Adventures in an Unfamiliar Environment
The 25th Day of the Clove Moon, 10-182
Little Ablias managed to get ten hours of uninterrupted rest, which is recommended for any ailment. Before his eyes opened, he heard footsteps in the hallway, as well as adult voices participating in conversations involving medical jargon. He turned his head and opened his eyes, expecting his room back at the manor to greet him like it always had. However, that was before reality kicked in. There were no blue drapes with bubble patterns or light blue carpet, nor were there any stone statues of little finches placed on any dresser. There was just white: white walls, white floor, white bed. White was a color normally associated with the brightest of lights. It stimulated the mind and made one think that the room that they are visiting is new, even if it had been there for years. This room was new. Everything was new. The way that it stimulated Ablias' mind was that it brought the feeling of perpetual blank, conformity, dispossession. He was swallowed by it, unable to break free because everything that would make it specifically his own was in his real home.
Ablias, like any small child, loved mornings and often had the pleasure of waking before the older members of the household. As a being that had no concept of numerical times the o'clocks he paid attention to the natural rhythms of his body, as any animal would. However, he was a little more than upset at this morning. His chest still ached from the night before and the ache was getting stronger again. Recognizing the first signs of a panic attack, he slowed his breath and tried to deal with the situation. There was no need to be intimidated by a room. The walls and ceiling were there to protect him and keep him warm. They were his friends, but he still thought that their color was unsettling.
He looked out the window and saw an untamed field of golden grass swaying in the early spring breeze. The wild flowers that fit snuggly in between the wisps were on their way to opening their petals, which Ablias figured was the flower equivalent of opening one's eyes. Some were well on their way to showing their inner workings their stamens, pistils, and ovaries and no longer looking like closed dots. Out of the corner of Ablias' eye came an unexpected ungulate, the pox deer. This particular species had a golden color with red dots that were tossed into the mix. This particular specimen was a female, since she was void of the two-pronged antlers that served as one of their identification markers. Following the doe was a fawn with shaky, skinny legs and no red spots in its fur. Ablias could not hear him from the closed window, but he was most likely squeaking by the look of his mouth movements. These mouth movements quickly ceased once he latched onto his mother's teat to take a nice, long sip.
Ablias fell to the bed and started up his memories.
"Mama," he said. Tears welled up in his eyes. The woman who had given him so much warmth was no longer a citizen of reality. He knew that she was with the spirits, but he had no idea how to get there. Everyone else was there, too, probably having fun with the other people who have died. Just as he was about to become comforted at the rolling hills of golden grass outside, this harsh fact had to hit him in the face, caused by another comforting scene in nature, no less.
"Sir, you need to calm down," said a muffled female voice in the next room.
"I say you need to calm down, lady!" said a man's voice coated in superficial anger, "They said that I needed to kill five people today and they do unspeakable things to me if I don't fill my quota!"
It looked like these walls weren't a protective as Ablias thought. He squeezed his pillow, trying to drown out the unpleasantness with aimless humming, but the crashes managed to make objects in his room vibrate. Oh, if only his mother were here to protect him! If only the rest of his family were here! His warped conscience may have landed him in this warehouse of monsters and ingrates, but the solution was starting to become much like the problem. Nobody was there to hug him or assure him that everything was going to be all right. He had been told by countless people that he was skilled in magic and that he was well on his way to becoming a big boy, but this stay at the asylum was counter-productive for his maturity. With every spontaneous, uncontrolled tear that dribbled down his face, he felt as though he was reverting into an infant. As he was crying, a little rain cloud (once again) appeared over his head due to his inexperience with controlling his magical power. Since he did not want to get the bed soaked, he ran to the corner of the room next to the door to do his crying. As expected, the raincloud dripped onto the polished white wood and mixed with the boy's tears.
From all of the commotion that was caused by the crazy man in the next room, Ablias was unsure as to whether he wanted to go out into the hallway. Then again, the morning had ways of prompting someone to escape solitary confinement and join others for their daily routine, so he reached for the door knob and tried turning it. All he could do was jiggle it, causing it to make short clicking noises. No matter how strong he tried to make his lanky arms, the doorknob would not turn.
A velosis nurse walked by holding a stack of papers; she stopped suddenly to look at the sign on the door. The outside of Ablias' door said "Danger: Mentally unstable wizard occupies this room. Enter with supervision". She then started to walk at a faster pace.
Ablias, thinking that the doorknob would have to give up its stubborn ways sometime, tried jiggling it for another ten minutes. Why was he being treated this way by the strange people? Was this all because he was sad? Sure, he always wanted his alone time whenever he felt the melancholy drift over his mind, but he needed something else at the moment. His stomach had become an empty pit since he had started sleeping the night before and he wished for nourishment in some form. He would make food appear, but he was without his wand. In his underwhelmed state, he climbed onto his bed, laid on his back and attempted to stick his foot in his mouth, which was never as easy as it was when his body was tinier. His hungry state would probably encourage him to be flexible enough to achieve his task, especially since he had forgotten what his foot tasted like.
As he was straining his leg muscle to bite into his big toe, a slot that he had not noticed opened at the bottom of his door. A tray with a bowl and silverware slid into his room and closed so fast that the slot nearly clamped down at the end of the tray. Ablias got off his bed and inspected the contents: a bowl of breakfast mush, a spoon, a cup of blueberries and a glass of orange juice. Hooray! Breakfast! He grabbed the slightly-scratched spoon and dug into the breakfast mush. Right after shoveling two heaping, wheat-filled spoonfuls into his mouth and getting some on the front of his asylum gown, he inspected the food's taste. This breakfast mush did not taste like any wheat meal the chiefs ever made. Granted, it did not taste like much of anything unless somebody added maple syrup or brown sugar or fruit in it, but this breakfast had in it a taste that made his tongue retreat. It tasted a bit like that one time that Ebyn dared him to eat paper paste. Not being one to waste his food, he hesitantly swallowed it while wincing.
His favorite edible addition to wheat meal out of the three listed above was maple syrup. Much like many children his age, he went by the philosophy that any food can be improved by adding something sugary to it. Reader, how many times have you tried to improve the taste of crisped rice cereal or ring-shaped oat cereal by heaping mountains of the white stuff onto the floating bits in your bowl? This atrocity of food was not justified. Ablias had to do the best thing that came to his mind for a situation such as this one.
He made his hands into fists and banged on the door as hard as possible, causing the door to vibrate.
"I want maple syrup!" he shouted, trying to make his voice heard to the trees, to the sky, to the other worlds, "Is anybody out there?! I want maple syrup!" Like with the doorknob jiggling, he banged on the door for ten minutes straight. If there were people outside, they were intentionally ignoring him, thinking of him as one of the monsters that had been locked up in this building. As Ablias panted from all of the screaming he did, he leaned against the door in defeat.
"I'm not a monster," he said to himself. He certainly was not like the guy in the next room. By this point, he knew that nobody was going to come to his attention, so he simply decided to perform the intended action of pouring the small bowl of blueberries into the breakfast and stirring it around. As he stirred around the berries, some of them split and leaked juice into the warm cereal. This produced fun swirls the more he stirred, making him giggle at the once-boring food. After he became sick of this, he finally decided to eat it, even though it had already gotten cold from negligence. He had to admit, the taste improved from having the berries bleed into it, even if the juices from the berries were somewhat sour. "Don't focus on the sour," he thought, "only think of the sweet."
For no other reason than force of habit, Ablias closed and locked the door when he used his private bathroom. After he was finished, he attempted to wash his hands but was unable to reach the sink. Noticing how close the bathtub was to the sink, he climbed onto the side of it and managed to reach the faucet. He was a little genius.
