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“Smell of rosemary on hot days to the frantic rattle of cicadas”
-Call me by your name

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Constantly in a state of “I’m writing this for myself” with a dash of “damn validation would be nice”

The little blue house

August 27, 2019



    The little blue house sat on top of a large mountain. There were no roads, save for a narrow dirt path mangled by tree roots, that could guide a stray traveller up the incline. Once a person passed the wide trees with their bark stained red from the ages and printed with damp moss, the path ended. The forest thinned as trees turned to shrubs and then to tall grass that played melodies when the eastern winds swept by. The air thinned at this point and a weary traveler would decide to return back down the mountain. No one had reached the little blue house in years. Only the desperate reached the summit, and that came with a high cost. 

    Delia sat, slightly leaning into the fire pit, as she placed another log onto the growing flame. Winter had seemed to reach the mountain early that year and her time to make preparations was limited. The red log crackled, producing a smoky sweet scent that fumed and grasped at the corners of the room. Delia stood, wiping the small beads of sweat from her brow.  
She could keep one area warm, the home or the garden. Her enchantments were only so strong. It had extinguished so much of her magic, to make the pale blue house isolated and unseen, by those who dared to venture to the summit.
    When a stranger reached the peak, all they ever saw was mist. No little blue house, no garden, no Delia. The choice between keeping the house warm or the garden was a simple one. She could heat the home with fire and sleep under piles of feathered comforters, but without her garden, she would undoubtedly starve. 
    Walking to the other side of the kitchen, the mage sat on a stool to begin peeling carrots for dinner. The peels from the vegetable limply fell into the sink as Delia stared out the window, distracted. Her knife slipped between her hands, slicing a thin line on her index finger. Cursing, Delia mumbled a simple incantation, healing the cut as new skin formed, leaving the slightest hint of a scar. She brought her finger up to light, observing her handiwork. A moment later, the corner of her eye caught a shadow outside the window. 
    Delia could only make out short glimpses through the mist and she wondered how close the figure was to her house. Deer rarely ventured so high into the alps, but perhaps her prayers had worked, and this was a sign that she would find food to combat the early winter. 
    Her hands hastily grabbed her bow and woolen coat from their hooks, taking no time to do the buttons, she raced out the door. Deer was a rare treat and Delia could scarcely remember what meat tasted like. 

    Her eyebrows furrowed, as the shape of the creature became more clear in the dim lighting of dusk. Impossible. Her mind yelled. Impossible. The creature in fact was no deer, but a young woman. Impossible. The woman’s face was dirty and streaked with dried tears and her nose was red and runny. She looked up, startled as if she really were a deer, and before Delia could come closer the woman leapt up to her feet and ran through the tall grass towards the red trees, descending the mountain. 
How in magic did she get past my enchantments? Why, she looked no older than I, Delia pondered, still gazing in the direction of the fleeing woman. Delia aged eons slower than a human, some mages viewed this as a blessing, and others...
    Her thoughts were interrupted by a shrill cry that broke though the white misty air. Delia almost screamed back until she noticed the cries were coming from a small lump on the ground. A bundle of rags lay on the hard earth, wailing so loudly that Delia considered a silencing spell. When one of the cleaner rags fell open and revealed a small face, it’s chubby cheeks, pink with cold and it’s small eyes, squinty with tears. 
    “Why, it’s only a babe,” Delia declared crouching down to the bundle. The creature continued to wail as she gently picked it up and held it close to her chest. As Delia retraced her way back to the blue house, the baby’s sighs softened and began to fall asleep to the lull of her footsteps. 

