|Wicked always wins.|
His name is Nathan Vach, and he's having terrifying dreams. Left alone after his father and brothers die in the Second Ogres war, and after his mother perishes from illness, he retreats into his family's big home far from anywhere. But the dreams continue to plague him, so he decides to visit a metaphysician in Munchkinland. There he learns startling news: that he has a gift for someone--a Soul Gift. It's a Gift that will be a great blessing to he or she destined to receive it. Walking home, he has no idea just how powerful that Gift is--or the individual who, unbeknownst to him, will soon try to claim it. Read on!
APPOINTMENT WITH THE METAPHYSICIAN
The metaphysician was named Dr. Dunk. We had to meet outside his home as his Munchkin one was too small to accommodate me. He told me to sit on a lacquered myrtle stump out back and brought me a cup of tea after shaking my hand. A human-sized cup, no less. I took a sip and waited for him to stop circling me and sizing me up, or whatever he was doing.
“Put the cup down for a minute,” he ordered.
I did. He began poking and prodding me with both middle fingers, then picked up an odd, twisty bit of black metal from a silver tray of dubious-looking instruments. He eyed it critically.
“Damn thing’s not tuned right. Be right back.”
He hurried into his home, twisty metal firmly in his grip, then came back out with another one. This one was twisty and black too, but had what looked like veins of gold running through it. It was also larger.
He pressed the flat end of it into my shoulders, then, gently, into my sternum. He closed his eyes.
“Hmm,” he said, his brow furrowing more.
Eyes still closed, he said, “Stay silent, if you would, and extend your right hand.”
I did. He opened his eyes and took the instrument and laid it across the back of my hand.
He let it go. It remained, balanced.
He snatched it back. “Your left hand, if you would, please. And please close your eyes.”
I felt him balance the instrument on the back of my left hand. He snatched it away, grunted twice, told me I could open my eyes, then turned and sipped tea with some agitation. He watched me curiously, almost suspiciously.
“Is there something wrong?” I demanded.
He held up his hand. “Please remain silent. Do not speak unless I say so.”
I nodded, flummoxed.
“Please remove your shirt.”
“Now, if you would, Mr. Vach.”
I was about to say, “Sure, sure,” but remembered that he wanted me to keep silent. I pulled my shirt off. He took it and laid it next to his cup (on a small circular table nearby), and turned to study me further.
“Please close your eyes again.”
I heard him take his cup off the table and take a large, loud sip.
He spat on my chest. The tea was still quite hot.
I couldn’t help it. I blinked my eyes opened and flinched at the same time while saying something like, “Yi!”
“No! No!” he yelled. “Stay perfectly still!”
I stiffened obediently and quickly re-closed my eyes. I didn’t hear him move or even breathe for a long, awkward moment.
“You may open your eyes now.”
I did. Rivulets of cooling tea ran down my bare chest onto my pants. The slight breeze prompted a quick shiver.
Doctor Dunk drew uncomfortably close and studied the rivulets as I gawked. He eventually took the twisty instrument and rubbed it against my wet chest, then pushed the flat end of it against the bridge of my nose. I couldn’t keep my mouth closed.
For the instrument, like it had on the backs of my hands, was balanced perfectly—on nothing but air. It looked like a horn jutting out of my head.
He snatched the instrument, smiled for the first time, and said lightly, “More tea? How about a blueberry scone? My wife just pulled them out of the oven!”
He returned with a damp towel, more tea, and the promised scone. I wiped myself off as he scribbled notes. He closed the book and sat facing me, nodding contemplatively.
I bit with trepidation into the scone, which wasn’t small, as I expected it to be, but quite substantial. It was also delicious and warm, but not nearly enough to distract my attention from what just happened, or his face, which was studious and determined.
“What does it feel like?” he asked.
“What does what feel like?” I demanded after swallowing.
“You told me your mother was a Seer ...”
“A very imperfect Gift. As it would be, I suppose. As it must be.”
“She didn’t foresee her own death,” I said glumly.
“Or perhaps she did and didn’t tell you.”