There were two faucets on this sink: one on the left that was shaped like a goose head and one on the right that was shaped like a horse's head. He could tell that this was not an upper-class establishment, since those places had faucets shaped like the more elegant animals, like dragons and gryphons. He turned on the horse head faucet and a gush of cool water drenched his hands as he lathered with the lemon-scented castile soap. And then
"Hello!" said the tiniest voice.
Ablias flinched. He could have sworn that the voice came from the sink. Scratch that he was convinced that it came from the sink. Since he could not yet distinguish fact from fiction (not that there was much of a different in the Outer Universe), he had no reason to believe otherwise.
"Down here, you pansy!"
As the cylinder of water was pounding at the porcelain in the basin, out of the liquid sparks came a familiar face from the night before. Why, it was Cornelia! She had come crawling back from the esoteric bowels of the Spirit World to check up on her new friend. At only several inches tall, she had eyes that were too tiny to even cast a reflection, they were practically poppy seeds. However, she saw Ablias quite clearly.
"You look like you've been through a lot this morning, Champ" she said. She became much more reassuring than she was a moment ago. The back part of her watery body still blended with the water that was seeping into the drain, so she constantly gave the impression that she was going away.
"Cornelia," he said, "I want to get out of here. They put me with monsters but I'm not a monster." Ablias then looked at himself in the mirror, which had a patch that was either a blur or a million little scratches. His cheeks were still smooth, his eyes were still the same color, his teeth were not pointy. "or am I?"
"You're not a monster. Believe me, I attack monsters whenever I see them. Your brain is just broken."
Ablias knocked on his forehead, trying to find a sign of pain deep within his skull. "But I never hit my head on anything. My brain doesn't feel broken."
"No, Ablias. What I mean is that your mind is unwell."
By this point, Ablias became responsible enough to shut off the faucet since he had no reason to run it. Nevertheless, Cornelia stayed, even if her essence departed down the drain.
"You know that knowlegram you have at home? The one that broadcasts educational programs and news bulletins?" Although she was trying to explain things clearly, her tiny voice had a force that sounded aggravated.
"I have many of those at home."
"Well, I'm sure there have been times when one of your knowlegrams starts showing static or white lines due to technical difficulties."
Ablias thought back to the last time that this happened when a knowlegram that he was watching. In the middle of a program about dolphins, Sarlo accidentally tripped over the antenna that was sticking up next to the platform that broadcasted the hologram. Suddenly, the static began eating at the moving picture, obscuring the narrator's voice with intolerable buzzing. For fifteen minutes, Ablias' other siblings were angry at Sarlo because it typically takes much jiggling and concentration to get the antenna back to its former place. Nobody around the knowlegram could stand it, but they could not turn it off because they had to have some way to figure out whether the antenna's position was correct or not.
"So somebody tripped over my antenna?" he asked. He also wondered if it always felt this weird to speak in metaphors, "But I don't have an antenna."
"Are you questioning my use of metaphors?!" asked Cornelia. The water spirit was tiny enough so that the fear that went through Ablias was the same meaningless fear that would accompany the sight of a spider.
"No, I'm not. I am a knowlegram." Ablias was a little afraid to ask what exactly a metaphor was, so he just accepted her odd explanation compliantly.
"Well, Ablias, I've known you since you were born and you are a knowlegram that had its antenna set in a position where everything could be seen and heard clearly, but your antenna was a little more off-kilter than others and a slight interference was present."
Ablias was not sure what all those other large words meant, but he started to have a pretty good idea.
"You've always been the type of child to hold grudges for days on end and to have a single bad day keep you in your room, prevent you from eating, and stop you from seeing people. You can't cope."
"Well... you got angry and scary before. You have a problem, too."
"Them's fighting words, weakling!" She then swiped her tiny, swirly arm in his direction, causing it to become a decently-size splash that hit his cheek. This was a feisty one.
Ablias took what Cornelia said into serious consideration. The way he acted during those years was how he thought everyone dealt with sadness. To him, sadness was not just something that lingered for several hours until you got over it. Sadness was an ever-growing shadow that suffocated you until nothing in life mattered. Sadness took your thoughts and pressed the rewind button until they stopped being ordinary passing thoughts and started becoming obsessions. It squeezed your insides until your muscles ached and your food simply ejected from your body undigested. It did not always go away whenever something positive was presented to you, no matter how positive that thing was. In comparison, happiness only lasted for as long as whatever making you happy persisted, but Ablias' idea of sadness was harder to relinquish than a nasty stain. But the fun part's not over yet: Sadness brought about insecurities about the most trivial matters you can imagine, nourishing them in the parasite carrier known as your body until they grew to their adult size. And there you have it. Ablias was single-handedly responsible for the life cycle of an insecurity.
With this in mind, Ablias had no idea how optimism could exist. If darkness overpowers the light, that was that. Pour as much water in that glass as you want, it will only grow deeper and deeper until it becomes a bottomless pit. If his mind was truly a knowlegram as Cornelia the nymph suggested, it was a pain-staking and irritating process trying to get the antenna into a position where its picture was crystal clear. With that in mind, how many people could possibly exist where the picture was perfect for them? Ablias would have been terribly surprised if he was only a minority in the population.
When he looked down, he saw that Cornelia was gone, at which point he was relieved that he did not have to deal with hyped-up-yet-informative friend/pest. The toilet-cleaning wand was placed safely in its holder and was the closest thing that Ablias had to a toy. Not looking forward to much, he stepped off the side of the bathtub, grabbed the toilet wand from its holder and went back into his room, playing with his feet once more.
After spending about an hour staring at the door, he started thinking about Hadrian the salamander and how much color he would bring to the room. It would only be a small dot of red and orange, but it would be something. He hummed an improvised tune slightly better than the one he improvised when he heard the scary man next door as he waved the wand back and forth. It hit the bed every so often since he was waving it so close to the sheets. The wand had boar bristles that were painted purple and green, colors that were fun and lively. In fact, the toilet wand was already livening up the room, even though its pastel colors were disguising the fact that it was probably covered with germs.
Once Ablias caught sight of the tiny explosion, he sat up and noticed that lo and behold it was Hadrian. Yes, Hadrian was here with his tiny flame body and bug eyes that followed you everywhere.
"H how did you get here?" he asked.
"Silly boy," said Hadrian, "You summoned me!"
Ablias moved his pupils back and forth in his confusion. "I summoned you?"
"Yes. You wanted a spirit badly enough and now here I am."
"So that's how it works?"
"Pretty much at least for little babies like us. For the bigger stuff you need to whip out the big guns."
Ablias grabbed his chest and breathed heavily at the thought of anything involving weapons or violence. He was just that sensitive right now.
"Relax, buddy. It's a saying. I'm here to congratulate you on your first example of spirit magic."
And thus, Hadrian managed to heap even more confusion on Ablias' confusion.
"But you guys came here without me summoning you."
"Yes, but not this time. I was not intending on coming here, but you brought me here! Well done!" He then clapped his fiery nubs creating, not a clapping noise, but one of a flame being waved around.
Ablias looked at the toilet wand in his hand. It was long and had a unique shape at the end of it, so it made perfect sense. He had cast a spell with an unofficial wand. Would that get a little wizard boy scorn from his elders? Would it insult the magical arts? It did not much matter. There were no elders here. With that said, now why in the Outer Universe would the boy have thought that optimism didn't exist?
At the front desk, two nurses chatted amongst each other, and indeed, the juvenile mental patient that was admitted the night before gave them much to talk about. The blonde human nurse leaned against the counter and tapped her fake nails against the wood. The urchin nurse that is to say, the nurse who was a member of a race of people that looked like two-foot-high upright hedgehogs was sitting on the counter with her paws on her knees while they kick one at a time in the air.