    The sun had burnt out and fallen behind the peaks of the mountains; inside, the house had developed a cold bite in the air. Both the outside and interior of the house were painted the same shade of blue, although, the interior walls were so covered in crookedly hung art that the light blue could hardly be seen. When freshly painted, the ensemble of pigmented dyes often left the rooms drifting in the sweet scents of wildberries. 
    Inside, the fire still crackled in its hearth and the kitchen remained the only warm room. Scooping the carrot peels out of the sink with one hand and balancing the baby in the other, Delia cleaned the sink of scraps and placed the babe in the basin. The tub upstairs was too large for the little one, and she was scared the babe would catch a chill if she left the fire’s warmth. Delia tested the water with her hand before removing the dirty rags.
    The baby’s soft skin was rubbed raw where the rags had been tightly wrapped. Since she had plucked him from the ground, he hadn’t cried once; and now his eyes were large and stared at her with an open and soft expression. She tenderly soaked him in the shallow water. His fingers were soon in his mouth and he sucked on them as she washed the dirt away. Delia, cooing at the baby, reached for the dried lavender that hung from the cabinet and pinched the purple flakes, mixing them into the water.
    “What should I call you?” She whispered at the him, lightly washing his wisps of dark hair. 
Delia was the only name she could remember being given. Delia of the red mountains, was her title for many years; however, she wasn’t always called that. As she aged with the mountains, her auburn hair gained more red highlights. It was natural for a nature mage’s appearance to shift with their location; yet, she had resided in the mountains for so long that Delia was unsure if she still held that ability. 
    The baby squealed as Delia picked him up and patted him dry with a fraying towel. 
“You see much of the world,” She remarked, observing his wide eyes reflected his surroundings, “you remind me of a boy I used to know a long time ago. He had a fiery temper and fought at every occasion, against anyone who could wield a sword. But, he was also a kind person. He saved my  life once.”
    The baby did not answer. 
    Delia grabbed an empty wooden basket and layered it with clean towels. The baby was now falling asleep, his fat cheeks dipping downwards. 
    “I suppose you’re curious to know his name?” Delia turned towards the sleeping infant and placed him in her makeshift cradle. 
    The baby was fast asleep and only in his dreams would he have heard the name, “Elio.”
    Night stilled the mountain and cast a strange Shadow over the blue house. Delia and her new son slept peacefully on the kitchen floor, the remaining embers of the fire sizzling to darkened ash. Delia shivered as her skin prickled against the frosty air. Her mind was deep in slumber as she pulled Elio’s basket closer. 
    The Shadow too was in the kitchen, floating above the sleeping pair.  His curly mane of ebony hair clocked his pale face from the flittering moonlight. A sharp grin slowly spread across his face as he reached down and touched the sleeping baby on the arm. 
    “Life is followed only by death.” A black ink sludged around Elio’s wrist and marked it like a dark birthmark. Another, lighter colored ink inched up to his face and printed around his left eye. 
    The Shadow felt the force of his magic greedily sapping his strength. Sneering, he called back the dark spell, and the sludge lifted from the baby.
    “We will meet,” the Shadow said, his voice hoarse, “and when that day arrives there shall be such sweet suffering.”
    The sunlight brightened the kitchen, reflecting off copper pots and pans. Through the glass window, the morning had casted a small rainbow on the floor. Delia woke, her back aching from sleeping on the hard wood, and she lazily yawned before remembering the previous day’s events. Her head whipped towards the basket that lay beside her and her shoulders relaxed when she saw Elio’s sleeping face. 
    “Why, this wasn’t here yesterday, was it?” She questioned, tracing her finger along the edges of the baby’s markings. The silver around his eye had an almost luminescent glow that reminded Delia of the slippery scales of a koi fish. Then, she saw the black splotches by his wrist. Dark magic. She nibbled on her bottom lip. Delia had not seen these markings in all her time living on the mountain, and she wondered if taking a human boy into her home of magic, had caused this defect. 
    Elio opened his eyes, but they were not the dark brown that had greeted her yesterday. His left eyeball was now pitch black, a stark contrast to the silver mark on his face. Gods. If there was a chance of removing whatever spell had been cast, Delia knew she would have to act quickly.
    She stood and left the blue walls of her home, treading briskly towards the garden. Morning dew dampened the trim of her dress, as Delia scanned the rows of plants for the white blossoms of Gypsophila. She found them in a cluster, and grabbed a handful. The plant was known as baby’s breath. Each stem had a hundred flowers and resembled the delicate flakes of first snow. 
    Delia tripped as she went back inside, ignoring the sting, and grabbed her mortar and pestle. She crushed the flower into a fine white powder and cast an incantation, the ring on her finger emitting a faint emerald light. The mortar filled with warm water and began to steam, the powder disintegrating into a drink that resembled herbal tea.
    “It’s a bit hot, but you must drink, Elio.” Delia focused her magic, and curled her hand upward lifting the liquid from the mortar and forming droplets from the potion. The droplets hung in the air as she willed them to move individually to Elio’s mouth. She remembered when she was a sickly child, and Gran would use this technique to feed her watered down soup.
After the first two droplets had been drunk, Elio began to cry, his fists curling and shaking up and down. 
    “I’m sorry little one, I don’t know how the black marking was formed, but it bears only ill intentions.” Delia said, noticing the black in his eye beginning to fade to its normal brown. The mark around Elio’s wrist, however, was unyielding. 
    The emerald ring on her index finger shone brighter as she could feel her magic bubbling at the surface of her soul demanding more payment than she could shoulder. Collapsing to her knees, Delia felt her hair stick to her face from effort, and she asked herself when she had become so weak.  
    Elio’s left pupil returned to its shade of brown, however the white mark around his eye and the black near his wrist were stuck to him, an entity of impenetrable magic. Over the course of the week, Delia spent all waking hours dedicated to two purposes, preparing for winter, and caring for her son. 
    She had not noticed any abnormal behavior that would suggest Elio was affected by the dark magic. No, her son was healthy, often accompanying her to the garden, and crawled in the moist dirt of the vegetable beds. The garden was warm, submersed in Delia’s enchanted imitation of summer heat. She felt at ease when Elio was in the garden. The early winter had made that year difficult, and she was thankful her magic had not dwindled too profusely after attempting to rid Elio of his markings. The origin of the dark magic was still a mystery, and though the worry had not completely left her, it was slowly pushed back from the forethought of her mind. 

