Updated: Jul 31
It creeps up on you in unexpected ways. Fear doesn’t like to make itself known. Not immediately. That would give you time to run, to put distance between you and the thing. Honestly, it seems like it would be easier to go back home and stop claiming this fight as my own. I didn’t know when I became someone who was needed but I think of Alex and Vala. I think about all that Alex had sacrificed to keep me alive, watching over me every day since we were teenagers. She seemed like a godsend when she fell into my life, it turns out it was a type of magic I didn’t know existed that sent her.
Then there was Vala. In the short time we’d known each other, Vala’s emotions had begun to slowly evolve. I wanted them to be the answer to ending a burdensome existence, but somewhere in the span of six months, Vala had become mine to guide. If I left them now, what would happen? Vala wasn’t my responsibility, the cursed being who was not human or faerie had existed for almost a thousand years, did not need me. But…
Images of Vala in that monstrous form flash into my eyes. Menacing red eyes, hands that had become claws stained with blood. I can’t lay in this bed anymore. Despite the cold outside, the house was warm, the blankets were heavy, and the air was thick. The tears forming stung my dry eyes. I had been looking out the window into the night. The moonlight was inviting. I wanted to run into its open arms. I imagined the goddess Selene inviting me to play.
Stepping out into the night air, the cold pierced my skin but I ran anyway, I ran with my two awkward feet until they became four nimble paws. I ran for the trees in the form of a fox. Vala had tried to teach me to become an animal in times where I needed to retreat and conserve both physical and magical energy. They insisted it be something inconspicuous like a cat or dog but this, this felt like freedom.
The forest took me in, recognizing me as one of hers. I dashed here and darted there. The soil felt soft beneath me, the air was fresh. It wasn’t long before I could hear it, the padding of heavier paws closing in. They were fast but I was quick. It didn’t surprise me that they knew. That they’d follow. Quickly, I shoot up into a tree and watch from above.
Black and fearsome, the dog enters the clearing beneath me where my scent stops. Our eyes meet. You didn’t catch me I think. The dog sits, patiently flicking its tail. I know what they want, but what happens if I come down? What happens if I come to you? I leap to the next tree over, and to the next. They patiently follow. I stop when I come to the lake. The full moon reflected on its surface looked like a portal to the faerie world. I could leap into it and never return.
A bark pulls me back. I choose not to look, not immediately. Another bark. Indignantly, I turn to them. From up here, they seemed so small, but you could not hide the enormity of their existence. I finally leap down to face them, landing on my two feet, changing back. I wanted to face Vala as myself.
The dog was gone. We stood there, naked, the moon casting its light on us. The forest was quiet tonight. Vala had that same rejected look they’ve had every day since I saw the truth. When we had first met, I asked that they never hide who they were from me and since then Vala had always maintained the appearance I’m seeing now. The body of a human that towered over my own, white skin but limbs covered in a midnight black that also covered half their face. Their eyes were a deep red and they had horns that I thought made Vala a satyr, but Vala is half wendigo and half human. I know that now.
“Do I scare you?” Vala asked, breaking the silence.
I was scared at first. I think that’s why I ran away that night, but not now. Vala would never harm me, but I didn’t know if I could always stop them. They went on that rampage when they thought that I had been killed, but I was saved by my own magic.
“No.” I said, shaking my head. I could see the relief wash over their face.
“I thought you were running away again.” A sadness gripped my heart, hearing these words. I didn’t want to leave Vala, I felt like I couldn’t. That reality terrified me.
Closing the distance between us, I approach Vala with want and hesitation. I reached a hand out, not sure what I was looking for. My fingers were met with theirs. Vala closed their hands on mine and pulled me into them, wrapping me in their embrace. I let my head rest on their chest, unable to close my eyes. What comes next? I ask myself. I wanted to ease myself into Vala’s warmth. I didn’t know when their scent had become so important. It was a warm musk, like the forest after the summer rain.
I push against Vala so I can look up at them. I reach my hands to their face and run my fingers through their thick black hair. I watch as Vala closes their eyes taking in my touch. They press their forehead to my own.
“The cold is unbearable when you’re gone.” Vala’s voice was always so strong and composed, but here it was childlike and scared.
“I’ll keep you warm.” I said as our lips inched closer. I held Vala’s face in my hands, stroking the lines along their jaw with my thumbs. Our noses touched, I could feel their breath on my lips, and I closed my eyes. I understand now why they call it falling in love, because it feels like I’ve fallen into a chasm and I’m not sure I want it to stop.