"So how bad of a case is it?" asked the human nurse.
"It doesn't seem to be as bad as we thought it was going to be," said the urchin nurse.
"Has he had his magical powers disabled?"
"As far as we know, we have not had to use an anti-magic wand on him. He seems to be behaving pretty well despite him being alone for so long. We'll check up on him soon enough."
Oh, how scrumptious! Ablias has found his outlet. The Outer Universe is his oyster, but really, why would it be an oyster? He had never been inside an oyster, nor is it possible to climb inside that breakable, tiny, slimy enclave within the ocean. Who would consider that to be a paradise? Who invented that saying, anyway.
Or maybe we should stop deconstructing this clich.
Ablias started thinking about how to change the bland, sterile room that served as his confinement. Should he make the walls blue? Or red? Should he make the dresser drawer rainbow-colored? Should he add a giant teddy bear to the corner of the room? This room didn't need colors quite yet, what Ablias really wanted was more friends. He closed his eyes and thought of the sylph that came along with the other spirits the night before. What was her name again? Oh, yes, Aurora. He thought, "I really, really, really want her to come by again."
Aurora the sylph came in a puff of purple smoke. She floated there with her eyes closed and her head bowed down. Soon after appearing, she opened her eyes to see the room where she was the night before. She had a look of slight dismay on her face, although Ablias could not believe it if the sight of her friends made her the least bit unhappy.
"Is this important?" she asked mid-yawn (a perfectly sound question to ask), "I was getting my beauty rest."
"I summoned you so we can play a game!"
Aurora and Hadrian looked at each other with diffident stares. Ablias thought that they would be happy to play with him since he summoned them here. Friends were supposed to do things with you if you ordered them here, right? Or was he thinking of slaves?
"Oh, nothing," said Aurora, "We're elemental spirits, so the only games we know involve practicing our elemental capabilities."
"For me, it's blowing things in a certain direction and for Hadrian, it's igniting things."
"Then let's blow on things that we have ignited!"
"I don't think you quite know what it means to ignite something." Before Aurora could continue, Hadrian flew in front of her looking (and we apologize for using yet another shellfish-related clich) as happy as a clam. Ablias swore that the tiny flame that comprised his body combusted just a little bit as he became excited.
"Yes! Let's ignite something! Start a fire, make it glow, let the chaos reign!"
All of a sudden, the doorknob clicked and turned. Somehow, Hadrian and Aurora found just enough time to vanish without leaving any trace except a slithering trail of smoke from Hadrian's presence. The person behind the door opened it rather slowly as if she were kind enough to let the creaking noise express itself without rushing. The person revealed herself as the blonde nurse, who wore shoes that made the most noticeable tapping noise on a polished wood floor and lipstick the color of red lingerie. She had in her hand a teardrop-shaped bottle that was carved with tiny vine-like decorations and had a lovely cork to keep its contents packed inside. Snuggled next to the bottle in that same hand was a little cup, a doll's cup that nobody would expect to be used because dolls only drink pretend tea (brewed from the finest pretend leaves, of course).
"How are we doing this morning?" she asked in the most reassuring voice possible. She must have had some experience with children since Ablias felt no intimidation at the sound of her smooth, whispery voice.
"I'm good," said Ablias. For reasons that not even he knew, he wanted to spare the woman the details of the strife he went through that morning.
"How are you liking this place?" The nurse sat down on the bed next to Ablias. She gave off the smell of lilac flowers, a fluttering reminder that spring was returning after a nine-month-long hiatus.
"It's good. I'm lonely, but it's good."
"Well, I'm sorry if we left you alone for too long. We just wanted you to get a feel for this place." The nurse wiggled off the cork on the bottle, making a squeaky hollow noise as it broke loose. She poured some of the liquid into the small cup; it was golden yellow with a thick texture and it almost reminded Ablias of the grass outside. "Here, take some of this."
The serum smelled sweet and it made Ablias want to drink it even more. When he downed it, his mouth was painted with a nice coating of the liquid that lingered there until it followed the rest. There was a sweet taste, but an aftertaste came that was a bit like the houseplant that he bit out of curiosity one time.
"I will check up on you in a while." With that, the blonde nurse got up and left, closing the door as slowly (and noisily) as she opened it.
Later on, after Ablias suffered the delayed toll that his digestion took from his anxiety attacks earlier, he felt much better after the prolonged stay in his private bathroom. When he came out, he decided that he was ready for his friends to come back. Let's see he hadn't seen Luscious the gnome since last night. He should summon him with his makeshift wand. When he closed his eyes, he thought, "I would like Luscious to come here."
For some reason, Luscious appeared from under Ablias' bed. Once he stuck out his little, green head, he shook it wildly and coughed. Ablias had never heard a high-pitched cough before, but it sounded like when he would scratch his bed sheets with his toenails whenever they got too long. Luscious floated up towards Ablias looking cheerier than Aurora did earlier.
"Hello, friend," he said, "What can I do for you today?"
"Let's play a game!" said Ablias. Ablias wanted to see if Luscious would react the same way as Hadrian and Aurora when he suggested the same thing. Maybe he could see what an elemental spirit game actually looked like.
"I have a better idea," said Luscious, "Let's learn something!"
Ablias sulked at such a suggestion. Wasn't being locked in a room punishment enough? "But I don't want to learn! I want to play!"
"You're still growing, young human. We need to get some knowledge into that head of yours." Luscious then tapped on Ablias' forehead. His tiny nub of a hand felt a little like a smooth, thick leaf, probably a nicer feeling than being tapped on the forehead by a fire spirit. "Besides, it's not like there are very many playthings in here unless you can create them with magic."
"No. I only know how to make things change color and make another of something that's already there and make you guys appear."
"You have a long way to go. What do you say we practice our opposites?"
"You know what they are, right?"
"I don't know." Ah, yes, a phrase that was all too familiar to a child.
"They are two things that oppose each other."
Ablias cocked his head like a parrot. Fortunately, Luscious was no stranger to body language.
"When one thing is not like another, it is an opposite. What is the opposite of yes?'"
"Very good! That's an example of an opposite. What is the opposite of dark.'"
Ablias started getting the hang of this. The answer was always something that was the least likely to get along with the question. "Light!"
"What's the opposite of correct?'"
"Uh I don't know."
"Incorrect, my friend, although the answer is not incorrect."
Ablias became baffled again. "But you said it was!"
"No, the answer is the word incorrect. The word's definition does not apply to the answer."
And so, Ablias and Luscious spent an hour practicing their opposites: yes and no, dry and wet, good and bad, happy and sad. Ablias was aware of some of those, but had no idea that the concept of a contradictory option had a name. Two had always been his favorite number because something about it seemed so balanced and harmonious. Now he knew why, because the laws of physics were apparently set up in twos, with one being a polarity of the other. At this point, he refused to believe there was anything in between because it would have thrown off this amateur logic.
Luscious eventually came to one that was of far more significance to Ablias' situation than the others.
"What is the opposite of death?" he asked.
The word hit Ablias much like the first time he heard it. He still was not sure what it meant. All that he knew was that it caused people to disappear, it happened to everyone and it was forever. He jumbled the contents of his mind to find the opposites of the definition he thought about and he eventually came up with this:
"Is it something that brings someone here, does not happen to anybody and is not forever?" he asked.
"Well not really."
"But what I said is the opposite of someone dying!" The squeaking in Ablias' voice as he whined could easily pierce through fragile eardrums.
"Well I think I should tell you the answer. The opposite of death is life. And do you know what causes life?"
Ablias shook his head. He anxiously waited for the answer.
"A spirit is what causes a life."
"You mean like what you are?"