Chapter two:
Elio was growing so quickly, Delia could scarcely believe the little boy was the same baby she had rescued four years prior. His dark hair had grown out, and in summer the humidity would curl the locks by his face. Elio had grown to be tall for his age, while Delia looked exactly the same as she had all those nights ago. 
    “Elio, bring me my ring please.” Delia called out to her son, positioning the last stone in the circle. 
    The boy ran back inside, his little fingers curling around the emerald that sat on the counter. He carried it to his mother carefully, both hands outstretched, his eyes refusing to leave the gem as he walked.  
    “Here you go mama,” he said, proudly lifting the ring for her to see. Delia ruffled his hair and hoisted him up on her hip. It was his fourth  year of life and this was the traditional age for mages to join their parents in the solstice circle. The rocks that had been gathered were washed and polished, and Delia engraved each with a small rune of the southern script. 
    She pressed a kiss to her son’s forehead, and he smelt of wild mountain air. Delia set him back on the ground and held his hand as they stepped into the circle. His grip was tight as Delia recited the words that had been long passed down.
    “Sol convertetur amet abstulit hiemem aestas. Restituere animam meam in qua potestate saeculorum vocabuntur in ea.” She said, feeling the weight of winter’s icy grip finally leave her bones. 
    Delia opened her eyes and felt a powerful energy replenish her magic. Her nerves tingled with anticipation, wishing to cast a spell to relieve the strain. She opened her eyes which had been briefly closed during the casting, and looked down at Elio to see his eyes tightly shut. As a nature mage, Delia was rejuvenated during the summer solstice. Her emerald ring gleamed with a year’s supply of magic, and for the next day her skin would radiate a warm glow.  Elio peeked open his eyes and brought his arms up to examine them. 
    “Where’s my glow?” He pouted, his pale skin lacking the luminescence of a mage.
    Delia frowned, an expression she was not accustomed to making. With the markings Elio had gained the first night she had found him, Delia was sure that he must have some sort of ability. 
    “Perhaps it did not work,” she explained, as they walked to the garden. 
    Elio upper lip wobbled, until he saw a grasshopper chirping on a long stand of grass. He let go of his mother’s hand and ran towards the insect, with the wonder only a small child could possess. Delia snorted at her son, and left him to play in the grass. 

