“Come here,” she said, but the Girl didn’t hear it- she was busy trying to catch the water in her palms and feed it into the bowl. The fish’s mouth stretched wide, wider than wide, in a pleading ‘o’ of soundlessness, watching another stream burst through the cracked glass. It was a blue fish, a pretty thing, but it repulsed the Wizard.
“Come here,” she said again, more insistent. The Girl glanced at her, smiling, but didn’t move from her task. Nothing would move her, the Wizard thought.
Quadratic equation, whispered a tangled vine of hair by the Wizard’s ear, and see squared equals eh squared plus bee squared. “Quiet, you,” hushed the Wizard, pulling her cloak tighter. The ice-rimmed lake was almost perfect, except for the shattered hole the Girl had made, through which she reached earnestly once more.
“The Wizard’s hair is full of secrets,” said the Girl suddenly, looking directly at the blue fish. It turned slowly, in a wide arc of confusion. “I heard them talking last night. Her pillows are stained with them, little squiggly lines of knowledge. Do you believe me, Fish?”
“Come here, Girl,” said the Wizard, “your hands are bleeding.” The red stains slid down her palms and wrists, landing in smoky splashes in the glass bowl. The crack began to run pinker, and the Wizard looked at it in foreboding. The fish darted away from the drops in increasing panic, battering at the glass. The water rippled.
“I think the Wizard must be a genius, Fish. She does not talk so much, I think, but what she says is worth saying.”
“You don’t hear me much, Girl. What you hear must be worth hearing.”
“What say you of love, Wizard?” The Girl didn’t look at her, steadfastly filling her bloody palms once more. The Wizard stilled, her sudden exhale a white cloud obscuring her face. Three point one four one five nine two six fivethreefiveeightnine-
“What love? There is no love. It is a thing humans invented to avoid the stark truth of their loneliness. To fear being alone, truly alone, is the greatest fear of all. So love became a story to tell the children, or themselves, to assure mankind that loneliness is not all that there is for us. Love? It is a fallacy.”
The girl, her hands half-dipped in the freezing water, stilled. She was dressed all in white, her long fur gown crumpled around her. Her lips, ruby red against her white skin, trembled.
“By your definition, the lie of love is created by simply enduring lasting company. We endure it, by which case it eradicates loneliness and gives a person a sense of value and self affirmation. Is that such a horrible thing?”
She only half-turned her head, long lashes fluttering on her cheek, not looking at the Wizard. But the sight of the shell of her ear indicated she was listening.
“By knowing what it truly is, Girl, we are able to survive without it.”
“I cannot. The moments that tell of love are small things- cherishing happiness, finishing a story that makes your heart beat faster, holding hands, a laugh. These are beautiful- but they don’t consume a person with obsession that can never be met, like fictional love does. They just are, moments of contentment.”
“Are you content?”
“As content as I can be.”
“Are you in love?”
“What say you of love, Fish?”
The creature opened its mouth wide, a rictus of terror, as the water slunk further away through the crack. With a sigh, the Girl cupped her hands once more and topped the bowl again. Jutting sideways from its face, the eyes of the fish rolled to look at the Wizard. “O” it said silently, in one long, silent scream- “ooooOOOooooOOO”.
“You’re still bleeding.”
“I’m heartbroken, of course I’m bleeding.”
“I can’t, the fish will die.”
The Wizard stared silently at the reddened water. The fish’s belly was very white, she thought. It bobbed gently, its blue fins slack. The Girl stared at the fish as well, her hands still.
“I suppose I should go inside.”
“Come, I’ll light a fire.”
“Well, okay- but no more talk of love. Let us speak of death instead.”
* * *
By Danielle K. Day