"Yes, but you have a spirit within your own body. It's the reason you live."
Ablias looked down and moved his leg. Was a spirit responsible for the ability to move his leg? He didn't know. "What does a spirit look like?"
"Well if you want me to find a spirit that's like the one you have, I can fish around in the Winter Realms for one."
Ablias' eyes lit up and he clapped his hands three times. He knew that he would understand spirits better if he were actually shown one as opposed to having Luscious explain them to him. After all, that's why little kids loved touching things and putting them in their mouths. You try explaining what fuzzy or painful or ticklish feels like in a complete sentence, although we suppose it is possible if you dig deep enough in your vocabulary and memory. Once Luscious disappeared, Ablias became that rare species known as a patient child, since he knew that this patience would pay off.
He only had to wait about five minutes before Luscious reappeared, causing Ablias to flinch in his expectations of a longer waiting time. Along with Luscious came a tiny ball of bluish-yellowish light that was about his size.
"Here it is," he said, "A spirit."
Ablias got on his hands and knees to get a closer look at the oddity. He was just as surprised as anybody that this ball of light was perfectly safe to stare at up, much less from afar. It was not just yellow and blue that cascaded outwards from its core, but colors that Ablias saw in little flames that would alter themselves to browns or purples or reds or any color that had not been discovered yet. He did not know whether the spirit was producing these colors from the energy that it was giving off or if it was just a vision trick, the same colored blurs that would appear from starring at a candle's flame for a half an hour.
"What is your name, spirit?" he asked. He expected an answer since his elemental spirit friends had names and voices, but also didn't expect one because the spirit in question did not have a face. If it did have any feeling whatsoever, it would have backed off from Ablias' leering at an uncomfortably close distance.
"It won't have a name unless it plants itself into a body," said Luscious, "It's that kind of spirit."
Ablias continued to stare at the glowing ball of energy with the same fascination that a person on mind-altering drugs would get from starring at a lava lamp. It was difficult to glance at it from different angles since it looked the same all around, but that didn't stop him from trying.
"I should get Hadrian to come and see this!" he exclaimed.
After summoning Hadrian, he expected the same surprised reaction from him. However, Hadrian could do nothing but yawn at the sight.
"But isn't it great?"
"It's just a spirit, Ablias. I see them every day. I'm happy that you're happy, though."
Luscious cleared his tiny throat before making his announcement, either because he wanted to make himself clear or he wanted to sound older than he was.
"I would leave you two alone, but nothing good happens from anyone being left alone with a rapscallion like Hadrian," he said. He sounded smug in his judgment of the fire imp.
"I'm right here, you know," said Hadrian.
"And besides," interjected Ablias, "Hadrian isn't a scallion. He doesn't taste like an onion."
"Speaking of which, I hear there's an onion plant on a farm somewhere that's lost its way."
Luscious may have been wise beyond his years but as a young spirit, he was also gullible. "Gah! That onion plant needs me!" In a puff of purple smoke, the baby gnome vanished. Oh, Hadrian. You rapscallion, you. Hadrian squinted his eyes and darted them back and forth while rubbing his "hands" together. Ablias was far too busy to be suspicious since he was still mesmerized by the spirit.
"Hey, Ablias," said Hadrian.
"Yeah?" he replied.
"You don't like death, right?"
It took no time at all for Ablias to think of a proper answer. "Right." He was also too occupied to have any deep emotions about anything having to do with that subject.
"Well spirits escape from bodies when they die. If you don't like death, then why don't you put that spirit into a body?"
"That's a great idea!" Ablias snapped out of his fascination, ready for anything. He felt like clapping his hands three times once again but stopped himself in order to scan the room.
"That way, you can have more friends or even replace the family that has been destroyed."
What was there that Ablias could implant? There was furniture, a rug, bathroom fixtures but nothing that resembled a body. Looking at the spirit, he had no idea what went through its mind or if it even had a mind, but as a child who was quick to anthropomorphize anything and everything, he assumed that it was just dying to possess something.
"But where should I put it?" he asked.
"That dresser drawer looks eager to receive life. What do you say? Are you ready for the next stage of spirit magic training?"
"Yeah!" Ablias was so fired up (by a fireball, nonetheless) that he bounced on the bed, making the springs in his mattress complain. An unintentional spell that produced a barrage of flower petals was cast to go along with his joy, popping around his head the more he jumped.
"Calm down, buddy. We haven't even tried it yet"
Once Ablias stopped jumping and calmed down enough to make the flower petals disappear, he took another good look at the spirit. From the way that he would change an object's color by just thinking about a different color, he figured that he would make the spirit move by just thinking about it moving with him. "Move with me" he thought.
Using the toilet wand, he pointed at the ball of light until a yellow glow bled from its tip. He moved the wand and success! the spirit moved with the wand. All he needed to do now was bring the spirit to the dresser drawer, which remained as tarnished and unexciting as it did when Ablias first judged it this morning. The only part of the wooden structure that was fit to be touched were the thin, fancy handles that were required to open the darned thing. The rest of it looked like it was suffering from a particularly bad case of psoriasis. Ablias could not tell whether it was the wood or the white paint chipping off, but the appearance made the piece of furniture look positively beastly. He had no reason to fear for his fingernails, for they were retreated into his fingers doing nothing more than peeking out over their respective tips, but he was afraid of getting splinters. Was it really a good idea to bless this rugged dresser drawer with life? It still had to fulfill its duty of holding clothes. Then again, Ablias could very well have a living thing that could hold clothes and be his friend. It's a win-win!
Ablias brought the spirit over to the dresser drawer, thinking it appropriate for the two to get acquainted first. So far, so good. Thinking that Hadrian would get the message, Ablias waited for further instruction from him.
"Wait are you waiting for?" asked Hadrian.
"What do I do now?" asked Ablias.
"You put the spirit in the drawer."
Ablias opened the lower drawer and moved the spirit into it without bumping it along the way. He then closed the drawer like he would do if he put anything at all into it, providing that it would fit. "Okay, it's in."
Hadrian slapped his forehead in annoyance. "No, not like that, stupid!"
Ablias let out a horrific gasp. "You said a bad word!" Oh, reader, don't you long for the days when "stupid" and "shut up" were considered swear words? But we digress.
"I'm allowed to be as passionate as I want, Ablias! Your mother, father and siblings were passionate and impatient during the moments before you wiggled your way into reality! This is life, man! Life is all that any person, animal or plant has! It's all you have! But now, you have a life right here in your control, waiting for you to make the next move." Wow. Hadrian was good at inspirational speeches, wasn't he?
For this task, Ablias needed the utmost concentration. What's that you say, reader? A child cannot be a god? What nonsense! In Ablias' everyday life, he was his own god, giving toys names and personalities, putting them in pretend situations, deciding their fates. Some of these poor souls died in the battles on Candy Hill, or got eaten by dinosaurs or giant teddy bears, or drowned in the bathtub sea, meeting their porcelain doom. It was way better than what those cootie-covered girls did. All they did during playtime was become mommies and keep house, although he supposed that they also had the privilege to give names and personalities to the toys in the process. That's still not as good as playing god, though. While girls who played house can always look forward to doing it in real life when they grow up (that is, if they didn't change their mind and aimed for a career), little boys never grew up to be raised to the rank of the divine. Childhood is the only time in life where a person can even come close to omniscience, even if it was for a race of plastic people who had no say in whether or not to be an atheist.
But to be a god in the non-pretend sense? The average boy would trade all the mud pies he's ever made for such an opportunity. Gods don't have to go to their rooms when they act up. They don't have to go to school or take guff from their older siblings. In the Outer Universe, a wizard child is perhaps the closest to being a god an honest-to-God god. It was probably for the best to hang a warning sign on the outside of Ablias' door. Vitalia's normie majority had trouble enough understanding a wizard's capabilities unless they knew one really well. Now, Ablias would show them one of his capabilities.
