardly visible at all. However, he did recognise her voice, although it surely couldn’t be the person he thought it was.
“Excuse me?” Marcus said in surprise.
“I said you’re pathetic,” the woman said again, “look at you, snivelling in the grass feeling sorry for yourself.”
This time there was no mistaking the voice, and as he peered up at the hovering figure, suddenly he could discern her features.
It was Constance!
But there was something alarmingly different about her.
Her hair was now jet black, darker than the night sky. Her eyes were a cold, icy blue, and whereas before there had been a softness and a kindness behind them, they were now sharp and malign. And her voice had lost that caring tone, it was now gravelly and filled with spite.
This was not the Constance that had captured his heart.
“Constance, is that you?” Marcus asked, almost fearfully.
“Sort of,” replied this dark Constance, “I am a part of her at least, and I know her better than anybody else.”
“What are you doing here?” Marcus asked.
“I’ve come to tell you that you need to forget about her, she’s the most beautiful creature in the meadow, and look at your wings, you can’t even fly!”
In all his years, Marcus didn’t think that any words had ever hurt or cut him so deeply. He had always lacked confidence in his appearance, been conscious of his wings and indeed all of his flaws. But to hear them so cruelly pointed out by the person he cared about more than anything else in the world, even if it was this dark side of her, broke his heart in ways he never thought possible. But although the words contained malice and hate, and despite the way they made him feel, he knew that the real Constance, the good side of Constance, cared about him just as much as he cared about her, despite his faults, and that this macabre being before him was merely a manifestation, sent here by Constance’ self-consciousness to hurt him and get back at him for what he had done to her.
He stood up and wiped his eyes. “You’re wrong,” he told the dark Constance simply, and he turned away from the apparition before him. “I care about Constance more than my life itself, and I am not going to let you or Chaos take her away from me,” he said defiantly. And for the first time in Marcus’ life he knew exactly what he needed to do.
He began to run.
“Where are you going!?” he heard the dark side of Constance snarl, “it’s pointless, you’re too weak and you know it!”
But Marcus ignored her, and he kept on running, deeper and deeper into the night, further and further into the darkness, never taking his eyes off the silvery mountain on the horizon, which shined out of the gloom like a beacon, forever guiding him...
Marcus ran for what felt like an age. He ran all through the night and didn’t stop even when his chest felt like it was going to explode and he was breathing heavier than one of the lands revered Dragons.
He felt fear, that he could not deny. In fact, he had never been so afraid in his life. But it didn’t matter, because Marcus knew that to be worthy of a creature like Constance, he would need to overcome his fears, and finally lay to rest the demon that had tormented him for so long...
Marcus’ journey took him over the great meadow and into the forest, where the sounds of creatures big and small surrounded him, and he could constantly feel a million tiny eyes, some wary, some hungry, watching him at all times. But he did not let them distract him, and never once did he take his eyes away from the mountain ahead, and eventually, after many hours (which of course were days for Marcus) he found himself out of the forest and at the foot of the monumental peak.
He looked around him. All was still. The only movement was a small stream that trickled its way down the steep slope before him.
“Chaos!” he cried, “Where are you?”
At first Marcus’ call was met with silence, the soft babbling of water the only sound to encroach his ears.
And then he heard it, the unmistakable sound of beating wings. And then he felt it, warmth on the back of his neck.
“Well look who decided to show up...” he heard a malicious voice say, and he spun round to face the towering, fiery vision of Chaos.
“Where are they?” Marcus asked, sounding much more forceful and confident than he actually felt.
“Where are what?” replied Chaos teasingly.
“You know what,” Marcus said, “Constance’s flowers.”
“Oh them!” said Chaos, “why they’re up there, all you have to do is fly up there and get them...” and he pointed up towards the mountain’s seemingly endless peak, which vanished into the black void that was the night sky.
Marcus’ heart sank. He should have known that Chaos would put them in the one place that he would never be able to get to them. He had come so far and now it seemed as if it was all going to be for nothing.
Chaos cackled hysterically. Marcus dropped to his knees, feeling completely and utterly useless, and closed his eyes. Chaos had beaten him again...
“I’m sorry Constance, I have failed you...” he whispered.
And that’s when he heard her soft and unmistakable voice.
“Look in the stream...” she said.
“Constance?” Marcus said, opening his eyes and looking around him. But she was nowhere to be seen. The voice had just been in his mind, however, he listened to it and looked in the trickling stream below him.