He shrugged. “You were a child. What mother would share such news with her child?”
I hadn’t thought of that. It was a very depressing consideration, so I pushed it out of my mind.
“You aren’t strictly a Seer, Mr. Vach. The tests strongly suggest you are something related, but also quite a bit rarer. You are what metaphysicians call a Vision Bearer.”
I had never heard the term before. Naturally, since it apparently described me, I waited with bated breath.
“I could give you the clinical definition,” said the good doctor, “but I think I’ll err on the side of loose verbiage in order to help you understand. Would that be acceptable?”
“A Vision Bearer bears a vision that isn’t his or her own.”
“I’m confused. I have someone else’s visions?”
“Strictly speaking, they aren’t visions. Well,” he held up a hand, “not always, perhaps not even most of the time. Visions or premonitions are a dime a dozen, really. They occur much more often than people realize. They really aren’t that remarkable. Nor are they accurate. Not usually. Your mother was probably more gifted than the typical Seer, meaning she had greater clarity than most.”
I waited. The scone was tasty. I wasn’t aware how quickly I had finished it. He glanced at the empty plate and without commenting picked it up, disappeared inside, and returned a few moments later with a fresh one. I thanked him, then bit into it as he collected his thoughts.
“Vision Bearers are ... well, think of them more as Soul Givers. Your spirit ‘houses,’ if you will, an essential ‘component’ of spirit meant to go to someone else, someone you’ll meet at an undetermined future time. It has germinated inside you, has grown inside you, and is waiting for the moment to flower. But it isn’t yours—again, strictly speaking. It’s meant for someone else, someone you may not have met yet but will. Follow?”
“A bit of someone else’s ... soul ... somehow got mixed up with mine?” I asked, dumbfounded.
He impatiently shook his head. “It’s a bit of your soul that you ‘grew’ that ultimately belongs to someone else. The recipient’s spirit didn’t lose a piece of itself and you somehow picked it up, no. You grew a bit of spirit inside your own meant for that person. You bear it for them until such time that they need it. When they do, you will give it to them. The ‘growth’ of that flower, if you will, bears the ‘soil’ and ‘nutrients’ of your spirit, so what you give them is truly a gift, is unique, and will serve them. It’s a Seeing ability since it foretells of future events. Like I said, it’s quite rare. But I am fairly certain you possess it.”
I needed time to collect my thoughts. He gave the moment to me, waiting, arms crossed, as I nibbled absentmindedly on the scone.
I swallowed and wiped my mouth with the towel. “I haven’t met this person yet?”
Dr. Dunk shrugged. “Don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. In any case, what brought you to me was the Vision or, more accurately, Gift, which means you haven’t given it to the individual. If you had, you’d know it. The Visions, if they were continuing to that point, would cease.”
“How can I know it’s a gift?” I demanded. “I mean, it sure doesn’t feel like one. What if it’s a curse? What if it harms the recipient? How will I know when I ‘give’ it to them? What will it feel like?”
“One question at a time,” he reproached. “Thank you.”
“Yeah. Sure. Sorry,” I mumbled.
“Vision Bearers have never, as far as recorded history is concerned, given curses. Their gifts are always profound blessings. Admittedly, your kind is very rare, and so records are far from complete or comprehensive. I must admit that I can’t be sure that what you’ve got growing inside your spirit is benign. It may not be. As for your last two questions, I have no answers for you.”
Struggling to understand, I nodded.
“As far as giving them the Gift, there are probably an infinite number of ways such an exchange can occur. It can be as simple as a kiss or a hug. Or it can be very complex and involve many other individuals. You can relax about it in any case, since you won’t have any say in the giving process aside from your conscious comings and goings through your life. You just be you, and the Gift will, at the appropriate time, give itself.”
I tried absorbing the information, hoping I remembered it when I got home.
“At the risk of being too personal,” he asked, “would you share what you are seeing? I assume you have these visions in the early morning, typically, as you emerge from deep sleep?”
“Wow ... yes. That’s right. How did you know?”
“I’m a trained metaphysician, my boy.”
