Note: I've been missing the characters and world from the Kindling books. This is the first summer in three or four years I haven't been frantically trying to get a book written to meet a publication deadline--and it's felt a bit strange. So, I thought I'd revisit that world by doing a novella written in serial form. This takes place a few minutes after the ending of Luminescence.
So--spoiler alert. I'll try to update every week or so.
From the Diary of Morgan Timberi
With a single choice, I had became nothing—like a butterfly whose wings had been plucked off. Having tasted flight, I had been maimed. Cast back to the ground, I writhed and struggled, no longer adapted to function or even move well. And if that pain were not enough, my soul stewed in the knowledge that I had plucked my own wings.
Propelled by an intense and urgent need to be alone, I ran as fast as I could—my slippers plumping through the snow on the un-shovelled sidewalk. After running a few yards, I jumped into the air, ready for the Light to fill me. Ready for the pleasant stretch as my body became a comet. Ready to merge with Light, to swim in a tunnel of warmth and joy--
The snow felt soft as it met my face. Softer than the sidewalk beneath it—which met my face next.
I lay without moving for longer than I should have--my mind turning over and over with all the effect of a dead battery. Something was wrong, but in my benumbed state, the answer didn’t come easily.
I sat up and brushed the snow from my robe and pajamas. A nice formality—but too late to prevent the snow from melting into cold, wet blotches.
The reality of my situation did not become clear until that moment.
What had I been thinking? I could no longer Stream. I would never again turn into a comet.
I held my hands in front of me, staring at them until my eyes hurt and my finger trembled. But no warm light appeared. No golden glow filled the air.
The finality of what I’d done pushed past the numb fogginess inside, bringing the clarity of a sharp icicle.
I stood wet and cold, as powerless as any other human. Perhaps moreso, since being powerless was utterly new to me.
In my haste to arrive at the school and prevent a disaster, I had Streamed over, not even bothering to change. I had not planned on giving my powers, so I had not anticipated needing a way home. I had not even thought to bring a phone.
I looked back toward the windows of my classroom. In the deepening purple of the afternoon, the light inside filled the windows with a soft, warm glow. It looked so inviting. I could go back and use the phone to call--
No. No, I could not.
I had come out when the exuberant joy and excitement bouncing off the walls became too much for me. I could not bear another warm hug, wide smile, or heartfelt expression of gratitude. At the moment, that happiness and joy stung and burned my soul like nettles.
I turned away from the classroom. Feathery snow flakes fluttered to the ground outside, covering the world in a cold sameness that smothered and froze all life. Freezing, blank silence all around—inside and out. Bleak, empty, smothering numbness.
Inside of me, something tried to whisper comfort. Deep down, something fluttered, and I felt a flash of warmth and love. A satisfaction that came from my sacrifice. An awareness of the love and appreciation I had earned.
That name unlocked wellsprings of emotion beneath the frigid surface of my heart, which now seemed to be completely frozen while also flooded with tumultuous feelings.
Composing myself and wrenching my face into what I hoped looked like an expression of peace and tranquility I turned around.
Silhouetted in the exterior door of the classroom, a small form stood at the boundary between light and dark, warmth and cold.
As she stepped toward me, moving into the shadows, her features became clear. Red hair. Deep brown eyes filled with concern and worry. My niece, Melanie. She looked so much like her aunt—my late wife—Nicole. Their resemblance had sometimes brought me comfort in the past. Proximity to Melanie somehow made Nicole feel closer, as if Melanie was a mirror that reflected Nicole’s essence.
But now, it felt like a reminder of all I had lost. My wife. My son. And now, my powers as a Magus.
Everything that had defined my life—gone.
“Uncle Morgan?” Melanie tugged on my sleeve. “Uncle Morgan, are you okay?”
I looked at her. No, I was not okay. But she did not need to know that. The worry in her eyes made me feel selfish. So, I smiled. It was a lie, but it seemed justified. I gestured to my wet pajamas and chuckled. “I forgot that can no longer Stream, so I took a little swim in the snow.” I chuckled louder, hoping the action might bring the feeling. “I just realized I have no way home.” I looked away from her. Melanie was far too smart to be taken in by my pretense. But I still chattered in a bright voice. “Rather silly of me—but I came so quickly—”
“Uncle Morgan,” Melanie took my hand. “You don’t have to pretend. I can’t imagine how it feels. It must be awful.” She squeezed my hand as I opened my mouth to protest. “No. Don’t say anything. I know you’d probably do it again and everything. But it still has to hurt.”
For the second time that day, my brilliant niece had made a mistake. I am not at all sure I truly would have done the same thing again. But I did not have time to ruminate on that since she continued speaking.
“Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I think this is going to be really hard on you. Transferring your powers to Lexa was one of most generous things I’ve ever seen. But it must be so hard. And it’s probably going to stay that way for a while. At least you shouldn’t have to pretend everything is okay when it isn’t.”
“Thank you, Melanie. You are extremely wise for a fourteen year old.”
She smiled. “Runs in the family.”
Headlights came around the corner of the school drive, and a brand new silver SUV pulled alongside the curb. The window rolled down, revealing a familiar smiling face. My fellow teacher, fellow Magi, and dear friend Mona Cumberland. “Morgan?” the warmth of her voice and smile reminded me of homemade pie, fresh from the oven. “Do you need a ride?”
“I figured you’d need a way home,” Melanie said. “I sent her a sigil.”
I nodded. At that moment I could not speak. A complex wave of emotion bound my tongue. Melanie’s sensitivity, kindness, and thoughtfulness provided a powerful balm. Her very presence reminded me that I was not truly alone, no matter how I felt.
At the same time, the fact that I no longer could communicate by sending sigils burned and boiled inside, renewing my despair and the sense of being broken beyond repair.
How wonderful that I had a kind, compassionate niece on whom I could rely. How fortunate I was to have friends that could ride to my rescue.
But how utterly awful that my situation required this. How abysmally bleak was the fact that I had no choice.
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