It’s all perspective though isn’t it? What feels magnificent when you’re a kid may just feel average when you’re all grown up. An oak tree might feel grand and regal when you’re eight, but is just an oak tree when you’re twenty four. You go backwards, hoping that what you felt like a child will still be there, can still be called on, when you need it most. You never find it though; you forget that you lost it. You forget that you decided not to keep it, that you threw it away. You’re not looking in the right place…
She knew the inner workings of a plant. She knew the inner workings of trees especially. She knew they did not hold grand rooms of immense perspective within them. She knew trees could never hold a window that looked into an area she vaguely remembered, could somehow vaguely recall as having visited. She stood in the middle of this massive den, smelling the oak, the breathing immensity of the tree, and knew she could only be within the tree.
“Impossible,” she whispered to herself, “Something bigger on the inside,” and she smiled softly, closing her eyes. She remembered there used to be a way for her to enter the oak tree. Remembered that there used to be a door that was not a door and the tree would grant her entrance. She remembered playing merrily in dresses, dresses much too large for her. She heard West’s softly clicking boot heels and turned to find him staring out the expansive window. She walked towards him and was shocked by the memory.
She gasped; the memory of what she was peering into holding fast against her brain. The cardinal points, but of course, West…West of the universe. Entire galaxies, the womb of birthing stars, black holes, pulsars, quasars, solar systems beyond solar systems, all in the realm of the west; the entire Western Universe. It was so big. She was so close to having seen it all, so many corners that she did see, and creatures she had met. Entire worlds she had saved, she had danced with so many other children, just like her. Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses, stableman and horseman, little girls and big girls, she had been everywhere.
She felt like crying, she felt laughing. All she’d had to do was take his hand; all she’d had to do was remember. Candace shook her head, turning to face West, his crazy colored eyes relaxing into that shade of blue that suited him better than all the others. “You showed me everything,” she whispered in awe, shaking her head. “Why? I was just…just a little girl. I would have been satisfied with just the talking cats and the moon.”
West smirked, tilting his head. “Would you have been satisfied with talking cats and dancing beneath the moon?”
Candace thought for a moment, remembering what she used to wish for right before she’d go to bed. “I wanted to fight dragons, I wanted to talk to the King of Unicorns, to find the Fountain of Eternity, to see everything east of the sun and west of the moon, to see if stars really did glow blue and red, I wanted to fly,” and Candace sighed dreamily, shaking her head. “No, no an eight year old with that much imagination would never have been satisfied,” and she laughed softly to herself. West nodded in silent agreement, turning to face the expansive window which showed nearly everything west of the universe.
“You loved her,” Candace whispered suddenly, watching a galaxy explode into the heart of another small galaxy. She had whispered it so softly; she almost thought West hadn’t her. She felt more than heard West turn to study her profile. She smiled sadly, gray eyes gleaming with regret, “You loved what she would have become.”
West’s blonde eyebrows furrowed close together, and his blue eyes remained, gleaming with curiosity. “More so what you became,” and he turned slowly to stare out the expansive window again, and his hand twirled in the air, making small motions. The perspective of west of the universe shifted, and Candace saw more corners, more galaxies, more of everything, and she remembered this too. She remembered the Realm of Roses, the Eternal Labyrinth, and the Dark Corner of a black hole. She remembered a small boy named Peck, a Prince who was just a baby, a gorgeous sorceress named Frigga. She remembered bowing to a strange old necromancer, to seeing the roots of a tree, growing eternally out there, somewhere in the far flung reaches of the universe.
But she remembered, out there in the Realm of Roses, a quiet moment. Aine had pouted wanting to know everything about her friend, her best friend. She had seen so much but she wasn’t even sure what his name was, she wanted to know his name, his real name. West had smiled, crouching low beside her. Aine gray eyes had gleamed with excitement as West whispered something laced in eternity into her ear.
“You told me your name,” Candace whispered out, recalling the way the letters had flown within her. It had been in the strangest of languages, something that felt like warmth and cinnamon. She had giggled when he said it, answering that it sounded more like the tangles of a dream than a name, whatever that had meant. She remembered whispering it, reciting it to memory. It had been such a long name too, it began with a sound like the letter z, and she opened her mouth, forming the first syllable, when a long index finger rested against her lips. There was West, those blue eyes fading into the darker registers of turquoise.