Ablias found that, ever since he had taken the serum that was given to him, there was less clutter in his mind. He was much more focused and calm, prepared to usher in thoughts that actually mattered at that point. His mind's eye took sight of the dresser drawer in front of him, all alone on a blank canvas. He thought of the spirit about to go inside of it; not inside of it, but embedded into it, embedded into the fibers of the wood, every area jagged and smooth. He thought of the two objects mixing together, much like what he did with the breakfast mush that morning. The mash-up did not resemble anything wooded like the drawer or lucent like the spirit. Rather, it became a mess. Imagining this abstract concept was not enough, though. He also had to make the desire that went along with the image clear. "I want to put this spirit in the drawer's body" was what was repeated.
Reality came to Ablias in a flash (an accurate description considering the color of the room) as he pointed his wand toward the spirit so swiftly that it nearly shot from his hand like a harpoon. Just as quickly, the spirit flew toward the drawer and made its flash encompass the entire object. Ablias covered his eyes and wondered whether he had implanted the spirit or simply brought a piece of a star into the room. Different color light danced in strands around the dresser which grew smaller and smaller until the traces of the spirit disappeared entirely. Then, the drawer stood there like it always had. Ablias looked at Hadrian. The fire spirit had no look of doubt on his face or even confusion, he had the raised dimples that said either "you just did something really neat and different" or "oh you're going to be in so much trouble."
After a few more seconds, the unthinkable happened unthinkable, but not unpredictable. The drawer's stubby legs started moving and stretching in multiple directions, twisting so that it could make up for all of the years that it had stood there. There was no way that it could do this silently; creaking noises were heard from all of the stress that its wood frame was undergoing. Ablias' grin managed to expose every single one of his baby teeth, because heaven forbid, he did not want them to miss out on this, either.
"I did it!" he cheered, bringing back those flower pedals in his outburst spell.
In a puff of purple smoke, Luscious returned looking rightfully frustrated, his frown looking like a perfectly drawn arch.
"Hadrian, how could I have fallen for your lie?" he asked, "You didn't even specify whether the onion plant that had lost its way was looking to walk on the right path or if it was suffering from a moral crisis." Once Luscious took a gander at the no-longer-inanimate dresser drawer, his squinted eyes went from looking like diagonal parentheses to looking like diagonal lines. As for his frown, he could not possibly make it look any more arched. "Now you've done it, Hadrian! I leave for five minutes and you go and change the laws of physics! That's so like you!"
"Hey!" quipped Hadrian, "Ablias did most of the work!"
"Yes, I did," said Ablias, not ashamed to take claim to this amazing feat, "He's going to be my new friend." Ablias looked back at the dresser drawer, which was completely ignoring the physical law that wood cannot bend without breaking. "Hello, my name is Ablias and" He cut himself off when he took note of how much of a disgrace the piece of furniture looked up close. Now that it was teeming with a life of its own, it was not only ugly, it was ugly and unpredictable. He did not know whether it was going to just stand there pleasantly or try to eat him. What sort of monster had he created?
"Your name is Ablias and" said Hadrian in response.
"And I think you're ugly!"
The dresser drawer quivered upon hearing the end of the sentence. The chipping pieces of wood and paint flaked off of it and hit the floor in subtle taps. The handles on its top drawer started drooping in sadness. It was common knowledge that wood would react negatively to being submerged in water and being sliced in half, but nobody had ever seen a wooded structure react negatively to insults that came out of nowhere.
"Ablias, do you have any idea how to make friends?" asked Hadrian.
"No," said Ablias. No surprise there. "But I still don't want to be his friend."
"What, because he's not your idea of good looking?" asked Luscious.
"Yeah. Someone who is ugly should not have friends."
"You probably shouldn't mention this around the thing you brought to life," said Hadrian.
"That's what I don't understand," said Luscious, "How can something hear if it doesn't have ears?"
From the words that were being used, it would not have been surprising if the dresser drawer was convinced that the world, from its first impressions, was cruel and merciless. It started to run as fast as its stubby legs could let it until it crashed into the bathroom door. Wanting to flee the situation made it try to run through the door over and over again, making a thunderous crash. Ablias ran into the other direction, hiding in the same corner where he hid when he cowered at the sound of the mental patient next door. The very weight of the piece of living furniture gave the impression that its ramming was eventually going to cause the walls to collapse. Sticking his fingers into his ears only muffled the crashes, but lowering them to a more agreeable volume did not take away its nightmarish aspects.
"Stop!" shouted Luscious. Someone had to do it. "Please stop before you wreck the place!"
The dresser drawer ceased in its destructive retreat. For something that did not quite have human intelligence, there would be reason to believe that it would be inclined to live by its animal er furniture instincts, but the drawer's shabby appearance was easily made up by the fact that it was quite obedient. Maybe this was furniture instinct? After all, furniture was made by man, so it would only make sense that possessed furniture would serve man, or in this case, elemental spirit. Theories abound in the field of metaphysics
"The little boy did not mean to insult you. He doesn't quite know how to make friends and you were born for that purpose." Luscious then looked ahead at Ablias, who had stopped cowering but still had a wildly galloping heartbeat. "Ablias, please apologize to this piece of furniture. People and things cannot always help the way they look and they surely have good qualities beneath them."
The dresser drawer turned around and faced Ablias, who emerged from the corner brave enough to look the piece of furniture in the eyes er upper drawer handles. The only time he had apologized to anyone was when his mother made him apologize for insulting his siblings or if he intended to be honest about something but insults someone instead (we believe that's called putting your foot in your mouth). Ablias had always felt stupid saying the words "I'm sorry." By doing that in the past, his mother was forcing him to be open about the fact that he was wrong and little kids never like admitting that they're wrong. You mind as well kiss the person's feet and proclaim to the heavens that you're not worthy. Kids, however, are willing to bear the brunt of being lower on the hierarchy than parents and the other adults, more willing than they will be once they become teenagers. Ablias, standing face-to-face with the one he blessed with life, was perfectly willing to apologize since this was the proverbial key to a possible friendship.
Before he could even think to say anything, he felt a chill that wiggled through his skin and muscles and all the way into his bones, possibly even his marrow. His breathing accelerated; it felt like someone was pounding on his chest with a Native American drum beater. He was fairly used to experiencing crippling anxiety attacks for uncontrollable subconscious reasons but he tried desperately to put a finger on the cause of this one. Then he started noticing the horrific fuzzy things. He could see them in the corners of his eyes, their fuzzy, round bodies with no mouths or eyes or ears. He could feel their fur, soft to the touch but unsettling in the prickly sensation he would feel when even the slightest bit came into contact with his skin. He could hear their laughs, like squeaky rubber jackhammers from beneath the stalactites of the underworld. Ablias turned his head repeatedly, hoping to catch a full glimpse of the demons before they would retreat to the corner of his eye, but he was unsuccessful in that attempt.
"Geh-eh-eh" he shuttered, "Fuzzy things they come for me"
Luscious and Hadrian just floated there, disturbed with Ablias' improbable description.
"We don't see any fuzzy things, Ablias," said Hadrian, "We only see you and the living dresser drawer."
Twelve pages later and characters are saying things like this
Ablias, acting possessed himself, started screaming, which caused him to cast the unintentional spell of tiny lightning bolts that thrashed and flicked all around him. Boom! Crackle! His mind started processing things so fast that whatever action he acted upon was done before he could properly comprehend it. In this case, it was opening up the lower dresser drawer of his new friend and telling him to "go, go, go!"