And that’s when he saw his reflection, and he gasped for breath when he saw the creature staring back at him. That wasn’t him, was it? It couldn’t be, for the being in the stream possessed wings that were no longer frail and black, but wings of the most vibrant colours imaginable, and they were large and strong. They were everything he had ever wanted. And as hard to believe as it was, he knew that it was him, it was his reflection that he gazed upon.
He stood up, feeling stronger and more powerful than he had ever felt before, and for the first time in his life, he began to flap his wings. Chaos could only look on in astonishment as Marcus began to rise up into the night sky, higher and higher, his heart beating a million miles an hour, a feeling of elation and serenity overcoming him that he had only ever felt once before in his life.
The moment that he had met Constance.
In no time at all he had reached the mountain’s top, and he landed gracefully on the shining silver snow. He looked around him and instantly saw what he was looking for. Constance’s basket of flowers, sat there in the snow, a few feet away from him. He leapt forward and picked them up.
“I’m coming Constance!” he called into the night, and he started to flap his wings.
But then he heard a voice snarling behind him. “And where do you think you’re going?”
He turned around to face Chaos. And for the first time in his life, he wasn’t afraid.
“I am going to be with the most beautiful creature I have ever known, and I am going to be happy,” Marcus replied with a smile, “and there is nothing you can do to stop me, not anymore. You have ruined my life for the last time Chaos, I’m stronger than you now.”
And then to Chaos’ horror, he began to shrink, “Nooo! What’s happening to me?” he shrieked, and his voice was no longer the thunderous roar of a lion, but the harmless squeak of a field mouse. Within seconds, he had descended from a huge and terrifying monster to the size of a firefly. He hovered in front of Marcus’ eyes, nothing but a glowing dot in the darkness. Marcus stepped forward, and with one swoop of the arm he plucked Chaos out of the air and held him in his palm.
“Nooo!” came a tiny little squeal from the creature that had once been known as Chaos, as Marcus popped him into his mouth like a berry and swallowed him whole. A small wisp of smoke came out of Marcus’ mouth, no larger than a breath of condensation on a crisp morning, and that was all that was left of the monster that had controlled him for so long.
And with that the being who had once been known as Marcus, but was now Marchaos again, flapped his newly formed wings, and clutching a basket of beautiful flowers belonging to an equally as beautiful creature, he began to ascend into the starry glow of the world’s three moons, and as he looked down upon the mountain top below he saw a figure looking up at him.
It was the dark side of Constance, and at that moment Marchaos knew that it had been her voice he had heard down by the stream, who had given him the strength to become the person he always knew he could be.
He smiled at her. “Thank you...” he called out into the night.
She made no reply but smiled back at him. And then she vanished into thin air, leaving Marchaos to wonder if she had ever even been there at all...
Marchaos flew through the night, and by the time he got back to the meadow, the world was bathed in the orange glow of the world’s rising suns. A tiny and lonely figure sat in the grass below, and Marchaos swooped quietly down and landed softly behind her.
She did not hear him approach.
“Constance...” he said.
She recognised his voice but did not turn around. “I have nothing to say to you,” she said despondently, “I don’t even know who you are, are you Marchaos, Marcus, or even Chaos?”
“I am Marchaos,” came the reply.
“And so he is still a part of you, you and him are together again?”
“Chaos will always be a part of me,” explained Marchaos, “after all, everyone has a side to them that they don’t like, a bad side to their nature, everyone makes mistakes and does things that they regret, and I am not, and never will be any different. But no longer will I let Chaos be the strength in me, be something that I cannot control, and never again will I let him hurt you like that Constance.”
Constance slowly turned around and gasped when she saw what Marchaos held in his hands.
“The flowers, you got them back!?” she exclaimed, and she got to her feet. Marchaos noticed that her hair had changed again, it was now a deep brown and looked as equally beautiful on her as any colour he had previously seen her wear.
“Of course,” Marchaos said, smiling, a new found glint in his purple eyes that Constance immediately noticed. It was then that she noticed something else.
“Oh my god, Marchaos, your wings!” she gasped.
“I know,” Marchaos said simply.
Constance went to say something else, but what that was we will never know because Marchaos stopped her, and he held out his hand.
“Fly with me,” he said.
With a smile Constance replied, “That would be most agreeable.”
“Most...” Marchaos said, and with that Constance took his hand, and together they began to beat their wings and ascend up into the bright morning sky.
“What about the flowers?” asked Marchaos.
“They don’t matter,” replied Constance, “after all, we have all the time in the world to pick more...”
And so hand in hand, Constance and Marchaos soared through the golden clouds and the changing colours, leaving everything in their wake, and although the dark cloud of Chaos was never far behind them, they knew that as long as they never stopped flapping their wings, they would always stay that one step ahead.
They never looked back...