The trees are all white. The Blackthorns had bloomed almost overnight, illuminating the day in a glorious ring of promise.
She sits under one of those trees staring up at the sky through the maze of white, the sun rippling like waves of an ocean over her face. If it weren’t for the brightness of her dress, one might mistake her for a woodland nymph come to bask in the glory.
The bright purple of her dress does give her away though, for it is bold against her white skin and hair.
In her hands she holds a newborn sparrow. Its neck is snapped from a fall taken too soon. It has no feathers and no wings; and it never will. She sits with the dead bird in her fingers and she gently sings a song. The bird does not move, the sunlight ripples, and when the song is over, she gently places the bird upon the ground where it will be drawn back into the earth. She gathers the skirts of her dress and departs with an intention that is not yet clear to her.
He stands across the street, his arms full of groceries, watching her make her way from the still empty park and back into the streets of the small town. She walks with a slowness that most do not possess in this world, and that is how he immediately knows that she is not like the rest of them. She is different just like him.
The bags feel light as air in his arms, loaded up as they are. People give him strange looks as he shifts slightly in his dark, wool jacket, glaringly too heavy for this first nice day of spring. But just as the weight doesn’t bother him, so too the temperature has little effect. Instead of these feelings of weight and temperature, the throbbing, brutal, ever-changing world pulses underneath his skin. The ones around him have blood that runs through their veins, but he has something different that pulses bright and hard, beating the organs inside of him to movement.
She turns the corner and disappears from his sight. He shouldn’t follow her. If she is as he is they would draw too much attention. But that’s what is most curious to him- the Others don’t come here because they know it isn’t their place. Even more curious is that she had caught his eye despite his own distractions.
He sighs. Curiosity. One of the many traits he has come to know and openly find rewarding, but it is more so that he has not met another like him in a very, very long time. He and Ed have been the only ones for ages.
He adjusts the bags and sets off at a quick pace, his feet fluidly navigating the swell of souls that walk among him. He doesn’t like to hurry like this, it’s beyond him why they all do, but at least in this moment he understands why. These beings are all about the chase and his has just begun.
For awhile something has been calling out to her and in return that something has been calling out to something else. There is a small seed not of her self searching out into this vast, different place she has never had the courage to visit. The name of this seed is It. The pull had started as she sang a song so very long ago; this feeling that something was waiting for her. She takes a deep breath. All of it is foreign and so unlike the Plain that she has inhabited for her entire existence.
The small beings that are her companions told her that it wasn’t right for her to be here. They had said so in hushed tones and for a long time she had listened because their words made sense. She had no need to leave her Plain, for it had been created solely for her. There was happiness there, simplicity, and her many songs that she was forever coming up with as each being sifted through her fingers. Each one got a song and it was her gift to them.
She can feel the fingertips of all the beings around her pressing into her skin like bruises. They are reminders that perhaps this will be too overwhelming and difficult to understand as her companions had warned her.
There are so many faces, faces she has never seen, but spirits under skin that are familiar to her because they rest within her like veins. She is connected to each of them and their stories, and she knows what each of their hurried steps brings them towards. Her.
The small It inside her shudders. She stops, her feet feeling the vibrations of movement around her. The cars that give off their stink, the metallic chug of motors and sound of slapping wheels. A cough, a sneeze, a woman talking loudly to a friend. She closes her eyes, trying to narrow in on whatever strange string she has picked up on. It isn’t one of her beings but rather something different and far more potent.
She turns slowly, brushing a piece of hair from her face. The thrill of that moment overwhelms her thought process and she twirls the piece of hair. She did not have a presence where she came from, not like this. Her Plain had no light, so she had no eyes, she floated, so she had no arms or legs, and she had no expressions to convey, so she was faceless.
But here she is everything she ever felt the press of fingers against her skin to be.
“Excuse me.” The voice is soft, unhurried, and male.
It flares, pulls tight, and her eyes go wide.
Recognition pulses hot and white, and she can see it there in his eyes, too. He recognizes her for what she is despite her careful mask. Something follows quickly behind the initial shock, bubbling like a secret from her toes to her face. She feels her cheeks grow warm, reaching up without thinking to rest her hand against them.
She watches him watch her. Watches his eyes go wide and then narrow. She sees the quick and wicked misunderstanding grow there in his face.
“What are you doing here?” He reaches out with fast fingers and drops his bag of groceries. They break against the sidewalk and a strange array of vegetables and fruits scatter across the pavement. Someone cries out and as they do she twists away from him, breaking his grip, and runs.
He takes a lunge towards her in hopes of grabbing her, but she is too quick. He could give chase but already he can see they have attracted too much attention. The many beings around him have stopped and are giving him cautious stares, a few outright hostile. But of course. What does it look like- a man dressed for winter, reaching out and attacking a beautiful young stranger. A stranger he has never met but without a doubt knows.
With a grunt of frustration he watches her disappear into the chaos before bending down to gather his groceries. He exhales heavily, his fear and anger growing in the loss of the moment. What is she doing here? Never had he expected to find this essence here among the living. Doesn’t she know? Doesn’t she realize that isn’t how things work?
He takes deep breaths, trying to bring down the anger that threatens to overwhelm him. It took him years to get over it. Years to move on, and he finally had. But now. Now this Other confronts him in his place, his world.
Shaking, he turns his feet back the way he has come. He’ll go home and ring Edward. Yes, Ed will know because, after all, he knows everything.
She walks in the strange place, the stones all around her embedded in the ground. Her fingers chase across the cold granite, spelling out names and phrases that do not mean a thing to her. But of course she understands the moment her feet step across the grass. This is one of those places of Remembrance. Yes, her companion had told her about it. Where they come to try to hold onto memories.
She shakes her head. Silly. All of it. They should write the dead a song instead. It’s far easier to remember and more beautiful to sing then this place of cold, dead stone and silent, decaying winter leaves.
She sits. What a fright, encountering him. The feeling is new and overwhelming, and her limbs are still shaking from the strength of it. She sighs and concedes it makes sense that he is here. Why wouldn’t he be? This is his place. He works tirelessly for it.
A great sorrow sweeps inside her new body, weighing down any of the glory she had just begun to see and smell and admire. She doesn’t belong here. Her companions were right. A few hours in this place and she already understands enough. Just from meeting him and looking into the beauty and light in his eyes she understands. He fights for this every day and yet, here she is, trying to walk just for a moment among the very thing he has created despite her own efforts.
“But efforts I never mean to make for bad,” she whispers quietly to no one. “I know what I am and I cannot be anything else.” She should leave, she thinks, and never return.
She stands, but then she hears someone approaching from behind.