Authors: B. McMurray
Born of Magic
By B. McMurray
Copyright 2011 Brian McMurray
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Angela scratched the nervous itch on the left side of her stomach and watched as her husband Warren and the old physician shook hands with unequal interest. Warren forced a crooked smile that wrinkled the corners of his lips, his heart thumping at the back of his throat. She glanced over at the rocking chair that Warren had built for her. The smooth golden walnut leggings still glinted from when he had first sanded it down. She hoped she would one day get to use it.
“What can you tell us?”
The old physician pulled his glasses from his face and stared at them, ignoring the question. His dried lips cracked open and released a small puff of stale air, fogging the lenses. From his right pocket he revealed a tattered brown scrap of cloth clutched between two boney fingers and wiped off a smudge from his glasses and placed them back over his dried yellow eyes and blinked.
“Better,” the physician said.
The pointless drawing out drove Angela to clenched fists and grinding teeth and she couldn’t hold it in. She burst out, “Would you please get on with it?”
Warren placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed the soft flesh on her mid-arm, using only enough pressure to get his point across. “Sorry, she’s a little on edge.”
“Of course,” the old man said and waved an arm through the air. “I’m sorry, but you two will never have a child. Her body is incapable of it.”
“You’re wrong!” Angela said.
Both men gawked at her, each with their own surprised expression.
“Are you absolutely sure?” Warren asked.
“Yes. No hope for it.”
The words stung Angela. It. Not her, or him, but it. She looked at her home, her husband, everything about her life—it all felt empty. All of it destined to be forgotten. They would never
have anyone to carry on all that they had built. She felt resolute to sell the cradle that Warren had spent so much time and care in building.
Warren’s hope and joy faded, but he would never show it. He’d go on smiling and laughing as though he were still happy.
The memory of Angela’s father came back to push her over the edge. In his death bed he had smiled at Angela, content knowing that his legacy would be carried on with her. Thankfully he didn’t know that she would be the end of it, it seemed. I’ve failed him, she told herself.
A wad of scratched coins went from Warren’s hands to the physicians and then he shook the old man’s hand. “Thank you for everything,” he said.
“Bye.” The physician then turned towards the door and left their home.
Warren pulled the door closed with a slow and drawn-out creek and turned around to see Angela on the floor with tears pouring from her eyes. He swallowed hard and wrapped his arms around her and cried with her.
He knew his words would mean nothing to her right now. “We still have each other. We’ll keep trying.” His words bounced off of her with little comfort.
All connections that Angela had to her life were lost and she felt herself drift away from her own body and everything turned to a dream. She opened her eyes and everything looked like an oil painting and her red eyes burned from all of the tears spent. The room was colored with different shades of blue. The walls swayed. The ground was soft. Warren was gone.
“Hello?” She called out.
Angela stood up, her legs weak and shaky with uncertainty. A glowing mist drifted and wafted through the air like dust floating in an empty attic. It passed through her outstretched hand as she tried to touch it, unaffected by her presence.
A single speck of the mist glided with a callous biding, caught in an indiscriminant draft, lost amongst the others, and then speck felt something call out to it. The first speck of many, it turned towards the source of distress. What it found was a calling, a purpose, something that in its millennia of living had never encountered. Something was changing, and it had to change with it. The speck, along with those nearby, moved towards the aura.
She forgot how to breathe as the mist turned green and started to collect inside of her. It grew into a ball of emerald light that illuminated the walls. Energy coursed through her veins and ran her blood wild. She felt strength in her arms that had never been there before. In her heart was vigor and she no longer ached with emptiness. Her lungs filled with air as pure as at the top of the highest mountain.
Her plummet into desolation was over.
Warren fell back as his wife jumped to her feet and look around the room in search of something that she didn’t seem to see.
“You all right?” He asked.
Angela’s eyes scanned her house. Everything felt as it should. The thin sheet of lavender-dyed cotton danced in the breeze that slipped through the open crack of their kitchen window. The soft roar of townspeople muddling about outside seeped in through the thin wooden walls. And the gray stubs of beard hairs on Warren’s face set motionless as he gazed at his wife.
Surprised by her own certainty, Angela nodded. “Yes, I think we’ll be all right.”
When evening came, Angela scrounged together some coins of copper that she kept stashed beneath a clay pot in the kitchen and donned her shawl. Warren sat in the study staring into the low-crackling fire. He barely noticed Angela leaving the house.
The setting sun cast stalking shadows across the cobblestone streets and made Angela look twenty feet tall. The smell of cold crisp air rolled into town over its tall stone walls and intertwined with the scent of freshly cut ryegrass and stone-baked bread. Her bare feet patted against the smooth, damp stones as she trotted towards the market, excited to end the dreary day with a nice dinner; Chopped potatoes, fresh chicken, carrots, and some yellow onions for stew and a roll of the bread that tickled her nose.
A little boy wrapped in stained and worn clothes stared at the baker’s stand, licking his dry and cracked lips. The boy stayed on the other side of the street from the stand—too far away to properly see the assortment of baked goods—while the burly old man that ran the stand glared at him.
“I’ll take a roll of brown bread,” Angela said. She tossed a couple of coins into his stand.
“Keep an eye out for that one,” the baker said and then scowled at the young boy. “Scavenger has been eyeing my stand all evening. Likely to swipe it from you once you leave if you’re not careful.”