The drawer, being the obedient holder of clothes that it was, trotted away from the scene, but this time, it was wise enough to turn sidewise and scoot slowly in its attempt to exit the room. From then, chaos reigned, like Hadrian wanted.
"Go, Ablias!" he shouted. His flame combusted slightly in his excitement at the situation.
"Quick!" said Luscious, always the logical one, "We need to stop them!"
Meanwhile, the dresser drawer galloped through the hallway, trying to protect its new friend from any dangers, even the ones that only his new friend could see. Ablias closed himself into the bottom dresser drawer as much as possible, but at the same time wanted to see where he was being taken. Much like a person riding a horse, the leg movements of the drawer caused a considerable amount of bouncing for the rider, certainly not the calm environment that is recommended for one who is undergoing abnormal amounts of stress.
"The fuzzy things are chasing me!" shouted Ablias.
As the dresser drawer made its retreat from the imaginary horrors, it bumped into the walls, causing countless framed pictures to fall to the floor and countless nurses to seek shelter in the nearest rooms. This was the safest measure to take since the width of the drawer kept anybody from putting their backs against the wall in any corridor. All that the nurses did afterward was sign in relief and return to their duties changing bed sheets, administering medicines and speaking words of tranquility and assurance. For a person working at an insane asylum in a realm where magic is everywhere, this is just another day on the job.
In one of the psychiatrist's offices, a nervous man who was dressed in a bigger version of Ablias' asylum gown sat on a couch that had cushions that sank deeper than it let on. The psychiatrist, always the patient listener, took notes on what he heard from the man, or rather, he took notes on what the man was not too afraid to admit.
"Now, Sean," said the psychiatrist, "You say that you see and hear things that are out of the ordinary. What do you hear now?"
The man gulped while picking at the insides of his fingernails.
"Well, I hear a little boy riding the inside of a possessed dresser drawer in order to hide from the fuzzballs that he thinks he's seeing," said the man.
"Well, that's oddly specific."
Just then, the dresser drawer speeded past the room just in time for the psychiatrist to catch sight of it. He looked into his coffee, possibly trying to remember whether any hallucinogens or alcohol had been dripped into it.
"Oh, my I think I'm finally connecting with these crazies."
The manic dresser drawer knocked over a cart containing all sorts of medicinal treatments, spilling countless plastic containers and clay bottles to the ground. The plastic containers managed to survive the fall, but the breakable ones met their fate in shattered pieces, exposing to the world their pills and capsules, each given their own color code so that clean-up would not be confusing and tedious. The dresser ran through the main lobby, with every aware person there taking notice, and it galloped up the stairs, accelerating the bouncing affect for Ablias.
No matter where the dresser drawer went, Ablias still sensed the fuzzy creatures, always suspicious of their ways. He had not even thought about what they were going to do to him once they catch him; when small children are told by their diabolical older siblings that somebody like the Boogey Man was going to get them, they essentially frighten them by using the word "get," one of the vaguest verbs in the English language. When you "get" someone, you're basically just bringing him or her to you for any reason whatsoever. It could be for the purpose of bringing that person home or persuading him or her to help you. Of course, nobody has ever seen the Boogey Man or knows his intentions, so small children automatically assume that he plans on doing something bad to them. It is human nature to assume the worst, even when people have a cheery view of the world. While Ablias had only seen these fuzzy things out of the corners of his eyes, he was ultra-wary of them, even though the word "fuzzy" is not normally associated with the word "terrible." On the other hand, "terrible" is often associated with someone or something that is grating and will simply refuse to leave someone alone, like Ablias wished that these monsters would do.
Ablias thought to himself, are there terrible things in life that will not cease to bother you no matter how far you run? Is it possible for monsters to be non-physical as well as physical, to exist only as visions or assumptions in your mind? After all, his mother had told him that the "claw" that was lingering outside his bedroom window was just a tree branch.
Before he could think any more about this child-level philosophy, his steed was abruptly stopped. Despite his questioning of blind fear, he still blindly feared the fuzzy creatures that may or may not have been out to get him. The administrator of the institution, a unitiri named Mr. Y'Rada, had frozen the dresser drawer with his green and cream-colored wand that had light green streamers coming from it. Everything had stopped around Ablias. His mind still raced but his body was afraid to do anything physical. The combination of speedy mind and stagnant body was unbearable in its limitations and, if he could, he would have easily tried to get his little legs to catch up with his mind so he could possibly win the race. However, he could not move, so all he could do was scream and seal his eyes until it was over and that's exactly what he did until a prick in the arm caused every muscle to calm like pasta in boiling water. Unlike pasta, though, he also went through a blip in his perception of time, putting his memory on hold and not absorbing anything having to do with the darkness behind his eyes.
Ablias stirred a little as he was being transported back to reality. Under him he felt some fabric that would have felt somewhat rough on its own but was complimented with the cushiness of whatever fluff had been added under it. He opened his eyes to an inviting office with a large window overlooking the large field of golden grass, showing much more than his own room's window. As he rose to sitting position, he was still frazzled and groggy, wishing that he could sleep some more. No matter how much he wanted to remain in his state of sleep, he had to stay up in order to fully comprehend the situation. Why was he here? He was here because he was in trouble. Upon realizing this, the inner chill that had tinges of vexatious warmth came to him. By now, he knew that anxiety came with all kinds of chills ones that feel cold, ones that feel warm, once that bite you and leave goose bumps that try to become miniature mountains. As diverse as they were, all of them were equally unpleasant.
As Ablias waited, he took note of how this man decorated his office. He had put a plush sofa on the side wall, he had a poster of the famous psychiatrist Gerald D. Lorfeztri on the opposite wall, and a desk made of walnut wood which had legs carved in the shape of animal feet, although he was at a loss as to which animal it was. His lamp had a blue glass body full of colorful marbles and tricked the eye into thinking that a fish had called it home. Pictures of loved ones were displayed in a way in which the person behind or in front of the desk could notice them. The man had a family, people who awaited his arrival at home after work, little ones who called him Dad. Ablias first felt awkward about the fact that the man who was about to address him in a professional and possibly angry tone had people in his life who were just as informal to him as he was to them, and this made the man easier to love. It also made Ablias intensely jealous because he used to live that way with his father.
All of the decorations in the room were placed there to showcase the man's style and settle his nerves. It not only provided a welcoming environment to the man, but a welcoming environment to his guests. However, this charming setup was cancelled out by the fact that this man was going to, in the words of many teenagers, "totally kill" Ablias for what he did. One could decorate a dragon's lair in the exact same way and it still would not erase the fact that the dragon was about to eat you, it only masked it.
Soon enough, the door opened and revealed the unitiri man who had stopped the possessed dresser drawer and ordered the nurses to sedate Ablias. He had on his body the thin, coarse layer of white hair that covered the bodies of many of his race, along with the small bump of a black nose. He also had a head of light blue hair that reached his shoulders, pointed ears placed on the sides of his head and a prominent horn on his forehead that spiraled upwards elegantly. As he walked to the center of the room, the clopping of his hooved feet could not be ignored, nor could his cascading horse tail which swished without warning. However, like all people, he had features that made him an individual, particularly the frown lines on his face, the emerging gray of his hair and his green suit jacket that was comprised of fabric cut in the pattern of crimson-tipped ocean waves. And do we even need to mention his curly beard? Because all wizards have facial hair all of them.
"Ablias," he said to the boy. His already-baritone voice slipped into a downward inflection, which caused a spasm in Ablias' shoulders.
"Yes?" asked Ablias pathetically.
"It seems that you have been using your magic to summon spirits and whatnot. I should know your gnome friend was telling me all about your escapades."
