The world outside was motionless and silent. It was as if the earth wished not to be noticed. Or it was watching with bated breath. The boy didn’t notice. His footsteps landed harder. His jaw was clenched, his brow furrowed. His breath was deep and even, almost measured. His eyes stared straight ahead into the depths of the earth. He didn’t know where he would go, but something deep had taken hold and it would not let him go.
A faerie ambled down the hallway toward him. His blue-tipped ears pointed straight up. His eyes were half closed as he listened to the song in his head. A single dark hand trailed along the tunnel wall. His pale coat bore dark, red-brown stains. His lips spread in a thin grin. The corridor he headed into was lighter than the one from which he came. The earth stopped. Jolted, he looked up and saw the boy for the first time. He recognized the boy’s face, but something was different. Something was wrong. He cocked an eyebrow in a silent question before speaking. “You are changed.”
The boy looked up contemptuously. He waved his hand a said a word. The faerie was knocked off his feet as if blown by a sudden, powerful wind and flew into the opposite wall. His body fell limp to the ground. His eyes remained closed as the boy approached him. Staring down, the boy waited for him to move. His heart beat slowed. A lifetime passed between each beat. An age passed as he stared at the faerie’s unconscious features. Now that he had knocked the grin off the faerie’s face, he did not know what to make of his thoughts. The blood on his coat spoke of tortured souls perhaps even so far as dying by his hands. Death. Yes. An end. …An end to him. He raised a hand again. He parted his lips to speak, but he couldn’t find the words. The earth was still.
A moment’s argument went up against this thought, but all were quelled in the deep calm. He lowered his hand and turned away. He resumed his heavy strides into the unknown. The earth lurched into motion again as he walked. The boy stumbled and put a hand to the wall to steady himself. Growling in frustration, he righted himself and continued.
His mind wandered while his feet brought him back to familiar paths. He slammed the door to his room behind him. He knew no one would enter. A basin of water rested in the back corner of his room. He walked over to it and looked down into his reflection as if he would find an answer there.
His hair hung in ebony locks around his face. His skin was pale and more drawn than before. His lips were cracked and white. His eyes stared back at him, hardened and darkened by wrath. The fire of rage and heartbreak no longer ran through his veins. It had burned away in his tears and given way to ice. The shaking of his volcanic sorrow ended. It hardened and became stone. No thought of peace or warmth entered his mind. They felt like demons entering a sacred place. He picked the dish up calmly and in a millisecond of passion threw it across the room. The dish shattered and the contents splashed around the room and then came back together in pools in the ground before soaking back into the earth. In one pool, his reflection stared back at him with sad eyes. His fists clenched. He kicked the pool and fixed his eyes on the wall. As the calm returned, he seated himself on the bed.
Alone, barricaded in his room, he began to think.
His mind wandered to the other world – the surface world. He knew now why he felt so drawn to this strange land: this strange land had given birth to him. The strange land held all he could have been and all he was supposed to be. He had lost count of the revolutions of the earth since he had been brought here. But this knowledge, this burdensome truth left him with the aftertaste of realization. Realization that he was not who he had thought he was. He was not a faerie treated unfairly by his kin. He was a man, treated as a slave among strangers. He did not understand the ways of the burgh because he was not meant to. He did not comprehend the ways of the faeries because he was not meant to. His existence was a burden, because it was not right. This hole was a prison. Home to wild creatures, foreign to reason, and stranger to justice.
He knew the truth, and there was no going back.
A grim tickle rose from his stomach and burst forth in the hideous sound of laughter. It erupted from him like a fountain. Peals of it shook his body. It felt like crying, but unlike crying. He fell back against the wall as his body lost the strength to stay upright, devoting all energy to this maniacal sound. But it felt right. With it, his resolve grew, as did his strength. His fear shrank away. He had mastered it at last. Images and sensations flew fast and forcefully through his mind: the clearing – the house – his parents – the fire – the faerie – the wood – blood in his eyes – stains on his clothes – stains on his heart – and red eyes in a sea of obsidian. All fed the laughter. The power of it grew until he lay on the bed nearly unable to breathe except by the furious direction of this new sensation. He didn’t mind. He let it take him. But he was its master and they both knew.
A faerie pounded on the door outside, but he didn’t hear. The faerie tried every spell he knew to open the door, but it wouldn’t move. The boy simply continued to laugh, deaf to anything outside his room, and oblivious to the powerful magic he was using to keep the door sealed.