Story and Artwork by Mia Martins, Age 14, USA
I’m a hundred feet in the air. I have been for the past two days. No food. No water. No sleep.
And most tragic of all, there is no one else up here to complain to.
See, I go to magic school. Not like Hogwarts, in the sense that we all have mystical powers, but in the sense that we’re all budding Houdinis. Actually, I’m not. I’m an endurance artist. The ability to put your body through incredible feats and still come out alive. To me, that’s real magic.
My watch beeps. The challenge is up. I take a deep breath before casually stepping off the column I’m standing on. I plummet through the air before landing on mattresses set here for this purpose.
After my teacher marks my grade down and strides out of view, my friend Angel emerges from the woods, where the spindly shadows of the trees have been keeping him hidden.
I grin at the sight of him, my chapped lips cracking with the action, and try to get up. I fail miserably. Stiff from being locked in place for so long, my legs buckle beneath me. Angel smirks, and I glare at him, this time managing to teeter off the mattresses.
He comes forward and grabs me, at first wrapping my arm around his shoulders to help me walk to the school. But after he realizes I can barely walk at all, he just scoops me up and carries me the rest of the way. I grab on tight to him. I can’t stop shivering. My head really hurts. I think I might have pushed myself too far with this challenge. And that’s the only though that runs through my mind on the trip back, again and again, like my thought process has been looped on repeat.
We walk through the woods, and even through my addled state, I think I see a flash of blond hair in the woods. “Is that Ellea?” I ask.
Angel looks right before the flash disappears. “I guess, yeah.”
“What’s she doing out on the woods?”
It’s the middle of the night, too. And so cold. My teeth won’t stop shivering, and I’m not even entirely sure it’s just from the cold.
“Dunno. Girl’s a freak show, you know?”
Though I don’t necessarily agree with how he phrased it, I certainly do agree with Angel’s sentiment. Ellea’s definitely odd. She believes in real magic, the mythical kind. At a school for magicians, that’s one of the stupidest things you can do. Even I know how the rabbit gets pulled out of the hat, and believe me, it isn’t actually real magic. You know what it is? A trick hat and a trick table, both with openings. I know, right? The mystery has forever been killed.
“She’s the only one not in a sorority,” Angel grumbles and then glances at me. “Aside from you, of course.”
Angel holds a particular beef with Ellea. There are two sororities at our school: vampires for the girls, werewolves for the boys. I guess it’s supposed to go with the magic theme, being mythical creatures and all. But the sororities are a huge deal to our school; we don’t have an official mascot, so if you aren’t a vamp or a wolf, then you’re basically nothing.
Ellea and I are the only two people in our school not in a sorority. For me, it’s because the vamps don’t consider endurance artists to be real magicians, so I haven’t been invited. Ellea, on the other hand, simply declined her invitation to the vamps. And Angel, who’s one of the higher-ups in the wolves sorority, takes this as a personal insult.
“And you know what’s odd?” said Angel. “Last week, I was in the woods, and I saw Ellea and Kate and Jeff having some sort of, like, whispered conference in the woods. Why would they even need to talk to her? She’s not in the vamps.”
I want to offer Maybe she’s changing her mind? as a theory, but I can’t open my mouth. It’s rusted shut from the cold, so we walk back in silence.
When we reach our school building––a tall gothic mansion that I’ll admit does bear an uncanny resemblance to Hogwarts––Angel lowers me down on the steps and says, “You don’t look so good, Cosi. I don’t think you can make it so the girls’ wing alone. Hold on, I’m gonna go find a girl to walk with you to your room.”
Within seconds of Angel leaving, I hear, “Hi, Cosi!” right in my ear, and I’d start in surprise if I wasn’t so frozen. The person comes around from behind me to face me.
“I need help with a trick,” Ellea says.
I’ve been working on my jaw and I can actually use it now. “You know I can’t help you. I’m just endurance.”
“Exactly,” she says matter-of-factly. She leans down and brushes my hair away from my icy face. “I need someone who can…endure.”
Even though she’s an abnormality, Ellea is still the best illusionist and mentalist this school has and that scares me. Every time I’m around her, my head swims, and I feel like I’m in a dream. She makes images come and go, the woods ripple like water, and mirages float through your mind.
And she’s grabbing me, pulling me up. I look down; our hand are together. When did that happen? I tried to disentangle myself from her, but she’s twined our fingers together, and my vision’s like being on a roller coaster. Whether the effect is from my challenge or from her playing illusions on me, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s both? I can’t think straight.