“You promised,” he breathed out steadily, a small smirk playing on his lips. Candace’s gray eyes were wide, a small smile growing. “Who can say,” she whispered cheekily causing West to smile mischievously. Candace laughed, taking West’s finger and lacing his hand within her own. It was so easy to remember now, how could she have forgotten?
“Why did I forget?” Candace asked suddenly, gray eyes wide with curiosity. It was so easy to remember now, so easy to see how all this had somehow influenced her entire being, her entire future. She was studying cosmology only because she had wanted to see the universe, if only she had remembered she already had. She wouldn’t even be in this mess had she been able to remember. She knew she was made to forget, West had said it, even Sorja. Aine had never thought she would forget.
“Because all children forget,” and the voice came not from West but rather across the large den. Candace turned suddenly, West turning to face his sister, detangling his hand from Candace’s own.
Candace knew this woman, she must know this woman, yes, she had known her all her life. Her eyes were like West, crazy colored but different. They were paler, almost as if something deeper within shone through from her irises. Such shades of violets, such lingering embers of gold and ambers, could it be possible there was more color in this woman’s eyes than in all the colors she had seen pass through West?
She wore such swirling shades of violets and ambers, such cool energy radiating from her, nutmeg skin glowing, contrasting her dark, deep violet hair. “East,” Candace whispered shakily. East bowed her head in agreement, smiling softly.
“My Queen,” East answered, walking towards Candace and reaching immediately for her hands. East’s eyes reached into the far flung registers of magenta, Candace seeing color there she had never seen in all her life. “Hmn, I’m always amazed by my work, but you did fight so,” East stated simply, crazy colored eyes gleaming with vivid curiosity. Candace flinched backwards, anger in her gray eyes, her body tense.
“Why did you make me forget?” Candace asked tersely this time, gray eyes wide with simmering anger. East smiled politely, shrugging softly.
“Children forget, you cannot keep the same perspective all your life, my Queen,” East explained, before turning to face West, her eyes pooling into the pales shades of yellow and orange. “And you cannot keep her here, West. She made her promise, the Giver will hold fast,” East declared, crazy colored eyes darkening into icy gold and yellows.
“Giver?” Candace asked.
East stroked Candace’s dark brown hair, smiling softly. Candace remembered this woman, and she did not like her. She had seen her once or twice, had remembered the way she had laughed at Aine, at her, when she said she was the Queen of Being. Candace knew this woman mocked her, knew this woman had never felt anything but vague curiosity towards her. It felt as if East knew something, something she would not tell, and would only dangle in front of Candace, never quite saying. East walked towards the expansive window, looking out, crazy colored eyes falling into the darker registers of warm blues and violets. “Giver’s were created after the dawn of Creation. After the Cardinal’s were created. At the heart of a black hole, so the legend goes.”
Candace could see it within her mind’s eye, could see the formulation of a dark, erratic energy forming into ethos, coagulating and spooling into a being, beautiful and biting.
“They give, just as black holes give destruction, they give it in return for your soul,” and East smiled towards the raised ceiling of the expansive den. “West always had the fewest Giver’s though,” and East smirked before turning to look out the expansive window, watching a nexus of stars slowly shape and form from the gases of a destroyed superstar.
Candace gave a sound of protest, shaking her head, gray eyes alight with conviction. “I didn’t ask for destruction though. She lied, she lied and she won’t get what she wants. She won’t have me,” Candace practically screamed out, angry tears welling up, her hands balled into fists. West watched her, his eyes gone back to that warm summer blue, and he took her hand in his, stroking the side of her thumb soothingly.
“You had lost your best friend Candace, in a sense, you did,” West whispered, thin lips etched into a grievous frown now. Candace sneered angrily, shaking her head. “That isn’t fair though,” she yelled, wanting to cross her arms but West still held her hand, still trying to console her.
“And you would be right,” East chided, turning to face the angry Queen of Being and those bright gray eyes. “She should not have given you your wish; you would have forgotten it in the span of a week. Little twists within your neurons, here and there. The pain would have subsided; your stubbornness to retain the memories would have left you. You would have moved on,” and here East shrugged, but smiled as she looked on West. “And yet, if it had not been for the wish, you would not be here, you would not have remembered. How roundabout it all seems now, even time,” and East laughed softly, as if understanding a joke neither West nor Candace could fathom.