“Does he not have any parents?”
“Scavengers as well. Unsightly little family that roams around here a little too often if you ask me.”
Angela closed her eyes and nodded, then turned around. As she passed the boy, she nodded to him. The boy had never been to school or had any formal education, but he was smart enough to know what she meant. His heart fluttered and he followed her like a stray cat.
When Angela was around the corner and out of the baker’s sight, she stopped and gave her bread to the boy. Warren would have to make due with just the stew tonight. She then finished her shopping as the sun faded behind the peeking towers for the night and hurried home before it became too dark for her to find her way.
With time the two moved on from their lost dream and spent their lives together and were happy. The empty feeling of the child that they would never have was always a dark corner in their hearts. Warren’s body weakened as he aged. He developed a cough that would not go away. Warren grew older, and she did not. Angela watched as his bones grew brittle and his skin wrinkled. She stayed young and healthy and watched as the only person in her life slipped away from her.
A new, younger doctor stood beside their bed where Warren lay. His eyes were still filled with hope, unscathed by the horrors that surely awaited him.
“Your father doesn’t have long,” the young doctor said to Angela with a soft tone, the kind a doctor used when he didn’t want the patient to hear what was really going on. His voice filled with genuine sincerity.
Angela didn’t bother correcting him. She filled his open hand with the clanking of coins and he showed himself out.
Warren ran his brittle fingers through her hair, which was still lush and blond. “You never cease to amaze me.” His voice was shaky. Each gulp of air was an effort.
“Relax,” she said and wrapped her arms around him and kissed him. His skin felt cold and his lips were dry and cracked. “I’ll be with you soon, my love.”
A broken chuckle rumbled through his weak lungs. “You are still so young and have so much life left in you, Angela. You’ve stuck with this old man long enough. Don’t let me be the last person in your life.” His bloodshot eyes glistened and he smiled one last smile, the corners of his lips filled with far more wrinkles than when they had first met.
Her hands shivered and her lungs and heart convulsed. She fell to her knees. Her legs wobbled and felt like they couldn’t support her own weight. Her vision blurred and all she could hear was the erupting sound of her own desolation. Her eyes reddened as he released a stream of tears that drenched her cheeks.
The world looked like an oil canvas. The splotches of color ran as tears continued to drown her. She cried and cried, until her eyes were dry and sore. A screeching pain ravaged her mind, as though her head was being torn in two and she was seeing doubles. The two worlds merged together and she was again in the world she had visited once before.
The bright green energy that radiated from within her painted the walls with dancing green lights. The world was void of anyone other than her and she liked it.
She didn’t feel alone. The green light acted like a faceless companion that seemed to have no intention of ever leaving her side. For countless weeks she sat by the empty bed where Warren’s body should have been.
She felt no pain. No sadness. No joy. Nothing.
“There must be someone else here,” Angela said to herself. There had to be something here that kept her from being lonely, even if she wasn’t aware of it yet.
The wood in her front door lacked any of the fine details and characteristics that it normally did. She looked closer, until her nose touched its smooth surface. Instead of wooden fibers making up the cherry door, it was the mist. Packed so tightly together that from a distance they looked like the object they imitated.
She pushed the door open. Outside she found loneliness. Not a single person in sight. The cobblestone streets, the houses, the stands lining the marketplace, even the piles of wood stacked outside of homes, it was all there. Everything but the people that should have been there.
“Hello?” She called out. Her voice faded in the distance and died out before ever being heard by another ear.
She collapsed to the cobblestones, defeated by the abyss of absolution; absolution in the loss of her husband, in her inability to ever have a child, and in the utter loneliness of this place. She held out her arms, longing for the baby that Warren and she never had. The memories she had with him were like a well, the only source of happiness left in her, and she used them sparingly so it wouldn’t dry up.
Her dying husband’s words reverberated in her mind, “You still have so much life to live.”
“Why? Why do I have so much life left in me? It belongs to someone else, someone with a life worth living,” she muttered to herself.
The green energy in her started to seep out. As it left, she grew cold. Her body grew weak. The years that she had dodged with her never-ending youth caught up to her. The energy flowed into the empty area her arms cradled. Her desperation now an unstoppable force, pushing her towards something that she couldn’t see, guiding her.
“Am I giving up? Is this my end?”
As the questions made it hard to breathe, her arms and legs felt like water evaporating from a mid-summer noon. She was fading.
In her arms the green energy took shape, forming into a ball of flesh. Manifesting was the young girl she had always longed for. As the young girl came to fruition, Angela faded from existence. She could feel her body growing further away, and Warren getting closer.
When she was almost nothing but a forgotten neighbor sparsely seen, an insignificant gardener, a master of cinnamon baked apples, she realized the flaw in what she was doing. In a matter of moments, she would bring a baby into the world, and then abandon it as she disappeared from existence. The girl’s fate would be sealed.
The mist around her stopped floating along like an apathetic bystander and turned into a lazy tornado, tugging on the tattered ends of her shirt and swaying her hair in its motion.
It twirled faster and faster, growing as thick as water. It splashed against her arms as it poured into the baby girl. The baby became heavier, bigger. Her hair grew out past her shoulders and her teeth grew in. Angela experienced the first three years of motherhood in seconds. She set the baby down and pulled her own shall from her shoulders. It was dusty and old, but still had a glint of its original vibrant green color, and was big enough to cover the young girl.