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Shovels & Ash

Caila has travelled to and fro to scatter wishes. Village, city, forest and field, a wish in every place her feet would touch. She would wish on that first star every night, she would wish with a tap of her heels, and she would wish by meadows of clover and weeds. The wishes piled up, yet the fulfillments dwindled.

But then an idea quite greater than a wish presented itself – hope. Be it a whisper of fate, a cry of desperation, or another chasing after the wind, Caila added hope to her wishing, and her seeking altered. She sought, not for a far-off needle in a multiverse-spanning haystack, but for the tangible surrounding her. And hope gave her wings, literal wings that wishing had never granted. Who needs love and wealth and purpose when one has wings? It was a glorious sight, an angel on earth, and Caila adored herself and her long flowing wings that spanned the earth and sky alike.

Yet all was not perfection still. Large cities barred their gates, and villagers shook their heads at her audacity. Dreamer they called her now, the Dreamer who burdened the world. When she danced through the streets, the wings would knock over boxes, loads, even animals. She apologized in course, but is apology enough when the action continues?

So Caila took to the sky – she could with her wings – and as her body wearied of fighting gravity, she in time recalled a story. A boy with wings that flew to the sun. The ending, rather than a word of caution to her, was a word of possibility. So she flew up and up, until the sun set fire to her wings and she plummeted to the ground – the wings were mere ashes covering her body now. She had found freedom – no wings to hold her, so she danced through the streets once again.

The ashes tumbled from her sleeves, her hair, her shoulders, and began to cover the world following her travels. Caila, the ashen dreamer, roamed the earth, though neither Caila nor Dreamer was she named now. Ash, they called her, the whole world. Towns shooed her away with the brooms they swept up her ashes with.

Of course one day, Ash came upon a shovel – it was bound to happen after roaming the entire world. She scooped up a pile of dirt, reached out her hand and sifted the dirt through her fingers. Not unlike the ash, she thought. One scoop of dirt was not enough for the shovel nor Ash, and soon there was a gaping hole in the ground. The hole stretched through, all the way through, into the depths of the earth, out the other end, through the sky and stars and planets and galaxies, to a world that Ash wished she could know – a world full of shovels and wings and wishes.

Ash touched the ledge with her toes, then her heel, and finally she felt no ledge at all. Her body fell down the hole and found no end. Always plummeting, much like Alice, only never to stop. After a time unknown, she looked up the hole she’d made and saw that her body had not moved from its original leap. She reached up and climbed out of her determined hole, defeated. She plopped herself down next to the hole, and her mind roamed where her body no longer dared to go.

About the world she imagined, person after person scowling upon her dreaming. Her body may fit in a room, cabin, village, forest or sky, but her spirit was much too large to squeeze into the place. “Admit it,” Ash whispered. She was always at her essence the same person living the same life with simply a different way of striving – her name changed, yet always left the same dissatisfied her. Caila looked down at the hole that was no longer there – it had been filled over by her ashes as she sat.

She traced her fingers through the grey ashen circle that clashed with the surrounding brown dirt. Her fingers, then her hands, finally her arms joined with gentle strokes of her hair, until the whole story had been written in the ash, a tale of a dream. Haybales, sun, brooms, shovel, all of it lay before her a piece of art, while the breeze slowly tugged it out of legibility. For that moment though, no one could touch the truth that had been proclaimed here, none could deny the reality of a fairy’s tale.

Caila hinted a smile, then opened her mouth as agape as her jaw would allow, and screeched. All of the pain left, hidden in that screech, as it slowly transformed to a squeal, a joyous sound that scattered the ash – tumbling away in an instant, and all the ash, the wings, the desire, the dream – none of it mattered anymore. She laughed and, though it was no melodious laugh – yet neither was it a horrendous guffaw or braying – it was a song in its own right. She found something of far greater worth than her own name, her own tale. A song of a journey, a journey forward.

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