by Kaylia Mai
Art by Christine Cheng
Issue: Paracosm (Winter 2017)
There was a sundry assortment of colors, and those violets, ivories, magentas, and turquoises formed a palette of options to paint the world. Every change in saturation and hue brought forth another shade and style on another layer of magnifestry that became the foundation of our subliminal story.
The first chirps sounded from a tree, then a chorus of melodies followed. A single bird led a flock that fluttered down to land amongst white poppies and yellow daffodils lining a cobblestone path. The lonely villa rose high and black against an orange and pink horizon. The drapes were drawn tightly, not a glowing crack of yellow filtered through. The swimming pool east of the villa shimmered turquoise and back to cerulean again. A fresh, cool zephyr gently wafted by.
There was a strange image in the water, a creature with long fins and a twisting tail. Its back was plated with numerous obsidian, shining scales, and atop those extended smooth, leathery wings. The third dimension expanded upward, and suddenly instead of a mirage the creature now was very much solid in the pool. I saw the innate, fierce wildness of a hunter but also the curiosity of a young doe.
My skirt swished as I ran to the creature, and it greeted me with a gentle nuzzle. It did not feel like anything, not cold or warm, not rough nor slippery. Water that should have soaked it through and dripped over my clothes was nonexistent. In my mind, it was not surreal, not when it lifted its enormous weight with a single flap of its wings, nor when its grin displayed an unexpected friendliness. It was like meeting a lost friend.
The shadow-monster seeped from out of the water and trailed behind us. I laughed, and Timmy smiled, and we romped around the property. I allowed it to join us, and offered it a green apple from my basket.
To us, the nature around us was full of the furious growls of hidden demons waiting to be slain. The air was the smog after a conflagration, and also the sweet fragrance of a strawberry cake. I pranced from the wildflowers by the road, and their saccharine aroma, and onto large, smooth stones on the side of the villa. Timmy and I balanced precariously, shifting our weight to and fro, and imagined crashing waves threatening to capsize our raft, or perhaps the slippery, armored back of a pure white stallion.
Little marigolds and carnations dotted the earth, adding golden yellows and pale pinks below the blooming white flowers of a magnolia tree. Soft and serene, the sun peaked just over the rooftop on an azure tapestry.
School had begun, and I found myself playing with Timmy in the yard less. Once or twice, I tried reading a nonfiction book that left me befuddled from lengthy phrases and foreign concepts. More often than not I stared out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of tail or claw. I searched for simplicity in the world, for a constant, solid presence. The rare few moments Timmy came over were few and treasured.
“Look!” Timmy yelled, “There’s a bird-monster on the house!”
My sword was immediately drawn, in all its glory with leaves and blossoms still attached, and I brandished it at the rooftop. I squinted, and a cyan eagle with the head of a tiger appeared. It shrieked and, with a flap of its huge wings, launched itself to the ground before me.
The creature threw its weight into a feathered, winged swipe, skimmed the tips of my bangs as it fell off balance, and scrambled sideways to retain stability. It reared and lashed its tail at Timmy with a sound-penetrating shriek. In the disorienting cacophony of voice and movement, I saw Timmy laugh and throw a stone that was inaccurate by meters. The bird-monster travelled freely and effortlessly, claws sliding through the terrain with surprising ease, while Timmy and I stumbled and tripped over clumps of dirt and tufts of grass. The incredulity amounted to barely repressed giggles as the three of us flocked around in our strange dance. Then the creature took its leave of us day as abruptly as it had appeared, for the day had closed
Time shuffled on like the rustle of flipping pages, each moment lingered before sweeping away, and the days grew steadily shorter.
Lush green turned golden and scarlet, drifting slowly down to cover the roads. Rays of yellow and dazzling balls of white glinted off every surface, creating a spectacular grandiloquent show that both amazed us and hurt our sight. The sun was high in the sky, and the coruscating lighting made it harder to see the bird-monster that we fought.
Timmy’s mom and my mom conversed in undertones, glancing every once in a while at Timmy and me. I did not notice it much, Timmy was sneaking up on the bird-monster to attack it from behind while I distracted it. The bird-monster screeched, and Timmy was right there, but then Timmy’s mom was calling him and the bird-monster escaped victorious.
I asked my mom what day Timmy will come back, but a strange look came over her countenance and she asked me about my new school. Later, I searched tirelessly for the unvanquished bird-monster, but it had mysteriously disappeared like all the rest that had gone before. No more monsters leapt out, and we fought no more glorious battles.
I struggle to cough up the swollen knot in my throat, and swam in melancholy for days afterward, but the white knight I had yearned for was a lie. Salvation was to come only from my own volition. Still, true as the grass is green and the sky blue, all feelings pass. With that realization, my crushing weight abruptly dissolved.
Pale yellow beams receded behind a distant tree line, the villa becoming a nebulous, crepuscular structure. Sometimes, I could still see the land of monsters, but now there was a little girl in the faded world too. She had short black bangs and wore a sapphire skirt. The shadow-monster had also come back, to lurk in the corners. Although it still possessed the same number of jagged ended scales and hard, long claws, it seemed darker. It was an old friend it was not quite the cute companion of my past. The girl spoke to the shadow-monster, laughed with it, and I did not understand why. The little girl was oblivious. Instead of fleeing, she brought along a little boy, as young and joyful as a green leaf in the wind. They danced, ate green apples, and waved their stick-weapons in the air.
Red and purple rays shone one last time over the landscape, and everything slowly faded once more.