It isn't an easy journey, but that's OK. The fairies never raised anyone to be weak.
They didn't love you, exactly, but love isn't everything. They did teach you, in their own cruel way. Each prank was, after all, a lesson. A lesson in not trusting. A lesson in seeing through the glamours for what is real. A lesson in being alert, in being strong.
A lesson in how to dance.
Yes, there was dance. Always dance. Some say you danced at the revels before you could walk. That the dance made you quick, graceful, strong. You could dance for hours.
It isn't an easy journey, or wouldn't be for most. You are ready for it. Already bigger than most of them, strong and clever and perceptive. Easily able to find the ways.
How do you get across? That doesn't matter, does it? There's always a door for those who want one. In the back of a wardrobe, a rabbithole, a looking glass. They're the hunters' paths in the forest of worlds, well-worn thin places in the veil travelled by those who would do mischief and steal children.
And, more rarely still, travelled by those children on their way home.
You come across near the sea, at low tide. There might be an omen in that, there might be luck.
Luck was another thing they taught you.
It's luck that brings you that particar tide-pool where you see a well-crafted child's face, long since discarded and made home to a hermit crab. The face, of course, is an exact simulcrum of yours when you were a babe, neatly wrought as only the fair folk can. You know that you're close.
It isn't an easy journey, but it's nearly over. The house is at the edge of the beach, overlooking the sea. You know it's the house. Because they taught you perception you can see that it's empty. Because they never taught you manners, you let yourself in.
You step shakily across the threshold. This would have been your home. Would have been. There on the mantle is a photograph of a baby, wearing the face you'd seen in the tide pool. Then a boy, wearing an older face. Then an older boy. One taken, perhaps, each time the changling had molted.
You step closer, your eyes meeting those on the latest photograph. It's your age now, your mother's arm around its shoulder, your father holding its hand.
It seems at home.
It isnt' an easy journey, and it won't be an easy one back. You return to wear you came from, to the revels, to your home.
But as you pass along the seashore, you step through the shallow tide-pool, your unclad foot crushing your old face and the hermit crab which had made it a home.
|Photo by Jessica Amanda Salmonson|