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I hear his heavy heart pounding long before the din of metal on metal, boots on stairs, clang, clang, clang. Each tinny footstep resounds loudly in my underground cave. My pencil, quavering ever so slightly as it levitates pointlessly above my desk, softly falls as my limited attention becomes fixed to the sudden noise. I know that heartbeat, better than I would know my own, that is, if I had a heart to beat.
Slipping for a second into the spaceless dimension of magic, I tear away the paper-like shimmer that was my haggard disguise. That ruse was simply to discourage any unwanted visitors, while any knowledgeable person knows the true nature and beauty of us magical creatures, “witches“, as the mortals call us. We masquerade only to cast our glamour into shadow, never to draw it out. There’s no need, as the mirror opposite my bed so clearly shows. Finely carved features, unblemished skin, and purple blood pulsing slowly through curlicue veins just under my translucent skin, merely an intricate tattoo to the unknowledgeable eye. Simply gorgeous.
Knat opens my door, carrying the horribly familiar plate of gruel in one hand. He used to seek me out among the many-numbered crannies of my room, as if I would ever conceal myself as a mortal does, but his curiosity has waned, and now, to my dismay, he attempts to quickly deliver my breakfast and leave without confrontation.
My unmoving chest almost fills with pity at the sight of his horror-twisted face, but this is barred only by my sheer desire to make it even more so. Every fiber of his being is waiting, almost anticipating, the sudden and terrifying reveal of myself. The castle proper beckons him up from my subterranean abode, and the only thing stopping him is my current disappearance. His duty is to feed the hideous, dreaded castle “witch“, regardless of the fact that I don’t require earthly food, as is declared by sacred royal law. The same law, coincidentally, that keeps me trapped here.
This law did not, foolishly, account for my ever-massing powers. These glorified commands are constantly broken, and thus, weakened by nearly all people of the kingdom, whereas every day I grow stronger. The law seals me here, but as the mundane laws are constantly cast aside, so, someday, shall the magical seal.
It’s only a matter of time, Knat, I whisper through the folds of space to Knat’s superior brain. He knows of this, of all my strength, of the inevitable doom of his precious kingdom. For years, these thoughts have boiled in my brain, so much that they saturate the very air. Knat’s been here often enough to hear my disembodied whispers, my very heart and soul…
And I can hear him as well.
I feel his begrudging acknowledgment, his acceptance of this awful fate. He tells himself that he, nor anyone, can do anything about it. I am just another problem to be forgotten about, to be ignored. Something about that just bores me to bits.
“Come on, Knat,” I murmur, now fully tangible, dangling from the ceiling just millimeters from his ear. “You could stop me, you know.”
“No,” he says robotically, as any brainwashed servant would do. I glare at the sword anchored to his belt, mere inches away from his idle hands, yet he remains rigid.
“Or you could tell someone else, make it their problem,” I continue in my siren voice, trying to coax out a second syllable from his thick, bloody throat.
“No,” he repeats. His mind is nothing but the castle, training plans, and his minutes-ago breakfast. He’s already forgotten me–
No. He just doesn’t care.
I smack him with enough force to send him stumbling onto my bed. He half-tries to get away as I pounce onto him, holding his arms with my biting claws, but he limps with surrender after a few pitiful seconds.
I push my consciousness into his, desperately trying to get a real response.
I push Knat away, physically and mentally. I feel every battle-trained muscle under his strangely thick skin and the weight of the sword at his hip. I rise above my own body, sprawled on the bed, while Knat’s thoughts float around the room, watching expectantly.
I hold his sword over my own vulnerable body. “I’ll do it, Knat,” I half-shout in his deep voice, “Don’t make me do it myself!”
Shoved aside by his disembodied consciousness, I open my own eyes, surprised to suddenly see Knat’s hulking form over me, sword raised, ready to strike. His indifferent eyes ignite with anger, while I am suddenly euphoric with feeling. Real, real feeling.
He swings his sword in a small arc, grazing the very tip of my lip light enough so I barely feel it. Before the first and only drop of blood wells up in the minuscule cut, Knat wraps his arm around the small of my back and pulls me in to kiss it away.
I shudder compulsively with surprise, passion like a bolt of lightning igniting my every cell. Knat’s furious gaze remains as he thrusts me back onto my bed and turns away.
“That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” He inquires coldly, facing the door with his back to me. I feel his brain pondering the consequences of his drastic measure. He was hoping it would allow him to get away, to leave me here stunned, but he’s paralyzed himself.
A single emotion, a single growing awareness, has tied us together, and both of us are still. We both try to comprehend it, to conquer its power, but its strength is something unconquerable. Neither of us have felt it this strongly before, even though now it is clear that it’s been with us all along.
Like a familiar scratch in a record I’ve heard countless times, the stoic expression on his face breaks into a cautious smile, the same goofy grin I wait for every day. From what feels like lightyears across the room, I feel his heart beat faster with an unexplicable infatuation, and his eyes light up in delicious awareness. His emotion-tangled memories of our meetings, this play we act through every day, break through and transform him into a whole new person. The only person I ever want to see.
I stretch my awareness out and take all the power for myself. My magical form feeds on the enchantment of this incomprehensible emotion. But, torn away from Knat, its blazing warmth turns to cold sorrow, becomes weak and wicked.
Knat’s eyes glaze over with misunderstanding. His memories have once again shattered, and once again all he remembers is the castle and his duties. I am part of his world no longer, and the sound of the door shutting behind him drives the knife in my brain a little deeper.
Feeding on this twisted anti-love, stealing it from Knat’s soul day after day, only drives me closer to the edge. The gruel, splattered and forgotten on the floor, grows even colder–I have found a new source to feed on, but at a terrible cost.
See you tomorrow, Knat, I whisper to his now-ignorant heart hundreds of feet above me. The only part of the day that holds any precious significance to my immortal life, the time I’m with him.
In the morning, I coo to him sweetly, I’ll steal your heart again.