    She treaded up to the steepest part of the summit, where a wooden chair sat waiting next to her wobbly easel. Her dyes sat in small clay pots, and swirled in the midday heat
    Painting had become Delia’s pastime after the solstice. She channeled her itch to perform spells into brush strokes. It had become  a decent substitute, and took her mind off all the magic she possessed. 
    ”There is no endless magic.” She murmured the ancient saying as she sat down on the wooden chair. Dipping her brush into a dark green, she began to paint the sprawling landscape before her. 
           The afternoon sun had descended nearly towards the horizon when Elio ran to her chair. 
“Mama, look what I made.” The boy exclaimed, a wide smile shaping his face, his hands muddy and clutching a small figurine. 
Delia peered down at what he was holding and saw a clay bird. The general shape of the animal was crude, but it had been made in a careful craftsmanship that Delia hadn’t known her son possessed.
    “Why Elio it’s beautiful,” she gushed, bending to view the clay more closely, “if you want, you can use my dyes to paint it.” 
Elio squealed with excitement, and waited as she pulled a small brush from her easel and handed it to him. 
“Come now, it’s almost dark. Help me carry the dyes and you can paint it inside.” Delia instructed, packing her supplies. The two slowly walked through the clearing, towards the flickering lights of the blue house. 

    Delia took the sheets from the drying line outside and made the upstairs bed. The two shared the bed, as there was only one in the house. He is growing quickly, Delia thought, and he will need a bed of his own soon. The challenge, however, remained that their home was too small to accommodate another room. The upstairs was even smaller than the first floor. It was reached by a narrow set of stairs next to the pantry that led upward to a small room. This was the only bedroom in the blue house. 
    Delia changed the striped sheets on the bed and sat down. The metal springs rubbed through the worn mattress. Footsteps echoed off the stairway as Elio’s face appeared.
    “Mama look! I have powers too!” He placed the clay bird on the bedside table. The bird appeared to move in the light of the candlestick, the shadows growing and shrinking with the wavering flame. The candle wax was deformed at the bottom, covered in hardened bubbles. Delia considered reshaping the candle, and raised her hand over the flame. Since the solstice had passed, it took little energy to call upon her magic. The candles in the house were made of mostly soybean wax, and Delia manipulated the plant based ingredients to reform the wax into new. 
    Elio watched his mother silently as the wax bubbles became malleable and reshaped into a straight stick. He placed his own     hand over the clay bird and channeled his concentration. 
   “Elio what are-” Delia spoke, stopping mid sentence to see the clay bird flap its wings and fly around the room. The boy had painted the bird a fiery red, and it continued to soar around the small room, dripping slightly with wet paint. Suddenly, it’s beak collided into an oval mirror which hung on the wall. The glass cracked, a thin line jutting down the side. While, the clay bird suffered heavy damage and broke, falling to the floor and shattering. The wet paint on the bird had left a red stain; it closely resembled blood. 
    “Birdie!” Elio shouted, about to go to his creation, when Delia pulled him back. 
    “No, that’s not natural,” she stared at the broken bird, her eyes narrow in suspicion, “what spell did you cast Elio?” 
The little boy just stood, teary eyed, and looking down, he shook his head in a slow dragging motion. 
    “I wanted it to be real, and then it started to move,” Elio’s shoulders were slouched as if he wanted to hide in between them, “I didn’t know it was bad Mama.” 
    Delia leaned on her knee and embraced him fiercely. So this is what his markings create; it’s not safe for a person to control such magic. Delia pulled away from his tiny form and faced him at eye level. Gasping, she pushed a dark curl from his face to see that the white mark on his face had grown and extended to his forehead. 
    “Elio, you must listen to me carefully,” Her tight grip on his arms caused him to squirm, “you cannot cast this magic again. It is dangerous. Repeat after me, it is dangerous.”
    The boy complied without hesitation, “it is dangerous.” 
       Breathing a shallow sigh of relief, Delia sat on the floor and rested her back of head against the mattress. Elio climbed and nestled into her lap, twisting the emerald ring around and around her finger. 
    After the second incident, Delia knew that they would have to leave the blue house. Summer steamed the air in an angry fit of heat, and the world moved more slowly. Delia had been careful to reserve the mornings for her plants. She would bring a short stool and sit, weaving her spells to make the cucumbers a crisp green and to ensure the basil didn’t shrivel. 
Clutching a tired seagrass basket, her fingers were slippery with sweat as she gripped the handles. Delia looked upward towards the cloudless sky, hoping for the eastern winds to stir the tall grass; when, the leather of her shoe rolled over an idle rock. The handmade basket flew forward from her hands and the tomatoes tumbled out, juicy and red. 
    Delia yelped in pain,  the nerves in her ankle screaming as she lay on the ground. Her cheek was against the dirt, and her breath labored in a series of short huffs. Delia sat up and delicately pressed on the swollen flesh to gauge the severity of the fall. 
    Stretching out her leg, she shakily stood, the pain in her ankle aching as she limped to the house. The basket and the tomatoes remained bruised, on the ground, and forgotten. 
    “Ma, what happened?” Her son questioned, helping her onto the soft cushions of the armchair. He was eleven now, his dark curls unmanageable, and he stood an inch taller than Delia. 
    The mother and son’s appearance were in stark contrast to each other. Their ages, however, looked less than ten years apart. Elio had asked his mother multiple times why she did not seem to age, yet the response was the same, “the carrots from the garden keep me young. Why don’t you eat more carrots?” 
    Elio rolled his eyes, he hated carrots. 
    Delia sat in the armchair, nursing her ankle. “Elio, I need you to grab a couple herbs from the garden.”
    He nodded, about to leave, when he hesitated and glanced at her ankle. Elio looked back and forth, debating with himself when, he blurted out, “I can heal it for you, Ma.” 
    The boy knelt and hovered his hand over the swollen ankle, his eyebrows furrowed in deep concentration. Delia gripped the corners of the chair as an icy chill gripped her bones. The chill rapidly wrapped around her leg, and for a moment she was scared of her son. Seconds later, the pain subsided into a dull ache. 
    “It’s just like when you were a little boy. You have powers Elio, you have an ability.” She peered closely at the mark on his face, waiting for it extended further. However, nothing happened. Her son blinked back at her. 

