I am magic! And I mean that literally: I am a spell. I live in the world of spells, where magic goes when not used. I am not completely sure what I do when I come out to the world of people, but then I seem to be a bit forgetful sometimes.
I know that the world is completely different from ours, however. For one, it does not have the same shade of red all over it, and when you are in it, you cannot simply think up things for yourself, or think yourself someplace different. All this is quite normal in the world of spells, and I quite like it here – even if it is sometimes a bit confusing.
Every now and then my mage comes to our world, and summons us, his spells, to do his bidding. There are others like me, and I think we all look kind of strange. I look less strange than most, but that might be because I am used to myself. But we all worship our mage; he is our creator and master, and we are his willing tools. In our realm, he is almighty.
Occasionally, mages other than my mage come to our world. They appear somewhat fuzzy, and strain to keep their focus. This is clearly my mage's turf, which the others are trying to invade. We defend our realm, naturally; I take particular pleasure in distracting the vile attackers by changing my form so that they lose their focus and dissipate, screaming in pain. I have found that seductive forms work the best; the enemy expects to see horrible monsters, and is confused by beautiful women or handsome men coming to embrace them.
They might consider my cackles of mad glee somewhat less pleasant, however, as their thoughts slip and their defenses fall.
I do not talk to the other spells much; there is a black spell who looks all furry, except he is made of glass and not soft at all. I don't really like his tone when he talks to me (you'll notice I've decided that he's a he, but this has more to do with linguistic convenience than any gender differences I can attribute to us). He has a tendency to mock everyone; I'll bet that as a spell, he is something that involves poison or sharp thorns when he is unleashed to the world of people.
The spell that I avoid the most looks like a sad nightmare of a drunkard. It (I have tremendous trouble thinking of it as a person, so you will have to excuse me) has eight tentacles which it floats on. The lower half of its head looks like the red, torn roots of a tree turned upside down. Some of the roots reach high enough to support a loose, eternally sad white porcelain mask, which forms all the face it has. There was a time when I was curious and grabbed hold of the mask, and it came loose – the rest kept on shambling around listlessly. That was so creepy I'd still have nightmares of it, if I had dreams to begin with. All this has lead me to think of it as Nightmare; if you ask me, it must be a spell to drive people crazy.
I have seen flashes of other spells, but Nightmare and Black are the only ones I have talked to – or, in the case of Nightmare, attempted to communicate with in vain. So I spend my time mostly by myself, and dispersing invaders that dare come defile my mage's realm.
Just the other day, my life took a slight turn for the worse. Apparently my mage has decided that I am just a bit too mean, of all things! He came to change me a bit. It was a painful operation, and twisted my innards. When I grumbled at him, he threatened that he would take me to see Nightmare (he doesn't call it that, but I knew what he meant just perfectly without him saying its name). I grudgingly promised to try to be a bit nicer to the vile invaders.
It troubles me that after the adjustment, I think I am a bit afraid of my mage. Or well, I am not sure what the feeling is, but it is disturbing nevertheless. It disturbs me enough that I've found I need to discuss it with someone. Nightmare's no good for a conversation, so I think myself to where Black is.
Black's thought up a black spear for himself. I'm not sure what he has been doing with it before I showed up, but when he notices me, he hits it on the ground and leaves it standing there. I know he sort of needs to keep thinking about any external parts of himself or they dissipate, so his gesture is particularly amusing. Inspired, I decide to make tools of my own and keep focusing on them forever, just to see if I can do it. The splendidness of the idea almost makes me forget what I came here for.
But that can wait. I tell Black what troubles me, and expect him to come up with something mocking to say about it. Instead, he looks at me strangely. "You dislike Him?"
I meditate on this while designing the petal butterflies I will create later. "I wouldn't be quite so dramatic, no, but it feels like something's missing that used to be there before, you know?"
Black chuckles bitterly. "'Used to be there before', indeed." He glances at the spear stuck at the ground (which is really all too soft to support a spear, but hey, we do not let these details bother us, so why would you?), and shatters it with a poke of his finger.
He is being much more strange than usual, and my vague feeling of disturbedness grows in the absence of his usual thorny self. Seriously, something must be bugging him. I create some bugs to crawl by him to underline my train of thought. They disperse into nothingness after they crawl far enough to be uninteresting to me.
He turns to look at me with his glassy, black eyes. "Do you want to hear a story?"
He has his entire focus on me. I turn black and sharded myself for a moment from the sheer impact of the mental connection. My bugs vanish in the background, but neither of us even bothers to notice. I nod, thoroughly confused by now.
"You were not always like this. In fact, you were like the people who come here, who you tear asunder so imaginatively these days. Hell, I was like that once too, and so was Nightmare. She was a friend of yours, for crying out loud, and the shreds of awareness she has left just scream for the pain she feels for you to have fallen to this fate. It makes me queasy just to be around her."
I blink at him, and as I go through his words in my head, my shape shifts from something vaguely resembling Nightmare (he didn't call it that, but I can't seem to remember what he called it; I know I recognized it though) to one of the invaders I recently distracted. It is all so very strange! I shake my head to clear it, but wonder for a moment why something like that should help to begin with. After all, if I want to, I can just think about it and my head becomes as clear as a midsummer night. A fog creeps in around us, and I have to focus again to make it go away.