“Then why do it? Why go through all the damn trouble?” Candace muttered, not expecting East to hear. She could see the entire scene clearly in her memory now, the scene making so much sense. Of course Sorja had given her what she wanted; it just came sixteen years later when it wouldn’t matter, when none of it would matter.
“Who can say,” East whispered, a small, dreamy smile growing across her full lips. “But Sorja herself, Ruler of Lidande, far in the icy corners north of the universe within the darkest black hole, the darkest, most destructive north of the universe.”
“You sound impressed by her,” Candace declared, gray eyes cold. West chuckled softly, nodding. East smirked, “But I am, my Queen. The amount of energy Giver’s must consume to avoid being destroyed by their own maker, it is astounding. Beautiful and biting,” East whispered passionately. And Candace’s stomach growled in disapproval. Candace looked down, reflecting how very “un-Queen-like” grumbling stomachs sounded. East and West laughed, West bowing, his summer blue eyes smiling.
“Forgive us, my Queen,” and he made several motions in the air. Candace watched as there was suddenly a long table, filled with the two kinds of food she had always enjoyed as a kid, picadillo and arroz con leche. Candace laughed, shaking her head.
“What would you do if I said I don’t like either of that nowadays?” Candace asked West.
West quirked his head at her, shrugging, “I’d say you’re lying.” Candace nodded her approval, making her way towards the long dinner table, seating herself at the bench near the edge. It smelt like her grandfather had just made it, like it had just come out of the big, brewing pot, like her grandfather had just…her grandfather…
“Is my grandfather alive? My mother? What,” and Candace shook her head, not wanting to believe what Sorja had said. Not wanting to remember, but of course she would remember, and she fought the tears, so sick of crying because of the damnable monster. “Did that thing kill my grandmother?” Candace asked in a flurry, gray eyes wide with pain.
West and East seated themselves across from Candace, East’s crazy colored eyes settled into a warm, warm orange, the color of regret. “Your mother and your grandfather are just exiting the hardware store, your grandfather bought more than your mother originally thought. Your grandmother is dead, has been for a long time, my Queen,” East tilted her head towards Candace, while Candace exhaled shakily. “She can only take the figure of a dead soul, a black hole can only take the light of a star once it has destroyed it,” East explained softly, warm, warm orange eyes cooling into the registers of blues and violets.
Candace nodded rapidly, peering down at her bowl of picadillo, closing her eyes and exhaling forcefully. She had mourned her grandmother once, sixteen years ago, and suddenly Candace’s gray eyes turned to face West, incredulous and welling up with unshed tears.
“You left,” Candace began, shaking her head, “days before she left,” and Candace could only keep shaking her head, her food untouched. East turned to face West, a small, sad smile etched across her lips. West nodded, those vibrant, summer blue eyes dimming into that warm, warm regretful orange.
“All children mourn,” West whispered simply, and Candace should have screamed and yelled angrily. Should have balled her hands into fists and punched and kicked and yelled at the unfairness, at the horrid unfairness of it all. Should have known that this was a mistake, a cruel, putrid mistake that only made her remember things she’d rather forget. Oh goodness how she wanted to forget everything now. How she wanted to just dream it all away.
But her perspective was different, had grown, and she only nodded in resignation. Understanding just barely, only just so, but it was enough, enough to understand that West had not left her alone purposefully, only that it had been time, that he could not mourn with her. All children mourn, all children mourn alone.
She remembered her grandmother then, the way she had always smiled when she mentioned West. She remembered how she always came looking for her when it got too dark, how she had always found her right beside the grand oak tree, giggling softly to herself as she caught Candace bowing to the huge plant. She remembered those withered hands slicing fruit and vegetable with understanding grace. Remembered her cackle, her grandmother’s affinity to white, the way she used to dance with her granddaughter at the mall, uncaring of those who watched. Remembered how her grandmother had comforted her when she used to cry, every time she used to cry. Remembered how her grandmother had made her strong, strong enough to apologize when she did bad things; but strong enough to stand up for herself when she did good things. Candace took a spoonful from her bowl of picadillo, gray eyes staring into empty space, unmindful of the tears that slid slowly down her cheeks. She never got to say goodbye.