    Elio could not sleep, he found himself staring at the ceiling in darkness. The makeshift bed they had made for him was getting too small. Blankets were layered to imitate a mattress, and Elio found himself tucked between the back of an armchair and the front of a tall bookshelf. One day, something will shake this house, and all the books will fall on me while I sleep, he grimly thought. Elio was worried about his mother and what she would do after he revealed his abilities once more to her. She had forbidden him to wield his power after he made a clay animal fly, although the whole memory was distant and hazy. 
Ever since last winter, Elio had began to practice his magic in secret. His mother would spend winter mornings in the garden, nurturing her plants. It was at this time when Elio would sneak away to the red forest. For a reason unknown to him, his mother refused to venture so far down the mountain. The farthest she would travel was to the tall grasses, and never beyond them.
    Eilo, would sit on the cracked roots of the ancient trees and molded little sculptures from the forest dirt. He did not will them to live, however; he did not want to feel guilty when he returned to their blue house. 
    It was last year, when Elio had stumbled upon an injured fox, its leg maimed by a trap. The ligament had been scraped raw to the bone and the fox had dragged its back paw, until it could go no further, and collapsed in exhaustion. The trees in the red forest were bare of leaves and seemed so tall that their branches appeared to catch whips of clouds on their wintery branches. The fox’s breathe was white in the air and it snarled weakly when Elio came close. 
    “It’s alright,” Elio said softly, “I can help you.” He had reached forward, towards the mangled leg, and felt years of magic begging to be released. It had only taken a moment, before the fox was healed, and running away from the boy. 
    He did not want his mother to be upset, but Elio knew he could not contain his magic, nor did he want to. Whenever he healed an animal in the forest, he felt alive. Like the first sip of water after spending the day under the summer sun, using magic had become addicting. Turning over in his blankets once more, Elio finally felt comfortable and fell asleep. 