"This fate?" I manage to form a mouth again, and a word to go with it.
"I distracted you, so you could be imprisoned by the mage. And it felt great, I knew you from back when I lived. You were too powerful for me to ever defeat alone, but with my and his powers combined, you fell and shattered to a million pieces. He then took the pieces and reassembled you into a light-headed, featherbrained dream who can't even remember why she's here."
The image Black paints is so vivid it burns into the very air around us. I have to gather all my strength and willpower to stay in one piece when he speaks of my falling apart. A wind threatens to blow me away like a cloud, and for the first time in who knows when, I am afraid that I might not be able to gather myself back into a single entity if I let myself go now.
After a while, I manage to stabilize my fluctuating feelings again, and change my colour from the usual warm red of our realm to an icy-cold blue. I harden my surface experimentally, and find that it is somewhat easier to focus when parts of me are not flowing around quite so freely.
"I'm a person?" The sentence forms more easily now; I don't even change my appearance when I think or say the words. I don't think I have ever been this rigid; I feel frozen, like my unworried, free soul were chained to the harsh, brutal reality Black has decided to live in today. I would be thoroughly fascinated by this, if only he were not focusing on me so intensely. I cannot turn away even for a moment to stop to think about what I feel.
"He did a great job on you; I think he maybe was worried you might be strong enough to break loose again otherwise. Your little friend he just scrambled into a sorry half-existence as a side thought, since his full strength was focused on you. He wanted to harness your strength, use you the way he's used me, so he wanted you to stay coherent enough. Nevertheless, he managed to make you so distracted you forgot all about yourself."
"Are you saying I at some point fought my mage?" His story is preposterous, but enthralling. Me against my mage, indeed! He is all-powerful, and he has created me, and he is the sole source of my happiness in this strange place – which I constantly find myself comparing to a another world I don't recall ever visiting...
He looks almost exasperated. "Look, we're all prisoners here, but you're so messed up you're not even aware of it. He's enslaved the lot of us, after defeating us in a battle of wills. I don't think anyone's ever managed to bind this many minds of others to himself. He might end up ruling the outside world yet, if that's his plan. I don't really understand why he'd let you slip like this now. Maybe he's losing it."
The thought of my mage being anything but almighty makes me form a visible crack at my chest. I patch it up, but an unbearable sadness remains.
"But if you know you're a prisoner, why haven't you escaped?"
He snorts. "I'm not strong enough to break out; he defeated me without any help, remember? He didn't make me forget because I wasn't going anywhere anyway, and he mocks my weakness when he bends me to his will." He looks at me almost fondly. "Granted that in your case, I was happy to oblige, even if it was to benefit the bastard."
I frown. This human gesture comes to me so naturally that it gives me the chills. "Why?"
"I told you, you were Someone, much more powerful an opponent than I could ever wish to have defeated on my own. And you and your freaking brotherhood were so uptight, it was about time someone taught you a lesson. I'm not sure what happened to the rest of you; after you fell, they quickly retreated. Only little Jadie stayed; she was too fond of you to leave, and tried to gather enough of you together to save you until he put an end to it."
I start to leak tears from all over my cold, hard body. The ice melts away, and as fury seeps into me I turn into molten metal until I cool down and stiffen again. Jadie. I heard her name. I will remember her name from now on.
"I will destroy him," I growl. I am not really driven by sense; I am not sure if I have such a thing left in me. But my desire to create petal butterflies has been replaced with a much stronger urge to cut the mage into two with a large, sharp object.
Black shakes his head. "The only thing we can destroy at this point is each other; it's his mind we're in, after all. It's not like I have a body to go back to anymore, either. I doubt yours is any more alive than mine." He turns to look away, and I am freed from the focus he poured on me. I feel my edges soften for a moment, but keep my form.
I am the steely embodiment of determination as I think myself to the place my mage has just appeared.
He does not even have time to greet me; I imagine an enormous sword into my hands and swing it at him with enough strength to cut an anvil in half.
When my sword touches him, it shatters into pieces. He laughs heartily, and my baffled dismay almost makes me fall back to my accustomed shape.
He grabs my steel hand, which transforms into skin on contact, and moves us both to Black, who turns around nervously. The mage, no longer mine any more than I am his, grins evilly. "So, you two have been chatting, I take it?" Black shrinks away at his mocking voice. I pull my hand loose, turn it into a spear and thrust it at the mage's heart. He makes me stop against my will just before I pierce his skin, and slams me with a wave of disapproval.
My existence flickers. When I stabilize enough to think again, Black is on his knees, face down. I don't think I've ever seen him afraid, but he looks afraid right now. In fact, I see him oozing fear out of his glass armour. I'm not sure why; the mage seems more amused than angry. Frustrated, I think myself away, anywhere but here.
I find myself standing next to Nightmare – Jadie, I correct myself. I can feel her sadness like a cloud constantly flowing around her, now that I know to look for it. I look at her mask, and recall something Black said earlier.
"Jadie, I'm going to set you free. Go in peace, and don't feel sad for me any more."
I pick up the porcelain mask her roots barely hold up, and crush it against my chest. The dream that once was Jadie melts into the ground, and is no more.
As the last pieces of the mask fall to the ground and sink into it, I collect myself to face the mage one more time.