She tightens her fingers around mine and pulls me into the woods, dragging me straight through the brush. I stumble, my weak legs trying to keep up with her healthy ones. She’s moving too quickly, muttering something. The trees whip past me in a blur of green and brown, nothing but a blurred palette of colours. I force my wooden legs to move faster and sidle close enough to hear what she’s saying.
“The roast beast is black, black as bruised midnight, nighttime is here. The roast beast is black, black as bruised midnight…”
Oh, gosh. She’s crazy. I knew she was crazy. I knew she was crazy.
I stumble on a rock and bash my head into a tree. Ellea drags me around it, the bark dragging along my skin and scratching it. I stumble again, trying to make my legs work right.
I can’t function right; think right. Am I the one who’s crazy?
My heart rate is too erratic. This isn’t safe. I shouldn’t be moving this much after my challenge. I’m much too weak; my body can’t take much more. I need a hospital, not a five-mile sprint.
I fall face-flat onto the ground. Ellea takes this setback lightly and drags me along the floor, the ground cutting my face. I try to get up, but can’t. My mind is doing pirouettes. My dilapidated mind and body can’t talk, can’t think. I feel like I’m on drugs.
I try to yell, “Stop, Ellea!” but with my dry throat, it comes out as more of a whisper.
I manage to lift my head off the ground and look up at Ellea as she winds through the forest. Half of her face melts off the bone before reforming into Angel’s features.
I shake my head violently in an attempt to clear the image and wonder if I’m seeing things on my own accord or if Ellea is making me experience these mirages.
Ellea slams me into a rock. I hear a loud crack, but it sounds far away. Like I heard it on TV or something, not in real life.
I think it was my skull.
I can feel my pulse dropping. Not plummeting––just slowly stopping. I’m going to die. I’m going to die.
“The roast beast is black, black as bruised midnight…“1
I close my eyes. Or, more accurately, they close on their own accord.
Suddenly, there’s a sharp slap to my cheek. I crack my eyes open to see Ellea over me. She shoves a piece of paper at me. “Read this.”
I figure, what the heck. I’m going to die anyway. It’s not like I have any amazingly clever last words. Whatever’s on the paper will probably be better than anything I have to say with my last breath.
My sore throat burns as I hoarsely recite what’s on the paper: “The raw beast is white, white as pale midday. Daytime is there.“2
Ellea recites her little incantation about the black beast while I read about the white beast, our words overlapping in the air until I can practically touch the rhythm they create.
By the time I’m done reading, the words are swirled and blurred, like someone took a wet paintbrush and swiped it through a watercolour of text. Vision goes first. My fingers are shaking, and I’m too tired to really contemplate death. It actually seems…nice. No more pain.
When I look up with my last effort, Ellea’s blurry outline has an equally blurry figure in her hand.
After she shoots me, I realize it’s a gun.
My heart stops completely.
But suddenly, my blurry vision sharpens, like the focus on a camera adjusted. My heart starts again, spluttering and revving like an engine. All my wounds heal immediately, fully. The world stops spinning, and my strength quickly seeps back into me.
I sit up, and with a cautious look toward a triumphant Ellea, I carefully pull the silver bullet out of my chest and wipe off the blood with my shirt before reading the swirling inscription on it:
One half of the Vamperwolf bullet. Silver heals all wounds. Must be paired with gold to give power of vampire or werewolf.
The silver bullet is plucked of my fingers as I belatedly realize that not all the blood on the bullet is mine. Some blood is brown, already dried. I’m not the first person to be shot with this bullet.
Ellea holds the silver bullet in her hand and reaches into her pocket with the other. She pulls out a gold bullet, with the same cursive writing on it, and the same dried blood encrusting the sphere.
When she smirks, I’m allowed a look at her teeth––not the canines of an animal, but not two elongated fangs, either. A mixture of both.
She speaks. I black out.
Two weeks later, Ellea has not been seen since that night in the woods, nor have the sorority leaders, Kate and Jeff. They’ve all simply disappeared, without a trace or a reason. But making things disappear is a speciality for magicians.
But I remember what she said to me, right before I went unconscious. I remember her leaning down, remember her flicking her white-blond hair out of her face, remember her smiling, saying, “So, Cosi. Make your choice. Either real magic does exist or I have just done the greatest trick in all of history.” I remember her standing up, sauntering away, into the woods.
The hospital machines beep around me, reminding me that I’m still alive, even though I should be dead. I shouldn’t have been able to endure so much.
Remember her last lingering words. “What’s your choice, Cosi?”
I’m still not sure.
1, 2 Quoted from Polly Wants to Be a Writer, Chapter 1.