A day in the life of Mike Kellar…or rather, a stolen moment.
“What did you just do?”
I hated myself in that moment, because the way her voice shook sprang to life on the back of my tongue: the first bite of an apple, ice water on a hot day, the earthy sweetness that comes when you breathe in the scent of a rose. The connection flared to life against my will: her heart beat in my chest, her breath came in the same rhythm as mine…
…and when I looked up I didn’t need to read her thoughts to see the story of her life. It was written in the absence of her aura, the dim layer of energy over her face threatening to turn black.
I could still cover up what I had done, the display of power she’d seen. I could still leave and let a member of the Fraternity do this. They were the soldiers, this was what they were there for. I wasn’t just brightening a human’s day or nudging them out of the way of the Darkness: I was actively saving a soul. I gave this up, I got my discharge.
I went a whole year this time before I couldn’t stand the agony another minute.
Deliberately, I held out my hand and shut my eyes. The spark of Power wasn’t visible in her aura, but it quivered in her heart, our heart, the first glowing embers that rose from rubbing two sticks together with enough pressure and speed. I focused until I could taste it again, nourishment and salvation and life making my mouth water.
I breathed in, drew it into me, and pushed it back out into the tongue of fire that leapt to life in the middle of my palm.
“That.” I replied simply, opening my eyes to meet hers. She was a rail thin teenager with long black hair and eyes to match. She didn’t bother with make up, so the circles under her eyes stood out in stark relief against her already pale skin. “I did that.”
She shook her head, an answer to a question that didn’t exist. Her mouth hung open, her fingers wrapped so tight around the strap of her purse that her knuckles were as white as the rest of her skin, her fingers flushing red with the pressure of her grip. The flavor of her shock and awe had a hint of Granny Smith to it.
“There’s no such…”
She trailed off, and I tasted cucumber water. My throat burned, my gut ached. It’s been a year, and I can’t stop. Every breath in was another gulp of Power, and as her heart beat in my chest I could feel it racing as the sparks began to smolder. The smoke was delicate and fragrant, creeping into her blood with a warmth that was just starting to turn her cheeks pink.
I smiled when the spark reached her eyes. No one else would see what I saw: the flash of gold before her aura began to shimmer, a microscopic glint as the embers caught and the sparks turned to tiny flames, candlelight that was starting to dance over her face and shoulders.
Closing my hand, the fire died with a soft hiss. Unharmed, I folded my arms along the edge of my table on the coffee shop patio and leaned forward, holding her gaze. I could feel the rose petals soft against my lips.
“Magic is real.” I replied quietly. “And you needed to know that.”
She closed her mouth, and suddenly I can’t see her for the storm of her thoughts, filling my mind like a cup. I see her mother, so far gone she can’t even stand up on her own. I see her father, or rather his absence…he can’t face his only child, knowing that his wife is going to die and too lost in grief to know how lonely she is. I see the uncle who berates her for drawing, who won’t allow it when she’s forced to stay with him when Mom’s in the hospital and Dad has to work, because she needs to grow up and learn to be practical.
“Why?” She breathed the word, like she couldn’t get enough air…but she’s really breathing for the first time. She was a firework waiting to go off, light and dizzy with the Power, and in my soulless vision, her eyes were blazing with the light of sunrise.
I was feasting, and so was she…I felt my eyes well with tears, it was so good.
“Because if there’s a place for that?” I extended a hand, pointing at her for emphasis. “There’s a place for you.”
The dim veil over her face shattered as the light spilled out and over her. I drew a deep breath, and I let the Power fill me until I couldn’t stand another instant…seconds passed, but it felt like hours.
The girl shook her head again, reaching up to wipe at her eyes. “God, I…I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t—who are you?”
“Nobody important.” I assured her. “That’s you…remember that.”
The light in her aura continued to dance and flash, making me squint. I parted my lips, as if that would let me get a larger taste of crisp apples and clear water and a bouquet of bright red roses. After a moment, however, the glitter faded and died, easing into the soft glow of moonrise.
“Okay. I…thank you.”
She left my table without another word, and I was fine with that. I smiled as I reached for my coffee and took a sip, barely tasting it. She’d remember me for the rest of her life, but she’d never tell anyone. That was the nature of an Avatar’s life: revealing our power was never forbidden. We simply didn’t because humans had a hard time understanding it unless they were desperate, like that girl had been…ready to give up, to quietly sit down and wait until the Darkness came to her in a dream, offering her power in exchange for the spark that made her want to draw, that made her see things no one else could.
She would fall into art. It would probably be painful, even dark, given her home life, but it would speak to other humans. It would hurt some, and help others…it would do as she chose.
I envied her that choice. I envy them all. I envy you.
I envy you, because at the end of the day, you have a choice. Give up or fight, you do what you want, nothing else.
Not like me…I do what the Power wills, and nothing more.
Never more than that.