dreaming of fishes and wishes
Written By: Zoe G.
June 17, 2015
The girl sits on her heels, scrabbling with dirty fingernails at her skin, trying to rip the magic from inside her. But now it’s part of her, and the images it spins are absolute.
Magic Overdose says the plaque outside the door.
“Ro,” she says. “Ro. Ro. Ro.”
Soon the words slur into something new.
“Tal. Tal. Tal. . . I’ll save you, Tal.”
We’ve been running for so long we’ve forgotten how it feels to stop. Now my life is the slam of packed dirt under my feet, pine scented wind ruffling my hair, adrenaline racing through my veins, playful banter between us to mask our anxiety.
Me and Ro, Ro and me. The two remaining princesses.
After our world fell apart and our crowns turned to dust, after the blame settled on my shoulders, Ro’s been my mother, my guide, my sun. I’m the earth, orbiting around her.
But things aren’t exactly. . .peachy anymore.
There’s something wrong with me. The magic has infiltrated my body. The first day was fine. Then came visions and scrapes all over my skin. The magic is unpredictable and I’ll never know what it will do next. All I can grasp is this feeling of helplessness and the trickle of blood on my shin.
“Ro,” I call, out of breath. “Ro. . .we need to stop.”
Ro, short for Andromeda. A name brimming with power and glamor. With her high cheekbones and tumbling golden hair, Ro could be straight from a book of ancient myths.
“What’s happened now, Ari? Oh-” Before I fall to the ground, woozy, Ro catches me.
Abruptly, her face wavers as if we’re on different sides of a waterfall. I shut my eyes, unable to imagine a life alone.
I open them. Everything’s fine. We’re safe together, whole together.
Except for my bloody leg.
Ro lifts my skirt with gossamer gentle fingers and lets them flutter around the nasty scrape.
“You’re losing a lot of blood.” She’s close enough that I can see the bags under her eyes. “How did you even get the cut?”
How did I get the cut? My mind is blank.
The magic. It’s taking over.
“I don’t know. Something’s wrong with me!” The way the dirt streaking my arms vanished, the hunger I never have, the moments of amnesia.
“It’s the side effects of the magic. Remember? Isla said this would-- ”
“Don’t mention Isla! She’s the one who started all this!” Isla, the castle’s head cook, citizen of a land where magic was permitted, taught us her sorcery. At night, Tal, Ro, and I sneaked down to the kitchens. Offering forbidden fruits and sugary pastries, Isla was a siren who reeled us in until we were in too deep. Until we drowned in our power, drunk on lies.
I remember Isla whispering chants in forgotten languages, the rolling words twisting with enchantments that gifted tiny presents like transforming a slice of bread into a chirping canary. We were greedy, as princesses are, asking for more, more, more. Then she made us perform the magic, but her way. We had to do her bidding or she wouldn’t teach us. By then, we were addicted. My fairy tales had finally come true -- I would never return to my dull life of Before.
But it was an elaborate hoax, a plan to bring down our kingdom. It worked. The three princesses, jewels glimmering on the kingdom’s crown, reduced to two. Now the kingdom teeters on civil war.
Tal -- Atalanta was always the favorite.
“Ari. Ariadne! Heal yourself. This is an emergency.” My head is in Ro’s lap. Her hands caress my face.
Healing power. To heal yourself, you have to draw on pain. It’s a twisted spell, gaining health from hurt, but the only way to heal a magical wound.
But I won’t hurt anyone any more.
Suddenly, I hear pounding hooves. We’ve been discovered!
“We have to hide! Do you have the invisibility draught?” I ask.
“Why would I? We gave up magic unless it was completely necessary.”
“But do you have it?”
Ro rolls her eyes. “Yeah, it’s -- ”
Too late. The king’s men are upon us. We’re running while exchanging sarcastic remarks, so used to the ruts of our speech.
My leg aches as it hits the ground over and over, an aria of agony, a song of sting. Suddenly, a wolf leaps at us.
It’s one of father’s attack dogs. Ro screams. She grabs a stick but the beast leaps
I jump to help. Arms surround me and Ro is screeching and there’s crimson everywhere. Then she is silent.
“Ariadne. Quiet yourself. Princess!”
I lash out at my kidnapper, biting and kicking, but the arms hold tight. “You’re imagining this!” Cool metal slides into my skin. My eyes close. I’m dizzy. They’ve drugged me.
“I’ll save you, Ro,” I whisper.
A man and a woman wearing crowns stand outside the cell, looking in on the girl swaying back and forth. Her hands are cuffed, but her fingers are scarlet with blood. She mutters one word over and over.
“Ro,” he says. “She invented an older sister to cope with the loss.”
“Yes, dearest.” She brushes her fingers against the bars caging her daughter. “After Tal died, the guilt was too much. The magic drove her insane.”
“What are we going to do? One princess dead, the other insane. Who will be heir to the throne?”
“I’m not sure I can bear to have another child.”
“We must. Someday, the kingdom will forget the names of Ariadne and Atalanta. We will protect our child, the new heir. No harm will come to her. We will keep her safe as we failed to do with Ari and Tal. It’s the only way to heal the kingdom.”
The couple turn away.
It’s all over.
They’ve captured me.