    Delia lay sideways in bed, her eyes attached candlelight on her bedside. Her pillow was deeply indented with her outline, and the mage slipped in and out of sleep.  The memories of that fateful day many years prior rang in her mind like a bell she could not silence. Delia stood up and began to stiffly pace around the small room. The paint had never fully been removed from the wooden floor and a faded red stain was still evident. She chewed on her lip, pacing, until the metallic taste of blood reached her tongue. 
    He needs a teacher. Clearly, he has a gift for healing, but to give life? That was a curse, one he should not be burdened with. He needs someone who can teach him how to control his healing, her thoughts echoed. Delia was not comfortable with the fact that she could no longer help him; as if, she had nothing else to give him. We will leave in a week, she decided, we will find him a teacher. The bell in her mind stopped ringing, but she couldn’t shake the festering pit of dread that had settled far inside of her. 
    “Wake up, we’re leaving today.” Delia cheerfully sang. Elio groaned, rubbing his face; he sat up and felt a rush of dizziness. His mother stood above him, grabbing a thickly bound book from the shelves and attempted to push it into a knapsack. The house was cluttered, drawers open with their contents spilling out onto the floor.
    “Ma, what happened.” Elio said exasperated, as he stared at the mess, watching his mother flit around the room, occasionally pushing another object into her bag. 
    “We’re leaving the blue house, pack your things.” She explained, without pausing her conquest.
    Now, Elio was awake, his heart pounding in anticipation. He had never left the red mountain. The farthest Elio had ventured was the forest, and he had figured that was as far he would ever travel. 
    Elio went to the kitchen and grabbed his bag from the pantry. There were only two items he needed to bring. Next to his pile of blankets was a dagger, it was a thin blade but sharp and polished. His mother had given it to him for protection, but he had never needed to use it. The second item was a pale green ointment that smelled of honeysuckles. It was a concoction he had created himself, a healing salve for when he could not use his powers. Elio pulled the drawstrings on his bag and slung it over his shoulder. 
    It was light and barely filled as opposed to his mother’s whose bag would surely tear if another spellbook was added. She dropped a small package of seeds into a side pocket and smiled at him as she lifted it up. 

    They stood in front of the blue house and Delia fondly reminisced upon her many memories spent within its walls. Turning away, she momentarily grimaced before straightening up and walking towards the tall grasses. Elio lingered for a moment longer, his gaze fixated on the blue house. The wind brushed past his face and he breathed in deeply before turning and following his mother. 
       When the pair reached the border of the forest, its red trees looming over them, Delia stopped. She looked back up the mountainside and squinted to see the faint smudge of their house. When she had first come to the red mountain, Delia had casted many incantations to protect the summit from unwanted eyes. She had not left the mountain, for fear that the incantations would collapse. 
    “There is no endless magic.” She whispered to herself, before taking a step into the forest. Delia felt a cord within her snap. Keep walking, she chided herself. With each step down the mountain, Delia felt as if a twisty plant stem was wrapping around her legs, trying to bring her back to the blue house. 
    On the top of the summit, the house shook as the mage descended down the slope. The paintings that were already hung crookedly, came crashing to the floor, their frames snapping and denting the wood. Items began disappearing off shelves, little trinkets and potion vials. The outside of the blue house, was in no better condition, the fruits in the garden shriveling into brown dust.
    Delia felt nauseous, the trees and their red bark were beginning to blur, and she staggered slightly while walking. Her bag slipped off her shoulder, and her thick braid smacked against her cheek. Delia’s limbs felt heavy as if weighted with iron, and she paused for a moment leaning her weight against a tree.
    The little blue house had stopped shaking, it was empty of belongings and stood as a hollow shell of its former state. The house gave a last and shallow quake before vanishing completely. The wind blew harshly over the now desolate summit, and the last tomato in the garden dried and fell the the ground before it too, withered away.

Not finished


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1 Comment
  • Anha

    good change to the last sentence! this makes much more of an impact.

    over 1 year ago