Ablias drifted his concentration away from the man's words, like he usually did when adults used elaborate vocabulary. He aimed his eyes away from the man and instead starred at the cream-colored wall, wondering if there were any bugs standing out. It was certainly the color that would make something like a bug obvious to everyone.
"Boy, you will listen to me and you will listen to me clearly!" Mr. Y'Rada's voice had abruptly raised its volume much like a television commercial would do out of nowhere.
Ablias became so frightened by the voice that he held back his tears by closing his eyes real tight for a brief second. He clearly knew his place in the matter and it was certainly not at the level of this authority figure.
"Your gnome friend tells me that you and a fire spirit you had summoned implanted a spirit into a dresser drawer and made it come to life. What you did was very risky and it very nearly led to the destruction of asylum property. Little boy, did you ever have toys at home that you never shared with anyone else? Or sweets that you wanted all to yourself?"
Ablias nodded his head. He gave the man credit, he at least tried to dumb down the conversation for someone in his age group.
"Well, that is the definition of property, boy. It is ours. The only difference is that what is ours is there for the purpose of allowing the patients of this hospital to use. If something bad were to have happened to the dresser drawer, the person who will have your room after yours would not have been too happy to see that he will have no place to put his clothes." Mr. Y'Rada took a misaligned pile of papers on his desk and straightened them out so that he would look more professional.
"Where is the dresser drawer?" asked Ablias, "Is he okay?"
"I performed a spell that set the spirit of that trouble maker free. It is now back to being a regular dresser drawer, thank the gods."
Now, Ablias was really trying hard to keep back the tears. To him, it may have been setting a spirit free, but a serial killer somewhere can always use those words to sugarcoat his dastardly actions. No he didn't kill his new friend. He just reversed the spirit possession and that's all he did.
"So why did you do it? Your father told me that you are normally a good little boy, the best behaved out of all of your late siblings."
Ablias had once again come to a dead end on the terminology being used. His siblings were late? Late for what, exactly?
"Now I see that your father had every right to check you into this institution. Your actions are a threat to those around you and you get ideas from hooligans in the Spirit World. In fact, you're not much different from the other wizards that have checked in. You are here to recover from your mental maladies, not practice dangerous magic." Mr. Y'Rada then went to the front of his desk and pulled out a drawer that struggled to open judging from the screeching of the wood-on-wood friction. He took out a wand that had the most basic look to it; no sparkles, no streamers, no decorative carvings, just a thin, black cylinder with a white tip. "Boy, do you know what this is?"
Ablias just sat there, secretly hoping that staying silent would end the meeting early.
"Answer me, please!"
Well, at least he asked politely. "I don't know, Mister."
"This is an anti-magic wand. I'm sure your mother used one on you when you were a fussy baby casting emotional outburst spells. Since we know that you are not trustworthy when it comes to the art of magic, we will be using this on you from now until you are checked out of the institution."
The nerve! Ablias had the honor of holding his awakening at an unusually young age and now his wunderkind status was about to be revoked? This man didn't know him! He didn't see that he had never caused anything that even resembled chaos with his magic. If anything, it was because magic was still mysterious and unnerving to someone so young. Ablias finally decided that now was the time to cry.
"Gulllaaaaggggh! It's not fair!"
"I say that from the events that have just happened, this is the fairest thing I've done all day."
"But I want friends! My mommy and brothers and sisters are dead and I was making the dresser not dead! Luscious and Hadrian and Cornelia and Aurora are my friends, too! I don't want them to go away forever!" Ablias clutched the decorative pillow next to him and buried his face into it. He no longer wanted to look at the man who is about to curse him. On top of that, he considered it to be justified retribution to smear his cherished pillow with tears and watery mucous, especially since the man's words made him turn on the proverbial faucet that produced those fluids.
"That's what this is about? You just wanted companionship?"
Ablias turned his head to the side, surprised that this man changed his tone so quickly. He assumed (correctly) that "companionship" meant "friends," so he nodded. Mr. Y'Rada spoke no words for the next ten seconds; either he was thinking of a possible solution, undergoing a change of heart, or both.
"Tell me, Ablias were you of sound mind when you cast this spell?"
Sound? Sound? Was he seriously asking if his mind made noises? No, no, no using his handy big person translator, Ablias deducted that the "sound" that he spoke of was the same "sound" that someone uses when he says, "that person is sound asleep." He had remembered his mother using the word in that way when she used to scold his siblings for being too noisy during his bedtime. That had to have been it. He nodded accordingly.
"Ablias, as foolish as your magic may have been, you had a perfectly understandable reason for bringing that piece of furniture to life. It is natural to want companionship. Nobody wants to be lonely. In fact, we have group therapy here for that purpose." Mr. Y'Rada took a look at his anti-magic wand and sighed. "Ablias, if you promise to be a good little boy and not take too many risks, I will let you practice your magic and summon your elemental friends for company."
Ablias felt relieved, like an invisible hand was massaging his brain. This would normally be the part where he would smile and jump on the couch, but his crying wore him out. He was overjoyed at his privileges, he just believed that giving a simple smirk would convey it best at this time.
"Mr. Y'Rada," said a familiar female voice. By a stroke of luck, the blonde nurse walked into the room in order to put even more of a damper on the situation. "What he did was not entirely his fault. We had given him a new medicine and"
"Oh I see. Maybe you should take Ablias back to his room and tell him more about the erm bad feelings he underwent."
The blonde nurse walked over to the couch and took Ablias' hand to communicate her desire to take him to his assigned room. After facing the scary administrator, he felt a sense of security and little dabs of love when walking with her. A woman, after all, would not touch the hand of a child whom she thought was a monster.
The blonde nurse spent her sweet time sitting with Ablias on his bed while explaining to him why he was afflicted with terrifying visions during his experimentation with magic. It was almost noon, so there was no need for the room's light to be switched on, as there was plentiful daytime starlight streaming in through the window. However, it was not quite strong enough for it to beat down mercilessly on Ablias since the summer strength of those stars were still several months away. The blonde nurse had an angelic feel to her as the daytime stars acted as a collective spotlight to her and her explanation. Maybe it was the fact that she had a profession that required compassion and comfort, but she had a much easier time talking to Ablias in non-technical words that he could understand.
"You see, you saw scary things because the medicine we gave you made you see them," she said. Ablias was more apt to pay attention to this lady because her eyes had a shade of green that was perky and loud, like that of mashed peas except with no yucky taste to accompany them.
"Why did you make me see scary things?" asked Ablias, "I don't like scary things."
"I don't either, sweetie. We gave you the medicine because we thought that it would help you not be sad and scared all the time. Did you still feel sad and scared after I gave you the medicine? We need to know this in order to help you."
Ablias thought back to his dabbling in spirit magic earlier. If he had been absolutely focused on the loss of his family and his transfer to a new and scary place, he would not have garnered the concentration or confidence to do what he did.
"No. I did not feel sad and scared."
The nurse smiled, stretching out the sheen in her lip gloss. "Good. Now that we know that the honeywort syrup works for you, our healing wizards can alter it so that the fuzzy monsters don't bother you when you take it."
Ablias curled his toes impulsively. Even without the surreal events that had happened that day, the asylum was still a surreal pock mark left on the otherwise peaceful countryside. He was a baby animal that had been captured and placed in a cage in the vicinity of the scariest beasts on the way to a side show that displayed exactly how far the mind could wander into the realm of the perverse and the morbid. He felt displaced and distraught, but he needed to be there since he was too much of a freak to frolic with the other baby animals.
"Miss Clemens," he asked timidly.
"I'm not a monster. The other people here are monsters but I'm not."
"Ablias, do you like being scared and sad all the time?"