“Yes, of course.”
I collected my thoughts. The scone was gone. I put the plate on the table and turned back around.
“I see ...” I began “... I see ... it always starts with my initials.”
“Go on ...”
“I see ... no, I feel ... great bitterness. Anger. Jealousy. A desire for revenge. I mean, a burning, smoldering craving for it. And then ... green. A bright flash of green lightning. It’s sudden and overwhelming and it startles me, and I wake up right after. I’m always sweating, my heart jumping in my chest like a jack rabbit. It’s ... it’s so powerful. When it happens, I spend the rest of the day furious, angry, jealous of nothing at all, it seems. It’s hard to understand, and very scary.”
Dr. Dunk rubbed his chin.
“The last time it happened, I saw a face. A woman’s face. Beautiful. She had black hair and wore ... I don’t know. She had her hair up and what looked like ... like a tiara in it. She was laughing. But not with joy. With great malice.”
I had to calm myself. Just talking about it got my heart racing again. “Is she ... is she the one I’m to give my Soul Gift to?” Inwardly, I prayed (prayed!) she wasn’t.
Dr. Dunk held up. “I’m going to venture a guess and say no, she isn’t.”
“You originally described great bitterness, anger, and jealousy. Then you mentioned revenge. But you didn’t mention malice until later. That’s an entirely different thing. My guess is that the impending recipient of your Soul Gift is bitter, angry, and jealous towards the person with the face you saw. If I may venture another guess, I think I may have a name to match the face based on your description. You said she wore a tiara. Did it look genuine?”
“Oh yeah,” I said, shocked that my description was good enough for him to venture an actual name. “Very real. Actual diamonds and rubies and emeralds. Like only royalty could possess it. So ...” I said breathlessly, “who do you think it is?”
“I’ll be right back,” said the doctor, who stood and hurried inside his home.
He was gone a long time—maybe twenty minutes or more. When he came back, he was carrying what appeared to be an ornate wood carving. He handed it to me.
“Is this she?” he asked, sitting once more.
I stared, my jaw dropping.
My expression adequately conveyed my answer.
“This is a carving a general’s son who served in the Third Ogre’s War made,” he explained. “He was there when Rumpelstiltskin destroyed them and brought an end to the conflict. On his travels through Misthaven—the
, as it is commonly
known—he encountered this woman. He survived the War but damn near didn’t
survive her. Her name is Enchanted
But most call her the Evil Queen.”
I’d heard of her. Everyone had heard of her. Even people like me who didn’t even live in her universe!
She was the very epitome of evil. She reveled in it. She wiped out whole villages—for sport. Her Black Knights were cruel and brutal. Like her, they were without mercy or compassion.
Dr. Dunk reiterated that my Soul Gift wasn’t likely intended for the Evil Queen, but for someone who felt very strongly about her. That person I was destined to meet, apparently.
I thanked him, put my shirt back on, paid him, exchanged a few pleasantries with his wife, and left.
It seemed entirely possible that I would like this mystery person. He or she despised the Evil Queen. Didn’t that mean that he or she had at least a modicum of decency and sanity?
I wished I knew which it was—a he or a she. I decided that it would be a she, and that I would be her steadfast knight should she need it. I imagined myself as her defender as she stood up to and vanquished the Evil Queen using my Soul Gift, and then returned to me and showered me with deep, soulful kisses in gratitude.
I went back to the inn. Brynn was waiting behind the counter. I approached, and she smiled.
“I’d like to pay for one more night.”
“Certainly,” she replied, taking my coins. “I’ll send up fresh towels and freshen up the basin for you.”
Had her father “conveyed,” as he stiffly put it, my compliments on her beauty? I couldn’t tell.
“Thanks,” I said, and made for the stairs.
What if the Soul Gift goes to her? I wondered, then wondered if it were possible for someone with such a bright disposition to be able to hide such intense anger and envy. If so—How would I give the Gift to her? Or ... perhaps I just did!
I got to my room, opened the door, and sat heavily at the edge of my bed. I had a lot to think about.