This seemed like a foolish question to ask. The words "scared" and "sad" were firmly placed in the category of negative emotions and he could never imagine why anyone would willingly afflict those emotions onto themselves (then again, he had not yet met a woman who enjoyed tragic romance novels). "No, I don't like being sad and scared."
"Many people in this institution feel the same way as you do and they don't like it, either."
"The dresser didn't like it when I called him ugly."
"Exactly. It's not nice to call things ugly because they can't help the way they are, whether they are ugly on the outside or the inside."
Ablias had been so swept up in his childhood fears that he did not even once stop to think about the humanity in the next room. The man in the next room thrashed and cursed in the most primal and irrational way possible all he could imagine was a beast with claws and teeth slashing at everyone and anyone who gawked at him through his cage. He was deeply disappointed that day because it was the day that he realized that adults could be deeply flawed, more so than he could imagine. Adults were supposed to be the ones scolding children and teaching them better whenever they acted up. They prepared children for their own imminent adulthood by dispensing advice. Woe is the child who lives by the example set in the next room. However, Ablias felt that maybe if he saw what the man looked like, he could get a better idea of his humanity, he could see this man as one would see a man.
"Does the man in the next room like being a monster?" he asked.
"I'll bet you that he doesn't," replied the nurse.
"I want to see him."
The nurse flinched at such a wild request. "You want to see him? Why do you want to do that?"
"I want to see if he hates being a monster, too."
Although Ablias did not know it, he was flirting with a decision that was more mature than anything that anybody even twice his age could suggest. His mind shed light on another dimension that neutralized his original perception of good and evil, drawing no clear line between the two. Seeing and hearing often brought about basic ideas and basic ideas often lead to rash assumptions, but seeming is not always the same as being.
Or maybe you could blame it on his strong childhood curiosity.
Ablias walked with the nurse to the room next door. It was always a good idea to bring a trained assistant on a visit like this since she would always be prepared if the man decided to do harm to anyone. To ensure extra protection, he brought along Cornelia the nymph, since she was a feisty girl who lashed at anyone who gave off any aura of a threat. Someone like her would not make the best friend, but she would at least be helpful in a situation that was threatening in the most obvious sense. As Ablias looked up at the man's door, he nearly backed out of this visit, being clouded by thoughts of, "Maybe this man really is as bad as he seems." He tried to back away from these self-doubts as much as possible.
When the nurse opened the door, Ablias saw a room that was all-around white white bed, white nightstand, white dresser drawer just like his. In fact, absolutely nothing was different save for the man sitting on his bed. Although it was barely past noon, this man had on his face a look of exhaustion. Circles of lethargy surrounded his sunken eyes, although that could have very well been the angle at which the light was shining. His stubble gave his chin acres of blue-grey from the little buds poking out of their follicles. Either he intended to grow a beard or he was falling behind on his personal hygiene. He showed classic signs of hairline recession, with his bluish-grey hair not going beyond the crown of his head. His mouth, with lips dry enough for habitual licking, was slightly agape but he did not seem to care whether any foreign particles would fly into it. Ablias carefully counted all of the things wrong with this man that any person would correct if they had happened to him, but he promptly snapped out of his judgmental attitude so that he could continue with his simple confrontation.
"Mr. YellowBean," said the nurse, "You have a visitor here to see you."
The man looked down at Ablias menacingly, turning his sunken eyes into ones of warning. He started resembling an insane clown. Ablias kept calm but squeezed the nurse's hand ever tighter. His sense of black and white morality came back to him and all he could think about was the man's appearance.
"It looks like you brought an elf in here," he said in a voice so low that it was almost a whisper.
Ablias was unsure from the tone of his voice as to whether he was threatening him or if this was simply a term of endearment.
"If you lay a single hand on Ablias" said Cornelia as she floated in front of Ablias. She punched one swirly arm into the other unraveled swirly arm, making herself look more inauspicious than she actually was. However, there was no way that Mr. YellowBean could have adequately seen her angry eyes.
"I won't," said the man. He replied as if it were a form of submission, but he was actually doing it for the intent of being courteous. Ablias was feeling more at ease and he loosened his grip on the nurse's hand.
"My name is Ablias," he said cheerfully, "What are you here for?"
The man scratched his cheek, telling Ablias that he was not entirely unaware of his flaws and discomforts. "You see, little elf, I have schizophrenia."
Ablias felt intimidated by the long word, hoping that nobody would make him say it.
"I don't think he knows what that is," said the nurse.
"Well, it means that I have voices in my head."
"They're in your head?" asked Ablias, "Not in your ears?"
"No. They're in my head so nobody except me can hear them. These voices tell me to do things that are bad."
Ablias thought about the fuzzy creatures that he had seen earlier. Those were in his head, too, except they were only brought on by the side effect of a remedy. He started thinking about how lucky he was that the professionals were able to stop this by not giving him the medicine anymore. This man, on the other hand, had a disorder that had hallucinations as a symptom, and a hard-to-control one at that.
"Do you like hearing the voices telling you to do bad things?" he asked. This was a rather ridiculous question, but he wanted to verify that what the nurse had told him was correct.
"No, I really don't. I would like to be a normal person and not hear voices, but the gods cursed me with this instead. Word has already gotten around the asylum and I'm positive that I know what you're in for." In the asylum, there were no knowlegrams broadcasting news in any of the rooms, so patients managed to get their daily dose of current events through either a newspaper or word of mouth.
"Yeah." Ablias felt relieved that he did not have to tell the man his problems or the tragic story that set them off.
"Some people get all the luck. You don't have it nearly as bad as I do. Well, I hope you recover well. I'll try not to go too insane." Although the man was friendly and (dare we say it) well-adjusted at that time, he clearly wanted some privacy; he had arranged his sentence so that the subtle intention of sending them off on their way was imbedded into it.
"We'll be on our way," said the nurse. Her voice was calm and mellow, perhaps in an attempt to not set off any mental breakdowns. She pushed Ablias' shoulder blades, which put pressure on him to walk out of the room faster. He did not need this push since his agitation had subsided once he got to know the man. Was the nurse really more afraid of him than he was? He had the urge to whine at her, to make her stop with the forced movement, but he would have ruined the mood otherwise. Good thinking.
Cornelia turned around and leered at the man.
"I'm watching you" she said. Saying something like this would generally not be a good idea, but she was weak and insignificant enough so that even a mentally unstable man could easily ignore her. She floated there, looking at the downtrodden man until she noticed the door closing behind her, at which point she flew through the door just in time.
The nurse walked Ablias back to his room, along with his water spirit friend. She flashed her pearly whites in his direction as if she had witnessed a genuine miracle, something for the priests to document and commemorate for years to come.
"Do you know how many little boys are brave enough to do what you just did?" she asked.
Ablias turned his head to the side, trying to come up with the best guess for her question. The answer could be any number, really; however, he had no idea how many numbers actually existed.
"I don't know," he replied.
"Not very many. You're a special kid and don't forget it." She then closed the door, leaving him to his privacy. What? No specific number? How many boys does show know that are like him?
Ablias had not seen very many children his age since he had been homeschooled and his extravagant playthings made it so that he had no reason to go to a public playground. This reminded him that he was not a normal child and that he did not belong in this institution. However, before his thoughts could spiral downwards even further, he stopped himself and reminded himself that what the lady said was intended to be a compliment. However, it bugged him that she did not specify a specific number. How did she know that he was special if she did not keep track of the number of unusually mature boys out there? Never mind that. What mattered was that he had faced the "monster" in the next room and survived. In fact, he did not even have to wage a war for this to happen. All he had to do was use words to understand him and realize that he was not all that different. Yeah. That's what he should do from now on.
but she still didn't specify an actual number.